Saturday, 11 September 2010

Traveller's Guide: Cambodia

via CAAI

You can still feel like an explorer in a country where the wonders of Angkor Wat stand in contrast to the horrors of the Killing Fields, says Richard Waters

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Water world: A woman carries water lilies from a pond near Angkor Wat

A tale of two cities?

In many ways, yes – and two eras as well. Angkor was the classical high point of Khmer civilisation from the ninth to the 15th century, and you can see what remains of the glories in the sublime setting of the temple complex of Angkor Wat.

It stands in sharp juxtaposition with the Khmer Rouge's forced evacuation of the capital, Phnom Penh, during the four tragic years of Pol Pot's regime from 1976-1979. His Maoist-driven Khmer Rouge consumed between 1.5 and 2 million of Cambodia's people through execution, starvation and forced labour. The capital was virtually depopulated: city-dwellers were forced out to rural labour camps, or marched to the "killing fields" close to the capital and executed.

You'll inevitably find yourself straddling these two eras. This tranquil corner of Indochina, bordering Thailand, Laos and Vietnam, is abundant with beautiful, jungle-infested temples. Yet the people who'll often guide you to them have themselves been damaged by the genocide; some remember it through the eyes of children and orphans, others as indentured slaves.

Evidence of the horrors perpetrated by Pol Pot can be found in the Tuol Sleng Prison in Phnom Penh, where 17,000 children, women and men were tortured and killed. The school-turned-jail, also known as S-21 ("Security Office 21"), is now on the tourist circuit, as the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. It houses a haunting photo gallery of thousands of terrified subjects awaiting their fate. It opens 8-11am and 2.30-5pm Tuesday to Sunday, admission US$2 (many prices in Cambodia are quoted in dollars, rather than the local currency, the riel, which trades at a rate of around 6,500 to the pound).

Won't I be trampling on tragedy?

No. Vietnam "liberated" the country in 1979 then stayed on for a further 10 years, yet in the past two decades or so Cambodia has redrawn its identity. Emerald rice fields flourish, garment factories line the roads outside Phnom Penh, and the tourism infrastructure has been transformed. Yet Cambodia is still a country where it is possible to feel like an explorer rather than a tourist. It is tapping into its rich seam of undisturbed jungles with a fledgling movement of "ecotourism"; wild elephants, leopards, tigers and black-crested gibbons are but a few of the exotica on offer here. However, unlike mountain-hemmed Laos, Cambodia can also lay claim to beaches and deserted islands.

Where do I start?

Begin your odyssey in the capital, Phnom Penh. With a population approaching 1.3 million it's a sprawling, diesel-laced city buzzing with tuk-tuks (three-wheeler taxis), street stalls, vibrant markets and dragon-topped temples. In the last few years the city has undergone a style renaissance, regaining some of its lustre as the "Pearl of Asia" with a selection of world-class boutique hotels, and equally memorable places to eat.

Probably the most romantic area is Sisowath Quay, at the confluence of the Tonlé Sap and Mekong rivers. There's a wealth of French restaurants here as well as dozens of local eateries. The Foreign Correspondent's Club (00 855 232 10142;, a local institution, has sumptuous accommodation (doubles from $125/£83 for two nights, including breakfast), chocolate leather sofas and lemon walls peppered with black-and-white war photographs. Its al fresco sunset views and Asian fusion menu have attracted photo-journalists such as Tim Page and Al Rockoff (portrayed by John Malkovich in Roland Joffe's Oscar-winning film about the genocide, The Killing Fields.

Phnom Penh's cultural highlights are the Royal Palace (open 7.30-11am and 2.30-5pm, $3/£2) and the National Museum (8am-5pm, $3/£2), both bursting with Buddhist statuary.

Some French influence?

France put its stamp on Phnom Penh between the mid-19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, and many wilting, shuttered colonial-era villas are still standing. Nursing a café au lait and croissant in shady cafés such as Comme à la Maison (00 855 23 360 801; commeala, you feel as if you're back in the days of pastis-drinking colonists.

The French influence is also visible in the most impressive of Phnom Penh's many markets: the Art Deco Central Market, with its enormous dome. It resembles a Babylonian ziggurat and in terms of scale could give Hadrian's Pantheon in Rome a run for its money. More prosaically, the city's so-called "Russian market" abounds in fake labels, rip-off DVDs and a food section out the back where braziers crackle and sunlight slants atmospherically through the broken roof.

Many visitors to Phnom Penh also take a taxi (or ride pillion on a motor-bike) to the Memorial Site of Choeung Ek, some 15km north of the city. Its skull-packed memorial is a chilling but dignified reminder of the many who perished. It opens 8-11am and 2.30-5pm daily, admission $3 (£2).

Where next?

Set your compass north. Head by road or air for Siem Reap, the nearest town to the temple complex of Angkor Wat (see panel). Between threading your way through jungle-ridden temples you can relax your calf muscles in dozens of massage spas back in Siem Reap. Seeing Hands 4 Massage (00 855 12 78 6894) is particularly sensuous, with blind masseuses seeking out your knots and pains. Boutique hotels have sprung up by the river and at every turn there are bespoke jewellers, slick bars and "doctor fish" tubs (inflated paddling pools containing thousands of surgeonfish which nibble away at the dead skin on your feet).

The most expensive and exclusive of all is the Amansara Hotel (00 855 63 760 333;, where room rates begin at $750 (£500), excluding breakfast. A little more modestly, you could indulge in the Art Deco-influenced Hotel de la Paix (00 855 63 966 000; hoteldelapaixangkor .com; doubles from $185/£123). This is a five-star palace with a soul: it sponsors a number of local projects including a weaving school for women and the Gecko Project – an orphanage for street children. The Arts Lounge Bar rotates local artists' installations, the dark wood and mint-white rooms are effortlessly chic, and the hotel's spa elevates pampering to a new level. Were it not for tuk-tuks whizzing by beyond the window, you might be forgiven for thinking you were in Manhattan.

Tonlé Sap, a giant tidal lake connected to the Mekong river, is definitely worth a visit. It was instrumental to the prosperity V C of the great kingdom of Angkor: the inhabitants were smart enough to harness its water, storing it in vast barays (reservoirs), ensuring three rice harvests per year to feed their population.

These days the lake is home to the Prek Toal bird sanctuary, regarded as the most important breeding ground in South-east Asia for endangered water birds. You're likely to see the black-headed ibis, painted storks, spot-billed pelicans and grey-headed fish eagles. Plenty of local tour operators offer trips to the lake, including transport to and from Siem Reap, a boat tour and a visit to the Prek Toal Research Station, for about $75 (£50). Nearby are a number of floating villages where locals live year round on stilted houses in the floodplain – head for Kompong Phluk for the most authentic experience.

A temple off the tourist track?

The distant summit of Prasat Preah Vihear – a much-contested Khmer temple on the disputed and potentially dangerous Thai-Cambodian border – is unbeatable. With its Central sanctuary looking down over the Cambodian plains 1,720ft below, it's the most dramatically situated of the country's treasures. To get there you'll need a sturdy 4x4 and capable driver. The journey is more than compensated for by the sublime views. The temple complex (open 8am-4pm daily, admission free) begins at the foot of the mountain ascending through five gopuras (sanctuaries), embellished in asparas (dancing nymphs), nagas (sentinel water spirits) and garudas (winged monsters).

Where can I get lost?

For pristine forests and grassland, head east for remote Ratanakiri province. The demanding road journey takes you through rarely seen heartland. Here you can picnic on fried tarantulas at Skun, pass marble sculptors fashioning roadside buddhas in Kompong Thom, or overnight at Kratie – an evocative location for seeing the endangered irrawaddy dolphin in the Mekong river.

Finally you'll reach remote Ban Lung. Stay in the Treetop Eco Lodge (00 855 11 600 381; doubles from $10/£7) and swim in the cobalt-green of Yaek Lom crater lake. Then head off for Virachey National Park (00 855 77 965 196; Visitors can penetrate deep into its 3,325sq km wilderness, which is home to gibbons, wild elephants and vultures.

Some beach life?

Cool off with a visit to some of the most remote islands in South-east Asia. The gateway is the unpleasant city of Sihanoukville, but Otres Beach is a $7 (£4.50) taxi ride away. It's a pearly stretch of beach with a laid-back vista of bobbing fishing boats. Otres Shack (00 855 97793 6230;; $30/£20 double excluding breakfast) offers swallow-you-up beds, terrazzo bathrooms and high-spec cabanas a few feet from the water's edge.

To escape, take a longtail boat for an hour to TEN103 (, a treehouse encampment on the otherwise deserted island of Koh Ta Kiev. You will discover a teal-green bay fringed by jungle and the song of cicadas. You dine communally by hurricane lamp on barbecued fish caught daily in the nearby waters – and sleeping in hidden treehouses ($9/£6) or mosquito-proof hammocks ($6/£4) is unforgettable.

Additional research by Neha-Tamara Patel and Jamie Maxwell

Angkor Wat: 12th-century temple and architectural masterpiece

The city of Angkor was hewn out of the jungle 1,000 years ago, using the enormous wealth and sheer genius of the Khmer kingdom. At the time, Khmer culture and civilisation was ascendant in Asia, and its structures were commensurately grandiose.

In the end its ambition was self-defeating; the building programme depleted the kingdom's resources and weakened its defences. Thai invaders captured Angkor in 1431, and the magnificent capital was abandoned. The complex was rediscovered in 1860 by the French archaeologist Henri Mahout.

Most of the temples in the Angkor complex have been freed from the encroaching jungle, but one has been left as they found it: Ta Prohm, as seen in the film Tomb Raider. When this vast, ornate temple was abandoned, the jungle began to take its revenge. Towers and turrets have been shrugged aside, and creepers infiltrate every man-made nook.

The heart of the Khmer kingdom was Angkor Thom, a two-mile-square compound which has survived in rather better shape. In the 12th-century it was probably the world's most populous city, with around a million inhabitants. At the centre of Angkor Thom is the Bayon: a sandstone pyramid built in single-minded celebration of the face of the god Avalokitesvara. The builders' devotion is demonstrated in the countless smiling visages grinning from every surface of the tower.

Simon Calder

Admission to the complex costs $20 (£13) for one day, $40 (£26) for three days or $60 (£40) for one week.

Travel essentials: Cambodia

When to go

* Start planning now: the hot, wet season ends next month. The ideal months to travel are December and January, though February, March and November are also relatively cool and dry. Avoid April to October.

Getting there

* The easiest option is to fly to Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur or Singapore and take a connecting flight to either Siem Reap (for Angkor Wat), or the capital, Phnom Penh.

Flights to Phnom Penh are available for around £700 return on Thai Airways from Heathrow via Bangkok. To reach Siem Reap, you could combine a fare of around £550 between London and Bangkok with a flight to Siem Reap with Bangkok Air ( or Air Asia ( for about £120 return.

Getting around

* Buses form the backbone of transport in Cambodia. There are also flights between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap (for Angkor Wat) with Royal Khmer Airlines ( for around $60 (£40) each way.

City transport is provided by taxis, tuk-tuks, motorbikes or bicycle rickshaws.

The Foreign Office warns "Cambodia has one of the highest rates of road traffic accidents in the region, resulting in high numbers of fatalities and injuries".

Red tape

* If you fly in, you can get a visa on arrival for $30 (£20); take two passport photographs. If you plan to arrive overland, check that the border crossing issues visas; otherwise you will need to get one in advance.


* Protection against typhoid, hepatitis A and B, yellow fever, diphtheria, tuberculosis, Japanese B encephalitis and rabies may be necessary; take advice from your GP or a travel-health specialist.

Tour operators

* A wide range of UK adventure specialists, such as Exodus (0870 240 5550; and Explore (0844 499 0901;, include Cambodia on their Indochina itineraries.

* If you arrange your own flights but want help on the ground, local tour operators include Hanuman Tourism ( and All Concierge Services (00 855 63 636 3345;

Nearly 40,000 Cambodians working in foreign countries

via CAAI

September 11, 2010

Cambodian government said Friday that by the first six months of this year, nearly 40,000 Cambodian are working in foreign countries.

At a round-table discussion with Club of Cambodian Journalists, Hou Vuthy, deputy director general of the General Directorate of Ministry of Labor and his colleagues told reporters that by June this year, there were 39,051 Cambodian workers working in Malaysia, Thailand, South Korea and Japan.

They said there were 19,588 Cambodians laborers working in Malaysia, 10,284 working in Thailand, 9,082 in South Korea and 97 in Japan.

Through these workers, about 150 million U.S. dollars was sent home (Cambodia) every year, said Hou Vuthy.

He said their salary, while working in Thailand and Malaysia is about 200 U.S. dollars per month, whereas in South Korea and Japan is between 800 and 1,000 U.S. dollars per month.

Hou Vuthy said Cambodian laborers were first sent to work abroad in 1995.

As of date, Cambodian workers are only sent to these four countries, but more targeted nations such as Kuwait, Qatar, Canada and Singapore are being negotiated, and hope those countries will accept Cambodian labors in the near future, according to Hou Vuthy.

Source: Xinhua

Mekong rattan firms investigate global market at trade fair

via CAAI

September, 11 2010

HCM CITY — Producers from Viet Nam, Laos and Cambodia showcased their sustainable rattan products at the Spoga International trade fair that ended this week in Cologne, Germany.

"This [exhibition] is very important for us because we are now jointly promoting sustainable rattan products in the international market," Nguyen Truong Thien, director of the central province of Quang Nam-based Au Co Rattan - Bamboo Export Enterprise, said.

The company is a pioneer in using clean production technologies to process rattan.

The Spoga International Trade Fair for Sport, Camping and Garden Lifestyle was held from September 5 to 7, and attracted more than 2,500 exhibitors and 45,000 visitors.

For the last two years the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has been working with local communities, rattan companies and national and local authorities in Viet Nam, Laos and Cambodia to promote clean production along the rattan supply chain.

Its aim is to improve livelihoods, promote responsible forest management and certification, clean up the rattan production system, and link local rattan products with the global market.

"The trade fair is a fantastic opportunity for the Mekong rattan industry to see first-hand how investing in sustainable and clean production systems can give them access to new markets," Thibault Ledecq, WWF's Rattan Programme Manager, said.

"Rattan companies need to be ready for a big leap in terms of developing environmentally friendly production systems and product designs if they are to attract international buyers," he added.

"Establishing a Sustainable Production System for Rattan Products in Viet Nam, Laos and Cambodia" is a project co-funded by the EU, international home-products retailer IKEA, and the German development finance institution. — VNS

President affirms co-operation with Laos, Cambodia

via CAAI

September 11, 2010

President Triet and Chief Judge of the Supreme People’s Court of Laos Khammy Sayavong

In its foreign policy of expanding co-operation with all countries around the world, Vietnam focuses on co-operation with Laos and Cambodia and is willing to help them develop, said President Nguyen Minh Triet.

President Triet received separately the Chief Judge of the Supreme People’s Court of Laos Khammy Sayavong and the Deputy Chief Judge of the Supreme Court of Cambodia Khim Ponn in Hanoi on September 10.

Recalling his visits to Laos and Cambodia last August, the President said he was pleased that Vietnam’s friendship and co-operation with the two neighbouring countries have been growing wonderfully following the visits exchanged at all levels.

He lauded the recent effective co-operation between the three countries’ judiciary sectors and asked them to clarify directions for their future co-operation, thus solidifying each country’s contribution to mutual development and tightening their close relationship.

The Lao and Cambodian officials praised Vietnam ’s renewal achievements and thanked the Vietnamese people for their wholehearted and effective assistance over past years.

They informed the host of the results of their working visits in Vietnam and expressed thanks to the Vietnam Supreme People’s Court for sharing experiences in judgment, judicial system management and reform, and human resource training.

The officials asserted that they will work together with Vietnam in prioritising co-operative activities for the development of each country’s judiciary sector and further strengthening their friendship and multifaceted co-operation. (VNA)

IMF Team Completes the 2010 Article IV Consultation Discussions with Cambodia

via CAAI

An International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission from Washington, D.C. visited Cambodia August 30 to September 10, 2010, to conduct the annual Article IV discussions.1 During the visit, the mission took stock of recent economic and financial developments and held policy discussions with ministers and senior officials of the Royal Government of Cambodia on their macroeconomic and financial policies. The mission also met a wide range of representatives from the business community and Cambodia’s development partners.

A broadening export-led recovery is taking hold since the beginning of the year. Real GDP growth is projected to reach 4½–5 percent in 2010, a significant turnaround from 2009. Garment exports and tourist arrivals, notably by air, are bouncing back, both growing between 10 to 20 percent (y/y) in the second quarter of 2010. Construction activity, however, appears to remain sluggish with growth of most related imports still negative, while a late start of the rainy season may dent agricultural output growth.

Amid ample liquidity in the banking system, credit growth has turned the corner and, on current trends, could run well above 20 percent in the second half of the year. Headline CPI inflation is projected to average 4 percent this year.

Significant risks continue to cloud growth prospects. The fragility of the global recovery exposes Cambodia’s narrow export base with its heavy reliance on the U.S. and European markets to significant downside risks. Over the medium term, efforts to strengthen the business environment and enhance public sector revenues and service delivery are important to overcome major downside risks to growth. On the other hand, a better-than-expected return to medium-term investments in the power sector and rural infrastructure could offer significant upside potential.

Against this background, discussions focused on the dual policy challenge to safeguard hard-won gains in macroeconomic stability and policy credibility, and lay the foundations for broader-based and inclusive growth.

With regard to fiscal policies, the mission was encouraged by the fiscal outturn through July suggesting that the budget target of a gradual fiscal consolidation is on track. The rebound in tax revenue is broadening, with both direct and indirect cumulative tax collection through the first seven months rising by 8 and 18 percent (y/y), respectively. However, the mission advised that further fiscal adjustment is needed for 2011 and the medium term. As the economic recovery gains traction, the recourse to domestic financing, and thus the injection of significant additional riel liquidity, should be eliminated to avoid undue external and inflation pressures. Moreover, further consolidation would enable Cambodia to retain its favorable debt sustainability outlook and rebuild its capacity to absorb potential future shocks.

The mission strongly supports the government’s emphasis on further improving revenue administration. Gains in tax collection offer the best hope for Cambodia to meet the dual objective of securing fiscal sustainability and mobilizing resources for its development needs. In addition, further progress along the government’s public financial management reform program will be critical to secure gains from enhanced revenue administration and improve the effectiveness of social priority spending

On monetary policies, the mission discussed ways to enhance Cambodia’s monetary independence, including elements of a strategy to address the high degree of dollarization. To a large extent dollarization reflects Cambodia’s unbalanced and narrow growth over recent decades that was driven by the dollarized urban export and tourism centers. Therefore, a more diversified development with greater emphasis on agriculture and rural areas, where the riel is commonly accepted, could over time produce a significant decline of dollarization. In addition, based on international experience of countries with a successful de-dollarization strategy, the incentives for greater use of riel could be increased.

The mission commended the National Bank of Cambodia for taking actions to safeguard the health of the banking system. Considering the findings of the IMF/World Bank Financial Sector Assessment Program mission in March 2010, the mission and the authorities agreed that robust supervision of banks and strict enforcement of prudential regulations remain key to sustained stability. Moreover, the supervisory framework and resources will also need to keep pace with the development of a broader financial system.

Global economic rebalancing and greater reliance in Asia on domestic sources of growth offer significant opportunities that Cambodia should seize. The government’s recent initiatives to improve the business environment and address infrastructure bottlenecks are timely. The mission looks forward to the implementation of the Anti-Corruption Law which could significantly reduce the cost of doing business, and thereby improve Cambodia’s international competitiveness. Promoting agricultural development and rural infrastructure investment, including by the recently adopted Rice Policy, will broaden Cambodia’s sources of growth and make future development more inclusive and sustainable. Improving the quality and dissemination of key economic statistics will serve to further enhance policy credibility and result in better informed business decisions.

Crown to Increase Production Capacity in Cambodia

via CAAI

PHILADELPHIA, Sept. 9 /PRNewswire/ -- Crown Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: CCK), a leading supplier of metal packaging products worldwide, announced today that its subsidiary, CROWN Asia Pacific Holdings Ltd., plans to install a second beverage can line in its existing facility in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

The new line is expected to be operational in the fourth quarter of 2011 and have an initial annual production capacity of 700 million two-piece 33cl aluminum beverage cans, which will expand the plant's capacity to 1.3 billion cans.

As the capital and largest city of Cambodia, Phnom Penh has grown to become the nation's center of economic and commercial activities. Situated on the banks of the Mekong River, it is the wealthiest and most populous city in the country as well as its political center. Growth rates in recent years have triggered an economic boom and the country's many historical and cultural sites make it a popular tourist destination.

"We are excited to see the Cambodian market's growing demand for beverage cans", commented Jozef Salaerts, President of Crown's Asia-Pacific Division. "The country is developing rapidly with more customers choosing the two-piece aluminum can as their packaging preference. We are pleased to support the growing needs of our global and regional customers and help them continue to build their brands."

Cautionary Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements

Except for historical information, all other information in this press release consists of forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements involve a number of risks, uncertainties and other factors, including whether demand will continue to grow for beverage cans in Cambodia and whether the Company can successfully implement its expansion plans and meet production targets in its Phnom Penh plant, that may cause actual results to be materially different from those expressed or implied in the forward-looking statements. Important factors that could cause the statements made in this press release or the actual results of operations or financial condition of the Company to differ are discussed under the caption "Forward-Looking Statements" in the Company's Form 10-K Annual Report for the year ended December 31, 2009 and in subsequent filings made prior to or after the date hereof. The Company does not intend to review or revise any particular forward-looking statement in light of future events.

About Crown Holdings

Crown Holdings, Inc., through its subsidiaries, is a leading supplier of packaging products to consumer marketing companies around the world. World headquarters are located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Please visit .

New Solar Trees Light Up Angkor Wat, Cambodia

via CAAI

Amanda Reed, 10 Sep 10

New solar powered street lights installed in Angkor Wat, Cambodia add much needed public lighting to the area, in a fun, low-energy design that increases night-time safety and facilitates greater earnings for local businesses. Nothing Design Group conceived of the tree-like design, and developed the lights in partnership with Asiana Airlines and Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA). The project team wished to create lights that would both increase night-time safety and help elevate Cambodia's image.

As a UNESCO World Heritage site, Angkor Wat attracts many tourists, but before the lights were installed, many did not venture out at night. Now, the added lighting encourages both tourists and residents to be out at night, which creates benefits for both: tourists can integrate more with the local community and locals can generate more income by keeping markets and other businesses open later.

So far, 16 solar streetlights have been installed, and the team plans to install 5 to 10 more a year until 2015.

Photo of installed solar streetlight at night. Courtesy of Nothing Design.

Residents help install a solar streetlight in Angkor Wat. Photo courtesy of Nothing Design

REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea : Night Market in Phnom Penh

Girls browse clothes at a night market in Phnom Penh September 10, 2010. The sign reads,"Women shorts one for $2 and three for only $5". REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

People browse clothes at a night market in Phnom Penh September 10, 2010. The sign reads,"Women shorts one for $2 and three for only $5". REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Girls perform in front of a big picture showing Cambodian singers during a concert at a night market in Phnom Penh September 10, 2010. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

A vendor waits for customers on the street at a night market in Phnom Penh September 10, 2010. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

ASEAN: Cambodians working in foreign countries tops 39,000

via CAAI

September 10, 2010

Cambodian government said Friday that by the 1-Half of this year, about 40,000 Cambodian are working in foreign countries.

At a round-table discussion with Club of Cambodian Journalists, Hou Vuthy, deputy director general of the General Directorate of Ministry of Labor and his colleagues told reporters that by June this year, there were 39,051 Cambodian workers working in Malaysia, Thailand, South Korea and Japan.

They said there were 19,588 Cambodians laborers working in Malaysia, 10,284 working in Thailand, 9,082 in South Korea and 97 in Japan.

Through these workers, about US$150M was sent back to Cambodia every year, said Hou Vuthy.

He said their salary, while working in Thailand and Malaysia is about US$200 per month, whereas in South Korea and Japan is between 800 and 1,000US $’s per month.

Hou Vuthy said Cambodian laborers were first sent to work abroad in Y 1995.

As of date, Cambodian workers are only sent to these four countries, but more targeted nations such as Kuwait, Qatar, Canada and Singapore are being negotiated, and hope those countries will accept Cambodian labors in the near future, according to Hou Vuthy.–Paul A. Ebeling, Jnr.  

Unveiling Angkor Wat's silent dancers

via CAAI
Saturday Sep 11, 2010

The role of numerous carved women at the temple of Angkor Wat has experts puzzled. Photo / Supplied

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 1786 mysterious women and why, more than a century after Cambodia's famed Hindu temple was rediscovered by Western archaeologists, did it take the efforts of an amateur US researcher to push experts into trying to resolve the puzzle?

Though Kent Davis had lived in Southeast Asia during the 1990s, he did not see Angkor Wat until 2005.

Like most visitors to the huge complex, for many years cut off from the outside world because of the Khmer Rouge, he was mesmerised.

But he 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 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."

Davis 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 site's curator.

Five years and several trips to Angkor later, Davis has slowly begun to get some answers.

After turning to Michigan University computer experts for help, 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 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 despite all the mapping, the results of which were published in DatAsia magazine, many questions about the women remain unanswered.

"There are almost 1800 women's faces there," said 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."

Davis wrote to universities, pestered experts, and sought the opinions of people from around the globe who had worked at Angkor.

Dr Peter Sharrock, an expert on Southeast 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."

Davis said analysing the images was like "being the first person to get a map to the British Museum and the keys to the front door".

"Once we define facial types more thoroughly, [by] using facial pattern recognition on people living in this area ... we could actually find the descendants of some of the sacred women in the temple."

What: A sprawling temple complex.

Where: Located amid dense jungle and close to the city of Siem Reap.

History: It was built in the early 12th century and is one of a series of stunning palaces built over a 400-year period by the Khmer Kingdom. Angkor Wat, the most impressive and best-preserved of the complexes, was built for King Suryavarman II and is dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu.

Khmer Rouge: 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.

Today: The temples attract up to a million tourists a year. Angkor Wat has become a symbol of Cambodia, even appearing on its national flag.

The Five Myths of Travel

via CAAI

Matt Kepnes

Posted: September 10, 2010

Whenever I tell people that I travel for a living, they usually fire a million questions at me about what it's like to do an around-the-world trip. Then, they usually finish by saying, "You're so lucky! I wish I could do what you do, but I have too many responsibilities." Or they might say, "A trip will be too expensive," or "I'm afraid I won't meet anybody." I hear these excuses all the time, and each time I hear them I sigh a bit. I know first hand how they can hold you back and how they aren't true. But I sympathize with people. I, too, had the same fears before I went away. Even when I got on the plane, I was still nervous. However, if 4 years of travel has taught me anything, it's this:

Travel is NOT expensive. Despite what the ads, the travel agents, and the TV commercials may say, travel is not expensive. You don't need thousands upon thousands of dollars to take a trip. The reason why you see only costly trips in magazines is because those are the places that pay for the advertising. I spend less money traveling than when I am home. On the road, I figured out how to find cheap flights, get free accommodation, save money by using local transportation, and cooking some of my meals. Moreover, not having any monthly bills drastically reduces your expenses. Once you "live like a local," you'll find travel is cheap.

RTW trips are easy. When I first went away, I planned and worried about every little detail of my trip. In the end, I realized I was worrying for nothing. Everything seemed to work out and travelers, hostels, and locals had much more up-to-date information than the guidebooks had. Moreover, I kept on changing all the plans I made as the situation changed. The lesson: Now, I book the first few nights and then go with the flow. Everything works out in the end.

People speak English. English is a global language, so you shouldn't have too many problems taking to people. Even in places like rural Cambodia, people still understand a little bit of English. You'll be able to communicate on a basic level and get around. Moreover, hand signs work very well. A friend of mine communicated his desire for eggs by drawing a chicken and an egg on a piece of paper. My point is that with the widespread dissemination of Hollywood movies and English being the common language, you won't have a problem communicating.

You will make friends. When I first backpacked around Europe, I was nervous about making new friends. So, what did I end up doing? I simply asked people if they wanted to hang out. And you know what? Everything worked out just fine. Life on the road is filled with other travelers in the same position. Making friends just happens. You sit down on a bus or enter your dorm and say hello. Or you join in a game of pool. Not really good at asking questions? Don't worry. People will ask you questions and include you. Everyone is in the same boat.

Responsibilities are an illusion. The great fear people have about going away involves their responsibilities. People worry about their bills, their apartment, or all their earthly possessions. Yet, once you go away, all of these things disappear. It's easy. Cancel your phone and cable service, sell your car, give up your apartment, and go. It sounds so simple that it must be too good to be true. The truth is it really is that simple. Once you make the decision to go, you'll find that all those "responsibilities" that held you back are gone just like that.

In the end, what really holds us back is ourselves. Our own fears and lack of confidence keep us from going overseas and taking that trip we dream of in our heads. That was my biggest challenge. I had to prepare myself to take the leap. But once I realized these fears were just in my head, it was much easier to take the leap. And that's the hardest part. After you take the leap you will realize that all your worries were for naught and you'll start having the time of your life.

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Regal reception for Thai diplomat

Breakback for diamondPrasas becomes a Thai diplomat in the Cambodian king's court as relations improve / Breakback for diamondBanharn gets an unwelcome surprise as his request for a favour is denied by the government / Breakback for diamondThe DSI faces increasing criticism as accusations of political meddling and improper conduct pile up

Published: 11/09/2010
Nevia CAAI

The Thai ambassador to Cambodia Prasas Prasasvinitchai has presented his credentials to the country's King Sihamoni, a vital procedure that formalises his diplomatic posting.

Prasas: On a mission of amelioration

Mr Prasas was initially scheduled to meet the Cambodian king on Oct 18 but Prime Minister Hun Sen brought the date forward to yesterday.

Phnom Penh is Mr Prasas' first ambassadorial post and hopefully not his last because he still has nearly a decade to go before he is due to retire.

In the past, Mr Prasas was mistaken by many of his bureaucratic peers and members of the media for a palad amphoe (assistant district chief) or phuwa (governor) due to his appearance.

He was often seen wearing Thai-style shirts usually worn by local administrators and kept a low profile.

Because he had to travel upcountry often and held many meetings with military and provincial officials, it is perhaps understandable that he left his suits and neckties at home.

A law graduate of Thammasat University, he has been working at the Foreign Ministry's Department of the Treaty and Legal Affairs since 1977, dealing with lots of nitty gritty matters, mostly concerning border issues.

His straightforward and outspoken manner sometimes has not gone down well with certain politicians, diplomat colleagues and state officials. Yet, his sincerity and sound logic have also enabled him to beat some tough diplomatic challenges with neighbouring countries and helped him overcome problems with other ministries.

It took him a long time before he was appointed head of the division of border affairs in 2000. It has been observed that officials with a background in law tend to be left behind when promotions are handed out at the Foreign Ministry.

Mr Prasas is one of only a very few working diplomats who have been able to read neighbouring countries' political manoeuvrings over border affairs. He remembers all the significant chapters of past border treaties with France and Britain and is well acquainted with military and interior officials based at the border.

Before moving to Rangoon and assuming the second most important post at the embassy there, he was made deputy head of the Department of East Asian Affairs for a few years.

During his posting to Burma, Mr Prasas was also called to provide support for negotiators at the Christchurch talks of the World Heritage Committee in 2007, which discussed Cambodia's solo attempt to seek the heritage listing of the Preah Vihear temple.

The whole of last year was truly a rough one for Thai-Cambodian relations and the Thai ambassador's seat in Phnom Penh was vacant for nearly 10 months.

Soon after being appointed ambassador to Cambodia, Mr Prasas left Bangkok but in less than a month he was recalled. That was nine days after ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra was appointed a personal adviser to Hun Sen and economic adviser to the Cambodian government.

Now that the Thai and Cambodian ambassadors have got back to work, and with signs of eased tensions between the two sides, observers are keeping their fingers crossed as to how long the improved relations will last.

After all, the public hearing on the memorandum of understanding for the reconvening of the Joint Boundary Committee should be ready for Thai parliamentary scrutiny late next month.

If there are no further incidents to dampen bilateral ties, full normalisation of the troubled bilateral relations can then be expected.

If not, Mr Prasas will have to stand ready for yet another diplomatic storm.

Patron power fails Suphan supremo

Banharn: Shrinking stature?

Banharn Silpa-archa is indisputably one seasoned politician who does not take no for an answer.

The former leader of the now defunct Chart Thai Party continues to have his way even in the Chart Thai Pattana Party, which emerged from the ashes of the former group.

He also commands enough political clout to get what he wants outside the party. The Chart Thai Pattana's size makes it attractive to larger parties looking to form a government and the records confirm that the party and its previous incarnation have spent far more time as part of the government than in the opposition.

Although Mr Banharn has been banned from politics for five years after being convicted of complicity with other Chart Thai executives in electoral fraud, there is no denying that when he speaks, his party members listen.

Chart Thai Pattana constitutes a major support base for the government, giving Mr Banharn the full respect of coalition parties.

But the extent of Mr Banharn's influence was put to the test recently when Mr Banharn requested a personal favour from the ruling Democrat Party. He reportedly approached Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban to ask that his close aide, Pol Maj Gen Kamronwit Thoopkrajang, deputy commissioner of the Provincial Police Bureau 1, be promoted to lieutenant-general and made commissioner of the bureau, according to a government source.

The bureau supervises police affairs in parts of the Central Plain, including Suphan Buri, Mr Banharn's political base and the largest beneficiary of his patronage, and the provinces surrounding the capital.

This time Mr Banharn's influence was not enough to win the day and Pol Maj Gen Kamronwit didn't get the promotion.

The source said Pol Maj Gen Kamronwit does not have the confidence of the Democrat Party as he is suspected of retaining close ties with ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra. He is also seen to have adopted a ''hawk'' policy in conducting police operations when he was the chief of police in Narathiwat during the Thaksin administration.

Mr Abhisit and Mr Suthep reportedly chose to break with Mr Banharn over the favour rather than risk promoting a ''tomato'', as pro-red shirt state officials are known, amid the current volatile climate.

He was later transferred to Bangkok to head a special security patrol and operations unit in the capital.

A decorated officer, Pol Maj Gen Kamronwit may be close to Mr Banharn but he has found it hard to shake off his association with Thaksin. Even now, he is providing security to Deputy House Speaker Apiwan Wiriyachai who took to the stage during the red shirt rallies in Bangkok in April and May.

Political observers are watching now to see if the loss of face incurred by Mr Banharn for failing to secure Gen Kamronwit's promotion will threaten his stature in the coalition government.

The government may, however, have to come up with ways to make up with Mr Banharn.

Fertiliser case leaves lasting stink

Piyawat: Frustrated at DSI dealings

The Poodang pyramid fund controversy has once again exposed the political interference alleged to be rife in the Department of Special Investigation.

Public faith in the transparency of the DSI's investigation took a battering after the case against the fertiliser producer was dropped. The department also went further and allowed bail for the suspects against the recommendation of the team of investigation officials.

DSI deputy chief Narat Savetnant insisted it was within the DSI's authority not to submit the case to the prosecution for the suspects to be indicted. The department chief Tharit Pengdit did not have to go along with the investigators' recommendation.

The Justice Ministry earlier ordered a probe into allegations that a senior DSI officer lobbied to have the Poodang pyramid scheme case dropped.

The allegations were made by the DSI's Bureau of Special Crime director Piyawat Kingkate, who released two audio clips of conversations between him and a C-8 subordinate regarding the lobbying attempts.

Pol Col Piyawat claimed the DSI investigator in question tried to lobby him to help the executives of Best 59 Co, the producer of the Poodang Kitozan brand of fertiliser, who face fraud charges.

The source at the Justice Ministry said the DSI investigator in question has played a key role in tracking down transactions in many financial investigations.

The investigator also reportedly has close ties to the Democrat Party in Prachuap Khiri Khan.

The source said there were attempts to have the case dropped and Pol Col Piyawat was reportedly asked by a certain element to ''provide leeway'' in the investigation through which the Poodang suspects could escape prosecution.

Pol Col Piyawat vented his frustration about the alleged interference on his Facebook page.

There is no doubt the DSI has been in charge of many high-profile criminal cases involving senior politicians.

Naturally, it is one of the agencies most prone to political meddling as many want the results of investigations to swing in their favour.

The alleged meddling varies in form. During the red shirt protests in Bangkok in April and May, the DSI was viewed as a key government instrument in enforcing the law against security offenders.

But calls have been repeated for the DSI to be detached from politics to restore the agency's integrity and help earn more public trust.

But it is clear the DSI is one of the prime agencies that people in government target to get their close aides into the top positions.

During the Thak Rak Thai Party-led government, Pol Gen Sombat Amornvivat was appointed DSI chief. In the previous government under the People Power Party, the agency was run by Pol Col Thawee Sodsong who was replaced by Mr Tharit when the Democrat Party took over the government.

President Triet receives Lao and Cambodian court delegations

via CAAI


President Nguyen Minh Triet held a reception for President of the Lao People's Supreme Court (LPSC) Khammy Sayavong and Deputy Chief of the Cambodian People's Supreme Court Khim Ponn in Hanoi on September 10.

Mr Triet applauded the visit by the Lao and Cambodian court delegations on the occasion of the 65th anniversary of the establishment of Vietnam’s court.

He highlighted the effective cooperation between Vietnamese People’s Supreme Court and the courts of Laos and Cambodia over the past years.

He expressed his hope that the courts of the three countries will continue to find new and productive ways to cooperate.

The Vietnamese leader recalled his State visit to Laos and Cambodia in August, saying that it underscored the solidarity, trust, and understanding that has been growing among the leaders and people of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

He emphasised that Vietnam’s foreign policy centers on enhancing cooperation with all countries, particularly Laos and Cambodia. Vietnam is always ready to assist Laos and Cambodia in their development process, he added.

The Lao and Cambodian guests praised the achievements Vietnam has recorded in its renewal process, and expressed their gratitude for the Vietnamese people’s valuable assistance to Laos and Cambodia in recent years.

Retail Supply: Crown To Add Cambodia Can Line

via CAAI

Sep 10, 2010 (FinancialWire via COMTEX) -- Crown Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: CCK | PowerRating), a supplier of metal packaging products, said that its subsidiary, Crown Asia Pacific Holdings Ltd., plans to install a second beverage can line in its existing facility in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

The new line is scheduled to be operational in the fourth quarter of 2011 and have an initial annual production capacity of 700 million two-piece 33cl aluminum beverage cans, which will expand the plant's capacity to 1.3 billion cans.

Pennsylvania-based Crown Holdings, through its subsidiaries, is a supplier of packaging products to consumer marketing companies.

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Voter Registration Remains Complicated for Citizens: Expert

Sok Khemara, VOA khmer | Washington, D.C
Friday, 10 September 2010

via CAAI

An election staff helps a Cambodian elderly woman to cast her ballot at a polling station in Kampong Cham province, north of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Sunday, July 27, 2008.

“Some countries apply this system, a system where people do not have the obligation to register.”

A Cambodia elections expert says voter registration remains complicated for everyday citizens and puts more burden on them than the state.

Cambodia also lacks a single database for the population, further complicating the process, said Koul Panha, director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, as a guest on “Hello VOA” Thursday.

“Some countries apply this system, a system where people do not have the obligation to register,” he said. “They organize a system to check the database and the age of people in order to place their names on a voting list” and inform them where they will vote, he said.

“But Cambodia still puts the obligation on people who have turned 18 to register,” he said.

The National Election Committee announced Thursday it hoped to register some 300,000 new voters between October and the end of the year, adding to the 8.3 million voters already registered, following an annual voter survey.

“Our registration is done every year,” Koul Panha said. “Those who are eligible to register and those who have no name on the register will have to register to vote.” That also includes people who have changed their address or have been taken off the register.

However, in other countries a database, birth certificate and other vital records clearly define voters, he said.

Cambodia’s system has led to problems in the past, he said.

In the 2008 national election, nearly 400,000 voters have problems, where they either did not see their names on the voter register or were incorrectly registered, leading to disillusionment and the loss of votes, he said.

Meanwhile, one agency’s list may differ from another.

“The NEC has their own database, and the Ministry of Interior, they have their own database, and we don’t define a clear identification of one individual,” he said. “That has caused voter lists of poor quality and made names wrong, or lost, and then people don’t get their right to vote.”

Cambodia is preparing for local-level commune council elections in 2012, with parliamentary elections the following year. Some election experts have called for the elimination of the old voter register and a creation a new, more credible list.

Koul Panha said people could also have their own identification number to avoid confusion or names dropped from the register.

IMF Estimates 5 Percent Growth in 2010

Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer | Phnom Penh
Friday, 10 September 2010

via CAAI

Photo: AP
Tourists in at an Angkor temple in Siem Reap.

“Improving the quality and dissemination of key economic statistics will serve to further enhance policy credibility and result in better informed business decisions.”

The International Monetary Fund predicts an economic growth rate as high as 5 percent for 2010, thanks to recovery in garment exports and tourism.

The IMF said 2009 had seen a shrinking of the economy by 2 percent in the wake of the global economic crisis, but there are signs of growth, especially in the two chief earners.

“Real GDP growth is projected to reach 4.5 to 5 percent in 2010, a significant turnaround from 2009,” the IMF’s senior economist for Asia and the Pacific, Olaf Underoberdoerster, told reporters Friday following a 10-day mission. “A broadening export-led recovery has taken hold since the beginning of the year.”

Some economic cool spots remain. Construction activity remained “sluggish,” Underoberdoerster said, with related imports low, “while a late start of the rainy season may dent agricultural output growth.”

Still, Cambodia’s economy could grow even further into 2011 and 2012, he said.

Cambodia will also benefit from an increase in the labor force and a relatively young population, but it will have to improve its business environment to make it more competitive, he said.

Cambodia should also focus on improving public service delivery and ensure public investment was targeted at areas for “high return in key infrastructure and social priority sectors,” he said.

Underoberdoerster also stressed the promotion of agriculture and rural infrastructure as means to broaden future growth.

“Improving the quality and dissemination of key economic statistics will serve to further enhance policy credibility and result in better informed business decisions,” he said.

Meanwhile, Yim Sovann, a spokesman for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, said 5 percent growth was not enough when put against the population growth rate and inflation.

Improvements need to be made in the fight against corruption and the distribution of economic wealth “for all, with equity,” he said.

Crown Holdings Inc plans to increase beverage can production capacity in Cambodia

via CAAI

Sep 10, 2010 (M2 EQUITYBITES via COMTEX) -- Packaging products company Crown Holdings Inc (NYSE: CCK | PowerRating) revealed on Thursday that its subsidiary CROWN Asia Pacific Holdings Ltd proposes to install a second beverage can line in its existing facility in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

This new line is anticipated to be operational in the fourth quarter of 2011. It will have an initial annual production capacity of 700m two-piece 33cl aluminum beverage cans, expanding the plantaEUR(TM)s capacity to 1.3bn cans.

British man detained in Cambodia on child sex abuse charges

A British man, Michael Julian Leach (L) , 50, talks to a police officer on the truck upon his arrival at the Phnom Penh municipal court for questioning on September 8, 2010. According to local media, the Phnom Penh Municipal court yesterday charged Leach with purchasing sex with three youths in Kandal province. Three other Cambodians were arrested and charged for facilitating the crime, according to deputy prosecutor Keu Bunnara, who told local media. Picture taken September 8. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

A British man, Michael Julian Leach is helped out from a truck upon his arrival for questioning at the Phnom Penh Municipal court September 8, 2010. According to local media, the Phnom Penh Municipal court yesterday charged Leach, 50, with purchasing sex with three youths in Kandal province. Three other Cambodians were arrested and charged for facilitating the crime, according to deputy prosecutor Keu Bunnara, who told local media. Picture taken September 8. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

A British man, Michael Julian Leach is escorted by a police officer for questioning upon his arrival at the Phnom Penh Municipal court September 8, 2010. According to local media, the Phnom Penh Municipal court yesterday charged Leach, 50, with purchasing sex with three youths in Kandal province. Three other Cambodians were arrested and charged for facilitating the crime, according to deputy prosecutor Keu Bunnara, who told local media. Picture taken September 8. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Cambodia earns $150 million per year from overseas labor

via CAAI

PHNOM PENH, Sept. 10 (AP) - (Kyodo)—Cambodia earns about $150 million a year from its citizens working in four Asian countries, a government official said Friday.

According to the Labor Ministry, 39,051 Cambodians worked in Malaysia, Thailand, South Korea and Japan as of June 30.

Hou Vuthy, a deputy director general at the ministry, said a Cambodian worker earns about $200 a month in Malaysia and Thailand and between $800 and $1,000 in Japan and South Korea.

Malaysia has the most Cambodian workers among the four countries, at 19,588, followed by Thailand at 10,284, South Korea at 9,082, and Japan at 97.

Hou Vuthy said Cambodia has been working to send workers to other countries as well.

A memorandum of understanding on the dispatch of workers has been signed between Cambodia and Kuwait, but more paperwork needs to be done before Cambodian workers are sent to the Gulf nation, Hou Vuthy said.

Other countries that Cambodia has approached include Singapore, Canada and Qatar, he said.

Most Cambodian laborers are employed for household or factory work, Hou Vuthy said.

Cambodia began sending workers abroad in 1995.

Siem Reap: Cambodia tourism up in 2010

via CAAI

Friday, 10 September 2010

Cambodia is one of only five ASEAN nations posting tourism growth in 2010.

Cambodia has seen a 13 per cent increase in tourists during the first seven months of 2010, one of only five ASEAN countries to post growth during the period..”

Over 1.4 million tourists entered Cambodia in 2010 to the end of July, an annualised improvement of 13.9 per cent, according to a Ministry of Tourism report.

The increase makes it one of only a handful of ASEAN countries to post rising tourism figures, alongside Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Laos.

The Kingdom of Cambodia had the potential to become and even larger draw for regional visitors, according to tourism minister Thong Khon.

“We have the potential of a huge and great culture which can be used to attract an increasing number of tourists in the future,” he said, before announcing that the 2011 ASEAN Tourism Forum would be held in Phnom Penh in January. ASEAN was an important destination for foreign tourists, and Cambodia was becoming increasingly attractive for international tourists, he added.

“We will win the competition, and we need to develop the sector as much as we can.”