Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Vietnam, Cambodia cooperate in checking animals crossing border

31/12/2008

VietNamNet Bridge – A memorandum of understanding on inspection of animals and poultry transported across the border was signed by the Vietnamese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Cambodian Ministry of Forestry and Fishery in southern An Giang Province on Dec. 29.

Under the MoU, the two sides will exchange veterinary information, build cooperation programmes in quarantine, checking the movement of animals across the border and licensing importers and exporters.

The two sides will also continue the prevention and inspection of animal diseases and epidemics in the lower part of the Mekong river’s basin.

The two sides agreed to set up 10 quarantine posts at border gates and hold annual meetings to review the cooperation.

In the two countries’ border areas, Cambodians export cows to Vietnam and Vietnamese sell poultry’s eggs, water poultry and pigs to Cambodia.

(Source: VNA)

Media: Nearly one-third top news of Cambodia in 2008 related to China

www.chinaview.cn
2008-12-31

PHNOM PENH, Dec. 31 (Xinhua) -- Almost one-third of the top political, economic and social news of Cambodia in 2008 were related to China, according to the year-ending news charts published on Wednesday by the kingdom's longest-running Chinese-language daily newspaper the Commercial News.

The official goodwill visit to Cambodia by China's top political advisor Jia Qinglin from Dec. 2 to 6, the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic ties between China and Cambodia, as well as the maiden visit by Chinese military vessel on Nov. 4, were seen among the "Top 10 Political News of Cambodia in 2008" recommended by the paper.

Its "Top 10 Economic News of Cambodia in 2008" highlighted the 257 million U.S. dollars of donation that the Chinese government had promised to give the kingdom in 2009, the June 27 Exhibition of Economic and Trade Cooperation between China and Cambodia, as well as the completion of the renovation work of Cambodian National Road No. 7 under the financial aid of China.

The Commercial News on Wednesday also published the "Top 10 Social News of Cambodia in 2008," which included the 1.3 million U.S. dollars of donation by all sectors of the Cambodian society for the earthquake-affected areas of China, and the Dec. 11 inauguration of the Phnom Penh China-Cambodia Friendship Radio to provide trilingual broadcast services in Khmer, Chinese and English for the audience of the kingdom.

According to the Cambodian Investment Committee, China topped the list of foreign investing countries in Cambodia in the past 14years, with its total amount reaching 5.707 billion U.S. dollars, among 24.768 billion U.S. dollars in all.

Editor: Wang Hongjiang

Border Talks To Resume in New Year

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
30 December 2008

Cambodian officials expect border talks with Thailand to resume soon into the new year, following the swearing in of a new cabinet and parliament after months of political unrest.

"We have received information from the Thai side that they will proceed with what we have agreed on in Siem Reap in the coming month,"said Var Kimhong, head of the Cambodian Border Committee.

Cambodian and Thai soldiers remain in a standoff over a strip of contested border in the Preah Vihear temple area, with at least three soldiers dying in skirmishes earlier this year.

Negotiations can resume following approval by the Thai parliament, Var Kimhong said, adding that December discussions were canceled due to political unrest in Thailand.

Cambodia and Thailand remain at odds over which map to use for demarcation. The Cambodian position follows demarcation by a French Indochina survey in 1904 and 1907, but Thailand follows a newer map.

Both sides deployed soldiers along the border following the July arrests of Thai protesters angered by the inclusion of Preah Vihear temple under Cambodian patronage on Unesco's list of World Heritage sites. The temple's World Heritage status stirred nationalist fervor on both sides and coincided with mass demonstrations in Thailand that ultimately toppled the government.

Thai news agencies quoted the new foreign minister, Kasit Piroya,saying it was the intent of the new administration to cooperate with Cambodia and Unesco and not change previously agreed upon solutions to the ongoing standoff.

Critics of the negotiations have called on Cambodia to abandonbilateral talks in favor of regional of international discussion.

Parliament Approves Money for Two Dams

By Kong Sothanarith, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
30 December 2008

Cambodian lawmakers on Tuesday passed draft legislation that would ensure financing for two Chinese hydroelectric companies, for projects costing more than $1.3 billion and expected to provide power to a fifth of the country.

The projects, from China National Machinery and the Michel Corporation, are part of ongoing efforts by the government to harness the energy of Cambodian waterways, from the Mekong to the Cardamom Mountains, totaling six projects, five Chinese and one from Vietnam,so far.

"The passage [of the laws] will allow these two companies to start their work immediately," said Suy Sem, minister of Industry, Mines and Energy, at the end of a National Assembly session Tuesday.

China National Machinery will invest in a dam on the Ta Tai river in the Cardamom Mountains of Koh Kong province, spending $540 million on a 37-year project, and Michel will spend $496 million over 30 years for a dam in Roeussey Chrum Krom, also in the Cardamoms.

"The investment is too long, and the selling price [of electricity to Electricite du Cambodge] is too expensive, compared to other countries," Yim Sovann, an opposition lawmaker for the Sam Rainsy Party, said during the National Assembly session.

Other critics warn the dams could severely impact the environment inan area of rare and abundant wildlife.

"This investment will destory them," said Gny San, deputy director ofthe NGO Forum of Cambodia, which has conducted a survey on the impactof hydroelectric power development in the country.

Gambling Crackdown Underway: Police Chief

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Original from Washington
30 December 2008

Phnom Penh authorities have taken down 21 illegal slot machine operations in recent days, following a crackdown order by Prime Minister Hun Sen, a top police official said Monday.

"We will not allow them to do it, and we will raid any place we find defying the law," said Brig. Gen. Touch Naroth, chief of Phnom Penh police, as a guest on "Hello VOA."

Many of the establishments had opened for Cambodian customers, despite a law banning gambling for nationals. Of the 21 operations, seven of them were completely illegal and 14 of them were operating in the wrong locations, Touch Naroth said.

Gambling establishments have blossomed around the capital, in cafes,hotels and restaurants, as well as private venues, some of them near schools, leading to worries about crime and instability. Earlier this month, Hun Sen ordered a crackdown.

Overall crime in Cambodia decreased 20 percent in the city in 2008,Touch Naroth said, but gambling operations remain a leading cause of criminal activity.

Police have set up tip boxes in every city commune, or sangkat, for residents to report violations of the gambling law or other crimes, he said. Concerned citizens can also call 012 999 999.

Touch Naroth said his department would not protect police personnelviolating the law, and measures would be doubly harsh against anyoneprotecting gambling.

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2009

The CAAI would like to wish you all a Happy New Year. May Lord Buddha be with you and blessing you and your family for the best of 2009.

Best Wishes

Dey Krahom Residents Raise Their Last Suggestions, while the Authorities Order Them to Remove Their Houses and to Leave - Tuesday 30.12.2008

Posted on 31 December 2008.
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 593

“Phnom Penh: Dey Krahom residents, who did not leave at the last eviction efforts, demand housing development in place, or monetary compensation according to market prices, in exchange for leaving from the Dey Krahom area in Chamkar Mon, Phnom Penh.

“Suggestions were raised a day ahead of the final deadline set by the Chamkar Mon authorities for Dey Krahom community residents, to remove their houses and to resettle in new housing at Damnak Trayueng village, Chaom Chau commune, Dangkao district of Phnom Penh.

“Representatives of Dey Krahom residents as well as other citizens raised two suggestions during a press conference in the evening of 29 December 2008, in exchange for leaving from their dilapidated huts in the Dey Krahom community. Residents want either to be provided with land to develop their residencies close to the present place, or, according to the other suggestion, the residents want a monetary compensation according to the market price of the land, finding an independent land assessing company to define the price of the land.

“Such suggestions from the Dey Krahom residents were made, while the Chamkar Mon authorities issued a final notice to the citizens living at the Dey Krahom community in the Pir and Dab Pram sections of the Tonle Basak commune, to remove their and houses to relocate to a new location, prepared for them by the 7NG Company, at Damnak Trayueng village, Chaom Chau, Dangkao, Phnom Penh. The final notice was signed by the Chamkar Mon governor, Mr. Lo Yuy, on 25 December 2008, stating that new 4-by-10-meter ground-floor houses were built by bricks , and a second floor can be built on top. The authorities said that at present, 1,374 families have changed to the new suburban location in Phnom Penh. There are only 91 families left that have not moved to the new location. The authorities ordered this rest of the residents to remove their houses by 30 December 2008 as a final deadline.

“However, the remaining residents refuse to leave the Dey Krahom community and said that they will struggle with their lives if violence is used to evict them.

“A representative of the Dey Krahom community, Mr. Chan Vichet, said that if the authorities use force to evict the residents from their houses at the Dey Krahom community, the residents will also response by force, in order to protect themselves and their property.

“However, the deputy Phnom Penh governor, Mr. Mann Choeun, who met with representatives of the Dey Krahom community in the morning of 29 December 2008, disagreed with the residents’ suggestions. But he presented other alternatives from the 7NG company representatives: the company and the authorities offer two choices to the Dey Krahom residents. First, to accept a flat in the suburban Dangkao district, plus Riel 770,000 [approx. US$190], 30 kg rice, a carton of noodle, and fish sauce. The second choice offered is that a family would be offered US$10,000 plus Riel 770,000, 30 kg rice, a carton of noodle, and fish sauce [but no housing]. The two choices provided by the company and by the authorities were rejected by the residents, saying that the new location is too far away, and it is difficult for their children’s schooling and for them to earn a living day by day.

“It should be noted that the Phnom Penh municipality signed an agreement, providing the Dey Krahom community land to the 7NG company in 2006. The 7NG company plans to develop this former area of poor people to become an area of housing and modern business buildings.

“However, according to a notice from the Council of Ministers on 8 July 2003, it agreed with the request of the Phnom Penh Municipality for social concession land at the Dey Krahom community, which covered at that time 4.70 hectares with 1,465 families in total, in order to develop housing for poor people. The Council of Ministers had agreed to provide 3.70 hectares as social concession land to develop housing at the Dey Krahom community.

“On the other hand, after receiving the rights from the Phnom Penh municipality, the 7NG company started its development work which has frequently led to disputes with the residents. Some were arrested, and one representative of the Dey Krahom community is still in detention at the Prey Sar Prison, while some of the other people agreed to accept housing constructed for them by the 7NG company.”

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.16, #4781, 30.12.2008
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Tuesday, 30 December 2008

EXILED TO CAMBODIA

Tuy Sobil, aka KK, keeps an eye on break dancers at Korsang, a center for returnees in Phnom Penh. KK teaches break and hip-hop dancing to street kids in Tiny Toones, a group he created. In addition to dancing, the organization teaches English, Khmer and lessons in other life skills. (Jeff Gritchen / Staff Photographer)

Press-Telegram Long Beach

By Greg Mellen, Staff Writer
Posted: 12/29/2008

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia -- Where the paved portion of Street 123 turns to dirt in the back streets of Phnom Penh seems like the end of the earth.


Drug users huddle in an abandoned building as they smoke yama, a form of crystal meth, and strip copper from electronic fixtures to sell in the Boueng Trabek area of Phnom Penh. The slum, among others, is frequented by drug-addicted exiles and those with mental illnesses. (Jeff Gritchen / Staff Photographer)










Charlie, a Cambodian returnee and former gang member from Oakland, shoots up heroin with a clean needle from Korsang s needle exchange in Boueng Trabek. (Jeff Gritchen / Staff Photographer)

This is where you'll find Boney, a former gang member from Long Beach, leaning against a concrete wall smoking cigarettes and talking smack. Inside the compound, Trip, another former Long Beach resident, is regaling others with his latest exploits.

This is Korsang, the last building at the border where homes turn to rubble and huts.

The corner compound -- from where you first feel, then hear, the bass beat of hip-hop music thrumming from a battered CD player -- is a place where the Wild West meets the Far East.

This is ground zero for a number of Cambodian-Americans who were deported for crimes committed in the U.S. And while they may be Cambodian by birth, in every other way they are unabashedly American, from their street patois to their baggy urban dress.

For many of these former gangsters and urban hipsters, Korsang is a toehold at the end of the world, something that keeps them from falling into the oblivion and despair of modern Cambodia.

An internationally funded, nongovernment organization, Korsang employs deportees to handle needle exchanges and provide an array of aid, education and social services to a burgeoning population of drug- addicted youth in Boueng Trabek and other slums of Phnom Penh.


Former Long Beach gang member Boney, left, hangs out at Korsang, a deportee gathering place.
While Korsang has been a savior to some deportees, many others have fallen without a net.

For those who don't find their way to an assistance program or lack family to take them in, for those without money or connections, for those who suffer from addiction and mental illness, repatriation to Cambodia can be a lingering death sentence.

Korsang crew

The deportees in Cambodia come from various walks of life. Many are former gang members, career criminals and drug users. But others were tradesmen, family men or wayward youngsters who stumbled into crime, sometimes only once. And a good percentage suffer from mental disease.

But all were criminals in the U.S., and all face the same fate.



Boney shows off his tattoos. A self-proclaimed former big shot in the Tiny Rascal Gang, he said he has made his peace with deportation. (Jeff Gritchen / Staff Photographer)


They are people like Boney.

As he cracks jokes, Boney is all attitude. A self-proclaimed former big shot in the Long Beach Tiny Rascal Gang, or TRG, Boney, 40, is one of the OGs, or original gangsters, of Korsang. He prefers to be referred to by his street name, by which everyone knows him.

"In Long Beach they all know me," Boney says. "I'm like the main guy in my neighborhood. I'm not going to lie. I'm not going to hide."

Boney says his introduction to Long Beach was having his bike "jacked" and being bullied and harassed at school. He says he and other Cambodians living in the inner city joined gangs for protection.

Although he doesn't agree with the American policy that requires deportation for felons who are not citizens, he bears no grudges.

A returnee who wanted to be known only as Trip, a Poly High School graduate, said he misses Long Beach and would return in an instant if he had the choice. (Jeff Gritchen / Staff Photographer)
"I'm not going to say I hate America because America gave me a chance," says Boney, who admits to being a career criminal. "I just f----- up."

Boney says he has come to terms with his life in Cambodia and moved on. Had he stayed in the U.S., he admits he probably would have ended up back in jail.
Nearby is KK, whose real name is Tuy Sobil. Decked out in mesh gym shorts and a T-shirt, KK used to pal around with Boney, although they were in rival gangs.

KK was born in a Thai refugee camp. He was convicted of armed robbery when he was 18. After completing his jail sentence and while he awaited deportation, he and his girlfriend had a son, Kayshawn.

KK says he saw the boy once before he was sent away.

"It hurts," KK says. "It hurts so bad. I was lost in a way. I was thinking, `I will never see my son again."'

At the time, KK did not understand the difference between being a permanent alien and a citizen under U.S. law.

"I lost my son and my whole family," KK says.

A self-described "B-boy," what some break dancers and fans of that culture call themselves, KK now teaches break and hip-hop dancing to impoverished street kids through a group he created called Tiny Toones.

He has drifted away from Korsang to concentrate on Tiny Toones, which is supported by the NGO (nongovernmental organization) Bridges Across Borders.

At Tiny Toones, KK and other staffers and volunteers teach not only dancing but English, Khmer and other life skills to hundreds of children from the slums.

And that has given him life and a sense of purpose.

"When I came here, I lost hope like everyone else," KK says.

Now he says, "If I could go back to the U.S., I wouldn't want to. I want to stay with my kids."
KK's son attended a recent hip- hop competition held in Long Beach as a fundraiser for Tiny Toones.

When asked what he wanted to do when he grew up, Kayshawn said he wants to dance, "just like my dad." The dad he barely knows.

Then there's Trip, a self-described Mike Tyson.

Ask Trip about Long Beach and his face lights up.

"Oh, man, I miss it a lot," Trip says. "I miss the cars. I miss the girls, my cousins, my city."

Given a chance, unlike Boney and KK, Trip would return to Long Beach in an instant - if it were a choice.

To keep a semblance of his hip- hop persona, Trip and some friends are putting together a demo music CD. For the project, Trip goes by the handle of Trip Loc Capone.

Trip, 30, came to Cambodia in 2002 at just 24 years old. He graduated from Poly High in 1997. He says he was just a mischievous kid who got into stealing Hondas for street racing when that was popular.

After his deportation, Trip went to live with relatives in the countryside.

"I'm a city boy," Trip says. "Out there by 8 p.m., it's silent. I was going crazy."

So Trip made his way to Phnom Penh.

"I started volunteering and that straightened me out," he says.

Like most of their ex-pat compatriots, the Long Beach guys hang around decked out in hip-hop clothing, heavily tattooed and exuding American urban swagger.

Except for the surroundings, they could be any group of Cambodian guys hanging out in front of the Golden Villa on Anaheim Street.

Boney, KK and Trip say they have stayed away from drug use. They are the success stories, people who are now giving back to the community.

In an odd way, being deported may have been good, even saved them. They kicked drug habits, left lives of crime and the incarceration cycle.

The flip side

Many deportees do not fare so well.

People with mental illness like Chan and drug users like Charlie.

Charlie is trying to figure out how to die.

Chan succeeded.

A 33-year-old from Long Beach who suffered from depression and drug addiction, Chan hanged himself in his room. He had been dead more than a day when he was discovered.

It's 9 a.m. and Charlie is waiting for his fix. Charlie, who wouldn't give his last name, is one of the more animated and desperate characters in Boeung Trabek.

He can be found drifting along dirt alleys, hanging out in burned-out hovels where ravaged addicts smoke, huff chemicals, shoot up or do whatever they can to get high.

On this day Charlie has been waiting for the Korsang volunteers to show up with fresh needles to exchange.

As a policeman on the corner looks away indifferently, Charlie pops the needle into the back of his arm.

Then comes the rush as the heroin surges into Charlie's veins. His eyes pop open. Suddenly, he is a happy Charlie.

He turns around and pretends to jab at a photographer with his empty syringe.

"If I poked you with this, would that be cool?" he says, feinting with the needle. Wisely, the photographer backs away quickly.

Charlie cackles. Charlie is waiting to die.

He has attempted suicide several times. He has had and lost jobs. He's been in and out of rehab and spent time in jail.

Charlie remains rebellious and defiant and in this way is utterly American.

He might as well be screaming at a wall for the indifference he faces, for the hopelessness he feels.

To Charlie, Cambodia is the stuff of nightmares. He ping-pongs between humor and despair.

A former gang member, Charlie boasts of the trouble he got into in the rough neighborhoods of Oakland.

"I moved to the United States when I was 1 years old, man," Charlie says. "To tell you the truth, I don't know s--- about Cambodia. I'm American man. I'm a f------ American, they're never gonna make me Cambodian. I like hamburgers. ... I don't like rice every f------ day. I eat so much rice my face looks like rice."

When death comes, Charlie says he will welcome it.

Anything would be better to him than leaning against a wall waiting for his fix. Or trolling the streets for a hit of yama, a harsh, local form of crystal meth popular in the slums.

Charlie is always looking for that moment of a high when he is lifted out of the filth of the streets, above the emptiness of his spirit.

"I've tried to commit suicide three times, man. The last time, I bet you I'm gonna do it. I'm tired of this," he says. "That's why I run with drugs, to kill the f------- pain, man."

Charlie is homeless and shacking up with a sex worker.

Asked how he makes money, Charlie says, "I hustle. I put the `h' in hustle."

Charlie wanders off into the devastation of Boueng Trabek.

Around the corner, drug addicts lie around in small knots of humanity, looking like piles of dirty laundry. Several are sharing yama, which they smoke through pipes fashioned from water bottles and straws.

Charlie spies a group and dives in, smoking and hamming for a photographer.

"I put the `h' in hustle," he says again with a raspy laugh.

Boney eyes him conspiratorially, one former gangster to another, before riding off on his tuk-tuk to deliver more clean syringes

Charlie is left behind to whatever fate awaits.

Death sentence

While Charlie survives, Chan did not.

The former Long Beach resident was found dead on Dec. 7, 2007.

He was a drug addict who had been diagnosed with depression in the U.S. and kept stable with medication.

Holly Bradford, founder of Korsang, says people like Chan are the dirty secret of deportation -- those who are mentally unstable, in Chan's case suicidal, yet sent to fend for themselves in a country with almost no social services.

"In my opinion, it is a direct violation of his human rights to send somebody who has that kind of mental illness to a country where there's no resources to treat him," says Bradford, who reports that 25 percent of deportees suffer from mental illness.

Because of his depression, Chan began smoking yama, which triggered his fatal, final tailspin.
"He was hearing voices, ghosts and the whole 9 yards. You could see him going downhill," Bradford says.

Chan also felt guilt for disappointing his mother and leaving her in Long Beach.

"He was a sad, sweet, gentle and lost kid. No matter what we did for Chan, it wasn't enough," Bradford says.

Chan was cremated and a traditional seven-day Buddhist ceremony was held. His ashes were sent to family in the countryside.

Across town at the Returnee Integration Support Program, another NGO that helps deportees, a 50-year-old known as Cowboy built a hut in the backyard because he didn't want to live inside a real house. Although he is harmless, he is unable to function in society.

Another man, formerly from San Diego, who asks not to be identified, describes how he intentionally mutilated his hand in the U.S., cutting off several fingers and a thumb, to collect disability insurance while awaiting deportation.

RISP, which is run by returnee Sonec Tan, has become virtually dormant after several years as the main resource for deportees in Cambodia. It is the last refuge for Cowboy and the San Diegan.
Deportee population

The deportees fall into several categories.

While some have family in Cambodia with whom they can move in or connections and money, many arrive with no family or support and struggle just to survive. Of those, Bradford says, some resort to crime and drug use.

Several Long Beach residents who have traveled to Cambodia say old friends and acquaintances have gone back into gang life and drug dealing and abuse.

Prach Ly, a rapper from Long Beach, has friends who have been deported. He has seen firsthand the devastation.

"I think some can't cope. It's like a silent death sentence," Ly says.

He tells a man he identifies only as Kun, who came to see Ly perform in Phnom Penh.

"He was a friend, but he couldn't even look me in the eye," Ly says. "After the show, I wanted to talk to him to keep his spirits up. But when the show was over he was gone."

While Chantha Bob, a Long Beach resident and waiter at Sophy's restaurant, was in Cambodia, he met a former Long Beach resident he knew only as John.

Bob said John was living on the streets in Phnom Penh and begging for money for food.

Adaptation

Regardless of how they feel about the deportation laws and process, many deportees make peace with their new lives.

"It takes a while to feel like home, I mean, once you adapt to it and stop feeling sorry for yourself," says Wicket, an employee at Korsang who asked to be identified by his nickname. "I mean, it's home now. (You've) got to get on with your life. I have a couple of kids, a stable relationship. I got a good job, a career and I get to be involved in the community."

Boney, too, was recently married, KK has his dancers and Trip his music.

Most at Korsang say they wouldn't return to the U.S. even if they could.

For all the deprivation and loss, for all they feel may have been unfair about their sentences, these are guys who have found something in Cambodia that was lacking.

Call it purpose. Call it redemption. Guys who may have spent the majority of their adult lives in prison in the U.S., have a chance to actually give something back.

And while the Chans, Charlies, Johns and Cowboys may be poster children for what's wrong with U.S. deportation, some of these former gangbangers and drug abusers are setting things right here at the edge of the earth.

Hun Sen Cup football tournament to kick off on Jan. 7

The Hindu News
Tuesday, December 30, 2008

PHNOM PENH (Xinhua): Cambodia's annual football tournament under the name of Prime Minister Hun Sen is scheduled to kick off on Jan. 7, 2009, the third edition of the nationwide event, national media said on Tuesday.

Altogether 34 teams will join the tournament, Ouk Sethycheat, secretary general of the Football Federation of Cambodia (FFC), was quoted by English-Khmer language newspaper the Cambodia Daily as saying.

The 34 teams will compete in a qualifying stage, from which 16 teams will come out for the final stage in Phnon Penh from Jan. 24 to Mar. 28.

The champions will win 15,000 U.S. dollars and the two runners-up will get 10,000 dollars and 5,000 dollars respectively.

Happy New Year 2009 !

The CAAI would like to wish you all a Happy New Year !
May lord Buddha blessing you and your family all the best for the year 2009.
Best Wishes
CAAIs Team

Thai political crisis

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva delivers a government policy speech Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2008, at Foreign Ministry in Bangkok, Thailand. Thailand's government was forced to change the venue of its key policy speech Tuesday as thousands of demonstrators loyal to exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra surrounded Parliament, extending months of political turmoil.(AP Photo/Wason Wanichakorn)

A Thai protester fastens up the gate as his fellows stage a blockade outside as riot police officers guard inside parliament during a protest to prevent government to declare its policy Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2008 in Bangkok, Thailand. Thailand's government, beset by months of virtual paralysis, was again at a standstill Tuesday as thousands of demonstrators loyal to exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra surrounded Parliament.(AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Thai soldiers run after being deployed near parliament where protesters staged a protest Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2008 in Bangkok, Thailand. Thailand's government was forced to change the venue of its key policy speech Tuesday as thousands of demonstrators loyal to exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra surrounded Parliament, extending months of political turmoil.(AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)

Supporters of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra evacuate an injured colleague as they try to break through a police line blocking the entrance to the Parliament in Bangkok on December 30.(AFP/Pornchai Kittiwongsakul)

Supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra confront riot police during a protest against the government outside the Foreign Ministry in Bangkok December 30, 2008.REUTERS/Sukree Sukplang (THAILAND)

Soldiers stand guard as supporters of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra march towards the Foreign Ministry in Bangkok on December 30. Thailand's new prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva gave his inaugural policy speech Tuesday, but only after protesters blockaded parliament for a second day and forced him to switch the venue.(AFP/Pornchai Kittiwongsakul)

A troop of Thai riot police stand guard outside the parliament as protesters block a road leading to the parliament building Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2008 in Bangkok, Thailand. Thailand's government, beset by months of virtual paralysis, was again at a standstill Tuesday as thousands of demonstrators loyal to exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra surrounded Parliament.(AP Photo/Wason Wanichakorn)

Thai protesters, background, ride on a truck as they try to break through lines of riot police officers during a protest outside parliament in Bangkok, Thailand Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2008. Thailand's government was forced to change the venue of its key policy speech Tuesday as thousands of demonstrators loyal to exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra surrounded Parliament, extending months of political turmoil.(AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)

Thai protesters stage a blockade outside as riot police officers guard inside parliament during a protest to prevent government to declare its policy Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2008 in Bangkok, Thailand. Thailand's government, beset by months of virtual paralysis, was again at a standstill Tuesday as thousands of demonstrators loyal to exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra surrounded Parliament.(AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Stock market launch beset by apathy, crisis: experts

AFP
Construction at the soon-to-be-home of Cambodia’s stock exchange, scheduled to open in September.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by SOEUN SAY
Tuesday, 30 December 2008

With the opening of the stock exchange approaching, local experts ask whether the public has any interest in investing in a market they don’t understand

INDEPENDENT economists last week lowered their expectations over the launch of Cambodia's stock exchange, saying the risks inherent to the Kingdom's investment climate and a lack of public interest could undermine the proposed September opening.

Kang Chandararot, an economist and president of the Cambodia Institute for Development Study, expressed doubts over the government's ability to meet its deadline for the index, but said public confidence would ultimately dictate its success or failure. "If they don't [generate] public confidence in the stock market, they will take a huge risk," he said of the exchange's organisers.

A worsening economy and a sluggish property market have likely eliminated much of the potential investment capital people could have otherwise used for the stock market, Kang Chandararot said.

He added that instilling public confidence in the stock market could be difficult when the government has yet to follow through on other responsibilities.

"How can [people] want to buy shares in a stock market if the government has left so many other things undone?" he asked.

Economist Chap Sotharith echoed Kang Chandararot's concerns, but said that the government faces a more fundamental challenge with the index.

"If the government manages to open the exchange, they will still face the fact that Cambodian people don't understand it and will not invest because they have no faith in stocks," he said.

Chap Sotharith added, however, that a successful launch of the stock market could help stimulate Cambodia's economy. He called on the government to better educate the public and encourage more people to use banks, while continuing to attract foreign investors.

Government committed

Finance Minister Keat Chhon said the government remains committed to a September launch of the stock market.

While acknowledging that the slowdown has raised questions about the viability of the exchange, he said the project would survive.

"We will not rush to establish the stock exchange, but we will build a strong base," Keat Chhon told reporters in October.

He added that the establishment of the stock market would help Cambodia develop additional financial resources to boost economic growth.

Hang Chuon Naron, secretary general at the Ministry of Finance, said the stock market would progress according to the government's long-term financial vision for the country and would not be vulnerable to global market instability.

"We hope the stock exchange will provide long-term financial [growth] compared to what we have relied on in the past, such as banks, national budgets, foreign aid and investment," he said. "I think in five or 10 years, the stock exchange will play a key role in strengthening Cambodia's financial sector, but we must proceed carefully to build trust," he said.

Titanic Unveiling on Top of Angkor Wat

Titanic Unveiling at Angkor Wat
Press Release
Newswire

December 30, 2008
What links the RMS Titanic and the Cambodian jungle temple of Angkor Wat? Author Helen Churchill Candee survived the infamous maritime disaster to write Angkor the Magnificent, history's most captivating account of Southeast Asia's mysterious Khmer Empire. Her book just reached new heights in Cambodia when publisher Kent Davis unveiled an expanded modern edition of her classic literally on top of Angkor Wat.

Siem Reap, Cambodia (PRWEB) December 30, 2008 -- Balanced precariously atop a metal scaffold 20 stories above the Cambodian jungle, publisher Kent Davis unveiled Angkor the Magnificent (ISBN: 978-1-934431-00-9), an expanded edition of Helen Churchill Candee's 1924 Asian travel classic featuring the first published biography of the 20th century adventuress.
"It's astounding to think of ancient Khmer stone masons experiencing this view 1,000 years ago. This is the type of travel adventure Helen Churchill Candee lived for...her spirit is certainly here today!" said Davis at the top of the temple's central tower on a temporary metal framework erected for restoration of the complex pinecone-shaped structure.

Davis held the ceremony at Angkor Wat before donating copies of the book to Cambodia's key libraries including the Biblioteque Nationale, the Center for Khmer Studies, the Khmer Arts Academy and L'Ecole francaise d'Extreme-Orient.
"Angkor Wat is one of the most magical places on earth. Candee's travelogue vividly portrays an Angkor of yesteryear for those looking for insights into these truly magnificent Cambodian ruins" comments Yale archeology professor Dr. Dougald O'Reilly who founded Heritage Watch to preserve Cambodia's heritage.

This historic release marks the first time in 85 years that readers can enjoy Candee's evocative descriptions of Asian adventure travel in the land of the lost Khmer civilization. Today, Helen Candee is still the perfect guide to bring the temples to life...for visitors experiencing these wonders in person or from their reading chairs. Angkor the Magnificent (ISBN: 978-1-934431-00-9) is available on Amazon.com in the US and Europe.

DatAsia press publishes books focusing on Cambodia and Southeast Asian history. As a researcher with Devata.org, Kent Davis works to document the importance of women in Asian history and to decode the meaning of the 1,780 apsara (female goddess) portrait carvings found Angkor Wat.

Dr. Dougald O'Reilly is an author, archaeologist and Yale University professor specializing in prehistoric Southeast Asia. He is committed to preserving Cambodia's cultural heritage and founded Heritage Watch (www.heritagewatch.org), a non-profit organization working to preserve cultural icons and stop antiquity theft in Cambodia.

Vietnam jails five for trafficking women to Malaysia

A Vietnamese family rides past a poster appealing to people to be vigilant in the struggle against human trafficking

HANOI (AFP) — A court in communist Vietnam has jailed five people for up to 17 years for trafficking women to Malaysia and forcing them to work as prostitutes, a court official and media reports said Tuesday.

The gang had sent 18 women from Vietnam's poor southern Mekong delta region to Malaysia over the past three years before the ring leaders were arrested in January, said a Can Tho court official who declined to be named.

Hua Thi Thuy Trang, 35 -- identified in media reports as a former prostitute who had worked in Cambodia, Malaysia and Singapore -- was jailed for 17 years, while her four accomplices received terms of five to 12 years, the official said.

The Thanh Nien daily reported that the gang lured the women to Malaysia with promises of waitressing jobs, paying their families 800 dollar each while forcing the women to sign promises to pay the group 4,400 dollars each.

Once in Malaysia, the women were closely guarded during the day and forced to have sex with about seven men per night each without payment, the report said, adding that while those who resisted were beaten and starved.

Thousands of Vietnamese women are believed to be trafficked every year, especially to neighbouring China and Cambodia, lured with promises of jobs but then forced to work as prostitutes or to marry.

Between 2005-07, Vietnamese police say they detected 900 trafficking cases involving 2,200 victims, state media have said.

The true extent of the trafficking is unknown and police suspect many of the more than 20,000 Vietnamese women and children who have gone missing since 1975 were victims of trafficking.

Cambodia's Sibling Band achieves unexpected fame

Photo by: Mom Kunthear
The Sibling Band in action.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Mom Kunthear
Tuesday, 30 December 2008

When Heng Srey Sambath bought his son a guitar, he never imagined that music would become his family's fascination and even make them famous

Formed at the end of 2007 as a family pastime, Dantrey Bang Phoun, or the Sibling Band, is slowly starting to make waves around Cambodia.

Heng Srey Sambath smiles as he talks about how he initially hesitated when his eldest son, 16-year-old Pis, asked him whether he could learn how to play the guitar.

"I hesitated because I had never seen my son play music before. We don't come from an artistic family, and I have never thought any of my children would become musicians," Heng Srey Sambath said.

Concerned that his son would go out on the street out of boredom, Heng Srey Sambath eventually conceded and bought his son a guitar to provide him with a worthwhile hobby.

"I bought a guitar for him to learn, and two weeks later I saw that my son was already playing the instrument very well. I also saw that my two daughters and nieces were interested and always listened when he played," he said.

Seeing his family's fascination with music, Heng Srey Sambath decided to get them all involved in the pursuit and vowed to save money in order to buy instruments for all his children.

"Initially I didn't have money for instruments, so I collected objects that they could play music on, such as cans and trays to make rhythm," he said. "My wife was against me buying any more instruments because she thought that the children would not be successful and she didn't want to waste money, but I comforted her and used my power as the head of the family to buy them," he said, adding that now his wife is happy with the family's musical progress.

" I didn't have money for instruments, so i collected objects that they could play on. "

Turning point

The family fortune took a turn for the better when one day Heng Srey Sambath asked a local restaurant owner whether his family could entertain customers at the restaurant by playing music and singing songs.

"On one occasion after the band finished playing, there was a musician there who was interested in them, and he said that the children could be famous if we tried to teach them more."

Heng Srey Sambath said that while he initially worried about the negative impact of fame and money on his children, he now thinks that his children will not be spoiled by success.

"I think my children will have no problems if they become famous because I have taught them that when they do something wrong they will be punished, and when they get money they have to share it," he said.

The Sibling Band has recently performed for a show on Bayon TV, and they received US$500 from Prime Minister Hun Sen after they performed twice on CTN.

They also have plans to perform in Australia in March next year, but Heng Srey Sambath says that this still depends on their sponsors.

"Before, I would have never thought that the Sibling Band would be famous, but after the children got a good music teacher who also writes songs for them to sing, I have changed my mind," he said.

While Heng Srey Sambath hopes that one day the Sibling Band will be able to support the family, he says that he will never force the children to keep performing.

"If they want to play, I will allow them to continue, but if they don't want to play any more, I will let them give it up," he said.

"I would be very disappointed if this band did not work out. I consider this band as a diamond, and it would be a shame to lose it," Heng Srey Sambath said. "But as I am a Buddhist, I usually tell myself that nothing can last forever, so I don't think too much about losing, and while I think that this band will finish one day, I want everybody in Cambodia to remember them.

"Pis, the Sibling Band leader, says he just wanted to learn how to play guitar because he wanted to be like his classmates who played the instrument.

"I never wished to be a music player or a singer. I just wanted to know how to play guitar for pleasure, but when I found a good teacher and built a band, I wanted to continue to do it," he said. "I am very happy with my band, and I never thought that it would be possible for me to perform on TV in front of an audience."

Cambodian FM: Thai FM plans to visit Cambodia for border issues

www.chinaview.cn
2008-12-30

PHNOM PENH, Dec. 30 (Xinhua) -- Newly appointed Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya plans to visit Cambodia to continue discussion on the border issues between the two countries, said the Cambodian foreign minister here on Tuesday.

"Yesterday, the Thai foreign minister called me to extend the best wishes for a happy New Year and said that he plans to visit Cambodia," Hor Namhong, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, told reporters at his office.

"He is willing to continue the discussion to seek resolution inpeaceful and friendly ways for the border issues," he said.

We all put aside the possibility of military conflict and will keep restraints over the border issues, he said.

"As you all have seen, the internal matters of Thailand have made the border resolution so slow," he added.

Cambodia will resume talks with Thailand over their disputed border in late January, as a tense military standoff at contested areas of the frontier enters its sixth month, English-language daily newspaper the Phnom Penh Post said on Monday.

Cambodia and Thailand have never finally demarcated their 805-km shared border, but a meeting between both foreign ministers in November yielded an agreement to scale down troop numbers along the border and begin demarcation and demining operations from mid-December.

It was the most concrete progress made yet to resolve tensions on the border, which escalated after Cambodia first accused Thai troops of entering its territory in July, shortly after Cambodia'sPreah Vihear Temple was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Editor: Lu Hui

Cambodia, Thailand To Continue Talks On Border Spat -Minister

PHNOM PENH (AFP)--Cambodian foreign minister Hor Namhong said Tuesday his new Thai counterpart had telephoned him to say he will visit soon for talks on a border dispute between the two countries.

Hor Namhong said Thai foreign minister Kasit Piromya, who was appointed earlier this month after a new government came to power, had called to convey his best wishes for the new year.

Soldiers from Cambodia and Thailand clashed on Oct. 15 on disputed land near an 11th century Khmer temple, leaving four people dead.

"He (Kasit) said he has planned to visit Cambodia and he will continue negotiations to find a resolution peacefully and amicably with Cambodia on the border issue," Hor Namhong told reporters.

There was no immediate confirmation from Thailand's foreign ministry.

Thai and Cambodian officials agreed in principle in a meeting earlier this month to reduce soldiers at the disputed border and to form a border task force.

They also plan to meet again in January to resolve their border spat.

But former Thai foreign minister Sompong Amornviwat has said the country's parliament must first approve the agreements before any activity starts.

Hor Namhong admitted that a raging political crisis in Thailand had slowed down the negotiations, but said Cambodia is still showing "patience."

Kasit was one of the most controversial appointments by new Thai premier Abhisit Vejjajiva, because of his role in protests that shuttered Bangkok's airports earlier this month and helped to bring down the previous government.

As a staunch nationalist Kasit, has also criticized the previous government's handling of the crisis with Cambodia.

The Cambodian-Thai border has never been fully demarcated, in part because it is littered with land mines left over from decades of war in Cambodia.

The most recent tensions began in July when the Khmer temple was awarded U.N. World Heritage status, rekindling a long-running disagreement over the ownership of the surrounding land.

Political crisis may push Thailand into recession, says Abhisit

The Standard
(12-30 14:16)

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has warned of the fallout from a crisis that has seen four prime ministers this year and paralysed policymaking, culminating in an airport blockade by demonstrators at the turn of the month that crippled tourism.

''Political conflicts that have spread to civic groups could push the economy, along with the tourism industry, into recession if action is not taken quickly to resolve them and revive confidence among investors and foreign tourists,'' he said.

''These conflicts are the country's weakness, especially at a time when the world economy is entering its worst crisis in a century.''

Export figures are expected to show plunging demand for exports. The economy is likely to contract this quarter and may slide into recession next year.

CAMBODIA: Vanna Rainsey, "There was no PMTCT programme...I had my baby aborted"

"My mother forced me to have an arranged marriage to a man who was also HIV-positive"

IRIN

JOHANNESBURG, 29 December 2008 (PlusNews) - On the morning in April 1975 when Khmer Rouge troops marched into the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, AIDS activist Vanna Rainsey* was just two weeks old. She spoke to IRIN/PlusNews about her family's displacement during the civil war and how she almost became a mother.

"[The Khmer Rouge) forced my family to migrate to Kampot Province, a rural area more than 100km from our home [in Phnom Penh]. My father was killed there in 1977; I have no memories of him. "

After the Khmer Rouge [regime ended], my mother and I were relocated to Phnom Penh, but conditions were very poor and, like many others at this time, my mother decided to move to the Site 2 Camp on the Thai-Cambodia border with the hope of finding work and migrating to France.

"In 1993, while at the camp, I developed a severe infection in my left foot and needed an operation, during which I lost a lot of blood and required a transfusion. The blood was unscreened and I became HIV-positive. Just after this, the United Nations repatriated all refugees back to Phnom Penh.

"Back in the city, I worked to support my family; then I fell very sick. I had skin rashes, diarrhoea, no appetite. I was so thin – I weighed only 43 kilos. I decided to go to the hospital and the doctor tested my blood and told me I was HIV-positive without giving me any counselling or information.

"My CD4 count [a measure of immune system strength] was only 42 and the doctor told me I would probably die within one year. I felt hopeless, shocked and hurt.

"I experienced stigma and discrimination at this time. My colleagues came to visit me at the hospital, but when I came back to work no one would come near me. There were many misunderstandings about HIV at the time.

"My mother felt very uncomfortable with me and would not care for me. Instead of being at home, I had to stay at the hospital. Then I got antiretroviral therapy just in time.

"My mother thought that because I was single and HIV-positive people would judge me and say that I was a bad woman. So she forced me to have an arranged marriage to a man who was also HIV-positive. I had sex with my husband without using condoms because I didn't know about the risks of mother-to-child HIV transmission.

"After about two years of marriage, I got pregnant. My pregnancy came at a time when I was becoming progressively weaker and falling sick regularly. I was so thin at that time because of morning sickness.

"I went to the doctor and he told me to have an abortion. He said that I could not carry the baby because my CD4 count was too low and because there was not a prevention of mother-to-child transmission programme in place.

"I had my baby aborted. After, I was in great pain and felt my heart had broken because I wanted to start my own family."

US man’s sex charges upheld

Dec 30, 2008
AP

PHNOM PENH - A CAMBODIAN court upheld a 13-year prison term on Tuesday for an American man convicted of sexually abusing a teenage girl.

Appeals Court judge Seng Sivutha handed down the verdict against Myron Maboris for having sex with a 14-year-old girl. The 46-year-old from Virginia was originally sentenced to 13 years by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court in June last year.

During a court hearing on Thursday, Maboris denied the charges, telling the court 'I asked her to massage me only, I did not have sex with her.'

Police arrested Maboris during a raid on his Phnom Penh guesthouse room in October 2006 while he was with the ethnic Vietnamese girl, who was naked.

Kov Soupha, Maboris's defense lawyer, said he will discuss with his client whether to appeal to a higher court.

Lax law enforcement and poverty have made Cambodia a prime destination for foreigners seeking sex with minors. But police have recently stepped up efforts to fight the crime and several foreigners are serving lengthy prison terms.

Bangkok crisis not extended to border

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Cheang Sokha
Tuesday, 30 December 2008

CAMBODIAN military officials on the border with Thailand said Monday that the situation there remains stable, despite political tensions in Bangkok that again threaten to escalate a row over contested territory along the frontier.

"We don't see any significant difference in the situation," said Bun Vanna, deputy chief of staff for RCAF's Brigade 43, which is stationed at Veal Antri near the scene of an October 15 firefight that left at least three soldiers dead.

However, both sides continue to reinforce their front lines, he said, adding: "It is normal for troops to dig trenches, as we are on a battlefield".

Another military official in Koh Kong who did not want to be named said the borders continue to be reinforced.

The military standoff began in July when Thai troops took up positions in Cambodia.

The incursion came shortly after Cambodia's Preah Vihear temple was listed as a Unesco World Heritage site, angering Thai nationalists who demanded that the then-government reclaim land they said Cambodia had stolen, including the 11th-century ruins.

Nationalist sentiment appears again to be rising in Bangkok, where protesters helped depose one prime minister and are now attacking the current premier.

Sar Kheng upbraids police for corruption

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Vong Sokheng
Tuesday, 30 December 2008

INTERIOR Minister Sar Kheng lashed out at his subordinates, accusing them of mismanagement and corruption in a speech last week.

Sar Kheng told about 300 police officers on Friday that funds earmarked for salaries were being siphoned by corrupt and incompetent officials.

"[Corruption] is a serious mistake and means they are stealing from the ministry and stealing official salaries by enlarging the budget. These mistakes will not be tolerated," Sar Kheng said.

Cambodia ranks near the bottom of corruption watchdog Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index, at 166 out of 180 countries.

Sar Kheng, who is also a deputy prime minister, lambasted corruption in procurement of uniforms, petrol and rice. He called on all levels of the police financial department to reduce unnecessary spending on electricity, water and building upkeep.

"These were issues the ministry has to be concerned about. We have to reform financial management for 2009," Sar Kheng said.

"When we get the budget under control, the ministry will be able to increase salaries for police officers."

He also announced reforms in the ministry's rice distribution scheme that gave police officers bags of rice on top of their salaries.

The new system would provide 2,800 riel for each kilogram of rice given under the old system. A local police official speaking on condition of anonymity said officers receive between 10 and 20 kilograms of rice on top of the current salary of between $45 and $55 per month, depending on rank.

Slum eviction deadline today

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Dey Krahorm residents sit near a sign that says "Stop evictions" during a news conference Monday in the slum.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chhay Channyda
Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Some 100 families holding out in Dey Krahorm say they will refuse to leave their homes until the company developing the land gives them more money

SEVERAL hundred Dey Krahorm residents who are facing an eviction deadline today say they will not leave the slum until the private company that has taken control of the land gives them a fair price for the homes they will lose.

Their refusal has set the stage for another outbreak of violence in the shantytown, rights workers warn, following several previous clashes between residents and representatives of 7NG, the developer who has a concession for the land.

"Human rights groups urge the government not to force people to leave their homes," said Bunn Rachana, a monitor with the Housing Rights Taskforce.

But city officials say they hope the standoff can be resolved through negotiations.

"We try not to use force to evict people - we must use negotiations as a way to find a solution," said Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun.

He added that most of Dey Krahorm's former residents have taken 7NG's compensation offer of relocation in Dangkor district's Damnak Trayoeng village.

Holdouts, he said, risk receiving far less than the US$30,000 to $50,000 that they are demanding from the company, which is offering $10,000 in lieu of a new house at the relocation site.

"The residents want a high price, but the company has no money to give them," he told the Post Monday.

He added that the company would give land titles to those families who have already relocated only after the remaining people left Dey Krahorm.

" WHAT WE WANT IS LEGAL POSSESSION OF THE LAND. "

Mann Chhoeun also downplayed residents' concerns that the relocation site was lacking infrastructure, saying that a school was under construction and 7NG would offer loans to residents who wanted to open businesses.

"Each family can borrow two million to five million riels ($500 to $1,250) to run the business," he said.

Not enough

But residents say the offer is not enough for them to leave land that they say will be valued at many times whatever the company would pay them to leave.

"The villager cannot take what the company is offering," said Chan Vichet, a community representative speaking at a news conference in the slum Monday.

"What we want is legal possession of the land," he said, adding that even Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema warned Dey Krahorm residents not to be cheated when he visited the slum before the 2003 national elections.

"He said, ‘Please don't exchange your diamonds for stone'," Chan Vichet said.

Bunn Rachana said Dey Krahorm residents should have a legal right to the land under the Kingdom's land law.

"They legally occupy the land at Dey Krahorm according to the law," she said.

"They do not want to move."

The land, near the riverside in Chamkarmon district, was granted to 7NG in 2006 for the purposes of developing housing, at a time when real estate prices - even in former slumland - started to skyrocket.

Tribunal rejects review of Khieu Samphan's detention

Photo by: eccc/pool
Khieu Samphan (left) shown at the Khmer Rouge tribunal in this file photo.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Brendan Brady
Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Pre-Trial Chamber says it has no jurisdiction to reverse provisional detention of former Khmer Rouge head of state

A REQUEST for the release of Khieu Samphan from pretrial detention has been ruled as inadmissible by Khmer Rouge tribunal judges who say they have no jurisdiction to rule on the application.

In a statement dated Wednesday, the Pre-Trial Chamber refused to review a petition by the defence team for the release from custody of the former Khmer Rouge head of state, who is charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The pretrial chamber president, Judge Prak Kimsan, wrote that he "has no jurisdiction to decide on the application and will therefore declare it inadmissible".

The decision corroborated the co-prosecutors' retort that the tribunal's rules "supercede" the Cambodian Penal Code and "do not allow such application" before the Pre-Trial Chamber of the UN-backed court.

The petition, filed December 4 by co-lawyers Jacques Verges and Sa Sovan, insisted Khieu Samphan should be released until decisions are delivered on their other outstanding appeals, including one against an earlier court decision that denied the full translation of their client's case file into French. Verges maintains that this prevents him from defending his client in his native language.

In their submission, the defence took wider jabs at the court, writing that their client "is being held arbitrarily, based on a non-existent juridical act".

In October, the tribunal extended 77-year-old Khieu Samphan's pretrial detention for an additional year as delays continued to hamper the proceedings.

Of the five suspects under provisional arrest, he was the last to be refused release under any circumstance, including hospitalisation as alternative confinement.

Verges has repeatedly accused the tribunal of engaging in "lynch mob justice", telling the German news magazine Der Spiegel last month he doubted his client's case would ever go to trial because the court had "gambled away its credibility and legitimacy" by failing to adhere to procedures.

Both defence lawyers are in France and could not be contacted for comment on Monday.

High blood pressure sends labour leader's killer to Calmette

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Cheang Sokha
Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Sok Sam Oeun, who was convicted of killing unionist Chea Vichea in 2004, may be too ill to face court on Wednesday, his lawyer says.

SOK Sam Oeun, one of two men convicted of assassinating union leader Chea Vichea, may be unable to appear in front of the Supreme Court on Wednesday due to high blood pressure, according to a local rights group.

Am Sam Ath, a monitor for Licadho, said that Sok Sam Oeun was diagnosed with high blood pressure last Friday and was escorted to Calmette Hospital.

"The disease will lead to the postponement of his [hearing] if it reoccurs," Am Sam Ath said, adding, however, that "he is getting better and had returned to the prison".

Licadho's Dr Man Sopheara, who regularly examines inmates, said Sok Sam Oeun's apprehensions about the upcoming hearing had contributed to his high blood pressure.

Sok Sam Oeun and Born Samnang were sentenced to 20 years in prison for murdering union activist Chea Vichea in January 2004. But rights groups, including Licadho, contend the men were framed for the politically-charged killing.

The court will consider whether their trial was conducted properly, and could rule for a re-trial in a lower court.

Man Sopheara said he would examine the health of both men before the hearing.

But Chhoun Chatha, deputy general prosecutor of the Supreme Court, told the Post that if one the men was unable to attend the hearing for a specific reason, he could write a letter informing the judges prior the proceedings.

"We have not changed our schedule," he said.

Demining head loses two posts in reshuffle

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sam Rith
Tuesday, 30 December 2008

SAM Sotha was formally replaced Monday as head of the Cambodian Mine Action Authority (CMAA) and ambassador-in-charge of land mine issues, but will be remain an adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen on the deadly munitions.

The transfer, made by royal decree, promoted another of the premier's land mine advisers, Chum Bunrong, to head up the CMAA.

Officials at Monday's handover ceremony said Sam Sotha's removal from the two posts was part of a normal rotation of personnel.

"In order for work to progress, you have to have change," said Prak Sokhonn, a secretary of state at the Council of Ministers who was acting as Hun Sen's representative.

In 1999 Sam Sotha was fired as head of the Cambodian Mine Action Centre as donors demanded that the government's corruption-plagued demining agency be reformed.

But government officials maintain that the most recent shuffle was not a punitive measure against Sam Sotha.

Government spokesman and Information Minister Khieu Kanharith told the Post Sunday that Sam Sotha would be appointed to another government position "later".

Officials said Monday the government remained committed to land mine removal, but that it would need until at least 2020 to complete the task.

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Dengue fever casualties down nationwide: ministry

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
A young dengue patient awaits treatment at Kantha Bopha hospital in Phnom Penh.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Titthara and Sam Rith
Tuesday, 30 December 2008

The head of the Health Ministry's anti-dengue fever program credits better education and treatment for the decline

A HEALTH Ministry official announced Monday a steep decline in the number of infections and deaths from dengue fever countrywide this year.

Ngan Chantha, director of the ministry's anti-dengue fever program, said 65 people have died from the disease so far this year, compared with 407 deaths in 2007.

He said 9,300 people contracted the disease in 2008, down from 39,851 cases last year.

Dengue fever is a viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes that causes severe fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, and skin rash.

Ngan Chantha credited greater funding and educational programs for the drop in infection rates and deaths.

"We have a preventative program in place to check the spread of dengue fever," he told the Post Monday, adding that the government has also received support from the World Health Organisation, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and USAID.

Ngan Chantha said provinces hardest hit by dengue include Kampong Cham, Kampong Thom, Kandal and Siem Reap, but that the disease finds a strong foothold in areas suffering from poor sanitation.

However, Ngan Chantha identified a troubling trend in the spread of the disease.

"Now, it is not only the children who get infected. It is also older men between 20 and 50," he said, adding that the ministry did not have data on infection rates among adults but that it would conduct studies in the future.

Srey Acha, director of the Me Sang district referral hospital in Prey Veng province, said the hospital treated no cases of dengue fever so far this year.

"People in my district now have a greater understanding about how to prevent infection," he told the Post Monday.

70 pc of Soviet-era debt will be forgiven, says CPP lawmaker

FOREIGN DEBT
The Cambodian government has amassed US$2.37 billion in foreign debt since the 1970s. A whopping 63 percent of this is owed to Russia due to loans in the 1980s when the Soviet Union was a major benefactor to Cambodia.


The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chun Sophal
Tuesday, 30 December 2008

After previous denials from the Russian govt, a Cambodian lawmaker says most of the US$1.5 billion Cold War debt will be scratched

A SENIOR Cambodian People's Party lawmaker insisted Monday that Russia will cancel 70 percent of debt it is owed by Cambodia, potentially reducing to a third what the country owes to foreign nations.

Lawmakers across party lines also pressed the government to reduce foreign debt and focus on obtaining aid with no strings attached.

According to Ministry of Economy and Finance figures, Cambodia owes more than US$2 billion to foreign countries, which is equivalent to 23 percent of the country's Gross Domestic Product.

Cambodia owes $1.5 billion to Russia, which loaned the money during the 1980s when Cambodia was under the Soviet sphere of influence.

Yim Sovann, a Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker, said Cambodia will soon be unable to obtain foreign loans from any country if Russia does not eliminate the debt.

" The debt rate will increase ... and Cambodia will not be able to ask for any ... loans . "

"The debt rate will increase to the maximum rate, and Cambodia will not be able to ask for any more loans," Yim Sovann said.

Cheam Yeap, chairman of the Committee of Finance, Banking and Audits, assured lawmakers on Monday that Russia will cut 70 percent of Cambodia's debt, but he said in the unlikely event that it did not, Cambodia would still be in good shape financially.

"If Russia does not eliminate our debt, Cambodia will continue to repay it and will still be able to ask for additional loans from other countries," he said.

In early December, the Russian Finance Ministry denied reports that it had decided to eliminate most of Cambodia's debt to the country.

On December 9, the head of Moscow's International Financial Relations Department told the Russian media: "The talks are under way. The debt exists and should be settled ... but we have not signed a bilateral agreement."

A real plan

You Hockry, a Norodom Ranariddh Party lawmaker, demanded at the National Assembly that the government develop a plan to reduce foreign debt that does not rely on Russia's whims. "We will have to confront the fact that no foreign nations will be willing to loan to us in the future," he warned.

"I appreciate that the government can still collect foreign loans, but the aid that the Khmer people really welcome is nonrefundable," You Hockry said.

Ouk Rabun, a secretary of state at the Finance Ministry, confirmed that Cambodia is shifting its attention to acquiring aid.

"Cambodia will stop asking for loans in the future," he said. "Since 2005, our tendency has been to focus more on foreign aid than on loans."

"Most countries are happy to provide aid if they know Cambodia is capable of implementing its projects," Ouk Rabun said.

Nonetheless, Ouk Rabun said that Cambodia will still ask for about $200 million in foreign loans this year to develop infrastructure in the provinces.

Keep your lid on

Photo by: PHOTO SUPPLIED

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Post Staff
Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Forty ANZ Royal Bank employees gather at the bank's Independence Monument branch to celebrate Helmet Wearing Day. The day was organised to show support for the new law requiring motorcycle riders to wear helmets. ANZ provides its employees with helmets and distributes 500 helmets to students in Cambodia annually.

Prison death highlights need for judicial reform

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sophan Seng
Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Dear Editor,

I appreciate appealing for a thorough investigation by UN representatives into the death of Heng Touch ("UN representatives call for investigation into prison death", November 27).

This case is not the first one of impunity to happen in Cambodia. Legal frailty is strongly rooted in Cambodia and it has gradually become the "culture of impunity".

Since 1993, administrative and judicial reform has been one of the priorities of the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC). After the Untac-sponsored election, the UN and other international stakeholders have utilised the carrot-and-stick tactic to speed up the reforms in Cambodia.

On one hand, they have urged the RGC to accelerate reforms with soft and hard pressure, while on the other hand, they still keep providing funds to develop various projects run by the government. But we can see that the writing of laws has become the only result of their efforts, while implementation [of these laws] is still slack.

The RGC has to achieve its obligation in the Cambodian Constitution, as well as the treaties that it has signed with foreign donors to pursue good governance, decentralisation, curbing of corruption and strengthening of the rule of law.

I admire the RGC's "Strategic Plan for Sustainable Development of Cambodia", otherwise named the "Triangular Plan", "Rectangular Plan" and "Millennium Development Goals of Cambodia".

Each strategic plan well describes the willingness to reform the legal system, particularly the national court and judiciary. The fourth mandate of RGC is going to carry out the same strategic plan with little adjustment for its next five years in power, and I wish that this good plan should not exist solely on paper.

The question of Heng Touch dying as the prisoner is relevant to the issue of the RGC's achievements in legal reform and ongoing impunity in Cambodia.

This single case has drawn our attention to many other victims savaged by the hidden and rarely-punished perpetrators. Politicians, actresses, popular singers, Buddhist monks, unionists and ordinary people who have been devastated or even murdered have been waiting for the day when this culture of impunity will be eliminated.

The UN, as well as foreign donors and the Cambodian people, is eagerly looking forward to seeing the complete achievement of judicial reform in Cambodia.

Sophan Seng
PhD student in political science
University of Hawaii at Manoa

Police Blotter: 30 Dec 2008

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Lim Phalla
Tuesday, 30 December 2008

RACING RIVALS INJURED IN TAKEO

Rival gang members were arrested for fighting in Takeo province's Daun Keo district. According to the police, three members of one gang - Mao Sophal, 32, Mao Sdok, 22, and Sun Pros, 25 - and four members of another gang - Ouk Kim Srorn, 36, Ork Sam Ath, 24, Sy Vibol, 28, and Seim Piseth, 28 - were taken to the police station, educated and released. The fight occurred following a street race.
KAMPUCHEA THMEY

FIRESIDE FRATRICIDE LEAVES ONE DEAD

Pouy Leuk, 19, murdered his brother Pouy Mao, 25, by repeatedly stabbing him in the head on December 22 in Som Thom commune in Ratanakkiri province. Pouy Mao, Pouy Leuk, Pouy Phlol and a neighbour started a fire adjacent to the Pouy household. The neighbour said that if the smoke touched any part of the Pouys' house, then the Pouy family would be poor forever. This angered Pouy Mao, who then took a chain and tried to pull the neighbour's house down. Pouy Phlol tried to stop him and was hit and injured seriously by Pouy Mao. Upon seeing this, Pouy Leuk grabbed a knife and sliced Pouy Mao's skull repeatedly. Pouy Leuk was arrested and taken to the provincial court, Pouy Phlol was taken to O'Yadao referral hospital, and Pouy Mao died on the spot.
KOH SANTEPHEAP

FOUR-YEAR-OLD KILLED IN HOUSE FIRE
Thoeun Thea, 4, was killed in a fire in O'Taseik village in Kampong Cham's Steng Trorng district on Saturday. His father, Taem Thoeun, 45, was seriously burned and taken to the provincial hospital. A kerosene lamp sparked the fire. The two older children escaped the flames and ran to their father, who then went into the house to try and save his sleeping son. He sustained serious burns and nearly died.
KOH SANTEPHEAP

PRISONER ESCAPES FROM HOSPITAL

Nuon Ngin, a prisoner from Battambang, is on the loose after escaping from a provincial hospital where he was receiving treatment. He had served only five years of his 15-year sentence for robbery. It is not known what he was being treated for at the hospital.
KOH SANTEPHEAP

PHNOM PENH'S DOOR THIEVES NABBED

Two suspects, Phoeuk Makara, 20, and Mao Tauch, 20, were arrested while carrying stolen iron door shields from newly built flats in Phnom Penh on Saturday. They were trying to sell the doors at Phsar Tauch.
KOH SANTEPHEAP

Why Al Qaeda isn't gaining a foothold in Cambodia

Village Elder: Yousuf Bin Abetalip, one of Cambodia's 400,000 Muslims.
David Montero

THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR

The post-Khmer Rouge nation is a portrait of tolerance for Muslims, but the US worries that this could change.

By David Montero Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
from the December 30, 2008 edition

CHROYAMONTREY, Cambodia - In this village, and others like it throughout Cambodia, Muslims and non-Muslims live side by side in harmony, their existences unmarred by the toxic cocktail of government repression, separatist ambitions, and growing radicalism characteristic of many neighboring countries.

"I've been living with Muslim neighbors since I was young," says resident Ouk Ros. "When there's a marriage, we join together in the party."

Still, as money and influence from the Persian Gulf pours into Cambodia, many fear that pockets of the 400,000 strong Muslim community could fall into the orbit of a less-tolerant form of Islam.

"There are some organizations here from the Middle East that are very radical and that are very intolerant, and they are trying very hard to change the attitude and the atmosphere of the Muslim population here," the outgoing US Ambassador, Joseph Mussomeli warned in August.

A unique confluence of modern history, geography, and government initiative have combined to foster tolerance in Cambodia, many observers here say.

In Thailand and the Philippines, Muslim communities are concentrated in separate – and often disadvantaged – territories, which are byproducts of ancient kingdoms to which Muslims once belonged. Separatists in Thailand's south have been fighting for greater autonomy since 2004 and in the Mindanao area of the Philippines since the 1970s.

But Cambodia's Muslims, sometimes referred to as Chams – a reference to an ancient empire of warriors, the Kingdom of Champa – have always lived dispersed throughout the country.

"We don't have any separate lands, and we don't want any separate lands," says Osman Ysa, the author of two books on Cambodia's Cham population. "We consider this country as our own."

To date, Muslims here have also eschewed radical politics, although not without exception. In 2003, authorities arrested a Cambodian citizen, as well as an Egyptian and two Thai nationals, all suspected of ties to Jemaah Islamiyah, an Al-Qaeda affiliate based in South Asia.

Cambodia's unique and dark modern history helps explain why the dominant form of Islam remains both peaceful and accommodating, Muslim leaders say. When the ultra-Communist Khmer Rouge seized power in 1975, they outlawed religion and set about decimating the Muslim population. By 1979, when the Khmer Rouge fell, about 500,000 Muslims had been killed – nearly 70 percent – according to one of Mr. Ysa's studies.

As a result, the violence of Al Qaeda today reminds Muslim leaders of the Khmer Rouge of yesterday.

"When Cambodia was controlled by Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge look liked Al Qaeda," says Sley Ry, the director of religious education at the Cambodian Islamic center, Cambodia's largest Islamic school, located near Phnom Penh.

"We've already suffered a lot.... We are very disappointed by Al Qaeda because God tells: 'Don't kill people,' " adds Yousuf Bin Abetalip, an elder of Choy Changua, a village just outside of Phnom Penh, where about 300 Muslim families live.

Buddhism is the state religion in this country of 14 million, but the country's constitution enshrines freedom of worship. Unlike in China, where the Communist government has been accused of limiting the freedom of Muslims to worship, the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen has built large mosques and provided free radio airtime for Muslim programming.

Beyond such overtures, Muslims enjoy real political power. About a dozen serve in top political offices. Mr. Sen even has his own advisor on Muslim affairs.

But there are fears that Cambodia's moderate form of Islam could be contested. In recent months, ties between Cambodia and the Persian Gulf have grown as the Gulf States look to Cambodia as a potential buyer of oil and supplier of food. In September, the government of Kuwait pledged $546 million in soft loans, while Qatar pledged $200 million. Kuwait has also earmarked $5 million to refurbish a mosque in Phnom Penh.

There are fears that the money could open the door to private individuals and foundations who seek to influence the Muslim community here. Whether founded or not, in January, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) opened its first office in Cambodia, citing the potential for terrorism.

"Cambodia is an important country to us for the potential of persons transiting Cambodia – using Cambodia as a spot for utilizing terrorism," FBI director Robert Mueller said, inaugurating the new office.

In September, the prime minister announced a new law to more tightly control nongovernmental organizations. Sen's reasoning: "Terrorists might come to the Royal Government of Cambodia and hide themselves under the banners of nongovernment organizations."

Some critics contend the law is not aimed at terrorists, but nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that routinely criticize Sen's administration.

"It's not only to control the terrorists groups, but also to control NGOs in general," says Thun Saray, the director of Adhoc, a human rights organization based in Phnom Penh.

As concern over terrorism grows, Muslims here, including Mr. Abetalip, say they will be the first to prevent it. "If there's any Cambodian people who want to follow Al Qaeda, we will straight away arrest them and bring them to the government."