Monday, 29 November 2010

Witnesses And Victims Speak About Koh Pech Tragedy

Campaigners demand world leaders to keep promises on global climate fund

via CAAI

November 29, 2010

Over 300 campaigners gathered on Monday in Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh, to call on world leaders to put money on the table, as international climate talks opened today in Cancun, Mexico.

Climate finance is a priority for developing countries in the global negotiations because it is vital to their capacity to adapt to the impacts of a changing climate and embark on a low-carbon development pathway.

"In Cancun, rich countries must be honest about this money," said Boonny Tep, representative of the National Climate Change Network, a group of 52 civil societies that organized the event.

"They must not massage numbers in order to wriggle out of their commitments. They must deliver their past pledges and commit new and additional money," he said.

At Copenhagen last year, there was limited progress made on the scale of long-term finance.

Rich country governments pledged to deliver 30 billion U.S. dollars by 2012 to help developing countries adapt to climate change and curb their emissions. But the pace of delivering the money is very slow.

Leaked EU documents, for example, show that Europe will in fact fail to meet its overall pledges by 200 million euro in 2010 and 357 million euro over the whole period 2010-2012.

As world leaders are negotiating a global deal, climate change is already devastating people's lives, wiping out crops and making it harder for the poorest people, especially women, to provide food for their families.

Phallin Ry, a farmer from central Cambodia, who joined hundreds of campaigners in the event, said she grows rice and vegetables just to feed her families.

Last year her rice, the most important food crop, was completely devastated by floods brought by a Typhoon she had never experienced.

"After Typhoon Ketsana destroyed my crops last year, I started growing potatoes" she said, adding that she grew them four times, but they kept dying. The soil was so dry after the big flood and the temperature was oddly hot."

Source: Xinhua

Celebrating in harmony in Macarthur area


29 Nov 2010 
by Lisa Cosgrove

HARMONY Day celebrations united students from Claymore, Narellan Vale, Cobbitty and Cabramatta West public schools and Airds High School recently.

The event was held at Cobbitty Public School and principal Michael Buckley said it was so successful the Education Department’s multicultural liaison officer who attended was still talking about it.

Claymore students delivered a dance performance and a rendition of the haka.

Narellan Vale pupils staged a skipping performance. Cobbitty students gave speeches on the meaning of harmony and pupils from Airds and Cabramatta West performed Cambodian songs and dances.

“The Cambodian performance was particularly special to us as we have been working with a school in Cambodia since 2006, which is actually called Cobbitty School,” Mr Buckley said.

He said the relationship between the Cobbitty and Cambodian school aimed to create understanding between students.

Fair Trade Artisan-Made Silk Scarves Support Education in Cambodia

via CAAI

by Emma Grady, New York, NY on 11.28.10
Fashion & Beauty

A young Cambodian student wears Cambodian Threads' silk scarf. Photo: Cambodian Threads

For Cambodian Threads, a small, socially responsible company that sells fair trade silk scarves, they're set set on making a difference in the small Cambodian village that inspired the founding of their company: for every silk scarf they sell, they purchase basic school supplies for ten children in the island village of Prek Bongkong, Cambodia. A family of artisans supply Cambodian Threads with their luscious, hand-loomed silk scarves, produced in a sweat-free environment. View photos of the beautiful scarves below.

Cambodian Threads founders discovered the Heng family's ancient craft of hand weaving silk while visiting the island village of Prek Bongkong in Cambodia, which is twenty miles from Phnom Penh and accessible by ferry across the Mekong River. They now buy the scarves directly from the family and sell them in the US, Canada, and Europe.

Cambodian Threads donates portion of proceeds to support education in Cambodia. Photo: Cambodian Threads

Co-founder Barrie Golden describes the project as "extremely empowering and rewarding" and says the scarves have been well-received by Western markets. Due to the time it takes for the Heng family to produce each scarf, they are only available in limited-edition as the Heng's can only produce 50 each month.

The scarves are available in a variety of colors, with prices starting at $15, at Cambodian Threads.

Cambodian PM says no punishment for fatal stampede

Cambodian police officers stand guard on a bridge where hundreds of people stampeded during a water festival in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Sunday, Nov. 28, 2010. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith) (Heng Sinith - AP)

via CAAI

The Associated Press
Monday, November 29, 2010; 5:11 AM

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia -- Cambodia's prime minister said Monday that no one will be punished for last week's stampede in which at least 351 revelers died after the swaying of a suspension bridge cause mass panic.

Hun Sen said many people share responsibility for not anticipating the problems that caused the Nov. 22 tragedy but that rescue efforts were adequate and, without them, the death toll would have been higher.

"No one will receive punishment for this incident," Hun Sen said at the opening of a new government building. "We have to learn a lesson from this for solving such problems in the future."

Preliminary findings by an official investigation committee found that the natural swaying of a suspension bridge ignited fears it would collapse among an estimated 5,000 to 7,000 people on the structure. In frantic efforts to escape, the crowd pressed and heaved, crushing hundreds of people and leading some to dive off the span into the water.

The official casualty toll is 351 dead and 395 injured. It was updated Sunday, after two more people died of their injuries and two others were added to list of dead by relatives said they had taken their bodies home.

The stampede occurred on the last day of a three-day holiday, as a crowd estimated to be more than 1 million thronged to the capital to celebrate the traditional water festival.

Last week Hun Sen has described the stampede as the biggest tragedy since the communist Khmer Rouge's reign of terror, which killed an estimated 1.7 million people in the late 1970s.

"It happened unexpectedly," said Hun Sen. "If we had correctly assessed in advance that there could have been a stampede, then we would not have allowed people to cross the bridge."

Hun Sen also announced that the families of each of the dead people would each be given at least $12,000, an enormous sum in a country where the annual per capita income is just over $700.

Cambodia gets Vietnamese supermarket

via CAAI

November, 29 2010

HCM CITY — Z 38, a member of the Association of Vietnamese Enterprises in Cambodia, is speeding up construction so that the first Viet Nam supermarket in Cambodia can be opened by the end of this year.

Located on 3,300sq.m at 717-719 Monivong Street in Phnom Penh, the Viet Nam Supermart aimed to promote Vietnamese goods in the Cambodian market, said Seng Meng, chairman of the Z 38's management board.

There was no place in Cambodia to showcase and introduce Vietnamese goods favoured by Cambodian customers, said Meng.

"This new market will help satisfy the Vietnamese enterprises' demand for display and selling Vietnamese goods at a low cost," said Meng.

With an investment of over US$3 million, the supermarket is scheduled to open on December 29.

He said the supermarket would sell high-quality goods, targeting Cambodian customers from both medium – and high-income families.

The Association of Vietnamese Enterprises in Cambodia said the countries' commercial relations had been promoted via a 1,000km border with 10 international border gates between Cambodia and Viet Nam.

In the first nine months of 2010, two-way trade between Cambodia and Viet Nam amounted to $1.29 billion, a year-on-year increase of 36.2 per cent.

In the same period, Viet Nam's exports to Cambodia reached nearly $1.1 billion, up by 34.4 per cent compared with last year.

At the meeting for the development of Viet Nam-Cambodia cross-border trade in Phnom Penh in late 2009, Government agencies and businesses from the two countries re-affirmed their efforts to promote investment and business between Viet Nam and Cambodia. — VNS

Cambodia gears up to host ATF 2011 TRAVEX

via CAAI

ETW Staff – Mumbai

The ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF) 2011 TRAVEX, to be held from January 19-21, 2011, at Phnom Penh’s Diamond Island Convention and Exhibition Center, Cambodia has recorded strong interest and rapid take-up rate early in its registration process. The 2011 ASEAN leisure travel trade event, showcasing the largest contingent of ASEAN destination products and services, is also expected to feature a larger show with 25 per cent more booths space than last year. More than 70 per cent of the 450 available booth space has already been secured by around 240 exhibiting companies from across the 10 ASEAN countries - Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. More than 600 applications received from across the world.

Dr Thong Khon, Minister of Tourism, Cambodia, and permanent vice-chairman of ATF 2011 Organising Committee explained, “Improving market optimism aside, a significant part of this year’s interest also has to do with the appeal of Cambodia as a destination. International delegates are motivated to experience the country’s rich cultural, natural, and historical heritage.” Ministry of Tourism, Cambodia, will host the three day event’s opening and closing ceremony. ATF 2011 marks the 30th anniversary of this event since its inauguration in Malaysia in 1981.

ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF) is a cooperative regional effort to promote the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region as one tourist destination.

Boy who fled Cambodia's 'Killing Fields' returns as US naval commander

US Navy Commander Michael Vannak Khem Misiewicz who left Cambodia and his family 37 years ago to escape the Khmer Rouge

via CAAI

By Michelle Fitzpatrick (AFP)
PHNOM PENH — When the destroyer USS Mustin docks in Cambodia next week it will be more than just a routine mission for the ship's commander.

Michael Misiewicz is Cambodian by birth and was just a child when he was wrenched from his family and homeland 37 years ago, to be sent away from the country to escape the civil war with the Khmer Rouge.

He has not set foot on Cambodian soil since.

"I have been fighting a lot of emotions about coming back to my native country," said Misiewicz, who was born Vannak Khem, of his impending return.

"To know that I've got relatives there that have wanted to see me for decades... I don't know if I will be able to hold back the tears," he told AFP by telephone aboard the US warship.

The 43-year-old was a small boy in the early 1970s when Cambodia was engulfed in a civil war between government troops and communist Khmer Rouge fighters.

In 1973, his father arranged for him to be adopted by an American woman who worked at the US embassy and was preparing to leave the increasingly dangerous country.

The move meant Misiewicz avoided one of the most brutal chapters of 20th century history -- the 1975-1979 Khmer Rouge regime that caused the deaths of up to two million people from starvation, overwork and execution.

"At that age I was a happy-go-lucky kid. I really didn't have any sense of the war or bad things going on in Cambodia," said Misiewicz, recalling that he had no qualms about leaving.

"I was excited about getting on a plane, going to a new world where I could eat popcorn and have all the watermelon I wanted," he said.

But his mother's tearful goodbye is engraved in his memory. "My mom was so, so upset. I promised her I'd buy her a big house one day."

The young Cambodian built a new life for himself in his adoptive country, enlisting in the navy after graduating from high school in Lanark, Illinois.

It was while he was attending the US naval academy that he began to learn about the atrocities that had taken place in his homeland.

Misiewicz had received no news from his family and assumed the worst.

"I felt a lot of guilt. Why was I the lucky one?," he said. "I really doubted that my family had survived the whole Khmer Rouge era. I tried not to think about it."

What he did not know was that his mother and three of his four siblings had survived and managed to flee the country in 1983, ending up in the United States themselves.

They were now living in Austin, Texas, desperately trying to find him.

It took six years of searching, but finally the family learnt that Misiewicz had lived in Alexandria, Virginia when he first arrived in the US.

Combing through old phonebooks, they eventually made contact with his ex-babysitter who happened to know his current whereabouts.

After 16 years of silence, one phone call reunited him with his family.

"One day, in 1989, I got a call out of the blue. It was my older brother," said Misiewicz.

The joy of reunion was tempered by the news that his father had been executed by the Khmer Rouge in 1977 and his infant sister had died, probably of malnutrition, during the "Killing Fields" era.

Misiewicz, who has more than 300 sailors under his charge, says he often thinks about how hard it must have been to make the choice to separate him from his family.

"I am so grateful my father had the wisdom to make that decision. It was a very tough decision, very heart-breaking," he said.

Now Misiewicz is looking forward to reconnecting with relatives and exposing his sailors to the country through community outreach projects and training exercises with the Cambodian navy.

The USS Mustin, an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, will be stationed in Sihanoukville, on Cambodia's southwestern coastline, for four days from Friday.

"I've been so blessed to have had these opportunities and I feel honoured and privileged to come back," the ship's commander said.

Misiewicz added that he feels "very close" to his birth mother and siblings.

"I did buy my mom that house -- in Texas," he said -- making good on a promise made nearly four decades ago.

Cambodian PM Hun Sen says no one to be punished from stampede accident

via CAAI

PHNOM PENH, Nov. 29 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen said Monday that no one to be punished from stampede accident that occurred last week in the country.

Delivering speech at a newly-constructed building for Ministry of Social Affairs, Hun Sen said "no one is deserved to be punished for this accident," but the whole of them.

He said the main cause of the accident was the "under- estimation and the carelessness to the situation."

On the last day of a three-day water festival, 351 people died and 395 others injured by the stampede occurred at Diamond Island Bridge in Phnom Penh.

Hun Sen said the water festival will be celebrated as usual in the following years despite such accident, saying it is the national event, while at the same time, the island known as Diamond Island will be developed as planned without any change.

But, he said, his government will take strong measures and all necessary precautions to avoid a repetition of the accident.

He also said the government will use the island for one of the venues for the upcoming meeting of more than 100 political parties which is set for Dec. 1-4, 2010.

The roughly more than 100-hectares of Diamond Island is being developed into residential and commercial area, now one of the most attractive spot for happy goers in Phnom Penh both day and night.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said his government was trying utmost efforts on the day of accident to help the victims on the spot and to avoid mass chaos or panic from the public gathering in the whole city on the day.

He called this year's gathering for the water festival was a " sea of people", referring the largest ever number of people in the country's history.

With 395 injured people are still in hospitals, Hun Sen expressed his apology to the victims and the people, and urged all doctors to treat them well and if necessary for those in critical condition, to send them abroad, the government will hold responsible for the cost.

However, in his concluding speech, Hun Sen expressed his second time of tear drop following the event and questioned himself why he was so emotional with the dropping tears while he is known to have an "iron heart".

Editor: An

'No punishments' over deadly Cambodian stampede: PM

Cambodians pray with offerings near the Diamond Gate bridge

via CAAI

PHNOM PENH — Cambodia's premier said Monday that nobody will be brought to justice over a festival stampede last week that left more than 350 people dead, but admitted the government was at fault.

"Nobody will be punished for the incident," Prime Minister Hun Sen said after the worst tragedy in Cambodia for decades.

"The incident that happened was the responsibility of the government," he said, describing it as "a historical lesson that we must remember".

Cambodia's annual water festival ended in tragedy last Monday after crowds panicked on an overcrowded bridge leading to an island that was one of the main event sites.

"They have accused us of inability. We must accept this because of the deaths," Hun Sen said at the inauguration of a new government building in the capital.

"We were careless," he added. "This was a joint mistake that nobody expected."

A total of 351 people lost their lives, the majority of them women, and questions have been raised over who is to blame for the tragedy.

Authorities have said a full report on the incident would be released in the coming days.

Initial findings from the investigating committee suggest the stampede occurred after rumours rippled through the crowd that the suspension bridge to Phnom Penh's Diamond Island was about to collapse.

"The tragedy started with our wrong assessment of the situation," said the premier, who has described the stampede as Cambodia's worst tragedy since the Khmer Rouge's 1975-1979 reign of terror, which killed up to a quarter of the population.

The three-day festival, which marks the reversal of the flow between the Tonle Sap and Mekong rivers, usually draws millions of visitors to the capital to enjoy dragon boat races, fireworks and concerts.

A national day of mourning was held on Thursday, led by an emotional Hun Sen who wiped away tears as he lit incense and laid flowers at the foot of the bridge.

National budget passed

via CAAI

Sunday, 28 November 2010 21:11 Vong Sokheng

The Cambodian Peoples’ Party-dominated National Assembly passed the national budget along party lines after less than an hour of debate on Friday, drawing sharp criticism from the opposition Sam Rainsy Party.

Of the 98 participating lawmakers, 76 voted to approve the US$2.4 billion budget for 2011, an increase of about 19 percent compared to this year’s $1.98 billion.

No changes were made to the draft proposal advanced last month by the Council of Ministers.

Ouk Rabun, secretary of state at the Ministry of Economy and Finance, claimed on the Assembly floor that the budget would help Cambodia achieve economic growth of 7 percent in the coming year.

“The budget expenditures for 2011 are focused on improving education, health, agriculture, including irrigation systems, and infrastructure development,” he said.
Members of the SRP yesterday criticised the quick passage of the budget.

“I think it was bad debating the budget law without revising it, and the budget was lacking transparency and participation, [as well as] an equitable distribution of national wealth”, said SRP lawmaker Son Chhay.

He noted that about 70 percent of the budget was allocated to the central government, while rural areas – home to an estimated 80 percent of Cambodia’s population – had received about 30 percent.

Chhit Sam Ath, executive director of the NGO Forum, said yesterday that insufficient funds had been allocated to the agricultural sector.

“We would like the government to prioritise the agricultural sector because many Cambodian farmers are living in rural areas and most of them are doing agriculture for their livelihood,” he said.
He called on the government to invest more in improving rice productivity, agricultural education and irrigation.

He said the sector would also benefit from reformed economic land concession policies.

“Looking at the economic land concessions, we would like more capacity building of the farmer where the farmer could produce the crops, or agro-industry crops, rather than giving the land to the private companies,” he said.

Cambodia came under fire for abysmal transparency in its budgeting process earlier this month. A report from the Open Budget Initiative, a project of the United States-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities concluded that “the government provides the public with scant information on the central government’s budget and financial activities assessed by the survey”, leaving it “virtually impossible” for Cambodians to hold their government accountable.


DAP News. Breaking News by Soy Sopheap

via CAAI

Cambodia’s Civil Society Launches Comprehensive Strategic Plan to Fight Against HIV/AIDS

Monday, 29 November 2010 03:20 DAP NEWS / VIBOL

CAMBODIA, PHNOM PENH, Nov 29, 2010-KHANA will make symbolic launching of KHANA’s Strategic Plan for the upcoming five years (2011-2015). “Khmer HIV/AIDS NGO Alliance has its new five-year strategic plan which will be implemented from 2011 to 2015. “In this strategic plan, KHANA will focus not only on HIV, but also on broader health and development,” said Dr. Oum Sopheap, KHANA Executive Director, “This new strategy will lead our evolution as an organization, as we embrace new opportunities to develop our holistic approach for the communities we work with.”

Cambodian people live with HIV and aids classified about 0.6 of the whole people, the government and all partners are trying to fight against this deadly illness and nee the contribution from all sides.

Dr. Pheap said over the last ten years, KHANA has been known as one of the leading local NGOs in HIV and AIDS through different programs including HIV focused prevention with most at risk populations (MARPs), care and support for People Living with HIV (PLHIV) and Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) and impact mitigation to improve the quality of lives for those populations.

This contributes to a reduction of HIV and AIDS prevalence in Cambodia and also brings Cambodia to the global recognition in the success of HIV/AIDS response. In addition, our policy dialogues and networking through closed partnership with government and other relevant institutions support the building enabling environment for those who are the forefront of the epidemics accessing health and non health services.

Dr Pheap added but now, there is an increasing and urgent need of other public health concerns in the community and many efforts remain to be fulfilled in order to achieve the MDG 4 and 5 by 2015. To anticipate and respond to these changes, KHANA has revised its vision and mission to focus not only on HIV/AIDS, but also broader health including other infectious diseases, sexual reproductive, child and maternal health, TB and livelihoods

Dr. Pheap added: The robust experiences, excellent expertise and evidence based researches which KHANA has gained from HIV works for many years will serve as a bridge for KHANA to reach its new goals, new objectives and new strategic directions for the sake of the community.

Teng Kunthy, secretary general of the National AIDS Authority said that “we need all partners for fighting against HIV and Adis in the country. We all are concerned about the MSM, girls at the entertainment clubs, and drug users,”

Climate Change Activists in Cambodia Demand Global Climate Fund

Monday, 29 November 2010 02:56 DAP NEWS / VIBOL

CAMBODIA, PHNOM PENH, Nov 29, 2010-Climate change activists on Monday gathered at Freedom Park in Phnom Penh to demand the fund for implementing climate change project and campaigners also demanded world leaders to keep promises on global climate fund.

"In Cancun, rich countries must be honest about this money" Bunny Tep, a representative of the national climate change network said, referring to $30 billion fund's pledge by 2012 for climate change.

This is first time that kind of event conducted at the freedom park which opened last month after the NGOs and civil society that kind of park is restrict narrowing the freedom of expression (FoE) Oxfam said that Cambodia is concerned about the climate change affected agricultural crops and food security. Climate change is already devastating people’s lives and wiping out crops, making it harder for the poorest people, especially women, to provide food for their families.

It added recognizing this global threat, the National Climate Change Network, consisting of 52 civil society organizations in Cambodia, is holding a campaign event Where is the global climate fund? On Monday morning, November 29. The campaign will bring together 300 representatives from the government, civil society, academics, local communities, and private companies to calls on world leaders to deliver their financial commitments and provide new and additional money for poor people to adapt to a changing climate.

At Copenhagen last year, there was limited progress made on the scale of long term finance. Rice countries government pledged to deliver $30 billion by 2012 to help developing countries adapt to climate change and curb their emissions.

Dump sprayed for flies

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Flies swarm on the foliage in Dangkor district near the Choeung Ek dump

via CAAI

Monday, 29 November 2010 15:03 Tep Nimol

THE Ministry of Health began a week-long campaign to spray pesticides at the Cheung Ek dumpsite in Phnom Penh’s Dangkor district on Saturday following complaints from nearby villagers that thousands of flies were causing contributing to hygiene problems in the area.

Sok Sokun, director of the Phnom Penh Municipal Health Department, said yesterday that the chemical pesticide, provided by the Thai Yoen company in Vietnam and administered by a Japanese firm, will be sprayed at the site until December 3.

“We will use the chemical spray on the dumpsite, roads and sewage to wipe out the smell and kill the flies and their eggs,” he said. “The pesticide, Ogor Removal, does not affect the health of people or animals.”

The campaign comes after local residents complained that flies from the dump were invading their food stocks and affecting sales at food vendor stalls.

Sok Phhat, a resident of Dangkor’s Bakou district located about 500 metres from the site, said the flies seemed to be dropping in number since Sunday, but that there were still “hundreds” of small flies.

“Some villagers tied mosquito nets and some villagers closed their doors and windows to protect against the flies, because they sit on our food and we cannot chase them with our hands,” he said.

Bakou village chief Chhum Sarin said that the flies were disturbing residents of the five villages surrounding the dumpsite, which opened there in September last year.

He added that local authorities had requested “professionals” to spray the area following the villagers’ complaints.

Tourist arrested for sex pics

via CAAI

Monday, 29 November 2010 15:03 Thik Kaliyann

Siem Reap

Siem Reap police have arrested a Japanese tourist for photographing a Cambodian couple having sex in a rented room.

Sun Bunthong, deputy chief of the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit, said last week that a Siem Reap resident telephoned police to report that a 22-year-old Cambodian man and a 28-year-old Cambodian woman were going to “perform a sex act” for the tourist.

Police said the tourist, identified as Takayama Go, 28, and the unidentified couple were taken into custody, adding that the tourist claimed to have arranged the photo shoot for entry to the Angkor Photo Festival, which ended on Saturday.

“Takayama said he hired the couple for US$40 to perform sex acts while he photographed them. We decided to detain him because we saw 78 photos of sex acts in his camera,” Sun Bunthong said.

“The police arrested them while the sex act was occurring, so we charged them with taking indecent photos and implementing a sex act,” said Siem Reap Provincial Court Judge Sok Leng.

Sok Leng added that he was unsure when the court would schedule a hearing.

Assault on child: Arrest made in Sen Sok rape case

via CAAI

Monday, 29 November 2010 15:02 Mom Kunthear

Assault on child

Deputy Sen Sok district police chief Cheav Vibol said the suspect was arrested after the victim’s mother filed a complaint.

“I will send the suspect to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday for charges,” he said.

He said the suspect confessed to police that he saw the girl standing alone while she was waiting for her mother outside the kindergarten, before luring her to the lavatory on his bicycle and raping her.

“The suspect and the victim are neighbours and the suspect used to take the girl to school many times,” he said. “That’s why the girl agreed to ride the bicycle.’’

Am Sam Ath, a senior monitor for the rights group Licadho, said that 200 cases of rape had been reported in Cambodia in the first nine months of the year. Of those, he said 176 cases involved victims under the age of 18, and that 18 of those cases were settled out of court.
A 27-YEAR-OLD man was arrested after allegedly raping a 5-year-old girl in the bathroom of a kindergarten in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district on Saturday.

Former islanders relive the pain

Photo by: Photo Supplied
One of several houses that Chum Sam Oeun lived in during his 26 years as a resident of Koh Pich island.

via CAAI

Monday, 29 November 2010 15:02 May Titthara and Colin Meyn

Chum Thida could see the crush of bodies that lay ahead as she and five friends, exhausted and anxious to get home, approached the east entrance to Diamond Island’s north bridge around 10:30 on the night of November 22.

Although panic had set in among people caught in the jam, the least fortunate having already collapsed, 18-year-old Chum Thida and her friends weren’t particularly alarmed by what seemed to be, at worst, a severe example of the predictable chaos that descends on the capital each year during the Water Festival.

Traversing the bridge was still being discussed before an unfamiliar woman stepped into their path and warned that hundreds of people had been electrocuted.

Standing metres away from the place where officials would soon put up a human barrier separating victims – 351 dead and 395 injured at last count – from onlookers of the deadly stampede, Chum Thida and two friends squeezed their way out of the crowd and found a grassy spot, on what was once her family’s backyard along the eastern bank of the narrow strip of the Tonle Bassac that separates Diamond Island from Phnom Penh’s riverside, to watch events unfold.

More than 30 minutes went by before people began to jump off the bridge into the shallow waters below. Rescue boats, with people onboard pulling in as many bodies as possible, traced the same route back and forth across the river that she and her six siblings took every day while commuting between public schools in the city and their house on the family fruit farm on Koh Pich.

When soldiers and police finally pushed through the crowd shortly after 11 o’clock, they set up a human barrier to contain the bedlam. Those on the outside of the roadblock, Chum Seila and her five friends included, were told to stay put; a notable change in the position of government enforcers during her encounter at the same place five years ago. Just 13 at the time, she remembers uniformed men, representing the interests of the 7NG group and other developers, carrying lumber over their shoulders as they walked towards her raised wooden house, finally bringing an end to a land dispute in which residents and rights groups battled with developers over compensation for nearly two years.

Chum Thida’s father, Chum Sam Oeun, was the eldest resident of Koh Pich and was often the public face representing the 300 farming families fighting to stay on their land, where they lived modest but comfortable lives selling fruit in markets across the river.

In a story in The Phnom Penh Post on November 3, 2004, Chum Sam Oeun spoke for the 20 families who were still demanding more compensation after a hearing between City Hall lawyers and Koh Pich residents and their lawyers reportedly broke down because judge Kim Ravy refused to move out of his small office to the courtroom, “It’s very, very clear and the decision is very clearly wrong,” he said in an interview with The Post. “If we go with no money, we would die, so we have to struggle to live on the island.”

The compensation paid to Chum Sam Oeun’s family, who were the last residents on the island to accept compensation, was at least four times the offer of $2 per square metre that was made in a 2004 letter from City Hall that was sent to 134 families living in Koh Pich (one family held out longer but lost a lawsuit and received almost nothing). But, the money didn’t soften Chum Sam Oeun’s position toward the companies developing the island, where he settled down in 1979 and stayed for 26 years.

“According to my religion, I believed that the bad events were returned to the company because, before they left, villagers prayed in their minds that they wanted the company bankrupt and unsuccessful in their development projects because they take over villagers’ land, beat and threaten them,” he said, adding that the spiritual connection between the deeds done unto his fellow islanders and the recent stampede help explain why investigations have been unsuccessful in identifying causes.

Photo by: Photo Supplied
Chum Sam Oeun stands with family in his garden on Koh Pich island.

Khieu Bunthoeun, a former villager on Koh Pich who now lives in Cham Karmon district, agreed that karma, as much as anything, was the root cause of the stampede. “It is an injustice that those people died,” he said. “But their death reflects the activity of the company towards the villagers in Koh Pich in the past, which is why their project had a problem.”

While Soew Hak, another former Koh Pich resident, doesn’t deny that the past actions led to the tragedy on Koh Pich, he questioned why so much of the punishments fell on festival goers.

“They threatened villagers and they deployed police around the village,” he said, referring to their tactics during the eviction struggle in 2004 on 2005. “They even cut off electricity. It should be happened to company, not to those people.”

Just a couple hundred metres from the spot where Chum Thida watched the tragic events unfold on the final night of the water festival, there used to be a shrine, one of three on the island, where neighbors would go if they needed to solve a problem. Because of his status, and the position of the shrine next to his house, neighbors would call on Chum Sam Oeun in desperate times, when he would gather the community together and lead them to the small Buddhist building, built with money collected from community members in 1984, where they prayed and made offerings to the spirits who protected the island and its inhabitants.

Vengeful thoughts were never spoken around the shrine, according to Chum Sam Oeun, but he said revenge was on the minds of many on the island as, one by one, the families accepted compensation packages and moved away.

Touch Samnang, project manager of Overseas Cambodian Investment Corporation, the group overseeing development on Koh Pich, said he was only aware of one shrine on the island. Asked about the role of spirits in the recent events on the island, he said he “had no idea”.

The wooden shrine has been replaced by a stone and concrete structure that is used by staff on site for religious ceremonies and prayer. The grey building can still be seen from the bridge, blending in with the surrounding pavement.

Ros Sokhet's paper denied state licence

via CAAI

Monday, 29 November 2010 15:02 Meas Sokchea

THE Ministry of Information will not issue a licence for formerly jailed journalist Ros Sokhet to publish his Anticorruption Newspaper, which the newly-freed scribe had claimed would target Prime Minister Hun Sen and other officials.

Yem Noy, director of the department of media at the Ministry of Information, said yesterday that Ros Sokhet would not be granted a licence because of his status as a convicted criminal.

“There will be no license from him because he was convicted,” Yem Noy said. “Normally, the Press Law does not allow those with convictions to establish newspapers.”

Ros Sokhet was convicted of disinformation last year after sending a series of allegedly threatening text messages to prominent commentator and news anchor Soy Sopheap. He was sentenced to two years in prison before being released on a reduced sentence by the Appeal Court in October.

Ros Sokhet said following his release that his planned publication would be “independent and neutral”, but would focus on rooting out corruption within the government – starting with the premier himself.

“I will shoot photos and count how many houses he’s got and how many hectares of land he’s got,” Ros Sokhet said at the time. “I will count how many private companies his relatives are behind, providing those companies immunity from land-grabbing charges.”

The defiant journalist said yesterday that he had already written several articles for his newspaper, and hoped to eventually receive his licence. Opposition news editor Hang Chakra, who was released earlier this year after serving a one-year jail term for disinformation, has also announced plans to resurrect his newspaper, though he has yet to announce a launch date.

Ros Sokhet also said yesterday that he had been appointed a “media consultant” for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, a post that SRP spokesman Yim Sovann said was unofficial.

“Only the SRP can alleviate poverty and help victims of land grabbing,” Ros Sokhet said.

More homes buried in sand

Photo by: Pha Lina
Residents in Boeung Kak lake’s village I inspect a neighbour’s destroyed home

via CAAI

Monday, 29 November 2010 15:02 Khouth Sophakchakrya

REPRESENTATIVES of 24 families living in Group 8 of Boeung Kak lake’s Village 1 have filed a complaint to Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema after about 10 homes were submerged by sand pumping over the weekend.

Village representative Chan Puthiksak said residents filed the complaint on Saturday because Shukaku Inc, the company developing the lakeside, had failed to compensate them for the loss of their land.

“The 24 families have never argued with or opposed the efforts of the developer; we agreed to accept the compensation of US$8,500 for moving,” he said. “But the developer as well as local authorities have not paid us the compensation.”

Tek Lun, a resident of Group 8, said representatives of Shukaku Inc had advised the 24 families to seek compensation from Toll Royal Railways, a company that is regenerating a defunct railway line running through Group 8.

He added, however, that representatives of TRR had also refused to compensate villagers, pointing out that they were not responsible for the sand pumping affecting their homes.

Loa Vann, a representative of Shukaku Inc, said yesterday that he was not authorised to make a decision about compensation.He has said previously that Group 8 land was “already cut out from” the company’s development project and that TRR or the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation were responsible for compensating residents.

But Neup Ly, a community empowerment officer at the Housing Rights Task Force, noted that Shukaku Inc was responsible for the sand pumping, and said there was “no reason” for residents to seek compensation from TRR.

Police Blotter: 29 Nov 2010

via CAAi

Monday, 29 November 2010 15:01 Phak Seangly

Suicidal woman jumps, leaves six kids behind
A 52-year-old woman committed suicide in Battambang town on Thursday because she was reportedly “fed up with her life”. According to a witness, the woman – who had six children – visited a monk at a local pagoda to organise her own funeral because she planned to kill herself. Not long afterwards, she went to a bridge and jumped to her death. Local fishermen retrieved her body about 20 minutes later. One of those fishermen said the woman was often drunk, and that she was fed up with living. KOH SANTEPHEAP

Cop attacks man who just found Jesus
A 48-year-old police officer was arrested in Phnom Penh’s Dangkor district on Wednesday after allegedly beating a 64-year-old villager with a stick because he had converted to Christianity. Police said the accused was a common drunk, and on the day in question had predictably gone to purchase some alcohol. He ran into the victim behind his house and, already drunk, began to curse at the victim for his religious conversion. This led to an argument, which in turn led to the officer grabbing a stick and beating the victim in the head and hands. KOH SANTEPHEAP

Mobile phone thieves caught in Takhmao
Takhmao district police on Friday arrested a man and a woman on suspicion of committing a robbery in Kandal province. Police said a mobile-phone vendor filed a complaint stating that he lost 10 mobile phones and recharge cards valued at US$100. The vendor claimed the two suspects, a 21-year-old man and his female accomplice, 17, broke into his home while he slept. Police arrested them but found just four of the phones. KAMPUCHEA THMEY

Drive-by chest grabbers caught in citizen’s arrest
Two 28-year-old men were arrested by villagers after grabbing at a woman’s breast as she rode her motorbike in Phnom Penh’s Dangkor district on Thursday. Police said the victim was riding her bike along a long, quiet road, when the two suspects drove by and one grabbed at her chest. She “furiously cursed” the men, who objected and followed her home to curse back at her. Villagers nearby detained the men and sent them to the police station, where they confessed. KAMPUCHEA THMEY

Shady-looking suspects submit to questioning
Phnom Penh police arrested two men who were attempting to sell a stolen motorbike in Pramapi Makara district on Friday. Police said the two men “looked suspect” and stopped them for questioning. The two men confessed to stealing the bike, as well as a mobile phone and a watch from a man who was watching television in Kandal’s Ksach Kandal district last week. KOH SANTEPHEAP

Attacks on children: Pursat man held over murder, rape

via CAAI

Monday, 29 November 2010 15:02 Phak Seangly

Attacks on children

POLICE in Pursat province’s Pursat town on Saturday arrested a man accused of the murder of an 11-year-old boy and the rape of the boy’s 13-year-old sister last week.

Ptas Prey commune police chief Pich Siphan said the suspect, 24, was arrested while visiting his wife and child on Saturday, six days after he allegedly fled to Pursat’s Phnom Kravanh district and to Battambang province.

“Our police force arrived and managed to arrest the man, who was about to escape,” he said. “He confessed to the crimes.”

He said that, according to the suspect’s confessions, the victims were looking for fish and crabs in the commune, when the suspect lured the boy about 10 metres from his sister and slit his throat in a rice field.

“The sister did not see due to the rice stalks,” he said, and added that the suspect “then scuffled with the girl” before raping her. The suspect was sent to provincial court yesterday.

Provincial court prosecutor Tub Chan Sereyvud said he had not begun investigating the case.

Kingdom defends its ballet

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
A dancer performs Khmer Royal Ballet in 2008.

via CAAI

Monday, 29 November 2010 15:02 Buth Reaksmey Kongkea

The Cambodian government last week condemned statements made by members of Thailand’s Yellow Shirts that the origins of Khmer Royal Ballet were derived from traditions in Thailand.

The statements were reported on the website of Thai television network ASTV nearly two weeks ago and quoted Yellow Shirt members as saying that “both music and dance of [the Khmer Royal Ballet’s] modern forms are of Thai characteristics”.

Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said the statements were unreasonable and baseless.

“We think that this statement has shown the bad dignity and culture of these Thai extremist groups, which aim at insulting, creating polluted environments and lying about national and international issues to people in the world.”

In 2003, the Khmer Royal Ballet was proclaimed a masterpiece of oral and intangible heritage by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation. This international distinction, according to UNESCO, honours “the most remarkable examples of oral traditions and forms of cultural expression in all regions of the world”.

The National World Heritage Committee issued a statement last week to help explain why the Khmer Royal Ballet was its own cultural artefact, and not based in Thai traditions.

It said the Khmer Royal Ballet started at “the beginning of the Christian period and continued to be performed during Angkorian, post-Angkorian periods up to the present time, as depicted on galleries of ancient Khmer temples and architecture”.

Cambodia and the Yellow Shirts, who support current Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, have quarreled for several years over border demarcations, particularly over land near the Preah Vihear temple complex, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Cambodia goes crazy for local fish sauce

The SsangYong dealership on Kampuchea Krom Boulevard, Phnom Penh, yesterday. Imports of Korean road vehicles have risen by 289 percent. Photo by: Pha Lina

via CAAI

Monday, 29 November 2010 15:01 Rann Reuy

DOMESTIC fish sauce firms are increasing production this year, as local demand increases due to improved distribution and quality standards.

Chan Sitha, owner of Ngov Heng Fish Sauce Enterprise, in Kampot province, told The Post yesterday that he is producing 120,000 litres of the condiment per month – compared to around 100,000 litres per month last year. Rural demand, he said, was a reason behind the 20 percent increase. He said: “Most of the houses have at least a bottle of fish sauce.”

Other sauce experts said that an increase in quality and distribution networks were proving a boost for business. Hong Mouy, owner of Thai Hong Keat enterprise, which produces 12,000 litres per day of fish sauce and soy sauce , said that her sales had increase due to wider distribution of bottles.

While Phe Chantravuthy, deputy director of Industry Department at the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy, said more and more Cambodian people were turning to domestically-made products due to an increase of hygiene and quality standards.

He estimated that around 50 percent of fish sauces on the market were now supplied by local enterprises, with the other 50 percent imported.

“People in rural areas now like the Cambodian-made products, due to their fair price,” he said. “Really, Cambodian products are of a good quality, and now the ministry is giving production advice to entrepreneurs."

Thai travel: New visa rules set for December

via CAAI

Monday, 29 November 2010 15:01 Soeun Say

NEW visa regulations between Cambodia and Thailand will begin operation next month, providing a boost for tourism and trade, according to government officials.

From December 16, nationals from each country will be able to take 14-day trips across the border without needing visas, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed in a press release.

Minister of Tourism, Thong Khon, said yesterday that the agreement was a “good sign” which could help the tourism.

He added that about 100,000 Thai tourists come to Cambodia each year. He hoped that the numbers would double when the government agreement was put in place.

Chan Nora, secretary of state at the Commerce Ministry, said easing regulations would enable businesspeople to trade more easily.

Border casinos look to be a rising gamble

via CAAI

Monday, 29 November 2010 15:00 Steve Finch

THE partial opening of Ratanakkiri province’s first casino on Friday suggests all is well with Cambodia’s expanding gaming industry.

The latest casino to open on the Vietnamese border puts the Kingdom’s total number of gaming venues close to 30, second only to Macau in the region with 33. Meanwhile, NagaWorld in Phnom Penh announced an 83 percent rise in net profit for the first half of the year.

However, on Cambodia’s main gaming frontier – the Vietnamese border, site of the new Try Pheap Mittapheap Casino Entertainment Resort in Ratanakkiri Province – casino investments look increasingly to be a huge gamble. Winn Casino in Svay Rieng province was forced to close its doors at the end of September due to a drop in custom with officials citing the economic crisis for the closure, but this explanation seems overly simplistic.

Tourist arrivals from Vietnam saw the largest growth of any country to Cambodia in the first eight months of this year at just less than 42 percent on the same period in 2009, government data showed. Meanwhile, during the first six months of 2010, NagaWorld’s revenues increased 7 percent, according to a company report. So although many more people have visited Cambodia, especially from Vietnam, gaming venues on Cambodia’s border with Vietnam are struggling to attract gamblers. That makes the prospects for Ratanakkiri’s new casino less than favourable.

As the first casino in the area, Try Pheap Mittapheap can expect to corner the market but then, with Cambodians not permitted to gamble legally, it will have to rely on an influx of visitors from Vietnam. But the largest threat to Cambodia’s casino industry lies within Vietnam itself. While Cambodia is building $3.5 million casinos in Ratanakkiri Province, Vietnam is developing a number of multibillion-dollar gaming resorts such as the Ho Tram Strip in Vung Tau close to Ho Chi Minh City and a $2 billion development in Lang Son in the Northern Highlands.

At the moment, these developments will only compete for international gamblers as Vietnamese, like Cambodians, are barred from betting in their own country. However, speculation is mounting Vietnam will soon partially legalise gambling for its own citizens.

Reports this year have talked of Sheldon Adelson, CEO of the world’s largest casino company Las Vegas Sands, courting Vietnamese government officials and calling for the legalisation of gambling in Vietnam, a necessary condition, he has said, for his proposed casino resort.

Although Cambodia’s border casinos aim for a lower-spending clientele, the possibility of legalised gambling in Vietnam would surely decimate the industry on the Cambodian side of the border.

China dominate as hosts

via CAAI

Monday, 29 November 2010 15:00 Martin Parry

AN “extraordinary” Asian Games on Saturday closed after 15 days of thrills and spills that saw China reinforce its sporting credentials and Japan slip further behind.

On the last day of action at an Asiad unprecedented in size and scale, China fittingly won the last gold at stake when their women’s volleyball team toppled South Korea 3-2 in a thrilling finale.

Zhou Chunxiu earlier added yet more gold to their glittering haul by defending her women’s marathon title with teammate Zhu Xiaolin taking silver and North Korea’s Kim Kum-Ok the bronze.
South Korea’s Ji Youngjun won the men’s race.

The volleyball success pushed the host nation’s final gold tally to 199 and its total medals to a whopping 416 -- both Asian Games records.

While China basked in its most successful Games ever, its arch-rival Japan performed worse then expected, winning just 48 titles for an overall 216 total medals.

It left them well behind South Korea, who claimed 76 gold and 232 medals altogether.

“The reason why we have been largely successful is related to the rise of our nation, along with the constant rise of China’s economy and our comprehensive national strength,” China’s vice minister of sport Duan Shijie said.

“This medal haul again can represent a major achievement in our preparations for the London Olympic Games.”

While the traditional big three dominated, 36 of the 45 countries and territories taking part managed to climb the podium, with some notable successes.

Macau won its first gold medal ever through Jia Rui in the men’s wushu and Bangladesh matched that breakthrough, claiming the men’s cricket title in an exciting victory over Afghanistan.

Oman and Nepal propped up the table with a single bronze each, but there was no joy for minnows like East Timor, Maldives, Turkmenistan, Brunei and Cambodia.

Cambodia’s premier long distance runner,Hem Bunting pulled out of Friday’s 10,000m race and then failed to finish in Saturday’s marathon. Meanwhile, Try Sothavy was ousted in the first round of the women’s freestyle 63kg wrestling event on Friday, losing 3-0 to Mio Nishimaki of Japan.

There were three world records (two in weightlifting and one in archery) as well as 103 Asian records.

In all, 12,600 drug tests were carried out with just two failures –Uzbek wrestler Jakhongir Muminov and Uzbek judoka Shokir Muminov.

The Games were overshadowed somewhat by the North Korean artillery attack on South Korea, as well as a diplomatic dispute over the disqualification of a Taiwan taekwondo fighter.

There were also early problems with empty stadiums, complaints about the long distances to venues and heavy security, but Olympic Council of Asia president Sheikh Ahmed Al Fahad Al Sabah had nothing but praise.

“Guangzhou looked to challenge Beijing [Olympics] and I think they did it successfully,” said the Kuwaiti.

“Some Olympic committees and OCA colleagues say there is the same level compared to Beijing or even better. Athletes in the village say facilities were even better than Beijing.

“Guangzhou made a great a success. I would say they were an extraordinary Games.”

Like the widely-acclaimed curtain-raiser, the closing ceremony was held not inside a stadium but on a boat-shaped island in the middle of the Pearl River, which meanders through the heart of China’s third-largest city.

This time it celebrated Asia’s diverse cultures, with music and dance from India, Lebanon, Japan, Kazakhstan and Mongolia.

Korean pop sensation Rain performed as part of the handover to the 2014 host, Incheon.


CNVLD secure World Cup

Cambodia’s Man Veasna goes up for a block during their 2009 WOVD Volleyball World Cup match against Poland at the indoor hall of Olympic Stadium. Photo by: LUKE DUGGLEBY

via CAAI

Monday, 29 November 2010 15:00 H S Manjunath

The Cambodian National Volleyball League (Disabled) is poised for a coveted hat-trick after landing the right to host the biennial World Cup in 2011 for the third time.

“It is an illustrious feather in CNVLD’s cap for being given the honour of staging another World Cup,” said CNVLD Secretary General Christopher Minko. “In the wake of the November 22 tragedy, this mega event the Cambodians have come to relish is the start of a national healing process.”

The decision to allot the 2011 edition to Cambodia was taken at a meeting of the Asian Oceanic Volleyball Development Committee in Malaysia last week. The Egypt-based World Organisation of Volleyball for Disabled has since put its stamp of approval, paving the way for CNVLD to stage the event at the Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh from July 23 to 29.

All the leading powers in disabled volleyball will be represented at the World Cup and the top six finishers from the previous edition – Germany, Slovakia, Poland, Malaysia, India and hosts Cambodia – have already confirmed their participation, as well as a side from China.

Three more teams, USA, Vietnam and Rwanda are still weighing their options, and the CNVLD expects these teams to finalise their entries soon.

“This is a field as strong as you can get. The world’s best will be here and it is a testimony to CNVLD’s organisational success. The 2009 World Cup was recognised by the WOVD as the most professionally managed event ever. This time we want to go one better,” Minko told the Post yesterday.

“The CNVLD is proud of its track record in management, but we also want to showcase our talents on the court. In 2007, we finished third and 2009 [we placed] fourth. We want to make sure that this will be our World Cup.”

Meanwhile, with three new teams joining the fray, the 13-team national league is set to run from January to May next year.

“The national team selection follows the conclusion of the league, and the World Cup probables will have at least a three month training time for ‘the Big One’. We are not leaving anything to chance,” Minko added.

The CNVLD is bringing in two reputed coaches - Christian Zepp from Germany and Neil Johnson of Canada – to train the national team.

“The two previous World Cups were highly popular; huge crowds turned out for the matches. There was extensive coverage on the television,” said the CNVLD official. “We want to encourage more and more people to witness this spectacle. We are keeping the entry free and expect a full house for every game.”