Monday, 24 March 2008

Former Japanese PM pledges to support Cambodian Government
Sunday, March 23, 2008

Phnom Penh, Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has committed to completely supporting the leadership of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Abe made the commitment at a meeting with PM Hun Sen while leading a Japanese parliamentary delegation to visit Cambodia from March 21-23.

At the meeting, Abe praised achievements gained under the leadership of PM Hun Sen over the past years and agreed to ask the Japanese Government to provide financial assistance as well as to send observers to Cambodia ?s general elections scheduled for July 27.

Japan will also keep granting aid and loan packages for Japan ?s mega-projects in Cambodia , such as the construction of sea port and special economic zone in Sihanouk city, and will call Japanese investors to pour more money into the Southeast Asian nation.

CPP threatens human rights groups

Details are Sketchy
March 24, 2008

This is beyond outrageous

Sok Pheng, a recipient of Hun Sen’s nomination reward as government advisor for his defection from the SRP, issued a warning to human rights organizations in Cambodia not to provide help to SRP officials accused by the CPP of illegal detention of Tim Norn, a former SRP commune councilor from Kampong Thom who defected to the CPP with Sok Pheng. The Cambodia Daily reported that Sok Pheng’s statement was read on local Cambodian TV stations, calling human rights organizations not to help Men Vannak, SRP Sralao commune councilor, and Thorn Rithy, deputy chairman of the SRP Kampong Thom province council. The Cambodia Daily quoted Sok Pheng as writing: “If the human rights groups protect [the SRP officials] it means that they have actively participated in the abuse against the people’s rights.”

Brunei ready to welcome Cambodian King

Photos: Radhi & H Bat
March 24, 2008.
Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Arches have been erected and flags of the Sultanate and Cambodia are flying high on many roads as Brunei Darussalam is ready to welcome Cambodia's King Norodom Sihamoni. King Sihomani is arriving today on a three-day visit at the personal invitation of His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, dpa reported.

Cambodian tribunal asks for millions more to fund Khmer Rouge genocide trials

The Associated Press
March 24, 2008

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: Officials from Cambodia's U.N.-backed genocide tribunal traveled Monday to the United Nations in New York to request US$114 million (€74 million) in additional funds for trying the Khmer Rouge's surviving leaders.

The tribunal told donor countries in January it would need US$170 million (€110 million), a sharp increase from the originally budgeted US$56.3 million (€36.5 million).

A three-person delegation from the tribunal planned to answer questions about funding during meetings Thursday, said Helen Jarvis, the tribunal's chief spokeswoman.

The long-delayed trials are expected to start this year, but many fear the Khmer Rouge's aging leaders could die before facing justice.

The Khmer Rouge is accused of responsibility for the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians during its 1975-1979 rule. So far, none of the regime's senior leaders has gone on trial.

The tribunal opened its offices in early 2006 after years of wrangling between the Cambodian government and the U.N. Trials were originally projected to end by 2009, but are now expected to run through March 2011.

Current funds for the tribunal are projected to run out by the end of this year, Jarvis has said. The tribunal's revised budget proposal says it needs more money to expand its services and nearly double its staff to some 530 to allow it to operate through March 2011.

Five former senior Khmer Rouge leaders are under detention awaiting trial. They have been charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The major donors to the tribunal so far are Japan, France, Germany, Britain and Australia.
Donors have called for reforms to address allegations of corruption and lack of transparency at the tribunal.

Farm sell-offs endanger Cambodian rice production

PHNOM PENH, March 24 (Xinhua) -- Rice production will be reduced in Cambodia if rice fields continue to be sold to be converted to business, factory or residential sites, the Mekong Times newspaper reported Monday, citing an Agriculture Ministry official.

"We are worried that, in the future, only non-fertile land will remain for cultivation because most of the rice fields will have been sold off," Kit Seng, director of the planning department of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF), was quoted by the newspaper as saying.

Uon Sophal, a farmer in Cambodia's Kampot province, said that if current land transaction trends continue, most farmland will end up in the hands of the rich.

"Then farmers will find it more difficult to afford food," he said. "I would like to appeal to farmers not to sell their land because this will cause a shortage of farmland and it will drive rice prices up, which will be a burden on the country."

Farms in Cambodia are currently run overwhelmingly by impoverished farmers, and because of this poverty they are often tempted to sell their land for ready cash, said Chey Siyat, a member of an agricultural NGO.

According to MAFF figures, 85 percent of Cambodia's population relies on agriculture for a living.

Cambodia produces 6 million tons of unhusked rice annually and there are 2.3 million hectares of rice paddy land.

Editor: Jiang Yuxia

Cambodian PM tells people to use local health facilities

Sat Mar 22, 2008
ABC Radio Australia

Cambodia's prime Minister Hun Sen is urging his people to seek medical treatment locally rather than abroad.

He made the call at the inauguration of the new multi million dollar Royal Ratanak Hospital in Phnom Penh.

Built with Cambodian and Thai investment, the premier hopes the hospital would overtime attract foreigners seeking less expensive medical treatment.

While supporting the premier's call Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Yim Sovann says the government needs to first improve the quality of public health, enforce a medical code of ethics and reduce corruption.

Cambodian court officials to report to donors

ABC Radio Australia

Three officials from Cambodia's Extraordinary Chambers that is conducting the genocide trials are on their way to New York for a meeting with donors.

During the four day visit the team hopes to clear doubts over alleged corruption, transparency and political interference at the United Nations-backed court.

Despite the court's recent request for additional funds, it will not be discussed as no further funding would be forthcoming until the court gives donor nations a clear expose of its progress.

But NGOs and victims have voiced concern over funding difficulties, with the Cambodian side expected to run short of funds in just six weeks.

They fear the lack of funds could affect the process of the courts and its efforts to seek justice for the victims of the Killing Fields.

Cambodia backs China over Tibet unrest

ABC Radio Australia

Cambodia says the unrest in Tibet was elaborately plotted and organised by a small group of people with ulterior motives.

China's official Xinhua news agency has quoted a secretary of state in Cambodia's ministry of foreign affairs saying the distorted news coverage by the western media was aimed at disturbing the ongoing sessions of the National People's Congress, and to undermine the Bejing Olympic Games.

Cambodia's Long Visalo is also quoted as saying the Lhasa incident was not a peaceful demonstration but a serious riot.

Like Cambodia, Vietnam and Bangladesh have thrown their support behind China, saying that the Tibet issue is purely China's internal matter.

ENVIRONMENT: Asia’s first bear preservation centre

Monday, March 24, 2008
Daily times

Wildlife conservationists in Cambodia on Wednesday opened Asia’s first centre to preserve local bear populations, under severe threat from poachers and exotic pet traders.

The Bear Discovery Centre hopes to promote awareness of the plight of Asia’s bears, said Mary Hutton, chairwoman and founder of the Australia-based Free the Bears Fund Inc (FTB). “It is so important because not so many bears are left in the wild,” Hutton told AFP, saying their population was declining, although it is impossible to know how many bears remain.

The Asiatic black bear and Sun bear, both found throughout the region, are considered vulnerable according to the World Conservation Union’s Red List of threatened species. “There are not as many as there should be, and the Sun bears are on their way to becoming an endangered species,” Hutton said, adding that there are currently 88 bears at Cambodia’s Phnom Tamao Zoo, where the centre is based.

According to the FTB, which says it has rescued more than 100 bears from the wildlife trade in Cambodia, the animals are hunted in large numbers throughout Southeast Asia to feed growing demand for their parts to be used in restaurants.

More than 14,000 bears are also thought to be kept on farms in China and Vietnam where their bile is extracted and used for traditional medicine. Bears are only one among many species of animals that have been decimated by Asia’s wildlife trafficking, which is fueled in large part by China’s massive appetite for exotic meats and other animal parts.

Police destroyed SRP banner sign and beat up SRP MP Ho Vann as the election approaches

On March 22, 2008, Phnom Penh SRP MP Ho Vann was beaten up by Phnom Penh police force which also destroyed a SRP banner in Chruoy Changva commune, Russei Keo district, Phnom Penh City.

For Immediate Release

For Immediate Release

Cambodia: Opposition Officials Arrested to Sway Elections

Government Campaign to Coerce Defections to Ruling Party

(New York, March 23, 2008) – Politically motivated criminal charges againstat least three opposition party officials are part of a ruling partycampaign to weaken political rivals prior to national elections in July2008, Human Rights Watch said today.

The authorities last week arrested Tuot Saron, an official of the oppositionSam Rainsy Party (SRP), and sought the arrest of at least two other SRP officials. Human Rights Watch fears that additional SRP officials may alsobe arrested imminently.

“Dubious arrests of opposition officials months ahead of an election shouldset alarm bells ringing,” said Brad Adams , Asia director at Human RightsWatch. “This divide-and-conquer strategy is a well-known tactic of PrimeMinister Hun Sen to subdue his opponents.”

On March 17, Hun Sen, who is also vice-chairman of the ruling CambodianPeople’s Party (CPP), gave a speech blasting the SRP for being a“dictatorial party” and for allegedly intimidating former SRP members whohad defected to the CPP. He claimed that SRP officials in Kompong Thom province had forcibly detained a party activist to try to prevent her fromdefecting to the CPP.

During the speech, Hun Sen declared that an investigation into the matter would be led by Sok Pheng, a former SRP parliamentarian for Kampong Thom who defected to the CPP last month and was rewarded with an appointment as agovernment adviser.

On March 18, police arrested Tuot Saron, a SRP commune chief in Kampong Thomprovince, and announced that they were also planning to arrest two of his party colleagues. After being detained for a day and a half by police, Tuot Saron was transferred to court, where he was charged with being an accomplice to the illegal confinement of the party activist, and sent to pre-trial detention at Kompong Thom prison.

“The CPP orchestrated the criminal charges against Tuot Saron, and theCambodian police and courts are doing what they do best – taking their cue from the top,” said Adams. “There’s no pretense of an independent justicesystem when the prime minister publicly accuses the opposition party ofcommitting crimes, and appoints his own person – a government advisor with no law enforcement jurisdiction – to ‘investigate.’”

Human Rights Watch believes the criminal charges are part of a concerted government campaign to coerce SRP members to defect to the CPP and punish those who refuse to do so, with the intention to split and weaken the opposition party before the national elections.

In recent months, Hun Sen has publicly offered paid government advisorypositions to any senior SRP officials who defect to the CPP, and he has denounced critics who point out that he is advancing his own political interests by misusing government money to pay for such inducements. His party has also tried to intimidate and coerce SRP members to switch allegiances.

The CPP has a history of using its control of the government to engineer internal splits within other political parties, including the fracturing and eventual demise of the Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party in the 1990s and,more recently, a major split within the CPP’s government coalition partner,FUNCINPEC. The SRP has faced similar pressure in the past by the CPP to split.

Politically motivated criminal charges have also long been a weapon of choice of the CPP against its political foes. This includes the one-year imprisonment of SRP parliamentarian Cheam Channy, convicted in a show trialin 2005 on unsubstantiated charges of creating a rebel army, and the conviction of party leader Sam Rainsy the same year for allegedly defaming government leaders.

“For those who follow Cambodian politics, this is déjà vu,” said Adams.“Diplomats and donors should speak out now and not wait to learn the hardway how rights are violated by the government in each election cycle.”

For more of Human Rights Watch’s work on Cambodia, please visit:

For more information, please contact:

In London, Brad Adams (English): +44-20-7713-2767; or +44-790-872-8333(mobile)

In Washington, DC, Sophie Richardson (English, Mandarin): +1-202-612-4349;or +1-917-721-7473 (mobile)

In New York, Elaine Pearson (English): +1-212-216-1213; or +1-646-291-7169(mobile

‘Like being reborn’

JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COMSithan Leam dressed her leg bandage with the help of Shriners Hospital's Richelle Asselstine last November.

The Star Bulletin
Sunday, March 23, 2008

‘Like being reborn’

A girl's arduous path to be able to walk reveals strength and support


First of two partsHer first steps were painful and awkward but also, in many ways, miraculous. Sithan Leam, a 15-year-old girl from Cambodia, struggled through surgery and physical therapy to be able to walk for the first time on her own two feet.

Star-Bulletin reporter Craig Gima and photographers Jamm Aquino and Craig Kojima were given rare access to follow Sithan through her year in Honolulu and inside Shriners Hospital for Children to document her story.
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COMIn February 2007, Sithan Leam arrived from Cambodia, shy and overwhelmed while awaiting transportation at Honolulu Airport.

CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COMAlmost a year later in January, the 15-year-old prepared to leave Honolulu and had her last exam at Shriners Hospital for Children.

Her story is similar to many of the more than 25,000 children who have been treated at Shriners since 1923.

Working at the hospital can be both heartwarming and heartbreaking as staff help the children go through often painful surgery and recovery.

"We gotta go through the pain and suffering (with the children)," said social worker Richard Wong. "We know over time they are going to get better, but when they are going through it, they couldn't care less about what it will be like in six months."

» Tomorrow: Sithan Leam returns to Cambodia for an emotional reunion with her mother, but plans for her education mean she will not be able to return to her village.



JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COMAfter surgeries and being fitted with a prosthetic leg, Sithan dressed her leg bandage in November, aided by Shriners Hospital's Richelle Asselstine.

A 15-year-old girl from Cambodia starts the painful journey to begin walking

By Craig Gima

Fluids and painkillers dripped from plastic bags into her arm through an electronic monitor. Another machine measured her pulse and blood pressure in green lights.

Under a pink blanket, Sithan Leam stirred and wiggled the toes of her good leg.
"Does she want to see it?" asked social worker Richard Wong.

He pulled the blanket back.

Sithan looked at her left leg.

A purple bandage ended in a stump: Part of her foot was cut off, but doctors saved the heel. Skin from her foot was grafted to cover exposed nerves behind her knee.

The leg was fixed at a 90-degree angle -- as far as it would extend without putting tension on the nerves.

The surgery was successful, but Sithan's work had just begun. If she was to walk, her leg would have to be nearly straight.

Skin grafts would have to cover newly exposed tissue. There was also a danger of infection.

For the young patients at Shriners Hospital for Children, recovery is a journey of small, often painful steps.
CRAIG GIMA / CGIMA@STARBULLETIN.COMSithan Leam, 14 at the time, is shown here in her village of Anlong Thor, Cambodia, in November 2006. Her calf and thigh were fused together due to a burn accident.

Burns as a baby had left her calf and foot fused to her thigh. Star-Bulletin readers helped raise money to bring Sithan to Honolulu for surgery in February 2007.

Sithan could have gone home in three months -- if she agreed to amputation.

But the girl, who grew up with the nickname "A Khvin," or "cripple," insisted that doctors try to save her leg.

During a difficult six-hour operation, Shriners Chief of Staff Dr. Ellen Raney and plastic surgeon Dr. Clyde Ishii separated the scar tissue that connected her calf and foot to her thigh, cutting away damaged muscles while trying to save major nerves and blood vessels.

A few days later, Sithan was awake but groggy from pain medication when Rinou Kong, her guardian in Hawaii, and his wife, Sary Phean, visited.

Written on paper above her bed were the English and Khmer words for nausea, thirsty, hungry, hello and pain.

On her tray was meatloaf, corn, rice, apple juice and canned peaches. Sithan poured fish sauce over her rice.

She smelled the meatloaf -- something new to her -- and cut a piece with her spoon and ate it. Then she finished the corn and rice.

"It must be hard to get used to our food," said nurse Ina Ries.

Kong had brought Cambodian movies and karaoke DVDs for the homesick girl.

"If I could walk, I would walk home," she told him.
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COMIn Honolulu, Sithan Leam, then 14, held onto the hand of Denise Weatherford, Shriners Hospital evening shift supervisor, in April while getting shown around.

During her monthlong stay in the hospital, Sithan started physical therapy.

At first, therapist Janice Yoshimoto worked on basic exercises and gaining Sithan's trust.

"There's a lot of hugging, and we hold their hands during painful moments," Yoshimoto said.

Sithan sometimes refused to take her pain medication.

"It made my head feel bad," Sithan said in an interview in Cambodia.

Said Wong, "Some kids would rather endure the pain than take the medicine. Sithan was one of them. Sometimes they don't like how they feel with the medicine."

For the Shriners staff, the work is both heartwarming and heartbreaking.

"We gotta go through the pain and suffering," Wong said. "We know over time they are going to get better, but when they are going through it, they couldn't care less about what it will be like in six months."

Outpatient nurse Bonnie Paulsen helped Sithan change her bandages and monitored the progress of her skin grafts.

"Do you want to go fast or slow?" Paulsen would ask about removing the bandages that sometimes stick to the exposed flesh. Sithan preferred to take the bandages off herself, at her own speed.

As the weeks passed and Sithan became more comfortable, pain became a game, something to joke about.

When Paulsen would hug her, Sithan would cringe and say, "Owie."

"That's not an owie," Paulsen would reply, and they'd both laugh.

JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COMSithan Leam, with her left lower leg now detached from her upper hamstring, rested in her Hawaii home last July prior to another visit to Shriners Hospital.
Away from the hospital, Sithan stayed with Kong and Phean in an apartment at Central Union Church, across the street from Shriners.

It is not the first time the Kong family has taken in kids from Cambodia. Another Shriners patient from Cambodia -- Sok Ouey -- also stayed with them. For both youngsters, life in the United States was an adjustment.

On a trip to Jack-in-the-Box, Sithan didn't like her first taste of hamburgers, but enjoyed the french fries. At the hospital she started to like pizza.

By the time Sithan returned to Cambodia, she had gained 27 pounds.

For a few weeks in August, Sithan attended McKinley High School. But only a few students spoke Khmer, and Sithan was self-conscious about her crutch and bandaged leg, Kong said. Like many American teenagers, she spent much of her time at home watching television and trying to sleep late.
CRAIG GIMA / CGIMA@STARBULLETIN.COMSithan Leam, now 15 years old, prepared to leave for home in Cambodia in January. At her last visit to Shriners Hospital for Children, where she had been treated for almost a year, she exchanged hugs and gifts with outpatient nurse Bonnie Paulsen before leaving.

As an outpatient, Sithan visited the hospital two to three times a week to change her bandages and for stretching and strengthening exercises.

Sometimes the exercises were fun. Other times, it was about work and repetition as Sithan learned to use muscles that had not been used before.

There were days, Yoshimoto said, when Sithan refused to do her exercises and pouted.

And although she was supposed to do exercises on her own at home, she sometimes neglected to, Kong said.

But within months, Sithan was able to bend her leg until it gradually straightened to about a 20-degree angle.

Raney, who had been planning to do surgery to straighten the leg and fuse her knee, decided the second operation was not necessary. Sithan agreed that it would be better to walk with a knee brace and a prosthetic rather than go through additional surgery.

In sessions with Yoshimoto, Sithan knelt and held hands as they swayed from left to right, simulating the shifting of weight during walking.
CRAIG GIMA / CGIMA@STARBULLETIN.COMAt her last exam at Shriners Hospital in January before returning to Cambodia, Sithan Leam's leg was checked by outpatient nurse Bonnie Paulsen.

In October, Sithan's prosthesis was ready, and her skin has healed enough that Yoshimoto was ready to help her take her first steps.

Most of the session was spent adjusting the brace and prosthetic and reassuring Sithan that walking would not always be painful.

"It's like putting on a dress for the first time," Yoshimoto said. "It's not always the right fit."

Sithan stood between two parallel bars to support herself. Then she lifted her hands a few inches above the bars, took a couple of steps and broke out in a smile of accomplishment and wonder.

Walking on two legs for the first time, she said later, was "like being reborn."
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COMSithan Leam, walking on her new prosthesis, helped out with a family Thanksgiving barbecue at her caretakers' home in November.


Only 5 months old, Sithan Leam's left leg is burned when an oil lamp falls on her bedding in her village of Anglong Thor in Cambodia. When the wound heals, her calf and foot are fused to her thigh by scar tissue.

The Honolulu-based charity Medicorps begins raising money to bring Sithan to Honolulu. Medicorps founder Dr. Gunther Hintz arranges for her to be treated at the Shriners Hospital for Children. Star-Bulletin readers help contribute enough money to pay for her airline tickets, visa and passport.

Feb. 21: Sithan, above, arrives in Honolulu from Cambodia in a wheelchair for surgery at Shriners Hospital.

March 25: A party is held at University Avenue Baptist Church in Manoa by Cambodian community members to welcome Sithan to Hawaii.

In April a shy and uncertain Leam goes to Shriners Hospital for the first time.

Sithan rests underneath her pink blanket May 7 after her first surgery at Shriners Hospitalal.
June 1: Sithan is released from Shriners and begins her outpatient physical therapy. Her leg is fixed at a 90-degree angle, but through therapy she is gradually able to extend it.

Oct. 8: Sithan is fitted with a knee brace and prosthetic foot and takes her first steps during physical therapy.
In November, Sithan is finally able to walk without a crutch because of her new prosthetic lower leg and foot.

Dec. 16: The local Cambodian community has a party at Central Union Church to celebrate Sithan's successful surgery and her return home.

Sithan shows Shriners Hospital's Bonnie Paulsen the Cambodian way of saying goodbye during a Dec. 16 party at Central Union Church.
Jan. 16: Sithan leaves Honolulu to return to Cambodia. At Honolulu Airport, above, she gives guardian Renou Kong one last smile before boarding the plane.