Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Cambodia, Vietnam exchange methods on protecting forests, wildlife

April 09, 2008

Law enforcement officers from two provinces in central Vietnam have completed a week-long Forest and Wildlife Law Enforcement Study Tour of Cambodia, a press release said Wednesday.

During the visit organized by WWF (World Wildlife Fund) Vietnam and PeunPa, a member of the Wildlife Alliance, officials from Vietnam's Forest Protection Department (FPD) and Police met their Cambodian counterparts, observed rangers training at Preah Monivong (Bokor) National Park, visited Phnom Tamao wildlife rescue center, and attended seminars focusing on wildlife and forest conservation, the WWF press release said.

They also discussed inter-agency cooperation with Cambodia's Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team, which comprises Forestry Administration officials and members of the Royal Gendarmerie Khmer, it added.

The study tour gave participants first hand experience of regionally tested methods of forest and wildlife law enforcement, and will encourage greater international inter-agency cooperation between the two countries to suppress nature crime, the release said, adding that the chance to observe and discuss Cambodia's best practices will also help the participants consider ways to implement their own strategies for forest protection.

"Forest crime in Southeast Asia is a multi-million dollar activity that is stripping the region of irreplaceable natural heritage to the enrichment of a limited few. In Vietnam, responsibility for suppressing this criminal activity is shared between a wide range of agencies, from forest rangers to economic and traffic police, through to customs and border security forces," said Mark E Grindley, WWF Technical Advisor in central Vietnam.

"The Vietnam Government is encouraging the inter-agency cooperation necessary to address the problem, and we are pleased to support an exchange of ideas with Cambodia, where there are some highly successful models from which to learn," Grindley said.

The trip was jointly hosted by Cambodia's Ministry of Forest and Fisheries and Ministry of the Environment.

Source: Xinhua

Dith Pran Funeral is Held

by Anthony Ramirez
April 06, 2008

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, N.J.—(U.S. ASIAN WIRE)— Years later, as he stood in a funeral home here, Sydney Schanberg remembered the day he stood before a Khmer Rouge firing squad in Cambodia.

Phnom Penh was falling and there was chaos. Schanberg and two other journalists had been seized by invading Khmer Rouge soldiers. Dith Pran, Schanberg's interpreter and assistant, quickly sensed what was about to happen.

Dith argued in Khmer, that yes, Schanberg and the others were newsmen, but they were not American, but French. They were not there to write anything bad about the soldiers, Dith insisted, but simply to record the glorious triumph of the Khmer Rouge.

Khmer Rouge officers were consulted, more words were exchanged. Hours passed. Finally, Dith's unrelenting blarney worked, the guns were lowered and Schanberg and the others were set free.

For a standing-room only gathering of friends and family today, Schanberg told this and other stories about Dith's courage and skill as a journalist.

Dith, a longtime photographer for The New York Times and the subject of the Academy Award winning film, "The Killing Fields," died of pancreatic cancer on March 30 at the age of 65.

"He was not only my equal," Schanberg said, "he was often my better."

Certainly, Schanberg said, Dith excelled him in pranks. One day, in 1983, as Schanberg was lounging poolside at a Phnom Penh hotel with other journalists, Dith pulled one of his better practical jokes.

Dith dashed to Schanberg's side, whispered something urgent, Schanberg looked surprised and they both ran to their car. The other reporters were stunned.

As the finest foreign correspondents in the Western world also dashed to their cars, Schanberg and Dith watched and laughed uproariously.

They drove around the block and returned to the hotel for a leisurely lunch.

Hours later, the exhausted and puzzled correspondents also returned to the hotel and asked Dith and Schanberg what was their big scoop. "Pran and I just said, We really can't talk about it."

During Dith's last days, Schanberg said a night nurse at Dith's hospital called him "the effervescent soul." Indeed, those at the funeral home today laughed during a slide show of Dith's life.

A photograph of Dith in his sickbed showed him with a camera, a long lens and a wide grin.

A son, Dith Titonath, talked about the Cambodian genocide, for which his father coined the term, "The Killing Fields."

"I never thought I was going to see my father again," said Titonath, a small child when his mother and other siblings escaped on one of the last helicopters out of Cambodia.

When they were reunited in the United States after Dith's brutal odyssey out of Cambodia, Titonath said he could barely recognize his father, who was frail, stooped and missing teeth.

When Titony, another of Pran's sons, saw his father's privations depicted in the 1984 movie, he asked him whether Dith really had to eat a raw salamander in order to survive.

Pran replied yes, and rats and the bark off a tree, too. So many peasants were starving, Pran continued, that you might see a water buffalo with his tail one day and the next day the tail would be missing, because a peasant had eaten it.

Near the end, Pran talked openly about death. Schanberg at his bedside told Pran that he believed in an afterlife.

"You know," Schanberg said, " we'll have to work out a way of communicating with each other."

Pran thought for a long few seconds and replied, "I'll send you my dreams."

Schanberg, his voice breaking, recalled saying, "And I will send you mine."

Anthony Ramirez is a reporter for The New York Times

Branded sandals

Wednesday, April 9. 2008

The ruthless dictator must be turning in his grave. After attempting to abolish money (and not just capitalism) and destroy all semblance of modernity in Cambodia, Pol Pot has become a makeshift brand name for backyard-made rubber sandals, on sale in the souvenir store at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. Made from sturdy discarded tires, I was told.

Taiwanese arrested with more than two kilos of heroin in Cambodia

The Earth Times
Wed, 09 Apr 2008
Author : DPA

Phnom Penh - A Taiwanese man was expected to be charged in a Cambodian court with attempting to traffic 2.15 kilograms of heroin, officials said Wednesday. Airport and court officials said Wang Kulen, 29, was arrested Tuesday as he allegedly tried to board a flight to Hong Kong from Phnom Penh International Airport with two packages of heroin.

Customs official So Yatha said a search revealed the packages strapped to his chest and stomach.
He faces 20 years in prison if convicted.

Dozens of would-be foreign traffickers have been arrested at the airport in past months during a Cambodian crackdown, the majority of them Taiwanese, prompting speculation that an organized ring is operating in the country.

NZ Prime Minister on China and Tibet

Helen Clarke the NZ Prime Minister states the Government position in Parliament.

TV 3: China - New Zealand Free Trade Agreement

In 2007, Traffic Accidents Killed 1,545 People; 4 People Die and More Than 70 Are Injured Every Day

Posted on 9 April 2008.
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 555

Special Event on Land Traffic Safety Held in Cambodia for Second Time

“The Week of Land Traffic Safety was held for the second time in the Olympic Stadium, under the presidency of Deputy Prime Minister Keo Puth Rasmey, the senior representative of Samdech Akkak Moha Senapadei Dekchor Hun Sen, the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia. Attending the event, was Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol, and the President of National Committee for Road Traffic Safety, Lieutenant General Uk Kimlek, the Deputy Commissioner of National Police and Vice-President of the National Committee for Road Traffic Safety, Mr. Chreang Sophan, a deputy municipal governor, Cambodia Country Director Mr. Bruno Leclercq of Handicap International Belgium, a representative of the Japan International Cooperation Agency [JICA], as well as many civil servants and students.

“The representative of JICA stated during the event that according to documents, in Phnom Penh there was a yearly increase of 10 % in the numbers of vehicle registrations from 2000 to 2007, and on the other hand, during that period, the rate of the traffic accidents increase was 7 %, and the number or deaths increased rapidly. The deaths increased by 200 in 2006 and by 261 in 2007.

“The president of Handicap International Belgium stated that the topic of this Week of Land Traffic Safety, held for the second time in Cambodia, was to cooperate to reduce traffic accidents through the respect of the traffic law. The traffic law is very important for the reduction of the traffic accidents. The Cambodian Land Traffic Law has been passed and is implemented since March 2007.

“On average, every day more than four people die and many more are injured in road accidents in Cambodia. Cambodia is the country which has the highest death rate from traffic accidents among the ASEAN countries. According to media reports about casualties and land traffic accidents, compiled in cooperation between the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Health, and Handicap International Belgium, they showed that in 2007, there were at least 27,403 traffic accidents, with 1,545 persons killed - and this number was bigger than in 2006. This showed that the number of traffic accidents continue to rise more than the numbers of vehicles and citizens is increasing.

“Vice-President of the National Committee for Road Traffic Safety Lieutenant General Uk Kimlek noted in his speech that in general, Cambodia continually develops, social security is more stable, and public safety is better guaranteed; the citizens are living peacefully, and the living standard of the citizens improves, leading to a quick increase of all kinds of vehicles in recent years, which resulted in a worrying increase in the number of traffic accidents, at a high rate compared to other ASEAN countries. However, this always occurs in developing countries.

The accidents not only harm the victims, but also seriously affect the national economy, the poverty alleviation policy, and developments in all sectors.

“Mr. Chreang Sophan, Deputy Governor of the Phnom Penh Municipality, representing the Municipal Governor Kep Chuk Tema, stated that by 2007, Phnom Penh had 512,087 vehicles, out of which 138,809 were automobiles. In 2007, there were 801 accidents which harmed 1,610 victims, in which 261 persons died, 824 were badly injured, 525 were lightly injured; 966 motorcycles, 14 tricycles, 336 automobiles, and 18 other vehicles were damaged.

“Responding to these issues under the smart leadership of Samdech Akkak Moha Senapadei Dekchor Hun Sen, the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia, the Phnom Penh Municipality will be implementing road constructions and road repair plans by paving roads in four districts by the end of 2008, and other plans will be implemented in three other districts in the suburbs.

“The deputy municipal governor also called on citizens who travel in the city to drive carefully, and firmly practice the measures passed in the land traffic law. Especially those who use motorcycles and bicycles must wear helmets.

“Mr. Sun Chanthol noted that traffic accidents are caused by three factors: human factors, vehicle related factors, and road related factors.

“Nowadays traffic accidents in Cambodia became the second worst destructive problem after AIDS, which results in many deaths, injuries, disabilities, and damage to both private and public property. For instance in 2007, the total number of traffic accidents increased to 9,449 cases, which killed 1,545 persons, slightly injured 17,665, and gravely injured 7,150; on average, about four people died per day, about 70 were injured, and this is a higher rate than in the previous years.’

“Traffic accident and death rates in Cambodia are higher than in other ASEAN countries, compared to the population density and the numbers of vehicles. According to the data collected every year, the traffic accident rate increased by 15%, while for vehicles the increase was 10%, all these increases raised the death rate to 18 for 10,000 vehicles in 2007. In other ASEAN countries, the highest death rate is only 10.77 for 10,000 vehicles, and in developed countries, the highest rate of death is just 1.9 for 10,000 vehicles.

“In 2003, the Asian Development Bank conducted a study and found that traffic accidents which killed – in 2003 - only 824 people, the national economy lost US$166 million, equal to 3% of the GDP. This does not yet include the social consequences: orphans, widows, disabled, and the people pushed into poverty, which could put the poverty alleviation plans of the Royal Government into danger.

“He also called on the international community, on donor countries, local private companies, and on development partners, to continue to provide support to the National Committee for Road Traffic Safety with funds, equipment, and technical advice, so that the National Committee for Road Traffic Safety can implement its 15-point land traffic safety action plan effectively. He appealed to all citizens, the users of vehicles and the users of roads countrywide, to respect and to strictly implement the measures stated in the Cambodian Land Traffic Law, some are as follows:

All vehicles must have appropriate number plates as stated in the law.

All drivers who drive vehicles with a cylinder capacity above 49 cubic centimeters must obtain driving licenses according to the types of the vehicle.

When driving, the drivers must always be cautious.

Drivers and passengers who sit in the front seats of vehicles must wear safety seat belts.

The drivers who drive motorcycles, tricycles and motorcycles with trailers/’Remorque’ must wear safety helmets.

The drivers must not drive beyond the speed limits as stated in the law.

It is not allowed to overloaded vehicles with passengers or goods, as stated in the law.

Drivers are prohibited from drinking alcohol with an alcohol rate of more than 0,25 mg per liter of blood alcohol.

“He also appealed, especially to all motorcycle drivers, to registers for free of charge traffic law and motorcycle driving lessons at NCX [phonetic – not clear] from now on in Phnom Penh.”

Koh Santepheap, Vol.41, #6317, 8.4.2008

Cambodia's 'happy pizza' faces chop in drug crackdown

Apr 9, 2008

Phnom Penh - Changing times and politics in South-East Asia may finally spell extinction for one of the most famous (or infamous) fusion cuisines enjoyed by backpackers, Cambodia's 'happy pizza.'

Legendary amongst travelers for more than a decade, this hippy's little helper version of pizza is simply the traditional Italian favourite with a Cambodian twist - the rich tomato base comes heavily laced with marijuana.

Although officially illegal for several years, locals have traditionally used marijuana in soups or medicinally. Pioneering travelers crossing the Lao-Cambodian border previously even reported a small garden of the stuff being lovingly tended by customs officials.

And then foreign inspiration transformed the drug into arguably the world's most talked-about pizza topping. Dozens of happy pizza parlours sprang up around the country as backpack tourism boomed.

But now the Cambodian government's current battle against drugs has given 'pizza wars' a whole new meaning.

This week marijuana was claimed as Cambodia's first 'total victory' in eliminating a drug from both domestic and export markets by Interior Ministry anti-drug chief, Police General Lou Ramin.

'Marijuana is no longer a problem in Cambodia,' he declared. 'We are strengthening our monitoring throughout the country and its borders.'

Massive plantations which once required helicopter airlifts to clear them have been wiped out, he said, leaving the government free to concentrate on the increasingly prevalent evils of heroin, cocaine and synthetic drugs such as methamphetamines.

The government's anti-grass putsch began in 1999, when seven elderly women who had previously openly sold marijuana at traditional medicine stalls in one of the capital's largest markets were arrested in a police raid and 38 kilos of the weed were confiscated.

Back then, a compressed brick of marijuana sold for around 2 dollars, and a packet of 25 ready-rolled cigarettes was just a dollar, according to experts, but inflation and repeated crackdowns quickly pushed the price up to a dollar per cigarette.

Somehow, however, the iconic happy pizza survived, until now.

The spiked pizza's status as a backpacker's rite of passage has earned it mentions even on reputable travel websites such as Lonely Planet. YouTube features videos of it being made, eaten, sold - and its extremely potent side effects.

'This is my journey into Happy Pizzaland Phnom Penh. The obvious happened - paranoia, and missing two paid-for flights back to Bangkok. FOOL!!!' one YouTube poster writes of his video clip.

A former Foreigner Police officer says that tourists ingesting marijuana in pizza form often got dangerously out of hand in culturally conservative Cambodia.

'Many times I saw people take their clothes off after eating this - especially women. Some people laugh, but some cry, and some just jump in the lake,' he said.

Expatriates familiar with the potent pizza grin when they tell the story of one of the capital's most famous happy pizza chefs admitting himself to hospital and spending the night on a drip after sampling a slice of his own cuisine for the first - and last - time.

For most adventurous tourists, however, 'happy pizza' provided no more than a great travel yarn, insists one of the country's dwindling chefs of Cambodia's quasi-clandestine classic, speaking on condition of anonymity.

On his menu, it costs as little as 3 dollars for a small pizza of happiness.

But he agrees that life as a purveyor of happy pizza is becoming increasingly precarious and expensive.

'It is much more expensive to make now because of the ingredients,' he says. 'The special ingredient costs much more now, but our biggest problem is that tourists do not ask for it anymore because they are afraid it is illegal.'

'We still make the happy pizza if the tourists ask directly, but we put less special ingredient now because we don't want any problems with the police if they get crazy.'

So how long can the marijuana pizza last out the law?

'The government goal is that this drug does not exist any more in Cambodia,' says Police General Lou Ramin. 'We will only be satisfied when it is not available at all.'

Free-trade agreement with ASEAN: conditional backing from Trade Committee

The EP International Trade Committee voted on Tuesday in favour of concluding a free-trade accord between the EU and the 10 countries of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN). However, say MEPs, the agreement must meet certain conditions regarding sustainable development, the fight against fraud and respect for human rights.

The report, drafted by Glyn Ford (PES, UK) and adopted by an overwhelming majority, supports plans for a free-trade agreement with ASEAN subject to WTO rules and the outcome of the Doha development round.

MEPs voice concern at the slowness of the negotiations launched in April 2007, believe that it should be possible to suspend preferential custom tariffs granted under the agreement if key points of the partnership and cooperation agreement are violated, in particular the human rights clauses.

Sustainable development

The planned agreement should ask the ASEAN countries to ratify and apply the basic conventions of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), according to the EP report. MEPs particularly emphasise the need to ban child labour and forced labour.

Measures to combat the destruction of tropical forests should also be included in the agreement, says the report. The ASEAN countries who try to stem the illegal exploitation of forests should be supported, say MEPs, who also want to give preference to environmentally-friendly biofuels and cut customs tariffs on environmental and/or fair-trade products.

Intellectual property rights and the anti-counterfeiting measures

The report highlights the need to observe intellectual property rights (IPR), especially for models and designs, sound recordings and other cultural goods, as well as the fight against the counterfeiting of drugs and medicines. It also calls for protection of and respect for geographical indications and labels of origin, as well as more transparency in the award of public contracts, state aid and other subsidies.


"The current situation in Burma makes it impossible for that country to be included in the agreement", argues the Trade Committee's report. At joint hearing held in early April by the EP Development Committee and Human Rights Subcommittee, the EU was urged to target better its sanctions on the Burmese junta.

Least developed countries

The report also stresses the situation of the least developed countries (LDCs) in the region: Cambodia, Laos and Burma. At present the Commission's negotiating mandate does not provide for negotiations with the LDCs. If these countries wished to join the free-trade agreement with the EU, the Council would have to revise the mandate it has given the Commission.

For the other poorer countries who are members of ASEAN but do not belong to the LDC group, the report urges flexible arrangements - more or less equivalent to those envisaged in economic partnership agreements (EPAs) - to enable these countries to cope with the loss of customs revenue.

Banking secrecy

A resolution to the problem of banking secrecy in Singapore is "essential if there is to be a real prospect of a region-to-region [free-trade agreement]", argues the report.

Lastly, MEPs point out that, since the Lisbon Treaty is due to enter into force before the end of the negotiations, the approval of the European Parliament will be needed once the negotiations are completed.

The members of ASEAN are: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar (Burma), the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Laos dam could cause extinction of world's largest catfish

A fisher returns to shore with a Mekong giant catfish caught at Khone Falls in Laos last year. The huge species is illegal to catch and is generally caught accidentally. Today there may only be a few hundred adult giant catfish left in the entire Mekong River system. The group of fishers who caught this giant catfish initially hoped to sell it. But when they could not find any buyers, they ended up distributing the meat among people in their village.

April 8, 2008—Children pose with a Mekong giant catfish caught at Khone Falls in Laos, near the border with Cambodia, in August last year. While the weight of the fish in the photo is unknown, the species holds the world record as the largest freshwater fish ever caught, weighing in at 646 pounds (293 kilograms). The Mekong giant catfish is listed as critically endangered by the World Conservation Union. "But a new dam project planned for Khone Falls threatens the migration of this so-called megafish, according to Zeb Hogan, who heads the National Geographic Society's Megafishes Project.

From ANI

Washington, April 9: The construction of a large hydroelectric dam in Laos might endanger the existence of the Mekong giant catfish, which is the world's largest catfish species.

According to a report in National Geographic News, the Don Sahong dam, being constructed at Khone Falls in Laos, would permanently alter one of the most pristine areas in Southeast Asia.

The dam is one of several being planned on the mostly untouched Mekong River, which meanders through six countries-China, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam.

The Don Sahong dam, which is one of five dams that Laos is planning along the Mekong, will block the deepest channel on the section of the river that migratory fish pass through when the water level is at its lowest, according to conservationists.

One of those migratory fish is the critically endangered Mekong giant catfish, which holds the record as the largest freshwater fish ever caught.

The record catch, made in northern Thailand in 2005, tipped the scales at 646 pounds (293 kilograms).

"An impassable dam at the falls could cause the extinction of the Mekong giant catfish species," said Zeb Hogan, a fisheries biologist at the University of Nevada in Reno.

According to Hogan, giant catfish were once plentiful throughout the Mekong River basin, but in the last century, the population has declined 95 to 99 percent.

Though fishermen do not target the massive fish, it is sometimes caught as a bycatch. In Cambodia, where the largest population of giant catfish is found, eight of the giant fish were caught last year.

"Although fishing is the biggest immediate threat to the giant catfish in the Mekong, dams and habitat fragmentation could disrupt the animal's ability to reproduce," said Hogan.

Hogan indicates that there is only one known spawning ground for Mekong giant catfish, which is in northern Thailand.

"Until we know better, we have to assume that fish from Cambodia may migrate to Thailand to spawn," he said.

"The construction of the Don Sahong dam, which is slated for completion in 2010, would make that migration impossible," Hogan added.

The dam will block Hoo Sahong, the deepest channel and the only one that migratory fish can pass through at the peak of the dry season, in April and May, when the Mekong is at its lowest.

"From a migratory fish's perspective, there is nothing worse than a dam," said Hogan.

The Big Hurt: Clubbing baby seals: not okay

April 8, 2008
The Phoenix Media

Pop icon RICKY MARTIN paid a humanitarian visit to Cambodia recently in support of victims of sexual exploitation and human trafficking.

Although he’s remembered as the radiant Latin heartthrob behind “La Vida Loca,” Martin has shown an admirable commitment to philanthropy.

As president and founder of the Ricky Martin Foundation, he seeks to put an end to the egregious international nightmare of human trafficking, which affects more than a million children per year.

For Martin, the fight is personal; he himself is a victim of MENUDO, the notorious child-exploitation ring that’s claimed the innocence of dozens — maybe hundreds — of Puerto Rican youths.

Manoora sojourn for Cambodian dancers

The Cambodian group uses the mystical language of dance to tell the story of their culture, traditions, life experiences and challenges.
09 April 2008
Glenys Quick

Thirty members of a Cambodian dance group visited Manoora on the weekend as house guests of Deirdre and John McInerney.

A garden lunch was arranged for the visitors to relax and meet the Manoora community before their performance at St Michael’s Hall, Clare, on Saturday night.

The group arrived in Australia in March from the village of Tahen in northeast Cambodia which has encountered many adversities.

They are touring Australia performing “Dance Together for Peace” using the mystical language of dance to tell the story of their culture, traditions, life experiences and challenges.

Aged from 14 to 22-years, most are high school students while a few attend university, travelling up to 20km by bicycle every day to attend school.

Accompanying the group was tour organiser Sacha Goldman SJ and Bishop Kike Figaredo SJ who is very well known in various parts of the world for his humanitarian work, particularly in Spain where he has just received a distinguished award (while on tour) presented to his mother in his absence by Prince Phillip of Spain.

The dancers have previously performed for the Queen of Spain when she visited Cambodia in 2004, and are now planning a five-week tour of that country in October.

The dancers were a happy and friendly group with plenty of enthusiasm and are willing to interact experience in new environments and activities and share their country’s culture.

The toupe performed in Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide, and will wind up their 2008 Australian tour with two more performances in Melbourne this week before returning home.

The Kroma head dress, which is a symbol for Cambodia, has multiple roles such as a towel, in the Temples for prayer, carrying goods to and from market, protection when working in the rice fields, and a shirt to name a few.

Culture Shock: Activist served as example of peace

The name Dith Pran probably means nothing to you. His death on Sunday from pancreatic cancer is likely just another name among the obituaries in newspapers everywhere. But whether you know his name or not, the contributions he has made toward understanding the value of peace in our time cannot be underestimated.

Born in Cambodia in 1942, Dith led a normal life as an interpreter for New York Times correspondent Sidney Schanberg. When the Khmer Rouge, a Communist regime led by ruthless dictator Pol Pot, seized Cambodia in 1975, Dith and millions of fellow Cambodians were forced to work in brutal labor camps.

Miraculously, Dith escaped to Thailand in 1979; he then began a new life in America devoted to raising awareness of the Cambodian genocide and bringing Pol Pot to justice. This movement gained prominence in 1984 with the release of “The Killing Fields,” the Oscar-winning biopic of Dith’s experiences.

In the years since, Dith took pictures for The New York Times and served as the international figurehead for bringing the Khmer Rouge to justice.

In 2005, I was lucky enough to interview Dith about his experiences for my local paper. It was a formative moment for a young journalist, but it was also fascinating hearing him recount experiences I could wish upon nobody.

Dith’s recollections were not what you would expect from a survivor of a tragedy, such as a train wreck or the Sept. 11 attacks. He did not grieve for the brothers he lost to the Khmer Rouge. More importantly, he did not express a hatred for his captors, just a desire to see justice served.

The fact that Dith was a peacemaker and humanitarian after those grueling years of suffering is overwhelming. In 1996, fellow survivor Haing S. Ngor, who won an Oscar playing him in “The Killing Fields,” was shot to death by Asian gang members. In 1998, Pol Pot died without ever facing a court for his war crimes - and in only a few months, Khmer Rouge leaders finally stood up for their wrongdoing.

But he showed no anger or remorse, only a sense of upbeat determination that someday these wrongs would be righted.

“I never give up,” he told me, “and I believe that evil will never live forever.” It is as crazy a sentiment now as it was then, but he believed it.

In his time on Earth, Dith Pran carried out messages of peace and understanding with a grace that seems too good to be true - but somehow is. And if we can muster one-tenth of his grace and courage in this mixed-up world, then evil may someday be as short-lived as Dith had hoped.

Phnom Penh's totem elephant – Sambo – survives

Together again: When the Khmer Rouge was ousted, Sin Son (r.), arranged to trade a buffalo for his family's last surviving elephant, Sambo.Suzy Khimm

Tourists and children line up to take rides on Sambo (below) at the Wat Phnom temple in Phnom Penh.Suzy Khimm

The speckle-eared pachyderm escaped machetes and famine, and now rests as Phnom Penh's totem of good things.

By Suzy Khimm
Contributor to The Christian Science Monitor
April 9, 2008

Phnom Penh, cambodia - In the center of a traffic-mobbed roundabout, encircled by the crush of cars and motorbikes, a small act of veneration regularly takes place. A small gray-haired woman buys a bunch of bananas and toddles with her cane up to Sambo, a 10-foot-tall, 4,000-pound elephant standing calmly in the urban chaos.

Sambo grasps the offering with her trunk, gobbling the entire bunch in one bite as the woman brings her palms together in a sign of respect for the last remaining elephant in Phnom Penh.
Once plentiful in the Cambodian countryside, elephants like Sambo were historically fixtures at the royal palace. While the animals still evoke the nation's ancient legacy of kings and warriors, Sambo also represents a more recent piece of Cambodian history. Having survived the machetes of the Khmer Rouge she has become one of the capital city's most visible cultural icons – a magnet for tourists, children, and those who venerate her as a sacred beast.

• • •

For Sin Son, a fourth-generation elephant handler, Sambo is a beloved link to life before the Khmer Rouge regime: "For me, elephants represent God – they represent people who have been saved, who have lived a long time."

For more than a century, Sin Son's relatives kept elephants on the family's five-acre plot to transport rice, clear forests, and haul logs. Following tradition, at a time when wild elephants were abundant in the wild, they captured and trained them.

In mid-1977 Khmer Rouge cadres descended upon Sin Son's farm near Samrong Tong, a district west of Phnom Penh. They attacked the family's five elephants with machetes. Sin Son, 24 at the time, watched in horror as the Khmer Rouge seized the animals that his family had raised for generations. When the cadres struck 17-year-old Sambo – the youngest elephant – on a hind leg with a machete, Sin Son could no longer contain his anguish.

At the risk of being killed, says Sin Son, he protested, "Friend, friend! Please, do not kill her, she is so small – take pity on her!"

In his final glimpse of Sambo, Sin Son saw the wounded elephant running from her captors, fleeing into the chaos of the evacuation.

Sin Son was sent to a labor camp in the northwestern Battambang Province. He says he wept openly after hearing reports that the four older elephants had been killed.

"We took care of Sambo since she was 8," Sin Son says, describing how the elephant learned to come when he called and bumped him playfully with her trunk. "I thought of her as my blood relative, my sister."

Sin Son spent two years in the labor camp, where his parents, two brothers, and two aunts would be among the 1.7 million Cambodians who perished as a result of execution, starvation, disease, and overwork under the regime.

After the Khmer Rouge was ousted in 1979, Sin Son returned to his village to find that only one neighbor had survived. He was astonished to hear that Sambo, too, was still alive. Sambo had been taken in by a chief cadre and was living hundreds of miles away in the Cardamom Mountains, the neighbor told Sin Son.

Sitting today with his elephant in front of Wat Phnom's ornate steps, Sin Son breaks into a smile as he tells – for the umpteenth time – the story of his remarkable reunion with Sambo.

Sin Son pedaled his bicycle for three days to get to the small farm where Sambo was being kept.
"At first they did not believe I was her owner," he says. "But when I called her name, she came out from the jungle behind their house. I was so happy, so excited – I never thought she'd be there, or that they'd give her back to me."

He arranged Sambo's release in exchange for a buffalo he scrounged to buy from a neighboring farm.

"The Khmer Rouge destroyed pagodas, they killed monks and cut their throats ... but maybe they took pity on [Sambo]," Sin Son says.

Sin Son moved to the capital in 1980 to rebuild – bringing his huge "sister" with him.

• • •

Having served the powerful and elite for centuries, elephants are still venerated in Cambodia, says Dougald O'Reilly, director of Heritage Watch, an archeological preservation group.

At Angkor Wat, stone reliefs depict elephants carrying warriors into battle and parading in royal processions. According to legend, elephants hauled the stones for building the world-famous temple, though it's more probable that they helped create the canal network around the complex, says Mr. O'Reilly.

Though she's served neither gods nor kings, Sambo has served a newer form of authority in Cambodia: democracy. Since the country's first UN-organized elections in 1993, civil society groups and political parties have made Sambo the outsized centerpiece of their public demonstrations. She has marched to protest global child labor, to raise awareness about UN's Millennium Development Goals, and to promote children's vaccinations. During election season, she's routinely trotted out to support the ruling party – and even its opponents.

"[Elephants] are a symbol of force that helped Cambodia when we didn't have trucks and machines in the past," says Kek Galabru, founder of Licadho, a rights group that has included the elephant in multiple demonstrations. "It's the animal of Cambodia."

• • •

Though city life was a huge adjustment for the farm-dwelling elephant – "[Sambo] was terrified of cars," says Sin Son, and train whistles caused her to cry deafeningly – she became accustomed to it. Eventually, the pair set up shop at Wat Phnom, a 14th-century pagoda surrounded by a park of shady trees. In 1982, Sin Son built a staircase and began selling elephant rides for 25 cents.

Sambo now ambles daily to Wat Phnom at 7 a.m. Surrounded by monkeys, incense-sellers, beggars, and snack vendors, Sambo flaps her speckled ears and waits under a tree for her visitors. On a recent day a family of Korean tourists finished a photo session as a young woman carrying her son walked under Sambo's trunk three times for luck. Pregnant women will also come to pass underneath her belly.

Though Sin Son has hired a cousin to guide Sambo to work, he still sits next to his lifelong partner each day, to monitor Sambo's condition in the heat, hose her off, and make sure she gets her 150 pounds of sugar cane and bananas.

"I feed her, she feeds me. We go back and forth, like siblings," says Sin Son, whose rate for the popular ride has risen to $15.

Such prosperity has enabled Sin Son to send four children to college; his oldest son even went to Utah to study information technology.

But while his family's partnership with its elephants survived the horrors of war, Sin Son doesn't expect his children to carry on the tradition.

"They like school, they like to study," he says. "Maybe it's finished with me."

Participation of int'l peace-keeping exercise good for Cambodia's reputation

April 09, 2008

The participation of 40 Cambodian soldiers in a three-week multinational peace-keeping exercise in Bangladesh will help improve the country's international military reputation, national media on Wednesday quoted official as saying.

"We are really proud of our armed forces joining this international peace-keeping exercise," Tea Banh, minister of National Defense, told English-Khmer language newspaper the Mekong Times.

"We hope the exercise will help our soldiers improve their capacity in peace-keeping for the region and the entire world," he added.

The U.S.-led mission, named "Ambassador of Peace," began this week and involved 400 soldiers from 12 countries including Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Nepal, Brunei, Mongolia, Tonga, Cambodia and the United States.

The drills involve checkpoint and convoy operations, patrols, search, relief mission and disaster management.

Cambodian soldiers previously took part in multinational peace-keeping exercises in Mongolia and Bangladesh as well as U.N. peace-keeping missions in Sudan.


Cambodia lifts ban of rice exports for three provincesl

April 09, 2008

Prime Minister Hun Sen has lifted the ban of rice exports for three provinces neighboring Vietnam due to their difficulty of processing and storing newly-harvested paddy, English-Khmer language newspaper the Mekong Times reported on Wednesday.

The premier made the decision on Monday under the request of Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh to allow Prey Veng, Kandal and Takeo provinces to export rice, while the ban still remain valid for other provinces.

Hun Sen imposed the two-month-long ban of rice exports on March26 in order to help curb the spiraling price of the staple food.

Minister Agriculture and Fisheries Chan Sarun said that the permission is being offered because the farmers in these three provinces have harvested dry-season rice and found it difficult to store.

"Cambodia will not face a problem of food security because plenty of rice is already in stock," he added.

At the end of March, as another measure to help bring down the price, the government released national stockpile of rice into the market.

High-quality rice once sold one U.S. dollar per kilo, almost two times the previous price.

Experts believed that the decrease of global rice production and the over purchase by Vietnam and Thailand from Cambodia had caused the price hike on the Cambodian market.


Tibet Freedom and its People Life is NOT a Game

By Kok Sap
April 8, 2008

During his terms, the U.S.A President Reagan famously called on U.S.S.R to tear down its evil wall in Berlin. The last and former U.S.S.R President Mikhail Gorbachev took heed. Afterward the eastern bloc of U.S.S.R evil axis was shattered and several countries including East Germany were released from Iron Grip of Russian Communism. Then the U.S supported resistance invited U.S.S.R out of Afghanistan. Since Russia reemerged as its own nation out of world condemnation and took no notice in world affairs.

It has been 49 years since Mao invaded Tibet and the mighty world slowly accustoms to China abuses. Imperialist Beijing tried hard to incriminate Revered Dalai Lama in the wakening call from the people around the globe to let go Tibet. Now the momentum is rising, the U.S.A needs to see China let go Tibet and other autonomous regions for own self rule and sovereignty. This may be the last evil needed to be condemned and pressed upon by the absence of the peace loving Olympics athletes around the globe.

Often times, people misunderstand One China policy. China is not a homogenous country in demographic make up, culture, language, custom, and religion. There are over 80 ethnic distinctions in China. Also China has colorful past in committing heinous crimes against millions of people in China during its Cultural Revolution in the 60’s.

In open war records China and U.S had fought each other personably in Korea, North Viet Nam, former Khmer Mekong delta, and impersonally via Thailand in Cambodia, and Laos. Communist Caesar Mao used strategic warfare from Art of War book, to lose no war is to fight war in someone house. The end result someone houses like Cambodia lost millions of life, Viet Nam annexed its Khmer Mekong Delta completely, and Hanoi slowly assimilates Laos.

The winner of Ideological War is the Red China. Needless to say it got both worlds in its bloody hands, in addition it was elevated from non member of U.N to U.N Permanent Security Council that each member has veto power to put a stop on any agenda. Subsequently this seems U.N meriting China to police its own hands in cookie jar. Out of all expert theories, Red China checks mate the U.S.A, world leading democracy at U.N located on its own soil.

Today China almost single handed invests in US markets ranging from selling soap dish to micro chips, pet food, banking and mortgage industry. The prime example is Wal-Mart conglomerate that reaps phenomenal profits from Red China cheap laborers who had no choice but compliance to their communist state mandates. More than half of Wal Mart home supplies are imported from Red China.

Nonetheless in order to defeat One China abusive behavior, U.S must realign itself with Africa, Europe, Russia, Taiwan, Japan, Western hemisphere, ASEAN, and India, once a lead proponent of non aligned nation movement. Not too late, U.S still can urge its allies and friends to step back from this evil sponsored 2008 Olympics game and ONE China Policy altogether. Also individual athlete can make impact too by not participating.

Imagine seeing the US ban China airlines from landing on U.S and vice versa U.S airlines stop flying to China during the game event. Also imagine seeing every world press printed a page of ads “Free Tibet is not a Game.” With this eruption of protest, the world may see the only strong communist state shame in standing down to the will of true Olympians.

Anti-inflation Protest: A Moral Victory for Sam Rainsy And Democracy

Courtesy of Khmerization at

Monday, April 7, 2008

“Price rises can be contained if the right and effective measures are applied. Salary increases can be achieved if Hun Sen has the political will to get tough with corruption. Money to fund the pay rises can be found through the elimination of corruption.”


Editorial by Khmerization:- However small in size and not able to march in a grand scale, the anti-inflation protest on Sunday was a moral victory, not just for the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP), but for the democratic process as a whole. To a degree, it was seen as a victory of democracy over dictatorship (Read link 1 below).

Sam Rainsy has not only killed two birds with one stone, he has killed three birds with only one stone. The protest had produced three vital outcomes. First, by able to obtain a permission to protest is a victory in itself. It is a victory over Hun Sen’s draconian rules which had long banned public demonstration. By persistently pushing for a permission to hold that protest, Sam Rainsy had opened a gate and set a precedent for more protests of this sorts, while at the same time succeeded in sending Hun Sen’s anti-demonstration draconian rule to its eventual death. Secondly, the protest, if anything at all, has succeeded in drawing national and international attention to the plight of the poor, the high costs of living and the lower wages of the Cambodian workers- public servants in particular. Thirdly, as it is election time, the protest itself and Rainsy’s demand for a pay rise to hundreds of thousands of public servants can be seen as a huge electoral drawcard and a shrewd political manoeuvrings which can possibly translate into an election victory in the July election, if the election is free and fair. With these three factors looming in Hun Sen’s head, he cannot ignore the reality. First, Hun Sen cannot ban public demonstrations anymore because he has given permission to Sam Rainsy to hold one. Secondly, to make an electoral impact, Hun Sen cannot ignore low wages and the skyrocketing of commodities prices. He has to raise public servants’ salary in commensuration with the high costs of living. He must also take actions to bring down the prices of other commodities as he had done with the prices of rice.

On another note, I wish to opine on the decry of the Human Right Party (HRP) over Sam Rainsy’s success in obtaining the permission to hold this protest (Read link 2 below). While I do sympathise with the fact that their request for the permission to hold a protest against the skyrocketing of fuel prices was not granted, I do not sympathise with their decry over the permission granted to the SRP. If the HRP was fair dinkum, to use an Australian phrase, in their concerns for the welfare of the people, they would have called on their supporters to join in with the SRP supporters in order to maximise an ability to mobilise and motivate the affected general population to participate in large numbers. This sort of decry can only come out of jealousy, and with the two parties having the same goal- and that is to defeat Hun Sen at the election- this sort of decry against one another is not helpful to their cause. It can only play into Mr. Hun Sen’s hands. Therefore, I call on these two parties to support each other in future actions.

On a last note, I wish the authority, and in particular Mr. Hun Sen, to open up to the reality by solving these crises sooner rather than later. Price rises can be contained if the right and effective measures are applied. Salary increases can be achieved if Hun Sen has the political will to get tough with corruption. Money to fund the pay rises can be found through the elimination of corruption. And this, I mean, the incomes from illegal logging, Angkor Wat concessions and the proceeds from the sales and concessions of public lands and properties etc., must be deposited into the state treasury accounts, instead of allowing them to flow into the pockets of corrupt officials.
Links 1:
Links 2:

Families Fear Loss of Land, Loved Ones

By Chiep Mony, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
08 April 2008

Khmer audio aired April 8 (2.49 MB) - Download (MP3) Khmer audio aired April 8 (2.49 MB) - Listen (MP3)

[Editor's note: In the weeks leading into national polls, VOA Khmer will explore a wide number of election issues. The "Election Issues 2008" series will air stories on Tuesday and Wednesday, followed by a related "Hello VOA" guest on Thursday. This is the first in a two-part series examining land grabs in Cambodia.]

Sitting in front of her thatched-roof home in Kampong Chhnang province, about 1 kilometer off National Road 5, Sar Saing sat with a group of eight people. One woman carried a baby, and others sat on bicycles. At times, Sar Saing would seem happy, but then her face would darken.

Her father, Sar Song, has been incarcerated since Feb. 28, one of nearly 40 people rights groups say are currently being held in land disputes.

"Everyday, even though people do not sell their land, their land is grabbed," Sar Saing said. "The grabbers probably bribe the court officials to legally own the land of the people."

Rights groups say the trend of land-grabbing is continuing, at a high cost to many rural villagers, not only in land, but in the seizure of loved ones.

Victims say they fear corruption by courts, police, military and other government officials.
A spokesman for Cambodia's land dispute authority told VOA Khmer accusations of land grabs are being inflated ahead of July's general elections.

Numbers tell one story.

The price of land in Sar Saing's village, Lor Peang, has gone from $100 per hectare five years ago to $10,000 per hectare today, part of a nationwide land boom that has led to the increase in land theft.

The villagers here say they are in a fight for their land with a local company, known here by its initials, KDC.

Sar Saing's father was arrested with one other man and sentenced to eight months in jail by the Kampong Chhnang provincial court. A third man was charged in absentia but remains at large.
All three were charged with a violation of KDC's land ownership.

But villagers here, echoing the worries of many across the country, say they have had their land stolen.
A representative of KDC named Thai Hy brought in workers "who looked like gangsters" to remove villagers from the land, Sar Saing said.

A man claiming to be Thai Hy's brother denied the claims by phone recently, referring questions to the court.

Veng Hut, the provincial court's investigating judge, told VOA Khmer he had judged in accordance with the law and was not involved with corruption.

Lor Peang Village Chief Toch Ly said the government and provincial leaders must work to ensure the people are not removed from their land without proper compensation, though she acknowledged many of her residents felt victimized.

Chum Bun Rong, spokesman of the National Land Dispute Authority, defended the judicial and relevant institutions, saying officials were "almost getting sick" from hard work on many cases.

Nearly 700 land dispute cases were under review at the agency, he said.

But, he said, "there is no serious land dispute in the country."

"It is only a political issue being raised prior to the election," he said.

With elections to be held in July, Sar Pek, brother of Sar Saing and son of Sar Song, said he planned to vote, even if his father was in prison.

More numbers; another story.

A 2007 report by the aid agency Oxfam says about 63.7 percent of Cambodians are either landless or own less than half a hectare.

Of those who owned more land that that, about 30 percent were businessmen, 23 percent were high-ranking military officers and 23 percent were a special class of wealthy, known by the honorary title "Oknha," according to the report.

Prime Minister Hun Sen has pushed for land grabs to cease, but his warnings have apparently gone unheeded, as land grabs have continued across the country, including in Phnom Penh.

In February this year at least 10 families in the Prek Leab commune of the capital's Russei Keo district lodged a complaint to Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema, fighting against the proposed widening of a road through the village.

Residents said they suspected a commune chief had sold the land to a private company, a claim the chief, Preab Mony, denied.

Land grabbing shot up between 2003 and 2006, the rights group Licadho reported.

The group had been monitoring 25 land-grab cases in 2003, but that number jumped to 112 in 2006.

More than 5,000 families lost their homes in land grabs in 2007, said Am Sam Ath, Licadho’s technical supervisor.

Land grabs have also turned more violent; two people were killed in Preah Vihear province in 2007, and six other people across the country were injured, Am Sam Ath said.

Ny Chakriya, head of Adhoc’s monitoring unit, said institutions like the Land Dispute Authority must resolve such disputes. The judicial system needs to take a strong position, he said.

Otherwise, he said, land disputes will become a more serious issue, leading to more deaths.

Growing Economy Has Faults: UN Agency

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
08 April 2008

Khmer audio (1.01 MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio (1.01 MB) - Listen (MP3)

Strong exports in garments have continued to support a high economic growth rate, but Cambodia's reliance on garment manufacturing is a "key concern," a UN economic group said Tuesday.

In an annual report on the region, the UN Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific found Cambodia maintained one of the fastest growing economies in the region, but the "narrow export base" from garments made it vulnerable.

Growth in the agricultural sector is necessary for Cambodia to reduce poverty, the group said.
UN resident coordinator Suomi Sakai called the link between agriculture and poverty reduction "fundamental."

The government must find a balance between producers, who want high prices, and consumers, who don't, said Hang Chhuan Narong, secretary-general at the Ministry of Economy and Finance.

The government must also balance high growth rates with high inflation pressure, he said, adding that the government would also continue a "reform program" to increase agricultural productivity.

Police Arrest Man Smuggling Out Heroine

By Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
08 April 2008

Khmer audio (613 KB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio (613 KB) - Listen (MP3)

Customs officers at Phnom Penh International Airport arrested one man attempting to leave the country Tuesday morning with more than 2 kilograms of heroine, police officials said.

Wang Kuo Lin, 28, a Taiwanese national, was leaving for Hong Kong, officials said, adding they did not know the source of the heroine.

Wang was detained at the anti-drug office of the Ministry of Interior and will be sent to Phnom Penh Municipal Court Wednesday, said Maj. Gen. Lour Ramin, secretary-general of the secretariat of the anti-drug office.

Wang had wrapped the heroine in a package around his torso, Lour Ramin said.

The arrest follows at least two airport busts last year: a Taiwanese man carrying 800 grams of heroine in October, and a Malaysian man with 580 methamphetamine tablets and a small packet of "ice heroine" in June.

Opposition Lawmakers Forgo Medal Ceremony

By Mean Veasna, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
08 April 2008

Khmer audio aired April 8(614 KB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired April 8(614 KB) - Listen (MP3)

Twenty-four opposition lawmakers boycotted a ceremony Tuesday where National Assembly members were giving themselves medals.

The medals were to be issued to each lawmaker for "positive work" during the past legislative session. The next legislative session will not take place until after July's general election.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy said his party "did not want to receive this kind of medal, because such medals are nonsense and valueless.

"Contrarily, I think that it is a shame for those who wear these medals," he said. "It is not an honor, because, in general, those who receive the medal are especially tainted, people with illegal businesses, and we do not want to compare ourselves with those people."

The party recommended in a statement that the National Assembly use its time to strengthen its capacity in order to improve social and moral values, through passing an anti-corruption law and pushing the government to apply responsibility for the national interest.

Lawmaker Chiem Yeap, of the ruling Cambodian People's Party, said the opposition's attitude, posting the statement and boycotting the ceremony, was in contempt of the king.

"The king signed the royal decree allowing the medal, via a proposal of the National Assembly medal committee," said Chiem Yeap, who is a deputy in the committee.

The SRP said in its statement the medal was given to several people, including foreign and Cambodian businessmen, as well as officials, and among them were "good people" and "criminals," like drug traffickers, smugglers, illegal loggers and land grabbers.

The medal did not represent merit, the statement said, but money and power.

Tuesday's medal ceremony came at the end of this five-year legislative term.

New lawmakers will meet again after the elections. The National Assembly failed again this session to pass a much-anticipated anti-corruption law.

Opposition: High Prices Preventable

By Poch Reasey, VOA Khmer
08 April 2008

Khmer audio aired April 7 (6.53 MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired April 7 (6.53 MB) - Listen (MP3)

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy said Monday one factor in the high price of rice was local middlemen who buy unhusked rice for cheap, process it, and sell it back at a higher rate.

The high mark-up on processed rice was too much to ask most consumers and farmers, he said, and it was only one domestic reason prices have been hurting Cambodians.

"We are all victims," Sam Rainsy said, as a guest on "Hello VOA."

"The rogue businessmen make a huge profit at the expense of farmers and consumers," he said.

The government has faced increasing pressure to curb inflation and last month put a ban on the export of rice and injected subsidized rice into the marketplace.

Sam Rainsy meanwhile held a demonstration of a few hundred people Sunday to protest the rising cost of living.

Sam Rainsy said that middlemen pay only 900 riel for a kilogram of rice, then process it and sell it back on the market for almost 4,000 riel.

He said a reasonable price of rice should be about 1,500 riel.

In the last few months, prices of rice and other foods have gone up across Asia and around the world.

Many governments, including Cambodia, have taken steps to stabilize the price and to ensure enough supply in their countries.

They have temporarily suspended rice exports and have issued government-owned rice to alleviate the problem.

In another measure the Cambodian government last week boosted the wages of garment factory workers by $6.

However, Sam Rainsy said he was not impressed.

That amount was not enough to counter inflation, he said.

"The price of consumer goods has doubled. Therefore, salaries have to double too," he said.

"What can you do with six extra dollars? I have met some farmers who told me that their children used to send them money from the cities to help them out. But now, they say they have to send rice to their children in the cities because their children no longer make enough money to support themselves."

Sam Rainsy admitted that food prices increase everywhere in the world. However, he said, in other countries they don't go up as drastically as Cambodia. Also, in other countries, incomes are higher than Cambodia, so people's lives are not affected as badly as in Cambodia.

The key to lower food prices is land distribution, he said.

"In order to lower the price of rice and other foodstuffs, land must be distributed to farmers to increase food production," he said. "When food production is increased, prices will go down.

Therefore, we have to give the land back to the people so that they can grow crops."

Regional Journalists Share Common Stories

By Kong Soth, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
08 April 2008

Khmer audio aired April 6 (1.80 MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired April 6 (1.80 MB) - Listen (MP3)

Journalists from six neighboring countries met for four days last week to discuss common issues and compare stories of regional significance.

The journalists, from the Mekong sub-region countries of Burma, Cambodia, China, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam met to review works on issues ranging from bird flu, smuggling, AIDS, the environment and culture.

Johanna Son, director of the Inter-Press Service Asia-Pacific, which organized the meeting, told VOA Khmer the event was meant to balance news coverage in the region.

More stories were happening in Cambodia than told through foreign media, she said.

"This program is to help correct this unbalance by giving some training to journalists from these countries," she said.

One participant, Sroy Ny Ka, a reporter for the Rasmei Kampuchea newspaper, called the meeting of regional journalists "useful," especially when journalists faced stories that crossed borders. He reported on cock fighting and bird flu for the forum.

Thai journalist Chrkra Vathdy Buckalee said the forum offered a chance for journalists to learn from each other. She wrote about a lingering haze that affects the air of both Thailand and Laos.

Providential Holdings Forms IndoChina Mining Corporation

April 08, 2008

Providential Holdings, Inc. (OTCBB: PRVH), a company providing advisory, merger and acquisition services as well as independently investing in Vietnamese economic opportunities, has formed IndoChina Mining Corporation with the view of acquiring mining rights and equity interests in mining corporations located in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

IndoChina Mining Corporation is expected to form joint ventures for the exploitation of mineral deposits that Providential has already located and is currently targeting. The company has identified mining opportunities for copper in Cambodia, tin and gold in Laos and bauxite, diatomite, flourite and ilmenite (iron titanium oxide) in Vietnam.

Tai Vo, President of Providential Vietnam (PHI Vietnam), said, "IndoChina Mining Corp. plans to leverage Providential's existing relationships with mining companies in the region and pursue other opportunities there. We have already located a current diatomite mine with a capacity estimated to be more than two million tons and have also begun searching for skilled personnel to lead Providential's new venture."

Henry Fahman, CEO of Providential Holdings (PHI), said, "Forming IndoChina Mining Corp. is a natural progression of PHI's increasing focus in this area as we have considered participating in the mining sector in Indochina for some time. Not only have we been able to locate highly promising sites for mining opportunities, we have also been in advanced negotiations with a number of local mining operators which may lead to some imminent transactions in the near future."

About Providential Holdings, Inc.

Providential Holdings and its subsidiaries engage in a number of diverse business activities, the most important of which are M&A advisory services and investing in the rapidly growing economies of Vietnam and Asia. As part of its activities in Vietnam, Providential has been hosting seminars in conjunction with the Nasdaq Stock Market, the Vietnamese Chamber of Commerce and Industry and a leading U.S. investment banking firm, to help Vietnamese companies go public and raise capital through the U.S. financial markets. For more information on Providential
Holdings, visit

A profile for investors can be accessed at
For investor relations questions regarding Providential, contact Antonella Montagna or Frank Hawkins, Hawk Associates, at 305-451-1888, e-mail: or visit or To sign up for free e-mail notification of future releases, visit

Thailand, Cambodia reopen talks on disputed waters

By an OGJ correspondent

BANGKOK, Apr. 8 -- Thailand and Cambodia plan to resume negotiations Apr. 21 in Bangkok over long-standing differences covering ownership of gas reserves in disputed waters.

An impasse has prevented development of 26,000 sq km area in the Gulf of Thailand. The area is believed to hold substantial hydrocarbon deposits.

Negotiations are being prompted by skyrocketing oil prices and the need of both Thailand and Cambodia to find indigenous energy supplies.

In 2001, both sides agreed to adopt the Joint Development Area (JDA), a scheme embraced earlier by Thailand and Malaysia, for developing oil and gas in the disputed zone without resolving exact maritime boundaries.

The original model negotiated by Thailand and Cambodia called for a 50-50 split of resources arising from the middle portion of the JDA, with sharing ratios differing on areas flanking the plot, depending on the proximity to their territorial claims.

However, Phnom Penh authorities are pressing for a 60-40 sharing ratio, unlike the 50-50 split adopted by Thailand and Malaysia on the 7,250-sq-km triangular JDA (OGJ Online, Aug. 15, 2006).

Songpop Polachan, deputy director-general of Thailand's Department of Mineral Fuels, said Thailand will insist that the Malaysia-Thailand JDA sharing model is adopted for the Thailand-Cambodia pact.

Filed complaints bolster Cambodian trials

Radio Australia

More than 1,000 survivors of Cambodia's Khmer Rouge regime have filed complaints with the country's genocide tribunal.

The United Nations-backed court says it marks greater public participation in the prosecution of those who organised the killing fields.

It says as well as giving victims an active role in the proceedings, the complaints provide key evidence for investigators trying to unravel the inner workings of one of the world's most secretive regimes.

Five former Khmer Rouge leaders have been detained by the tribunal.Up to two million people - or a third of Cambodia's population - were killed by the regime between 1975 and 1979.