Saturday, 30 October 2010

Apparel sector may experience more work stoppages

via CAAI

October 30, 2010 (Cambodia)

A local workers’ union has given a warning to restart the work stoppages if the cases of the suspended workers are not solved. Strikes will be organized in front of the outlets and clothing shops.

The secretary general of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union (CCAWDU) reported that it had revealed the plan to the government as well as garment industry representatives in an offer to help the union workers who had been suspended before the court’s verdict on the validity of the unions’ strikes came.

The Ministry of Social Affairs had urged CCAWDU to give them some time in order to solve the problem before organizing strikes. The ministry had also asked the workers to respect the company rules, Labor law of the country and to stop provocating the workers for strikes.

According to the CCAWDU, 94 union representatives had been suspended from their jobs as they were connected with the strikes that took place last month.

The Secretary General of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia reported that, fresh legal action is under consideration. He requested the workers to remain away from strikes and work stoppages as these would have a harmful impact on the industry.

Fibre2fashion News Desk-India

India announces visa on arrival for four ASEAN countries

via CAAI

Oct 30, 2010

New Delhi - Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Saturday announced that nationals from Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and the Philippines will be granted visas on arrival from January 1.

Addressing the 8th India-ASEAN summit in Hanoi, Singh said tourist exchange was 'well below the potential.'

'As a concrete measure, I am happy to announce that we will extend our visa on arrival facility to nationals of Cambodia, Vietnam, Philippines and Laos with effect from January 1, 2011,' a copy of Singh's speech posted on his website said.

India began offering visas on arrival in January 2010 for tourists from Japan, Finland, Luxembourg, New Zealand and Singapore.

The External Affairs Ministry is also considering visas on arrival for Germany, France, Spain, Netherlands, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico and South Africa.

Singh said he looked forward to the conclusion of a services and investment agreement between India and ASEAN, which groups Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Brunei and Vietnam.

He said the partnership had initiated cooperation in sectors covering political and security ties, economic cooperation and the promotion of sociocultural links.

Cambodian bomb and landmine casualties up 11 per cent this year

via CAAI

Oct 30, 2010

Phnom Penh - The Cambodian authorities said 223 people have been killed or injured during the first nine months of this year by landmines and other explosives left over from war, an increase of 11 per cent from the same period last year.

Figures released by the Cambodia Mines/ERW Victim Information System showed landmines killed or injured 98 people, while 125 fell victim to other unexploded ordnance.

The organization distinguishes between landmines and other explosive remnants of war due to the different approaches required to deal with distinct types of weapons still present in the countryside.

Of the 223 victims, the report said 49 people died, another 39 lost limbs, with the remainder suffering other injuries.

In one of the worst incidents, a farmer and three friends were killed in August when a rocket-propelled grenade he was using as a comedy microphone exploded after he threw it to the floor at the end of his song. Three others were injured.

More than 60 per cent of casualties this year were men, most of whom were harmed by landmines. Boys comprise another quarter of victims, but most of them fell victim to unexploded ordnance used as toys.

Decades of conflict left unexploded ordnance that remains a serious risk in some areas of Cambodia, one of the most heavily mined nations in the world. More than half of this year's incidents took place in the far western region.

The latest figures raised to 63,743 the number of people killed or injured in Cambodia by ordnance since the ouster of the Khmer Rouge government in 1979.

Thailand, Cambodia agree on border deals

via CAAI

Published: 30/10/2010
via CAAI

Thailand and Cambodia have reached 15 border cooperation agreements at the 7th General Border Meeting (GBC) held in Pattaya on Saturday, reports said.

The GBC meeting, organized at Dusit Thani Pattaya hotel, was jointly chaired by Defence Minster Prawit Wongsuwon and his Cambodian counterpart Gen Tea Banh.

The agreements included cooperation on labour, drug trafficking and border crime prevention, anti-terrorist and border trade.

Vietnamese Culture Week in Cambodia leaves deep impressions

 via CAAI


Vietnamese Culture Week in Cambodia ended with two arts performances on October 28-29 by Vietnamese and Cambodian artists at Chartomouk International Conference Palace in Phnom Penh.

Cambodia’s Minister of Culture and Fine Arts, Him Chhem, government officials, representatives of ministries, and departments and overseas Vietnamese in Cambodia took part in the event.

Songs praising the friendship between the two countries were performed in both Vietnamese and Khmer.

Under the framework of Vietnamese Culture Week in Cambodia, a Vietnamese delegation, led by Deputy Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Le Tien Tho, had cultural exchanges with Preah Sihanouk province, and met with students at the Cambodian National University and Royal Cultural University.

Philippines, Cambodia in initial talks for rice supply

via CAAI

Posted at 10/29/2010

MANILA, Philippines - Cambodia has offered to sell at least 100,000 tonnes of rice annually to Manila as it faces a supply surplus, but no deal has been reached yet, the head of the Philippines state grain agency said on Friday.

Angelito Banayo told Reuters Cambodia has a surplus of 1 to 1.2 million tonnes of paddy rice which it can sell to other countries.

He said the Philippines, the world's biggest rice buyer, was open to possibly purchasing the grain from its Southeast Asian neighbour.

Banayo had met with Dr. Sok Siphana, advisor to the Royal Government of Cambodia, on Thursday to discuss food security issues.

"The reason for their coming over was basically to find out what are the demands of importing countries such as us. It's basically exploratory," he said in an interview.

Cambodia, which is trying to develop its rice export sector, has offered to sell at least 100,000 tonnes per year to the Philippines, but details still need to be worked out.

"We will not be able to export in this number right away but we will start with what we have," Mao Thura, secretary of state of Cambodia's Commerce Ministry told Reuters, adding state-owned rice exporting firm Green Trade Company would be the shipper.

The Philippines, which imported a record 2.45 million tonnes of the commodity this year, usually buys the grain from Vietnam and Thailand.

A strong typhoon last week was estimated to have brought minimal damage to rice crops in northern Philippines and officials said there was no need for more imports this year.

Banayo said the Philippines was not in a rush to buy rice for its 2011 needs. The government will decide in November or December the volume it will import for next year.

"I can afford to wait until prices go down. If prices begin to soften, then I might buy," he said.

Thon Virak, director general of Green Trade, told Reuters Cambodia had suggested it could export 200,000 tonnes of rice but details were still being worked out, adding that there was already approval from the Philippine government.

Abhisit seeks help in finding red fugitives

Cambodia 'ready to look into Thai reports'

Published: 30/10/2010
via CAAI

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has accepted a request from his Thai counterpart, Abhisit Vejjajiva, to investigate reports that some red shirt leaders with outstanding arrest warrants for terrorism are hiding in Cambodia.

"Yes, we discussed this matter in principle," Mr Abhisit said yesterday after he met Hun Sen for about 15 minutes on the sidelines of the 17th Asean summit and related summits on Thursday.

Mr Abhisit said Hun Sen had assured him that Cambodia was ready to throw its support behind Thai authorities if they officially requested it.

Thai media has reported that key leaders of the anti-government United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) have fled to Cambodia. Among the fugitives is singer-turned-activist Arisman Pongruangrong who has reportedly filed a request with Cambodian authorities to have his visa extended.

Mr Abhisit said he and Hun Sen also discussed the progress of several joint projects including attempts to open more border checkpoints to boost trade.

The discussions also focused on the memorandum of understanding signed in 2000 on border issues.

Mr Abhisit said he took the opportunity to brief Hun Sen about the progress on the minutes of the Thai Cambodian Joint Border Committee (JBC) meeting which would be put on the agenda of the House session on Tuesday.

He said the Cambodian leader seemed to understand the Thai parliamentary process well and asked that the House deliberate it thoroughly.

However, the yellow shirt People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) has vowed to stage a rally in front of parliament on Tuesday to protest against the deliberation of the minutes.

The group has claimed that adopting the JBC's minutes would result in Thailand losing its sovereign rights over disputed areas around the Preah Vihear temple.

Government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said PAD supporters could stage a rally as long as they did not engage in illegal acts such as blocking traffic and causing trouble for others.

He said the Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation was ready to maintain peace and order.

Meanwhile, the Udon Thani Provincial Court yesterday handed down jail terms to 32 members of the red shirt Love Udon People group.

The 32 people were among the red shirt supporters who became involved in a scuffle with backers of the PAD on Oct 24, 2008 at Nong Prachak Silpakhom public park in Udon Thani's municipal area.

The group was charged with physical assault, committing offences against national security and stoking unrest.

The Udon Thani Provincial Court sentenced Kularp Yot-on, 49, whom is also known as DJ Hong, to 16 months in prison.

Two other group leaders, Prasit Wichairat and Natthayot Phajuang, were jailed for 18 months and the other 30 received eight-month sentences.

Thailand: Red Shirt leaders in Cambodia

via CAAI

BANGKOK, Oct. 29 (UPI) -- Cambodia says it will agree to Thailand's request to investigate allegations fugitive Red Shirt leaders wanted on arrest warrants are hiding in Cambodia.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen agreed to Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's request after the two met during the 17th ASEAN Summit and Related Summits being held in Hanoi, Vietnam, the Bangkok Post reported Friday.

"Yes, we discussed about this matter in principle," Abhisit said after the 15-minute meeting.

Thailand wants Cambodian authorities to arrest fugitive Red Shirt leaders of the anti-government United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship.

Key Red Shirt leaders allegedly fled to Cambodia after the government used troops to end the long protests in Bangkok May 19.

Abhisit said the Cambodian prime minister assured him Cambodia was ready to support Thai authorities if they make an official request.

On Violent Anti-Drug Camp, UN Ban Still Silent, UNICEF Funds Only “Agency"

via CAAI

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 29 -- Before UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon left on his four country trip through Asia, the UN Special Rapporteur on Health issued a report specifying violent anti-drug programs in Cambodia and Vietnam.

Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky if Ban would be raising this issue, and was told to await incremental reports of what Ban raised.

In Cambodia, after political gatherings were banned in Thailand and a petitioner beaten unconscious in Phnom Penh, it was directly reported that “funds from the United Nations are being used to run a brutal internment camp” to which “undesirables” were sent to be “raped and beaten, sometimes to death.”

Inner City Press, which has reviewed each stop along Ban's tour, wrote about this Prey Speu camp on October 28, and on October 29 asked Nesirky if Ban was aware of the issue and had raised it to Cambodian authorities.

Nesirky replied that “UNICEF and the High Commissioner for Human Rights, her Office, will be very happy to answer you questions.”

But what about Ban? Even on the petitioner who, trying to get a letter to Ban, was beaten unconscious by Cambodian authorities, Ban said nothing, relying instead on the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Beyond passing the buck to UNICEF and the HCHR, Nesirky nevertheless offered this spin, that the “other reports” asked about by Inner City Press followed a Guardian story, which Nesirky said was “an extrapolation from funding to a ministry, not direct funding to a specific institution.” Oh.

Inner City Press asked this and other questions to UNICEF, and received only this in return:

Subject: Re: Q re Cambodia/anti-drug referred by OSSG, old Q re malnutrition in Sudan referred to UNICEF by OCHA [and another]
From: Christopher de Bono>
To: "Matthew R. Lee" @>
Date: Fri, Oct 29, 2010 at 2:02 PM

Re Cambodia

- UNICEF Cambodia is always concerned when allegations of this nature arise, particularly when they involve children.

- We do provide vital support to the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation (MoSVY) to strengthen standards and systems in child protection. We do not, however, work directly with the Prey Speu centre, nor do we provide any funding to Prey Speu and are confident that none of our funding goes to this centre. Withdrawing our funding to MoSVY would not be in the best interests of children in Cambodia.

- In the case of Choam Chao, we did not withdraw funding, but engaged the government to change its strategy, which it did, and this resulted in the subsequent closure of the centre.

- UNICEF is aware of the need to document the situation in centres like Prey Speu across Cambodia and we are working with OHCHR to provide technical assistance to the government to strengthen systems to prevent such abuses happening in the future.

On Sudan I have no information beyond what was previously made public by our Representative Nils Kastburg.

On [the other] I will ask colleagues in the field.

UN's Ban & UNICEF's Lake, rapes at Prey Speu not shown
Here's from the Sidney Morning Herald:

funds from the United Nations are being used to run a brutal internment camp near Phnom Penh, where detainees are held for months without trial, raped and beaten, sometimes to death. The Cambodian government's Ministry of Social Affairs says the Prey Speu 'Social Affairs Centre' 20 kilometres from the capital is a voluntary welfare center... But human rights groups say the government-run centre is an illegal, clandestine prison, where people deemed 'undesirable' - usually drug users, sex workers and the homeless - are held for months without charge or without ever going before a court. Detainees - men, women and children are housed together in a single building - are regularly beaten with planks of wood, whipped with wires, or threatened with weapons. Gang rapes by guards are reportedly common, and it is alleged guards have beaten three detainees to death. But the ministry that runs Prey Speu still gets money directly from the UN's children's fund, UNICEF.”

Does Ban Ki-moon as the head of the UN system this this is acceptable? We still don't know. When Inner City Press asked if Ban would raise the wider violent anti drug program issue in Vietnam, Nesirky said Ban is still there. Watch this site.

Inner City Press: I want to ask about the Secretary-General’s impending trip to Asia. There is a report to the Third Committee by the Special Rapporteur on the right to health about, among other things, what he sees as the violated practices in anti-drug programmes in many of the countries that Ban Ki-moon is going to be visiting — Cambodia, Viet Nam, Thailand — and he calls very strongly for the UN to move against people who are incarcerated. This is all according to his report. I just wonder: of the many issues obviously on the Secretary-General’s agenda as he visits these countries, is he aware of that? And there is a separate issue in Cambodia, where people has said that they are going to try and rally in front of Ban Ki-moon about evictions, forced evictions, in Cambodia. Are these… Can you sort of… Can we get a run-down of what issues he is planning to raise, and I just wonder whether these two are among them?

Spokesperson Martin Nesirky: Sure. And again, I seem to recall that Farhan gave you a bit of a run-down on the trip last week, sitting here. As the trip progresses, we will be giving details. The Secretary-General and his delegation are en route at the moment to Thailand where, as you know, the visit starts. They then move to Cambodia and on to Viet Nam for this UN-ASEAN [Association of South-East Asian Nations] meeting and then to China, where, as you know, the Secretary-General will be visiting Shanghai, Nanjing and Beijing. On the question of health, the very specific point that you raised, we can find out and probably tell you as the visit progresses. The same goes for the second part that you mentioned.

Yellow Shirts petition court, seek to revoke border talk documents

via CAAI

BANGKOK, Oct 29 -- The 'Yellow Shirt' People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) on Friday petitioned Thailand’s Central Administrative Court seeking a court injunction barring implementation of the 2000 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and to revoke three documents dealt with by the Thai-Cambodian Joint Boundary Commission (JBC) meeting.

Speaking after submitting the petition, PAD spokesman Panthep Puapongpan said the petition was necessary as there was clear evidence that Thailand might be at risk of losing its territories once the 2000 MoU is implemented. In addition, he said the document is yet to be approved by parliament, which is considered unconstitutional. The PAD pledged to rally at parliament on Nov 2, the same day Parliament is scheduled to vote on the documents.

Mr Panthep said the gathering will be orderly and under constitution guidelines and will not violate the emergency decree which remains in effect in the capital. He promised the rally would not obstruct the joint parliamentary session.

The PAD had earlier issued a statement taking the government to task for pushing for a joint parliamentary debate on the three JBC documents. The group's leaders also strongly criticised
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva for breaking his promise to hold a forum to gather public opinion on the documents before forwarding them to Parliament for further consideration.

The PAD statement claimed that the documents originated from the MoU signed by Thailand and Cambodia in June 2000 related to the survey and boundary demarcation. The documents are based on the 2000 MoU which recognises a French map with a scale of 1:200,000 sq km which put Thailand at risk of losing territory.

Pol Lt Gen Chakthip Chaichinda Metropolitan Police Chief said he assigned Pol Maj Gen Wichai Sangprapai, commander of Metropolitan Police Division 1, to supervise a 600-strong police contingent to maintain law and order during the PAD rally.

The metropolitan police chief said the Yellow Shirt leaders agreed during talks with the authorities that they would rally peacefully and that it will not be prolonged.

Gen Chakthip said he believed that there would be no disturbance. (MCOT online news)

PM surprised by PAD claims

Published: 30/10/2010
via CAAI

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said his government is protecting the national interest by observing the 2000 Thai-Cambodian memorandum of understanding that governs the survey and demarcation of the land boundary between the two countries.

He made the point in response to the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) which filed a complaint with the Administrative Court yesterday, accusing the government of jeopardising Thai territory by its observance of the MoU.

Mr Abhisit, who was attending the 17th Asean summit in Hanoi yesterday, said his government had neither a hidden agenda nor vested interests.

The cabinet intended to protect the national interest in its request that parliament approve three proceedings of the Joint Commission on Demarcation for Land Boundary or the Joint Boundary Commission (JBC) of Thailand and Cambodia, he said.

The JBC was formed to implement the 2000 MoU, but it cannot begin its task without approval from the Thai parliament.

Mr Abhisit said he was surprised by the PAD accusation. He denied his government had used the widespread flooding in the country to mask the submission of the three JBC proceedings to parliament.

He said the proceedings were submitted to parliament publicly and the proposal took its normal pace after it had been shelved for a long time.

He said he was not worried about the PAD's planned rally on Tuesday to oppose the process but he warned participants to abide by the law.

Yesterday afternoon, PAD representatives accused Mr Abhisit's government of violating the laws of good national administration.

The group also accused the prime minister of violating the 2007 constitution by supporting an implementation of the 2000 MoU.

The PAD claimed seeking parliament's approval for the JBC's proceedings will lead to a loss of national territory.

Section 1 of the charter states that Thailand is one indivisible kingdom.

The PAD said that approval of the JBC's proceedings would lead to a temporary border agreement between the two countries and the agreement would allow Cambodia to challenge earlier settled sections of the boundary.

It also complained that the 2000 MoU recognised the French-made map at 1:200,000 scale. This put Thailand at a territorial disadvantage as the borderline in the map drawn by France encroached on Thai territory, the PAD claimed.

The PAD filed its complaint with the Administrative Court and asked the court to revoke the JBC's proceedings, the 2000 MoU and cabinet resolutions endorsing the negotiation framework for the JBC and supporting the proposal of the JBC's proceedings to parliament.

The PAD also sought an injunction to stop parliament from considering the proceedings. The court is expected to rule on the injunction on Monday.

Cambodia’s mystical magical caves

Cambodians who want to get away from the crowded streets of Phnom Penh often head south to Kampot to check out the fresh seafood and cool mountains.
matt lundy photo/for the toronto star

via CAAI

Matt Lundy, Special to the Star
Published On Fri Oct 29 2010

KAMPOT, CAMBODIA—The Cambodian children hop between jagged rocks like little mountain goats, even though they’re wearing the same cheap, plastic flip-flops that we are. Our sandals have a thick lubrication of trail mud and perspiration, to the point where every few steps they slip right off. And yet the children – who likely make this trek daily – are goading us on, higher up the mountain and then deeper into the cave, saying “It’s so easy!”

My girlfriend and I didn’t plan on coming to Phnom Chhngok in Kampot, but our driver, Sarath, is ferrying us around to all the hotspots in this part of southern Cambodia, even if our attire is completely inappropriate. Minutes earlier, when we arrived at the closest village to the caves, a group of boys surrounded the car, led by a 10-year-old named Opp, who asked our names in the perfect grammar of an English composition professor. This is the point when we find out our driver is now useless to us: the youngsters, locally known as “the Cave Boys,” will be taking us into the limestone peak’s bowels.

As we make our way to the base, we cross through rice fields that are punctuated with palm trees, a scene that looks like b-roll footage from an old Vietnam War flick. Opp points to rice crabs that scurry along the paddies’ shallow floor and to far-off mountain ranges that have never seen a day of logging. We have about 300 stairs to climb now – it’s a luxury that there are stairs – but our footwear has been rendered useless by the mud trails, not to mention our wits are at half-mast following last night’s generous flow of Angkor beer.

About halfway through the climb we pay a one dollar entry-fee to a middle-aged man who is surrounded by gaudy statues of elephants and religious icons. The steps are then gradually replaced by uneven rocks – likely the result of lazy construction – that are made more difficult by their wetness, a by-product of Cambodia’s monsoon season.

When we finally reach the top and descend into the cave, it opens like a limestone blanket and reveals a 1400-year-old Hindu temple, made out of mud brick. It’s a little surprise “the Cave Boys” and Sarath failed to mention, but seemingly appropriate for the cities of Kampot and Kep, two Cambodian dark horses that delight visitors with their unexpected natural beauty.

Some veteran travelers have anointed Sihanoukville, a resort town on the Gulf of Thailand, as Southeast Asia’s “new Phuket.” But when real Cambodians want to escape the motorcycle mad streets of Phnom Penh and head south, they invariably go to Kampot and Kep, laid-back cities crammed with fresh seafood bodegas, densely forested mountains, and a host of accommodations to please any price range.

When we get back to the car, and after saying our goodbyes to “the Cave Boys,” we ask Sarath about how Kampot has changed in the past five years and where it’s headed.

“Kampot, it used to be very dirty,” he says. “But the city cleaned up the boardwalk on the river and many guesthouses are being built. I think the future will be good for Kampot. More people come here now.”

With its crumbling French Colonial architecture, sparse traffic, and stray dogs sleeping in the shade of noodle shop tables, Kampot looks like a Wild West relic. But a closer look reveals a city with gorgeous sunset views along the river, guesthouses that rarely exceed 15 bucks a night, and close proximity to some of Cambodia’s crown jewels: the Elephant Mountains and its jungles, Bokor National Park, and some of the world’s finest pepper plantations (just ask the French, who still import Kampot pepper, decades after Cambodia’s independence).

After sampling some fresh peppercorns straight off the plant, we go to Kep, a seaside town on the Gulf of Thailand just 30 minutes from Kampot by car. Formerly a coastal playground for Cambodia’s elite, Kep has developed into a chilled-out vacation spot with accommodations ranging from thatched-roof huts that please a backpacker’s wallet, to proper luxury resorts with all the frills you’d expect in the Caribbean. And although Kep Beach is popular with locals who come to swim and picnic, the beach itself has seen better days. When you come to Kep, you come to gorge on mounds of fresh crab meat, just pulled out of the water.

But for those, like me, who need a white sand beach lined with palm trees and a hammock, go to Rabbit Island, just 20 minutes from Kep by boat. Sarath tells us that the island reportedly got its name after King Sihanouk stocked it full of rabbits so that he and his buddies could hunt them on vacation, though no outside literature can back that up. Rabbit Island is a postcard-perfect retreat that is highly accessible, and yet totally rustic. The little overnight huts might not have running water, but cold cans of Angkor are available, because it wouldn’t be Cambodia without them.

After we leave Rabbit Island, Sarath drives us through the countryside on the way back to our guesthouse. My girlfriend and I aren’t talking, but not because anything bad has happened. We just look out the windows of our driver’s beat-up car – at the kids riding over-sized bikes, roosters crossing dirt roads, pigs being led by a leash – and realize why Cambodians overwhelmingly come here to escape.

Matt Lundy is a freelancer writer based in Phnom Penh.

Ancient temple ruins dot Cambodia’s countryside

Original and reconstructed ancient stone monuments lead to Angkor Thom, once the capital city of the Khmer empire, in Siem Reap province.

via CAAI
Sunday, October 31, 2010

By Eugene Hoshiko

SIEM REAP, Cambodia — Tourists gather every day before dawn to watch the sun rise over Angkor Wat, a 12th-century temple and the grandest legacy of Cambodia’s once mighty Khmer empire. Even at 5 a.m., the heat and humidity is enough to make the visitors break into a sweat.

More than a million people come annually to see the remains of the Khmer temples that dot the sprawling Angkor region, 145 miles northwest of the country’s capital, Phnom Penh.

For Cambodians, the temples are nothing less than a symbol of their nation; an outline of Angkor Wat adorns the national flag.

A nearby temple, Wat Thmei, also includes a reminder of a dark chapter in recent Cambodian history. A memorial stupa houses bones and skulls from the victims of the “killing fields” executed by the brutal Khmer Rouge regime that ruled in the late 1970s.

Today, Angkor is a vital contributor to the poor nation’s economy, with almost all visitors to the country traveling to the ruins. After a hot day visiting the temples, tourists head to the bars and Western-style air-conditioned restaurants in the nearby town of Siem Reap.

"ATF 2011 Phnom Penh exceeds already all of our forecasts in terms of success”

So Mara, Secretary of State, Ministry of Tourism Cambodia (photo: LC)

via CAAI

By Luc Citrinot
Oct 29, 2010

PHNOM PENH, eTN- Cambodia will play host to the ASEAN Travel Forum next January for the second time in its history. Phnom Penh is getting ready to provide a memorable welcome to all delegates as explained by His Excellency So Mara, Secretary of State, Cambodia Ministry of Tourism.

How does the preparation of the ASEAN Travel Forum (ATF) look?
So Mara-I am very pleased to say that we can already see all the signs of success even before we started to send the invitation to hosted buyers and media. We first thought that we would get 350 sellers. We then planned to have 400 sellers but now we already received more than 480 requests. We have now to find solutions to accommodate all the requests and look at ways to expand the exhibition area to welcome more sellers. We are now in discussion with the Organizing Committee as well as with the owners of Diamond Island Convention & Exhibition Center, ATF main venue for the Mart. For the buyers and media, we expect to host 400 buyers and 100 media. And we already received over 860 registrations. We might increase now the total number of hosted buyers with the deadline for final approval being set up for the first week of November.

What will do the Ministry in Phnom Penh to welcome ATF delegates?
So Mara- We want to give a lasting memory to delegates about Cambodia’s traditional sense of welcome. We already blocked 1,500 rooms in Phnom Penh for the event with new prestigious venues including the brand new Sofitel Phnom Penh or Diamond Island Convention & Exhibition Center. All official meetings with ASEAN Ministers of tourism + 5 [China, India, Korea, Japan and Russia] as well as with the Tourism representatives from Saudi Arabia and UAE will be hosted in the brand new Council of Ministers building, which is equipped with the latest high tech facilities. This will be the first time that such meetings will take place in an official government’s building. Among the highlights, all Ministers will receive a courtesy call from our Prime Minister and be granted an audience with our King. For all delegates, we prepare a lot of surprises, including the presence of world-famous VIPs and stars…

What do you expect from the ATF in terms of image benefits?
So Mara- We first expect to show that Cambodia is fully back on the world tourism stage and that it is a must-see destination along all other ASEAN countries. ATF gives us the opportunity to show that Cambodia is today at peace and a safe destination, thanks to strong political stability under the current government. We hope also to highlight that Cambodia offers a great diversity of holiday opportunities. Beyond the iconic temples of Angkor, which remains our country’s “signature”, the Kingdom of Cambodia is also a premier destination for beach tourism or eco-tourism.

How far is doing indeed Cambodia tourism this year?
So Mara- We are likely to reach a new record in tourist arrivals. In 2009, we recorded a moderate growth of 1.7% to 2.16 million travelers. Until August of this year, total arrivals are up by 14.6%. We now forecast 2.42 million travelers for 2010 and estimate that tourist arrivals should reach 2.75 million in 2011. A very positive trend is Siem Reap. After two years of stagnation, international arrivals at Siem Reap airport were up by almost 17% from January to August 2010.

Do you try to diversify Cambodia's image by promoting new destinations?
So Mara- Our three main destinations for visitors are Siem Reap/ Angkor temples, Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville in the South. However, we want to create a new icon along our Coastal area as we believe that we have some of the best pristine beaches in Southeast Asia. We indeed look to qualify one of our beaches as one of the world’s most beautiful beaches. We want also to put more emphasis on eco-tourism, especially in the Northeastern provinces of our country where rare animals and endangered flora species can still be discovered and observed. They are also other secondary destinations we want to push up such as Kep/Kampot as a beach resort destination or Preah Vihar temple for cultural tourism. We just completed a road to the temple, making it an easy destination, only two hours away from Siem Reap.

UN funds Cambodia's prison of the undesirables

via CAAI
October 30, 2010

A so-called welfare centre in Phnom Penh is anything but, say human rights groups. They describe a brutal, clandestine prison used to sweep drug users, sex workers and the homeless out of sight. Ben Doherty reports.

AID money and funds from the United Nations are being used to run a brutal internment camp near Phnom Penh, where detainees are held for months without trial, raped and beaten, sometimes to death.

The Cambodian government's Ministry of Social Affairs says the Prey Speu ''Social Affairs Centre'' 20 kilometres from the capital is a voluntary welfare centre that provides vocational education and healthcare to vulnerable people.

Advertisement: Story continues below But human rights groups say the government-run centre is an illegal, clandestine prison, where people deemed ''undesirable'' - usually drug users, sex workers and the homeless - are held for months without charge or without ever going before a court.

Detainees - men, women and children are housed together in a single building - are regularly beaten with planks of wood, whipped with wires, or threatened with weapons.

Gang rapes by guards are reportedly common, and it is alleged guards have beaten three detainees to death.

But the ministry that runs Prey Speu still gets money directly from the UN's children's fund, UNICEF, and the centre is also supported by several international non-government organisations.

Sok Chandara* was picked up off the streets of the capital and taken to Prey Speu. ''They said because it looked bad for the city to have people sleeping on the streets.''

While police told him he was under arrest, he was never charged with an offence, nor brought before a court. At Prey Speu, Sok says, more than 100 men, women and children were locked into a single, bare room and allowed out for only an hour a day.

Some inmates were violent and abusive, while others were seriously ill or injured. Detainees were forced to go to the toilet in a container in the corner of the room and medical workers came irregularly. Sometimes they arrived after people had died.

The detainees' drinking water came from a fetid pond on the centre grounds, the same pond where the untreated sewage from the container was emptied. During the hour they were allowed outside, inmates were expected to bathe and wash their clothes in the same pond.

''It was like a hell. Many people were sick, people had diarrhoea, stomach aches, because they were drinking dirty water, and there were no doctors,'' says Sok.

Prey Speu has a daily food budget of 3000 riels (72¢) for each detainee. Generally, they are fed a watery rice gruel in a plastic bag twice a day.

Violence happens daily, says Sok. A guard beat him with a plank of wood when he intervened to stop the guard hitting another man.

''Sometimes, the guards just open the doors and come in and just beat people up for no reason. They know no one can complain about the way they are being treated.''

According to LICADHO, a Cambodian human rights advocacy group, three detainees have been beaten to death in front of other inmates, including children, inside the gates of Prey Speu.

Another five detainees have committed suicide; two of these were women who had been separated from their children.

Sok escaped from Prey Speu by jumping the wall and fleeing through rice paddies. He is still homeless and fears being re-arrested and sent back. ''Only the people who are locked up there know how bad it is, how scary it is. It doesn't help people.''

The usual way out of Prey Speu is for detainees, or their families, to bribe the guards - anything between $50 and $200. Those unable to come up with the money are held for up to three months, before being released back on to the streets.

Visiting Prey Speu, the Herald saw about 100 detainees being allowed out of the main building. There was no separation of men and women, most of the detainees were barefoot, and at least 20 were children, some as young as four or five.

Guards at the padlocked three-metre gates said the facility was a voluntary welfare centre, and detainees were free to leave whenever they wanted. Asked why the gates were locked, we were told it was to keep people out. The Herald was not allowed inside, nor were we allowed to speak to the centre's manager, or any detainees inside.

But a guard, a former detainee who has become a staff member, admitted violence had been common. ''A lot of people got smacked about, it's true. They smacked me about, but that's stopped now. This place is better now.''

Behind the bars, barefoot and shirtless children were shepherded away from coming to the gates.

Reports by the non-government organisation Human Rights Watch document numerous rapes, most often of prostitutes, by guards and police at Prey Speu.

One sex worker told Human Rights Watch she was raped by five police officers on her first night in detention, and by six officers her second. When she resisted she was beaten.

Elaine Pearson, the organisation's Asia division deputy director, says the Cambodian government, and the international donors who fund it, had failed to act to close Prey Speu despite overwhelming evidence of abuse. ''For years there have been credible reports of rape, beatings and even deaths in custody by guards at Prey Speu, but nothing has been done to hold these abusers to account.''

She says international funding for the Ministry of Social Affairs must be withdrawn.

''Engagement by donors and UN agencies in Prey Speu lends legitimacy to a fundamentally flawed model … Donors and UN agencies have a choice: they can continue to fund the abuses occurring at Prey Speu or they can fund alternatives.''

Naly Pilorge, of LICADHO, says evidence of the abuse, including testimony from former detainees and photographs from inside the centre, were taken to the government, but nothing was done.

''To the contrary, the Social Affairs Ministry proceeded to deny the incontestable evidence of illegal detention.''

A Human Rights Watch research consultant, Sara Bradford, who works closely with former inmates, said the Cambodian government was breaking its own laws by detaining people without charge or trial.

''Such centres are abusive, illegal and ineffective. The operation of the centres, and all funding to them, needs to stop immediately.''

Last year the UN's own Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights described the conditions at Prey Speu as ''appalling'', where people ''were illegally confined and subject to a variety of abuses of power by the staff that included sub-humane conditions of detention, extortion, beating, rape, sometimes resulting in death, and suicide''.

Despite this, the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights still funds Cambodia's Transcultural Psychosocial Organisation to conduct psychological assessments in the centre. Mental health workers find many inmates are severely depressed and some are suffering psychosis, the organisation's executive director, Dr Sotheara Chhim, says.

Following reports of abuse last year, treatment at the centre was reported to have improved and the practice of arbitrary detention stopped, but in recent months allegations of violence have been escalating and men, women and children are again being jailed without charge or trial.

In July UNICEF called a meeting of concerned parties where international donors outlined the support they were providing to Prey Speu.

UNICEF's country director for Cambodia, Richard Bridle, declined an interview, but in a statement UNICEF said that it ''technically and financially supports the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation and related institutions to regulate, oversee and monitor child welfare and ensure provision of social and child protection''. Last year UNICEF gave $615,000 to the Ministry of Social Affairs, an amount significant to its operations. When similar criticisms of the Choam Chao youth rehabilitation centre emerged, UNICEF withdrew $28,000 in funding for it and the centre immediately closed.

But UNICEF says no direct assistance is given to Prey Speu.

Hagar International, which reportedly provides food on an ad hoc basis, and Friends International, whose Cambodian arm has a contract to provide vocational training for Prey Speu inmates, declined to be interviewed.

Cambodia's Ministry of Social Affairs also refused to speak to the Herald, but has previously denied allegations of abuse, saying that centres such as Prey Speu offer rehabilitation and vocational training.

''The Ministry of Social Affairs would like to reject the untrue information that causes confusion to the public … and affects the honour of the NGO partners that co-operate to provide services,'' it said in a letter.

And it has defended its policy of ''street sweeps'', removing beggars, the homeless and sex workers from the streets of the capital, saying they ''provoke public disorder and affect [the] dignity and morality of Cambodian society''.

* Name has been changed.

Thai Talks Continue as Thaksin Fades From Picture

Men Kimseng, VOA Khmer
Washington, DC Friday, 29 October 2010
via CAAI

Photo: AP
From left to right: Myanmar's Prime Minister Thein Sein, Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, Laos' Prime Minister Bouasone Buphavanh.

“I've told Abhisit that no matter how we are at odds with each other, and for whatever matter, we cannot move away from one another.”

Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Thai counterpart met on the sidelines of a UN-Asean summit in Hanoi on Thursday, the third meeting in just over a month, in an effort to reconcile an ongoing border dispute.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said in September he had high hopes for the meetings, following the resignation of Thai fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra and the restoration of diplomatic ties.

That resignation has paved the way for talk of cooperation on both sides.

“The meeting was to affirm confidence and cooperation between Thailand and Cambodia, because we have to make the relationship on several issues, especially the borders,” Abhisit told VOA's Thai service. “From this talk, we confirmed cooperation and want to jointly find solutions to these problems without resorting to violence. We did not talk in detail, but we see a need to cooperate and to solve the problems.”

Hun Sen shared similar sentiments in a public speech, saying the meeting was “an essential one that creates confidence and cooperation.”

Relations between the two neighbors have soured since July 2008, when Preah Vihear temple, which sits next to a disputed strip of land on the border, was added to a World Heritage list under Cambodian management. Relations worsened when Thaksin, who faces a criminal sentence at home, was appointed an economic adviser to the government.

“I've told Abhisit that no matter how we are at odds with each other, and for whatever matter, we cannot move away from one another,” Hun Sen said after their first meeting.

But Cambodia has insisted that Thaksin, who was ousted in a bloodless coup in 2006, is a secondary factor in the relationship.

“Whether Thaksin is working as an adviser is not a key problem between Cambodia and Thailand,” Ouch Borith, secretary of state for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told VOA Khmer. “For Cambodia, we don't see Thaksin as a problem, because he wasn't working solely as a Cambodian adviser. He also works and has business in Africa.”

Ouch Borith said problems over the border in 2008 had occurred prior to Thaksin's appointment, which Thailand used as a “pretext to cause problems with Cambodia.”

Thaksin's importance in the ongoing dispute remains in question, but Asean Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan, who is from Thailand, said he was no longer relevant.

Ongoing talks between Hun Sen and Abhisit “is certainly a good sign,” he said. “And I think both sides are very much committed to an improved relationship.”

The two leaders met first in New York and then again in Brussels, and participants of those meetings said both the border and economic cooperation were discussed.

With Thaksin slowly moving away, relations have improved, but political observers have said that whether Hun Sen is shaking hands with Thaksin or Abhisit, he has nothing to lose.

Activists, Opposition Prepare for Clinton Visit

Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Phnom Penh Friday, 29 October 2010

via CAAI

Photo: AP
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton walks to her limousine after a speech on America's engagement in the Asia-Pacific region, on Thursday.

“I want to ask her whether she has a strategy for turn into a real democratic nation.”

Members of the opposition and civil society expect to raise a number of questions on Cambodia's current states of democracy and human rights next week during a brief visit by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Clinton will arrive in Cambodia Saturday and stay through Monday, with talks expected with senior government officials, as well as opposition lawmakers and rights activists.

Her visit, the first since Colin Powell attended an Asean regional forum here in 2003, follows an official visit by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, during which Prime Minister Hun Sen said he wanted UN's local rights representative sacked and a land demonstrator was severely beaten by police.

A US Embassy statement said Clinton's visit was “intended to send a strong message of continued US engagement with Cambodia.”

Am Sam Ath, lead investigator for the rights group Adhoc, said activists will ask Clinton “to help intervene with Cambodian officials to respect the principles of human rights.”

The opposition Sam Rainsy Party, meanwhile, will seek the return of its party leader, Sam Rainsy, who is facing a prison sentence of 12 years in two criminal cases against him that the party says are politically motivated.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan said Cambodia respects human rights, and the cases brought against Sam Rainsy are the purview of the courts.

Clinton will also hold a “town hall” meeting with students, where she will likely meet even more questions on Cambodia's current rights climate.

“I want to ask her whether she has a strategy for turn into a real democratic nation,” said Sok Sam Lyka, a second-year student at the Institute of Foreign Languages.

Democracy, Freedoms Continue Backslide: Rights Activist

Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Washington, DC Friday, 29 October 2010

via CAAI
Photo: by Men Kimseng
Ou Virak, who is the head of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, told “Hello VOA” that Cambodia was looking more and more like China or Vietnam.

This is a “UN internal issue, it's not possible for a country to suggest the firing of someone, such as the case in Cambodia.”

Cambodia is increasingly headed toward a unilateral party system of government and backslides in democracy, a leading rights researcher said Thursday.

Ou Virak, who is the head of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, told “Hello VOA” that Cambodia was looking more and more like China or Vietnam, with the space for democratic freedoms shrinking.

Rights of expression, assembly, land, fair trial and others have eroded in recent years, he said, while human trafficking and sexual exploitation remain problematic.

Ou Virak's comments followed pressure from Cambodia to the UN to close its local rights office in Phnom Penh. Prime Minister Hun Sen told UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon during talks in Phnom Penh this week he wanted the head of the UN's rights office here sacked.

However, this is a “UN internal issue,” Ou Virak said. “It's not possible for a country to suggest the firing of someone, such as the case in Cambodia.”

To suggest as much was a “lack of diplomacy on the international stage, and made Cambodia shameful at the international level,” he said.

The UN rights office exists here per an agreement between Cambodia and the UN, stemming from the period of Untac peacekeeping in the 1990s. At the same time, Ou Virak said, Cambodia agreed to improve its human rights, as part of the peace agreements.

Ou Virak is on a two-week trip to the US, where he met with senior State Department officials and representatives of Congress to discuss Cambodia's human rights' situation.

CDC Director Sets Priorities for Global Health

Nuch Sarita, VOA Khmer
Washington, DC Friday, 29 October 2010

via CAAI
Photo: AP
Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Thomas Frieden, the director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has outlined six priorities for improving the health in the US and globally.

Frieden gave a talk at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington last week, highlighting the dangers of smoking, AIDS, obesity, teen pregnancy, auto injuries and healthcare-associated infections.

“Tobacco is now the world's leading single cause of death,” he told gathered participants. “It kills more people than AIDS, TB and malaria combined. And unlike those conditions, which are decreasing, it is increasing as a cause of death.”

Each year, an estimated 443,000 Americans die prematurely from smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke, while another 8.6 million have smoking-related illnesses.

Frieden called for wider implementation of a World Health Organization policy package, which includes smokefree workplaces, restrictions on advertising and increases on tobacco taxes.

Another major killer, he said, are traffic accidents. More than a million people die each year in such accidents, including pedestrians and cyclists.

The CDC estimates the costs of medical care and loss of productivity from traffic injuries is nearly $99 billion a year in the US.

Without urgent action, Frieden said, traffic accidents could rise to become the fifth-leading cause of death over the next 20 to 25 years.

To take overall global health further, Frieden marked for attack high blood pressure, tobacco use, high glucose levels, physical inactivity, obesity and high cholesterol levels.

“Non-communicable disease has now killed more people around the world than communicable diseases,” he said. “There are also increasing as a burden and as a threat to socio-economic development.”

Meanwhile, AIDS continues to command a high priority in the global health sector, with a continuous rise in the number of people living with HIV and AIDS, he said.