Monday, 6 September 2010

New Zealand: Christchurch earthquake

Destination of the week: Phnom Penh, Cambodia

via CAAI

If you're ready to step outside your comfort zone, head to Cambodia, where exotic sights and opportunities to help others await.

By Mike Ives
Tue, Sep 07 2010

Photo: Anduze traveller/Flickr

Cambodia can be a hard place to relax. Walk the streets of Phnom Penh, its capital, and you’ll see beggars whose signs say they were victimized by the Khmer Rouge, a brutal Communist regime that according to the New York Times killed or caused the death of 1.7 million people between 1975 and 1979. Barefoot children ask for money in cafés. Wander the city’s darker side streets and you’ll feel mildly sketched out.

Despite these signs of war and desperation, there are Cambodia-based organizations and small businesses promoting tourism that are working toward poverty alleviation, social betterment and environmental sustainability.

Go local
A great source of information on hopeful projects in Cambodia is Stay Another Day, a nonprofit promoting sustainable tourism in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. Stay Another Day’s website has information about 16 anti-poverty and sustainable-tourism initiatives in Phnom Penh alone, including Smateria, a fair-trade handicraft workshop where local artisans make handicrafts from recycled materials, and The Cyclo Centre, a local NGO providing social services and English lessons for bike-rickshaw drivers.

Eat smart
Phnom Penh is the hometown of Friends-International, an award-winning nonprofit offering social services and vocational training for at-risk youth in seven countries. Friends-International was co-founded by Frenchman Sebastien Marot, who on a visit to Phnom Penh in the early 1990s was upset to find 20 children sleeping on the sidewalk.

Marot and his friends started a street kid-oriented drop-in center. Over the years, Friends-International has launched several for-profit spin-offs, including two Phnom Penh restaurants: Romdeng, where teen-chefs cook modern Cambodian food in a colonial-style house, and Friends the Restaurant, which dishes Western-style café food in a yellow building adjacent to Friends-International’s sprawling vocational training center. A nearby craft store, Friends 'N' Stuff, sells tastefully made fair-trade gear.

Travel green
Before you leave Phnom Penh, check out the Cambodia Community Based Ecotourism Network. Founded in 2007 with support from European development agencies, the CCBEN has an online database of conservation and ecotourism projects across Cambodia.

The CCBEN database includes the locally owned and operated tour company Hanuman Tourism, which offers “temple safaris” to four temples in northwestern Cambodia, and PEPY Tours, an ecotourism company affiliated with the U.S.-and-Canada-registered NGO PEPY — "Protect the Earth, Protect Yourself.” PEPY Tours claims to offer a “complete and delicious cocktail” of sightseeing, volunteering, adventure and educational excursions.

The legacy of war persists in Southeast Asia. The countryside of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam is still littered with land mines and unexploded ordnance, aka UXO. In 2008 alone, Cambodian authorities reported that they discovered and destroyed 13,665 antipersonnel mines.

Against this grisly backdrop, some Cambodia-based organizations support land mine victims and call attention to Cambodia’s violent recent past. One is the Cambodia Land Mine Museum. Founded in 1997 by a former child soldier, the museum sits inside the Angkor Archeological Park, about 30 minutes by car from the popular tourist destination Siem Reap and six hours by bus from Phnom Penh.

Give back
If you have a few days or weeks to spare on your Cambodia trip, consider volunteering. Like working with kids? Contact the Cambodian Children’s Painting Project, which facilitates art projects for at-risk children from the port town Sihanoukville. Teen volunteers might consider the Cambodia Orphanage Project, which is coordinated by the U.S.-based tour company Rustic Pathways.

Another volunteer option: Contact Volunteer in Cambodia, a Phnom Penh-based organization that recruits volunteers to teach English. Proceeds support the Cambodian Rural Development Team, a local NGO that promotes water security, aquaculture, renewable energy, gardening, animal husbandry and eco-tourism.

Prospective volunteers with medical training might consider working at a Cambodian clinic. One U.K.-based company, Projects Abroad, sends physio- and occupational therapists to Cambodia’s National Baby and Children’s Centre or the Kien Khleang Center in Phnom Penh, a project of the U.S.-based NGO Veterans International Cambodia.

Navies mark traditional friendship in Cambodia

via CAAI

September, 06 2010

HA NOI — Two Vietnamese naval ships have been anchored off Cambodia's Sihanoukville since Friday, on a four-day official visit to Cambodia.

The visit is being led by a Deputy Chief of Naval Staff, Captain Nguyen Van Kiem, to strengthen the traditional friendship between the naval forces of the two countries.

The visitors were welcomed by Vice Governor of Preah Sihanouk province Meas Vuthy and Rear Admiral Ruas Viasana of the Cambodian naval force who emphasised the friendship between the navies and the importance of traditional relations between the two nations.

Kiem said the visit marked a step forward in relations between their nations' armed forces, especially naval forces.

The Vietnamese naval delegation is scheduled to leave for Phnom Penh today to call on the General Command and the Naval Command of the Cambodian Royal Army and pay a courtesy visit to Deputy Prime Minister-cum-Minister of Defence Tea Banh.

Half ton of wriggling wildlife seized from slow boat to Vietnam

via CAAI

Sep 6, 2010

Phnom Penh - Cambodian military police have confiscated almost 500 kilograms of snakes and turtles from a boat headed to Vietnam, national media reported Monday.

Captain Svay Sokha of the military police unit in Kandal province said plainclothes officers had raided the boat near the Vietnamese border late Friday.

'We seized one wooden boat and confiscated 189 kilograms of snakes and 287 kilograms of turtles as the two suspects were taking them onto the boat to smuggle them to Vietnam,' he said, adding that the culprits had managed to slip away.

A member of the local forestry administration's office told the Cambodia Daily newspaper that most of the animals, thought to number in the hundreds, were still alive.

They were handed over to the non-governmental organization Wildlife Alliance, which will release them back into the wild.

Last month Wildlife Alliance and forestry administration officials rescued dozens of turtles and snakes from illegal traders in the tourist town of Siem Reap in north-western Cambodia.

And earlier this year police seized 800 kilograms of turtles that were being taken by taxi to Vietnam. The suspects in that case also managed to elude the law.

Wildlife smuggling from Cambodia to Vietnam is widespread. The animals typically end up in restaurants as the main ingredient in exotic dishes.

City doctors provide care in Cambodia

via CAAI

September, 06 2010

KAMPONG SPEU — Nearly 3,000 Cambodian people living in Cambodia's Kampong Speu and Kampong Chnang provinces received free healthcare during a charity programme run by volunteers from the HCM City Young Doctors' Association and HCM City Medicine and Pharmacy University.

The programme is part of this year's international volunteer programme organised by the Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union and its partners to provide medical treatment for local residents, especially women and children.

Fifty volunteers, including young doctors from leading HCM City hospitals like Cho Ray, raised funds and procured medical supplies worth over VND500 million (US$25,000) from donors before undertaking their trip to Cambodia last week.

"We provided consulting services and treatment to poor people in Kampong Speu and Chnang provinces," said Nguyen Van Dan, a member of the HCM City young Doctors' Association.

Dan said his group travelled to remote villages like No To Ru, Bo Ri Po and Kpong Chnang located on the shores of the Tonle Sap Lake in Kapong Chnang Province, which is home to many Vietnamese-Cambodian people.

The doctors even brought mobile clinics equipped with X-Ray machines to provide quality treatment.

"Our volunteers gained valuable experience while helping others," said 25-year-old Dan, adding that he and his friends also learnt new things about local people's culture and lifestyle.

Lay Sapang, a Cambodian National Assembly deputy, said the volunteer doctors, who had both ability and experience, spent several days working with residents in isolated villages and helping them apply simple treatment methods in their daily life.

"Through their work here, they [the volunteer doctors] are playing a role in improving the long-term relationship between Viet Nam and Cambodia," he said. — VNS

The 12th-century facebook of Angkor Wat

Identities of the mysterious women carved into the Cambodian temple could finally be revealed. Andrew Buncombe reports

Monday, 6 September 2010
via CAAI

Exquisitely stone-carved Asparas dancers at the Cambodian temple of Angkor Wat

Amid the splendour of the 12th-century temple at Angkor Wat, they stand and stare like silent sentinels, sensuous rather than erotic, carved with elegance and care. But exactly who are these 1,786 mysterious women and why, more than a century after Cambodia's famed Hindu temple was rediscovered byWestern archaeologists, did it take the efforts of an amateur researcher from Florida to push experts into trying to resolve the puzzle?

Though Kent Davis had lived in South-east Asia during the 1990s, he did not have an opportunity to see Angkor Wat until 2005. Like most visitors to the huge complex in the centre of the Cambodia, for many years cut off from the outside world because of the presence of theKhmer Rouge, he was mesmerised by the experience.

But he was also left with a flurry of questions. "I went to Angkor as a tourist and I was startled when I got there to notice these women," said Mr Davis, 54, a publisher and writer who now lives near Tampa, Florida. "I was not prepared for it. The human element of them struck me and I wanted to know who they were. I asked one of the guides and he said they were there to serve the king after he went to heaven."

Mr Davis's interest was tweaked, so he wanted to know more. He vowed he would return to the US and investigate. Yet when he got home he found there was essentially nothing written about these women, who appear throughout the temple complex in full body carvings.

Indeed, the only study of the female carvings he could find had been made in the early 20th century by the daughter of Frenchman Henri Marchal, then the curator of the temple site. Frustrated but intrigued, he decided he would find out for himself. Five years and several trips to Angkor later, Mr Davis has slowly begun to get some answers.

After turning for help to computer experts from the University of Michigan, a team was able to conduct facial mapping experiments on digital photographs of the women, or devatas. The team, whose findings were presented last month at the International Conference on Pattern Recognition, an academic convocation in Istanbul, concluded that there were at least eight different facial types, perhaps reflecting a variety of ethnicities in the Khmer kingdom.

The results are to be examined further by archaeologists and more computer mapping is planned. But for all the effort that went into the mapping, the results of which were published in DatAsia magazine, many questions about the women remain unanswered.

"There are almost 1,800 women's faces there," said Mr Davis, who is now trying to use 65 separate characteristics to place the faces in a database. "It's a Facebook of the 12th century, but no one had ever heard of them. This was the biggest temple the Khmer people ever built and it must have been important to them because they threw everything into it. They would have put important things in it; these women must have been important to the kingdom."

Mr Davis wrote to universities, pestered experts, and sought the opinions of people from around the globe who had worked at Angkor. Trude Jacobson, an assistant professor of history at the University of Queensland, Australia, and author of Lost Goddesses: Denial of Female Power in Cambodian History, said: "Kent is an enthusiastic researcher of a question that everyone assumed was settled long ago, or doesn't matter.

"The history of women in Cambodia, until very recently, has been one in which they were relegated to the shadows. His interest is infectious and has made others more interested in questions of gender in an otherwise heavily masculinised historical inquiry."

What has struck Mr Davis as he has continued his enquiries, is that for all the women at Angkor there are relatively few male carvings."Could these different women represent the different professions of the Khmer kingdom?" he said. "Could they be scholars, agriculturalists? I think they must represent the most important women in the kingdom."

Dr Peter Sharrock, an expert on South-east Asia at London's School of African and Oriental Studies, has studied the temples around Angkor for years. "We understand [the female carvings] little but they play a major role in the architectural sculpture of these temples, which must imply a major role in the beliefs of the ancient Khmers and in the rituals in their temples," he said.

"Khmer descent was primarily matrilineal, and Khmer women were literate and powerful. Many were queens, and most kings base their genealogies and claims to the throne on their female ancestors. The ancient Khmers venerated the goddess Prajnaparamita in the most elaborate cult to her known anywhere in Asia. So there are fundamental questions here about an exceptional female religious and regal role in ancient Cambodia that remain unanswered."

Professor Jacobson believes the images were part of a broader iconography relating to the supernatural world. "The devatas, placed either side of doorways, were guards who monitored who was permitted access from the mundane world to the supernatural," she said.

"[Those] represented as flying or dancing, were responsible for leading the souls of the dead to the supernatural world from the battlefield. The models for the images at Angkor were doubtless members of the royal family."

Mr Davis said he was dedicated to trying to throw greater light on the mystery of the carvings by working with the team of researchers he has cultivated. At this point, he said, starting to analyse the images was like "being the first person to get a map to the British Museum and the keys to the front door".

He added: "Once we define facial types more thoroughly, an incredibly exciting prospect appears. If these images are portraits of actual people, it's logical to assume that they had children within this region, and that creates the possibility of using facial pattern recognition on people living in this area to see if facial shapes and types seen at Angkor still live here. We could actually find the descendants of some of the sacred women in the temple."

Symbol of a nation

*The sprawling temple complex of Angkor Wat, located amid dense jungle and close to the city of Siem Reap, was built in the early 12th century and is one of a series of stunning palaces and temples that were built over a 400-year period by the Khmer Kingdom.

*Today, the temples attract up to a million tourists a year, but for many years the remarkable buildings were unknown to the West, which only "rediscovered" them in the 19th century. During the 1970s and 1980s they were off-limits as a result of the presence of the Khmer Rouge, the Maoist-inspired rebels who ruled Cambodia from 1975-79 and who then engaged in a bitter civil war for the next two decades.

*Angkor Wat itself, the most impressive and best-preserved of the complexes, was built for King Suryavarman II in the early part of the 12th century and is dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu. It has since become a symbol of Cambodia, even appearing on its national flag.

Diplomacy set to pay dividend in Cambodia

Thailand seeks lead role in investment

Published: 6/09/2010
via CAAI

Thailand hopes to regain its leadership in foreign investment in Cambodia over the next five years now that the two countries have resumed diplomatic ties after months of strained relations.

Thai investment in Cambodia has fallen dramatically over the past seven years.

The relationship between the two soured notably in 2003 when the Thai embassy and some Thai businesses were heavily damaged by rioters in Phnom Penh. They had been reacting to fabricated reports quoting a Thai actress as saying that Angkor Wat belonged to Thailand.

Relations subsequently improved but became strained again last year as the two countries feuded over the Preah Vihear temple, leading to their ambassadors being recalled. Both envoys last month returned to their jobs, and Premier Abhisit Vejjajiva and Prime Minister Hun Sen are expected to hold talks later this month.

Thailand's investments based on approvals by the Cambodia Investment Board totalled only five projects worth US$15.5 million last year. The country ranked sixth in project numbers and third in project value, behind China ( $42.3 million) and Vietnam ($24.7 million).

Over the past 16 years, Thai investments in Cambodia totalled 81 projects worth $362.35 million. Most were in hotels, agro-industry, wood processing, food processing, telecoms, medical services, electricity, mining, garments and shoes.

Deputy Commerce Minister Alongkorn Ponlaboot said Thailand had potential to resume its leadership in foreign investment in Cambodia, if it can capitalise on the potential of National Road No. 5 as the land transport gateway to Vietnam and China.

The 407-kilometre highway connects Phnom Penh with Aranyaprathet in the Thai border province of Sa Kaeo. From Phnom Penh the road links to the Moc Bai-Bavet border crossing with Vietnam.

Mr Alongkorn and a group of Thai businesspeople recently travelled the road through Cambodia to Vietnam to explore the potential.

He said the Thai government planned to set up a special economic zone in Ban Pa Rai in Aranyaprathet to promote ties with Cambodia. It would offer comprehensive import-export services, distribution centres, customer services and an industrial estate covering about 1,000 rai.

The zone would be linked with Cambodia's Poipet O'Neang Special Economic Zone which occupies 2,000 rai opposite Ban Pa Rai.

Mr Alongkorn said the zone would be proposed to economic ministers and the cabinet in the new two weeks.

The special economic zone would be the second with a neighbouring country after the one that straddles Mae Sot district in Tak and Myawaddy in Burma. A special economic zone gives entrepreneurs more investment flexibility through such things as relaxed labour rules.

Thailand is currently the fifth largest trading partner of Cambodia behind the United States, Vietnam, China and Hong Kong. Bilateral trade between the two countries totalled $492.8 million last year, $477.2 million of which came from Thai exports.

Cambodia Deepens Roles of Micro Financial Institutions in Poverty Alleviation

via CAAI

Monday, 06 September 2010 07:58 DAP NEWS / VIBOL

CAMBODIA, PHNOM PENH, SEPTEMBER 6, 2010-Cambodian government in cooperation with the development partners on Monday conducted a national microfinance development forum on revising and deepening the roles of MFIs in poverty reduction.

Today’s forum is to discuss, understand and share invaluable experiences pertaining to the review on the roles of microfinance institutions in poverty alleviation, the government’s supports and future directions, Neav Chanthana, deputy governor of the national bank of Cambodia (NBC). She added that forum will reflect great government’s support, and it has been strongly supportive in providing priorities and significances to the development of microfinance sector in Cambodia.

It serves a contributing factor to the government’s poverty reduction policy, she noted, adding that “I do hope there will be an extensive discussion and exchange of experiences on this topic in an attempt to come up with any invaluable strategy for the development of the microfinance sector,”.

“The forum will also serve as an encouragement to the rural credit and finance operators to become microfinance institutions under regulatory framework of the national bank of Cambodia in order to ensure transparency and growth as well as to protect the benefits of the economically working poor,” she stresses.

She continued that the NBC will go on, by all means, promoting and encouraging all non- governmental organizations operating in the rural financial sector to transform to micro financial institutions licensed by the NBC.

The transformation provides a number of benefits such as the ability to receive additional funds and investment opportunity from the both foreign and domestic investors, a more variety of services offering to the clients, the ability to enhance effectiveness and financial outcomes, the quality of customers and the ability to clearly distinguish between microfinance services and other development activities of the non-governmental organizations which will further encourage transparency and accountability.

She added that achievements of microfinance sector, in the forms of a increase in the number of microfinance institutions, loan portfolio number of clients and variety of products, have enables the rural citizens to use the funds from the microfinance institutions to create employments in the area of small and medium enterprises, agriculture sector and especially in dealing with families ‘emergencies.

She said that as of the first semester of 2010, the microfinance in Cambodia totally consist of 21 licensed institutions of which 4 were licensed for public deposit taking and 27 rural credit operators registered with the NBC. As the same time, the loan outstanding of almost 330 million US dollars was provided by the microfinance institutions to 889,136 borrowers, an increase of 27 % and 8% respectively comparing to the end of first semester of 2009. Meanwhile, the total deposit of more than about 21 million US dollar mobilized from 117,781 depositors, illustrating a respective increase of 236 % and 10.5 % respectively. In addition, the total number of the commune-base microfinance institutions reached 8,121 offices. The number of women receiving loan services from microfinance institutions was 721, 755 people, which was about 81% of total borrowers.

She also thanked to Mr. Won –Sik Noh, general secretary of APRACA, Asia and Pacific Rural and Agriculture Credit Association that attended the event. Apraca is outstanding agencies to contribute reduce poverty in most countries in Asia. She also thanked Son Koun Thor, chairman and CEO of the rural development bank that played a key role for helping local people and buy the local products like rice for exporting. It also helped local farmers, she noted.

AKP - Agent Kampuchea Press

via CAAI
King Grants Audience to Chinese Ambassador
Phnom Penh, September 6, 2010 AKP -- His Majesty Norodom Sihamoni, King of Cambodia, granted here on Sept. 3 a royal audience to newly-appointed Chinese Ambassador to Cambodia H.E. Pan Guangxue.
On the occasion, H.E. Pan Guangxue said the leaders of the People’s Republic of China would like to invite the King to attend the China National Pavilion Day of Shanghai Expo to be held on Oct. 1, in Shanghai.
In reply, the Cambodian monarch accepted the invitation.
Following on the same day, H.E. Nuth Narang, newly-appointed ambassador of the Cambodian permanent delegation to UNESCO, paid a farewell visit to King Sihamoni before leaving for his mission in Paris, France. --AKP
(By LIM Nary)
Cambodia Is Successful in Its Development
Phnom Penh, September 6, 2010 AKP -- Cambodia can be considered as a successful post-conflict country, said Prime Minister Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen in his address at the 2010 Asialink Conversations - Cambodia held here on Sept. 4.
With the support of our development partners and the private sector, Cambodia has made giant strides in development in the last decade, said the Cambodian premier, indicating that since 1993, Cambodia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increased fourfold from US$2.4 billion in 1993 to US$10.3 billion in 2008. During this period per capita income has more than tripled from US$229 to US$739. Poverty rate was reduced from around 50 percent in 1993 to 30 percent in 1997, then to 27.4 percent in 2009.
The structural reforms were undertaken to allow the Cambodian people to live in a modern civilized society. These reforms are necessary, a life-or-death matter, so that Cambodian society can face the future confidently and achieve prosperity, he said.
He further stressed that the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) has successfully guided the economy, like other Asian economies, through the most difficult period of the global crisis. The RGC has acted swiftly to counter the social impact of falling incomes and employment from declining garment exports, tourism and construction pursuant to the crisis. Cambodia has managed to maintain the stability of the financial sector as well as macro-economic and social stability, especially the normalcy of the people’s livelihoods.
On the occasion, Premier Techo Hun Sen also touched on ASEAN integration, which he said should be a priority and key to East Asian integration in the long run. He hoped that the Comprehensive Economic Partnership in East Asia (CEPAC) will help less developed ASEAN countries to use imported raw materials from China to process and export to more developed countries, such as Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Korea.
According to the prime minister, narrowing development gap among the regional members is necessary to materialize regional competitiveness and resilience. This requires us to reinvigorate domestic demand, and boosting intra-regional trade through structural reforms aimed at return for investments in domestically oriented sectors and removing impediments and bottlenecks domestic spending.
At the security level, he said, the East Asian region is wrestling with fighting terrorism and here too Australia is a major player along with the United States. Cambodia has greatly benefited from capacity training in counter-terrorism that Australia, the United States and some regional countries that have provided us during the past years. Moreover, Cambodia has embarked on the training of peace-keeping forces, making humble contribution to regional and world peace.
Cambodia is particularly committed to the regime of nuclear non-proliferation and welcomes efforts exerted to re-launch the six party talks to resolve the issue of the Korean peninsula, he affirmed, adding that peace and stability on the Korean peninsula are critical for the prosperity of East Asia.
Since its establishment in 2002, the Asialink Conversations has made a significant contribution to ‘second track’ regional policy dialogue, linking Asia with Australia, and prompting better understanding among people and countries in our region. “In this regard, I believe this communication connectivity helps to improve people-to-people and state-to-state relations between Asia and Australia, enabling us to promote mutual understanding and information sharing and expand our political, security, economic, social and cultural cooperation, Samdech Techo Hun Sen said.
He also expressed deep gratitude for the role that the government and people of Australia have played in Cambodia’s economic development and in the Cambodian peace process.
The Asialink Conversations, the sixth of its kind, was co-hosted by CDRI, Cambodia’s leading independent development policy research institute and Asialink, a non-government organization based at the University of Melbourne.
The event, also organized to commemorate the 20th anniversary between Asialink and CDRI, brought together influential participants from across the ten ASEAN member countries and from Australia to help solve political, social and economic issues of common concern.
Asialink Conversations were held in 2002 and 2007 in Australia and in 2004 in Malaysia, Vietnam in 2006, and in India in 2008. --AKP
(By MOM Chan Dara Soleil)
PM Meets Former Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs
Phnom Penh, September 6, 2010 AKP -- Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia, warmly received here last Friday Mr. Gareth Evans, chancellor of the Australian National University and former Australian foreign minister.
Mr. Evans told the Cambodian premier of his visit, the purpose of which he said is to attend the opening ceremony of the 2010 Asialink Conversations – Cambodia, taking place on Sept. 4.
He said the forum is aimed at linking Asia with Australia, and promoting better understanding among peoples and countries in the whole region.
The visiting Australian former foreign minister also congratulated Samdech Techo Hun Sen on his endeavors in leading the country towards development, both in the economic as well as in the political and social fields.
For his part, the Cambodian prime minister thanked Mr. Gareth Evans for his personal role and great contribution to Cambodia’s national reconciliation and reconstruction. --AKP
(By SOKMOM Nimul)
Cabinet Minister Approves 27 Communes of Some Districts in Kandal to Include in Administrative Control of Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh, September 6, 2010 AKP -- Twenty-seven (27) communes of some districts in Kandal province have been approved to be under the administrative control of Phnom Penh Municipality, increasing to 103 communes/Sangkats from 76 previously administered by the city.
The decision was made at a cabinet meeting held here on Sept. 3 under the presidency of Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen.
In combination with the previous communes/Sangkats of the city, six communes are taken from Ang Snuol district, four from Kean Svay district, two from Mok Kampoul district, three from Ponhea Leu district, five from Ksach Kandal district, two from Lovea Em district and five from Kandal Stung district of the Kandal province.
In the meeting, the Cambodian prime minister also warned to remove any officials in connection with illegal land grabbing in Thmar Da protected area located in Veal Veng district’s Thmar Da commune, Pursat province.
The protected area is managed by the Ministry of Environment.
Meanwhile, the cabinet minister approved two draft sub-decrees, one dealing with the collection and compilation of data relating to job market and other with the arrangement and the operation of the disabled foundation. --AKP
(By THOU Peou)
Cambodia To Host APF’s Meeting
Phnom Penh, September 6, 2010 AKP -- Cambodia’s National Assembly (NA) is going to host a meeting of the French-speaking Parliamentary Assembly (APF) in Phnom Penh capital city from Sept. 9 to 11.
According to a press release of the NA General Secretariat, the 5th Meeting Asia-Pacific Regional Meeting of APF will open on Sept. 9 under the presidency of H.E. Nguon Nhel, Cambodian NA first vice-president and head of the Cambodian parliamentarian group.
The meeting will primarily focus on economic, social development policies after the global financial crisis, the development of higher education and the cooperation between the French-speaking countries in the Asia-Pacific region.
NA representatives from France, Belgium, Canada, Burkina Faso, Laos and Vietnam are expected to join the three-day event. --AKP
(By KHAN Sophirom)
Systematic Mechanism for Conservation and Sustainable Development of Preah Vihear Temple and Its Vicinity
Phnom Penh, September 6, 2010 AKP -- A presentation entitled “A Systematic Mechanism for the Conservation and Sustainable Development of the Khmer Temple of Preah Vihear and Its Vicinity” was carried out by Professor Yoshida, from the Tokyo University, and Dr. Neth Boramey, Royal University of Phnom Penh, for H.E. Sok An, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister in Charge of the Office of the Council of Ministers (OCM).
The said presentation was carried out in the afternoon of Sept. 1 at the OCM, said the OCM’s Press and Quick Reaction Unit, adding that this presentation was done jointly by H.E. Chuch Phoeun, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts and Chairman of the National Authority for Preah Vihear.
They stressed that the Khmer Temple of Preah Vihear has unique characteristics, namely the harmonious existence between nature, temple and the people. As such none of the three characteristics could be separated. On the other hand, systematic management meant that the conservation and sustainable development must be balanced by focusing on three important factors as follows:
  1. Education: create awareness about the sustainable development by educating the people, particularly the people who live in Samdech Techo Eco-Village, to be aware of the importance of their participation in the conservation of the natural resources. There is also an education on tourism services provision and the production of handicrafts.
  2. Reduction of toxic waste in the atmosphere to ensure that when dealing with any related development, great attention must be given to the Temple of Preah Vihear site and to the harness of energy from potential natural sources.  
  3. Effective and sustainable distribution and utilization of the said resources.
On this occasion, H.E. Sok An expressed his appreciation for the National Authority for Preah Vihear and all of the speakers who have strived to research on an effective mechanism for the management, conservation and sustainable development of the natural and cultural regions in Cambodia.
In addition to the said three factors, H.E. Sok An also raised actual characteristics of the Temple to be further analyzed, and encouraged them to keep up these important works in line with the development activities of the royal government.
Meanwhile, H.E. Sok An stressed that the speakers’ view had exemplified the leaderships' vision for the National Authority for Preah Vihear, and he also elaborated on the significance of the Management Plan which had been submitted to UNESCO and that it had been highly appreciated in Brasilia, Brazil. --AKP
Vietnamese Navy Ships Visit Cambodia
Phnom Penh, September 6, 2010 AKP -- Two Vietnamese naval vessels anchored at the port of Sihanouk City on Sept. 3 for a three-day official friendship visit.
According to colonel Nguyen Van Kiem who led the two ships to Cambodia and met with General Tea Banh, Cambodian deputy prime minister and minister of national defense, the collaboration visit is another step to enhance maritime protection intervention between the two neighboring countries.
In terms of maritime protection intervention, Cambodia and Vietnam have cooperated four times to crack down terrorism acts and other illegal activities that threaten the security of the peoples of the two countries.
With some 130 naval troops on board, the two modern naval vessels were also opened for public visit.
General Tea Banh expressed his appreciation for the collaboration visit with a hope that it will be a useful experience sharing between the navies of Cambodia and Vietnam.--AKP
(By MOM Chan Dara Soleil)
First Women Football Cup Tournament Kicks Off
Phnom Penh, September 6, 2010 AKP -- The first Women Football Cup Tournament kicked off on Sept. 4 at Banteay Meanchey province.
Ten women’s football teams across the country are participating in the competition scheduled to take place until Sept. 18, 2010.
The champion will get a cup, 24 gold medals and 2 million Riel (Cambodian currency roughly US$475), and the two runners-up will get 24 silver medals with 1.2 million Riel (about US$285), and 24 bronze medals with 800,000 Riel (some US$190) respectively.
The Women Football Cup Tournament is jointly organized by the Football Federation of Cambodia and Banteay Meanchey provincial authority. --AKP
(By Théng)

Aftershocks shake up Christchurch

Photo by: AFP

via CAAI

Monday, 06 September 2010 15:04 AFP

A closed sign hangs on a shop door obstructed by rubble in Christchurch yesterday after a powerful earthquake on Saturday.

A state of emergency has been declared in New Zealand’s second-largest city as aftershocks continue.

Cambodia hailed over UN targets

via CAAI

Monday, 06 September 2010 15:04 Brooke Lewis

A REPORT prepared in advance of an international summit on United Nations Millennium Development Goals has placed Cambodia among the top five countries in terms of progress, offering a far rosier assessment than other recent updates.

The report, prepared by the Centre for Global Development, a United States-based independent policy research organisation, indicates that developing countries in Southeast Asia are outpacing those in other regions, placing Cambodia in a tie with Laos and Vietnam for second in terms of progress towards MDGs.

The eight goals were adopted by 189 countries in 2000 and are supposed to be achieved by 2015. Honduras topped the report, and the Kyrgyz Republic was also tied for second.

Its authors drew primarily from World Bank data, focusing on eight “progress indicators” selected from a pool of 60 indicators used by the United Nations.

Cambodia was found to be on track to achieve targets related to poverty reduction, education, gender equality, nutrition and water access. It was also expected to reach 50 percent of targets related to maternal health and child mortality.

Those who have prepared papers focusing exclusively on Cambodia’s progress towards the MDGs called into question some of the findings of the new report, which was timed to coincide with the 2010 MDG Summit scheduled to begin on September 20 at UN headquarters in New York.

Last year, Sherif Rushdy, Cambodian Millennium Development Goal adviser for the UN Development Programme, prepared an update indicating that Cambodia was unlikely to meet goals pertaining to education, the environment and maternal health.

Yesterday, he took issue with the methodology used by the Centre for Global Development, which could not be reached for comment.

“You cannot just take one indicator in one MDG area and say it has improved a total MDG,” said Rushdy, who had not seen the CGD report.

He cited as an example the use of “access to safe water” as the sole indicator in measuring progress towards the MDG covering environmental sustainability. “It gives a very different story if you use only access to sanitation,” he said, referring to a separate indicator falling under the same goal.

He said, though, that Cambodia had made considerable progress in at least two areas: “Child mortality rates and HIV rates are the big success stories in Cambodia.”

In assessing progress towards the maternal health goal, the new report refers to statistics from a global study published earlier this year in The Lancet that indicated there had been a “dramatic” drop in maternal deaths to 266 per 100,000 live births. However, that statistic is far lower than the 461 deaths per 100,000 births recorded in the most recent government census.

Rushdy said yesterday that maternal deaths were difficult to measure, but that the maternal health goal was the one on which “the least progress was made”.

Hun Sen, Abhisit and ASEAN leaders to meet Obama

via CAAI

Monday, 06 September 2010 15:03 AFP and Sam Rith

THE White House has announced that United States President Barack Obama will meet Southeast Asian leaders this month in New York as America tries to bolster its role in a region facing a rising China.

The gathering may also provide a chance for Prime Minister Hun Sen to meet Thai premier Abhisit Vejjajiva, but officials from both countries said private talks between the two had not yet been scheduled.

The White House said on Friday that Obama would hold talks with leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in New York on September 24, during the annual United Nations General Assembly.

The New York meeting will follow the inaugural summit that Obama held last year in Singapore with his counterparts from ASEAN, as he seeks to reinvigorate US engagement with the bloc.

The Bangkok Post reported on Friday that Ongart Klampaiboon, Abhisit’s office minister, said following a meeting with Hun Sen that the Cambodian premier was prepared to meet Abhisit in New York. Yesterday, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong said there was “no official information” about such a meeting.

Thai government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn also said that no meeting had been scheduled with Hun Sen, but that Abhisit “hopes to see [Hun Sen] as soon as possible”. Cambodia and Thailand restored full diplomatic ties last month after the resignation of fugitive former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra from his position as economics adviser to the Cambodian government.

Abhisit and Hun Sen have said they intend to meet on the sidelines of October’s Asia-Europe Meeting in Belgium.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton first spoke of the second ASEAN summit when she visited Vietnam in July, In Hanoi, Clinton called for open access to the South China Sea – an area of growing tension between China and Southeast Asian nations, particularly Vietnam. China rebuked Clinton for her remarks.

The coming elections in Myanmar, scheduled for November, are also likely be a critical issue in the talks.

VimpelCom upbeat despite Southeast Asia net loss

via CAAI

Monday, 06 September 2010 15:01 Ellie Dyer

A NET loss of US$20.5 million was attributed to the Southeast Asian operations of telecommunications giant VimpelCom for the second quarter ending June, despite record revenues across the region.

The data were revealed in an earnings report issued by the Russian group – owner of Cambodia’s Beeline and operations in Vietnam– late last week. A breakdown of the group’s Southeast Asia results, which did not separate data by country, recorded a $20.5 million net loss. This compared to an $18.5 million loss in quarter one, but was much less than the $31.7 million loss seen in quarter four 2009.

Operating income before depreciation and amortisation was negative $8.1 million, a slight improvement on the $8.6 loss reported in quarter one.

Meanwhile, revenues grew to $5.5 million in the second quarter, up 25 percent from $4.4 million in the first quarter, and $900,000 a year ago.

Despite the mixed results, an accompanying statement remained upbeat about the region’s future, “We continue developing our operations in Southeast Asia and remain optimistic regarding the market potential in this region,” it said.

However, some of its assets have seen development stall.

VimpelCom admitted the group had to “temporarily slow down” its Vietnamese development while “optimal” financing was determined with its joint-venture partner.

Group Chief Executive Officer, Alexander Izosimov, also highlighted restructure as a driver for future change.

“We streamlined our structure, forming four operating segments – Russia, Ukraine, CIS and Southeast Asia – with new headquarters in Amsterdam," he said.

"This will allow the operating companies to focus on business development in their markets."

Representatives from Beeline Cambodia did not respond to emailed requests for comment yesterday.

Kandal bridge to boost local trade, reduce congestion in Phnom Penh

via CAAI

Monday, 06 September 2010 15:01 Chun Sophal

A bridge linking Kandal town with the province’s Kien Svay district will cost US$30 million and is set to boost trade, officials said yesterday.

Cambodia wants to spend millions, funded by a Chinese government loan, on the construction of a bridge across the Bassac River by Ta Khmao.

Thy Sophorn, a member of the bridge construction commission, said yesterday that the 795-metre bridge would link the Prek Samraong area, on the western side the river, with an area near Cham Puh Kh’aek Pagoda, on the eastern side.

“We are expecting loan from the Chinese government to build this bridge. We hope that construction can be launched next year,” Thy Sophorn said.

He added that on September 19, a Cambodian delegation will leave for China to discuss the possibility of acquiring the loan. The bridge, he said, was set to be 10 metres high, 13.5 metres wide and take 40 months to build.

Kandal’s provincial governor Chhun Sirum, said yesterday that the bridge would enable two areas with economic potential to exchange more goods and agricultural products. It would also allow traders from across the Kingdom to bypass Phnom Penh.

He said that farmers from Prey Veng and Svay Rieng provinces, together with agricultural producers from parts of Kampong Cham, would be able to transport their products over the bridge without being forced to pass through the Kingdom's capital city.

It would link them to the Southern provinces including Kandal, Takeo, Kampot and Kep.

“We hope that the bridge will play an important role in both promoting the exchange of agricultural products and easing the traffic congestion in Phnom Penh,” Chhun Sirun said.

The government has been working to expand the country’s infrastructure by connecting critical economic zones that were previously separated by rivers.

On March 31 this year, the Prek Kdam Cambodia-China Friendship Bridge, which was built using a Chinese loan of $28.8 million, was officially opened in the north of Kandal province.

Police Blotter: 6 Sep 2010

via CAAI

Monday, 06 September 2010 15:00 Kim Samath

Local police not cowed by ‘nephew’ of top cop
Police in Tuol Kork district arrested a man on Thursday after he attempted to prevent them from investigating a car crash that left one man injured. Police said that a Honda CRV crashed into a cart, leaving one man hurt. A woman suspected of driving the car fled the scene and is still at large. As police arrived to investigate, the man emerged and warned them not to investigate, claiming he was the son of a high-ranking police official. The police did not believe him, and he was arrested.

Basketball accident leaves Pursat boy dead
A boy at an orphanage in Pursat province died last Tuesday after an accident that occurred as he was playing basketball. The director of the orphanage said the victim had lived at the centre for two years without any significant health problems. As the boys were playing basketball, the director said, the victim fell and hit his head on the ground and died 10 minutes later.

Soldier pays his way out of rape charges
A soldier in Phnom Penh was released from custody last week after he agreed to pay US$5,000 in compensation to a woman that he allegedly raped at a guesthouse, local authorities said. Police said the suspect had known the victim for one year and had raped her three times before. The victim’s father eventually filed a complaint against the suspect and the Phnom Penh Muncipal Court issued a warrant for his arrest. Following the compensation payment, however, the complaint was withdrawn.

Kampong Cham siblings drown in river tragedy
Two siblings in Kampong Cham province died on Thursday while they were playing in a river during a rainstorm. The victims – a 10-year-old girl and a 6-year-old boy – drowned as they were playing with four other children near their homes. As the two victims got caught in the current, the other children went to inform their parents, but had trouble reaching them quickly because most families in the area were attending a wedding. The children’s bodies have not yet been found.

Man faces amputation following accident
A Phnom Penh man was seriously injured in a traffic accident last week as he was standing in the bed of a lorry. Witnesses said that the man was injured when the driver of the lorry had to brake suddenly to avoid a passing motorbike. Following the accident, the man was taken immediately to Calmette Hospital, where doctors said they were considering amputating his legs.

PM accuses officials of eyeing park

via CAAI

Monday, 06 September 2010 15:03 May Titthara

PRIME Minister Hun Sen has accused officials of encroaching on land in Thma Da National Park, located in Pursat province’s Veal Veng district, and warned that those who do so in the future would be subjected to “strict measurements”.

A statement issued on Friday afternoon by the Council of Ministers notes that Hun Sen raised the issue during its weekly meeting earlier in the day. It does not specify how many officials might have encroached on land in the national park, nor does it name any officials.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan could not be reached for comment on the issue yesterday.

“I will take strict measurements against any people who do not respect this recommendation,” Hun Sen is quoted as saying in the statement.

Pursat provincial governor Chhay Sareth said yesterday that he had heard some officials were “preparing” to claim some of the land, but that he did not know what government bodies they worked for.

He said that some former Khmer Rouge families were permitted to live within the park.

Veal Veng district governor Chhe Chhiv said he did not believe any high-ranking officials were involved in plans to take over some of the park.

Because much of the park is dense forest and parts of it are contaminated with land mines, he said, the only threat to the land would likely come from soldiers looking to undertake small-scale farming.

“That land is covered by forest and mines under the ground, so there are no high-ranking officials involved in this,” he said.

Last year, a group of 195 families in Veal Veng district asked the Ministry of Environment to carve out a social land concession from the park. Math Osman, a representative of the families, said yesterday that the request had been denied.

Since then, he said, local environment officials have sold off sections of the land.

“They have sold the land to people who want to buy it – 1 hectare is from US$700 to $1,500 depending on its condition,” he said.

Thai Chinda, the head of the provincial Environment Department, declined to comment on the issue yesterday.

Omlaing men called to court

Photo by: Will Baxter
Villagers from Omlaing commune, in Kampong Speu province, protest outside the provincial court on March 24 after the arrest of two community representatives.

via CAAI

onday, 06 September 2010 15:03 May Titthara

TWO residents of Kampong Speu province’s Omlaing commune said yesterday that they had been summoned to the provincial court to face allegations that they are living on land belonging to the Phnom Penh Sugar Company.

Chhuon Chuon said yesterday that he was convinced the summons was related to a complaint filed by the company, the recipient of a 9,000-hectare land concession affecting more than 2,000 families. The company is owned by Cambodian People’s Party Senator Ly Yong Phat.

“The company wants to take over my land,” Chhuon Chuon said. “They asked me to move to a new area and said they would provide me with about US$500. But when I refused to move, they filed a complaint accusing me of living on the company’s land.”

But Chheang Kimsruon, a representative of Phnom Penh Sugar, yesterday denied that the company had filed the complaint that led to the summoning of both Chhuon Chuon and his neighbour Sok Than.

She said the complaint had actually been filed by the pre-vious landowner, Hab Ren, a councillor in Omlaing.

“The previous landowner tried to negotiate with the villagers many times, but they did not listen, so she filed a complaint to ask the villagers to clarify at the court whether they have any evidence to prove that the land belongs to them,” Chheang Kimsruon said.

Phnom Penh Sugar was awarded the Omlaing concession in 2009. Hab Ren could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Khut Sopheang, provincial deputy prosecutor, said he did not remember who filed the complaint, and that he was out of the office and thus unable to check yesterday.

Chhuon Chuon said he and Sok Than would appear in court on Tuesday, though he said they were concerned officials would move to arrest them.

On March 24, two community representatives from Omlaing, You Tho and Khem Vuthy, were held on charges related to the dispute. The men were detained for several days and later released.

“We dare not go alone because we are afraid of being arrested like our representatives You Tho and Khem Vuthy,” Chhuon Chuon said. “So we will travel to court with all of our villagers.”

Phal Vannak, a representative of affected families, said yesterday that the company had failed to send anyone to a meeting scheduled by Chheang Kimsruon for Saturday.

“Instead of finding a resolution for the villagers, they filed a complaint against more of us,” he said. “They are trying to threaten the villagers until we stop protesting for our land rights.”

Ouch Leng, a land programme officer for the rights group Adhoc, said Ly Yong Phat’s company frequently used the court system to intimidate villagers.

“The company uses the court system to force villagers to stop protesting,” he said.

Trainee hurt fleeing labour firm

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
A boy walks past the three-storey office of the VC Manpower recruitment agency in the capital’s Sen Sok district last month.

via CAAI

Monday, 06 September 2010 15:03 Mom Kunthear

A 30-YEAR-OLD woman training to work as a domestic servant suffered light injuries early yesterday morning after she fashioned a rope out of various pieces of clothing and tried to rappel down the side of a three-storey training centre in the capital’s Sen Sok district, officials said.

Pen Thol, the police chief in Toek Thla commune, said Battambang native Vann Synoun was trying to escape from the facility, operated by the VC Manpower Company, because she missed her family.

He said, though, that VC Manpower had not detained her at the centre. Instead, he said, Vann Synoun decided to leave without asking for permission beforehand because she was convinced the company would say no.

“She told us that she wants to run from the company because she misses her husband and children very much and she could not control herself, so she decided to slide down at 4am on Sunday when the other people were asleep,” Pen Thol said.

He said company security guards found Vann Synoun shortly after her fall and took her to a private clinic for treatment. “She was not seriously injured,” he said.

However, Vann Synoun could not be reached for comment yesterday.

VC Manpower, which trains young women to work abroad as domestic servants, has been on the radar of local officials since July, when a woman fled one of its training centres and said she had been held there against her will. Days later, officials announced that they had found 24 underage workers being trained by the company.

The Labour Ministry briefly barred the firm from recruiting clients, but then absolved it of wrongdoing soon after, saying the girls had forged documents to demonstrate they were of age.

On August 2, Long Sakan filed a complaint against VC Manpower accusing staff members at a Phnom Penh training centre of abusing her daughter, who has since gone to work in Malaysia. Later that month, Phnom Penh Municipal Court issued a summons for company director Sen Ly. However, when police went to question him on August 16, Sen Ly was in Preah Vihear province, and police apparently did not follow up.

Yesterday, Pol Khemra, deputy director of the Department of Police at the Interior Ministry, said officials had opted to “suspend” the complaint against Sen Ly.

“We decided to suspend the complaint against him after we met with the company’s lawyer,” Pol Khemra said.

“The victims did not cooperate with us, and they would not stand to face the company representative.”

Pen Thol said yesterday that police would not launch a new investigation into the company’s operations in response to the escape attempt of Vann Synoun.

He said VC Manpower had told Vann Synoun she was welcome to return to Battambang, and that it had also paid US$200 for her treatment at the private clinic.

“The company did not take any money back from her for her fee because she is poor,” he said.

Sen Ly said that Vann Synoun’s injuries were minor.

“She just got a slight injury on her chin, and we have instructed her family to come and bring her back home,” he said.

Pen Thol offered the following message for prospective migrant workers: “If you think you will miss your family, you should not go to work in another country because you will create problems for the recruitment companies that spend a lot of money to get documents for you.”

There are 28 firms licenced by the Labour Ministry to train workers and send them abroad. The ministry is currently drafting a sub-decree establishing regulations that would prohibit recruitment centres from detaining trainees or loaning them money.

Officials accused in logging

via CAAI

Monday, 06 September 2010 15:03 Meas Sokchea

A LOCAL organisation has accused Kampong Speu’s provincial governor and top military commander of involvement in illegal logging and plans to file complaints with the Anticorruption Unit next week.

Chea Hean, director of the National Resource and Wildlife Preservation Organisation, a national watchdog, said he had evidence that governor Kang Heang and military commander Chhim Bunthoeun had approved illegal timber operations in Phnom Srouch and Oral districts. In particular, he cited correspondence between the two authorising the military to log 350 cubic metres of timber in the two districts.

In two letters sent to Kang Heang in December 2008, copies of which have been obtained by the Post, Chhim Bunthoen requested permission to harvest the wood in order to build a shelter at the provincial military headquarters.

“[Military officials] said this timber would be taken to build a shelter inside the military fort, but when I went to check in the fort, there was no timber there,” Chea Hean said.

“I am preparing the documents to file to the Anticorruption Unit in order to investigate [these claims].”

He said that he was “not scared” of legal retaliation from the officials because he had enough documentation to back up his claims.

Neither Kang Heang nor Chhim Bunthoeun could be reached for comment yesterday. Phnom Srouch district governor Tep Mean said he had seen Kang Heang’s letter authorising the logging, but that there was no wood in his district that would be suitable for building a military facility of that sort.

“Phnom Srouch does not have timber now. I don’t know where they cut it, I just heard that the province allowed logging to build the fort,” he said.

Military training: RCAF base slated for relocation

via CAAI

Monday, 06 September 2010 15:02 Tha Piseth

Military training

THE Cambodian army plans to relocate a major military base in Kampong Speu province’s Phnom Srouch district, fearing that live-fire training exercises by troops could pose a danger to local communities, a military official said.

Ith Sarath, deputy commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, said that the headquarters of Military Region 3 would soon be shifted from Prey Thnout commune to Prey Kmek commune in order to ensure the safety of local residents.

“They use real bullets.... We are afraid that their exercises will have an effect on people living nearby the exercise site,” he said yesterday.

Ith Sarath said the population had increased to a point at which RCAF could no longer guarantee the safety of those living close to the base.

“[Soldiers] normally exercise every day, and the site we are moving to is not inhabited by too many people,” he said. He said a date had not yet been set for the move, but promised it would happen “soon”.

Tep Mean, the governor of Phnom Srouch district, said he was not aware of the reason for the relocation of the base.

US intends to approve more deportations

via CAAI

Monday, 06 September 2010 15:02 Brooke Lewis and Mom Kunthear

THE United States plans to ramp up efforts to deport non-citizens who commit crimes, according to a statement released in the wake of a controversial operation last week involving the deportation of five Cambodians.

The five who arrived in the Kingdom on Thursday brought to 234 the number of Cambodians who have been deported from the US as the result of a bilateral repatriation agreement signed in 2002.

All the deportees are former legal permanent residents in the US who have served prison sentences or been given suspended sentences for aggravated felonies, a classification that was expanded in 1996 to include some crimes that were previously misdemeanours.

According to an article on the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement website on Friday, the five Cambodians were part of a group of 98 deported “immigration violators” who were transported to six Asian countries on a chartered flight.

“This year, ICE expects to remove a record number of criminal aliens from the country, and charter flights like this are a big part of making that happen,” ICE director John Morton was quoted as saying in the article.

“The United States welcomes law-abiding immigrants, but foreign nationals who violate our laws and commit crimes in our communities should be on notice that ICE is going to use all its resources to find you and send you home,” Morton said.

Activists decried the latest round of deportations, which sparked protests and a petition in the US last week, as well as concern from rights groups in Cambodia.

Loeuth Sim, a 43-year-old who arrived in the Kingdom on Thursday, said yesterday that although he had been deported for the seemingly minor crime of “fighting with people a little bit”, he was happy to be here. “I didn’t do time, they just gave me five years’ suspended and five years’ probation,” he said.

He said he had arrived in the US as a 12-year-old refugee and had not been back since. “I’m happy they sent me back,” he said. “This is my home.”