Friday, 11 March 2011

An Unblinking Look at Cambodia’s Past

International Film Circuit/Everett Collection
Thet Sambath, a Phnom Penh journalist, spent more than a decade trying to find and understand the Khmer Rouge cadres

via CAAI

March 11, 2011

It may be one of the most important films about Cambodia ever made. But very few people there have had the chance to see it — much less know it exists.

“Enemies of the People” tells the story of Thet Sambath, a Phnom Penh journalist who spent more than a decade trying to find and understand the Khmer Rouge cadres who helped oversee the murder or death of more than a million Cambodians when their radical Communist regime governed the country in the late 1970s.

For the most part, Khmer Rouge rank-and-file have denied crimes or played down their involvement, blaming superiors for forcing them to act. But in the film, which is scheduled to air on Channel NewsAsia Friday evening in Singapore, Hong Kong, India and Jakarta, followed by other screenings in Bangkok, Melbourne and elsewhere, Mr. Thet Sambath succeeds where other journalists and investigators have failed by convincing Khmer Rouge members to come clean about their crimes, providing a vital record for history — and a riveting and chilling film.

In one scene, a former Khmer Rouge cadre matter-of-factly describes how he and others personally butchered scores of people, often at night, and then cast their bodies into shallow graves. Some were killed by a nearby banyan tree, the man says; others were disposed of at nearby ditch by a dead palm tree. A genial neighbor describes how ponds bubbled afterwards as the water mixed with decomposing bodies.

In another scene, Mr. Thet Sambath asks one of the men to demonstrate how he murdered his victims. The man begs off a bit but then obliges, grasping a bystander by his face and running a blunt-edged knife across his throat, as the victim laughs awkwardly.

“Enemies of the People” follows in the footsteps of many acclaimed studies of Southeast Asia’s dark days of the 1970s, from Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 film “Apocalypse Now” to the most famous movie about Cambodia, 1984′s “The Killing Fields,” which starred Sam Waterston as a New York Times journalist covering the rise of the Khmer Rouge regime. It’s also in the tradition of soul-searching documentaries such as Errol Morris’s “Fog of War,” a 2003 release that relied on extended, candid interviews with the former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara to prize out insights into the nature of guilt and remorse. With beautifully shot footage of the Cambodian countryside and tightly-edited portraits of the killers themselves, “Enemies of the People” works not only as a historical document, but also as a work of art in its own right.

The film isn’t known to most people in Cambodia, though. Mr. Thet Sambath and his filmmaking partner, Rob Lemkin, screened the film several times at a small German-Cambodian cultural center in Phnom Penh. But they say the government has declined to give a license for wide release in public cinemas or in more remote provinces where much of the violence occurred, and where many of the killers, never held accountable for their crimes, continue to live quiet lives. A number of former Khmer Rouge officials retain posts in the current government, headed by one-time Khmer Rouge member Hun Sen, who later defected — and isn’t accused of any crimes related to the group’s years in power from the mid-1970s to 1979.

Critics of the government say it just doesn’t want to dig up too much about the past.

“We want to go to a major cinema, that way more people would know about” what happened, Mr. Thet Sambath says. But he doubts there will be a wide release anytime soon.

Sin Chan Saya, director of the cinema department under the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts in Cambodia, says the government has received a request from Mr. Thet Sambath but needs a more formal letter “for inspection.”

“The film is good and I am fond of it,” he said, but since it involves issues now under investigation by a United Nations-backed tribunal, it isn’t his position to decide whether it can be shown widely. “I will put it to my minister when there is formal permission request,” Mr. Sin Chan Saya said, adding that it remains unclear whether the filmmakers had full permission to make the film. “Who gave permission before shooting? What is the purpose of the film?”

“Enemies of the People” has drawn considerable notice outside of Cambodia, however. It won a special jury prize at Sundance last year and has opened to positive reviews across the U.S. and Europe.

Mr. Thet Sambath’s technique involves unwavering, some would say obsessive, persistence in pursuing his quarry across Cambodia’s backroads, in some cases spending years to develop personal relationships with the killers and earn their trust. He makes clear he won’t judge them, or at least not openly—an approach that’s all more the surprising given that Mr. Thet Sambath’s parents both died at the hands of the Khmer Rouge.

His aim, he says, is only to learn the truth — and understand why they did what they did.

“I am not on the side of the victims. I am not on the side of the Khmer Rouge. If I go to one side, of the victims, for my family, it is not the truth,” he said. He compares his quest to the work of historians who still can’t fully explain the rise and fall of Cambodia’s famous ancient city, Angkor Wat. “The Khmer Rouge will be the same if we don’t get them to tell the truth.”

Mr. Thet Sambath says he believes many former Khmer Rouge officials who are still alive want to open up, because they want the truth to be told, too. How deeply they feel remorse is less clear—they say they are remorseful in the film, and in some cases appear profoundly troubled by their past, but they also are quick to blame higher-ups who they say ordered them to kill.

That leads Mr. Thet Sambath to one of the highest-ranking Khmer Rouge figures remaining: The man commonly known as Brother No. 2, Nuon Chea, who was the right-hand man of the main Khmer Rouge leader, the late Pol Pot. Now in his mid-80s, he is facing trial at the U.N.-backed tribunal but it’s unclear whether he’ll tell everything he knows, or live long enough to do so.

He tells plenty in “Enemies of the People,” though, and some of the film’s most powerful and emotionally complex scenes depict the deepening relationship between Mr. Thet Sambath and the man accused of mass murder, as the journalist works to wear down his defenses. Like Mr. Thet Sambath, the film avoids making snap judgements, showing Mr. Nuon Chea in apparently tender moments with children and living in modest conditions in a wooden rural house before his arrest in 2007. The two men develop what almost seems like a father-son relationship.

In the end, Mr. Sambath gets his truth: The victims, Mr. Nuon Chea says, were enemies of the people that needed to be “solved” and killed, a horrifying admission but one that also offers some measure of satisfaction, since at least the truth is being told.

The documentary continues to make its way around the film circuit world-wide and is scheduled to run on Channel NewsAsia Friday at 7:30 p.m. in Singapore and Hong Kong (at 5 p.m. in India; 6:30 p.m. in Jakarta). It is slated to open in Bangkok and Melbourne in May and screenings are also scheduled in Wellington, New Zealand, this month.

Additional reporting by Sun Narin.

Cambodia, S. Korea sign green growth cooperation

via CAAI

March 11, 2011

A memorandum of understanding on green growth cooperation between Cambodia and South Korea's Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) was inked here on Thursday in a bid to develop Cambodia with the consideration of environmental sustainability.

The MoU was signed by Mok Mareth, Cambodian minister of environment, and the GGGI's Chairman Han Seung-soo, who is also a special envoy of the President of South Korea Lee Myung-bak.

"Through the deal, South Korea will help to build capacity for Cambodian environment officials, provide technical supports and grants to local institutions and mobilize financial supports from donors to implement the roadmap for green growth in Cambodia," Koch Sovath, deputy director general of the Ministry of Environment, said after the signing ceremony.

Cambodia adopted the roadmap for green growth in February last year, aiming at ensuring environmental sustainability for socio- economic development, reducing poverty as well as contributing to the adaption of climate change, he added.

The GGGI was officially launched in March last year by the President of South Korea Lee Myung-bak.

Source: Xinhua

Volunteer spots available for trip to Cambodia with Habitat for Humanity

via CAAI

Mar 10 2011

Emily Fortman, director of Family Services and Kathy Davis, bookkeeper for Habitat for Humanity of East King County will be leading 12 adventurers on a Global Village trip to Siem Reap, Cambodia from June 10-18.

Global Village trips consist of volunteer construction side by side with the families for whom they will be building a home. In addition, volunteers have the opportunity to experience authentic Cambodian meals and some cultural activities in nearby areas. This is truly a chance for volunteers to immerse themselves in the Cambodian culture and see a new side of Habitat.

Spots are open for 10 volunteers age 16 and above (with guardian only).

The trip cost will be about $1,310 and will include accommodations, on-ground transportation, meals, drinking water, cultural experiences, travel medical insurance, and a donation to the Cambodian affiliate. Airfare is not included in price and currently running about $1,500 from Seattle.

For more information, please contact Emily Fortman at or by phone at 425-869-6007. Space is limited, so please make your reservations as soon as possible.

Habitat for Humanity surpassed its 400,000 house milestone during its most recent fiscal year. Since the non-profit was founded in 1976, its self-help, hand-up model has resulted in rehabbed, repaired or new housing for more than 2 million people worldwide. Habitat EKC is part of this global effort.

Since 1988, Habitat EKC has built, rehabbed or repaired 107 houses. The East King County service area incorporates the regions east of Seattle, ranging from Mercer Island to North Bend and from Renton to Bothell. The goal of this affiliate is to make it possible for low-income Eastside residents to be able to purchase simple, decent, affordable homes. The families who will move into these homes will put in 500 hours of their own labor as a down payment towards home ownership.

Since Habitat for Humanity International registered a branch office in Cambodia in January 2003, Habitat for Humanity Cambodia has built more than 1,000 homes and served more than 3,000 families through its housing and community development programs in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Kandal and Battambang.

VN, Cambodia boost national defence co-operation

via CAAI

March, 11 2011

SIEM REAP — Viet Nam highly valued the co-operation in national defence with Cambodia, especially concerning security border sovereignty and drug smuggling.

Politburo member and Minister of National Defence Phung Quang Thanh made the remarks while engaging in talks with Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Defence Tea Banh in Siem Reap yesterday.

Thanh briefed Tea Banh on the political and socio-economic situations in Viet Nam, especially the results of the 11th Party Congress. He affirmed that the Vietnamese Government had always wanted Cambodia to stabilise its border issues and maintain its relationships with ASEAN countries.

Thanh also valued Cambodia's effective co-operation in the search for remains of volunteer Vietnamese soldiers in Cambodia.

Cambodian Deputy PM Tea Banh expressed his pleasure that Viet Nam had overcome the global economic downturn and stabilised economic growth.

He agreed with the contents of Viet Nam's national defence co-operation and said regular exchange of soldiers between the two countries should be implemented in the future.

The Vietnamese Ministry of National Defence delegation's visit, led by General Thanh, to Cambodia will run through today.

The two sides signed the Viet Nam-Cambodia National Defence Agreement earlier this year. — VNS

U. project hopes to buy cows for Cambodia

via CAAI

By Carole Mikita, Deseret News
Published: Thursday, March 10, 2011

SALT LAKE CITY — What do University of Utah students, cows and Cambodia have in common? They are linked through a project to help people rise out of poverty.

"We have some very dedicated students who have educated themselves on microcredit, its potential, the impact it can have on lives,” said economics professor Wade Roberts.

Members of his international economics class want to take an idea — microcredit — halfway around the world. They have only seen video or pictures of the poverty in Cambodia but some of the students at the U. and Westminster College will travel to see for themselves in June.

"You learn you don’t really know the world as well as you think you do," said engineering student Mauricio Caceres. "Once you learn what these people live through, then you learn, you, yourself, didn't know much about the world itself. You can't get your head wrapped around that these things exist, but they do.”

The students first designed manuals for five countries, then chose a country where they believe they can make a difference.

The students hope to raise $10,000 to buy cows. They chose Cambodia because the money will buy more there. One dollar, they say, is worth 7,000 times more there than it is here.

“If we value life equally, amongst all the different demographics of the world, we really need to consider where our dollar is most effective," one student said.

Each cow costs $250, which includes shots, feed and shelter.

"These people will milk the cows, use them for work, use the dung for fertilizer and use that income to pay off the loans and increase their own standard of living," said Jake Frischknecht, an Asian studies major.

"When we've discussed poverty and social ills in economics classes, a lot of times the theory doesn't fit with what we see outside," he said. "And it’s easy to throw up our hands and say, ‘great abstract theory, but we’re really not going to do anything about it.' But this micro financing is a fantastic proven tool.”

Their professor calls it a bold endeavor that will pay off for the Cambodians and ultimately for his students in a life lesson.

"I'm passionate about it because I've been there and I know it works and I love having the kids see that spark and see that they actually become part of the solution," said Roberts. "With microcredit, there’s a responsibility and accountability that comes back and shows that, yes, this works."

Not only is this project in Cambodia involving all of the students, they hope it will inspire other Utahns as well.

"We've all got three things that we can give. We've got our time, we've got our treasure and we've got talent," said one student, pointing to a chart.

The students say the idea may be simple, but sometimes those are the best ones.

“When you hear of all the success stories and all the good that it can do,” said Caceres, “you basically are immersed in believing that, yes, you can make a difference by just doing something like this and you make a difference halfway around the world for a lot of people.”

The students are partnering with the non-profit organization YouthLinc in Utah and have two fundraisers in April and a Facebook page for donations.

Suthep: Wrong move by PAD

via CAAI

Published: 10/03/2011 
Online news:

The People's Alliance for Democracy's (PAD) opposition to any involvement of Indonesia in settling the Thai-Cambodian border dispute is wrong, Deputy Prime Minister overseeing security Suthep Thaugsuban said on Thursday.

Mr Suthep commented after PAD spokesman Panthep Puapongpan said he will send a letter to the Indonesian embassy opposing any intervention by Indonesia in issues between Thailand and Cambodia.

"What Mr Panthep is doing is wrong because Indonesia is following Asean's resolution.

"We should work with all sides to bring about peace," Mr Suthep said.

He said Indonesia would act as an observer, not as a negotiator.

"Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, as the current Asean chair, understands the Thai-Cambodian situation and always has positive feelings toward Thailand," the deputy premier added.

Thailand non-committal to joining proposed border meeting with Cambodia: FM

via CAAI

by Sinfah Tunsarawuth

BANGKOK, March 10 (Xinhua) -- Thailand has been non-committal to joining meetings with Cambodia later this month as proposed by Indonesia to discuss the two countries' border dispute, according to a Thai Foreign Ministry statement.

Meanwhile, the nationalistic "yellow-shirt" People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) on Thursday submitted a letter to the Indonesian ambassador in Bangkok in protesting against a planned Indonesian observer mission to the Thai-Cambodian disputed border.

PAD said in the letter that the coming of the Indonesian observers would amount to "a foreign military operation to control Thai military operations defending Thai sovereignty, which has been deliberately violated by Cambodia."

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, the current ASEAN chair, has proposed that Thailand and Cambodia meet later this month to solve their border dispute under the existing General Border Committee (GBC), co-chaired by the defense ministers of both nations, and separately under Thai-Cambodian Joint Commission on Demarcation for Land Boundary (JBC), co-chaired by the two countries' senior officials, according to media reports.

Natalegawa made the proposal in a letter sent on Wednesday to Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong, Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya and other ASEAN foreign ministers. The GBC and JBC meetings were proposed on March 24-25 in Bogor, Indonesia.

Natalegawa also said in the letter that Cambodia has responded positively to the Terms of Reference (TOR) in sending the Indonesian observers.

"I am looking forward to hearing positive responses from Thailand," he was quoted as saying in his letter.

The sending of Indonesian observers was a result of the informal meeting of foreign ministers of the Association of South East Asian Nations on Feb. 22 in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Thani Thongphakdi said in the statement on Thursday that: "Thailand welcomes Cambodia's readiness to attend the said meetings as it has all along been trying to convene bilateral negotiations with Cambodia."

Thani said the proposed GBC meeting would allow the two countries to discuss the TOR of the Indonesian observers.

However, he said in regard to the GBC meeting, "details with regard to the dates, venue and appropriate engagement of Indonesia remain matters to be discussed further."

He continued: "It is noted that at this juncture Cambodia has proposed that Indonesia attend the opening ceremony, and that, after the conclusion of the said meeting, both countries would share its outcome with Indonesia."

For the JBC meeting, Thani said Thailand had wanted to hold such a meeting in February "a proposal which Cambodia had first agreed to in principle before subsequently changing its position."

He continued: "However, it had been the Cambodian side which maintained that the three draft agreed minutes of the previous JBC meetings be approved by the Thai Parliament first before the said meeting could be convened."

A joint sitting of the House of Representatives and Senate is expected to deliberate and vote on the three draft minutes, seen as agreements that could affect Thai territory, later this month.

Thani's statement did not say clearly whether Thailand was prepared to join the GBC and JBC meetings on March 24-25 in Bogor.

PAD, which has been protesting against the government on its alleged mishandling of the Thai-Cambodian border dispute since Jan. 25, said in its letter to the Indonesian ambassador that the proposed sending of the Indonesian observers would not comply with the bilateral arrangement of Thailand and Cambodia on solving the border dispute, which is involved with a 4.6-square kilometer piece of land around the Preah Vihear temple.

The PAD letter also said the TOR of Indonesian observers could be seen as an agreement that would alter Thailand's sovereign border and, hence, require an approval from the bicameral parliament first.

In launching its rally in January, PAD wanted the Thai government to scrap the existing memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed between Thailand and Cambodia in 2000 as the framework for settling the two countries' border dispute.

They also urged the government to move out Cambodians who are occupying the disputed areas, and to pull out as a party to the World Heritage Convention, under which the Preah Vihear temple was enlisted as a World Heritage site by Cambodia in July 2008.

Editor: yan

Cambodia Calls on Thailand to Respond to Indonesia’s Proposals

via CAAI

Phnom Penh, March 11, 2011 AKP —

Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia, has urged his Thai counterpart, Abhisit Vejjajiva, to respond as soon as possible to Indonesia’s proposed meetings in late March and the terms of reference (TOR) for Indonesian observers.

The Cambodian premier made the remarks yesterday at an inauguration ceremony in Maung Russei district, Battambang province, following a letter from Indonesian Foreign Minister H.E. Marty Natalegawa, the current Chair of ASEAN, sent to Cambodian and Thai foreign ministers as well as other ASEAN foreign ministers on Mar. 9.

In his letter, the Indonesian foreign minister thanked the two governments for their support to the draft of TOR for Indonesian observers, said Samdech Techo Hun Sen, adding that there were some changes to the conditions of TOR and Indonesia asked Cambodia and Thailand to consider positively and urgently a new TOR.

According to Samdech Techo Hun Sen, some changes to the TOR include the guarantee that the implementation of the TOR will not affect the territory, security or public important interests, and results of negotiations on the border demarcation between Cambodia and Thailand.

Another change involved the reduction of the period of Indonesian observance, from 12 to 9 months, because Indonesia has only 9 months to take over the ASEAN rotating chair, he pointed out.

Cambodia positively responded already to Indonesia on Wednesday, affirmed the Cambodian prime minister.

H.E. Marty Natalegawa further said that in his previous letter, he underlined Indonesia’s readiness to host the meetings of Cambodia-Thai General Border Committee (GBC) and Joint Border Committee on Demarcation for Land Boundary (JBC) on Mar. 24-25. “I received the positive response from Cambodia. I am looking forward to hearing positive response from Thailand,” he said.

“It is almost one month since the ASEAN foreign ministers’ meeting on Feb. 22, we firmly believe that we all have recognized the urgency of the practical activities,” he wrote.

Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen reiterated that Cambodia does not want the [border] dispute become a big obstacle for the two countries. “We want to avoid war, we would like to have the economic, trade, investment and tourism cooperation,” he stressed. –AKP

Article in Khmer by CHIM Nary
Article in English by SOKMOM Nimul

An election won't solve Thailand's woes

via CAAI

Those in power need to address the population's grievances, such as the uneven distribution of wealth

by Pavin Chachavalpongpun
Updated 06:05 PM Mar 11, 2011

It is likely that Thailand will hold a general election in June, amid growing political uncertainties. For Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, like it or not, the election is inevitable since the term of his government will come to an end in December. To exhibit his sincerity in returning power to the voters, he recently announced that the election would take place within the first half of this year.

Indeed, Mr Abhisit has been enthusiastic about the upcoming election; too enthusiastic to the point of irritating his backers in the military. Since the military coup of 2006 that ousted the elected government of Thaksin Shinawatra, the military has continued to directly interfere in politics.

The fear of losing its political power, which would affect its power position, has driven the military to employ numerous tactics to delay the election - which allegedly include supporting the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) in attacking Mr Abhisit's seemingly "soft" policy vis-a-vis Cambodia, in the Preah Vihear Temple dispute.

But Mr Abhisit has remained upbeat and is confident that his Democrat Party will win the next election. I just returned from Bangkok last weekend; and while there, I felt as if an election campaign had already started even before a date to dissolve the Lower House has been set.

From Suvarnabhumi Airport to downtown Bangkok, large billboards are filled with election campaign posters - all belonging to the ruling Democrat Party. It seems like Bangkok residents still cannot get enough of the good-looking Prime Minister as Mr Abhisit's photos are everywhere.

On March 5, the Democrat Party released a policy statement and Mr Abhisit went to the famous Chatuchak Weekend Market to launch his "unofficial" election campaign. I was there to listen to his speech. It was clear that the economy ranked highest in his election campaign.

Mr Abhisit has promised his party will increase the minimum wage by 25 per cent in two years, at the maximum. He seems too determined to "buy" his way back into power. His critics see many similarities between Mr Abhisit's agendas and those of Thaksin in the old days. They have already criticised Mr Abhisit of stealing Thaksin's populist ideas. It is ironic that the Democrat Party, which once detested Thaksin's people-centric approach, is now adopting similar policy platforms.

Mr Abhisit declared loudly at Chatuchak: "We want the country to move ahead and the people to have a better quality of life." But a red-shirted member told me that he already had that quality of life under the Thaksin regime and it was taken away by Thaksin's opponents.

It appears that Mr Abhisit's impressive campaign might be able to draw support from his fans in Bangkok, but his Democrat Party remains hugely unpopular in the north and north-east regions of Thailand, which are the strongholds of Thaksin.


As for the opposition Puea Thai Party, some of its executive members have claimed that the party now has more "ammunition", or election funds of 5 billion baht (S$209,500 million), at its disposal compared to 4 billion baht in the previous election; and that with the money it would win the election "hands down" (Corrected at 05:54 PM Mar 11, 2011). They have never been more confident and are well prepared for an election.

It is not surprising if Thaksin, today, still serves as the main financial contributor to the Puea Thai Party. Although in recent months the former premier has seemed to keep a low profile, an inner source in the Puea Thai informed me that Thaksin has been busy laying out election strategies to compete with the Democrat Party. Late last year, a group of Puea Thai members travelled to Beijing to meet with Thaksin, apparently to receive instructions on how to carry out their election campaign.

In reality, the opposition Puea Thai Party still has many hurdles to overcome.

The party has been in disarray, with a lack of leadership and its close association with the red-shirted United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship which was believed to be involved in the political violence of April and May last year.

The disagreements among the top leaders on how to reposition the party in the future have been intensifying. Such internal conflicts could jeopardise its chances of triumphing in the upcoming election.

But Mr Abhisit cannot afford to become complacent with his place in the current political picture. There are at least two issues that could "make or break" the Democrat Party during this election campaign period.

First, his government will be facing a no-confidence motion over March 15 to 17. The Opposition has proposed a three-day censure debate to grill Mr Abhisit and nine cabinet members. Six of them are from the ruling Democrat Party while the rest are from the coalition Bhumjaithai Party.

The Puea Thai has planned to attack the government mainly on the use of military forces to disperse anti-government red-shirted protesters last year, in which 91 people were killed. The debate will also include the high prices of essential goods and corruption.

Second, Abhisit will also have to deal with the yellow-shirted PAD and its demand that his government get tough on the Preah Vihear Temple issue. The PAD has proven to be a potential legitimate threat to Mr Abhisit, especially in managing to stir up a sense of nationalism against Cambodia when in fact the party's real objective was to delegitimise Mr Abhisit's leadership.

Last week, Major-Geneneral Chamlong Srimuang, a PAD's core leader, reproached Mr Abhisit's plan for an early election. He felt that Thai politicians have been unable to solve the existing problems of vote-buying and corruption - an election would only perpetuate such illegal practices. Maj-Gen Chamlong has suggested instead "a temporary politics", an admittedly ill-defined concept that could mean the postponement of an election until a new political structure is put in place.

Maj-Gen Chamlong is right, but only partly. The election is not the answer to the current crisis in Thailand. But the problem here is not about vote-buying or corruption. It has to do with the fact that those in power have continued to avoid addressing the issue of political grievances, double standards, an unequal share of political power and uneven distribution of national wealth, felt by the majority of the Thai poor.

Pavin Chachavalpongpun is a fellow at Singapore's Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.

Indochine Mining Limited (ASX:IDC) Announce High Grade Gold Discovery In Cambodia

via CAAI

Indochine Mining Limited (ASX:IDC) has discovered a new area of gold-bearing quartz veins within the Kratie North Project in central Cambodia.

Multiple sets of outcropping quartz veins have been sampled over 50-100 metre strike length in two locations approximately 500 metres apart. The veins trend east-west, dipping 45 degrees to the south and are exposed in numerous pits and shafts recently opened by local prospectors, where the highest grades appear to over 20-30cm in width where the veins are currently exposed.

Seven grab samples were collected from the veins and host rocks and assayed for gold. The best result returned 42 grams per tonne gold.

The Kratie North Project is a key focus of the expanded exploration program as outlined in the announcement on 11 February 2011. An IP geophysical survey is underway within the gold target areas, together with a detailed mapping and detailed sampling program.

A drill program will commence in mid April, initially for 2000 metres of diamond drilling to test and observe the mineralised structures from the geophysics and geochemistry. RC drilling will follow in the best areas identified. Targets include large scale high grade vein deposits, like Pogo in Alaska.

Indochine has the largest package of gold/copper leases in Cambodia. Final results from the helicopter sampling in the Ratanakiri area are expected soon, where gold and copper targets have already been identified.

For the complete Indochine Mining announcement including figures and tables, please refer to the following link:

Thailand - Latest developments concerning the meetings of the General Border Committee (GBC) and the Joint Boundary Commission (JBC

via CAAI

On 9 March 2011, Mr. Thani Thongphakdi, Director-General of the Department of Information and Foreign Ministry Spokesperson, responded to media enquiries regarding preparations for meetings of the General Border Committee (GBC) and the Joint Boundary Commission (JBC), as follows:

1. On media reports that Cambodia has agreed with Indonesia’s proposals for the meetings of the GBC and the JBC to be held in Indonesia on 24-25 March 2011, Thailand welcomes Cambodia’s readiness to attend the said meetings as it has all along been trying to convene bilateral negotiations with Cambodia. In addition, the next meeting of the GBC, co-chaired by the Defence Ministers of Thailand and Cambodia, would provide a good opportunity for the two countries to discuss the terms of reference of the Indonesian observer missions to be sent to their respective sides of the border. Thailand, therefore, has no objection to the proposed GBC meeting, although details with regard to the dates, venue and appropriate engagement of Indonesia remain matters to be discussed further. It is noted that at this juncture Cambodia has proposed that Indonesia attend the opening ceremony, and that, after the conclusion of the said meeting, both countries would share its outcome with Indonesia.

2. Thailand is also ready to attend the JBC meeting, as proposed by Indonesia, as it has consistently been Thailand’s wish to have JBC meet at the earliest opportunity. It may be recalled that the Thai Foreign Minister had proposed to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Ministry and International Cooperation of Cambodia as early as 5 February 2011, to hold the JBC meeting within the month of February 2011 – a proposal which Cambodia had first agreed to in principle before subsequently changing its position. The Informal Meeting of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers had also called on Thailand and Cambodia to convene their bilateral negotiations, including the JBC, the GBC and other existing mechanisms, at the earliest possible opportunity, with appropriate engagement of Indonesia. However, it had been the Cambodian side which maintained that the three draft agreed minutes of the previous JBC meetings be approved by the Thai Parliament first before the said meeting could be convened. In this regard, it should be noted that the parliamentary sub-committee tasked with considering the three agreed minutes had finalized its work and submitted its findings to Parliament for consideration. It is expected that this matter would be put on the Parliament’s agenda within March.

Cambodians prevented from protesting destruction of their forest

via CAAI
March 10, 2011

Cambodian villagers fighting to save their forest from rubber companies have been rebuked by the local government. Two days in a row local authorities prevented some 400 Cambodian villagers from protesting at the offices of the Vietnam-based CRCK Company, which the villagers contend are destroying their livelihoods by bulldozing large swaths of primary forests. Authorities said they feared the villagers would have grown violent while protesting.

But, according to village representative, Chheang Vuthy, speaking to the Cambodia Daily: "The villagers would not have acted violently. The companies should not be clearing forest even though they have licenses from the government because it affects people's livelihoods."

The Cambodian government has granted a concession of over 6,000 hectares to the rubber company from the 200,000 hectare forest known as Prey Lang. Located between the Mekong and Stung Sen River, nearly half of Prey Lang has never been logged, making it an incredible rarity in Southeast Asia. Tigers, Asian elephants, banteng, gaur, and Asiatic black bears are all still found in Prey Lang. In all 26 to 50 endangered mammals, birds, and reptiles may live in Prey Lang. Still provincial authorities have dubbed Prey Land a 'dull forest'.

A part of Prey Lang forest as viewed from Google Earth. The Mekong River is to the east (right side of the image).

In addition to its wildlife, the largely unprotected forest is also home to a quarter of million people who are dependent on its resources.

At a press conference held by a group comprising over 100 local NGOs, villagers said authorities were using intimidation tactics to halt protests, including send police to gather names of those villages inciting protests.

"[Police] have tried to find many ways to threaten us, but we were protesting to save Prey Lang forest," Chheang Vuthy told the Phnom Penh Post. Governor of the Sandan district, Sim Vanna, denied any knowledge of police gathering names in the villages.

Local authorities say the concession in question is not in communal land and therefore open for development. But the protesters say the companies involved are not being forthright.

"This bulldozing of the forest is done without any environmental impact assessments," Chet Ton, a community organizer with a local NGO, told the Cambodia Daily, "and the companies try to hide [information]."

Yesterday a national lawmaker, Son Chhay, stepping into the fight by appealing to Cambodia's National Assembly President Heng Samrin to come to the villages' aid.

"Please, National Assembly president, use the power of the legislative branch to stop destroying Khmer forests by Vietnamese companies, in order to preserve what’s left of the forest for the next generation," Son Chhay said in a letter.

Cambodia is experiencing a rubber boom after the Vietnamese Rubber Enterprise Federation (VREF) invested $600 million. VREF was awarded 100,000 hectares in 2009 and is expected to gain 70,000 hectares more by 2012 according to the Phnom Penh Post.

However, Cambodia's Prime Minister, Hun Sen, has spoken out against going too far with rubber plantation.

"Rubber is at a good price, but it is [wrong] for us to cut down the high trees to plant rubber," he told university students. “We can protect the forest to help reduce climate change.”

However, the Prime Minister recently signed over 9,000 hectares of Vereak Chey National Park for conversion to rubber plantations despite it being a protected area.

For more information on Prey Lang: Prey Lang: One Forest, One Future
Facebook page on Prey Lang Forest: Prey Lang: It's Our Forest Too

Ministry pushes for mediation

via CAAI

Friday, 11 March 2011 15:04 Kim Yuthana

More than 200 Phnom Penh officials yesterday received a presentation from Ministry of Justice officials promoting free local “justice centres” for resolving disputes outside the court system.

Seng Sovannara, under secretary of state at the Ministry of Justice, said that the justice centre project aimed to resolve controversy outside the courts.

“[We aim] to continue ... the project in 2011 to reach the construction of an out-of-court system,” said Seng Sovannara.

Seng Sovannara said that the Justice and Interior ministries had established 20 district-level centres and 57 commune-level committees between 2006 and 2010.

According to Ministry of Justice figures, the project received 6,106 dispute cases from January 2007 to March 2010, of which 2,319 cases were resolved, 186 were sent to court, 270 found no resolution, 25 withdrew their complaints and 3,306 are ongoing.

Phnom Penh Municipal Deputy Governor Pa Socheatevong said that the centres had contributed to the settlement of labour disputes.

UXO blast injures three

via CAAI

Friday, 11 March 2011 15:03 Phak Seangly

A 55-year-old man and his two sons were injured earlier this week by a piece of unexploded ordnance while tilling their vegetable garden in Battambang province’s Samlot commune.

Chea Tan and his sons, Some Nul, 17, and Some Veth, 15, were planting beans and corn when the explosion occurred, said Sar Savoeun, Samlout commune police chief, who added that the father was severely wounded while his sons sustained only minor injuries.

“All the victims were found unconscious at the scene,” he said. “The father did not see the UXO, which was covered with grass.”

Philippines' Marcos visits Phnom Penh

via CAAI

Friday, 11 March 2011 15:03 James O'Toole

Former Filipino first lady Imelda Marcos is in the Kingdom this week for a conference on maternal health despite facing graft charges at home in connection with her husband’s plunderous reign.

Marcos’ husband, Ferdinand Marcos, ruled the Philippines from 1965 to 1986, imprisoning and torturing of thousands of political opponents over that span. Upon fleeing the country following her husband’s overthrow in 1986, Imelda Marcos left behind nearly 3,000 pairs of shoes, an incident that has become a symbol of the decadence and corruption that characterised the couple’s time in power.

The 81-year-old Marcos, who now serves as a parliamentarian in her home country, was scheduled to give a presentation yesterday morning at the conference, titled “Accelerating the Achievement of [United Nations Millennium Development Goal 5] Through the Role of Women Parliamentarians”. She had not shown up at the conference as of mid-afternoon yesterday, however.

A member of Marcos’ legislative staff in attendance at the conference yesterday appeared perplexed by her boss’s tardiness, but declined to comment as she was not authorised to speak with the media. A spokeswoman at the Philippines Embassy referred questions to conference organisers.

The Philippines’ ABS-CBN News reported last month that Marcos had petitioned a Filipino court for permission to leave the country and travel to the Kingdom for this week’s conference, as she is required to do because of the 10 remaining graft cases pending against her.

“Marcos has complained that years of litigation have drained her resources so that she now has to withdraw from her husband’s pension at Veterans Bank to be able to put up the … travel bond required by the graft court,” ABS-CBN said.

“For this trip however, it is the House of Representatives that will pay for the airfare and daily allowances of the country’s delegation. The host country, on the other hand, will cover their hotel accommodations.”


Mu Sochua persues rape case

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Mu Sochua speaks to an audience in Daun Penh district on the 100th International Women’s Day earlier this week.

via CAAI

Friday, 11 March 2011 15:03 Meas Sokchea

Opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua issued a letter on Wednesday to the Ministry of Justice, asking the Phnom Penh Municipal Court to open a case against two former police officers who allegedly raped a 19-year-old woman in 2009.

Oung Dara, then chief of the Intervention Department, and his deputy Chan Narith were arrested in November 2009 on allegations of raping the teenager at a Meanchey district karaoke bar. Both men were freed after giving the victim 500,000 riels (US$125) each, but were stripped of their positions.

Mu Sochua said in her letter the case had been delayed by more than nine months, and urged Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana and the Ministry of Interior to pursue legal action against the former officers.

She said yesterday that it was important to set a precedent against compensation payments being employed as an alternative to criminal prosecution.

“If the Ministry of Interior has the will, it must urge the court to proceed on this case quickly and must show justice for women,” she said.

“I do not want Prime Minister Hun Sen’s saliva to be unsalted. I say this because I want to help the prime minister.”

Sam Pracheameanith, cabinet chief of the Ministry of Justice, said he had not received Mu Sochua’s letter.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court officials could not be reached for comment yesterday by The Post.

The 19-year-old victim from Kampong Cham province was visiting her sister, who worked at the karaoke bar as a hostess girl, at the time of the incident.

Witness accounts said the two former police officers forcibly confined the victim in a private room, where she was helping to clear dishes.

Potential for palm oil growth

A worker selects palm fruit at a palm oil factory in Sepang, outside Kuala Lumpur, on Wednesday. A Malaysian firm is looking to grow oil palms in the Kingdom. Reuters

via CAAI

Friday, 11 March 2011 15:01 Jeremy Mullins

MALAYSIAN company Golden Land Bhd will apply for two palm oil plantations in Koh Kong province, which would make it the second firm to commercially grow the product in Cambodia.

“Application of the concession right represents a strategic investment by [Golden Land] which will significantly increase the land-banks available,” it said in filings on the Bursa Malaysia.

Golden Land aims to acquire a 10,922-hectare and an 11,827-hectare palm-oil plantation, both in the Sre Ambel district of Koh Kong province.
Palm oil is edible and is mostly used in food production.

Two companies – operated by Golden Land’s subsidiaries - will be created and registered in Cambodia with the Ministry of Commerce to apply for concession rights.

Golden Land has reached an agreement for Virtus Communications Company to represent both firms as agents, meaning Virtus would be responsible for submitting paperwork to achieve the concession leases, it said.

Virtus will collect US$450 per hectare – or up to US$10.2 million - as its fee. Virtus Communications is also publisher of the Cambodian Business Review magazine. Company officials did not return requests for comment yesterday.

Mong Reththy Group vice president Tan Monivann said yesterday that there was strong potential for the product in Cambodia as worldwide prices were generally on the upswing.

He said the group was the only current domestic producer of the commodity, and had begun in 1996.

“We will plant [an additional] 2,000 hectares this year,” he said, adding the firm intends to nearly double its existing plantations to 20,000 hectares in coming years.

Golden Land shares gained 1.8 percent to 1.12 ringgit (US$0.37) yesterday, its highest close since February.

Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries officials could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Meanwhile, palm oil output and stockpiles in Malaysia, the world’s second-largest grower, gained in February from the previous month as adverse weather conditions eased and exports dropped to the lowest in three years.

Inventories climbed 4.2 percent to 1,478,793 metric tonnes, the Malaysian Palm Oil Board said in a statement yesterday.

Production gained 3.5 percent to 1,094,473 tonnes, while shipments fell 8.5 percent to 1,114,202 tonnes, the lowest level since February 2008.

Output in the month of January fell to the lowest level in almost four years as floods in key producing states hampered harvesting and reduced yields amid the annual low-output season.

The La Nina weather event, which brought excess rainfall, is weakening, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology said on March 2.

“The weather has calmed down a bit, so I would think that March numbers would pick up,” said Hoe Lee Leng, an analyst at RHB Research Institute Sdn.

“Exports have not been that strong because you haven’t had those supplies that you require. You’ll probably see a greater replenishment of stocks in a couple of months’ time.”

Palm oil futures dropped after analysts predicted a rebound in production and predicted lower prices at a conference in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

The May-delivery contract declined by 3.7 percent to reach 3,453 ringgit a tonne and traded at 3,489 ringgit at 3:09 pm Singapore time.


Currency decision awaited

via CAAI

Friday, 11 March 2011 15:01 May Kunmakara and Soeun Say

THE long awaited decision on what currency Cambodia’s securities exchange will use for listings will be announced next week, according to officials from the Securities and Exchange Commission of Cambodia.

Following a closed-door meeting on the issue late yesterday, SECC deputy director general Huot Pum said the decision to allow listings in dollars, riel, or both currencies simultaneously was a “sensitive issue” that would be publicly announced next week, and declined to comment further.

National Bank of Cambodia Spokeswoman and Director General Nguon Sokha has said the central bank supports increased use of the riel in Cambodia.

“Our policy is to promote use of the riel, to strengthen the use of our local currency,” she said earlier this week.

“If we use the US dollar on the exchange, we could have difficultly managing a crisis, as we lose our monetary authority,” she said, adding any change to the riel should occur gradually.

Ministry of Economy and Finance Secretary of State Hang Chuon Naron said last week that the Cambodian Securities Exchange should reflect the reality of the Cambodian economy – which is highly dollarised.

“We have to make sure the objective is to have macro [economic] stability and economic development,” he said.

Experts such as the Asian Development Bank’s Jayant Menon have suggested allowing listings in both currencies. Cambodia Securities Exchange CEO Hong Sok Hour said it would be simpler for the exchange’s trading platform to handle one currency.

“If we use one currency for trading, it will be easier for us – however, we should consider the influence of a currency on the whole economy,” he said earlier this week.

SECC Director General Ming Bankosal could not be reached for comment by The Post yesterday.

ACLEDA Securities director Svay Hay said he would support a decision to use either the riel or the dollar.

Growth prediction for 2011 goes up as economy sees a rebound

via CAAI

Friday, 11 March 2011 15:01 Soeun Say and Jeremy Mullins

THE Ministry of Economy and Finance has raised its prediction for this year’s gross domestic product growth to 7 percent, from a previous 6 percent target.

Minister Keat Chhon, speaking yesterday at a forum for South Korean businesses held in Phnom Penh, said advances in agriculture, tourism, garments and construction had fueled the stronger economic growth.

“There are good signs of a rebound in the Cambodian economy,” he said.

The International Monetary Fund had predicted 6.8 percent growth for 2011, while the World Bank and Asian Development Bank both forecast 6 percent GDP growth this year, and the Economics Institute of Cambodia said the Kingdom was poised for 7 percent growth.

EIC senior researcher Neou Seiha said yesterday he agreed that the Kingdom’s economic growth this year was faster than originally expected.

Garments, tourism, and agribusiness are all rebounding strongly, though the construction sector still lags, he said.

Cambodia’s GDP grew by double digits for much of the past decade, he said, but added much of that came from a booming construction sector.

Agribusiness holds plenty of potential to drive Cambodia’s future growth, he said.

“If the government can push this, it will be a very important sector,” he said.

Inflation could also increase this year, he said, particularly as prices for petroleum increased.

Keat Chhon said that Cambodia’s economy had grown 5.9 percent in 2010. He pointed to a 16 percent growth in tourism, 26 percent in garment exports, and 13.5 percent in industry, as well as strong increases in the agriculture and construction sectors.

Kampot casino planned

A group of gamblers try their luck at cards on the gaming floor of a casino in Kampot province last September. Photo by: SOEUN SAY

Friday, 11 March 2011 15:01 Soeun Say and Jeremy Mullins

ENTERTAINMENT Gaming Asia has announced it will open a casino in Kampot province, as officials say the province is becoming increasingly attractive for potential casinos.

Ministry of Economy and Finance chief of casino management Chrun Theravath said that border casinos located in Poipet near Thailand and Bavet near Vietnam had long proved profitable for the state.

With the economic crisis, Bavet’s casinos in particular have seen a decline in patronage, forcing some to close, he said.

Two casinos shuttered near the Bavet border crossing with Vietnam late last year, and Chrun Theravath said yesterday: “I hear that more casinos in Bavet will close due to bankruptcy, but I haven’t received an official letter yet.”

Locating a casino near the Prek Chak checkpoint in Kampot province was becoming increasingly popular, as more and more tourists used the route to enter and exit the Kingdom.

“They [casinos] are opening and looking to do business in Kampot. There are already a few casinos there, and the value of land is still cheap,” he said.

Kampot’s first casino – the nine-storey Ha Tien Vegas Entertainment Resort – opened in September 2010.

Entertainment Gaming will open its Kampot casino under its “Dreamworld” brand, according to a press release.

The firm – which owns and operates gaming machines in Phnom Penh’s NagaWorld licensed casino – expects to open the Kampot casino in the fourth quarter 2011, “subject to the timely issuance of the required gaming license,” it said.

The Kampot casino project is initially expected to cost less than US$1 million, as its owners plan to use gaming machines from its existing inventory. Entertainment Gaming will be 67 percent owner of the project, with the remainder held by an unnamed Cambodian partner.

“We are making solid progress in implementing our new growth strategy with the goal of becoming the leading owner and operator of regional casinos in select emerging gaming markets in Asia,” said its Chairman Clarence Chung in the release on Wednesday.

There are currently 27 licensed casinos in operation in Cambodia, according to Chrun Theravath.

Ministry of Economy and Finance figures show it collected $16 million in taxes from casinos during 2010, from $13 million the year previous.

Economic fallout from Boeung Kak debacle

via CAAI

Friday, 11 March 2011 15:00 Steve Finch

IF the Cambodian government has rejected any interest in protecting the legitimate rights of its citizens in relation to the escalating Boeung Kak lake fiasco, then perhaps it should consider the serious economic fallout caused by the continuing standoff between residents and Shukaku Inc.

Were the government to be viewing the dispute in terms of long-term economics it would surely realise this latest land rights embarrassment has the potential to cause serious damage.

The possibility that the World Bank could withdraw all support for Cambodia in the land sector should in itself raise alarm bells within the government.

The property market has been among the last major sectors of the economy to recover from the economic crisis and anything that stalls the process of land titling in Cambodia will only help further entrench this malaise.

Although the World Bank has rightly received heavy criticism for ignoring the warning signs in relation to Boeung Kak, its Cambodia Land Management and Administration Project did lead to 1.2 million Cambodians receiving land titles between 2002 and 2009.

These people not only gained a legally recognised right to their land, their land titles serve as a licence to sell property and buyers to purchase with security, absolute necessities in any buoyant property market.

Without World Bank support in the land sector, and the possibility other supporting organisations may be scared off, much-needed land-titling will continue to stall in Cambodia and so will the possibility for thousands of property transactions.

For private individuals, no land title means a complete lack of financial security and no incentive to pour capital into their homes. As a result, property too often cannot serve as an asset in Cambodia which erodes the possibility for prosperity and in turn hurts the overall economy.

Also damaging is the negative PR that the Boeung Kak debacle has generated, especially in recent weeks. How many serious investors in Cambodia have read the recent headlines and wondered whether they might avoid the country entirely?

Furthermore, risk analysts that produce assessments of Cambodia will always raise country risk because of cases like Boeung Kak and these often serve as key sources of information for would-be investors who despise risk.

Incidents like Boeung Kak highlight Cambodia’s persistent land-titling problems, point to uncertainty due to a lack of clear government policy, raise country risk and therefore generate the possibility in the minds of investors that something similar could happen to them.

The overall perception associated with all of this economic negativity is that responsible countries with clear, fair and investor-friendly policies simply do not have incidents like Boeung Kak. The fact this is still happening in Cambodia serves as an unfortunate reminder the country is still a long way from being a reliable place to do business.

Reviving the ancient art of lacquer

Eric Stocker has shared his knowledge of lacquerware with countless Cambodians. Photo by: CRAIG MILES

via CAAI

Friday, 11 March 2011 15:02 Craig Miles

OVER the past 12 years, the new father of lacquerware in Cambodia, 53-year-old Frenchman Eric Stocker, has regained some of the unique skills lost during the Pol Pot era through his dedicated training programs in Siem Reap.

Since 1998, Stocker has trained countless numbers of Cambodians in the art of lacquerware. He created Angkor Artwork in 2008 with his brother Thierry Stocker, and is not only bringing back the art of lacquer, but bringing back free-thinking and creativity.

Stocker has been immersed in the world of lacquer since he was 16 years old. He worked on restoring furniture with lacquer and creating lacquerware in France, until he was commissioned by the European Union in 1998 to visit Cambodia and train young people in lacquer techniques.

He worked for Artisans d’Angkor during this time, and between 1998 and 2002 trained 350 Cambodians.

Lacquering is an ancient art form, dating back in Cambodia to as early as the 12th century and was used in the Angkor Wat temple in the 15th century. “The lacquer between the 12th and 15th centuries was more extravagant,” Stocker said. “This was because there were kings such as Jayavarman VII and there was lots of money and wealth.”

Lacquer is a liquid that is harvested from lacquer trees mainly found in areas throughout Southeast Asia.

The entire process of turning sap to lacquer to art is not a rapid one. Lacquer trees, depending on what species they are, can take 10 years of growth before they are ready to be harvested. It can then take six months before the lacquer itself can be used, and depending on what is being made, the process of creating lacquerware can take three to four months.

Stocker said the trees need a cool but humid environment, around 18 to 20 degrees Celsius, ideally at the base of mountains.

Trees in different regions produce different colours of lacquer – for example, lacquer from trees in Cambodia and Myanmar produce a liquid that is black in colour.

Lacquer is especially valuable because of its durability and protective qualities. Stocker said lacquerware can burn at 450 degrees Celsius and it is used on such things as electrical wires and cables, for painting boats, or even for protecting electronics inside a mobile phone.

In a more artistic sense, lacquer is used to protect wood and to decorate walls and statues.

Some of the most beautiful and decorative works produced at Artisans d’Angkor are the replicas of the Buddha statues from the Angkor temples.

Stocker said: “Ninety percent of lacquer is used for industry, and only 10 percent is used for artistic purposes.”

But he wants to work toward changing this.

Stocker is now in Bangkok where he was asked to help in an English factory to teach lacquer techniques. But he will return to Siem Reap at the end of the year to continue the training program at Angkor Workshop, where there are seven students. Stocker would like to increase this to 50 pupils upon his return.

He said it is important for Cambodians not to forget the past, and art techniques such as lacquerware are important.

“The last 12 years have really been a gift for me,” he said. “If I die tomorrow, I know I have transmitted my skills, so I am happy for that.”

Man about town

via CAAI

Friday, 11 March 2011 15:01 Peter Olszewski

CELEBRATED Siem Reap personage Dr Eugene Tragus, aka Doc Gene, is fighting a battle against pancreatic cancer that has spread to his liver.

The 76-year-old doc, a Texan hole-in-the-heart surgery pioneer renowned for his mischievous beatnik bent, has had a long, dynamic history with the Angkor Hospital for Children.

He signed on in 2001 as director of the emergency medicine department after coming to Cambodia in the wake of his wife’s death from cancer. Since 2004, he has been a surgical consultant at the hospital.

He remarried six years ago to nurse Sokunthea Lem, who last year completed her training as a doctor, much to Doc Gene’s pride.

Dr Thea is now tending the doc, who this week flew to Bangkok for radiotherapy treatment that at the very least will alleviate some of his suffering.

While Doc Gene himself told Man About at the Royal Angkor International Hospital on Sunday that there is “no hope”, nobody is writing the doc off just yet. All concerned hope that his Texan grit will somehow see him through.

To add to his wife’s distress, she and Eugene were evicted last month from the doc’s rented home of 10 years.

Grim reaper strikes
TO ADD to Temple Town’s grim news, 55-year-old David Chase, a director of Siem Reap’s AboutAsia Schools, died in New York of a heart attack over the weekend.

He had battled two bouts of cancer and seemed to have won, but his heart gave out suddenly.

He retired from the real estate business in 2004 after his first bout of cancer.

He came to Siem Reap and teamed up with AboutAsia’s Andy Booth to build Prey Chrouk Secondary School in 2007. His role as director of AboutAsia Schools led to him starting a small but growing scholarship fund at Krober Riel Secondary School which continues up to this day.

A wake for David Chase will be held at the Victoria Angkor Resort & Spa this evening, beginning at 5pm.

Guiney book reading
POPULAR local NGO Anjali House is following up from last year’s successful London evening with UK author Sue Guiney by replicating the experience with a reading in Siem Reap tomorrow night at the Butterflies Garden from 7pm.

Sue Guiney will read selected passages from her new novel, Clash of Innocence, which is set in Cambodia in the year 2006.

Sue will also be introducing work produced during creative writing workshops with the children of Anjali House.

Readings will be accompanied by projections and photos of Cambodia taken from the Anjali Photo Workshops.

Complimentary drinks and hors d’oeuvres will be served on the night courtesy of Butterflies Garden and Celliers D’Asie.

Guiney flies in fresh from Bangkok where, last Friday, she gave a reading at the Nielsen Hays library.

For further details contact Sam Flint, Anjali House, on 092 561 732.

All you can Skal
THE Siem Reap chapter of Skal International, a club for travel industry people, is conducting a charity draw and auction next Friday evening at Heritage Suite Hotels. Raffle tickets are now in circulation for the draw, and a swag of “luxury prizes” has been rounded up for the auction, including a two-night stay at the boutique Rachamankha Hotel in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

A “substantial percentage” of the proceedings will go to the Salai Bai Hotel Training School, and part of the funds will go toward a push to promote Cambodia as the host of the Skal International Asian Area Congress in 2013.

The Heritage will host an open bar evening next Friday from 7-9pm. An admittance cost of $10 covers peanuts and popcorn, and all the beer, wine and/or soft drinks that can be consumed in the two-hour period.

Heritage GM Magnus Olovson will be the auctioneer and this in itself should be entertaining.

Raffle tickets cost $5 each can be obtained from Bina Hanley by calling 092 219 647, or Jam Nsouli on 081 366 781.

Irish singer arrives
RENOWNED Irish singer Mary Black will be in Siem Reap for a ceremony and fundraising evening at Hôtel de la Paix on Thursday March 24, when she will hand over funds raised at a gala performance held in Singapore.

Monday’s performance at the Embassy of Ireland’s official residence in Singapore was the result of the combined efforts of Hôtel de la Paix, Ispahan Outreach, D3 Concerts, and the Embassy of Ireland.

Funds raised will aid Siem Reap’s Green Gecko children’s centre.

Hopefully more funds will be raised when Mary Black attends the Hôtel de la Paix ceremony later this month.

The evening will also include an auction of items donated by leading artists in Cambodia, and art by the Green Gecko children themselves.

The big question, of course, is will Black sing in public while she is in Siem Reap.

From TV stardom to temple town

via CAAI

Friday, 11 March 2011 15:01 Michael Sloan

CONTESTANTS on reality TV music shows usually follow a well-trodden career path after the show finishes: a three-part act which consists of signing with a label, releasing an album, and then fading into graceful obscurity.

But sometimes the exposure generated by the show can take the performers to unusual places, as is the case for 2002 UK Pop Idol contestant Zoey Jones. She will perform every night until July in the Explorer Tales bar at the Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra Golf and Spa Resort in Siem Reap.

Sofitel general manager Charles-Henri Chevet said the unusual decision to hire Jones on an ongoing basis was made on the strength of her performances at the Cambodia Open golf tournament last December, and a New Year’s Eve party at the Sofitel.

Chevet said: “It’s unique in Siem Reap to have a singer perform for this length of time. We chose Zoey because her voice and style fits in with the atmosphere of our bar and the environment we want to create.”

She was originally booked to perform at Sofitel from February until April, but Chevet decided to extend her tour until July.

“Zoey knows how to entertain. When she left after appearing in December a few couples asked where she went – the atmosphere of the bar was missing something.”

For her part, Jones says she enjoys the challenge of entertaining hotel guests night after night, performing classic pop songs accompanied by pianist Wilbur Dauz.

“We try to project a very classy but relaxed atmosphere for the bar. Generally I choose my songs based on my sense of the people so I’m not just singing sweet girly things all the time. I try to do a nice mixture.”

Prior to appearing at the Sofitel, Jones was based in Lisbon where she appeared at the Rock in Rio concert and recorded vocals for several tracks by DJs including Jesus Luz and Mastiksoul.

Jones originally met representatives from the Sofitel while performing at the jazz club Studio 182 in Phnom Penh last September. She said she was contacted by Studio 182 over
the internet.

“They were looking for new artists, and I’m always looking for stimulation. When the offer came along I thought it was a bit different and crazy... they asked me to fly there from Lisbon the next week.”

Jones told The Phnom Penh Post she is enjoying her time in Siem Reap and prefers the calmer atmosphere to living in Phnom Penh. “I look at Phnom Penh as this crazy, hustling bustling city, lots of pollution. But it’s so calm here, it’s such a contrast.”

On her days off, Jones spends her time painting and working on her first album, which has a tentative release date of sometime next year. When asked whether she would consider returning to the region to perform, she said the decision will depend on the timing of the album release. “There’s quite a bit of work to be done, but maybe once it’s finished and released, then maybe I’ll come back here at the end of the year. I’d like that.”

Chevet believes the decision to hire Jones is working well, and notes that employees from competing hotels have come to watch Jones perform.

He said she is the right singer because she is “spontaneous with clients, she’s not shy. You can’t have high quality entertainment without being prepared to put money in.”

Jones is glad the concept of nightly live hotel entertainment appears to be taking off in Siem Reap. “Maybe the other hotels will start to provide live entertainment now. It’s nice to know I was here first.”

Zoey Jones is appearing from 6:30pm to 10pm weeknights and Saturdays until July 17, at the Explorer Tales bar at Sofitel.