Saturday, 31 May 2008

Cambodia Closes Radio Station

AFP PHOTO/Timothy A. CLARY
Samdech Hun Sen, Prime Minister of Cambodia, speaks during the 2005 World Summit 15 September 2005 at the 60th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.


2008-05-30
Radio Free Asia

Weeks ahead of Cambodia's general election, Prime Minister Hun Sen's government forces the closure of an independent radio station that gave airtime to the opposition.

PHNOM PENH—An independent radio station that gave airtime to Cambodia’s political opposition has been prevented from broadcasting ahead of the country’s general election in July.

“We see a lot of people, including police, waiting outside the perimeter fence who came to read a letter suspending the broadcasts of our radio station,” staff member Kim Somaly said, describing the atmosphere among staff members as “shocked.”

The station is headquartered in the northern city of Siem Reap but began broadcasting from the northeastern rural town of Kratie on May 15. It rebroadcast programming for Radio Voice of Democracy, produced by the Phnom Penh-based non-government Cambodian Center for Independent Media.

But it was closed after the Ministry of Information issued an announcement terminating its broadcasting license on May 29.A lone voiceVann Samnang, representative of the Norodom Ranariddh Party in Kratie, said the radio was alone in informing listeners about the political platforms of opposition parties, whose number has been slashed from 23 to 11 since the general election of 2003.

He called on the government to reinstate the broadcaster’s license. “We don’t know what radio station we can go to besides Angkor Ratha radio station. We want the radio station to resume broadcasts,” he said.

“The closure has shocked people, because this means the government can close down even an entire radio station as they wish,” Vann Samnang said. “Everything else will be up to the ruling party now, too.”

“According to my knowledge, many people are concerned about this and are requesting that Angkor Ratha radio resume its usual broadcasts.”Station showed ‘disrespect’Cambodian Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said the station had showed “disrepect” for the ministry in opening its Kratie branch without seeking a new license.

“In the license we issued, we told him that if he sells broadcast hours he must come to obtain permission from the Ministry of Information,” Khieu Kanharith said, in an apparent reference to the station’s rebroadcasting agreements.

“There is no need for this radio to exist as we already permitted him to have one station in Siem Reap. [The owner] shows disrespect for the ministry by saying he doesn't need to request further permission,” he said.

Residents object

But residents appeared to back up Vann Samnang’s call, voicing concerns about the lack of balanced media coverage and its effect on the democratic process.

“Restrictions on freedom of the press are not good for a democratic society because in a democratic society, the press must reflect the whole of society,” a teacher from Preah Kosomak High School said.

“To develop the nation, there must be constructive criticism. The government is violating freedom of the press by shutting down Angkor Rathar Radio...just because it broadcast about other political parties,” he said, adding that he also listened to indepedent broadcaster Beehive Radio.

Former listeners said the radio’s programs dealt with seldom-reported issues such as land grabs and their legality, which they said were crucial if ordinary people were to understand their rights.

A resident of Sre Sbov village, Sambo district, said the radio had poor reception, but that he was sorry that the station had been closed.

“It benefited the people. It raised people’s awareness, and helped them to realize their right to vote. And it’s also about people’s day-to-day lives,” he said.

A spokesman for the Kbal Damrey Commune said he had enjoyed listening to the station’s call-in show, adding that local people regretted the closure. He called for the station’s reinstatement.

“People said that they want to hear the voices of both sides. So please re-open the radio station,” he added.

Cambodian rights activists say the country’s media has an inherent political bias, with all television stations and most radio stations owned by people close to the ruling Cambodian People’s Party of Prime Minister Hun Sen.Rights groups raise concernsA recent report by Licadho, a human rights organization, said Cambodia’s broadcasters relied heavily on their media outlets to win political advantage with the ruling elite.The head of the Cambodian Committee for Free and Fair Elections has said the country hadn't yet achieved international standards for free and fair elections.

In a related matter, New York-based Human Rights Watch on May 23 called on the Cambodian government to lift what it called a “shameless” ban on copies of the Burma Daily, a new English-language insert in the Cambodia Daily newspaper.

The Burma Daily was launched May 16 as an insert in the Cambodia Daily and carried mainly wire service reports about Burma and Cyclone Nargis, which devastated Burma on May 2-3.With the publication of its second edition on May 19, the Cambodian Ministry of Information illegally ordered police to remove copies of the Burma Daily from newsstands.

On May 21, Information Minister Khieu Kanharith threatened to file a legal complaint against the Cambodia Daily for launching the Burma Daily without obtaining government permission.

Cambodia’s 1995 Press Law requires new publications to submit names and addresses of their editor and printing house to the Ministry of Information and authorizes the government to ban, suspend, or confiscate publications deemed to violate “national security and political stability.”

Original reporting by Sam Borin, Or Phearith, and Mayarith for RFA’s Khmer service. Director: Kem Sos. Executive producer: Susan Lavery. Written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie and edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.

Asia's rice crisis easing

Amid expectations of a record harvest, prices decline. Cambodia lifted its export ban this week.

By David Montero
Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
May 31, 2008

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia - Asia's rice crisis, which has shaken governments and fomented social unrest, could be easing, as regional exporters announce bumper harvests and consider lifting export bans, developments that could inject badly need stocks back into world markets.

In an announcement that garnered praise around the region, Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Tuesday that Cambodia would lift an export ban imposed in March and sell 1.6 million metric tons of rice held in its stocks after determining that it had enough rice to meet the country's demand.

The move by Cambodia – the first exporting country to lift its ban – signals that, thanks to good weather forecasts, bountiful harvests are on the horizon, experts say.

"We expect this year to be a very good harvest," says Ny Lyheng, managing director of the Federation of Cambodian Rice Millers Association in Phnom Pehn, the capital. Cambodia is expecting to harvest 6.8 million metric tons, up from 6.7 million metric tons last year.

Rice, the staple diet of half the world's population, has increased in price by 76 percent in Asia and many other parts of the world since December, a result of shortage concerns and regional export bans. But experts have been counseling that, as long as harvests do well this year in Asia – where three-quarters of exportable rice is grown – the crisis will ease.

That seems to be happening. Authorities in Vietnam – the world's second-largest producer - say they expect to be able to export 4.3 million metric tons. As a result, an export ban imposed in March is likely to be lifted by July, according to Bloomberg.

And Pakistan, the world's fifth-largest exporter, announced on May 16th that it has enough rice to meet domestic demand and would sell 1 million metric tons overseas.

"The markets needed some positive signs, and this is one of them," says Duncan Macintosh, spokesman for the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines, referring to Cambodia's announcement. "The harvest has just gotten under way and there's a lot of rice reaching markets in Asia."

The developments come days after the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) announced that, despite jitters over tight supplies, the world's output of milled rice would actually reach record levels this year, easing concerns of global shortages.

"World paddy production 2008 could grow by about 2.3 percent, reaching a new record level of 666 million tonnes, according to our preliminary forecasts," an FAO statement says, but warns that rice prices will remain high for now pending the harvesting of this year's rice crops.

The announcements have helped drive down prices of rice by 28 percent on the Chicago Board of Trade, the lowest in 10 weeks, Bloomberg News reported.

Rice prices have skyrocketed because of a confluence of global trends, including soaring gasoline prices (needed to produce and transport rice), and droughts in Australia and Vietnam, which have undercut stocks.

But they've also risen because exporters like Vietnam and Cambodia, seeking to ensure domestic supplies and bring down inflation, imposed strict bans on their exports at a time when those exports were needed most. That meant that less rice was available on global markets, which induced more panic, pushing prices up even further.

Not that all Asian suppliers have imposed bans: Thailand, the world's largest rice exporter, has continued selling rice, as has Pakistan, which never imposed a ban on rice exports because rice is not a staple in that country – wheat is.

Further driving up prices are the huge rice demands of the Philippines, the world's largest rice importer. The country, which is expecting a shortfall of rice supplies this year, has been struggling to fill tenders for up to 2.7 million tons of imports. Last week, Thailand pledged to offer the Philippines negotiable prices, while Japan agreed to sell it 200,000 tons.

Analysts warned that while the crisis may have eased for the moment, rice supplies remain a long-term challenge for the developing world.

Mr. Macintosh, in Japan to attend the Tokyo International Conference on African Development, said rice topped the list of many African leaders' concerns.

"While the crisis has eased, anyone who has any doubts that the problem remains just has to look at Africa ," he says. "It still imports about half its rice, and it has the fastest growing demand."

Cambodia to send 139 mine sweeping soldiers to Sudan under UN mission

www.chinaview.cn
2008-05-30

PHNOM PENH, May 30 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia will send 139 soldiers to clean mines in Sudan under the UN mission, Cambodian National Defense Minister Tea Banh announced here on Friday.

"We will send 15 of them firstly on June 2 and the rest on June10 according to the schedule," Tea Banh told the national conference of the government's rectangular policy.

"Our K-315 group will return from Sudan on June 8," he said, adding that the new group of soldiers will replace them.

Cambodia has already sent two groups of mine sweeping soldiers to Sudan under UN humanitarian mission and each group had over 130soldiers, he said.

Editor: Mu Xuequan

Handicap International Belgium Provided 215 GPS Receivers to the Commissioner General of the National Police

Posted on 30 May 2008.
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 562

“Phnom Penh: On the morning of 29 May 2008, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed by H.E Ouk Kim Lek and Mr. Bruno Leclercq, the Country Director of Handicap International Belgium for Cambodia, according to which 215 GPS receivers [satellite supported Global Positioning Systems] and other emergency equipment for road traffic safety were provided by Handicap International Belgium to the National Police at the Ministry of Interior.

“The Deputy Director of the National Police, H.E. Ouk Kim Lek, said that the aid now provided by Handicap International Belgium to the National Police is most important, because it is urgently needed by Cambodian people to reduce traffic accidents which are continually increasing.

“His Excellency continued, ‘Cambodia is developing, and at the same time, also traffic accidents increase. The aid provided today will contribute a lot to reduce traffic accidents in the future. Now, we are improving the traffic police to be much better than before to help reduce traffic accidents.’

“Mr. Bruno Leclercq stated that the equipment delivered will contribute to reduce traffic accidents. It is observed that traffic accidents increase in Cambodia, and he hopes that the number will decline after the new traffic law have been implemented.

“The manager of the Cambodia Road Traffic Accident and Victim Information System of Handicap International Belgium, Mr. Sem Panhavuth, said that the Memorandum of Understanding covers approximately US$100,000 for a period of two years from 2008 to 2009, which includes the 215 emergency GPS receivers, the training for traffic police countrywide on how to use the GPS receivers, and the training courses in emergency life saving skills for traffic police so that they can help traffic accident victims before they are referred to hospitals.

“Mr. Sem Panhavuth went on to say that these GPS receivers are used for road traffic safety work to find and to identify the locations where traffic accidents occur very often on some important roads. The locations which are noted as places that often have traffic accidents will be changed to avoid hazards and will be marked with warning signs to lessen traffic accidents.
“It should be known that during the period of the first four months of 2008, there were 2,249 accidents which caused 560 deaths, injured seriously 1,792 people, and injured 2,088 people lightly. The accidents which had happened involved 217 heavy trucks, 755 cars, and 186 other vehicles, 217 pedestrians, and 2,262 motorbikes. As for 2007, there were 9,449 accidents in which 1,545 people died, 7,150 people were badly injured, and 17,655 people were lightly injured.”

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.16, #4602, 30.5.2008

City home to first U.S. Cambodian Girl Scout troop

By Melissa Dribben
Inquirer Staff Writer

At the corner of Sixth and Ritner Streets in South Philadelphia is a construction site. You have to walk around a chain-link fence to reach the front yard, which is filled with rubble and a couple of hulking Asian dragon statues, giving you the distinct impression that whatever is going to happen here won't happen for quite a while.

But then, you enter the building at the south end of the lot. This is the Bra Buddha Ransi temple. And inside, you witness a subtle but profound transformation in the city's character, the neighborhood's identity, and the lives of seven girls.

Gathered in a circle on Oriental rugs in the sanctuary is Girl Scout Troop 971, the first, and so far only, troop in the United States organized exclusively for girls of Cambodian heritage.

Part of the troop's mission is to help the girls integrate their dual cultures "so that they're not too Americanized and not too Asianized," says Sophea Siv, whose two daughters, Emily, 15, and Sara, 13, were among the first to join.

Siv grew up pinched in the seam between two cultures.

Her family fled to Thailand from Cambodia in 1975 during the brutal Pol Pot regime and eventually settled in South Jersey. Because they were sponsored by local churches, Siv and her six siblings attended Christian services. But at home, they were Buddhist.

At school, Siv spoke English; at home, her native Khmer. Although she seemed like a regular teenager when out with her friends, at home she never dared challenge her mother.

"Girls must be very obedient," she says. "Very obedient. My mother doesn't give you dinner if you wear shoes or speak English."

Siv has ricocheted between both cultures most of her life. She studied mechanical engineering at the College of New Jersey and became a teacher in New Jersey public schools. But at 21, while her friends were all dating, she agreed to an arranged marriage to a Cambodian man she barely knew.

"I had one wish in life. Whoever I marry, I want him to be Cambodian, like my father." Her father was "eliminated" by the Khmer Rouge.

Now 38, Siv says she is still conflicted about her identity. With the help of the Girl Scouts, she hopes her daughters will not face the same struggle.

"It gives them a chance to learn about their culture and get to know other Cambodian kids," she says.

The Cambodian population is now estimated at 20,000 in Philadelphia and its suburbs, says Robert Koch, vice president of the Khmer Buddhist Humanitarian Association.

Koch, Siv's brother-in-law, helped form the Girl Scout troop last fall at a neighborhood peace march.

It was there that he met Ann Meredith.

Meredith, 45, chief executive officer of Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania, didn't come to recruit, but after talking with Koch, she realized there was a need and an interest.

A month later, they founded Troop 971. By January, they had held their first meeting, and by the end of their first cookie sale had raised $1,600.

"The girls who need us most are middle school girls who are at risk in many ways. Self-esteem.

Unhealthy eating. Risky behavior," says Meredith. "I see us as a lifeline." The need, she says, is particularly acute in immigrant populations where teenagers often feel they don't fit in.

The Girl Scouts has long been seen as the s'mores and good-deed-badges preserve of suburban white girls. At its inception in 1912, however, it was intended to serve diverse populations.

In the last few years, Meredith says, the organization has been trying to re-embrace that original intent.

Scouts meet with women prisoners at the Montgomery County Correctional Facility. Leaders have organized activities for girls in Philadelphia homeless shelters.

"We've been working hard," she says, "So that Girl Scouts reach everywhere, urban, rural."
And now, a Cambodian Buddhist temple.

Before their meeting starts, the girls of Troop 971 bow to the saffron-robed monk seated against the wall behind a long, low table. Then, armed with markers, they begin passing around a poster board, adding to lists of activities they were planning for the annual citywide Safe Night Philadelphia on June 6.

Under the heading "Community Service," they have: "1. Clean temple. Clean park. 2. Encourage recycling by making posters. 3. Food drive."

Their fund-raising activities include "Writing name in Khmer." For a small fee, Emily Siv explains, the girls will translate your name into letters from the Khmer alphabet.

The monk begins chanting. He dips a white chrysanthemum into a silver urn, then flicks water from the petals at a woman kneeling before him.

"He's giving her a blessing. One of her children behaves badly all the time," explains Koch.
Part of the reason he organized the troop, he says, is to help keep his own twin 13-year-old daughters, Jasmine and Monique, on the right track.

At the moment, they are trying to arrange a summer camping trip.

"The 26th?" Jasmine proposes.

"I'm taking the SAT program," says Emily.

"How about the first week in July?"

Sara checks the calendar on her cell phone. "July 5?" "I guess July 5 is good," says Emily. "But won't everyone be tired after July 4?"

Her mother watches from the front door. "These kids," she says, "have got it made."

US donates used trucks to Cambodia following restoration of military ties

The Associated Press
Published: May 30, 2008

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: The United States will deliver 31 used trucks to Cambodia, its first direct supply of military hardware there since Washington lifted an embargo three years ago.
The U.S. Embassy said Friday that the 31 GMC cargo trucks — part of a group of 60 the U.S. military has agreed to give to Cambodia — will be handed over at a ceremony Monday.

The U.S. halted military assistance to Cambodia following a 1997 coup in which Hun Sen grabbed full power after ousting his co-premier, Prince Norodom Ranariddh. Hun Sen remains prime minister.

In August 2005, President Bush waived the ban, citing Phnom Penh's agreement to exempt Americans in Cambodia from prosecution by the Netherlands-based International Criminal Court.

Since direct military ties between the two countries were restored in 2006, the U.S. has pledged nearly $3.2 million in military aid to Cambodia, the embassy said in a statement.

It said the 31 trucks are "the first deliverables" under a U.S. program for "assisting Cambodia in its efforts to improve" its border security, mobility and peacekeeping operations.

It added that the U.S. military is spending $413,000 on processing, packaging and shipping all 60 vehicles — "excess defense articles no longer needed by the U.S. armed forces."

Alaska Air National Guard Deliver Medical Supplies to Cambodia First U.S. military aircraft to land at Kampong Chhnang Province airfield since 1975

The airfield at Chhnang Province, Cambodia, is busy with activity as Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, Alaska National Guard and U.S. Air Force members get operations underway for Pacific Angel 2008 here May 24. Operation Pacific Angel is a joint/combined humanitarian assistance operation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Tom Czerwinski)

By Capt Guy Hayes
Alaska National Guard Office of Public Affairs

CAMP DENALI, Alaska - Seventeen Guardsmen from the Alaska Air National Guard at Kulis Air National Guard Base landed in Cambodia May 24 in support of Operation Pacific Angel.

The Guardsmen deployed to support a joint humanitarian assistance operation in the pacific region and were the first members in a U.S. military aircraft to land at Kampong Chhnang Province airfield, Cambodia, since the airfield was built in 1975.

“The Alaska National Guard continues to set the standard of excellence,” said Maj. Gen. Craig E. Campbell, adjutant general of the Alaska National Guard. “As Alaskans, our Guardsmen know first hand the importance of providing relief and assistance to those in need. It’s part of our culture and this mission further demonstrates our forces’ flexibility in accomplishing multiple missions at home and around the world.”

The Guardmembers delivered a 3000-pound pallet of medical supplies to a multi-national team of medical professionals who processed the supplies for movement to clinics in Kampong Chhnang and Kampong Cham Provinces.

Members of the Alaska Air National Guard in support of Operation Pacific Angel are scheduled to return to Alaska June 2.

Sacravatoons : " RFA & Buy Tinh "

Courtesy of Sacravatoon at http://sacrava.blogspot.com/

Sacravatoons : " Ah, Cambodia Daily "

Courtesy of Sacravatoon at http://sacrava.blogspot.com/

Sacravatoons : " We are prepared to Win "

Courtesy of Sacravatoon at http://sacrava.blogspot.com/

Sacravatoons : " Posthumous Honor for Lon Nol & Pol Pot " by N.Xihanouk

Courtesy of Sacravatoon at http://sacrava.blogspot.com/

JOEL BRINKLEY: The case is clear: Burmese leader should face genocide trial

Burmese junta leader Senior Gen. Than Shwe, is seen here in March during a military parade in Rangoon

bnd.com
Thu, May. 29, 2008

Almost 30 years ago, my editor dispatched me to Cambodia to cover the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime and the resulting refugee holocaust. The images of babies with swollen bellies and only a few days left to live, emaciated and lethargic adults dying from typhoid, cholera or worse, have hung with me to this day.

Just now, three decades later, the United Nations and the Cambodian government are staging a genocide tribunal for several surviving Khmer Rouge leaders. Nearly 2 million Cambodians died during the Khmer Rouge reign - most of them from disease and starvation.

One country away, in Burma, more than 1 million survivors of Cyclone Nargis have now gone without any food, medicine, clean water or sanitation services for more than four weeks. Though Burma's military dictators will not allow anyone to see, babies' bellies are beginning to swell, and listless adults are slipping away, victims of cholera, diphtheria or worse. Tens of thousands are likely to die - most of them from disease and starvation.

The fault for all of this lies squarely on Gen. Than Shwe's shoulders. It is past time that the United Nations started planning a genocide tribunal for Shwe, the Burmese leader, and his fellow thugs. The case is clear, the verdict already known.

In Cambodia, prosecutors have had to dig through musty, incomplete records and rely on testimony from feeble, octogenarian witnesses. In Burma, all the evidence prosecutors would need is in the newspapers and on TV. Put together, it displays a callous disregard for human life so stunning that it would likely embarrass Kim Jung il, Robert Mugabe - perhaps even Omar al- Bashir, the president of Sudan. Here's the dossier:

Last Friday, Gen. Shwe promised Ban Ki-moon, the U.N. secretary-general, that he would finally allow aid workers to deliver food and medicine to cyclone victims - three weeks after Cyclone Nargis struck. The next day, Shwe ordered his troops to sweep through the Irrawady Delta and evict cyclone victims from the few buildings that remained standing so they could used as polling places. Then soldiers pushed and prodded hungry and sick Burmese to vote in a sham referendum intended to extend Shwe's time in office. On Sunday, soldiers ordered cyclone victims to dismantle make-shift shelters they had put up near main roads, to escape the floodwaters. The soldiers said they were unsightly.

Meantime, the International Red Cross reported that rivers and ponds in the delta remained clotted with corpses. On Tuesday, UNICEF noted that Burmese children were drinking from these fetid ponds. They had no other source of water. Even before the storm, Save the Children said it had identified 30,000 malnourished children in the affected areas. Many of them, the group said a few days ago, "may already be dying for lack of food."

In Rangoon, meanwhile, when Ban proposed a donors' conference for reconstruction aid, Shwe's government suddenly perked up and said Burma would be delighted to host it. Save our people, no. Give us money - sure!

Representatives from more than 50 countries attended the conference on Sunday. Thein Sein, the Burmese prime minister, told them he would be happy to take their money. As for finally allowing aid workers in, he said, "we will consider allowing them in if they wish to engage in rehabilitation and reconstruction work."

The government's relief operations have come to an end, he insisted. Burma is shifting its focus to rebuilding and reconstruction. So much for Shwe's promise to Ban. So much for 100,000 sick and dying people. In the following days, Burma has admitted only a tiny trickle of additional aid workers.

For weeks, Shwe had refused even to take Ban's phone calls. Finally Ban decided simply to show up. So Shwe ordered his men to set up a Potemkin refugee camp complete with crisp green tents and shiny new cookware. When government officials took Ban there a week later, reporters noticed that cooking oil jars remained sealed, store labels were still affixed to the frying pans.
The New York Times reported that soldiers had used dynamite to rid the streams of unsightly corpses in the areas Ban visited.

Now, a month after the storm, the U.N. estimates that fewer than half of the sick and starving cyclone victims have received even the first dollop of aid, while the generals insist that it's time to give up on the victims and start putting up new buildings.

If the world were a just place, the first building project would be a prison to hold Shwe, and his fellow thugs - after their genocide trial.

'Gangster' monkey shot dead at Cambodian temple

A monkey eats a fruit at the Wat Phnom in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP/Getty Images

Agence France Presse

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia - A violent 20-kilogramme monkey at a temple in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh was shot dead after it attacked visitors, an official said Friday.

The rowdy male macaque was killed on Thursday, because "it had bitten many people and many people said the monkey was a gangster," said Chhim Dina, the deputy of Phnom Penh's Daun Penh district.

Just last week the macaque bit a 60-year-old woman on her head, hands and legs, he said.

"We decided to kill the monkey because it disturbed tourists visiting Wat Phnom Pagoda," he said, adding that authorities are working to capture more dangerous monkeys in the area.

Wat Phnom is crowded with some 200 semi-tame macaques who occasionally cause havoc to nearby homes and hotels, tearing apart tile roofs, destroying laundry and stealing loose items.

Authorities in the past tried to trap unruly monkeys by getting them to eat eggs laced with sleeping pills, but were unsuccessful.

World Vision inspires cycle for charity

CYCLE CHALLENGE: Craig Haythornthwaite of Stanmore Bay is preparing to cycle almost 500km across Cambodia with World Vision.

Stuff.co.nz
North Harbour News
Friday, 30 May 2008

When Craig Haythornthwaite turned 40 recently, he never dreamed he’d soon be cycling through the heartland of Cambodia.

But his milestone birthday was the inspiration he needed to try something different.

Craig, from Stanmore Bay, was reflecting on his life achievements, when World Vision approached him to join a cycling tour through Cambodia in November.

"I talked it over with my family and discussed whether or not I was up to it – then decided to sign up anyway."

He will be joining 20 others cycling from Siem Reap, travelling almost 500km to the southern port of Sihanoukville.

They will stop at the village of Koh Andaet, which is the focus of the trip.

"One of the major issues in Koh Andaet is that the water is high in carbon and cannot be used for bathing or washing, let alone drinking," says Craig.

"People resort to drinking flood water in the fields. This commonly leads to diarrhoea, typhoid and parasitic ingestion. Children are vulnerable to malnourishment and stunted growth as a result."

World Vision hopes to install wells and filtration systems in Koh Andaet, and money raised from this trip will be used to buy a water purifying machine.

"That will benefit the entire Koh Andaet development and secure a source of safe drinking water for over 17,000 people."

Craig says he and his wife have sponsored children with World Vision for many years, but he has never done anything like this before.

"Prior to this challenge, my daily routine was to sit in the car for an hour travelling to work, sit at my desk for eight hours, get back in the car for another hour travelling home, and then sit down on the couch before going to bed.

"Although training for this challenge still means a lot of time on my backside, there is one major difference – I will be preparing myself to cycle close to 500km across the heartland of Cambodia."

He says hearing of the massive need people have for things we take for granted, it’s easy to feel helpless.

"An event such as this though, is a unique way to help make a permanent difference to those who have so little.

"Even though things are tight financially for all of us at present, we are still very fortunate to live in New Zealand. When we turn on the tap, we don’t have to worry about disease-ridden contaminated water."

The group will be visiting the Koh Andaet village development to meet the people who will benefit from the challenge and see first-hand the conditions in which they live.

Craig needs to raise $6000 to complete this challenge.

"If I need to stand outside my local supermarket every weekend selling 6000 sausages I will.

"That seems almost as daunting to me as biking long distances through the Cambodian countryside."

But he won’t let money stop him.

"This is an experience too good to miss – the chance to travel to an exotic country and the inspiring opportunity to help others less fortunate than myself," he says.

"This is not just a stop-gap method of reducing poverty. It will make a profound and live-saving difference for thousands of people and generations to come."

He says he is really excited by this prospect.

"This is a chance for all of us to help make a life-saving change for others less fortunate than ourselves. We onlyget one life to make a difference."

For more information or to sponsor Craig, email cam bodia.craig@gmail.com or phone (09) 631-1407 or visit
www.worldvision.org.nz CharityChallenges.

Indochina countries to be featured as single tourist destination

30/05/2008

VietNamNet Bridge – Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia will be promoted as a single destination for international tourists at an upcoming tourism exhibition in HCMC, said a senior local tourism official.

HCMC Department of Tourism director Dong Thi Kim Vui said city tourism officials came to Laos and Cambodia last week to discuss co-operation in the common promotion scheme.

This is part of the annual International Travel Expo HCMC 2008, or ITE 2008, which is scheduled for September 12 to 14 in the city.

"Like the last fair, we've agreed to promote the three Indochina countries as a single destination," said Vui, who led the HCMC tourism mission to the two neighboring countries.
Like the previous editions, the fourth fair in Phu Tho Exhibition Center in District 11 will feature a tourism exhibition, meetings between travel buyers and sellers, free-show tours and seminars.

La Quoc Khanh, deputy director of the city's tourism department, told the Daily that the city would also host an ASEM (the Asia-Europe Meeting) Tourism Meeting two days before the opening of the fair.

Tourism officials from 39 countries in Asia and Europe will come to HCMC for the September 10 to 11 meeting, and visit ITE 2008.

The fair organizer will also put on ITE Friendship Golf Tournament for fair participants, foreign buyers, and local sellers.

"The special event will help promote the image of ITE worldwide. The seller will have the opportunity to meet these participants for business connection," Khanh said.

He said the organizer this year would invite Myanmar to join the fair as a guest country, aiming to open up ITE to all countries in the Mekong Sub-region.

According to the co-organizer Binet & IIR Exhibitions Pte Ltd, the organizing committee has invited the same number of foreign buyers as last year to join the fair, or around 100 buyers.

The organizer will be inviting around 150 foreign buyers from 25 countries to join the event.

The third annual fair last year attracted 180 local and foreign exhibitors and 101 foreign buyers.

The exhibitors who were travel companies, destination and service providers organized 62 programs to promote destinations and products to both buyers and customers.

In ITE 2007, the tourism ministers of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia inked a joint declaration on tourism cooperation to make the three countries a common destination for international tourists.

(Source: SGT)

Mekong countries call for flood warning system

Radio Australia

Delegates from countries along the lower Mekong River have called for an early warning system for floods in an effort to avoid mass tragedies.

Presenter: Bo Hill

Speakers: Bart Schultz, facilitator of the sixth annual Mekong Flood Forum and professor in land and water development at the UNESCO Institute for Water Education.

SCHULTZ: We are currently at the start of the wet season and flood forecasting is important. Every year there are problems even with casualties and damage. Forecasting and early warning, the issue of course is to reduce it, to try to reduce it in the future years and you see that reduction is taking place over that time but that is a gradual process.

HILL: Currently the Mekong River Commission acts as a forecast centre, and warnings are issued by the government of each member country. How does the message get through to the communities along the Mekong?

SCHULTZ: On a daily basis the forecasts are put on the wesbite of the Mekong River Commission and they are sent by email to the member states and in between is the exchange of data among the centre and the members states, they keep each other very well informed mainly by email.

In some cases it goes better then in other cases because in many of the villages don't have access of course to the internet. But the countries are working very hard but you can imagine that all these things have to be issued at short time so there is a lot of effort going on to improve and of course also the type of messages that you issue may be different for different type of communites. For example by hand phone, by mobile phone you can send for example SMS. Now all these systems are under development nowadays.

HILL: There must be thousands of very remote villages though along the Mekong. How do they get the warning?

SCHULTZ: Of course not but especially those villages which are located nearby roads that is quite ok at the moment, but the remote villages it's not yet ok. It is different in the different countries so some countries are more advanced than the others for example Thailand and Vietnam they are quite well developed, you may say Cambodia and Laos maybe they lag behind compared to the other two countries but they are all working to improve on it.

HILL: Are these floods natural or man-made?

SCHULTZ: Because of deforestation you can get more problem with the flash floods especially. On the other hand, there is also in this region you should realise there is also a relatively high population density and that there is urbanisation going on. But also, for example, in Cambodia flood warning are very important for fisheries and agriculture.

So in fact, in that case, and that is especially in Tonle Sap Lake, that is a large lake in Cambodia, in fact they need the floods for fisheries and agriculture. In parts of the system they really like because during the floods a lot of sediment is coming down and that is basically a natural fertiliser for the agricultural area and the fisheries.

HILL: What is being done to help strengthen the region's forecasting and warning systems?

SCHULTZ: The Mekong River Commission is, at the moment, testing an improved system for issuing the flood forecast and they hope that they can implement it. So they will test it in the coming flood season. Software systems are being improved or replaced and in addition there is a lot of work going on to make better use of satellite images.

Lt. Gov. Cruz Back On Guam After Cambodia Mission

Guam
Written by Phillip Leon Guerrero
Pacific News Center
Guam, Saipan, CNMI, Asia-Pacific

Friday, May 30, 2008

Guam - Lieutenant Governor Mike Cruz is back in the office today, after returning from a military mission in Cambodia.

Cruz, a Commander in the Army National Guard was sent to aid medical and humanitarian efforts in the country. In a press release, the Lt. Governor says he was grateful to be a part of a "humbling experience to help those that need it most."

Cruz was joined by local doctor, Lt. Colonel Chris Perez in bringing their medical expertise to the area of Kampong Chhnang.

Reading Between the Lines: How Politics, Money & Fear Control Cambodia's Media Report 2008

LICADHO

Cambodia's news media is often described as one of the freest in the region, with no official censorship and a "flourishing press".

But if we look beyond just the quantity of newspapers and magazines, and listen to journalists and editors describe their working environment, we find a media closely controlled by politics, money and fear.

Almost all Cambodia's media is aligned to a political party, with the vast majority favoring the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP). The situation varies depending on the media - television is totally owned or controlled by the government or CPP, radio has a few opposition-aligned stations and some important independent voices, while most newspapers act as mouthpieces for one party or another, with the exception of the foreign-language press.

Released in May 2008

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For investors, Cambodia could be the next Vietnam

A young Cambodian work force is gaining the purchasing power to buy goods like motorcycles, which have contributed to thick traffic on the streets of Phnom Penh. (Robert James Elliott/Bloomberg News)
By Erika Kinetz
Published: May 30, 2008

If private equity interest is the bellwether for the hot investments of the future, consider this: At least four new private equity funds, backed by brand-name investors, are aiming to bring $475 million of foreign investment into Cambodia.

"Eventually, Vietnam worked out well," Marc Faber, a fund manager and investment adviser known for his "Gloom, Boom, & Doom Report," said by telephone from Switzerland. "I think the same may happen to Cambodia."

Faber, who is on the boards of two of the new private equity firms in Cambodia - Frontier Investment & Development Partners and Leopard Capital - is not the only one who thinks so.

Jim Rogers, a commodities specialist who founded the profitable Quantum Fund with George Soros in the 1970s, and Robert Ash, former chief executive of AIG Asset Management Services, are also on the board of Frontier.

Heinrich Looser, the retired chief of private banking at Bank Julius Baer in Zurich, and Jim Walker, a former director and chief economist of CLSA Securities, are on the Leopard board as well.


The surge in interest is part of a general turn toward so-called frontier markets as investors seek shelter from the global credit crisis and diminishing returns in developed markets. It is also one more sign that aid-dependent Cambodia, with a gross domestic product of just $8.4 billion last year, could finally be inching out of the shadow of its chaotic past.

For many in the West, Cambodia remains tainted by the communist crackdown after the end of the Indochina wars. Yet China, South Korea and Malaysia have been pouring in investment. In 2006, foreign direct investment totaled $2.6 billion, up from just $340 million in 2004, according to the International Monetary Fund.

A rising segment of Cambodians - a third of whom still live on the equivalent of less than $1 a day - are snapping up Honda Dream motorbikes and KFC chicken drumsticks. Cambodia, which plans to open stock and bond exchanges next year, also has the potential to produce two things the world now craves: more rice and oil.

But take a drive out of the capital, Phnom Penh, where the first skyscrapers are rising in the country, and you return quickly to a landscape of water buffalo and thatch huts, governed by the rhythm of the rains.

That looks like opportunity to Marvin Yeo, who recently quit as a syndicate manager at the Asian Development Bank to co-found Frontier, which manages the Cambodia Investment and Development Fund, with a Singaporean economist, Kim Song Tan. They hope to raise $250 million by the end of the year.

Cambodia, Yeo said, "is where Vietnam was some 8 to 10 years ago." He likes a lot about Cambodia: its location in a fast-growing region, a young and inexpensive work force, rising productivity, a pro-business government, stable politics and strong GDP growth, which peaked at 13.5 percent in 2005 but was expected to mellow to 7 percent or 8 percent in coming years.

Thirty years of an isolating war, he added, have made Cambodia "one of the best investor diversification plays around."

But as Han Kyung Tae, the chief Cambodia representative of Tong Yang Investment, part of the South Korean Tong Yang Group, points out, promise and pretty macroeconomics are one thing; closing good deals on the ground are quite another.

Han has been trying to start an Indochina investment fund for more than a year. He said he had reviewed 30 to 40 business plans, but had yet to close a single deal. Tong Yang has scaled back its venture capital aspirations and now hopes to invest $25 million in a Cambodian information technology company, as part of a Vietnam-Cambodia fund, Han said.

His search, he said, was complicated by lack of transparency in a business culture built around sealed family empires. "It's hard for us to get the information we need to invest," Han said. "It's totally new to them. Some feel offended if I ask for financial information."

Investors also say that the weak legal system, immature accounting standards and corruption in Cambodia remain challenges. An anti-corruption law has been foundering for more than a decade, and Cambodia ranks near the bottom of Transparency International's corruption perceptions index.

Kathleen Ng, the managing director of the Center for Asia Private Equity Research, which is based in Hong Kong, sees private equity interest in Cambodia as largely "spillover" from a still-emerging Vietnam.

A second wave of private equity investment in Vietnam - the Asian financial crisis of 1997 and 1998 obliterated the first - began to crest in 2006, rising to $2.0 billion in 2007, up from $166.5 million in 2005, according to the center.

The Ho Chi Minh stock exchange opened in 2000, and despite some recent trouble with expensive initial public offerings is beginning to build a track record of profitable exits, Ng said.

In December 2007, Vietnam Manufacturing & Export Processing Holdings became the first company based in Vietnam to be listed on the Hong Kong exchange; Merrill Lynch invested $22 million and realized $13.06 million through the sale of a third of its holdings, according to the private equity center.

Texas Pacific Group and Intel Capital, the venture capital arm of Intel, together invested $36.5 million in the Vietnamese Corporation for Financing and Promoting Technologies. Two months after it went public, Texas Pacific, which invested $21.5 million, sold less than a quarter of its holdings, booking a cash return of $22.17 million, according to the center.

"There's a level of confidence but Vietnam still needs to prove itself," Ng said. "You cannot just use a few divestment results to say, 'Hey, a place is doing well."'

She added that it might be too early yet for thriving private-sector equity investment in Cambodia, but that the country was ripe for development-finance institutions.

Proparco, the financing subsidiary of the French Development Agency, is "studying the possibility" of investing $5 million to $15 million in a Cambodia-focused private equity fund, according to Julien Kinic, an investment officer at Proparco. The French firm is already a shareholder in Dragon Capital, a Vietnamese asset management group, and has provided direct financing to several prominent Cambodian businesses, Kinic said. "Our interest in Cambodia is not new," he said. "What is new is the rising of the economy and the strong need for financing."

Douglas Clayton, who founded Leopard Capital last year, said that Leopard's Cambodia Fund had raised $10 million of its $100 million target since its inception in April, mostly from wealthy individuals and private banking institutions. He expects to close on Leopard's first project, a 250-unit condo project in the Cambodian tourist hub of Siem Reap, in the next few weeks.

"Cambodia needs several billion dollars of investment," said Clayton, who used to head the Thailand office of CLSA Securities. "Part of that can be private equity. The challenge will be to build the businesses. Most are early-stage investments. This is building basic industries and services."

Cambodia Emerald, which split off from Leopard in November, also aims to raise $100 million, said Peter Brimble, who directs Emerald with Bradley Gordon, a former corporate lawyer.

The funds are targeting investment in tourism, agribusiness, infrastructure, real estate, manufacturing and financial services, among other sectors.

Of course, what goes up can come tumbling down. Take Vietnam: After rising 500-fold from 2003 through the end of 2007, its stock market fell by nearly half in the first quarter.

Cham Prasidh, Cambodia's minister of commerce, said he was not worried about wading into the increasingly foreboding tides of global capital markets.

"Even if there is a world recession, if you develop the capacity to create an enabling environment for doing business and investment in Cambodia, you will survive," he said.

Besides, he added, Cambodia is ready to ride the waves: "We're surfers."

Friday, 30 May 2008

Funcinpec members bet on own demise

TRACEY SHELTON A quiet Funcinpec headquarters is pictured in Phnom Penh, May 28. Members of the once-influential royalist party are hoping to cash in on their movement’s unpopularity with voters by betting on how few Funcinpec leaders will be elected to parliament in the July elections.

Courtesy of Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sebastian Strangio and Khouth Sophak Chakrya
Friday, 30 May 2008

n the run-up to July’s general elections, Funcinpec supporters are betting on the royalist party’s political demise – quite literally.

One high-ranking party punter has wagered $3,000 that his once-powerful political machine will fail to secure even one parliamentary seat.

His gambling partner, Funcinpec activist Chhun Saron, is giving the party slightly better odds, and stands to win a few thousand dollars even if the royalists lose all but one of their 26 seats in the National Assembly.

“If Funcinpec wins one or more seats in this election, I will win $3,000 from him,” Saron said of his high-profile opponent, who did not want to be named.

“Maybe he’s stupid,” Saron said. “But I am sure I will win. Funcinpec is certainly not the worst party in the election.”

Although unofficial gambling is illegal under Cambodian law, informal wagers among friends and colleagues are becoming a popular activity in the capital’s cafés as the election approaches.

At the Olympic café on Sihanouk Boulevard, friends of all political persuasions meet to discuss politics over coffee and fried noodles, and informal wagers – of either cash or beer – have become a common means of settling disagreements.

Eang Khun, a supporter of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, and a group of friends have bet a group backing the opposition Sam Rainsy Party that the CPP will increase its share of National Assembly seats at the election.

If the CPP wins fewer than its current 73 seats, or the SRP more than 25, Khun’s group pledges to organize and pay for a lavish party for the entire group.

“No side will really lose in this game, because the winners and losers will all celebrate together at the party after the release of the election results,” Khun said.

Chan Pheakdie, who is rooting for the SRP, agrees that the bet is no more than a harmless game among friends.

“Even if we each support different parties, we are still Khmer and we will still remain friends,” he said.

At the Kirirom Café, 65-year-old bookie Phal is offering odds of almost two to one that either the Norodom Ranariddh Party – headed by Funcinpec’s ousted leader Prince Norodom Ranariddh – or civil society activist Kem Sokha’s Human Rights Party will win seats in the National Assembly in July.

“If you bet that the NRP or HRP will win one seat or more, or if you bet that the NRP or HRP will not win any seats, and the result is correct, you win,” he said, noting that the two minor parties had so far attracted little interest from gamblers.

Khan Keomono, chief of the Public Information Bureau at the National Election Committee, said he was not aware of any election-related betting but warned backyard operators that their activities were illegal.

“The Election Law does not allow or disallow betting on the election,” he said. “But these actions are illegal in Cambodia.”

CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap also agreed that such activities were illegal without the approval of the Council of Ministers, adding that he disapproved of party members betting against their own party.

“Anyone who bets that the CPP will lose seats is not a true CPP activist,” he said.

However, Lu Laysreng, first deputy president of Funcinpec, was unsurprised by reports that party rank-and-file were betting on the outcome of the election, and admitted the party was powerless to stop it.

“Our Cambodia is a gambling country,” he told the Post by phone on May 22. “People here will even bet on whether the rain will fall.”

PM warns of more gas price hikes

Courtesy of Phnom Penh Post

Written by Kay Kimsong
Friday, 30 May 2008

Gasoline prices in the capital have topped 5,550 riels ($1.37) a liter and are set to continue rising as record-high fuel costs batter motorists and drive up inflation to near crippling levels.

World oil prices remain above $130 a barrel after reaching highs of $135 in May, and Prime Minister Hun Sen has warned that local pump prices will keep climbing on the back of global fuel costs.

“We have talked recently of the price of crude oil at $133 ... my prediction is that next week it will be $140 and then it will increase up to $200 per barrel ... the price of fuel will not decline,” Hun Sen said May 28.

“Skyrocketing oil prices continue to drive up the costs of Cambodia’s gasoline and food items,” he said, adding that even the anticipated start of oil production in Cambodia would do little to dull the negative effects of global oil prices.

Following the discovery in 2005 of undersea oil and natural gas deposits, the government has banked on vast petroleum reserves to wean the country off of costly fuel imports.

But it is unclear exactly how much oil and gas can actually be recovered, and Hun Sen said, “Even fuel producing nations have had to increase the price of gasoline.”

While motorists are feeling the cost crunch at the pumps, spiking fuel prices have had a ripple effect across all markets, most notably for consumer goods such as cooking gas and food.

According to Hun Sen, food prices have risen nearly 30 percent since 2006, while transportation costs increased by 13.5 percent.

The result has been double-digit inflation that has pushed more Cambodians deeper in poverty as staple items that were once affordable climb out of reach.

Inflation, which was at 10.8 percent at the end of 2007, will also likely stunt the country’s economic growth by as many as two points this year, according to officials.

Gross domestic product growth is expected to slow to 7.5 percent this year, compared with growth of 9.5 percent in 2007, Finance Minister Keat Chhon said on May 22.

He said the government expects to lose $300 million this year in uncollected tax revenue from fuel imports as it struggles to curb rising pump prices and ease inflationary pressures.

“Yes, we are able to control inflation by subsidizing fuel,” Keat Chhon told reporters on May 22.

The government has maintained a flat tax on imported fuel of $309 a ton, saying that raising tariffs to keep pace with world oil prices would result in far higher pump prices.

Economists, however, say that even with a flat tax on imported fuel, Cambodia is largely at the mercy of global economic forces such as fuel prices and the weak US dollar.

“This makes it difficult to bring inflation down,” said Dr Kang Chandararot, of the Cambodia Institute of Development Studies.

(Additional reporting by Meas Sokchea)

Sex, booze and exotic meat put on hold for magic's sake

BRENDAN BRADY Sok Samol, a.k.a. Solo the Magician, abstains at times from some meats, alcohol, cigarettes and sex to preserve his “magical powers” but admits getting married has had an impact on his discipline.
Courtesy of Phnom Penh Post

Written by Mom Kunthear and Brendan Brady
Friday, 30 May 2008

Written by Mom Kunthear and Brendan Brady
Friday, 30 May 2008

A chilly city of the former Soviet Union might not appear a fertile breeding ground for magicians, but Cambodia’s leading illusionist, Solo the Magician, owes his preeminence in the Kingdom’s – admittedly small – magic market to training he received in Kiev, Ukraine. “Solo” is the stage name of 46-year-old Svay Rieng native Sok Samol, which he created by combining the titles of two of his favorite comedians – the German Sacklo and Cambodian Loto. Samol began studying “magic” in 1981 at the Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh when he was 19 years old. But it was only when he found himself in Kiev with a generous stipend and a belly full of cabbage that he had the chance to really hone his magical skills. Now back in Cambodia, Samol and his wife – who is also his on-stage sidekick – run a magic school at their home in Phnom Penh. He casts his spell on the Post’s Mom Kunthear and Brendan Brady.

Why did you decide to study magic?
I thought I had a natural talent for it. I liked watching magic shows on television or at public events. So I decided to study magic at the Royal University of Fine Arts.

How important was Kiev to your career in magic?
I learned so much there. When I came back in 2000 was when I first performed on television and became famous here. Then, I was also working at the Department of Fine Arts at the Ministry of Culture but my salary at the ministry was very low, so I stopped working there and opened a magic school. Kids see me on television and want to perform like Solo. But when they finish the class, they don’t want to perform because they realize they won’t earn a lot of money.

Why “Solo”?
I didn’t want to use my real name because it is difficult to remember. I thought if I had a name like Solo it would be easier to become famous.

How do you prepare for shows?
When I used to perform regularly, I got up at midnight to meditate and I didn’t eat wildlife, drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes or have sex because all these things weaken your magical powers. After I got married, I stopped learning a lot of new magic because I couldn’t stop myself from doing all of these things. Today, before every show I rehearse the whole routine five times in front of the mirror. Nowadays, I learn new tricks from catalogues and DVDs I buy in Singapore. I am now learning a new big trick. When I’ve mastered it, I will perform on Cambodian Television Network and Bayon TV.

Can Cambodian magic become famous?
If more people pay attention to it! I wouldn’t say magic in Cambodia is bad, but because of the war it’s not very popular. A lot of circus performers were killed during the Pol Pot regime. After the Khmer Rouge, there were only five or six professional magicians left in Cambodia and even they stopped performing magic and looked for other jobs. Now there are not many magicians in the country.

What kind of venues do you perform at?
I perform in hotels in Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville and Siem Reap. Sometimes I turn down nightclubs because I have to perform late at night and the audience often gets too drunk to pay attention. I perform on local television a few times each year.

Any famous fans?
I do shows for regular people and for famous and rich people. High-ranking people want me to go to their houses – if it’s an Okhna or an Excellency I don’t go because I’m afraid. Sometimes I don’t realize they’re rich and powerful until I get there, and then it’s too late. Hun Sen has asked me to perform for him several times. I can’t say for sure if he liked the show because I was afraid to ask.

What is the key to ever-lasting fame?
Don’t perform too often. I perform on television two or three times a year. They ask me to perform more, but I know if I show too often, audiences will get tired of me. I know the audiences like my shows because I always go down to the audience after the show and ask them what they think of it. They always say it was great.

If you are angry with someone, do you put a spell on them?
I never use magic when I am angry with someone. I learned magic to make money and to make people laugh. I have never used it in a bad way. I have been asked to teach people magic to use against others, but I would not do it. I promised my teacher not to teach people how to put spells against others. I also don’t teach my sons magic because I’m afraid they might use it the wrong way and create a problem. I can say it will disappear with me when I die.

Police Blotter: 30 May 2008

Courtesy of Phnom Penh Post

Written by The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 30 May 2008

May 17: A gunman and three accomplices fired a hail of bullets into a group of prostitutes who were waiting for clients on Monireth Boulevard near Disco One (formerly known as U2) in Phnom Penh. Srey Lin, 19, was shot through the head and died at the scene. Srey Nu, 27, who was six months pregnant, was shot several times in the abdomen causing her stomach to split open. She died at Preah Ketomealea hospital. The victims had attempted to hide behind flowerpots in front of house 61BCo but were followed by the gunman who shot them at pointblank range. The incident occurred at 2.15am.

May 19: Two unidentified boys, aged 14 and 16, and Mao Sokheng, 18, have been arrested by Chamkarmon district police, after the father of a four-year-old girl accused them of raping his daughter. Police said that Sokheng went to visit relatives who lived next to the victim’s house. The victim’s parents were not at home so he coaxed the two other boys into entering the house with him and told them to embrace the girl. The two boys refused and left the house. Sokheng then carried the girl into another room and raped her. The two boys then returned and, seeing the naked child, fondled her but did not rape her.

May 20: Daun Penh district police arrested 16 youths on drug charges at Mlop Mien guesthouse on Street 242. Police closed the guesthouse on May 21, saying it had become a drug smoking den.

May 20: An armed robber was arrested by Daun Penh military police after he snatched a foreigner’s necklace then escaped with an accomplice. The incident happened in broad daylight on Street 178 south of Wat Koh. Police sources identified the man as Seyha Pich, 20, of Tanguon village, Dangkor disctrict.

May 20: A Kandal province man killed his two children by feeding them poison after his wife left him. Police said Sron Samnang, 30, confessed to killing his sons, one aged two years and the other seven months, in Por Tunle village, Koh Thom district. Samnang told police he continued to feed his sons poison despite them vomiting profusely, until he realized they weren’t dying and decided to strangle them.

May 21: A disabled man was repeatedly chopped with a cleaver by his wife at 8pm in Otaporng village, Bakan district, Pursat province. Police said 46-year-old Phoeung Phal’s head, hands, neck and back were chopped more than 50 times until he looked like he had fish gills. The attacker, Som Sinan, 34, said she was angry with her husband because he accused her of being treacherous and having a new lover. Phal said he bears no malice toward his wife because she came to the hospital in tears to see him.

May 22: A mechanic inserted a high-pressure air hose designed to fill car tires into his four-year-old son’s anus and blew him up. Try Sieng Him said he was “playing” with his son when the incident took place. The child’s stomach became distended and his mother rushed him to hospital. He is now in a stable condition. Police said no action will be taken against the father as the incident was caused by “stupidity.”

May 26: One member of a ten-strong group of men who gang raped a woman in Kandal province has been arrested. The men raped the 29-year-old woman shortly after midnight as she was returning home from a dance party in Prek They village, Saang district. Police said the arrested man, Ra Phearom, 25, told them his nine accomplices “really raped” the victim but he had only raped her once.

May 26: Phnom Penh municipal police publicly paraded three recently arrested robbers who achieved notoriety as members of “the AK-47 robbery gang.” Police identified the ringleader as Chhim Sophal, 33, and his two accomplices as Nop Bunthoeun, 45, and Seng Kleung, 35. Police are still hunting five more members of the gang that has terrorized many provinces and towns, carrying out over 30 robberies in Phnom Penh alone.

Mass support for nation's path: survey

Courtesy of Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sebastian Strangio
Friday, 30 May 2008

Nearly four out of five Cambodians think the country is moving in the right direction, a survey by the US-based International Republican Institute has found.

The poll, released May 27 and conducted between January 27 and February 26, found that 77 percent of Cambodians were upbeat about the country’s development, compared to 20 percent who thought the country was headed “in the wrong direction.”

Of those who thought the country was moving in the right direction, 77 percent listed the construction of roads as a positive aspect, followed by 63 percent approval rating for hospitals.

Inflation (32 percent) and corruption (30 percent) drew the greatest responses as negatives.

Government spokesman Khieu Khanarith said the positive poll results “show that the government is going in the right direction.”

But Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, said the government couldn’t claim sole credit.

“It is not just the government that has made a difference. All the stakeholders have played a role [since 1993], including donors and the UN,” he said.

The poll surveyed 2,000 respondents in 22 of Cambodia’s 24 provinces
.

Ethnic minorities call for help to save their land from loggers

TRACEY SHELTON Members of Ratanakkiri’s ethnic minorities sign a petition in Banlung on May 23 calling on the government help them solve land disputes in the northeastern province.


TRACEY SHELTON Ethnic minorities from Ratanakkiri province put on a united front in Banlung May 23 to protest alleged land-grabbing and the illegal logging of their ancestral lands in Cambodia’s remote northeast. Members of a range of ethnic groups traveled to Bunlung from around the province to demonstrate against perceived neglect from the government in land affairs, with more than 250 signing a petition calling for assistance. The protestors honored a request not to march through the provincial capital, alleviating fears of a violent clash with police who maintained a heavy presence during the demonstration.

Courtesy of Phnom Penh Post

Written by Cheang Sokha and Tracey Shelton
Friday, 30 May 2008

RATANAKKIRI – The plan had been for hundreds of ethnic minority people to march through the center of the provincial capital of Banlung in one of the largest demonstrations yet over the illegal seizure and logging of their ancestral homelands.

But in the end, threats of arrest and a heavy police presence kept some 250 Jarai, Phnong, Kreung and Tompoun protesters confined to the tiny garden of a local human rights office, where on May 23 they instead signed a petition demanding that the government enforce land rights’ laws in the remote northeastern province.

This decidedly muted rally, however, was the latest display of anger over what rights groups say is the exploitation of some of Cambodia’s most vulnerable communities.

Impoverished, disenfranchised and with their ancient, semi-nomadic way of life already under threat from development, Cambodia’s ethnic minorities have also become perhaps the easiest targets of an unprecedented property boom that has seen a run on their tribal lands.

“Neither the central government nor local officials consider the impact on minority groups when awarding land concessions to private companies,” said Pen Bunna, the Ratanakkiri coordinator for the Cambodian rights group Adhoc.

He added that many tribal people in the area were uneducated and did not fully understand their rights when confronted with land speculators or smooth-talking local officials promising unlikely sums of cash for their land.

The country’s real estate market has over the past several years worked itself into a frenzy of buying and selling on the promise of easy riches, resulting in tens of thousands of people being uprooted, according to rights groups.

Long Dy, a villager from Konmom district, said he decided to attend the meeting in Banlung after a private company under license from the government logged more than 200 hectares of his community’s forestland in April.

“The ethnic minority groups are very concerned about the destruction of ancient forests,” he told the Post.

Complaints were made to commune and district authorities, but these were ignored, Dy said.

“If it doesn’t stop, sooner or later the natural forests will be extinguished. The villagers in the community don’t have the power to stop the logging and when we file petitions to the authorities, they do not help us,” he added.

Protestors from Lumphat district told a similar story, saying logging trucks were a familiar sight along the region’s dusty forest roads.

Ieng Son, an ethnic Kreung, said he had lived a traditional life in Lumphat’s forests for more than 60 years until a few months ago when local villagers were prevented from entering the area.

Son said local authorities had justified the exclusion of Kreung people from the forests because of their traditional slash-and-burn agricultural practice, which officials said endangered the forest.

“I see the trucks that take the valuable timber from our ancient forest everyday and no local officials dare to seize it. But if a villager cuts some wood for building a house we will be arrested or fined,” Son told the Post in Banlung.

The quiet showdown between authorities and ethnic minority protesters marked a cooling of tensions following clashes in December where Banlung police turned fire hoses on protesting tribal people and prevented a workshop on land rights from taking place.

But it also illustrated the heavy-handedness which officials have been using to clamp-down on growing tribal dissent over land.

“Local authorities warned us that if any villagers dared to come to the meeting they would be arrested,” Vath Pieng, a 27-year-old from Taveng district, told the Post May 23 as he arrived at the meeting, held at the Banlung office of Cambodian rights group Adhoc.

“Some villagers were afraid of the warning and did not dare to come,” he added.

About 40 local and military police and two fire trucks were deployed around the meeting place and, although they did not interfere in proceedings, their presence angered Adhoc monitor Chan Soveth.

“The police have deployed fire trucks today not for the protection and security of the people but to threaten the rights and the will of villagers trying to seek justice,” Soveth said.

“How can they [Cambodia’s ethnic minorities] live when their lands are taken and they cannot enter their farms?” he asked.

A defining moment draws near

KAY KIMSONG Var Kimhong: The border with Laos will be fully demarcated by the end of June.

Courtesy of Phnom Penh Post

Written by Kay Kimsong
Friday, 30 May 2008

C ambodia expects to finish demarcating its border with Laos in June and its boundary with Vietnam on schedule by 2012, but there is no timeframe for concluding negotiations with Thailand, a senior government official said.

Var Kimhong, the chairman of the Government Border Committee, told reporters on May 17 the Cambodia-Laos border committee had inspected 86 percent of the markers along the 540-kilometer border and only a few issues remained to be finalized.

A 14-member Laotian delegation will be in Phnom Penh from June 3 to 5 for talks on the border, said a senior official at the Laotian embassy, Kengchai Sixanonh.

“The Cambodia-Laos joint border committee has been working very smoothly and I think the relationship will get better in the future,” Kengchai said.

Kimhong meanwhile said work on demarcating the border with Vietnam had been accelerated under an additional treaty signed with Hanoi in 2005.

He said the treaty increased from one to five the number of groups working on delineating the 1,270km border, which will have more than 350 granite markers.

However, Kimhong said differences with Bangkok over the 805km border with Thailand remained a problem, and he referred to a reported incursion by armed Thai paramilitary rangers on May 16 during which some houses were damaged at Choam Sa Ngam, in Anlong Veng district of Oddar Meanchey province.

Kimhong said he was “surprised” by the incursion because negotiations had been taking place with Bangkok on opening a border crossing at Choam Sa Ngam linking Oddar Meanchey with Thailand’s Si Sa Ket province.

The governor of Anlong Veng district, Yin Phanna, said on May 19 the situation had “cooled down” after talks earlier that day between Cambodian officials, including members of the provincial border commission, and Thai army officers.

“Negotiations were the only way to solve the issue,” Phanna said, adding that no Cambodian troops were deployed in the area where the incursion took place.

Despite occasional incidents along the border with Thailand, Kimhong said Cambodia regarded the bilateral relationship as one of “eternal friendship.”

“We are like brothers or friends who live near each other ... we don’t need to deploy any troops,” Kimhong said.

The Cambodia-Thailand Joint Border Commission began its demarcation work in 2006 – three years after the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding to resolve border issues – and has focused its efforts on finding the 73 markers installed by a French-Siamese commission.

“The search for border markers has no schedule or timeframe for completing the task; what is most important is that an agreement can be reached,” Kimhong said.

Asked about the main obstacles to demarcating the Cambodia-Thai border, Kimhong said the legacies of colonialism and years of conflict meant that it was not a “normal” border.

Tribal groups seek voice in KR trials

TANG CHHIN SOTHY/AFP Students from a Phnom Penh fine arts school reenact murders committed by the Khmer Rouge during a "Day of Anger" ceremony held at the Choeung Ek killing fields on May 20. The macabre reenactment is performed every year in remembrance of the 1.7 million people who lost their lives under the Pol Pot regime.

Courtesy of Phnom Penh Post

Written by Cheang Sokha and Tracey Shelton
Friday, 30 May 2008

Distance from ECCC proves a problem in the provinces

RATANAKKIRI – When news first reached Banlung’s ethnic minority Kreung community that the Khmer Rouge’s top remaining leaders had been arrested by Cambodia’s genocide tribunal, Teal Perng was eager to add her story to the court’s growing record of regime atrocities.

But nearly two years since the start of the court, convened to try those responsible for the deaths of a quarter of the country’s population during the communists’ 1975-79 rule, Perng and many other tribal people feel increasingly left out of Cambodia’s bid for justice.

Separated by culture and language, Cambodia’s ethnic minorities have historically been placed apart from Khmer society.

But it is physical distance, more than anything else that has kept those living in isolated pockets in the wilds of eastern and northeastern Cambodia from adding their voices to those of other regime victims.

Like other Cambodians, minority groups suffered greatly at the hands of the Khmer Rouge, whose radical restructuring of society emptied cities, abolished money and destroyed families in a frenzied bid to forge an agrarian utopia.

“I saw a lot of indigenous people beaten and killed by the Khmer Rouge soldiers,” said Perng, who was 12-years-old when the guerillas took control of her village in northeastern Cambodia.

“Two of my nephews were taken and killed. I was separated from my parents and had to work far from them,” she said, describing workdays that stretched deep into night and one incident where she was forced to pull a plow through a field “like an oxen.”

“I want to see the faces of those KR leaders directly when they are on trial,” she said.

“But we do not have the money to travel to Phnom Penh to visit the court.”

Of the more than 1,000 civil complaints filed with the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) only a handful come from minority communities.

“Some show fear at the mention of the words ‘Khmer Rouge’, but most show their satisfaction to hear that these leaders have been arrested and jailed,” said Nget Nara, who monitors the tribunal’s progress for the rights group Adhoc and has interviewed tribal members.

“I think if the transportation is provided most of them would come to the court to see the trial process,” he added.

The Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-CAM), a research group that has spent the last decade compiling evidence of Khmer Rouge crimes, said only 12 of the 896 complaints it has received by the end of April came from ethnic minorities.

“Every effort has been made to include all groups in the trial process but minority groups are often hard to reach in isolated areas,” said DC-CAM director Youk Chhang.

ECCC press officer Reach Sambath also said that only a small number of people from ethnic minority communities had visited the court or filed complaints.

“At the court we open to the door to anyone that wants to participate and we appreciate their help, but we do understand their problem because most of the minority groups live far from Phnom Penh,” he said.

Five former Khmer Rouge leader are currently detained by the tribunal pending trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The first public trials are expected to start later this year.

Police launch probe into UFO explosion

VANDY RATTANA Ready, set, roll!A wheelchair racer takes a drink during the second annual “Wheelie Grand Prix” organized by the Cambodia National Volleyball League (Disabled) at Hun Sen Park, Phnom Penh, on May 25. Thirty-two disabled athletes took part in the event, with the 100m men’s race won by Phnom Penh radio mechanic Van Savin.

Courtesy of Phnom Penh Post

Written by Thet Sambath
Friday, 30 May 2008

Ouch Neakk was tending to his water buffalo at 10am on May 27 when a large chunk of steel fell from the sky and landed just four meters away from him.

The 62-year-old farmer from Kampot province's Prek Kreng village said he heard repeated explosions and saw a trail of smoke below the cloud line before more pieces of metal debris began landing his rice field.

"I had no idea what was going on," Neakk told the Post.

"I thought someone was throwing stones at me before I realized it was pieces of steel from an explosion."

Similar sightings were reported along the Cambodian and Vietnamese coasts, sparking a slew of explanations, from a plane crash to UFOs.

Islanders from Phu Quoc Island in southern Vietnam reported hearing explosions, seeing something burning in the sky and finding shards of metal debris - but quite what it was, no one knows.

Phu Quoc Island's district's military chief, Colonel Nguyen Van Qui, reported on May 28 that "an unidentified flying object exploded at about 10am on May 27 over the northern part of Phu Quoc Island," according to the state-run Vietnam News Agency.

Huynh Tan Hung, an official of the people's committee of the island's Ganh Dau commune, said local people had heard a series of noises, including a loud bang, just after 10am.

"We all saw something burning in the sky, north of Phu Quoc Island. The fire was in the sky near Cambodian territory. In our commune, we collected one piece of metal, measuring one meter by about 60 centimeters," he said.

In Kampot, deputy military commander Kung Mony told reporters that day that a small plane had crashed in the southern part of the province but later retracted his comments.

Airlines in Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand said all of their planes were accounted for and Cambodian aviation officials have denied that any aircraft are missing.

But eyewitness accounts and the metal debris discovered in the Kampot vicinity indicate that something - most likely an unmanned spy drone, according to Kampot police - went down in the province.

Kampot police official Khieu Sopheak said that in addition to Neakk's find, three Kampot fishermen reported pulling chunks of steel out of the sea while fishing.
____________________
I thought someone was throwing stones at me before I realized it was pieces of steel from an explosion.
– Kampot farmer
___________________

"They were going to sell them to scavengers but we are checking them out because I suspect they are pieces of some kind of aircraft," Sopheak said.

The three pieces of debris weighed between half a kilogram and 10.2 kilograms.

Two officers from the headquarters of the National Police in Phnom Penh went to Kampot to investigate and they have taken the shards of steel to Phnom Penh for further investigation, Sopheak said, adding that local police are also interviewing all eyewitnesses for information.

Kampot province deputy police chief In Chiva said police suspected the shards of metal were "pieces of an unmanned spy drone."

He added that the provincial police had no equipment to carry out further tests on the debris and sent it to Phnom Penh on May 29 where it would be investigated properly.

CPP vows to rule alone

Courtesy of Phnom Penh Post
Written by Nguon Sovan
Friday, 30 May 2008

Prime Minister Hun has vowed that his ruling Cambodian People’s Party would govern alone if victorious in July’s general elections, ending a coalition government deal that has been in place since the early 1990s and quashing hopes that minor parties could have some share of power.

“In the past there was a stalemate ... so I had to facilitate this party or that party and enter into a coalition government. Now the winner gets 100 percent [of government],” he said.

“If there is an A, there will be no B. If there is a B, there will be no A. There is me or him,” Hun Sen added on May 26, referring to a year-long deadlock following elections in 2003 during which the CPP and the royalist Funcinpec struggled to hammer out a coalition deal.

Hun Sen also warned that leadership positions in the National Assembly – often the only source of leverage for non-ruling party players – would not be divided between the parties, as had been following past elections.

“There is no need to come and beg for the posts of commission chairman or vice-chairman,” Hun Sen said, taking aim at senior opposition party politicians who he blamed for using their leadership roles to simply criticize the government.
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There is the danger of a setback to the democratic process.
– Koul Panha, Comfrel
__________________________

“You are opposition members, but you have another rank as chairmen or vice chairmen of commissions so you must perform your obligations,” he said.

Hun Sen’s vigorous rhetoric comes ahead of July 27 polls that observers say will likely establish his total political dominance following a wave of defections from the ruling party’s biggest antagonist, the Sam Rainsy Party, and the disintegration of former coalition partner Funcinpec, which has been fractured by infighting following the ouster of its leader, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, two years ago.

In the aftermath of the 2003 standoff, a constitutional amendment was approved requiring only a simple majority in parliament to form a government, rather than the two-thirds needed in previous polls, a move that has all but assured the CPP of ruling on its own after the July election.

Analysts, while acknowledging that any party with a majority vote had the right to govern on its own, warned that a single-party government could result in too much power for any one political group.

“We’re concerned over losing the balance of power because we worry that the CPP will control every level of administration, from the top government posts to the village,” said Koul Panha, executive director of the election monitor Comfrel.

“There is the danger of a setback to the democratic process,” he added.

Sok Touch, a professor of political science at Khemarak University, agreed, saying that any system of checks and balances in government would largely disappear with decisive single party victory.

“After a party wins, what will it do? If there is only one party, there will be no control over the implementation of policy,” he told the Post on May 28, adding, though, that a single-party government might be forced towards greater accountability.

“If the CPP wins total power, it will not be able to put the blame for mistakes on any other party.

The CPP will be responsible for both right and wrong – doubling its responsibility,” he said.