Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Villagers eat, love and pray to ‘magical’ tree

Shrines have been set up around the bodhi tree in Sanlong commune that sprang back to life after being cut down. Photo by: ROTH MEAS

via CAAI

Wednesday, 12 January 2011 15:00 Roth Meas

VILLAGERS in Kandal province have been praying to a bodhi tree and drinking tea made from its roots and bark after it suddenly sprang upright, having been cut down and knocked over last year.

The 200-year-old tree in Sanlong commune, about 40 kilometres from Phnom Penh, attracted curiosity when its trunk, which was lying on the ground, began standing upright again two weeks ago. “My dog was barking, so my wife looked out from the house and saw the tree base was slowly standing upright again,” said villager Khai Lorn, 48.

Buddhist priest Sok Suon said a man who lived next to the tree dreamed that its spirit was helping to bring it back to life, so monks erected umbrellas and a tent nearby for people to gather and pray.

“The bodhi tree is supposed to be a magical tree because the Buddha gained enlightenment under one” said the priest.

The tree was felled to make way for a road-widening project on November 18. Over the past two weeks, said Sok Suon, hundreds of people have come to pray to the tree and cut bits of root or bark off it in the hope that it will help cure diseases.

Health officials in Kandal province stressed that drinking bark or roots from a bodhi tree was a folk remedy and not supported by medical evidence. Prak Phan, deputy director of the province’s department of health, said medical workers would educate people nearby so they could avoid any danger.

However, practicioner of traditional Khmer medicine Phka Chhouk, said that trees of the fig family were often used to cure ailments, and could help treat syphilis.

One keen to try the tree was Srey Sorn, 60, of Prey Chrouk village in Kandal’s Bak Dav commune. “I got some bark to boil after I prayed to the tree to cure my stomach disease. The traditional medicine man says that so far, roots or bark from the tree haven’t poisoned anyone.”

Village chief Ly Chamroeun, 45, said that the tree had now been moved to private land so people could keep praying to it.

Superstition runs rife in the countryside. Last week, people in Kandal province's Saang district organised a spirit wedding for two snakes.

5 Cool Things by Ngo Meng Hourng

via CAAI

Wednesday, 12 January 2011 15:00 Ngo Meng Hourng

Wearing newspaper
There are many ways to protect our environment; being a vegetarian, planting trees and reducing air pollution, but, frankly, these are all uncreative. Wearing newspaper is the kind of innovative idea that will help save the earth. It makes a fashion statement and conserves our natural resources. So don’t throw all your newspapers away. Cut them into pieces and ask someone to stick all those pieces on your body and you will soon be mother nature’s best, and most stylish, friend.

Ming your language
When you are bored or stressed and you don’t know what to do, watch a video of Mind Your Language. It is a comedy series featuring some hilarious scenes. The show will not only make you laugh and relax, you can also improve your English language skills with pronunciation, vocabulary, speaking and grammar. If you are interested in watching this movie, you can find it on YouTube by searching for “Mind Your Language”, or you can look around DVD stores for a copy of the series. I would suggest getting it for free on the internet though, and any time you are with a friend near  a computer you can show it to them as well and open a whole new world of laughs and learning.

Are you a person who loves reading books? If not, readjust your priorities and turn the page in your life so you can start to be more knowledgable. There is a Khmer proverb which says “the more you read the more you learn”. It’s pretty self explanatory. If you want to stay stupid, stay away from books. I can understnad, however, if you find it difficult to know which book to read, since there are so many out there.  I have found that novels are the best choice for beginning readers, since they will pull you in, regardless of your reading level. A good novel will expose you to a whole range of emotions, from romance to sadness to anger. Once you start reading, you will be addicted, and that means it won’t be long before you’re the smartest kid on the block.  So start reading more books.

Everyone knows bananas are delicious and nutritious, and you can thank me for finally spreading the word that they are the coolest fruit on trees. If you have illnesses such as stomach aches or constipation, arming your body with the three sugars - sucrose, fructose and glucose - will help you fight off the infection. Even if you aren’t sick, you can’t go wrong if you eat two or three bananas as part of your morning routine. Give it three or four days and watch your energy levels reach previously unknown highs. I am frustrated by my inability to convey the coolness of bananas in words. Honestly, you need to get serious about your banana intake. They can help improve your memory, save you money on medicine and make you a happier person. This is one thing that monkeys don’t play around with. They eat them; and you should too.

Small Mirror
We all care about our looks, and many of us spend a lot of time looking in a mirror. When you’re at home, it is easy to primp and preen until perfection is achieved. However, looking like a million bucks away from home is a whole different challenge. If you are too shy or lazy to find the nearest rest room, but if you want to achieve  style comparable to mine in the photo to the left, carrying a small mirror on your person is a habit you need to form. It is so easy to carry a small mirror, and then any time you can have a look at yourself and feel more confident as you strut your stuff around town. It will only cost a few bucks at the market, so go get one and watch your self confidence soar.

Constructive Cambodian: The importance of HIV/AIDS education

via CAAI

Wednesday, 12 January 2011 15:00 Keo Kounila

The Constructive Cambodian
Keo Kounila talks about the importance of HIV/AIDS education

A recent study said that youth are the most vulnerable group in Southeast Asia and asked the question: “Is there enough work being done to make sure that AIDS doesn’t start to spread among Cambodia’s youth?”

It does not take a rocket scientist to see that AIDS is indiscriminate and can happen to anybody, rich or poor, white or black. Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome came to light in the early 1980s in the US and for more than 20 years has been the subject of fierce debate and countless arguments around the globe.

Its impact on humans is terrifying. The effectiveness of the human immune system is weakened by the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, making patients susceptible to infections and tumors.

In Cambodia, the number of new HIV infections has dropped from an estimated 15,500 per year during the peak of the epidemic in the early 1990s to about 2,100 last year, according to a report written by Cambodian experts working closely with the United States-based Result for Development Institute.

In Cambodia 67,000 people are living with HIV, 37,000 get treatment and 10,000 are waiting for treatment, USAIDS country director Tony Lisle told the Post in December. This means Cambodia has fared well, getting treatment for more than 95 percent of those in need.

But the authors of the recent report warned that Cambodia has become complacent after its “major success” in reduction and has loosened its grip on AIDS prevention, leading to a possibly rise in numbers.

A 2006 global report by USAIDS revealed that one third of the 40 million worldwide infected with HIV are youth – they are sexually active and the most vulnerable group to AIDS. Have we done enough to ensure Cambodia’s youth avoids this fate?

I dare say that Cambodian youth are most at risk in Southeast Asia. Why? Young people are vulnerable to HIV/AIDS for numerous reasons. Because of their age, physical changes, emotions and other factors they have less control over their bodies. These factors are even more intensified in times of war and poverty, which we have seen in this country.

For example, impoverished families are unable to educate their children or provide good medical care.

In the absence of school, youths wander the streets, passing their time by having sex and therefore becoming infected with HIV, which they cannot afford to treat.

The traditional customs and habits of many Cambodian parents even reinforce the vulnerability of youth. Parents have been tight-lipped about sex education at home and parents are shy and can’t talk with their children about it. Therefore, education about HIV is almost non-existent because parents do not take the trouble to explain it, or they assume that children learn about it at school.

In contrast, schools teach no more than the definition and some superficial prevention methods, leaving many young people curious, so they go and have sex but don’t protect themselves.

But there some effective organisations in Cambodia that have engaged youth and taught them the risks of unsafe or unprotected sex and contraceptive methods against HIV/AIDS and unwanted pregnancies. But this is not enough. Most young people spend their whole day at school, but don’t learn enough at home.

It is at home where young people should receive hands-on education about HIV/AIDS from their parents. Schools also cannot ignore this challenge or put the burden on the government or non-governmental organisations.

Sex education is still a controversial subject in many countries. Many argue that even young children deserve to be taught for their own safety, while others argue that these lessons can lead to sex at a tender age.

Discrimination and stigma against the HIV/AIDS positive people is still prevalent. People discriminate against the victims of AIDS or rape.

In a bid to curb the spread of AIDS among Cambodia’s youth, parents have to do more, as well as schools, NGOs and the government. With the news that foreign donors are expected to decrease funding between 50 and 90 percent over the next two decades, this issue is a high priority. Cambodia’s youth are now more at risk as sexual liberation is taking off in the Kingdom and entertainment venues are not properly regulated. We cannot be complacent, but must put more effort into taking care of the wellbeing of the youth, the new hope of Cambodia.

Lesson for 2011

via CAAI

Wednesday, 12 January 2011 15:00 Post Staff

Beware of big animals

Cows seemed to be running amok on a monthly basis, getting in the way of traffic and wandering wherever they pleased. Than Sambo the elephant stole the show when he began his week-long rampage on residents in Kampong Speu. After days of inaction, government and animal experts were finally able to subdue the 53-year-old beast and bring him to Tachmau Zoo, where he is now posing no danger to onlookers.

Watch what you say

It wasn’t a good year for opposition voices. Sam Rainsy and Mu Sochua, perhaps the two most well known members of the Sam Rainsy party, were both punished for their critical actions and comments towards the government, and Ros Soket, an opposition newspaper man, also spent time in jail. He clearly did not learn his lesson, however, since he said he would focus his efforts to expose corruption on Hun Sen the same day he was released from jail.

Protect yourself in bed

Cambodia has been a success story for the fight against HIV/AIDS in the past decade, however the threat of the disease has not gone away, and world health groups have said that because of a lack of education and concern among youth in the region, teenagers and young adults are the most vulnerable group to see a rise in the prevalence of HIV/AIDS. As it is becoming more common for Cambodian youth to be more sexually active, the need to use condoms is higher than ever.

Go see your country

You have probably seen some of Cambodia already, but surely there are many places you have yet to see. You might think that they will still be there, and still be beautiful for your whole life, but due to industrial projects and population expansion, Cambodia’s natural wonders are rapidly changing. If there is a trip you have been waiting to take, go do it now, you never know when it will change.

Be careful crossing borders

Borders have been a risky place to be this last year. Members of the Sam Rainsy party had multiple run ins on the Vietnamese border, including one that left Sam Rainsy and two villagers facing charges of disinformation in court. More recently, Thai government officials were found on the wrong side of their border with Cambodia, and now their fate is also in the hands of Cambodia’s courts.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011 15:00 Dara Saoyuth and Sun Narin


Dara Saoyuth and Sun Narin talk to TVs top newsmen to find out if we can believe what we sees on TV.

According to a census taken of Cambodia’s population in 2008, 58.41 percent of households own at least one television set. News programmes are what every station cannot do without. Cambodia’s television stations present a variety of both national and international news to their audiences and also produce some other programmes including live reports and news analysis.

Huot Kheangveng, the deputy general director of the Bayon station which is owned by Prime Minister Hun Sen’s daughter, said his station tries to cater to its audience’s needs, adding that the audience likes news which impacts their lives and is a bridge between the government and the people.

Pen Samithy, the president of the Club of Cambodian Journalists and editor of the Raksmey Kampuchea newspaper, said that developing a variety of news for television was good for the people and the country as a whole since people can learn what’s happening around them. He said, however, there were not very many local television programmes and they were not updated.

Information Minister and Government Spokesman Khieu Kanharith said making shows for TV is a big expense, and added that just to get a good camera like the ones being used at TVK costs about $30,000 to $40,000.

He said that privately-owned television stations have to make money, so they are not able to have lots of people capturing the news from all over the country.

“Most of the news focuses on the government’s achievements and is positive,” said Pen Samithy. “I just want all the news that impacts the people.”

Lift conducted a survey of 100 university students in Phnom Penh and the results showed that 70 percent said the news is biased towards the government.

However, Huot Kheangveng said his television station carried both the positive and negative points of the government to let people know about its achievements and also to constructively criticise government.

“We have references, real sources and our reporters do it professionally. We disseminate the truth only,” he said.

Launched in March 2003, the Cambodian Television Network, or CTN, is the most popular station in Cambodia and is now broadcasting news for seven hours each day. Its programmes include the morning news, which has been running for the past year.

“Any bad news has already been reported by some radio stations and newspapers, so we don’t have to follow because it’s not good,” said Som Chhaya, CTN’s deputy director general and news editor, explaining that the market for news is very small and they cannot survive on news shows alone.

“As you can see, some newspapers are still printed in black and white and have not changed to colour printing like the others.”

Som Chhaya also said there are some obstacles he and his crews face in getting news. Getting information is sometimes difficult for him because some departments and ministries don’t have any spokesperson, so he has to try to contact other relevant sources who sometimes cannot be reached.

Now most television stations produce news programmes and analysis, which Som Chhaya compares with having a meal that is delicious after adding the seasoning, more meat and more vegetables, meaning that news analysis provides more detail for the audience to better understand a situation.

Soy Sopheap, a news analyst at Bayon TV, said he always recaps and analyses the important news of the week, but acknowledged that “it’s not correct all the time, but we say what is true and adhere to our profession as journalists”.

However, Khieu Kanharith stressed that news analysis is not news but opinion.

“They have the freedom to express their opinions,” he said, adding that some people are not very professional in their analysis, but the majority of them are.

Can TV save Cambodian culture?

If i think the style is cool, I will try to follow it. I don't take on anything I think is too sexy though

via CAAI

Wednesday, 12 January 2011 15:00 Ouk Elita

Regardless of preference for genre, we’re all familiar with watching TV, and there are many things to like about the TV programmes available in Phnom Penh. Maybe the presenter is entertaining, the content is interesting, or the creativity is impressive. However, there are just as many reasons to dislike our TV programmes. There may be too many advertisements, some of the shows simply lack substance, or some are just plain boring.

Veteran TV presenter Soun Bophanith, also known as VJ Danny, thinks he may know why there is such a great discrepancy. “There are many difficulties (involved) for a programme to operate well,” he said, “Sometimes it is not what we expected, (and) it does not turn out as well as what we think.” Soun Bophanith hosts two popular programmes in Cambodia: Pop Quiz on MyTV, “Cambodia’s first everyouth channel” targeted at young people, and CTN Dance Contest at CTN. He’s also produced and presented the well-received Cellcard Scene, a fun talk show that discusses various topics, from Kung Fu to Manga.

Soun Bophanith explained that concepts sometimes need to change and a show tested before it airs, which contribute to the inconsistency in quality. “We also have to think of a programme that we do not have already,” he said. “And then propose a concept (for) approval. Another factor (we need) to consider is the budget: budget to initiate a programme and a monthly budget.”

Heang Nicole, an 18-year-old student at the Institute of Foreign Languages, said she doesn’t watch Cambodian channels very often. “I do like some programmes on TVK and CTN,” she said, “especially Jrung Mouy Ney Komnet on Bayon. I watch foreign channels on cable TV more, because they have programmes that we don’t (have). They explore many aspects of the world, such as geography and art.”

Phal Samphors, a 19-year-old Pannasastra University student, said she likes to watch MyTV, partly for the fashion trends the channel portrays. “If I think the style is cool, I will try to follow it,” she said. “I don’t take on anything I think is too sexy though. ” Phal Samphors said that TV programmes also have educational value: “Listening to English songs can help us improve (our English listening) skills.”

Khem Sarith, the secretary of state at the Ministry of Culture, said TV channels always have a very strong impact on viewers. “Wherever it airs, there will be an impact. That’s why we are very careful,” he said. “If there is a mistake, there will be an impact, and it’s hard to turn (it) back.” Although the Ministry of Culture doesn’t necessarily have control over what is being shown, “when the Ministry of Culture feels that a particular TV show is against the belief or value of Cambodian culture, it can (terminate that) TV station,” Khem Sarith said. “It is the responsibility of the stations to decide (what they air) and be accountable for whatever happens.”

Despite the Ministry of Culture’s lack of direct control, Khem Sarith said he has noticed a love and respect for culture from TV stations. “I can see that TV stations love (our) culture,” he said. “When we (inform them of) their mistakes, they usually stop.”

Soun Bophanith said diversity is also important for TV programmes and catering to the audience. “Pop Quiz is a show for anything related to Pop, (and) we have songs from everywhere,” he said. “Most teenagers nowadays like Korean songs, but sometimes we also have Khmer songs to surprise the audience.”

On the other hand, Iep Poachean, an 18-year-old student at the University of Cambodia, sees a problem with this degree of diversity. He said that while “some of them have educational value, it can make us lose our culture if there is too much. I think the reason is because Khmer movies and songs are not so (appealing) yet; I hope they will make better ones”.

Youth of the Week: Sao Sokhim

via CAAI

Wednesday, 12 January 2011 15:00 Tang Khyhay

Have you ever thought that because of your failure you can find success? For Soa Sockhim, a seventeen year old gymnast, failure allowed her to achieve the successes she sought. Before she had a chance to join the second aerobic gymnastics championship in Asia, where she won the bronze medal, she had previously lost many competitions. It is true she lost the rivalry but what she focuses on is keeping her high commitment and motivation.

Born to a family of nine brothers and sisters, Sao Sockhim is the youngest daughter in her family. Her father passed away and her mother is a farmer. She started doing gymnastics at eleven years old. She said “Learning aerobics is not difficult as long as you have talent. In order to do this sport well, you have to be patient while your body becomes accustomed to exercising.” When she first started to practice, Sao considered her primary challenges to be the technique and the risk. Early on, she suffered a sprain while training with her brother. An unexpected challenge she has faced has been the uniforms that she is expected to wear in competition, which she said are more revealing than she is comfortable with.

To manage her time as a student athlete, she has to set a strict schedule. “I need to have good time management otherwise both my studies and my opportunities to follow my ideal career in gymnastics will fall apart,” she said.

Noy Phana, the team’s head coach, said that Soa Sokhim is different from other students. Whether she is sick or not, she is willing to train, while such complications would prevent her peers from participating. He added that she is good, diligent, and she will have a bright future.

Soa Sockhim said that the chance to compete in Vietnam was invaluable to her future, and not only as a gymnast. She was able to see the world away form Cambodia for the first time, and once the games began, she could see what kind of talent gymnasts outside of the Kingdom actually have. She was also able to meet some of the best gymnasts in the region and, most importantly, she was able to represent her country and bring honor to Cambodia.

Sao Sokhim’s advice to other youth is to spend their time doing something they love, whatever that might be, rather than waste free time doing nothing.

“In the future I not only want to be the most famous gymnast in Cambodia, I want ot be the most famous in Asia,” she said.

Welcome to LIFT issue 53

via CAAI

Wednesday, 12 January 2011 15:01 Post Staff

Although we believe in the power of print here at Lift, we also know that TV and radio are the most popular forms of media in the Kingdom. TV viewers number in the millions, while newspaper and magazine readers are in the hundreds of thousands.

With this is mind, this week we are focusing on how accurate the news that people receive through the TV really is (page 10), and we try to find out if Cambodian culture can be saved by more exposure to Cambodian youth watching TV (page 6).

We are also calling on readers to tell us which rising start they think will shine brightest in 2011, so we can take your questions and interview them for an upcoming issue of lift. So read, text and enjoy. See you again next week.

What's New?


After I carefully listened to all the tracks on the first album, three of the songs became instant fovourites.

via CAAI

Wednesday, 12 January 2011 15:01 Post Staff

Ngo Menghourng opens his ears to sounds of Chameleon music, Cambodia’s newest group of pop stars, and likes most of what he hears.

Chameleon Music is a new music company in Cambodia and in December it held its first special concert at Meta House to promote its first album to the local audience.

According to the website, up to 3,000 disks of Chameleon Music’s first album will be sold at major commercial outlets like Sorya and Sovana and also at CD World. The new album is pop music, and as a fan of Cambodian music, I am curious and want to listen to any new music.

Luckily, I was able to watch the concert because I heard about it through my friend who works at the Meta House organisation.

When I arrived at Meta House, I saw many people, both Khmer and foreigners. They gave the band a lot of support and applauded the singers and the new production company, Chameleon music.

During the event the company provided free disks to the audience and I was also given one. The first album from Chameleon is in the MP3 format, but it does not have a cover and there is no karaoke.

Listening to the concert was not enough to get me interested in this new music company, so that’s why I have listened to the disk three or four times so far.

After I carefully listened to all the tracks on the first album, three of the songs became instant fovourites. I love track one, sex and 10, because the melodies, rhythms, lyrics, meanings and voices of the singers sound great. They grip my attention and have become my favourite songs.

I think the voices of these new singers are so sweet and they are as good as some of the famous singers in the Kingdom. Theses three songs present the real life of someone in Cambodian society and they are meaningful.

I don’t know if you have the same feelings as me, but if you listen to these songs you will realise how romantic they are.

However, the rhythm and melody of the first song is similar to other productions. I don’t want to say that this new company has plagiarised other music since it has some parts that are different from other music.

Nearly all music in Cambodia has been plagiarised from abroad, but I still support it since it is my favorite music. I have interviewed the owners of many production houses in Cambodia like Svang Dara, Hang Meas and Big Man, and the told me they have to plagiarise music from abroad, otherwise their companies would go bankrupt.

Even though the company has produced three good songs which sound good to me, I still don’t like the other seven songs on its first album.

I wanted to turn them off when I played the disk because the songs were boring and had nothing interesting in them. There is nothing new, while the script writers have not come up with anything new as far as lyrics go.

The sound of the album is still weak – the composers have used the same melodies and rhythms. They do not develop or create new music in order to attract an audience.

I suggest all of you should listen to the music from any new company and then make a judgment. You should also try the second album because if the first was not good, that does not mean the second would be the same. Don’t miss out if you are a fan of music.

Even the Royal Palace has its pigeons

via CAAI

Wednesday, 12 January 2011 15:01 Heng Chivoan

The pigeon is one bird that is certainly not on the endangered list and the species thrives in most parts of the world. Cambodia is no exception. A flock takes flight outside the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh.

Worries over pesticide use

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Workers spray crops with insecticide in Battambang province’s Kors Kralor district last month.

via CAAI

Tuesday, 11 January 2011 19:55 Rebecca Puddy and Khouth Sophak Chakrya

WHEN Yorn Makara sprays pesticides on his morning glory crop at Boeung Tompun lake, on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, he copies how his parents once used the chemicals, because he can’t read the instructions on the bottle.

“I buy pesticides and chemicals to mix in a container with water and the instructions are mostly written in the Thai or Vietnamese languages,” Yorn Makara says. “I know the chemical protects my crops from pests because I look at the pictures on the bottle.”

While Yorn Makara knows the pesticides are effective at killing pests, he can’t be certain of the dangers the pesticide poses to his health, as he can’t read the safety information.

According to a new study on pesticide use in Phnom Penh, Yorn Makara is not alone.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, found most farmers at neighbouring Boeung Cheung Ek lake had a limited understanding of how to protect themselves from dangerous pesticides, resulting in 88 percent of those surveyed reporting symptoms of acute pesticide poisoning.

“The main issue we uncovered in BCE lake was the heavy and frequent use of pesticides which have been banned or restricted by the Cambodian government,” said Hanne Klith Jensen, head researcher of the study which focussed on the farming practices of morning glory aquaculture farmers in Thnout Chrum and Kba Tumnub villages.

“It is of great concern because these pesticides used are highly toxic to human health due to their effect on the nervous system, causing symptoms like headache, muscle cramps, diarrhea, numbness, blurred vision [and] chest pains.”

While nearly all of the farmers interviewed in the study believed pesticides had a deleterious affect on their health, none of them used appropriate personal protection to prevent contact with the chemicals.

“None of the farmers [at Boeung Choeung Ek] were properly protected against pesticide poisoning and [many] experienced a wide range of symptoms related to pesticide poisoning by organophosphates and carbamates,” Jensen said.

Researchers also found poor knowledge of the dangers of the chemicals meant nearly 50 percent of farmers stored them in their house, placing their families at risk.

“Pesticides were most commonly stored carelessly inside the household within easy reach of children and close to food commodities which constitute a potential risk of daily unintentional exposure.”

The study’s findings, combined with previous studies on the use of illegal pesticides in Cambodia, indicate a weak enforcement of existing laws that ban the use of 116 hazardous chemicals and restrict the use of an additional 40.

In recognition of the health and environmental concerns posed by the use of illegal chemicals, the Ministry of Agriculture last year drafted a law to further regulate the use of hazardous agricultural pesticides.

The law’s sucess will depend on the ability to limit illegal imports from Vietnam and Thailand, as Cambodia itself does not manufacture commercial-grade pesticides.

Ouk Syphan, director of the Ministry’s Department of Agriculture Legislation, said the department was still receiving feedback on the draft law from farmers and non-government organisations, and that it was yet to be tabled in parliament.

He said the law would list banned chemicals and introduce punishments for those who illegally import them. It will also explain to farmers how to safely use chemical pesticides to cultivate their land.

Yang Saing Koma, president of the Cambodian Centre for Study and Development in Agriculture, said that while he was pleased the government had made an effort to draft a law on agriculture chemicals, much more needed to be done.

“I know the government is making an effort to make a law on management of agriculture materials and pesticides ... but the government needs to send their staff to educate the farmers directly,” he said.

“The agriculture department needs to directly educate farmers, combined with the translation of information on the label of the container.”

While the study by the Danish researchers focused on just one area of Phnom Penh’s outskirts, they warned that the danger from the misuse of pesticides was not limited to farming areas and that the long-term effects of human contact with the chemicals were still unknown.

“The general population in Phnom Penh is expected to be exposed through their daily intake of morning glory, which is a very popular vegetable among the Asian population worldwide,” Jensen said.

“The long term effects of pesticides are still undergoing study but concerns about developing certain types of cancers have been raised,” she added.

“Even though our study is limited to conclusions about the situation in [Boeung Choeung Ek] there is no reason to believe the situation is better elsewhere in Cambodia.”

Angry Sambo finds life difficult on the inside

Photo by: Adam Miller
Sambo, the bull elephant that terrorised villagers in Kampong Speu last month, is apparently having difficulty adapting to his new surroundings at Phnom Tamao Zoo.

via CAAI

Tuesday, 11 January 2011 19:03 Buth Reaksmey Kongkea and Adam Miller

SAMBO, the killer elephant who ran wild in Kampong Speu province before being taken to Phnom Tamao Zoo and Wildlife Rescue Centre last month, has again become highly aggressive in captivity, a display that zoo staff are putting down to sexual frustration.

On December 3, Sambo, a five-decade-old bull elephant, killed his mahout and went on a rampage in Mon village, destroying rice crops and threatening villagers. He was later shot with tranquiliser darts, chained to a log in a rice field adjacent to the village, and eventually transported to Phnom Tamao Zoo on Christmas Day.

However, zoo workers say Sambo has not adapted well to his new environment, and has become increasingly aggressive again after meeting with a prospective female elephant mate, named Srey Pao, who outright refuses to breed with him.

“Sambo has now become stressed again and he is always angry because he has seen the female elephants and he needs sex, but he can’t do so,” said Nhem Thy, the deputy director of Phnom Tamao Zoo, in Takeo province. “He is in a rut now.”

He added that he planned to place Sambo in cohabitation with Srey Pao this week in order for them to breed in the future, but Srey Pao appeared to be scared of Sambo, possibly due to his massive size.

“We planned to put Sambo and Srey Pao together on Monday but we couldn’t do so because Srey Pao was afraid of Sambo.

We are now wondering why Srey Pao was afraid of Sambo and we are also studying her,” Nhem Thy said.

“The elephants have senses that are the same as human senses. I think that the reason why Srey Pao was afraid of Sambo is due to her shyness, because she is an old female elephant.”

Relationship woes
Jack Highwood, head of the NGO Elephants Livelihood Initiative Environment who runs the Elephant Valley Project sanctuary in Mondulkiri province, said yesterday that elephants are picky animals who choose their mates carefully.

“Speaking from experience at the Elephant Valley Project, where we have seven elephants, elephants don’t always get along,” he said.

“It’s not about size, it’s about personality.”

Highwood said that while he commended officials’ efforts to find a mate for Sambo, he said the creatures were “like people” with respect to mateship, and that zoo staff shouldn’t try to hurry love.

“If you were to put 10 people in a room who didn’t know each other they won’t all get on,” he said. “Maybe another elephant might get along with him in the future.”

To ease Sambo’s stress, veterinarians have been giving special foods to Srey Pao – including cassava, unripe coconut, sugarcane, grass and bananas – in a bid to increase her libido, and hopefully, her interest in Sambo.

Nhem Ty said that zoo officials are planning to build a new enclosure for the elephant couple, so that they will be more inclined to breed in the future.

He added, however, that if Srey Pao remains fearful of Sambo, the zoo would place him with one of three younger female elephants: Lucky, Chamroeun and Narann.

According to Nhem Thy, there are currently a total of six elephants in Phnom Tamao Zoo, namely, Chhouk, Srey Pao, Lucky, Chamroeun, Narann and now Sambo.

One can only hope that if all else fails, Sambo will get Lucky, at the very least.

Economists remain upbeat despite investment fall

via CAAI

Tuesday, 11 January 2011 20:29 Chun Sophal

Investment approved by the Council for the Development of Cambodia dropped some 54 percent in 2010, compared with the previous year, but experts believe the decline is not indicative of the Kingdom’s ongoing economic recovery.

Approved projects were worth some US$2.69 billion in 2010, a steep decline from 2009’s $5.86 billion, figures obtained Tuesday show.

Asian Development Bank senior country economist Peter Brimble said late Tuesday it was important to take “lumps” into account, noting a multi-billion dollar island development project approved in 2009 had distorted the figures.

“I certainly do not feel there was a decline of that magnitude [in the Kingdom’s economy],” he said. “We [the ADB] feel there is an economy recovery in 2010.”

The largest approval this year was the proposed new Siem Reap airport project, said to be worth near $1 billion.

Cambodia Institute for Development Study president Kang Chandaroth said that despite the fall, the large amounts of approved foreign investment in the Kingdom proved it was becoming a reliable country for business.

“We expect inflows of foreign investment capital will keep increasing this year and in other years because both Cambodian and the global economic situations are performing better,” he said.

CDC deputy secretary general Duy Thov said that although 2010’s pledged investment was less than in 2009, the inflow of foreign-based capital investment had increased.

In 2009, foreign pledges accounted for around $2.10 billion dollars, compared to $2.29 billion in 2010.

The figures do reveal some trends regarding investment by country and by sector, such as South Korea’s relative strength during 2010, according to Brimble.

He added that levels of foreign direct investment were often a better indicator of relative economic strength. FDI in the first three quarters of 2010 already exceeded all of 2009, he added.

Two more projects were approved in 2010 compared with 2009, with 74 of the 102 approvals being in industry, 23 in agriculture, three in tourism and two in services.

Approvals had topped $10 billion in 2008, before falling to $5.86 billion in 2009.

The CDC also noted the figures’ shortcomings, claiming it was important to look at multiple sets of data before coming to a conclusion on the state of the economy.


Terror suspects plead innocence

Photo by: Pha Lina
Reporters try to interview terror suspect Rafiqul Eslami (centre) following a hearing at Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday.

via CAAI

Tuesday, 11 January 2011 20:14 Chrann Chamroeun

Three men appeared in Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday to face terrorism charges stemming from threatening letters that were allegedly sent to the American, Australian and British embassies last April.

The three were charged last June under the Kingdom’s Anti-terrorism Law for allegedly signing a letter that threatened to attack the three embassies and identified the senders as members of the al-Qaeda terrorist organisation.

Rafiqul Eslami, a 42-year-old Bangladeshi national and former owner of a restaurant in the capital’s Chamkarmon district, broke down and cried during questioning Tuesday, denying the allegations against him.

“I have never had any dispute with any customers or business partners,” he said.

“I was friendly to all customers and people here … and I didn’t write any letter that attacked the embassies like in the allegations.”

Miah Muhammed Huymayan Kabir, a 62-year-old Bangladeshi national, also pleaded not guilty to the terrorism charge. The third suspect, DP Paudel, a 44-year-old Nepalese national who faces charges of terrorism and illegally living in Cambodia, was not questioned at the hearing due to time constraints.

Throughout his testimony Tuesday, Eslami claimed he had been framed by people who wanted to extort money from him following the sale of his restaurant.

Muong Sokun, a defence lawyer representing Eslami, added: “If you really wrote a letter threatening the three embassies, would you dare to include your name and signature so that police could arrest you?”

As Eslami was escorted out of the courtroom by police, he screamed a final plea for help.

“I didn’t write that kind of letter, please assist and help me,” he said.

According to Dun Vibol, the defence lawyer for Miah Muhammed Huymayan Kabir, Eslami was taken to the Ministry of Interior following his arrest last year, where he took a signature test that linked him to the letters.

Dun Vibol claimed that Eslami then told the police that the handwriting on the letters was similar to that of Kabir, leading to the 62-year-old’s arrest.

Kabir also claimed he had not signed the letter, though he admitted to being involved in a dispute with Eslami.

“I didn’t write the letter and the letter doesn’t belong to me, but I acknowledge having a verbal dispute with [Eslami] ... over borrowing money,” he said.

Presiding judge Sin Visal said representatives from the American, Australian and British embassies were in attendance at Tuesday’s hearing.

The United States embassy declined to comment on the case, citing security reasons. Lesley Saunderson, the deputy head of mission at the British embassy, also declined to comment.

If convicted on the terrorism charges, the suspects could receive between five and 10 years in prison. Their trial will resume on January 21.

Lawmaker fights for immunity

Photo by: Pha Lina
Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Mu Sochua leads a demonstration in Phnom Penh in June last year.

via CAAI

Tuesday, 11 January 2011 20:23 Meas Sokchea

Outspoken opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua has demanded a swift restoration of her parliamentary immunity now that her long-running spat with Prime Minister Hun Sen has come to a close.

Mu Sochua’s immunity was suspended in 2009 to allow her prosecution in a defamation case brought by Hun Sen.

Speaking Tuesday, the Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian said she will hold a press conference later this week to demand that her immunity – a right under Cambodia’s Constitution – be restored.

“My immunity was suspended in a hurry by the assembly, so it must be restored in a hurry,” she said.

“My fine was paid by deductions to my salary, so it is time to restore my immunity.”

Mu Sochua’s highly-publicised legal battle with Hun Sen started in April 2009, when she filed a defamation suit against him in relation to comments he made during a speech in Kampot province, in which he allegedly made derogatory comments about a female parliamentarian from that province.

The premier countersued and the court ruled against her, ordering her to pay 16.5 million riel (US$4,084) in fines and compensation to Hun Sen.

Though Mu Sochua refused to pay – saying she was willing to go to jail if necessary – the court issued an order authorising the docking of her salary for four months. The entire 16.5 million riel was eventually paid off in November.

Cheam Yeap, chairman of the National Assembly’s Banking and Finance Committee, said that parliament was willing to restore Mu Sochua’s immunity, but that procedure required that a request come first from the courts.

“The parliament is waiting for the court’s request. When the process ends, the court must inform the parliament to restore the immunity,” he said.

He indicated that as soon as the court makes a request to parliament, the assembly will convene to restore Mu Sochua’s immunity, something which would be possible without holding a vote.

When contacted Tuesday, Chea Sok Heang, the judge in charge of the case, declined to comment in detail, saying only that the court had to wait for a request from Mu Sochua before taking further action.

Global press group raps staffer’s jailing

via CAAI

Tuesday, 11 January 2011 20:07 Thomas Miller

Global press freedom watchdog Reporters Sans Frontières has condemned last month’s rapid-fire conviction of United Nations World Food Programme employee Seng Kunnaka for criminal incitement.

“This conviction reflects the harder line being taken by the government on online free expression,” the Paris-based group said in a statement released late on Monday.

“While not commenting on the content of the article, we point out that Seng [Kunnaka] did not distribute it publicly, which is punishable under Cambodia law. He just printed it in order to read it with two colleagues,” the group said.

Seng Kunnaka was arrested on December 17 for printing out an online article and sharing it with security guards at the WFP warehouse where he was employed.

Less than 48 hours later, he was convicted of incitement under the new penal code and sentenced to six months jail.

Court and government officials, as well as Seng Kunnaka’s lawyer, have offered scant details on the content of the article. It is believed to have been posted on the news blog KI-Media, which often posts acerbic criticisms of the government.

Following Seng Kunnaka’s conviction, Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan told The Post that the article had referred to Prime Minister Hun Sen and Var Kimhong, the senior minister in charge of border affairs, as “traitors”.

“They accused Hun Sen ... and Var Kimhong of treason and selling land to Vietnam,” he said.

He also said Seng Kunnaka distributed the article publicly.

“One person distributes to three or four persons – what, do you think that is private?” Phay Siphan said.

Chou Sokheng, Seng Kunnaka’s defence lawyer, said last month his client would appeal. He could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Allegations of treason and border relations with Vietnam remain fraught political issues.

In a speech on Monday defending the January 7 holiday, which marks the Vietnamese-led invasion that toppled the Khmer Rouge in 1979, Hun Sen said calling a government official a “traitor” was beyond the pale.

“I would like to tell you not to curse as a national traitor,” he said at a graduation ceremony in Phnom Penh. “If you curse, it will be a problem, if you dare to use this word you will be arrested from your homes. Don’t talk about freedom of expression on this matter.”

Some critics have said January 7 marks the day that Cambodia came under the influence of Vietnam. The opposition Sam Rainsy Party has repeatedly alleged that the Kingdom has lost land to Vietnamese border encroachment.

RSF noted that Seng Kunnaka was arrested just two days after Hun Sen lashed out at the WFP over a news report citing the agency as saying Cambodia was at risk of a food shortage.

“He should not be made to suffer because of recent friction between the World Food Programme and the Cambodian government,” RSF said.

WFP wrote a letter of apology to Hun Sen over the issue, which it has insisted is unrelated to Seng Kunnaka’s case.

WFP country director Jean-Pierre DeMargerie said Tuesday that the agency was “closely follow[ing] the legal process regarding our staff member”.

In a survey measuring press freedom in 178 countries last year, RSF ranked Cambodia 128, its worst rating yet. In 2002, RSF ranked Cambodia 71st.

My Family Vacation to Cambodia: Quirky Encounters from Phnom Penh to Angkor Wat

Cora Talon, Yahoo! Contributor Network
Jan 11, 2011

via CAAI
When I was a kid I went along with my family to Cambodia for the primary purpose of visiting Angkor Wat, the world's largest religious building and surviving ancient temple. Little did I know the vacation would be full of surprises, some humorous and others terrifying.

Our first stop was in Phnom Penh, Cambodia's capital. Before we checked into our hotel, my father warned the rest of us to be careful about what we said out loud during our stay, in case the hotel room was bugged. I am not certain as to why the owners of an arbitrary hotel in Cambodia would want to bug their rooms, or if my father was simply paranoid to the point of ridicule, but we took his advice anyway to make him happy.

Oddly enough, we did find a small hole in the ceiling directly above our shower that looked suspiciously like a hidden camera. I believe we blocked it with some tissue paper.

In any case, we did a little sight-seeing in Cambodia's capital and then made our way to Siem Reap, the city closest to our main destination: Angkor Wat. There we met up with our designated tour guide. He spoke English more or less fluently, which relieved my father of the job of having to translate for us (he speaks Cambodian).

The tour guide was a nice enough guy. As the vacation progressed, he led us through the mind-blowingly beautiful Angkor Wat and other temples, explaining their history and the various Hindu and Buddhist sculptures. But when the man got around to describing the plentiful phallic and yonic statues, he unknowingly used their vulgar slang names instead of the aforementioned polite, formal vernacular. He did this consistently throughout the entire tour. Needless to say, it drew some stares from the other tour groups.

Later we passed by a group of locals, one of whom pointed our direction and yelled something in Cambodian. Our tour guide quickly translated this to us as, "What a nice, healthy son you have." If that sounds odd, it's because the tour guide lied. My father, being able to speak Cambodian, gave us the correct translation later. Apparently that person had actually yelled, "White as a ghost!"

Anyway, at some point during this vacation—I forget exactly when—my parents thought it would be fun to go joy riding in a rental car in the countryside. We went driving down the middle of nowhere, bisecting fields of rice, toward some tourist attraction that we never could find. At some point we realized we had gone too far, and might be near or across the Cambodian border. This is bad. Why? Because there is a trend where people get robbed and killed trying to drive across the Cambodian border.

We turned around as soon as possible and bee-lined for our hotel again. Thankfully, there were no unpleasant encounters. We all got back to the city and then finished our trip in one piece.

That was the quirkier side of my family vacation to Cambodia, in a nutshell.

Cambodian Classic

via CAAI

Published: 12/01/2011

Rithy Pahn is the best internationally known Cambodian film-maker, one who has been recounting the tale of tragedy and hope of his country for nearly two decades. Most chilling is his documentary S-21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine (2003), an investigation into one of the most horrible crimes ever committed against humanity.

Pahn fled the Khmer Rough and has been living mostly in France, yet his films about Cambodia have the distinctive flavour of an insider. Today, the Alliance Francaise will screen Pahn's 1994 film Les gens de la riziere (The Rice People), at 7:30pm. The film, which employs a stark documentary style, tells the story of a rice-farming family that struggles to continue its livelihood after surviving the horror of the Khmer Rouge years.


At the Alliance Francaise, Sathon Road

The film was in the main competition at the Cannes Film Festival in 1994 (so Cambodia beat Thailand in that regard; we first had a film in the Cannes competition, considered the most elite, in 2004). It also represented Cambodia in the Oscar nominations for best foreign language film.

Veera, his secretary face new trial over espionage charges

 via CAAI

By Piyanart Srivalo
Supalak Ganjanakhundee
The Nation
Published on January 12, 2011

New turn in the case makes it more difficult for govt to help: Foreign Ministry

Detained yellow-shirt activists Veera Somkwamkid and his secretary face a new trial over charges of espionage, which could have them facing severe punishment in Cambodia, while the Thai government faces more difficulties in trying to help.

The Cabinet okayed a budget of more than Bt500 million for preparing the military to protect the border, as yellow-shirt activists mount further pressure on the government to help their detained colleagues.

Only Veera, who is leader of a People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) faction called the Thailand Patriots Network, and his secretary Ratree Pipatanapaiboon, will be tried today, while the other five Thai nationals, including Democrat MP Panich Vikitsreth, await court decision on their bail request.

"The additional charge faced by Veera and Ratree is causing more difficulty for the government to seek ways to help them," Chavanond Intarakomalyasut, the foreign minister's secretary, said.
The seven Thai nationals were arrested late last month while allegedly inspecting the disputed border area near Sa Kaew province's Ban Nong Chan district. This was Veera's second arrest since he was briefly held once last August.

Thailand and Cambodia have been disputing over this area since the late 1970s, but information from the Royal Thai Survey Department and the Foreign Ministry indicates that the group had walked 55 metres deeper into Cambodian territory.

This statement infuriated the yellow-shirt PAD movement, who labelled Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya and many other ministry officials as "traitors". They insist that the men were on Thai territory when they were arrested, and dismissed Cambodia's authority to prosecute them.

Kasit instructed concerned officials at the ministry yesterday to rephrase the statement, saying that "the group had gone beyond the [existing but unsettled] boundary line to an area that is effectively under the control of Cambodia". This is despite the fact that it was Kasit himself who had publicly said earlier that the group had walked 55 metres into Cambodian territory.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said yesterday that from now on, the Cabinet only authorised the Foreign Ministry to provide information about the plight of the seven detainees in order to avoid confusion. Even the prime minister would not say anything on the matter, he said.

"All I have to say is that we have three policies for this: first we have to take care of and do our best to help the seven detainees; second we have to maintain good bilateral relations; and third we have to protect our sovereignty," Abhisit said.

During the Cabinet meeting yesterday, Abhisit brought up the issue of the detainees, saying that though Panich and the rest were not too well, they were in good spirits.

Kasit, meanwhile, told the Cabinet that he expected the Cambodian court to issue a verdict by this week but he did not know exactly when.

In related news, Defence Minister Pravit Wongsuwan has asked for a "secret" budget of Bt517 million for the military to take care of security matters in the border areas with Cambodia, a source said.

Thailand has boundary conflicts with Cambodia in many locations, including the areas near Ban Nong Chan and near the Preah Vihear temple.

The government dispatched the Thailand-Cambodia joint boundary committee's new chief, Asda Jayanama, to Phnom Penh yesterday to help seek solutions for the boundary dispute. Asda met his counterpart Var Kimhong and agreed to carry on negotiations to settle the conflict peacefully. The JBC chief is connected to the yellow-shirt movement.