Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Chinese scientists working on new HIV vaccine

(China Daily)
2008-01-23 10:23

HONG KONG: Scientists here and on the mainland are working on an AIDS vaccine to protect against three variants of HIV sweeping across southern and western areas of the mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Chen Zhiwei, director of the new AIDS Institute in Hong Kong, said scientists have been using gene sequencing to track how HIV viruses on the mainland are evolving, and their geographical spread.

Two closely related HIV variants had been spread by intravenous drug users (IDUs) from southwestern Yunnan Province; one to as far as Xinjiang in the northwest, and the second to Guangdong in the south.

The third variant is in Yunnan and southern Guangxi province, which Chen said is passed mainly through heterosexual sex.

Chen, who worked alongside the well-known HIV/AIDS scientist David Ho in the United States before moving to the Hong Kong institute, said scientists in the US and China have developed a vaccine based on the two HIV variants spreading among IDUs, which they hope to test on animals by the end of the year.

"If you want to make a vaccine, it is better to have a local strain as a target to work on," Chen said.

The HIV variants circulating in south and west China are similar to those found in India, Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand, as well as in Taiwan and Hong Kong, he said.

"The epidemic in China has evolved over time. Previously, the major risk factors were IDUs and the tragic story of blood donation in central China.

"But after these people got infected, they passed it on and it is now in the general population," Chen said.

"After 2006, heterosexual sex has been playing the major role in transmission of the virus. Infections have gone up in the general population and from mother to child."

The presence of these variants in Taiwan and Hong Kong also could be a telltale sign of the traveling routes of drug users in the region, Chen said.

The AIDS Institute hopes to help set up HIV screening centers in China, which is estimated to have about 700,000 people living with HIV/AIDS.

Vietnamese Living Illegally in U.S. Face Deportation

Associated Press
January 23, 2008

HANOI, Vietnam — Thousands of Vietnamese living illegally in America now face deportation after the two countries completed an agreement yesterday, a move that sparked worry among immigrant communities.

Vietnamese who entered America illegally after the former foes normalizedrelationsin1995could now be forced to return to their birth country, the director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Julie Myers, said.

The deal has been under negotiation for 10 years. Vietnam had previously been reluctant to accept citizens back, and community leaders in America said many immigrants have been living with deportation orders for years, even decades.

"Some Vietnamese have been here have a very long time," an organizer with VietUnity, an Oakland-based Vietnamese community organization, Carolyn Tran, said. "They don't have a connection there any more."

More than 1.5 million overseas Vietnamese — the largest population outside Vietnam — live in America. Many fled their native country in boats after the Vietnam War ended in 1975 and northern communist forces took control of the former South Vietnam, which the U.S. had backed.

Critics of the agreement wonder whether this pact won't be rolled back to include others who entered the United States in the 70s and 80s.

"There is concern," said Joren Lyons, a staff attorney with the Asian Law Caucus in San Francisco, which has represented dozens of Vietnamese facing deportation orders. "Vietnam has said for decades no, these people can't be returned to Vietnam, and now they're saying yes. So is this a foot in the door?

Will they start accepting people who came earlier as well?"

Cheap Cambodian kidnapper caught after refusing to pay taxi fare

Wed, 23 Jan 2008

Phnom Penh - A Cambodian man who allegedly kidnapped a five-year-old girl from her provincial home and brought her to the capital to sell was caught when he arrived at his destination and argued about the taxi fare, police said Wednesday. Pech Sopheak, 23, took the girl from her Kampong Chhnang home around 100 kilometres from the capital Monday, but when he arrived he would not pay so the driver called the police, Kampong Chhnang chief of anti-trafficking General Prack Soany said.

"The police compared the girl with him to a picture of the kidnapped girl and arrested him," she said. "His problem was caused by 10,000 riel (2.50 dollars)."

She said Sopheak had admitted he was going to sell the child to an elderly couple who only had boys of their own and wanted a daughter but that she had now been returned safely to her family.

If convicted he faces up to 20 years in jail.

Deposed Thai PM Returning to Thailand

BANGKOK, Thailand - The wife of deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said Wednesday that her husband will return home from self-imposed exile in May.

Pojamarn Shinawatra revealed the plan when appearing before the Supreme Court on charges that she used her husband's political influence to buy prime Bangkok real estate from a government agency at a third of its estimated value.

Pojamarn returned to Thailand earlier this month, a trip Thaksin said was to prove their innocence and clear the family's name.

Thaksin was toppled in a bloodless military coup in 2006, with opponents accusing him of massive corruption and abuse of power.

U.S. Teen Brings New School To Rural Cambodia

Global Briefs
By: AsianWeek Staff, Jan 23, 2008

BANTEAY SREY, Cambodia — Hundreds of Cambodian villagers welcomed the arrival of a new school, a gift from an American teenager who raised $52,000 after reading about the hardships of growing up in Cambodia.

Rachel Rosenfeld, 17, made her first visit to the Southeast Asian country for the opening of the R.S. Rosenfeld School, which brings five computers and Internet access to 300 primary school students in a small village of Siem Reap Province, a poverty-stricken area that is home to the country’s famed Angkor Wat temple complex.

Rosenfeld, of Harrison, N.Y., said she learned about the village of Srah Khvav after reading a newspaper article last year that discussed the plight of poor Cambodian children, who often have no access to education.

To raise money, Rosenfeld sent out hundreds of fund-raising letters, sold T-shirts and offered naming rights for several structures in the school, a statement said. The $52,000 she raised was supplemented by the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, which contributed $10,000 and $13,000.


Claims union leader's killers were 'innocent scapegoats'

ABC Radio Australia


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Four years after Cambodia's outspoken union leader Chea Vichea was assassinated, many believe his killers are yet to face justice.

That's despite the fact two men are currently serving 20-year jail terms for his murder. The Cambodian opposition and human rights groups say the men are innocent scapegoats.

They've accused Prime Minister Hun Sen's government of covering up what they've called a politically motivated killing.

Presenter - Joanna McCarthy Speaker - Sam Rainsy, leader of Cambodia's opposition Sam Rainsy party; Sara Colm, Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch .

MCCARTHY: It was Chea Vichea's morning ritual. Every day he would read his newspaper at the same kiosk in a crowded Phnom Penh street, and it was there on January 22nd, 2004, that two men on a motor bike pulled up and fired bullets at close range into his head and chest. Chea Vichea died instantly. His friend and political colleague, Cambodia's Opposition leader, Sam Rainsy.

RAINSY: He was very brave, very dedicated to the cause of the poor, of the oppressed. He continued to fight for the same cause and unfortunately exactly four years ago, on this very day, he was killed by unknown murderers. And today we deplore the fact that the real murderers have not been arrested. There are many indications that some powerful people were behind the murder. They must be very powerful to be able to protect the culprits.

MCCARTHY: The investigation of the two men charged weith Chea Vichea's murder was plagued with irregularities. Both were sentenced to 20 years in jail, after a trial which presented no witnesses, no forensic evidence and none of their many alibies. Sara Colm, from Human Rights Watch.

COLM: I think it's a product of international pressure in part that the government felt obliged to produce scape goats for the murder. But, in fact, the investigation was very sloppy and the trial itself in no way met a fair trial standard.

MCCARTHY: Four years after his death, Chea Vichea leaves a mixed legacy. The labor conditions he worked to expose in Cambodia's booming garment industry have somewhat improved. But two other union leaders have been killed in the meantime and Sara Colm says hundreds of political killings remain unsolved.

COLM: There's a longstanding climate of impunity in Cambodia for political killings. So it's really long overdue for the Cambodian Government to fire higher standards of justice, given that it's really entered the international arena in the last ten years by a number of steps such as its membership in ASEAN and other factors.

MCCARTHY: And Cambodia continues to resist calls from international donors to reform their judiciary, which is widely seen as an arm of the government.Sam Rainsy says the international community which provides half Cambodia's national budget has to do more.

RAINSY: On this issue, the donor community has been rather weak. Actually they have turned a blind eye to crime that has never been investigated or seriously investigated.

MCCARTHY: Why do you think they're prepared to turn a blind eye?

RAINSY: Because they may think that there are more important issues than the murderer of innocent people. For instance, they must defend personal or their national interest and they must be willing to have good relations with the Cambodian Government at any cost.

US could ban travel for Cambodians tied to illegal logging

Cambodian trucks loaded with timber wait to cross into Vietnam

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — The US has passed a law that could see travel bans for Cambodian officials accused of looting the country's natural resources, a move hailed Wednesday by conservationists as a strike against illegal logging.

The law, enacted in December, endorses calls by the US Congress to deny visas to Cambodian officials identified in a 2007 report by the environmental watchdog Global Witness as being guilty of plundering Cambodia's forests.

London-based Global Witness's caustic study, titled "Cambodia's Family Trees," accused a "kleptocratic" elite of systematically clearing Cambodia's woodlands.

It named several figures close to Prime Minister Hun Sen, including Forest Administration Director General Ty Sokhun and Agriculture Minister Chan Sarun, as being directly involved.
In response, an outraged government last year banned the Global Witness report from Cambodia and continues to dismiss its allegations.

A Cambodian government spokesman could not be reached Wednesday for comment on the US legislation.

But the law "sends a clear message that the exploitation of Cambodia's natural resources by a small group of powerful individuals at the expense of the country's poor is unacceptable," Global Witness director Simon Taylor said in a statement received Wednesday.

The legislation, which authorises spending by Washington, instructs the US State Department to identify foreign officials, and their relatives, who are believed to have "been involved in corruption relating to the extraction of natural resources in their countries."

It also endorses a congressional subcommittee recommendation to "prohibit corrupt Cambodian officials identified in the June 2007 Global Witness report ... from entering the United States."

But it is unclear if the law will result in visa refusals for individual Cambodians.

US embassy spokesman Jeff Daigle told AFP that "there is no ban ... no specific names have been given to the embassy."

Lowell property firm agrees to settlement in discrimination case

By Associated Press
Tuesday, January 22, 2008

LOWELL - A property management firm has agreed to pay as much as $158,000 to settle allegations that it discriminated against Cambodian-Americans who tried to rent apartments, the U.S. Department of Justice said Tuesday.

Pine Properties Inc. and six affiliate companies would pay up to $114,000 to compensate victims under the settlement, which is subject to approval by a federal judge in Boston. The settlement also requires Pine Properties to pay a $44,000 fine and take steps to ensure it doesn’t practice further discrimination.

The defendants, who own and operate 13 rental properties in Lowell, refused to show available apartments to Cambodian-Americans who didn’t have appointments, while white people were shown apartments immediately without appointments, the department said.

A phone message seeking comment from Pine Properties was not immediately returned Tuesday.

The government sued Pine Properties and the affiliates in September, alleging violations of the Fair Housing Act. The Justice Department said the lawsuit was the first the agency has ever filed alleging discrimination against Asian-American based on its fair housing testing program.

The case grew out of Operation Home Sweet Home, an initiative to enforce fair housing laws using people who pose undercover as prospective tenants or homeowners.

Cambodia to establish stock exchange

ABC Radio Australia

Cambodia has signed an agreement with representatives from South Korea's stock exchange operator to establish Cambodia's first stock market in 2009.

The memorandum of understanding makes formal a planned joint venture between Cambodia and the Korea Exchange, or KRX, which is Asia's fourth-largest bourse operator.

The Cambodian government will own a 51 per cent share in the new exchange, with KRX holding 49 per cent.

While still one of the world's poorest countries, Cambodia has emerged from decades of conflict as one of the region's rising economies.

It has posted annual economic growth averaging 11 per cent over the past three years on the back of strong garment and tourism sectors.

Cambodian toddler dies after acid attack

Wednesday Jan 23, 2008

A three-year-old Cambodian girl has died after being doused with acid while sleeping with her grandmother, who was also severely burned in the attack, local media have said.

Relatives suspect the unidentified person who carried out the assault is the jealous wife of a man who works with a female member of the child's family, the English-language Cambodia Daily reported.

Immediately after the January 16 attack, the pair were rushed to a provincial hospital some 100 kilometres from their home in southern Cambodia.

But the child, Thai Tim, died the following morning as family members were trying to negotiate the cost of transporting her to a larger hospital in the capital Phnom Penh, the Cambodia Daily said.

Her grandmother, Thorm Saroeun, suffered burns to 30 percent of her body, the report said.

Acid attacks, while decreasing in recent years, are still a common form of revenge in Cambodia, often committed by jilted lovers.

Ancient remains uncovered in Cambodia

ABC Radio Australia

Japanese archaeologists say they have discovered the remains of a man-made water channel in northwest Cambodia - used for rituals as far back as the first century.

They say they have found the sacred mounds or altars at the ruins in Snay village in Banteay Meanchey Province.

The discovery comes under a two-year project that began last January.

Yoshinori Yasuda, a professor of the International Research Center for Japanese Studies, says previously it was believed that Khmer civilization started from the seventh to ninth century AD.

He says based on the latest findings, researchers now think the Khmer civilization goes back to the first century AD.

Mr Yasuda says the recently discovered water channel may be the world's oldest, or some 600 years older than the Tikal ruins in Guatemala in the seventh to ninth centuries.

The site is located about 370 kilometres northwest of Phnom Penh, or about 70 kilometres west of Siem Reap Province, which is home to Angkor Wat.

With 10 Japanese archaeologists and experts and 50 Cambodian staff, the team excavated five sites last year, discovering 36 tombs, seven pits and 156 pottery pieces.

Young boy's story of faith is first of many to come

23 January, 2008

Cambodia (MNN) ― The GodMan film debuted in Cambodia last November. It is an animated story of Jesus Christ. Book of Hope is showing the film in schools and churches. In the Buddhist nation, public showings would likely have adverse effects. "Inside church facilities, they are free to invite anybody who wants to come. And people are able to come without hesitation," said Ty Silva with Book of Hope.

During the first showing in November, a young boy watched the film with great interest. Silva later found out that the boy was the nephew of the Book of Hope director in Cambodia. The boy had come to live with the director's family from his rural home.

The night after the boy had seen the GodMan, the director's family had a water leak in their home and had difficulty finding the leak. They decided to pray, and the little boy offered a prayer, for the first time, asking God to help them.

"Even though he had been around a Christian family for several weeks, it hadn't made any softening in his heart. But when he saw the GodMan, when he saw Jesus there on the screen, it got his attention, and it changed his attitude and feeling. Now he has made that commitment to Christ," said Silva.

Silva adds that there will likely be more of these stories as the film is shown in more places.
To show it in more places, Silva says they have a unique idea. "The idea is to put all this equipment into a little mini-van and be able to go around to rural provincial areas and be able to show the God man and then to give all the children a free gift of a Book of Hope," he said.
Usually generators are required to take to rural villages in order to show the film.

The mini-van outreach would be done in conjunction with local churches and in turn strengthen them. Christianity is relatively young in Cambodia.

Deadline Approaching for Tribunal Budget, Groups Worry

By Mean Veasna,
VOA Khmer Original report from Phnom Penh
22 January 2008

Listen Mean Veasna reports in Khmer

The Khmer Rouge tribunal is facing a time and money crunch that could make trials difficult, two rights groups warned Tuesday.

"There is enough budget for the salaries of the international members for the whole year in 2008. But the Cambodian personnel who are working at the Khmer Rouge tribunal will run out of money in the next few months," said Seng Theary, executive director of the Center for Social Development. "If the Khmer Rouge tribunal has no budget, the tribunal will not be able to dispense salaries for the personnel. When the personnel have no salary, we are concerned that the court might stall."

Observers worry the tribunal will run out of funds before all five jailed Khmer Rouge leaders are tried, in proceedings the Cambodian foreign minister has said could run into 2012.

A budget shortfall has made the trial of five jailed former Khmer Rouge leaders more difficult, said Hisham Moussar, a legal expert monitoring the tribunal for the rights group Adhoc.

The tribunal's mandate only has a year and a half remaining, he said, "a short time."
"And if the time is short and the money is not there on time, it will be more difficult for the trial of the five people," he said.

Union Calls on Police to Reopen Chea Vichea Murder Case

By Chun Sakada,
VOA Khmer Original report from Phnom Penh
22 January 2008

Listen Chun Sakada reports in Khmer

Members of a prominent trade union commemorated the murder of its leader in 2004 by calling on police Tuesday to re-investigate and bring the true perpetrators to justice.

Chea Vichea, leader of the Free Trade Union of Workers in the Kingdom of Cambodia, was gunned down Jan. 22, 2004, near a Phnom Penh market.

Two men convicted of his murder are widely considered innocent. Free Trade President Chea Mony, brother of Chea Vichea, and other workers and activists laid a wreath at the site of the murder Tuesday and called on police to re-investigate the killing, to free the two jailed men and find the murderers and those who hired them.

"Today, we… want to appeal to the government and the courts to re-open the investigation of the murderer who gunned down Chea Vichea on Jan. 22, 2004, and we dismiss Born Samnang and Sok Samoeun as Chea Vichea's killers," Chea Mony said.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy also attended the ceremony, held near Wat Langka.

"We would like for the government to find the real killer who gunned Chea Vichea down, and those behind the perpetrator, to find and arrest them and bring them to justice," Sam Rainsy said.

Human Rights Party Vice President Keo Remy said the slain leader would earn an honorary title if the party were to win elections in July. He also promised a statue in Chea Vichea's honor if the party were to win a majority of seats in the National Assembly.

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said Tuesday police had done their work well and had sent their investigation to the courts, which found Born Samnang and Sok Samoeun guilty.

Licadho founder Kek Galabru prayed "to the angels" for Chea Vichea and other slain labor leaders, and for the release of the Born Samnang and Sok Samoeun, both of whom are now serving 20-year sentences.

Ieng Sary's Lawyer Requests House Arrest

By Chiep Mony,
VOA Khmer Original report from Phnom Penh
22 January 2008

Listen Chiep Mony reports in Khmer

The lawyer for jailed Khmer Rouge leader Ieng Sary said Tuesday he wants his client released form a tribunal detention facility and placed under house arrest ahead of any atrocity crimes trial.

Former foreign minister Ieng Sary, who is 78 and suffers from heart problems, was arrested in November and charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity.

"It would be OK if this were a normal illness such as backache, fever, headache, dizziness," said lawyer Ang Udom. "But this is a critical illness. You know, it is heart disease. It has been operated on."

Hisham Moussar, tribunal monitor for the rights group Adhoc, said Tuesday such a release could allow a suspect to cast his influence on evidence or witnesses.

Tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath said Tuesday the pre-trial judges will have a chance to decide on pre-trial release, which, if granted, would allow Ieng Sary to stay at his home in Phnom Penh ahead of a trial.

Town At Odds Over Buddhist Temple

Watching Video
January 22, 2008

BUXTON, Maine -- In Buxton, controversy over a Buddhist temple was the focus of Monday night’s town planning board meeting.

The Wat Samaki Cambodian Buddhist Temple, on Back Nippen Road, has been around for about two years but is just now seeking a permit from the town to hold services.

Many neighbors at Monday night’s meeting said the temple’s large gatherings cause traffic and parking problems and are destroying the rural nature of their neighborhood.

The town has asked the temple to limit its gatherings to 200 people and to provide a parking lot with a maximum of 68 spaces. The temple also is being required to abide by the town’s noise ordinance, possibly limiting the number of large gatherings it can hold in a year.

Temple officials said they are happy to work with the town.

The planning board will vote on the permit on Feb. 11

Dengue Fever: Los Angeles band mixes Cambodian pop and American indie rock

Dengue Fever members at the Short Stop bar in Los Angeles: From left, Ethan Holtzman, Senon Williams, Zac Holtzman, Paul Smith, David Ralicke and Chhom Nimol. (Kevin Estrada)

By RJ Smith
January 22, 2008


Audio: Music from 'Venus on Earth'» Listen

Dengue Fever is a Los Angeles band featuring a Cambodian-born singer and five American alt-rockers who regularly embarrass her onstage.

On the cover of its new album, "Venus on Earth" (M80), the guitarist Zac Holtzman, with a long beard and goggles, drives a scooter with the vocalist Chhom Nimol sitting demurely behind him sidesaddle, the way a good Cambodian girl would ride through the streets of Phnom Penh.

Dengue Fever, which specializes in an unlikely mix of 1960s Cambodian pop, rock and other genres, is a lot like that image. Propriety and smart aleck indie rock race by, blurring together.

It is a band of rollicking lightness that keeps coming up deep. At a recent show in the Echo Park neighborhood here, the male members were downright goofy, but Chhom, singing mostly in Khmer and dressed in shimmering Cambodian silk garments she designs herself, looked like old-school royalty, a queen before the hipoisie. No wonder she seemed to roll her eyes from time to time onstage. But after the set, when she lighted a candle onstage to honor those killed by the Khmer Rouge, her voice broke and tears ran down her face.

"I think we balance each other out," Holtzman said in a recent interview. "She'll bring the whole place to a hush, and that would be a long night if it was just that. And then we smash the place up."

Dengue Fever formed after the Farfisa organ player Ethan Holtzman, Zac's brother, traveled to Cambodia in 1997, discovered '60s Cambodian pop and returned with a stack of cassettes. This was not the sort of roots-driven folk sounds ethnomusicologists crave; this was locally produced, gleefully garish trash infused with the surf guitar and soul arrangements that Armed Forces Radio blasted across the region during the Vietnam War. It flourished until the Khmer Rouge came to power in the 1970s and functionally dismantled Cambodian culture.

Dengue Fever's music is a tribute to that lost pop. But the six members of Dengue Fever form a quintessential Los Angeles crew, with a mix of backgrounds and interests that seems fitting in a region with the largest Cambodian population in the United States (in Long Beach, south of downtown Los Angeles) and a flourishing indie rock scene (in the hills east of Hollywood). The band is the musical equivalent of that ultimate modern Los Angeles marker, the polyglot strip-mall sign.
It too offers a cultural mash-up; beyond the obscure Cambodian pop you can hear psychedelia, spaghetti western guitars, the lounge groove of Ethiopian soul and Bollywood soundtracks.

"Seeing Hands," on the new album, has an almost Funkadelic groove, while "Sober Driver" is an all but emo complaint about a guy who drives the cute girl everywhere and gets nowhere.

Now Dengue Fever is starting to make its mark far from its hometown. The band recently returned from the Womex world music festival in Seville, Spain, where it was one of a handful of acts to play showcase performances. British publications have included it in "next big thing" roundups, and Dengue Fever's songs have been on television and film soundtracks, including Jim Jarmusch's "Broken Flowers." A new documentary, "Sleepwalking Through the Mekong," that follows the group on its first trip as a band to Cambodia, seems likely to gain it further notice.

"The underground people are getting hip to world music, and the world music side is getting hip to how you don't have to have a dreadlock wig and Guatemalan pants to be cool," said the bassist Senon Williams, sitting in his backyard with Chhom and Zac Holtzman.

"Now that Nimol is going to start singing more in English," he added, "it's making new things possible for us. Nimol really wants to connect with the American audience more now."

Dmitri Vietze, a publicist and marketer for many global music acts, sees the band as "part of a larger developmental pattern" in world music. "Can you stick them in the world music bin at brick and mortar retail stores?" Vietze asked. "I don't know. But as far as how they fit into world music in a larger philosophical context, they are a part of a huge and promising future."

He noted that the American market had been introduced to world sounds most often by American artists who love and emulate them, like Paul Simon. Now, he said, he sees a movement toward music made and influenced by émigrés: "We're seeing more and more bands like Dengue Fever."

Chhom speaks in broken English that her band mates struggle to first understand and then interpret for a reporter. Born in Battambang, Cambodia, Chhom moved to Long Beach in 2000, when she was 21. Both her parents were wedding singers, and she followed in the family business. An invitation to sing in Minneapolis brought her to the United States, and her sister, already living in Long Beach, introduced her to the local dinner-club scene.

Chhom stressed how important the music that inspired the Holtzman brothers was to her when she was growing up. One favorite is the great Khmer pop singer Sinn Sisamouth, who sang with Chhom's father on a movie soundtrack. Sinn Sisamouth was a royal court singer of ballads in the 1950s who by the end of the '60s was called "the king of Cambodian rock 'n' roll," with a queasy garage sound and a mellow nod to Nat King Cole, reinventing the rock wheel on a Pacific rim.

Sinn Sisamouth disappeared after the Khmer Rouge took over. An artist close to the old government of Prince Norodom Sihanouk, he is said to have died in a labor camp.

Bouncing Williams's 1-year-old son on her knee, Chhom seemed a little bored with the interview process, her deftly drawn eyebrows often forming a skeptical V. She already had a reputation as a singer in Cambodia when she auditioned, along with several other Cambodian women, for Dengue Fever in 2001. When her competitors saw her, Zac Holtzman said, they politely excused themselves, assuming she would automatically get the gig.

In 2002, while Dengue Fever was recording its debut album, Chhom was stopped in a routine check by immigration agents during an orange alert and was detained for having a lapsed green card. She spent 22 days in confinement, and upon her release sang endless nights in a Cambodian dance club in Long Beach called the Dragon House to pay off her legal fees. The band's second album was titled "Escape From the Dragon House," a reference to Chhom having paid off her legal fees and putting her immigration troubles behind her.

As far as connecting with her band mates, that's still a work in progress. When they first started playing together they had to establish a sense of trust across language and cultural barriers. Now they hang out sometimes after a show, but even socializing can be complicated.

"Sometimes I go out and I like to dance because in Cambodia I could never go to clubs and dance like that," Chhom said.

Zac Holtzman responded, "There's always a few nights on tour when we go out and do a few clubs and some dancing . . . "

Chhom interrupted emphatically : "I don't want to talk, I want to dance. And these guys all like to talk. I know it's the American style, they like to drink and talk and talk, but to those people I just say, 'Hi, bye, let's go dance.' "

Older generations of Cambodians in California are sometimes critical. "They don't want me to show off too much of my dress," she said. "They always tell me, 'Don't forget you're a Cambodian girl.' " But the younger generation responds to Dengue Fever and even breakdances to its reinvention of a mongrel music that is itself a reinvention of a mongrel music from the West.

Folk music it's not, but in one crucial way Dengue Fever has folk resonances. To Chhom and other young Cambodians in the United States, pop singers like Sinn Sisamouth and Ros Sereysothea, who died in a labor camp in Cambodia in the 1970s, hit a nerve that blues singers or hillbilly bands do for many Americans: the music takes listeners back home, to a home that doesn't precisely exist anymore.

"Sleepwalking Through the Mekong," directed by the Los Angeles filmmaker John Pirozzi, shows what happens when that 1960s pop makes its way back across the Pacific. It follows Dengue Fever on a 2005 trip to Cambodia, and in the penultimate scene the band sets up a stage in a slum full of corrugated shacks and plays a concert. The reaction is festive at times, but there are also some slack-jawed, unreadable expressions. Whether that's the impact of lost pop music coming back to life or the surreality of American rockers dropping down from postmodern Los Angeles, is a question the band is smart enough to leave unanswered.

Cambodia Eyes Golf

Cambodia doubled its number of luxury golf courses last year to four and hopes to have eight by 2010 in a bid to lure more high-end tourism from the fast-growing sport in Asia, officials said, reported AFP.
Cambodia in 2007 opened its only two PGA-rated courses in the popular tourist town on Siem Reap, in northwest Cambodia near the famed Angkor temples which remain the country’s biggest draw for foreign visitors. A third course backed by South Korean investors is expected to open in Siem Reap in 2009, said Suos Yara, secretary general of Cambodia Golf Association.Three other multi-million-dollar golf projects are also under construction near the capital Phnom Penh.

Police bar actress from Killing Fields museum

22 Jan 2008
Source: ITN

Actress Mia farrow has been stopped from laying flowers at a Killing Fields museum by baton-wielding police.

One hundred Cambodian officers blocked the Hollywood actress and her group from entering the Phnom Penh high school, which was the compound that became Pol Pot's main torture centre.

The visit was part of a campaign to end atrocities in Darfur, and the group have already paid similar visits to Rwanda, Bosnia and Armenia.

The ultimate goal of this campaign is try and influence Chinese policy, as the country if a major investor in Sudan's oil industry.

This has led to accusations that China is breaching international rules and causing violence by selling Sudan weapons that have been diverted to Darfur.

Mia is spearheading this particular campaign as she a spokesperson for the Dream for Darfur pressure group.

Cambodian Chinese prepare for Chinese New Year lion dance

Leaders of the Chaozhou Guild of Cambodia hold joss sticks during the inauguration ceremony of new prop lions used in lion dance, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Jan. 22, 2008. The Chaozhou Guild of Cambodia, a civilian group of the Cambodian Chinese originated from Chaozhou, China, held the ceremony here on Tuesday to greet the forthcoming Chinese lunar calendar new year, which falls on Feb. 7 this year. (Xinhua Photo)

Leaders of the Chaozhou Guild of Cambodia add the finishing touch on a new prop lion used in lion dance, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Jan. 22, 2008. The Chaozhou Guild of Cambodia, a civilian group of the Cambodian Chinese originated from Chaozhou, China, held the ceremony here on Tuesday to greet the forthcoming Chinese lunar calendar new year, which falls on Feb. 7 this year. (Xinhua Photo)
Roasted pigs prepared for the inauguration ceremony of new prop lions used in lion dance are seen at the Chaozhou Guild of Cambodia in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Jan. 22, 2008. The Chaozhou Guild of Cambodia, a civilian group of the Cambodian Chinese originated from Chaozhou, China, held the ceremony here on Tuesday to greet the forthcoming Chinese lunar calendar new year, which falls on Feb. 7 this year. (Xinhua Photo)

Cambodian road network gets 40.8 mln usd in funding for maintenance - ADB

Tue, Jan 22 2008

MUMBAI (Thomson Financial) - The Asian Development Bank (ADB) said it will provide 40.8 mln usd along with its development partners to help Cambodia maintain roads managed by the Ministry of Public Works and Transport and improve the capability of the ministry in managing and maintaining its road network.

The bank said ADB will extend a 6 mln usd loan to the Road Asset Management Project. Australia will provide a 4.8 mln usd grant through the Australian Agency for International Development to be managed by ADB, it said.

The International Development Association of the World Bank Group will help fund the project through a 30 mln usd credit line. The Cambodian government will complete project funding by providing 17.55 mln usd, the ADB said.

The project will finance periodic maintenance for about 950 kilometres of roads managed by the Ministry of Public Works and Transport to help fill the gap between road maintenance requirements and available funds, the bank said.

Thai-Cambodian project leads to Living Angkor Road

The Nation
January 22, 2008

People who love art and history may soon have a wonderful opportunity to travel back 800 years in time to the great Empire of Angkor and King Jayavarman VII of Cambodia.

Collaboration between Thai archaeologists from Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy and Silpakorn University, and Cambodian archaeologists from the Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap in a project called the Living Angkor Road has made this possible.

Surveys have been conducted along the 254-kilometre Angkor Road from Cambodia's Angkor to Thailand's Phimai.

The idea of the project is to eventually develop virtual reality archaeological images of the Empire of Angkor displayed in three dimensions.

King Jayavarman VII was one of the most forceful and productive kings of the Khmer Empire of Angkor. He expanded the empire to its greatest territorial extent and engaged in a building programme that produced numerous temples, highways, rest houses and hospitals.

He also rebuilt the city of Angkor Thom and rebuilt and extended a system of highways which radiated outward from the Bayon temple and the royal palace and reached far into the provinces. He constructed 121 rest houses along these roads. During his reign, the king built 102 hospitals throughout his kingdom. He was more than 90 years old when he died around 1215.

Surat Lertlum, the archaeologist from Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy who initiated and leads the project, said archaeological and anthropological knowledge, geo-informatics technology, information technology, and geo-physics technology were utilised to identify the ancient road from Angkor to Phimai that was mentioned in the inscriptions by King Jayavarman VII.

The first step was to identify the historic road and human settlement of the Khmer empire to show how the people lived and how the country looked in the past. Stone bridges, dharmashala (rest houses) and arogyashala (hospitals) were sought out.

"Remote sensing and geographic information system technology are used by archaeologists to pinpoint and identify archaeological sites and as tools for archaeological analysis. Technology itself cannot make the project complete. It requires other aspects of knowledge including archaeology and anthropology as well as surveys in the field talking with people," said Surat.

Archaeologists and anthropologists went to the field with global-positioning system devices equipped with geographic information systems as well as both satellite maps and vector maps to collect data.

Apart from the satellite and vector maps, the project also requires other sources of information such as digital elevation models, old maps, aerial photos and ground surveys.

Once the teams find the exact location of targeted archaeological sites they can record their position and then upload details to the database at Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy. It is available at

The historical, archaeological and cultural multimedia database for the area of study will include all the knowledge from archaeologists, historians, current cultural information and information from current studies. This information will be used to perform further analysis to understand the ancient road in terms of utilisation and beliefs about the ancient road in former times.

"Then all the information will be structured in a reference format that can be used by researchers or other interested persons. In addition, it will be very useful for tourism purposes, especially for the cultural route tourism campaign," said Surat.

The project was supported by funding from the Thailand Research Fund. The project is now in the second phase. The first and the second phases take one and a half years.

Cambodia: Four years on, still no justice in killing of Chea Vichea

Photo: Tens of thousands of mourners wear black headbands calling trade union leader Chea Vichea a "worker's hero" at a silent funeral march in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on January 25, 2004. Union leader Chea Vichea who was killed in broad daylight on January 22, 2004 in what appears to be a political assassination.

January 28 will mark the fourth anniversary of the initial arrests of Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun for the murder

Four years after the murder of Cambodia’s most prominent labour union leader, Chea Vichea, six leading international human rights organizations and the world’s largest trade union federation called on the Cambodian authorities to exonerate and free the two men unfairly convicted for the crime.

The continued imprisonment of Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeum without any credible evidence against them is of grave concern, said a joint statement by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the Asian Human Rights Commission, the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (a joint program of the International Federation for Human Rights and the World Organization Against Torture), and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

January 28 will mark the fourth anniversary of the initial arrests of Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun for the murder of Chea Vichea, the president of the Free Trade Union of the Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia (FTUWKC), who was killed on January 22, 2004. Each is currently serving a 20-year prison sentence after being convicted in a grossly unfair trial in August 2005.

“From the beginning, this case has been tainted by serious procedural flaws and violations of basic fair trial rights,” said Sara Colm, senior researcher for New York-based Human Rights Watch. “A first step for justice in Chea Vichea’s murder would be the prompt release of those unfairly convicted.”

Numerous irregularities marred the police and court investigations in this case. The police allegedly tortured Born Samnang to get a confession. A judge who initially dropped the charges against the two men for lack of evidence was swiftly removed from his position, and the charges were reinstated.

The subsequent trial of the two men was conducted in a manner that flagrantly violated Cambodian law and international fair trial standards. In April 2007, the country’s Appeal Court upheld their convictions despite its own prosecutor acknowledging that there was insufficient evidence.

Chea Vichea’s family members say they believe Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun are not responsible for the crime, as has the prime witness to the murder, Var Sothy, who fled the country in fear for her life.

“There is compelling evidence that these two men were targeted by the authorities as scapegoats for the murder, and nobody is fooled by this charade,” said Souhayr Belhassen, president of the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH).

The Cambodian authorities’ handling of the case has attracted extensive criticism, domestically and internationally, from human rights activists, lawyers, union advocates, and others.

The International Labour Organization and the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for human rights in Cambodia have repeatedly expressed grave concerns about the convictions of the two men and called for a fresh investigation into Chea Vichea’s murder.

“Any objective examination of all the available evidence shows that these two men never should have been arrested, much less imprisoned for four years already,” said Basil Fernando, executive director of the Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission.

In addition to calling for the exoneration and immediate release of the two men, the seven organizations urged the Cambodian government to launch a full and impartial investigation into the murder, as well as an independent and public inquiry into the handling of the prosecution of Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun.

This would include investigation into allegations of police brutality, intimidation of witnesses, and political interference in the judicial process.

In addition to the murder of Chea Vichea, there has been a clear and ongoing pattern of violence against trade union activists in Cambodia. This includes the murders of FTUWKC official Hy Vuthy in February 2007 and FTUWKC Steering Committee member Ros Sovannarith in 2004, and a series of physical assaults against other FTUWKC unionists.

“The murder of Chea Vichea and other trade union leaders has had a chilling effect on labour rights and workers’ freedoms in Cambodia, even more so given the lack of proper, credible investigations to find their killers,” said Guy Ryder of the Brussels-based International Trade Union Confederation, whose 311 affiliates represent 168 million workers worldwide. “It sends a deplorable message to Cambodian workers that trade union membership or activity will put their safety at risk.”

The seven organizations urged the Cambodian government to take prompt action to address the key issues highlighted by this case: Cambodia’s endemic impunity and lack of rule of law, government interference in the judiciary, intimidation and violence faced by trade union members and leaders, and widespread torture by the police.

“This case highlights the use of torture by Cambodian police, mainly to force confessions out of criminal suspects, and the courts’ readiness to turn a blind eye,” said Eric Sottas, director of the Geneva-based World Organization against Torture. “The Cambodian government and courts should take meaningful action to prevent and punish the use of torture.”

“Four years after the murder of Chea Vichea, the true perpetrators remain at large while two innocent men are imprisoned,” said Brittis Edman, Southeast Asia researcher for London-based Amnesty International. “This deep injustice shows the sorry state of rule of law in Cambodia and the urgent need for genuine legal and judicial reform.”

“Cambodia’s donors, who are pumping millions of dollars in aid into the country, and particularly those supporting the government’s so-called reform programs, need to be demanding real progress – not mere lip service – toward improving the judiciary’s independence and professionalism,” said Anselmo Lee, executive director of FORUM-ASIA.

Archaeological find dates back Khmer civilization by six to eight centuries

The Cheers News

A team of Japanese archeologists have discovered a man-made water channel in northwest Cambodia used for rituals as far back as the first century, which dates back the Khmer civilization by six to eight centuries.

The site - Snay village in Banteay Meanchey Province, is located about 370 km northwest of Phnom Penh, or about 70 km west of Siem Reap Province, which is home to Angkor Wat.

"Before, it was said that Khmer civilization started from the seventh to ninth century AD, but based on our research here, Khmer civilization went back to the first century AD," said Yoshinori Yasuda, a professor of the International Research Center for Japanese Studies in Kyoto.

According to the Japan Times Online, the discovered water channel may be the world's oldest, or some 600 years older than the Tikal ruins in Guatemala in the seventh to ninth centuries.

"Khmer civilization established a very well-organized and harmonized water system.

They constructed a perfect water circulation system (up to and including) the Angkor Wat period between the ninth and 12th centuries," said Yasuda.

The archaeological team also found sacred mounds or altars at the ruins in Snay village in Banteay Meanchey Province under a two-year project that began in January 2007.