Friday, 25 March 2011

Opposition dilemma

via CAAI

Friday, 25 March 2011 15:03 Meas Sokchea

Human Rights Party President Kem Sokha has invited members of the Kingdom’s largest opposition group, the Sam Rainsy Party, to defect to the HRP following the announcement this week that ex-SRP lawmaker Mao Monyvann would join the party.

Mao Monyvann, formerly an SRP parliamentarian from Kampong Cham province, resigned from his post earlier this month before holding a press conference this week to criticise the SRP leadership, accusing lawmakers Yim Sovann and Eng Chhay Eang of wielding excessive control over the party. In the aftermath of his comments, the SRP asked him to resign from the party and he joined the HRP.

SRP head Sam Rainsy now lives abroad to avoid a pair of jail terms totalling 12 years that were handed down against him last year in connection with a protest he staged at the Vietnamese border in 2009. He was stripped of his parliamentary seat earlier this month as a result of his convictions.

“The HRP will become the biggest opposition party in Cambodia if Sam Rainsy cannot return,” Kem Sokha said.

“We do not want him to be absent – I want to have him here as a partner,” Kem Sokha added. “But if he is not present, I believe the HRP will play an important role in pressing for a change from the current leadership.”

Yim Sovann said Kem Sokha was “dreaming” if he thought the HRP could become the Kingdom’s largest opposition party, noting that the HRP only holds three seats in the National Assembly compared with the SRP’s 25.

The spat raises questions about the proposed merger between the parties, which have been in talks for months but have yet to reach an agreement.

Merger talks between the HRP and SRP have stalled in part due to disagreements about the leadership structure of a unified party. SRP lawmaker Son Chhay said yesterday that his party was still committed to the negotiations, but that Mao Monyvann’s public criticisms this week had prompted a reassessment of the proposal.

“The HRP used Mao Monyvann’s attack and broadcasted it on the radio, and it is not right to act this way,” Son Chhay said.

Senior CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said the recent bickering among the opposition parties showed that a merger was unlikely.

“They cannot live together, and it has been this way for a long time,” he said. “The SRP has 25 parliamentarians and they do not allow a party with three parliamentarians to control them.”

‘Sometimes we have to speak out, we cannot remain silent’: Peschoux

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Christophe Peschoux, country head of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, is pictured at his office in Phnom Penh yesterday.

via CAAI

Friday, 25 March 2011 15:02 Thomas Miller

After a long career in Cambodia, including four years as head of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Christophe Peschoux said this week he will step down at the end of April to take a senior position with the office in Geneva.

Although Peschoux said in an interview yesterday with The Post that he brought cooperation between his office and the government to “unprecedented levels”, senior officials called for his ouster last year.

Prime Minister Hun Sen made the appeal during a meeting in October with visiting UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, following a request to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay in August and a public warning from Minister of Foreign Affairs Hor Namhong in July.

Nevertheless, Peschoux yesterday defended the work of his office, including its public statements on pressing human rights concerns, and gave insight into his layered relationship with the government.
“Human rights work is not a cocktail party, it’s a struggle,” he said.

Peschoux, who also spent seven years investigating human rights abuses for OHCHR in the 1990s, will be replaced on an interim basis by his deputy, James Heenan, on May 2.
This is an edited transcript by Thomas Miller.

Why are you leaving your position at the end of next month?
I have been offered a new position in OHCHR in Geneva. This is not a sudden decision.... I began to apply for positions in April last year, for family reasons because my children are going to enter university next year and I want to be in Europe at that time.

In the meanwhile, [there is also] the tension with the Government as a reason over the statements that we issued in July.

One was my comment to The Cambodia Daily, in response to their request, regarding the illegal extradition of the two Thai Red Shirts [activists wanted by Thailand for suspected involvement in a bombing].

That created a lot of irritation in the Foreign Ministry. You remember the public letter from the foreign minister against me warning me that my position would be reconsidered if I did it again.

A week later there was another statement, issued this time by the spokesperson of the high commissioner in Geneva, in relation to the human rights implication of the [opposition Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker] Mu Sochua defamation case [brought by Prime Minister Hun Sen].

That was quite a fairly straightforward statement, but I think the combination of these statements have provoked the anger of the government, probably of the Prime Minister, and as a result they have requested my removal to the [UN] high commissioner [for human rights Pillay]. That was in August, and the high commissioner declined on the ground that there was not sufficiently good reasons for that, and expressed complete confidence and support in me.

The matter rose again when the secretary general met the Prime Minister here and the Prime Minister brought the matter up during the meeting and requested the secretary general to remove me, and the secretary general stood by the high commissioner position.

As a result I have been internally [persona non grata] in the sense that there was a note sent [by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs] to all government officials in the ministries to cease to recognise me and cease cooperation with me. And that was in November. Since then all government officials have been reluctant to meet me.

Cooperation with the office has more or less continued. In some ways it has been affected, but we have been able to reestablish in most cases normal cooperation. But the instruction was clear: You don’t meet Peschoux.

And they have not met me, which, as you can understand, has made my life quite difficult because I have premised the approach and the work of this office on dialogue and cooperation.

Then there is this political logic ... that it was time for me to move. So these factors accelerated the decision process but [have] not affected it significantly. In the course of the year I would have left irrespective of whether there were tensions with the government.

You came in as head of the office here in 2007. How did you build up trust with the Government?
I have worked many years in this country and in this region, and I have learned a number of things. Face is important here – public face. And public controversy, public confrontation, is counterproductive.

The second lesson is that we do not have, as a human rights institution, the means of protection. So the question is how can you contribute to improve the situation of human rights?
And the response to that question is that you have to engage with the powers that be.

[Another] lesson is that in Cambodia as in other countries of the region ... a lot of things can be said if they are said between four eyes. In other words, confidential discussion of issues of concern is much better accepted if it is done with a care not to make your interlocutor lose face.

So having learned these lessons when I arrived here, I explained to my interlocutors in the Government that I wouldn’t dialogue with them through the media.

But I’ve told them at the same time, we will have confidential dialogue, but the condition is that your door has to be open and that you are willing to listen to what we are saying, because when we will be bringing issues of concern to you, they will be well-documented; they will be well thought-out; we will have conducted a legal analysis; and we will come up with ideas for a solution.

These were the main elements of my approach, and we have built relationships with various institutions in the Government on these premises. And I think so far it has worked well. It has not worked everywhere. But frankly after four years of testing this approach in this country, I can’t see any other way to further our protection objectives and to have an impact, because what we are after is to have an impact.

Against this background, I have not completely abandoned public advocacy. But we have used public advocacy only when we feel that there is either no dialogue going on with the Government, because there is no willingness to address these issues, or there is an emergency situation and we have no time to engage in dialogue.

What do you think are the biggest successes of your approach?
I always quote our prison programme, because this is a programme that we have jointly developed with the Ministry of Interior. This is a programme where there is a willingness to reform the institution but there is a lack of know-how.

We had visited several prisons, and a recurring theme coming out from prisoners, but also from staff and the directors of the prisons, was that prisoners were hungry, they didn’t eat their full.

So we wrote that up with the Ministry of Interior and persuaded them that there was a need to increase the food allocation that they received. The ministry accepted [the proposal] to develop the daily food allocation from 1500 to 2800 [riel].

A second example was the question of ill treatment in prison and abuse by detainees on other detainees. The prison authorities had delegated some of the disciplinary authority to prisoners, to groups of prisoners that were organised in the prison, which they called prisoner management cells. This goes against basic international standards on the management of prisons because it creates a state within the state, and then a lot of abuse happened which you can’t control.

We have highlighted the problem, they have understood it, and they have reformed that system.... and the number of abuse [cases] has decreased. Not disappeared – prisons are prisons – but there has been a significant improvement.

You emphasise confidential dialogue, but is there something lost, in terms of accountability, if the public is not aware of Government commitments?
Yes, of course this is a risk. But this is part of this ‘gentleman agreement’. Confidentiality, we regard it as a tool for dialogue, not as a shield for inaction. So that’s the basic premise. So as long as confidential dialogue leads to action – to corrective action and to progress – we engage.

But if we experience that confidentiality is being abused for doing nothing, then we have to reassess our engagement and decide whether we are going to speak publicly on this issue or withdraw our cooperation.

The Government named you specifically – and not the OHCHR office – as the problem. Why do you think they singled you out?
Let’s go first to the three main allegations that have been levelled against me to justify the fact that I’ve been shunned.

The first one is that I don’t cooperate with the Government. Everything I’ve done in the past four years shows the contrary. I have brought the level of cooperation of this office with the Government to unprecedented levels.

Second is that I am the spokesperson for the opposition. Everybody who is familiar with my work knows that it is totally independent. I am not in bed with the Government. I am not in bed with civil society. I am not in bed with the donor community. We are totally independent.... And this may not be appreciated. But ... we are a UN institution with a human rights mandate. And I am very clear about what my role is in this country. And my role is to talk to everybody.

But we have reached a situation in this country whereby any public criticism expressed vis a vis policies or practices are immediately tarred with the opposition brush.

The third factor is that I overstepped my mandate. Again, the high commissioner has been very clear, the secretary general has been very clear: We have a public advocacy mandate, as UN and as OHCHR. I have been exercising this public advocacy mandate with a lot of tact, I think, in a very courteous manner and as diplomatically as I could.

But sometimes we have to speak out, we have to say things, we can’t remain silent. That’s part of being a human rights and a UN voice in a country where we are dealing with difficult issues. There are issues [over which] we can’t simply remain silent because silence becomes a complicity.

In my own personal and also professional view as a human rights activist and official in the UN, that’s the bottom line. We have a moral authority and sometimes we have to exercise this moral authority.

Is there [a personal] element related to my work in the past ... when I was here from 1993-99. It’s possible. I was in charge of the investigation unit of this office. I have investigated hundreds of various human rights violations – killings, extrajudicial executions, disappearances, torture, rape and so on and so forth. I have been a very scrupulous investigator, and not all of the cases that I have documented during this period have been dismissed, because the investigation was properly done and all the facts were well-established.

So am I a reminder of some of the crimes, some of the human rights violations of this period? Possibly.

Why do you think the Government is particularly sensitive to public criticism from the UN? Do you think it dates to the 1980s, when the UN seat was filled by the Khmer Rouge-led coalition?
There is a UN dimension. The UN was involved in the war against Cambodia from 1979-91 and the signing of the Paris Agreements in the sense that the UN was used by the powers exercising their authority through it to pursue the Cold War.

This has had a very detrimental affect on Cambodia and on its population because Cambodia was coming out of the Khmer Rouge period completely ... shattered, people’s lives were shattered, there was no one, there was no resource, and the current party here in power was reconstructed by the Vietnamese and tried to put this country together.

Not only were they not provided international assistance from the West but they were besieged by the West and by China at the time during this period of Cold War. So they were trying to rebuild society in the face of an aggression, in the face of war, and that has left deep scars, I think, in the psyche, in the memory of many in the current leadership.

I think perhaps it would be a good idea for the UN one day to do what the UN did in Rwanda and to humbly apologize to the Cambodian people for the way that it had been used. I think it would be useful. That may help turn the page of this sad chapter of the UN history in this country. I think it would be a human thing to do.

PM touts media task force

Prime Minister Hun Sen speaks at the closing ceremony of the Education Ministry’s annual meeting at the National Institute of Education in Phnom Penh yesterday, where he announced a new centralised task force to keep the media informed of matters in the public interest.

via CAAI

Friday, 25 March 2011 15:02 Vong Sokheng

The Cambodian government established on Wednesday a centralised task force that will relay information to the press on issues relating to military action, diplomacy and national security.

Phay Siphan, spokesman at the Council of Ministers, said yesterday that Prime Minister Hun Sen approved on Wednesday the creation of the Inter-Ministry Media Task Force. The newly established body will comprise senior officials from the Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Council of Ministers.

“[This body] is part of an improvement in the government’s work … for the flow of information that is in the public’s interest,” he said.

Phay Siphan added that domestic media reported varying figures in the number of deaths and injured persons during the recent Cambodian-Thai conflict at the Preah Vihear temple. The task force, he said, will help to quell any disparities in information and provide the press with uniform figures from the government as a whole.

“From now on when you ask me to comment, I will be able to answer everything,” said Phay Siphan. “Before, if an individual from the government declined to comment, you would get nothing.” he said.

The task force will be headed by Neang Phat, secretary of state from the Ministry of Defence, with Phay Siphan acting as deputy. Minister of Foreign Affairs spokseman Koy Kuong and Defence Ministry Spokesman Chhum Socheat will act as spokespersons for their respective ministries when the body dispenses information to the press.

Pen Samithi, president of the Club of Cambodian Journalists, welcomed the government’s new body, saying it’s the responsibility of any government facing military conflict to provide official information to the press.

“It’s better than the press not being able to access official information from the government,” he said.

Workers in South Korea complain of visa fees

via CAAI

Ccambodian workers in South Korea have asked the government to investigate Cambodian officials they claim extorted money from them by increasing fees for visa extensions and other certificates issued by the Cambodian embassy in Seoul.

In an email obtained by The Post yesterday, Cambodian workers in South Korea said that embassy officials requested US$200 for visa extensions and up to $900 for some certificates.

“Cambodia embassy officials at the Republic of Korea never work for the benefit of our workers,” said the workers via email.

“Instead, they used all means to extort money from us and [if] a worker wanted to extend a visa, [they] must pay 150,000 won ($150) to 200,000 won).”

The email also stated that embassy officials had demanded $800 to $900 from a labourer who needed to obtain a certificate to send their child to Cambodia.

Chea Vuthy, 25, a worker in the ship installation industry, said yesterday that more than 100 workers had faced this problem.

“Before we entered Korea, the Cambodian government gave us a passport free of charge, so we should get free extensions,” said Chea Vuthy. “We never see the rate of extension. Did the money they took from us flow into the national budget or individual pockets?”

Heng Sony, 27, another worker, said that he was charged nearly $300 to extend his passport last month.

“The charge is too much,” said Heng Sony, adding that Cambodian embassy officials treated the workers badly.

According to statistics from the Ministry of Labour, 2,116 Cambodians worked in South Korea last year.

Heng Sour, director-general of administration and finance at the Ministry of Labour, said that returned workers had complained unofficially about the price of passport extensions in Korea.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong said that passport extensions and issuing legal documents for Cambodians through the embassy is free of charge.

“We have no policy for the embassy to charge money from Cambodians for passport extensions,” said Koy Kuong.

“If it is true about charging money, it means that officials take money to put in [their] own pocket.”

Koy Kuong added that ministry officials were contacting the Cambodian embassy in South Korea to question them about the accusation.

Workers in South Korea complain of visa fees

via CAAI

Friday, 25 March 2011 15:02 Chhay Channyda

Ccambodian workers in South Korea have asked the government to investigate Cambodian officials they claim extorted money from them by increasing fees for visa extensions and other certificates issued by the Cambodian embassy in Seoul.

In an email obtained by The Post yesterday, Cambodian workers in South Korea said that embassy officials requested US$200 for visa extensions and up to $900 for some certificates.

“Cambodia embassy officials at the Republic of Korea never work for the benefit of our workers,” said the workers via email.

“Instead, they used all means to extort money from us and [if] a worker wanted to extend a visa, [they] must pay 150,000 won ($150) to 200,000 won).”

The email also stated that embassy officials had demanded $800 to $900 from a labourer who needed to obtain a certificate to send their child to Cambodia.

Chea Vuthy, 25, a worker in the ship installation industry, said yesterday that more than 100 workers had faced this problem.

“Before we entered Korea, the Cambodian government gave us a passport free of charge, so we should get free extensions,” said Chea Vuthy. “We never see the rate of extension. Did the money they took from us flow into the national budget or individual pockets?”

Heng Sony, 27, another worker, said that he was charged nearly $300 to extend his passport last month.

“The charge is too much,” said Heng Sony, adding that Cambodian embassy officials treated the workers badly.

According to statistics from the Ministry of Labour, 2,116 Cambodians worked in South Korea last year.

Heng Sour, director-general of administration and finance at the Ministry of Labour, said that returned workers had complained unofficially about the price of passport extensions in Korea.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong said that passport extensions and issuing legal documents for Cambodians through the embassy is free of charge.

“We have no policy for the embassy to charge money from Cambodians for passport extensions,” said Koy Kuong.

“If it is true about charging money, it means that officials take money to put in [their] own pocket.”

Koy Kuong added that ministry officials were contacting the Cambodian embassy in South Korea to question them about the accusation.

T&P stops visa requests, says Malaysia

via CAAI

Friday, 25 March 2011 15:02 David Boyle and Mom Kunthear

The T&P Co Ltd labour firm has stopped applying for visas to send migrant workers to Malaysia, a consular official has confirmed, as the company finds itself embroiled in a growing controversy over its allegedly unlawful recruitment practices.

Raja Saiful Ridzuwan, deputy chief of mission at the Malaysian Embassy in Cambodia, said yesterday that T&P Co Ltd stopped sending visa applications last week and suggested the company might have paused its operations to reform practices inside their recruitment centres.

He said both the Malaysian Embassy and the Cambodian Government were taking recent allegations of widespread abuse and illegal detention in the labour recruitment industry very seriously and were ready to take action against any company found acting unlawfully in Malaysia.

“So far we have not received any official request from the Government of Cambodia [to act] on this T&P case, but we would consider that if the situation became more serious that we would look into acting on the T&P company in Malaysia,” he said.

T&P representatives could not be reached yesterday and officials from the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs either could not be reached or declined to comment.

Meanwhile another complaint was filed against T&P with the rights group Licadho on Wednesday by the family of a worker who has accused the company of withholding US$930 in wages from Malaysia that she gave them to send to her parents.

“The T&P company staff told me to wait [until] next time when they would give me [the money] when I went to meet them, but their promises melted. They said next time forever,” said Choak Botha, the father of 20-year-old T&P employee Horn Leakhena.

A string of complaints against T&P has emerged since a trainee broke her legs trying to escape from the Phnom Penh office on March, 2 , followed four days later by the death of an employee inside the same training centre.

France backs investment

French Ambassador to Cambodia Christian Connan in his Phnom Penh office. Photo by: Sovan Philong

via CAAI

Friday, 25 March 2011 15:00 Jeremy Mullins

FRANCE is placing an increased emphasis on investment and loans for Cambodia’s economic development, rather than assistance through development aid, according to its Ambassador Christian Connan.

A rapidly improving Cambodian economy contributed to the change in emphasis, as well as the effects of the global financial crisis, which reduced aid flows from France along with other western nations.

“We are going to be working as much as possible by loans,” the French Ambassador said, adding that some projects – such as France’s assistance with universities and restoration work such as Baphoun temple in Siem Reap – were unsuitable for loans and would still be funded by grants.

“The French development aid has decreased, taking into account that Cambodia has now undergone important economic growth and is not a post-conflict country anymore,” he said, adding Cambodian officials had agreed with this approach.

French development aid to Cambodia last year amounted to €25 million (US$35 million), including multilateral aid to areas such as the Khmer Rouge tribunal, funding to fight disease, and economic development projects through organisations such as the Asian Development Bank.

A 2009 survey of 100 French NGOs showed they contributed about €33 million to Cambodia, with more than half of the sum coming from French private donations.

Since presenting his credentials to King Norodom Sihamoni in December 2010, the dynamism of the Cambodian economy has been a surprise, he said.

“It is a country with lots of opportunities and a key position in the Southeast Asia region,” he said.

“Cambodia has evolved quicker than the majority of least developed countries.”

The Kingdom has enjoyed strong economic growth for some ten years, during which time French cooperation has turned to further focus on economic development in areas like vocational training.

French firms were also eyeing opportunities in agriculture, notably rice production but also tourism, the hotel business, and transportation, including rail and air, said Connan.

France Telecom had also been involved in negotiations with Cambodian mobile operator Mobitel last year, but the embassy was not aware of any ongoing conversations in 2011 – though he emphasised the embassy had not been directly involved in last year’s negotiations.

In addition, Air France flights from Paris to Phnom Penh – due to begin next week – have the potential to further expand French business in the Kingdom, he said.

Cambodia maintains a favourable trade balance with France, benefiting from the European Union’s Everything But Arms initiative. The programme allows exports from Cambodia and other Least Developed Countries to export without restriction to the European Union.

“It has strongly helped the country to develop and diversify its economy,” he said.

Cambodian exports to France increased by 38.9 percent to €70.3 million, in the first eight months of 2010 compared to the same period the year previous.

Meanwhile, French shipments to Cambodia increased by 1.9 percent in the same period. Full year figures are not yet available. The French Embassy says it has seen demand for its Economic Services by businesses triple between 2006 and 2009.

To make Cambodia more attractive for French businesses, Christian Connan said rule of law, transparency, and concrete measures against corruption ought to be improved.

Trade links: Thai trade fair to boost relationship

via CAAI

Friday, 25 March 2011 15:00 Soeun Say

BORDER clashes between Cambodia and Thailand will not prevent a Thai trade fair from taking place in Phnom Penh in May, the Thai ambassador said yesterday through a spokesman for Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Speaking on behalf of both Hun Sen and Thai ambassador Prasas Prasasvinitchai while they were in a meeting yesterday, Eang Sophallet told reporters the Prime Minister fully supported the upcoming trade fair and that he didn’t want the February clashes in Preah Vihear province to disrupt business. The sentiment expressed by Hun Sen was a continuation of statements he made in February when the clashes first broke out.

During his farewell meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen, outgoing Thai ambassador Prasas Prasasvinitchai said that the Diamond Island expo from May 19 to 22 would boost trade relations.

Time to finalise Kingdom oil strategy

An oil rig offshore from Santa Barbara, California, in the United States, earlier this month. bloomberg

via CAAI

Friday, 25 March 2011 15:00 Steve Finch

FURTHER signs this week Chevron is moving closer to Cambodia’s first commercial oil production could not have come at a better time, in theory, after crude reached US$105.75 a barrel on Wednesday, the highest in two and a half years.

With the country still 100-precent dependent on oil imports from Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, Chevron’s stated plan this week to open a permanent office in Phnom Penh on May 1 is both timely and encouraging, a sign the United States energy firm is here to stay. Expected domestic oil production could help the country reduce reliance on expensive imports, allowing greater control of pricing.

The country imports more than 100 million tonnes of oil products per year, fuelling the trade deficit and raising costs for businesses throughout the Kingdom.

The Ministry of Economy and Finance budget report showed revenues derived from taxes on oil products rose 15.3 percent in the first 10 months of 2010, the latest data available, a sign of climbing fuel imports.

The government has in the past resorted to crude methods of price control which have included calling oil company CEOs into meetings to reprimand them about rising prices.

Luckily for Cambodia, as crude prices soar, so does the level of interest among oil companies to realise complex reserves such as those jointly operated by Chevron in Block A in the Gulf of Thailand.

The question remains: When exactly will that happen and will production make pump prices any cheaper?

Although Te Doung Tara, secretary general of the Cambodia National Petroleum Authority, has repeatedly moved back the estimated production date from late 2009 to 2011, Prime Minister Hun Sen’s insistence that things should start moving by the end of 2012 seems to have worked.

Chevron has announced in recent months it is moving towards a final investment decision with partners Caltex and MOECO “as soon as we clarify some commercial and fiscal arrangements with the Royal Government of Cambodia”, spokesman Gareth Johnstone said yesterday.

Less clear is the eventual impact crude production will have on domestic supply and import policy.

There has been vague news of an oil refinery in Sihanoukville, but in the past Government officials have largely remained unwilling to discuss the refining issue, as noted by Bloomberg in February 2008.

Questions therefore remain as to how Cambodia will manage reserves that could eventually generate $1.7 billion in annual revenues for the government, according to World Bank estimates.

How much crude will be sold abroad, how much will be refined, how much will be released onto the domestic market and therefore will Cambodia create the right mix to help fuel the national budget and the country’s petrol pumps?

Cambodian-Korean trade on the increase

via CAAI

Friday, 25 March 2011 15:00 May Kunmakara

THE value of bilateral trade between Cambodia and South Korea has risen 38 percent in the first two months of this year, compared to the same period of 2010.

Official figures from Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) showed trade had risen to US$69.05 million in the first two months, up from $50.13 million the year prior. Cambodia’s exports rocketed 65 percent to $10.18 million while Korean imports rose to $58.87 million.

KOTRA’s official said the growth was mainly due to efforts by both governments to boost trade.

“Both governments are trying to strengthen and facilitate the import-export process,” said Gwang-Ho Lee, KOTRA’s general director.

“We have promoted many trade activities,” he added, stating that he will hold an export seminar next month.

Cambodia’s main exports to Korea were crude rubber, agricultural products, apparel and clothing accessories, ores and scrap metal. Korea’s main exports to Cambodia consisted of raw materials for the garment industry, vehicles and tobacco.

Trade between Cambodia-Korea rose more than 29 percent year-on-year in 2010 to $376.442 million, according to KOTRA’s data.

Expat tuk tuk drivers have God on their ride

Siem Reap’s Amish tuk tuk-driving brothers, Ken and John Gingerich.

Us tuk tuk drivers will talk some. The locals really get a laugh out of a white guy driving a tuk tuk

via CAAI

Friday, 25 March 2011 15:01 Michael Sloan

Two Amish guys walk into a bar. Usually that’s a scenario found only in the opening line of jokes by cruise ship comedians, but in this case it happened in Siem Reap last Friday when the two Amish guys in question – Ken Gingerich and his brother John, who recently moved away from their rural home in the US’s Coshocton, Ohio – were interviewed in a Siem Reap bar.

Exceedingly polite, the two brothers refrained from jokes at my expense after it dawned on me that inviting members of a teetotal religious community to a bar, in this case the Warehouse bar, may not have been the best idea.

Apart from their Amish Mennonite background, the brothers are unusual in the way they choose to travel – behind the handlebars of a pair of tuk tuks, the closest thing available to the traditional horse-drawn wagons used in Amish communities in the US.

“We’re called Amish Mennonites, but we’re a different branch to the more traditional Amish communities. We may look similar but we have a different way of doing things,” explained Ken.

For most orthodox Amish, driving any mechanical vehicle at all is prohibited, along with the wearing of shorts, the use of electricity and women exposing their hair. Ken informed me that while Amish Mennonites are expected to dress and behave modestly, their lifestyle isn’t as strict as their more traditional brethren. “I don’t have anything against the traditional Amish, they just hold tight to the tradition and have a different way of doing things.”

Funded by donations from their fellow congregation members at Sugar Creek Church in Ohio, the brothers were sent to Siem Reap to open a local branch of the South East Asia Prayer Centre.

On arrival they found themselves spending so much money renting tuk tuks that they simply decided to buy their own. “Once we started getting into things over here we saw that we can’t always be getting a taxi tuk tuk, so one of the drivers we hired knew guys who wanted to sell their carriages. They’re not brand new, but they’re still in good shape,” Ken said.

The brothers said they paid $1200 each for two used tuks tuks and consider the purchase a bargain. “Back home in the US, you’d get something really trashy for
a price like that.”

Ken’s experience working as a machinist back in Coshocton has come in handy, and his tuk tuk has undergone several engine modifications over the last five months to increase its fuel storage and carrying capacity.

“Now that I can speak Khmer, us tuk tuk drivers will mill together and talk some. The locals really get a laugh out of a white guy driving one.”

But the brothers aren’t the only missionaries in town to use a tuk tuk to preach to the unconverted.

South Korean Jehovah’s Witness Kim Sung Ho also uses a tuk tuk to drive his family around town and attend church services.

Kim said he moved to Siem Reap to “spread the good news in the bible” after meeting several Cambodians in South Korea.

Some news in the bible unfortunately has to do with the not-so-bright future of the planet which, Kim believes, is uncertain given the increasing number of natural disasters, especially the recent earthquake in Japan.

“I believe we are living in the end times. The End of Days will be accompanied by many earthquakes according to the Gospel of Luke, as well as disease and war,” he said.

When asked whether the process will leave enough time to allow this article to be published, Kim replied that while all the signs are there, the exact timetable for the end of the world is still uncertain. “Jesus could not tell us exactly when the world will end, as only God knows the answer.”

Wheels fall off mobile bar

Siem Reap’s mobile bar was a short-lived venture.

Bavarian music has been a huge hit with Asian visitors. They love it

via CAAI

Friday, 25 March 2011 15:01 Nicky McGavin
It was one of those great ideas that captured the imagination of Siem Reap expats – a mobile beer bar that added a touch of colour to the streets.

But no sooner did the mobile bar get rolling, than its wheels fell off. It’s been ordered to shut down, but the owners don’t want to go into details in case they run foul of the authorities again.

The mobile beer bar was the brainchild of Siem Reap locals Daniel Vaeter and Bodo Grunert, who were inspired by similar contraptions at the renowned Munich Oktoberfest.

It then took the lads six months to construct the mobile pub that could take imbibers anywhere they liked in Siem Reap.

Once up and seated in the large, comfy-looking bicycle seats especially installed for “big people”, mobile guests could pedal their way around town as they knocked down draught beers sold by the bar.

Alternatively, if for some reason their legs weren’t working as they should, the power of forward motion could be delegated to a four-wheel drive vehicle that could tow the vessel.

Steering was supposedly managed by a driver who allegedly wouldn’t tuck into the beer en route.

A thatched roof sat over a centralised bar area that was flanked on three sides by seating for 14. Eight of the seats were equipped with pedals, while the other six were for those who might
be feeling the heat.

A special safety measure was realised in the form of beer glass-sized slots in the wooden bar to ensure that drinks weren’t sloshed all over the place.

Perhaps the only truly suspect aspect about the bar on wheels was the onboard entertainment – taped Bavarian music.

Indeed, it was not everybody’s cup of tea or glass of draught, but the owners insist there were those who actually liked it.

“It’s been a huge hit with Asian visitors,” said Vaeter, who is Hungarian-German. “They love it and sang along to all the songs. The Europeans though were a bit more reserved. They didn’t usually sing out loud.”

Watch this space for news of the next mobile venture launched by these enterprising lads.

Water woes

Siem Reap’s water shortage is angering business owners.

via CAAI

Friday, 25 March 2011 15:01 Thik Kaliyann and Michael Sloan

Daily dry season interruptions in Siem Reap’s water supply look set to continue indefinitely, according to Water Supply Authority officials.

Siem Reap Water Supply Authority deputy director Soum Kounthea told 7Days that water cuts lasting from one to three hours each day have been imposed on homes and businesses in a large swathe of downtown Siem Reap due to an increase in consumer demand during the dry season.

“The water shortages were not caused because of mistakes on our part, but are due to weather conditions and the limitations of water production facilities in the province,” Soum Kounthea said.

Supplies from Siem Reap’s main water plant in Teuk Vil village are not sufficient to keep up with demand.

Deputy general director of the Water Supply Authority Chan Seng La said: “In 2012 a new water plant owned by the KTC Korea Company will be up and running and [will be] capable of supplying an extra 17,000 cubic metres of water per day. Until then the Water Supply Authority is exploring ways to supply customers with water from Tonle Sap Lake.”

KTC was given permission by the Cambodian government to construct and operate a water treatment plant six kilometres from Siem Reap town in December 2010. But the privately owned treatment plant, which draws water from the Baray reservoir, will not come online until 2012 at the earliest, providing little comfort to Siem Reap residents and business owners facing ongoing shortages.

X Bar manager Carlo Tarabini said the on-off water supply was frustrating when trying to run a business. “The cuts seem to happen during our busiest hours of operation in peak season. It happens so randomly we’ve had to keep a large bin full of water near the bar and ration it.”

Some bar and restaurant owners have even taken to installing water tanks to maintain supplies to their businesses.

Chan Seng La explained he has recently been contacted by customers unhappy over cuts to their water supply, but is unable to offer much assistance. “Whenever people call about the problem I explain the reasons behind it, and offer advice on what they should do while waterless,” he said. “I tell them to store water while it’s on and use that when the supply is cut.”

Tarabini finds the reliability of the water supply in Siem Reap has failed to improve in recent years, despite a recent price increase. “I wish they’d let people know which areas are affected. You see workers tearing up streets and pipes but there’s no notice about anything.”

A meeting held two months ago between business owners and Siem Reap’s governor Sou Phirin at the Pacific Hotel discussed the issue of water reliability, which Miss Wong bar owner Dean Williams sees as an important step in resolving the problem.

“For the previous two years the problem had existed but we’d received no information from authorities. This was the first time the issue was addressed in a public forum and it was a really positive step.”

Despite still facing ongoing problems with water reliability, Williams said maintenance carried out on the town’s water infrastructure is having a gradual effect. “The problem is still on and off but it appears to be getting better. The pipes in our street were recently torn up and replaced and I’ve noticed an increase in water pressure as a result.”

Man About Town: 25 Mar 2011

via CAAI

Friday, 25 March 2011 15:01 Peter Olszewski

Two luminaries of the heady international hospitality industry were to be in town, flexing their wrists in preparedness for signing a memo of understanding tomorrow morning at the Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra Golf and Spa Resort.

The two high-profile signatories were to be Paul Dubrule, the French co-founder of the Accor group which owns the Sofitel hotel chain, and Michel Rochat, the general director
of L’Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne.

The historic memorandum was scheduled to set the agenda for a harmonious and productive working relationship between Siem Reap’s Paul Dubrule Hotel and Tourism School, and L’Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne in Switzerland, one of the world’s leading hotel management institutes.

But late Monday evening, Rochat announced that he had to pull out of the trip due to an emergency crisis at the school in Lausanne.

The all-important cooperation between the two schools will go ahead, and Paul Dubrule School director Gerald Hougardy will fly to Switzerland in a fortnight to oversee the signing of the MOU.

Meanwhile, the inestimable Paul Dubrule himself is in town and ready to head the school’s annual bike rally on Sunday morning.

Dubrule’s attendance at the rally is becoming a tradition and this is certainly fitting seeing that in 2002, at the age of 68, Dubrule travelled just over 15,000 kilometres by bicycle from the French town of Fontainebleau to Siem Reap, partly to attend the grand opening of the school that bears his name.

CAMBODIA and Siem Reap will figure significantly in No Vacancy, one of Asia Pacific’s leading accommodation industry conferences. The first Southeast Asian No Vacancy conference will be held in Bangkok on June 7, the day before the start of Thai Travel Mart.

No Vacancy has been running annually for the past five years in Sydney, Australia and is strongly supported by leading hoteliers, online travel agents, technology suppliers and industry groups.

Founder Martin Kelly told Man About that Cambodia and Siem Reap will be very much on the agenda, and that he is scouting around for Cambodian speakers to feature at the conference.

Interested Siem Reap parties can contact Kelly by emailing

UNSEASONAL but very welcome rain deluged Siem Reap on Monday night, washing away the dust that’s such a problem during the dry season. It also set off a festive carnival-like atmosphere along the banks of the Siem Reap River early on Tuesday morning as hundreds of Khmer netted thousands of fish that were a bounty from the unexpected rain. In turn, large crowds gathered by the riverbanks to watch the fishing folk haul in their catches of small, slithering silver fish.

Included in the catch were silver-painted bananas that mysteriously appeared in the river over the weekend and which, before being identified, prompted an alarm that there had been a damaging fish kill.
Man About was on the river at dawn on Sunday morning to investigate, only to discover that what appeared to be a large patch of decidedly

dead floating fish was actually the aforementioned silver-painted bananas.

And speaking of rains, rivers and water, its good to see on these pages that this year, Siem Reap authorities have been very open in discussing why the town is yet again plagued with cuts to the water supply.

While we all appreciate the explanations, and now realise that the cuts are obviously planned beforehand, the plea to the authorities is to inform the public in advance of water cuts.

CONVICTED and jailed Siem Reap pedophile Nick Griffin has been the subject of close scrutiny in the Welsh media, where accusations have been made that he raped a boy while working in Wales.

This allegation was reported this week in Wales on Sunday, which said that during his time in Wales, Griffin was a fisheries manager and Scout leader in Llangollen, and that police are in investigating the claims that he allegedly raped a boy while running the Scout group in North Wales.

According to Wales on Sunday, North Wales Police told the publication that they took the allegations “very seriously”.

Charity volunteers who worked with Griffin in Siem Reap also told Wales on Sunday “of the disturbing behaviour they witnessed”.

The paper also quoted Sally Sayer, regional director of Volunteer Project Overseas, who lives in Siem Reap.

The publication reported that she said she had become concerned about 53-year-old Griffin and the orphanage more than a year ago.

The paper quoted her saying: “I didn’t have much to do with him at the start, but then in January last year I took over as project manager and I had a huge amount more to do with him.

“It was then that I started to look at things and think things were a bit odd.”

Rob Hamill pursues brother's torturer

ROB HAMILL: Wants to meet war criminal

via CAAI

Last updated 13:08 25/03/2011

A continuing desire for a face-to-face meeting with the man responsible for the killing of his brother will send Rob Hamill back to Cambodia today to attend an appeal hearing for a Khmer Rouge war criminal.

Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, was sentenced to 35 years in prison by a United Nations-backed tribunal in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, last July, after he had pleaded guilty to crimes against humanity, war crimes, premeditated murder and torture.

Duch, 67, confessed to the torture of more than 12,000 people – among them Mr Hamill's brother, Kerry, in 1978 – before they were executed during his tenure as chief of the notorious S-21 prison in Phnom Penh, Cambodia's capital. Duch's defence lawyers claim he was not the most responsible senior official at S-21.

The prosecution has also appealed the length of Duch's sentence, which they want extended to 45 years.

Mr Hamill, who lives in Te Pahu, addressed the war criminal in court in Phnom Penh last year, but now wants an opportunity to speak to him "face-to-face".

Emails to Duch's defence team have not received replies but Mr Hamill remains resolute, saying he would attempt to speak with Duch's representatives again while in Phnom Penh.

"There's more to it than him just agreeing to meet."

Mr Hamill believes Duch had an opportunity to "walk away" from S-21 or stop what was happening at the infamous torture camp.

"He didn't do a Schindler's List when he could have," Mr Hamill said.

"He could've got out of there and helped people ... but he didn't."

Mr Hamill expects it "could take months" before a new sentence is confirmed or denied.

The appeal begins on Monday and will last four days.

Mr Hamill is currently making the final edits to a documentary about his brother and his search for justice for Kerry's death.

Entitled Brother Number One, it is expected to be released later this year.

Women in Garment Factories Help Cambodia Out of Poverty

via CAAI

By Marwaan Macan-Markar

PHNOM PENH, Mar 25, 2011 (IPS) - Cambodia’s rise out of poverty continues to depend on the nimble fingers of young women like Khiev Chren.

She has spent the last three years in a garment factory on the outskirts of this capital city, churning out clothing for international name brands such as Levis, Dockers and GAP. "This is my first job and I need the money to help my family in the province," the 23-year-old said, barely pausing as her fingers guided the left leg of a white trouser under the needle of her electric sewing machine.

Around her rose a hum from nearly 2,000 sewing machines, behind which sat women stitching garments from jeans to shirts, in a well-lit cavernous hall. "This is a more secure job than working in the rice fields back home," Chren admitted, alluding to the hardship of life in her rural-rice-growing province of Takeo, south of Phnom Penh.

The increasing dependence on women like Chren for this Southeast Asian country’s journey out of poverty was brought home Monday by the World Bank’s ‘East Asia and Pacific Economic Update’. "Garment exports registered a 24 percent growth in 2010 after shrinking 20 percent during the 2009 [global financial] crisis," the international financial institute revealed of the main driver of Cambodia’s fledgling export economy.

"Two of Cambodia’s growth drivers rebounded faster than expected," the Bank added in its assessment of the country’s economy, referring to the garment and footwear sectors. "As a result, some 55,300 new jobs have been created by both industries in 2010, recovering most of the jobs lost during the 2009 economic downturn."

Women in this country of 14 million have benefited from this windfall in new jobs, amplifying the trend in the garment sector from the time it set its roots in the mid-1990s helping Cambodia recover from decades of conflict, genocide and occupation - which ended with the 1991 Paris peace accords - and extreme poverty. Today, the face of the 320,000 workers in the country’s 270 garment factories remains a feminine one.

The garment factories, which serve as a base for this country’s limited industrial sector, are also pivotal as an employment magnet for the bulging youth population. Nearly 35 percent of the population is between 10 and 24 years old, earning this country the distinction of having the biggest youth population in Southeast Asia, according to U.N. estimates.

It is the labour of the female workforce, in fact, that has contributed to over 70 percent of export earnings from garment sales to markets in the United States and Europe. In 2008, before the global financial crisis, exports earned 4.07 billion U.S. dollars, dropping to 3.5 billion U.S. dollars in 2009 following the crisis - which saw U.S. markets shrink. But by last year, the export market, led by garments, had rebounded, with earning inching close to 4.6 billion U.S. dollars.

And the monthly income of the female labour-force - above 90 U.S. dollars - has been a significant element in helping alleviate poverty in a country still ranked among the world’s 48 Least Developed Countries (LDCs).

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) estimates that Cambodia, which has a third of its population living below the poverty line, will fall short of meeting a 2015 global millennium development goal (MDG) of slashing by half the number people who had been living on less than one dollar a day in 1990.

In rural Cambodia, where close to 85 percent of the population live, the number of people living below the poverty line was as high as 43 percent of the population in 1994, but had dropped to 34.79 percent prior to the 2009 financial crisis. It is a drop for which the garment sector earns kudos.

"The garment factories have been an equaliser in alleviating poverty in rural Cambodia," says Tumo Poutiainen, chief technical advisor of Better Factories Cambodia, a special initiative to ensure high labour standards involving the International Labour Organisation (ILO). "Women come to work in the garment factories not just for themselves, but to send money home."

The remittances that the 350,000 garments factory workers sent home prior to the crisis helped two million people in rural areas, ILO estimates reveal, not counting the additional 150,000 jobs the factories spawned on the fringes of Phnom Penh creating a "secondary economy".

Better Factories Cambodia has been hailed by labour rights activists as an answer to sweatshops, a still persistent reality in countries that Cambodia is competing with to produce cheaper garments, such as Bangladesh. Such economic rivalry, which also involves garment factories in Vietnam, has intensified following the end of the multi-fibre agreement, an international quota system for garments, at the beginning of 2005.

Investors from South Korea and Malaysia are leaders in the flow of foreign direct investment (FDI) to this country, much of it helping to bolster the garment and the telecommunications sectors. The garment industry grew at a rate of 44 percent annually between 1997 and 2007, helping the economy hit an impressive 8.2 percent annual average growth rate during that decade.

But rural women in their early 20s who have been drawn to the city to stitch their way out of poverty have also had to pay a price. The freedom, liberty and economic independence they have displayed in their new surroundings have been rebuked by residents of Phnom Penh - including charges of "immorality".

"City residents look down on the garment factory workers. They are being accused of destroying the culture of Cambodian women," says Ly Phearak, coordinator of the Workers’ Information Centre, a non-governmental organisation championing the cause of garment workers. "They expect the women from the village to live according to their traditional and conservative rules, and not feel empowered, more confident." Ignored, as a result, is the life of vulnerability these single women face in a new environment. "These workers need social protection and care to grapple with issues like nutrition, labour rights, and HIV," asserts Chrek Sophea, a former garment factory worker. "Few want to say thank you to these workers for helping Cambodia’s economy improve."

Cambodia and Thailand agree to UNESCO meeting over damaged

via CAAI

Thailand News.Net
Thursday 24th March, 2011

Representatives of Cambodia and Thailand have agreed to a United Nations-sponsored meeting to discuss ways to safeguard the Preah Vihear Temple, a World Heritage List site that was damaged during border clashes between the South-East Asian neighbours earlier this year.The two sides will meet at the Paris headquarters of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on 25 May, the agency reported this week.The agreement follows a recent mission to Cambodia and Thailand by Koi;chiro Matsuura, UNESCO's Special Envoy for Preah Vihear, who met with the prime ministers of the two nations and other senior officials.UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said in a statement that the main aim of the discussions on 25 May will be "further dialogue on the effective conservation of Preah Vihear." An 11th-century Hindu temple, Preah Vihear was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2008 in recognition of its outstanding universal value. Considered an outstanding example of Khmer architecture, it consists of a complex of sanctuaries linked by pavements and staircases on an 800-metre-long axis.Ms. Bokova said she has also been briefing both Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on the latest developments.

The Cambodian Student Society of California State University, Long Beach, has been around a long time. It was started in 1959 by a group of Cambodian exchange students.

via CAAI

Indonesia awaits call to monitor flashpoint

Published: 25/03/2011
Newspaper section: News

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations' plan to send Indonesian military observers to the disputed Thai-Cambodia border has stalled as it awaits approval from Bangkok and Phnom Penh, according to Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Kusuma Habir.

At the Asean meeting in Jakarta last month, Thailand and Cambodia agreed to accept Indonesian observers to the flashpoint section of the border where heavy fighting erupted in February.

But more than a month later the observer teams remain in Jakarta.

"We're still waiting for further approval from both countries before we can proceed to the area," Ms Habir said.

The observers had not received their operating orders and did not even know where they would be posted or for how long, she added.

"We hope that we will receive their approval as soon as possible," Ms Habir said.

The Indonesian foreign affairs spokeswoman's remarks came after the Thai army asserted earlier this week that Thailand does not need foreign troops to be deployed.

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban yesterday supported the army's stance of opposing Indonesian observers being deployed to the disputed area.

Mr Suthep, who is in charge of national security, said Thailand has to try its best to protect its sovereignty.

But Mr Suthep said the demand that foreign soldiers should not be deployed to the disputed area before the Joint Border Committee (JBC) talks was not the right move.

The talks could be held anywhere and Indonesia, as a third country, could send representatives to observe the meeting.

Earlier, army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha said he wanted the JBC to take place without the participation of a third country. Moreover, the JBC meeting should be held either in Cambodia or Thailand.

Mr Suthep added there has been no progress in the JBC talks because parliament has not improved the minutes of earlier JBC meetings.

The government will ask the parliament to approve the JBC minutes today, said the deputy prime minister.

"If our parliament doesn't approve the minutes, Cambodia might feel another JBC meeting is useless," said Mr Suthep.

"However, we want the discussion on border demarcation between the two countries to continue."

Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon also reaffirmed yesterday that the next General Border Committee (GBC) meeting must be between Thailand and Cambodia only, without a third party present.

Gen Prawit said he had personally discussed the matter with Cambodian Defence Minister Tea Banh.

Moreover, the Thai Defence Ministry has sent a letter to the Cambodian counterpart, asking it to call a GBC meeting as soon as possible so that the military leaders of the two countries could discuss border problems together.

The GBC is co-chaired by the defence ministers of Thailand and Cambodia. It is separated from the JBC under the Foreign Ministry.

He said Cambodia was supposed to host the eighth GBC meeting this year. But if Cambodia was not ready, Thailand would be willing to host it.

At the next GBC meeting the two sides would discuss problems in implementing agreements over the disputed border area, security along the border, illegal labour, drug smuggling and other crime, he said.

Col Thanathip Sawangsaeng, the defence spokesman, said Gen Prawit told the Defence Council meeting yesterday that the GBC must be held in either Thailand or Cambodia only.

"However, there would be no problems if Indonesia wants to come as a listener," he quoted Gen Prawit as saying.

The People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) yesterday distributed about 100,000 leaflets to people in downtown Bangkok to inform them of what it said were the negative consequences if parliament endorses the three JBC minutes.

The PAD earlier planned to rally in front of parliament today when the House of Representatives reviews the JBC minutes but it has changed its mind.

Long Beach Student Show Seeks To Preserve Culture

Cheang Sophinarath
Longbeach, California Thursday, 24 March 2011

via CAAI

Photo: Courtesy of Cheang Sophinarath
Students at a rehearsal, about a Cambodian family living in Long Beach, California.

“I feel very happy to see Cambodian children still loving the traditions.”

The Cambodian Student Society of California State University, Long Beach, has been around a long time. It was started in 1959 by a group of Cambodian exchange students.

Last week, the society hosted its 27th annual cultural show, in an effort to continue Cambodia’s cultural traditions and strengthen friendships within the communities of Long Beach, which is home to one of the most diverse populations in the US.

The show included the traditional dance styles of Chai Yam, Chuon Por, and Apsara, along with skits that ranged from the Angkorean era and modern Cambodian life in America.

Organizers said the show was made possible by a lot of planning, and a lot of help.

“With our members, we have planned since October,” said Chhou Ou, vice president of the student association. “And since ware are a community in Long Beach, we got a lot of help, like the dance troops from the community. We got a lot of help from the community.”

The show, like the association, was a reflection of the diversity in the community. The Cambodian Student Association has members from different ethic groups, including Vietnamese and Filipinos. Many of its members were born in the US, but others come from Cambodia and beyond.

Chhou Ou, for example, was born in Phnom Penh, but she immigrated to America with her parents when she was three years old. She’s been a member of the student association for the past four years.

“We welcome anyone and we welcome everyone,” she said.

Audi Fuhr, 22, is Hungarian and Ethiopian, but he teaches Chai Yam dance and focuses on Southeast Asia for his International Studies degree.

“I started getting really interested in Cambodian, Southeast Asian, culture,” he said. “And I have become so close [to it]. All my close friends, I’ve just become so close with everyone. And I’ve seen so many interesting things, I just stay around.”

The student society and last week’s show are supported by Cambodians in the Long Beach community, as well.

“I feel very happy to see Cambodian children still loving the traditions,” said Dalin Chhay, 43, whose son was one of the performers. “My son is a Krab dancer. I asked him if he wanted to join the Cambodian club, and he liked it.”

“I really support them,” said Bopha Kanharouth, who was in the audience for the show. “I never thought that they were born here, but they could speak and perform greatly in the dance and the skits. I was so excited because I didn’t expect them to do well like this.”

Esteban Lazo Meets with Top Cambodian Government Official

via CAAI

Havana, Cuba, Mar 24.- Esteban Lazo, Vice-president of the Cuban Council of State, met on Wednesday with Hor Namhong, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Cambodia, now on an official visit to Cuba.

According to a report by the National Television Newscast, the two leaders tackled several issues on the international agenda and the current situation of bilateral relations.

Likewise, Lazo -also a Politburo member- and the distinguished visitor reiterated their willingness to continue strengthening the bonds existing between Cambodia and Cuba.

Also participating in the meeting were Long Visalo, Secretary of State of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, and Hay Sonnarin, Cambodian ambassador to Havana, among others, while the Cuban party was also represented by First Deputy Foreign Minister Marcelino Medina, as well as by other officials of the island’s Foreign Ministry. (acn).

At US University, a Writer Seeks His Own Path

Poch Reasey, VOA Khmer
Washington, DC Thursday, 24 March 2011

via CAAI

Photo: by Im Sothearith
Kho Tararith, is currently enrolled in a one-year fellowship at Brown University, in Providence, R.I.

“I don’t belong to any political party, because if I did, I would lose my independence.”

Kho Tararith used to be a moto taxi driver and construction worker in Phnom Penh. Today, he’s a writer enrolled with the prestigious literary program at Brown University, in Providence, R.I.

Kho Tararith, who is participating in a one-year fellowship at the university, says he loves to write short stories and poems that examine social issues in Cambodia. He has his own way of doing things.

“I’ve had to pave the way for myself,” he told VOA Khmer. “That’s what I’m doing. I have my own style, and I write about social issues that I see. I’m an independent writer.”

Kho Tararith said he wants to maintain his independence, while at the same time promoting Khmer-language literature.

“I don’t belong to any political party, because if I did, I would lose my independence,” he said. “I’d have to write what the party boss wanted me to write.”

When his year is finished, he said, he wants to find another scholarship to continue his studies in the US. After that, he said he hopes to return to Cambodia to help young writers develop their craft.