Friday, 11 April 2008

Khmer New Year

The Khmer New Year festival originated from Bramhmanism, a part of Hinduism, which was a religion that Khmer believed in before Buddhism. Later on Buddhism became associated with the festival and then took all the important roles in the festivity.

Khmer New Year is celebrated for three days 13-14-15 April.

The first day of New Year is called Moha Sangkran, and it can be described simply as the inauguration of the New Angels who come to take care of the world the coming year. The leader of Angels is named KimiteaTevi. People need to clean and decorate the house and also prepare fruits and drinks for the New Year inauguration and to welcome the New Angels at every single home. Elderly people like to meditate or pray the Dharma at that time because they believe that any angel who comes to their houses at that time will stay with them and take care of their family for the whole year. At the first day of New Year, most Khmer people prepare food to offer the monks to get blessed. It is a great time for boys and girls to play games together at the temple or any field or playground in their village because traditionally it is only at the New Year time that boys and girls are allowed to play or get together.

The second day of New Year is called Wanabot, which means day of offering gifts to the parents, grandparents and elders. Usually, Khmer People like to share gifts or presents to employees and also donate money or clothes to poor people. In the evening, people go to the temple to build a mountain of sand and ask the monks to give them a blessing of happiness and peace.

The third day is called Leung Sakk, the day the year really starts. In the evening, to complete the New Year festival, the Khmer need to perform the last ceremony, called "Pithi Srang Preah", which means giving a special bath or a special shower to Buddha statues, the monks, elders, parents, and grandparents to apologize for any mistake we have done to them and to gratify them. Nowadays, during all of Khmer New Year the Khmer have much fun by spreading out water to each other.

Khmer New Year Games

Throughout Khmer New Year, street corners often are crowded with friends and families enjoying a break from routine, filling their free time dancing and play. Typically Khmer games help maintain one's mental and physical dexterity. The body's blood pressure, muscle system and brain all are challenged and strengthened in the name of Why not try them for yourself?

Tres

A game played by throwing and catching a ball with one hand while trying to catch an increasing number of sticks with the other hand. Usually, pens or chopsticks are used as the sticks to be caught.

Chol Chhoung

A game played especially on the first nightfall of the Khmer New Year by two groups of boys and girls. Ten or 20 people comprise each group, standing in two rows opposite each other. One group throws the "chhoung" to the other group. When it is caught, it will be rapidly thrown back to the first group. If someone is hit by the "chhoung," the whole group must dance to get the "chhoung" back while the other group sings.

Chab Kon Kleng

A game played by imitating a hen as she protects her chicks from a crow. Adults typically play this game on the night of the first New Year's day. Participants usually appoint a person with a strong build to play the hen leading many chicks. Another person is picked to be the crow. While both sides sing a song of bargaining, the crow tries to catch as many chicks as possible as they hide behind the hen.

Bos Angkunh

A game played by two groups of boys and girls. Each group throws their own "angkunh" to hit the master "angkunhs," which belong to the other group and are placed on the ground. The winners must knock the knee of the losers with the "angkunh." "Angkunh" is the name of an inedible fruit seed, which looks like the knee bone.

Leak Kanseng

A game played by a group of children sitting in circle. Someone holding a "kanseng" (Cambodian towel) twisted into a round shape walks around the circle while singing a song. The person walking secretly tries to place the "kanseng" behind one of the children. If that chosen child realizes what is happening, he or she must pick up the "kanseng" and beat the person sitting next to him or her.

Bay Khom

A game played by two children in rural or urban areas during their free time. Ten holes are dug in the shape of an oval into a board in the ground. The game is played with 42 small beads, stones or fruit seeds. Before starting the game, five beads are put into each of the two holes located at the tip of the board. Four beads are placed in each of the remaining eight holes. The first player takes all the beads from any hole and drops them one by one in the other holes. He or she must repeat this process until they have dropped the last bead into a hole lying beside an empty one. Then they must take all the beads in the hole that follows the empty one. At this point, the second player begins to play. The game ends when all the holes are empty. The player with the greatest number of beads wins the game.

A card from Sacravatoons

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

Hundreds of houses burned in fire accident in Cambodia

A woman carrying her belongings runs past a firefighter as she flees her burning house in Phnom Penh April 11, 2008 . At least several hundred people were affected by the blaze that hit the Rusey Koe district in the Cambodian capital, police said.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)


April 11, 2008

Hundreds of houses were burned to ashes Friday during a fire accident in northwest Phnom Penh, Cambodia officials said.

The fire erupted at about 5 a.m. local time, a local official said on condition of anonymity.

The fire was still spreading in the morning, while firefighters were trying to put it out.

So far, the casualties and losses were still unclear.  

Source:Xinhua

Poem by Sam Vichea :"The Prison without walls "

Please Click on image to zoom in
Courtesy of Sacravatoon at http://sacrava.blogspot.com/

Re:Sacravatoons : " We scratch each others back "

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

Illegal migrants tell of Thai truck horror

Thailand volunteer rescue workers remove the bodies of dead Myanmar migrant workers Thursday, April 10, 2008, from the back of a seafood van in Ranong, Thailand. Fifty-four migrant workers from Myanmar, most of them women, suffocated in the back of an unventilated seafood truck in southern Thailand while being smuggled to the popular resort island of Phuket, police said Thursday. (AP)

More than 50 die while locked inside sweltering truck.

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Friday, April 11, 2008

RANONG, Thailand — Villagers who discovered a truck abandoned by its driver in sweltering heat found evidence of the brutal cost of human trafficking: 121 illegal immigrants from Myanmar jammed inside, 54 of them dead.

Police were searching Thursday for the driver and clues to who set up the ill-fated journey by the job seekers headed to the booming Thai resort island of Phuket.

Thailand is a magnet for millions of migrants from Cambodia, Laos and especially Myanmar who take menial and dangerous jobs shunned by Thais.

In 2005, Thailand temporarily registered some 1.3 million migrants from the three countries, but a report by the Geneva-based International Organization for Migration said hundreds of thousands more weren't registered, including tens of thousands illegally brought into the country by unscrupulous traffickers.

Survivors in the truck told police that the group traveled Wednesday by fishing boat to Ranong, about 290 miles south of Bangkok.

They were loaded into a truck normally used to carry seafood, locked inside and forced to ride standing up in a sweltering container measuring 7 feet wide by 7 feet high and 20 feet long.

The migrants were on the road for about two hours, survivors said, when passengers started collapsing as outside temperatures in the area reached 93 degrees.

The migrants began pounding and screaming until the driver stopped, unlocked the door and ran away when he saw the state of the victims, survivor Saw Win said.

"I thought everyone was going to die," he said. "If the truck had driven for 30 minutes more, I would have died for sure."

Cambodia's rap ambassador

Jay Calderon Palm Springs Sun

Cambodian refugee Prach Ly performs for students at Nellie Coffman Middle School in Palm Springs on April 2.

http://www.mydesert.com/


Prach Ly brings insights on his culture to kids

By Rasha Aly
Palm Springs Sun
April 11, 2008

The music came on. The beat and the tune were catchy.

Dressed in a long man's shirt, a tie and dress pants, Prach Ly took the microphone and began rapping in English and Khmer.

"Watch out for booby traps and land mines," Ly sang. "Ain't no time to take breaks. Death is close behind."

A well-known rap artist, especially in his native Cambodia, Ly, 28, has been featured in Newsweek and Time magazines and newspapers such as the Cambodia Daily and Phnom Penh Post.

His goal is to teach others about Cambodia's history and culture. His lyrics tell the story of the experience many Cambodians had.

Last week he stopped by several schools in the west Coachella Valley.

On April 17, 1975, Phnom Penh, the country's capital, fell under the control of a communist guerilla group called the Khmer Rouge. The group forced all city residents into the countryside and to labor camps. It remained in control for about four years, during which millions of Cambodians died by starvation, death or torture.

The students at St. Theresa School listened not only to the songs, but to the stories behind the lyrics.

Ly's presentation "wasn't a whole bunch of boo boo blah," said Rodney Cooper, 12, a seventh-grader at St. Theresa School. "It's something new - not usual, but better than the usual."

Ly was born in a concentration camp in Cambodia, he said. His birth was kept a secret from the Khmer Rouge out of fear he or his mom would be killed.

His family traveled through the country and crossed into Thailand and Vietnam where people were not very fond of Cambodians, he said. Even there, they faced abuse from Thai and Vietnamese people. His dreamed of a better place.

"It was just as bad" as the concentration camp, Ly said. "We couldn't go back. We couldn't move forward."

They lived there for 2 years until a family sponsored Ly's family to come to the United States. They settled in Long Beach, where he grew up.

"You guys are really, really, really lucky to be here," he said.

Vietnam, Cambodia boost broadcast cooperation

Unbelievable that the Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith has request to VN to provide music and song broadcasts in Vietnamese to the Radio Voice of Cambodia. Is there are a lot of YUON in Cambodia that is why he begging for that broadcast? or the Hun Sen Government are YUON themself and need to listen to the Viet broadcast?

11/04/2008

VietNamNet Bridge – Vietnam and Cambodia will continue to increase bilateral cooperation in broadcasting, as agreed to during a visit by the General Director of the Radio Voice of Vietnam (VOV) to the neighbouring country.

At a meeting on April 9 during the visit, General Director of the VOV Vu Van Hien agreed to provide music and song broadcasts in Vietnamese to the Radio Voice of Cambodia, as requested by the Cambodian Minister of Information Khieu Canharith.

Hien also presided at the inauguration of a FM broadcasting station in Xvai Rieng Province, which had installed broadcasting equipment donated by the VOV.

Minister Khieu expressed thanks for VOV’s technical assistance as well as its support in training Cambodian broadcast technicians over the past few years.

On the behalf of the Cambodian Government, Minister Khieu offered an “Honourary Medal” to Gen. Director Hien and VOV’s staff, who helped install Vietnam-donated FM transmitters, in recognition of their contribution to broadcasting in Cambodia.

(Source: VNA)

Hun Sen lifted the ban of rice export to VN but Vietnam donates rice seeds to Cambodia, what is that??

Vietnam donates rice seeds to Cambodia

11/04/2008

VietNamNet Bridge – The Committee for Southwestern region of Vietnam has donated 300 tonnes of rice seeds to Cambodia to help local farmers with the crop cultivation.

The rice seeds were presented at a ceremony on April 9 during a visit to Cambodia by Vice Chairman of the Committee Son Song Son.

Deputy Head of the Cambodian Prime Minister’s Office Heng Bun Heng accepted the donation, saying it further strengthened the traditional friendship between the people of Cambodia and Vietnam .

Heng thanked the Government and people of Vietnam for their solid commitment to Cambodia during their past struggle against the Pol Pot genocidal regime as well as current national construction and development.

In addition to rice varieties, the committee will donate another 150,000 USD worth of goods, including 300 packages of instant noodles, five tonnes of glutamate and six tonnes of soap.

(Source: VNA)

SAD News: Blaze in Russey Keo, 200 homes was destroyed

Firefighters and residents try to put out a fire that engulfed the neighbourhood in Phnom Penh April 11, 2008 . At least several hundred people were affected by the blaze that hit the Rusey Koe district in the Cambodian capital, police said.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

A woman cries as she is led away from her burning house in Phnom Penh April 11, 2008 . At least several hundred people were affected by the blaze that hit the Rusey Koe district in the Cambodian capital, police said.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

A woman holds a fire hose as she tries to put out a fire that engulfed the neighbourhood in Phnom Penh April 11, 2008. At least several hundred people were affected by the blaze that hit the Rusey Koe district in the Cambodian capital, police said.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

A woman carries a gas canister as she flees her burning house in Phnom Penh April 11, 2008. At least several hundred people were affected by the blaze that hit the Rusey Koe district in the Cambodian capital, police said.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

A girl carrying her belongings flees her burning house in Phnom Penh April 11, 2008. At least several hundred people were affected by the blaze that hit the Rusey Koe district in the Cambodian capital, police said.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

A woman carrying her belongings runs past a firefighter as she flees her burning house in Phnom Penh April 11, 2008 . At least several hundred people were affected by the blaze that hit the Rusey Koe district in the Cambodian capital, police said.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

A man looks at the remains of burnt houses in Phnom Penh April 11, 2008. At least several hundred people were affected by the blaze that hit the Rusey Koe district in the Cambodian capital, police said.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

A firefighter listens to a handheld radio set as a woman carrying her belongings flees her burning house in Phnom Penh April 11, 2008 . At least several hundred people were affected by the blaze that hit the Rusey Koe district in the Cambodian capital, police said.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Smoke rises from burning houses in Phnom Penh April 11, 2008 . At least several hundred people were affected by the blaze that hit the Rusey Koe district in the Cambodian capital, police said.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

A firefighter hoses down a burning house in Phnom Penh April 11, 2008 . At least several hundred people were affected by the blaze that hit the Rusey Koe district in the Cambodian capital, police said.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Cambodian military police hose down a burning house in Phnom Penh April 11, 2008. At least several hundred people were affected by the blaze that hit the Rusey Koe district in the Cambodian capital, police said.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Residents look at smoke rising from a burning house in Phnom Penh April 11, 2008. At least several hundred people were affected by the blaze that hit the Rusey Koe district in the Cambodian capital, police said.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

A man talks on his mobile phone as a fire engine drives past a burning house in Phnom Penh April 11, 2008 . At least several hundred people were affected by the blaze that hit the Rusey Koe district in the Cambodian capital, police said.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Blaze welcomes New Year!


This is the thick smoke of burning-fire where I used my phone to take pix and share with all of you.

Posted by vutha
April 11, 2008

A few days away, the Khmer New Year will be celebrated throughout the country and abroad by Cambodians as well. But what is very unfortunate for Cambodian people to become victims because of some unexpected incidents before New Year.

At around 6:30am this morning, when I left my home for workplace. I saw the thick smoke coming from the fire burning from the block of anarchic small wooden houses. Most of Cambodians are squatting for long time. It is hard for fire-engines to reach the burning houses because of narrow road. That is the blaze occurring this morning off Lok Sang hospital, the stretch of street along the hospital is blocked from the passengers, cars and motorbikes as well.

When I reached the intersection of traffic light near Lok Sang hospital, I saw two fire-engines parking on the road side. It is seemly not to take immediate action to extinguish the fire. Some people always said that if no money to pay firefighters, they will not be making their efforts to extinguish a fire.

Meanwhile, my friend, he reported this incident quickly on his blog by saying that:

When I talked about this with some of people, it is suspected that this is because land price is high and anarchic building there shall be made improvement. There should not be messy building in city like a modern Phnom Penh today.

The traffic jam also happened, it was hard for me to drive through toward my workplace, I was so later a little bit to get office.

The relevance of Cambodia

Daily Press
April 11, 2008

There are some names in the obituary columns that say more than the voices of the living.

Such is the name of Dith Pran, who died last Sunday at 65. He was the Cambodian photographer who somehow survived the collection of killing fields that his country became after the Americans abandoned it. And who somehow made his way to the United States to tell the world about it.

Hundreds of thousands of his countrymen would lose their lives after the Khmer Rouge swept into Phnom Penh and began rounding up just about anybody who could read and write. Literacy is dangerous. It gives people ideas, and the only ideas allowed in the new Cambodia were the Party's.

The toll of the Khmer Rouge's brief reign of terror in Cambodia (1975-78) is uncertain –– a million, two? Maybe a third of the country's pre-Communist population. The numbers can only be estimated, but the pictures of pyramids of skulls are well known. They've become emblematic of that bloody time.

It wasn't supposed to happen that way, not according to the sophisticates who were advocating an American withdrawal from Indochina in the 1970s. They blithely dismissed all the warnings that a bloodbath would follow once the United States abandoned its allies in Southeast Asia:

"Indochina Without Americans/For Most, A Better Life," –– headline in The New York Times, April 13, 1975.

The Times' correspondent in Phnom Penh, Sydney Schanberg, may have been the most blithe of all about Cambodia's better future once the Americans left. In a report four days before Phnom Penh fell, he wrote that for "ordinary people of Indochina ... it is difficult to imagine how their lives could be anything but better with the Americans gone."

Schanberg's limited imagination would soon enough be demonstrated by the unspeakable realities to follow. He was still sending optimistic dispatches even as the holocaust was proceeding. He was so monstrously wrong about what would happen in Cambodia after the Communist victory there that he won a Pulitzer Prize for it. The name of his Cambodian photographer, translator, guide and friend? Dith Pran.

The fast-talking Cambodian managed to save Schanberg and other Western journalists from the Khmer Rouge, but was unable to make it out of the country with them. In the swirling chaos of the Communist takeover, all was terror and confusion. The Khmer Rouge were emptying schools and hospitals and whole cities in their hunt for class enemies. (Anybody who wore glasses –– the surest sign of a bourgeois intellectual –– was in danger.)

Dith Pran managed to survive the ceaseless labor, the brutal beatings and the starvation diet (a tablespoon of rice a day), and eventually snuck across the Thai border. Reunited with Schanberg, he would go on to become a photographer for the Times.

Now, once again, the sophisticates are urging Americans to abandon an ally, this time beleaguered Iraq. The leading Democratic presidential candidates speak glibly of pulling out of that country as if there would be no ill effects. As in Cambodia?

This week the American commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, is testifying once again before Congress, and once again he'll be met by a chorus of cynicism, no matter how much real progress his strategy, aka The Surge, has made. Last time he testified, Hillary Clinton told the general it would take "a willing suspension of disbelief" to credit what he said. The critics of the war have their script and are sticking to it. Just as Sydney Schanberg knew all would be better once the Americans had left Cambodia.

What would an American withdrawal now mean for the Iraqis? It is now too late to ask Dith Pran. But his life and trials speak eloquently enough.

Indonesia's Rajawali Group, Cambodia agree to set up airline

The earth Times
Fri, 11 Apr 2008
Author : DPA

Jakarta/Phnom Penh - Indonesia's Rajawali Group has signed off with the Cambodian government to develop a new Cambodian national airline, but details were still being worked out, a Cambodian aviation official said Friday. The secretary-general of Cambodia's Secretariat of Civil Aviation, Chea Oun, said the announcement was only a first step and many more details needed to be worked out, including the new airline's name.

"The real work is only just beginning. We need to work closely with our new partner now to work out all the details," Oun said by telephone. "A lot of things are still undecided."

What is certain is that the new airline will have around 50 million dollars in startup capital and the Cambodian government will hold a 51-percent stake.

Cambodia's notoriously unreliable and financially plagued national carrier Royal Air Cambodge went bankrupt in 2000 and was liquidated in 2001.

In November, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen publicly berated his deputy, Sok An, for taking too long to secure a deal on new national carrier as tourism grew by 20 per cent, threatening to do the deal himself.

Since then, negotiations have sped forward, with Sok An co-signing the agreement Thursday.

Under the agreement, Rajawali will build the facilities needed to develop the airline, Indonesian state news agency Antara quoted Rajawali Group spokesman Christiantoko as saying Friday.

"Its paid-up capital will be around 50 million dollars," he was quoted as saying, adding that both sides were committed to developing the Cambodian airline into a world-class operation.

Rajawali has wide-ranging business interests in telecommunications, media, hotels, and cigarette and cement manufacturing.

Rajawali CEO Peter Sondahk is ranked as one of Indonesia's wealthiest men.

Danish woman arrested in Cambodia for headache tablet smuggling

The Earth Times
Fri, 11 Apr 2008
Author : DPA

Phnom Penh - A Danish woman faces drug smuggling charges in Cambodia after she was arrested at the post office allegedly trying to post thousands of tablets containing codeine, a police official said Friday. The secretary-general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs, Lou Ramin, said Axelexen Johanne Vinther, 45, attracted the suspicion of postal workers at the capital's main post office earlier this week.

Police investigated and allegedly found she was attempting to post 10,761 tablets containing codeine, which is a restricted substance in most Western countries, he said.

"This is not an unusual case - foreigners try to post drugs all the time and we have had many cases such as this," Police General Ramin said. "This is now a matter for the court."

Several African men are currently serving jail terms in Cambodia for attempting to send heroin through the post. However, arrests for posting pharmaceuticals are far less common.

Codeine remains legal to buy and sell across the counter without prescription in Cambodia, but not to post in bulk overseas.

If convicted, Vinther faces up to 20 years in jail.

Bayon TV, The Latest Edition to Join SuncasTV

Bayon TV, Cambodia's largest television, radio and broadcasting channel, will be featured on SuncasTV.

Chicago, IL (PRWEB) April 11, 2008 -- Bayon TV, Cambodia's largest television, radio and broadcasting channel, will be featured on SuncasTV.

Bayon TV: Cambodian TV with a Smile! was founded in 1998 in the Kingdom of Cambodia. The channel is broadcast directly from Phnom Penh and has 4 sub-stations in Kampong Cham, Seim Reab, Shihanouk Ville and Stung Treng. This popular channel broadcasts current events, entertainment news, movies and also features the arts. It is owned by the Prime Minister of Cambodia, Hun Sen, who is also the leader of the Cambodian People's Party.

SuncasTV is a subsidiary of the Suncast Network, Inc., located in Arlington Heights, IL.

SuncasTV offers Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) to the North American television viewing public, with a specialty towards providing programming from Asian channels and networks.SuncasTV is the first IPTV to have full contractual rights to broadcast Bayon TV, which is going to be a channel available to viewers 24/7.

Amongst the channels featured on SuncasTV are English, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Malaysian, Chinese, Korean, Indian, Filipino, Thai and Japanese. Apart from that, there are also channels covering sports, entertainment and the arts, food and real estate.

This new venture between Bayon TV and SuncasTV will serve as a platform to nurture future relations and help strengthen ties between the Cambodians and the Asian American public.

SuncasTV is happy to present you Bayon TV and invites you all to watch this new channel at http://www.suncastv.com/cambodia/index.html; it will be available for viewing on April 1, 2008. SuncasTV provides our Khmer viewers, 24-hour coverage directly from Cambodia with news, interviews, sports, political programs, dramas, documentaries, variety shows and movies.

The vision of SuncasTV Cambodia is to bring all the Khmer communities from all over the United States together by allowing all the organizations to post their local news and event video to our Khmer Community Channel.

ABOUT SuncasTVSuncasTV is ahead of the curve in introducing the IPTV concept to American audiences. SuncasTV is an IPTV service provider which supports IPTV viewers in the U.S. and globally by offering a wide range of information and entertainment content from around the world. (www.suncastv.com). It has a specialty towards providing programming from Asian channels and networks. It targets IPTV viewers in the U.S. with initial entry in the Asian market by offering content from a variety of Asian countries. Currently the channel carries content from China, Korea, Philippines, India, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Japan, and there is an English channel.

Traditional TV viewing required broadcast reception, satellite dish, or cable. Without installing any cables or satellite dishes, one can watch your favorite broadcasts delivered to your TV set whenever you want, regardless of where in the world you are. This is the future trend for TV viewing/delivery. IPTV will soon be the standard platform for delivery for video on demand (VOD), pay per view (PPV) and subscription content from providers.

Thousands homeless after Cambodian slum fire: police

A man tries to control a fire at slum area of the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh which destroyed more than 200 homes

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — Thousands were made homeless early Friday after a slum fire in Cambodia's capital Phnom Penh destroyed more than 200 homes, police said.

The blaze broke out in an area crowded with poorly-built wooden shacks, police said, adding that the cause of the fire was still under investigation.

"Hundreds of houses were completely destroyed," said Pong Savrith, military police deputy commander.

"They were all small wooden houses that were built in a disorderly manner," he told AFP as a column of thick smoke continued to billow into the sky.

Neighbourhood residents swarmed into nearby streets, struggling to rescue their belongings, while others huddled on the curbside, crying as their homes burned.

About 200 firefighters and volunteers worked for five hours to douse the blaze, said fire chief Sok Vannar.

"This is the biggest fire this year," he said, adding that no one had been hurt.

Although large neighbourhood fires are increasingly rare in Phnom Penh, a series of suspicious blazes several years ago destroyed a number of slum areas, forcing tens of thousands to flee.

Poem by Sarika : " The Anniversary of April 17th,1975 "

Click on Pictur to ZOOM IN
Courtesy of Sacravatoon at http://sacrava.blogspot.com/

Sacravatoons : " April 17th,1975 "

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

Pressure builds for Bush to skip Beijing opening ceremony

azcentral.com
Apr. 10, 2008
USA Today

WASHINGTON - If President Bush attends the opening ceremony of the Olympics in Beijing, he could be a lonely leader.

The king of Cambodia, the president of Latvia and the mayor of Athens - host of the 2004 Summer Olympics - say they'll be there for the festivities, according to the Beijing Games' website.

But Bush's counterparts in Great Britain, Germany, Canada, Poland, Estonia and the Czech Republic are planning to skip the ceremonies amid protests against China's human rights policies, particularly regarding Tibet and Darfur.

"This is becoming a big problem for the Chinese government," said Jerry Fowler, president of the Save Darfur Coalition, which advocates a boycott of the opening ceremony.

Many world leaders have yet to say whether they'll attend. Human rights groups say they will continue to press Bush and others to stay away, and were buoyed by this week's protests in Paris and San Francisco of the Olympic torch run.

Bush has said he plans to go to the Olympics, but spokeswoman Dana Perino said it's too early to schedule the specific events that the president will attend, including the Aug. 8 opening festivities.

Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama support the boycott. John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, said Thursday he would not attend if he were president but stopped short of saying that is what Bush should do.

Bush told reporters on Feb. 28 he would attend the Olympics "because it's a sporting event."

Perino said Thursday that Bush has often discussed his concerns about China's human rights record "and he's going to continue to do that before, during and after the Olympics."

Four years ago in Athens, former president George H.W. Bush led the U.S. delegation at the opening ceremony. Among others who attended then: British Prime Minister Tony Blair, French President Jacques Chirac, and the leaders of Turkey, Bosnia and the Ukraine.

This year, China has put a special emphasis on attracting world leaders for what amounts to "a coming-out party," said Derek Mitchell, the Pentagon's senior director for China during the Clinton administration.

"The opening ceremony is much more about the host country and celebrating them," he said.

The Save Darfur Coalition and other groups issued an open letter last week urging world leaders to pressure China over what they called Sudan's genocide in that nation's Darfur region. The letter said China has major influence because it is Sudan's "largest economic partner, major military supplier and chief diplomatic supporter."

Human Rights Watch issued a similar letter this week, citing Darfur and the recent Chinese crackdown on Tibet, the jailing of dissidents and media restrictions.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy says he is weighing his options. Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, meanwhile, said he would not participate in any boycott and "nobody hopes for this." The Chinese have not said whether he'll attend.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said this week he would not attend the opening, but would go to the closing ceremony. London hosts the 2012 Summer Games. "Politicians have to make decisions themselves," said Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee.

Formal protest filedwith Phnom Penh

Did Preah Vihear is part of THAI?

The Bangkok Post
Friday April 11, 2008

Asked to remove troops from disputed area

THANIDA TANSUBHAPOL

The Foreign Ministry yesterday protested to Cambodia over its sending troops to the disputed area around Preah Vihear _ the ancient ruins on the border between the two countries.

Virachai Plasai, the chief of the Treaties and Legal Affairs Department, summoned Cambodian ambassador Ung Sean to register a protest against Cambodia's intrusion on Thailand's sovereignty. He said it was a violation of the 2000 memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the two countries over the Preah Vihear area.

Under the MoU, both countries agreed not to do anything to change the area in question.
This is the fourth time in five years that Bangkok has protested to Phnom Penh over the issue. The previous diplomatic protests were in 2004, 2005 and 2007 and involved the establishment of a state office, a temple and a road in the disputed area by Cambodia.

Thailand's protests have not resulted in any changes, however.

'This time we summoned the Cambodian ambassador to protest against them sending in troops and police and clearing landmines in the overlapping area in Si Sa Ket province,'' said Mr Virachai.

Cambodia was asked to withdraw its troops from the disputed area.

He said although the two countries have a joint border committee looking after their 800-kilometre border, it might take another 10 years to demarcate the 195km border in the Preah Vihear area, as the two countries use different maps. The disputed area covers 2,900 rai, or 4.6 square kilometres.

However, negotiations which aim to put in place a joint management over the disputed area are underway and expected to be in place before the border demarcation is completed, Mr Virachai said.

''Today's protest is done on a legal basis in an attempt to protect Thailand's rights over the disputed area,'' he said. It would not affect diplomatic and political cooperation between the two countries.

The Preah Vihear conflict came up after Cambodia made a proposal to have Unesco include the ancient ruins on the World Heritage list, ignoring a suggestion by Thailand that the proposal be jointly made because of the border problems.

Thailand put its case to Unesco, saying the two countries had not yet settled a demarcation agreement on land around the ruins, prompting the UN body to postpone the listing until the two sides settle their differences.

Horrific history set dance piece in motion

Visit to Cambodian genocide museum inspires contemporary production that shuns the 'sombre' Elizabeth Withey , The Edmonton JournalPublished: Thursday, April 10, 2008

DANCE PREVIEW
Everything Has a Face
Performance group: Bunting Dance

When: Friday and Saturday, 8 p.m.
Where: Timms Centre, U of A
Tickets: $15-$25 plus service charges
at Tix on the Square
Heidi Bunting couldn't get the faces out of her mind.

During a trip to Cambodia in 2004, the Edmonton choreographer visited the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, a school in Phnom Penh that the Khmer Rouge turned into a secret prison to confine, torture and execute thousands of Cambodians in the late 1970s.

Unidentified prisoner photos, taken during Pol Pot's brutal regime, are on display in the museum. Bunting was disturbed, yet mesmerized, by the prisoners' eyes.

"In some cases you felt defiance," she said. "In some cases you saw utter and complete madness, and in other cases, just being tuned out, comatose. That was captivating."

The architecture of the building haunted her, too.

"I was dumbfounded by the crossed signals I was receiving," she said. "A school conjures up feelings of creativity, exploration, learning, in a really open, neat way. And then a prison does just the opposite: containment, restraint, and in the horrific case of that prison, torture and death."

What Bunting saw in those eyes, and in Cambodia, moved her to create Everything Has a Face. The contemporary dance production, part of Brian Webb Dance Company's season, has its world premiere at the Timms Centre this weekend and features six young Edmonton-born dancers:

Colin Atkins, Thea Green, Walter Kubanek, Deanna Peters, Raena Waddell and Ashlea Watkin.
Bunting is quick to point out that while her creation is inspired by Cambodia's history, the show doesn't represent what happened in that country.

"I'd be ill-equipped to make a dance about that," she said. "That's a Cambodian story."
Bunting's choreography is very physical, with little unison. Using a chance methodology, she literally rolls dice to determine each dancer's sequencing order, quality of phrasing and perspective.

The result is neither linear nor narrative. Bunting likes to call it "polyattentive."

"You can see everyone is working from the same vocabulary, but none of it is occurring at the same time or in the same manner," she said. "So it's pretty busy."

Light plays an important role in this production -- again, inspired by what Bunting experienced at the genocide museum.

She was fascinated by light filtering through louvres (angled window slats), and how that light may have affected prisoners.

Did it give them a sense of time? Did it give them hope? Light and set designer David Fraser uses light and darkness to tap into these themes.

The earth tones of the costumes and the set, a simple wall of weathered window slats, offer an unadorned, minimalist visual esthetic that contrasts with the dance.

"The work is not minimalist at all. It's so rich," Bunting said. "It's layered, and I'd say there's a certain lushness."

Although Everything Has a Face is inspired by a horrific piece of history, the performance is not depressing, Bunting said.

"There's an element of containment, but I'd not say that it is sombre or disheartening," she said. "The whole piece is very beautiful."

ewithey@thejournal.canwest.com

Comic Relief

http://www.time.com
Thursday, Apr. 10, 2008
By KRISTA MAHR

When French-Khmer graphic artist Ing Phouséra — or Séra, to use his pen name — first started drawing comics about life under the Khmer Rouge, he didn't have a lot to go on. He had fled Cambodia as a teen in April 1975, when Phnom Penh fell to Pol Pot's forces, and had lived in Paris his whole adult life. Visual arts — except in the service of propaganda — were banned during the four years of Khmer Rouge oppression, leaving scant images of a period in which nearly 20% of Séra's compatriots died. So he used his imagination, and in 2005 tentatively staged an exhibition of the results in Phnom Penh — his first back on home soil. "I was there with my drawing, talking about a period I didn't know," says Séra. But the gamble worked. "When Cambodians came to see it, they were shocked. They said, 'It was like that.'"

Growing up in Phnom Penh between the worlds of his French mother and Khmer father, Séra routinely escaped into the pages of French comics, and again as a young refugee in Paris. Now the author of a dozen graphic novels — three of which have been about Cambodia's war years — he is working to rekindle Cambodia's interest in the art form. Since his debut showing in Phnom Penh, he has been regularly returning to the city of his boyhood to hold workshops for aspiring illustrators. "It's important to try to approach the reality of our times," he says. "This is a media that only needs a pen and paper to express something." He is also helping to publish the nation's first anthology of up-and-coming comic-book artists, (Re)géné Rations: The New Khmer Graphic Novel, due in June. In so doing, Séra and his collaborators are blowing the dust off a subculture that has endured decades of neglect.

Cambodia started printing domestic comics in the mid-1960s, according to Our Books, an organization that archives comics that survived the war and promotes comic-book culture in Cambodia. Though many of that generation of artists were killed, some survived the Khmer Rouge years by drawing agricultural plans for the regime, or sketching small portraits of soldiers in exchange for food. After the Vietnamese deposed Pol Pot in 1979, comics enjoyed a bright but fragile reemergence in the 1980s, gaining a foothold in Phnom Penh's markets before the onslaught of television, movies and video that coincided with Cambodia's ensuing recovery and development. Other Asian countries had comic-book cultures resilient enough to adapt to the explosion of electronic media; unable to do the same, Cambodia's artists produced work that lay unpublished in boxes and drawers.

That the revival of their fortunes should have begun halfway around the world, at Séra's Parisian drawing table, is not entirely surprising. "The Khmer diaspora has had interesting effects on Khmer culture," says John Weeks, the assistant managing editor at Our Books. Filmmakers and novelists who fled Cambodia have helped map out a record of its struggles, and émigré communities have been instrumental in keeping traditional dance and music alive after many of its best practitioners were persecuted. Séra obeyed the same impulses as many artistically minded exiles, but although he had been publishing his drawings since he was 13, it took years before comics were accepted as a suitable form for the weighty subjects he wanted to tackle.

Séra started his first graphic novel about Cambodia, Impasse et Rouge — chronicling the years just before the Khmer Rouge — in 1987, five years before Art Spiegelman's Maus would win a Pulitzer for its famous depiction of the Holocaust and demonstrate that gravitas and the graphic arts were not mutually exclusive. Impasse et Rouge wasn't published for almost another 12 years. Although the following two titles about Cambodia, L'Eau et la Terre (2005) and Lendemains de cendres (2007), were picked up in fairly quick succession by the major French comic publisher Delcourt, Séra has still not had the international success that "serious" comic books artists like Spiegelman, Daniel Clowes (Ghost World) and Marjane Satrapi (Persepolis) have enjoyed. He teaches drawing by day and works as a night porter at a Paris hotel to get by.

For Séra, returning to Cambodia every year thus offers a chance to draw new artistic energy from — and pass on experience to — the young artists he is mentoring. Like him, the contributors to (Re)géné Rations show a willingness to tackle tough subjects — chief among them the trials of daily life in Cambodia. Developed during a series of workshops between 2005 and 2007, the students' panels, which range from simple black-and-white line drawings to detailed, full-color illustration, show street kids panhandling for change and people eking out other precarious livings, like a woman gathering lotus pods to sell in the city. Not that the artists will be better off if they intend to make a living from drawing alone. It's cheaper for small printers in Cambodia to publish a reprint of an older comic than to buy rights to a new story, and literacy rates in the country remain low. "People have the decks stacked against them a little bit," admits Weeks. For Séra, however, money has never been the point — facing the difficult realities of the nation's present is, and that goes hand in hand with facing the atrocities of the past. "I try to give some sign of those times," he says. "I try to tell people: Don't forget."

As Rice Prices Soar, Asian Governments, Experts Push for Return to Farms

By Heda Bayron
Bangkok
10 April 2008

Bayron report - Download (MP3)
Bayron report - Listen (MP3)

As rice prices soar toward $1,000 a ton, governments across Asia brace for possible unrest as the region's staple food becomes less affordable and less available. VOA's Heda Bayron examines why prices are soaring and what needs to be done to keep millions from starvation, reporting from the leading rice exporting nation, Thailand.

Fried or steamed, rice is eaten at almost every meal in Asia.

But there could be less rice on the table now, as prices soar and supply shrinks.

In central Bangkok, a rice trader stacks sacks of rice up to the ceiling of his small shop. He says he has increased his prices every week over the past month.

In the Thai countryside, farmers armed with shotguns guard rice fields against thieves.

These days, every grain counts. Governments of rice-importing countries such as the Philippines are scrambling to get their hands on rice even at inflated prices. Rice-producing countries such as Cambodia, Vietnam, India and China have curbed exports, constricting global supply.

Even here in Thailand, Korbsook Iamsuri, the secretary-general of the country's rice exporters association, says finding rice to sell to clients in Africa is difficult because of hoarding.

"It can't be like this forever. It can't be. Somehow it has to correct itself," he said. "Don't forget that we grow twice as much as we need domestically that's why we have so much to export. And all of a sudden everything's gone, so I do not believe that that is the actual situation we're facing."

There are reports of hoarding on both ends of the supply chain. Consumers are stocking up on rice because they fear prices will rise later. And millers and wholesalers are holding on to supplies, hoping to sell later if prices rise even further.

With rice selling at about $1,000 a ton, many fear the staple soon will be beyond the reach of Asia's poorest people. That could cause widespread hunger, push more into poverty and possibly provoke food riots.

Paul Risley, the United Nations World Food Program's spokesman in Asia, says some of the 28 million "poorest of the poor" it feeds could go hungry because the agency cannot afford to buy grain.

"This is a very immediate crisis," Risley said. "In Cambodia, we have been forced to cut back on school distributions. That means Cambodia would go without WFP-supported feedings."

He says it could spell disaster for aid-dependent countries such as Afghanistan and North Korea.

Although hoarding is part of the problem, rice industry experts say the price surge also is the result of Asia's rapid development, climate change, and the low priority given to agriculture.

In the 1970s, the so-called Green Revolution in Asia increased rice production, and kept prices low. But growing rice became unprofitable as fertilizer, irrigation and labor costs rose.

Production also fell as factories, golf courses and housing developments took over rice paddies. In China, land used for rice cultivation decreased by three million hectares from 1997 to 2006.

Recently, the growing biofuels industry has encouraged farmers to plant corn instead. Global rice stocks are at the lowest in two decades.

At the same time, Asia's appetite grew - especially in rapidly developing India and China, where a rising middle class is eating more. On top of that, high oil prices raise the cost of growing rice and shipping it to markets.

And in recent years, pests damaged crops in Vietnam and drought severely reduced rice exports from Australia.

As a result, prices have been gradually rising since 2002. The price of other grains, such as wheat and corn, also rose. But this year, the increase accelerated - rice has doubled in price since January.

Some in the industry say the crisis is waking up Asia to the critical value of agriculture.

Rice exporter Korbsook says it is time for countries to use farmland wisely.

"And I think one way or the other they would have to adjust themselves on self-reliance on food," he said. "So one way or the other they would need to make use of their own land, in order to export the least…. Of course, no one wants to be taken hostage in this kind of thing. Because food you need for everyone in your country, otherwise it would be a big chaos."

The International Rice Research Institute's director-general, Robert Zeigler, calls for a new push to boost crops. The institute is developing high-yield rice varieties and varieties that withstand floods and droughts.

"We need to restart our investment in research and development," he said. "These have lagged for the last 15 years. I think we're paying the price for that neglect."

The institute says high demand will continue as populations rise - Asia will need 38 million tons more rice a year by 2015. Some economists say high prices will, in the end, benefit farmers and encourage others to return to the paddy fields. The Philippines and China are increasing subsidies to rice farmers.

In the next few months, shortages may ease as harvests are completed in the Philippines and Thailand. But it is not clear whether this would be enough to halt skyrocketing prices. Experts warn the era of cheap rice may be over.

Shift in Rice Policy Worries Experts

By Ros Sothea, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
10 April 2008

Khmer audio aired April 10 (1.54 MB) - Download (MP3) Khmer audio aired April 10 (1.54 MB) - Listen (MP3)

Economists and agricultural experts are worried that Cambodia will face rising rice prices once again, following government exceptions to an export ban.

The government put a rice export ban in place in late March following a price hike in milled rice, but it recently lifted the ban for certain farmers on the Vietnamese border.

Complaints over high prices have settled in the weeks since the ban, but economists warn the prices are likely to climb again, as neighboring countries experience a shortage of the staple.

The government meanwhile has injected $10 million in loans to rice exporters, but experts worry this won't be enough.

Hoping to prevent a crisis, the government recently provided $10 million in loans to rice milling groups and the government-owned Green Trade Company, to buy rice in the three provinces of Takeo, Prey Veng and Kandal.

Freelance economist Sok Sina told VOA Khmer that to buy rice from people was a good measure from the government to stabilize the rice price, but he warned the prices will increase again if the government runs out of money for subsidies.

"The rice will not come down. So what we are worried about is how much money the government has to make such subsidies, because it really needs a lot of money," Sok Sina said.

Sun Kunthu, president of Cambodia Rural Development Bank, which is under the government, said that the $10 million in loans will be paid back within six months, keeping the rice price steady.

The stimulus loans overlap with an April 7 directive from Prime Minister Hun Sen to allow farmers in Takeo, Prey Veng and Kandal to export rice to Vietnam, which is facing a shortage for export.

Ministry of Commerce officials said the measure was necessary, as farmers in those provinces were facing moisture in the rice due to recent rains.

An official from a rice milling association in Takeo said that since the government lifted the ban, between 20 and 30 boats came from Vietnam each day, carrying away 5 tons to 10 tons of rice per boat.

"If we open the border to export rice to Vietnam, the rice price will increase," he warned.

Victims Playing Greater Role: Tribunal

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

Khmer audio aired April 10 (701 KB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired April 10 (701 KB) - Listen (MP3)

The Khmer Rouge tribunal has now received at least 1,500 victim complaints, in what officials say is increased participation in the justice process as trials for jailed leaders of the regime draw near.

Most of the complaints came from within Cambodia, but others have come in from the France and the US, officials said.

The complaints pass through the now-functioning Victim's Unit to prosecutors, who submit them to investigating judges for use in the trials of five jailed former Khmer Rouge leaders.

Tribunal officials had faced criticism over an initial inability to incorporate the needs of victims in the trial process.

"I think when [judges] receive the information related to [the tribunal] to file a complaint, this is participation of victims to the justice process," Keat Bophal, director of the Victim's Unit, said Thursday.

About 1,150 complaints have so been submitted to the courts since November 2007, she said.
"They can file complaints during the investigation process and up until the beginning of the pre-trial phase," she said.

Complaints for former prison chief Duch or chief ideologue Nuon Chea, for example, would not be valid, as they have already begun the pre-trial process.

Complaints related to former foreign affairs minister Ieng Sary, former social affairs minister Ieng Thirith, and former nominal head Khieu Samphan would still be valid.

To facilitate the filing of complaints, the tribunal will open a new office not far from Norodom Boulevard in the capital, following Khmer New Year, Keat Bophal said.

In Kea, who is in charge of a tribunal outreach program for Adhoc, said the complaint of the people is a necessary support to the courts.

The complaints against the five accused claim compensation and cover the entire period of the Khmer Rouge, he said, adding that Adhoc had helped out with 40 separate complaints through an action committee before submitting them to the tribunal.

Khmer Krom Facing Vietnam Violence: Group

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
10 April 2008

Khmer audio aired April 9 (946 KB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired April 9 (946 KB) - Listen (MP3)

At least five Khmer Kampuchea Krom minorities have been wounded and six arrested in Vietnam in the wake of a crackdown on demonstrations, according to an advocacy group and several alleged victims.

Vietnamese authorities have used tear gas, gunfire and arrests to quell demonstrators in a land dispute in An Giang province, which borders Cambodia, said Ang Chanrith, executive director of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Human Rights Organization.

Vietnamese officials could not be reached for comment, and a Cambodian embassy official said he was not aware of the situation.

The Khmer Krom are culturally linked to Cambodia, but many live in Vietnam, where they say they face government discrimination. Their treatment is a political flashpoint for many Cambodians.

"Please help me," one Khmer Krom villager said by phone from Vietnam. "They destroyed my house, and I do not know where I and my crying children will stay."

"Save us," said a second villager, "or they will arrest us all."

Government Inks Deal on National Airline

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

Cambodia has signed an agreement with an Indonesian company to bring back a national airline, following the bankruptcy of Royal Air Cambodge in 2001.

The government signed a deal with the Rajawali Group, which plans to invest $50 million in a 49 percent stake in the airline, according to a joint statement Thursday.

The advent of a national carried is hoped to bring a rapid increase in tourism, Council Minister Sok An said in the statement.

Cambodia saw more than 2 million visitors in 2007, and the government expects 3 million by 2010 and 5 million by 2015.

Protesters Left Wanting in Governor No-Show

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

Khmer audio aired April 10 (894 KB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired April 10 (894 KB) - Listen (MP3)

About 60 protesters in a land dispute went home empty-handed Thursday, after the governor they had been waiting for at a training center inauguration failed to show up.

The protesters, a group of villagers who say their land is being taken by an aid agency for the disabled, said they had hoped to take their grievances to Kampong Speu Governor Kang Heang.

But when the governor sent a deputy to the grand opening instead, the protest was canceled.

Kang Heang said Thursday the authorities of the province gave 1,700 hectares of land to a local handicapped association, and the protesters were part of a group attempting to sell that land to a separate buyer.

Authorities will soon take measures against these villagers, he said.

Election Official Arrested in Land Dispute

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

Khmer audio aired April 10 (865 KB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired April 10 (865 KB) - Listen (MP3)

A national election official was arrested and questioned by the court Thursday in a continuing land dispute in the coastal town of Sihanoukville, officials said Thursday.

Saum Solida, an adviser to the secretary-general of the National Election Committee, was arrested with his wife and a land broker Wednesday.

They were brought to Sihanoukville Municipal Court Thursday for questioning and are being detained at military police headquarters, human rights officials said.

They are accused of land theft from Evergreen, a development company, officials said.

Evergreen has received a letter from the national government to develop 54 hectares of coastal beach, but Saum Solida had purchased a parcel of the land from four private residents, said Pot Samon, an investigator for the rights group Licadho.

Sihanoukville has become a hotbed of tourism development. The boom has brought with it a rash of land conflicts, some of them violent.

Burmese Die In Smuggling Truck

Survivors are facing deportation

SKY News
Thursday April 10, 2008
Fifty-four Burmese have suffocated to death in the back of a truck which had been illegally transporting them into Thailand.
Ten others were recovering in hospital, suffering from dehydration and lack of oxygen.
Police say 121 people had been crowded into a cold storage container used for transporting seafood. It measured only 20ft long and 7.2ft wide.
The men and women were on their way to Phuket to find work as day labourers, according to police commander in southern Ranong province, Kraithong Chanthongbai.
"The people said they tried to bang on the walls of the container to tell the driver they were dying, but he told them to shut up as police would hear them when they crossed through checkpoints inside Thailand," Colonel Kraithong said.
A survivor told Thai television: "No matter how many times we hit the container, the driver did not pay any attention."The driver was on the run after leaving the truck and the migrants dumped at the side of a road.

The men and women had paid 5,000 baht (£80) each for the journey.

Those that survived the ordeal were arrested and are facing deportation back to Burma.

Economic conditions have forced thousands from military-run Burma into neighbouring Thailand to look for work.

Human Rights Watch said people were fleeing Burma because wages were low and unemployment was high.

But what awaits them in Thailand is often abuse, persecution and exploitation, according to the organisation.

"A lot of people from Burma would much rather come and work in a factory in Thailand in desperate conditions with low pay rather than have to do forced labour and have things stolen from them by the Burmese army," spokesman David Mathieson said.

Railways will help put Asia-Europe link on track

New Delhi, April 11, 2008
Srinand Jha , Hindustan Times

The Indian Railways is taking forward an initiative for constructing an 81,000-kilometre-long Trans-Asian Railway (TAR) network between Asia and Europe.

A high level delegation of the Indian Railways led by Railway Board Chairman K.C. Jena is leaving for Tehran on a three-day visit beginning April 12 in this connection. The team will hold discussions with Iranian counterparts on port connectivity between northern Iran and Russia (as envisaged in the TAR proposal).

Officials indicated that Iran is also keen to seek the Indian Railways' assistance in its port connectivity plan. It might accept the Iranian offer after examining the financial viability of the proposed projects. The two sides are also likely to work on the draft of a possible agreement for modernising Iran's expanding 6,000-km-long rail network.

Both India and Iran are members of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific sponsored project that aims to link the Pacific seaboard of Asia with Europe. The project aims to build a rail network linking countries including Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Mongolia, Nepal, Russia, Sri Lanka and Thailand.

The Indian delegation will explore possibilities of offering expertise in upgrading Iran's train operations, signaling system and electric works, besides offering training of personnel.

At the request of the Iran government, the Indian delegation is expected to work on a draft MoU. Comprising Rail India Technical and Economic Services (RITES) Managing Director V.K.

Agarwal and General Manager A.K.M. Sharma, the Indian delegation will inspect the Iranian railway system and Esfahan and hold discussions with senior railway officials, including Hassan Ziari, Deputy Minister for Roads and Transportation and President of the Islamic Republic of Iranian Railway. RITES has already done a feasibility study for the Iranian Railway.

Indian Railways has signed MoUs with Italy, Germany, Russia, South Africa and China.

Dedication to Cambodian literature earns international award

Rancho Palos Verdes resident and Cal State Long Beach professor Teri Yamada will receive the Jeri Laber International Freedom to Publish Award administered by the Association of American Publishers for her work with the Nou Hach Literary Project. The project promotes literature and is a publishing outlet for Cambodian writers.

By Rebecca Villaneda,
Peninsula News
Wednesday, April 9, 2008

When Rancho Palos Verdes resident Teri Yamada became a college professor, she noticed a lack of Cambodian literature among a large Cambodian community in Long Beach. Yamada then started the Nou Hach Literary Project — a publishing outlet for Cambodian writers — that is earning her international recognition through the Jeri Laber International Freedom to Publish Award administered by the Association of American Publishers.

This month, Yamada and the project’s director, Kho Tararith, will be honored with the award at the annual PEN gala in New York. PEN International is a worldwide association of writers founded in 1921 to promote friendship and intellectual cooperation among writers everywhere.

To Yamada, the award signifies protection for the Cambodian writers she has been working with since 2001.

“Because of the threats that they’ve been getting, I’ve been trying to initiate that the Nou Hach Literary Project become part of the international PEN Center,” Yamada said. “The award [is going] to the project itself.”

With Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge era of 1975 to 1979 now a memory, writers are slowly beginning to get the courage to embrace literature along with the help of the Nou Hach Literary Project. Many writers, as well as artists and poets, were killed during this period, while many others fled the country.

To add to the pause in creativity, there currently is only one writer’s association available to Cambodians. As members, they have to belong to the government’s political party where topics are censored.

“The fact that artists and writers in general seem to be more on edge — the edge of being critical on society and wanting to improve things — you can see that in many countries,” Yamada said. “The [Nou Hach Journal] is the only publication of modern Cambodian literature in the world.

“We are getting critical essays on literature, which there were few in the ’50s and ’60s, so it’s like we’re trying to re-establish a literary tradition and a critical literary tradition as well,” she added.

Yamada mostly works with younger writers “because that’s where the modern Cambodian literature is going to be,” she said. “I was actually very fortunate to hook up with some young writers who were interested in promoting modern literature because nothing was really happening in Cambodia.”

Yamada has traveled to Cambodia every summer since 2002, each time spending about five weeks organizing the annual conference tied to the project.

Writers from around the world come and share their trials of becoming a published author.

Last year Yamada took along a young American filmmaker who works on the set of the TV show “Medium.” He had done a short film on a famous Cambodian singer who was killed during the Khmer Rouge period. The filmmaker held a workshop for Cambodians, and it was the first they had ever experienced being on film.

This year the project received more than 600 poetry submissions and 130 short stories — a genre that was never well developed in Cambodia and “totally wiped out in the ’60s.”

Writers tackle whatever topic they want, but Yamada said they tend to write socially critical themes, “which would be a lament on the comodification processing that’s happening in Cambodian society and the get-rich-quick political corruption and on the declining values — traditional versus modern.”

Yamada expects about 300 attendees for the June 7 event.

Karen Quintiliani, an anthropology professor at Cal State Long Beach, said Yamada is an inspiration to her.

“Without the [journal] being produced, people don’t recognize the scholars coming out of Cambodia,” Quintiliani said. “I think her contribution in both Cambodia and here, in creating that intellectual environment in which people’s works are published and recognized, will end up in the long term really putting Cambodia back on the map as a key intellectual center of Southeast Asia.”

Backed by a bachelor’s degree in Asian studies, a master’s degree in South and Southeast Asian languages and literatures and a doctorate in Buddhist studies, Yamada fell in love with the Asian culture as a teenager.

A native Californian, Yamada is of European and Native American descent. She married a Japanese man she met while living in the country for eight years.

Blair Ashton, a student of Yamada’s East Asian literature and culture course, said her teaching style is open and progressive.

“It was interesting and expanding to observe the varied results from my classmates that her style engenders. I feel like she allows for growth both academically and emotionally by raising the bar, which then allows the student to rise to the occasion of their own expectations,” Ashton said. “She makes a concerted effort to know each and every person without being intrusive or judgmental. Perhaps her Ph.D. in Buddhism and the practice of its precepts have something to do with her persona. If that is so, she is certainly a person to emulate.”

Without question, Yamada said there’s still work to be done, mostly in regard to funding. But the Laber Award will help that.

“It’s really difficult to get your work published unless you’re going to pay someone to publish it,” Yamada said.

Along with the award, the Nou Hach Literary Project will receive a $5,000 grant that will help publish this year’s journal.

“It’s amazing the fact that the conference has been so successful,” Yamada said. “We’re the only group that I know of that has actually brought in writers from outside of Cambodia to talk about what it’s like to be a writer.

“I’m working with some really incredible young, creative writers who are totally dedicated to doing this … I was there at the right time and met some great people that I meshed with, and it’s just taken off way beyond expectation,” she said.

CLMV officers visit PSD

The CLMV senior officers during their visit to the Public Services Department. - MASTORIS

Brunei Press

April 10, 2008
By Mastoris

Four senior officers from CLMV (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam) who are participating in the 5th Executive Development Programme for Senior Government Officers (EDPSGO) yesterday afternoon made a courtesy call on Awg Sa Bali Abas, Director General of the Public Services Department (PSD), as well as other directors and senior officers at the PSD.

The courtesy call was aimed at getting feedback from the CLMV participants regarding the Development Programme organised by the PSD in cooperation with Universiti Brunei Darussalam and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

The CLMV participants are the fifth group participating in the Executive Development Programme sponsored by the Asean Integration Initiative Project, which is aimed at regional cooperation especially in the Human Resources Development.

The CLMV participants consist of Mr Kom Saroeun, Bureau Chief, Asia 1 Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Cambodia; Ms Vilaylack Sandouandeth, Asean Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Democratic Republic of Lao; Mr Kyaw Saw, Director of the Economic and International Organisation Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Myanmar; and Mr Tran Le Tlen, Senior Officer, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Vietnam.

They are scheduled to leave Brunei on April 27.

Cambodians urged to stop eating frogs to save rice crop

The Earth times
Thu, 10 Apr 2008
Author : DPA

Phnom Penh - Cambodia's Agriculture Ministry Thursday urged people to abstain from indulging in the local delicacy of fried frogs because the amphibians eat insect pests, saving the rice crop. The price of rice, the national staple, has almost tripled in recent months as inflation surged to around 10 per cent and the government has introduced subsidies in a move to quell public discontent ahead of national elections in July.

Last year the rice crop suffered badly from a plague of brown hoppers, a type of insect which decimates rice fields.

"Frogs eat insects, so by eating frogs we are helping the insects," secretary of state for the Agriculture Ministry Chan Tong Yves said by telephone.

"The insects come to eat healthy rice because it is delicious. We should stop eating frogs, at least briefly, so the rice can grow."

Frogs are widely eaten in rural Cambodia, stir fried or stuffed with lemongrass and herbs, and usually served with rice.

ASIA: Fear of shortages as rice prices keep rising

A farmer cleans rice in the southern Philippines. The staple food for the majority of Filipinos, rice is considered a political commodity

Thursday 10 April 2008

BANGKOK, 10 April 2008 (IRIN) - As food prices continue to skyrocket throughout Asia, many governments are intervening to try to stabilise their domestic rice prices for fear of acute shortages and possible food riots. World stocks of rice have fallen to their lowest since the early 1970s, and many agencies, including the UN World Food Programme (WFP), are increasingly worried that food shortages and price rises will mean cutting back on food assistance.

The top quality Thai hom mali rice now costs US$1,000 a tonne - up more than three-fold from the start of the year. A more inferior quality of 25 percent cracked rice, which the WFP buys for its programme, is now just less than US$800 - nearly three times more than four months ago. Many traditional exporting nations, including Cambodia, Egypt, India and Pakistan, have banned exports of rice, while China and Vietnam have cut back dramatically.

“Malnutrition is almost certainly going to rise significantly in many of the poorest parts of Asia,” ActionAid’s international director, John Samuel, told IRIN.

The poorest Asian families will suffer most as they spend more than 70 percent of their income on food, according to WFP. Unable to afford high-priced rice, they must rely on government-subsidised rice or international food aid. But these sources are increasingly in jeopardy because of price rises and shortages.

"In Nepal alone, the number of vulnerable people has jumped from four to eight million in the last six months as a result of the market price increases and related factors," said Tony Banbury, the regional head of WFP. “That's 30 percent of the population in acute need of assistance.”

Curtailed feeding programmes

“Our school-feeding programmes in Cambodia have been effectively suspended,” Thomas Keusters, the head of WFP operations in Cambodia, told IRIN. “Effectively there will be no school-feeding programme for the rest of the academic year, affecting 450,000 children in grades one to six.”
Some supplies of rice bought by WFP in the local market have not been delivered. Five suppliers have defaulted and WFP is short of 13,000 metric tonnes needed over the next six months.
In Bangladesh and Pakistan, people wait for hours to buy subsidised rice in 5kg packs. In Thailand, the major supermarkets ration sales to three 5kg bags per person to prevent panic buying.
Harvest hopes
Thailand’s Commerce Minister, Mingkuan Sangsuwan, has announced a government-sponsored cut of about 10 percent in all retail rice prices from 14 April. The discount will end in two months when the new rice crop, which is expected to be good, is harvested. Sufficient rice stocks should then be available to meet Thai market needs, according to the Thai Rice Millers’ Association.
But elsewhere in Asia, governments are less sanguine. For example, the Philippines secured only half its bid of 500,000 tonnes from Vietnam two months ago and is expected to tender Hanoi for another 1 million tonnes, Vichai Sriprasert, one of Thailand’s leading rice exporters, told IRIN. But they are unlikely to get more than half of that, he added.
Bangladesh has managed to secure 400,000 tonnes of rice from India - which has allowed limited exports on humanitarian grounds. Bangladesh also has a pledge from Burma to supply up to 500,000 tonnes.
Burma has also agreed to supply Sri Lanka with 50,000 tonnes of rice at $400 a tonne, according to Anusa Palipta of the Sri Lankan government. Sri Lanka is also getting 32,000 tonnes of rice from India and Pakistan.
Fear of unrest
'The massive food riots in the Haitian capital this week are a wake-up call for all Asian governments," said ActionAid’s Samuel. "If immediate measures are not taken, like protective price and effective distribution mechanisms, there will be food protests here too. There is an agrarian crisis looming, which will become a major political problem, especially for Asia's democracies."
Already in Bangladesh, Indonesia and the Philippines, each of which has elections in the coming year, anger is growing. “Soaring food prices have become a serious threat to the survival of the present [caretaker] government,” said Bangladeshi economist and political scientist, Atiur Rahman. “Food price hikes are likely to cause hortals [strikes], food riots and violence on the streets.”
“This is a crisis that has been brewing for years,” said Samuel. “Although there has been substantial economic growth right across the region, this has been in the industrial and service sectors; investment in agriculture has stagnated or even declined in real terms. Unless there is concerted investment in agriculture in Asian countries, food price hikes will become a perennial problem.”