Saturday, 24 May 2008

Norodom Sihanouk vs. Khmer Republican: Please Keep On Fighting

May 23, 2008O
p-Ed by Jaya Khmer

Recently, a barrage of posts of HM Norodom Sihanouk published on KI Media. From the contents of these posts, it appears that that the relentless and pernicious attacks by those who hate the former king finally get under his skin.

The fight between the former king and some Khmer Republicans may go on for perpetuity.

Please keep on fighting because both sides are free to do so but understand that this fight won't do a thing for those who are suffering from social, political, and economic injustice that go on in Cambodia right now. What an excellent way to exercise your freedom!!!

In the final analysis, ordinary people normally ended up as the biggest losers.

I am dumbfounded over the fact that both sides are more than eager to duke it out over these retroactive issues.

The decades of tensions:

In 1955, when the former monarch desired to be a legitimate leader of the nation due to his kingship was given by the French in 1941 by abdicating the thrown and creating Sangkum Reastr Niyum, he did it despite by those who were closed to him pleaded not to so. The former king did and won the election handedly. Not to mention, the fact the oppositions were intimidated, harassed, and threatened to the point that many did not go out to vote to be safe.

In March of 1970, the table was turned. Khmer Republican put an end to Sangkum Reastr Niyum. Sangkum Reastr Niyum to Norodom Sihanouk's credit gave Khmer people a glimpse of what Cambodia could be as a self-sustained and independent nation. By the time Khmer Republic decided on what new government structure to adopt, the country by now was deeply mired in the Indochina War that was too enormous for Cambodia to handle. Ordinary people could not wait for the war to end hoping that the country would return to peace and tranquility. They could not be further from the truth.

The former king joined the Khmer Rouge, I surmise, because he wanted to win the Khmer Republican much more than he loved the communists. In order to restore his honor, the Khmer Rouge with the supports from China gave him the best chance to achieve that end. The content of his recent posts clearly reflected the former king's on going bitterness with the Khmer Republican.

In 1975, the former king again returned to Cambodia as a victor along with the Khmer Rouge. Except the Khmer Rouge once seized the power had a different agenda. Consequently, ordinary people were the biggest losers. From 1975 to 1979, nearly 3 million Khmer died during this worst regime in world's history among modern governments.

In 1993 after a long peace process, Cambodia held its first UN sponsored election. If there was any question or any doubt about the former king popularity and legitimacy, the election unequivocally answered the question and erased all doubts. Norodom Sihanouk was once again ascended to the thrown as King of Cambodia when the Khmer people voted for change and by giving FUNCINPEC the most votes in the national assembly.

What his majesty the former king and FUNCINPEC did with the victory was quite a different story. Some may argue and perhaps rightly so that 1993 could have been the golden opportunity to build a true democratic foundation for Cambodia. But that is entirely a different topic.

The funny thing is while the battle between the former king and Khmer Republican continues until each side no longer exists; the Cambodian People's Party (CPP) continues to win election after election.

It is nice for the victor to claim moral victory over this peripheral issue, but winning while the country goes down the drain, is this worth winning?

CPP's New Strategy

CPP's new strategy: disenfranchisement of non-CPP voters (2)

It has become obvious now that the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) is implementing a new strategy, which was successfully tested in 2007, to secure another election victory even before Voting Day on 27 July 2008. In the voter list "clean up" process conducted by the CPP-controlled National Election Committee (NEC), some 600,000 names have been deleted from the voter registry. Names which should be deleted (ghost voters, foreigners with no voting right) have been kept on the list whereas names of real and legitimate votes have been deleted because related to those identified by CPP-affiliated village chiefs as non-CPP supporters.

Over the last five years, from the 2002 commune elections to the 2007 commune elections, the CPP has dramatically lost ground. In 2007 as in 2002, the CPP collected 61 percent of the popular votes. But there is a big difference between the two elections: in 2007, the voter turnout was only 65 percent whereas it was 87 percent in 2002, meaning that support for the CPP computed on the basis of the whole electorate dropped from 53 percent in 2002 to 39 percent in 2007. It was only through a massive disenfranchisement of non-CPP voters that the CPP could maintain its positions. The CPP is resorting to the same strategy in 2008.

Sam Rainsy in Paris, Marseilles, Brussels, Belfast and Berlin (2)

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy is currently in Europe to take part in several events. He was in Paris and Brussels for the launch of his book "Des racines dans la pierre" (Rooted in the stone) and gave interviews to several radio and TV stations (*). On May 15 – 17, he attended a conference of Liberal International in Belfast (Northern Ireland, United Kingdom). On May 18, he joined the Cambodian community in Marseilles to celebrate Visak Bochea in a Cambodian pagoda where he met with SRP supporters from several towns in the South of France. He is now in Berlin to meet with German government.

Sacravatoons : " Two Hyenas & Cambodia "

Courtesy og Sacravatoon at

Sacravatoons : " TVK , Propaganda & Compangning time "

Courtesy of Sacravatoon at

Landmine victim from Cambodia takes part in a protest by the Cluster Munition Coalition outside the US Embassy in Dublin

Landmine victim Tun Channareth, from Cambodia, centre, takes part in a protest by the Cluster Munition Coalition outside the US Embassy in Dublin. Friday May 23, 2008. A senior U.S. official said Wednesday that a proposed treaty banning cluster bombs would hurt world security and endanger U.S. military cooperation on humanitarian work with countries that sign the accord.(AP Photo/Niall Carson/PA)

Three Journalists Were Arrested and Chained Just because They Asked for Information about a Truck Carrying Wood

Posted on 24 May 2008.
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 561

“Kompong Thom: Three journalists were arrested by Santuk District Police under direct order by a Kompong Thom court prosecutor, and they were chained at midnight, because these three journalists were covering information about a truck carrying wood at 7:15 p.m. of 21 May 2008 at Kompong Thma Village, Kompong Thma Commune, Santuk District, Kompong Thom. Police said they were arrested on the accusation of attempting to extort money from the owner of the wood, while a prosecutor said they were accused of deception.

“The arrest of the journalists and the confiscation of reporting equipment, and sending them to the police station and then chaining their legs at midnight, just in response to the accusation from the owner of wood alone, seem to be too fierce an action to implement the law, and these acts also seem to threaten the journalists in general.

“The director of the Kompong Thma commune forestry administration, Mr. Mao Chanthy, said that his police arrested the three journalists based on a direct order from the Kompong Thom court prosecutor Mr. Ti Sovinthal, on the accusation that they tried to extort money, and besides this, he did not know anything more. The three arrested journalists are 1. Ruos Chanti, 2. Tob Suon - both of them are reporters for Samleng Santepheap – and 3. Suon Sinat, a reporter for Meatophum, and all of them live in the Prasat Commune, Santuk District, Kompong Thom, and in the Balang Commune, Baray District, Kompong Thom.

“Santuk District police chief Mr. Mat Moly, called Diyamong, declined to make any comments for Kampuchea Thmey and used very fierce words like, ‘What? You force me to explain? I will not explain, because I was busy with a meeting.’

“Mr. Ruos Chanti, the Samleng Santepheap reporter who was chained in the morning of 22 May at the Santuk District Police station, told Kampuchea Thmey with a sad face that this was a very painful experience, and it is not just for all three of them.

“Mr. Ruos Chanti said that at 7:00 p.m. of 21 May 2008, the three of them drove on two motorbikes to the Kompong Thma market, and by chance they saw a Korean 2.5-tonner-truck carrying wood used for construction, mixed with some new wood, and wood was piled up on the pavement at the above mentioned village, and then they went to ask for information and twice took photographs, when suddenly the prosecutor and the police arrived, and the prosecutor ordered the police to arrest the three of them.

“The Kompong Thom court prosecutor Mr. Ti Sovinthal told Kampuchea Thmey by phone that he ordered to arrest the three journalists because they were extorting money from the owner of the wood, as he pointed at the three journalists saying that they extorted money from him.

“Mr. Ti Sovinthal continued that the three journalists tried to extort Riel 450,000 [approx. US$115] from the owner of the wood, which made the owner of the wood almost faint, but the prosecutor affirmed that the person who received the Riel 450,000 was a person called Eng, and he is not a journalist among the three journalists arrested, and Ti Sovinthal said he did not accuse them of extorting the money. That would be too serious, but he accused them of deception, based on Article 45 [?] so they can be detained or not, depending on investigating judges. However, the person who received the Riel 450,000 named Eng will not be able to escape, because he had already issued an arrest warrant for him.

“Regarding the reasons leading to the arrest of the three journalists and the explanation by the prosecutor, there are many opinions mainly from some people in legal professions, saying that obviously there was no evidence and no witness to prove that the three of them had extorted money from the owner of the wood, because also the prosecutor said that they did not get the Riel 450,000. The prosecutor just got the information from the owner of the wood alone, and also there was no police who had directly seen the money that the owner of the wood gave the three journalists, and they did not hear anything from the three journalists speaking about money extortion, and there is no witness and no evidence to prove that they extorted or were trying to extort money.

“It is said that wood is being loaded from Tum Ring to Kompong Thma almost every day, and almost all wood merchants pay money to the forestry officials and to the police everywhere, and also the Kompong Thom forestry administration and the Santuk District Police chief get their benefits. Therefore, if journalists want to disclose the crime of illegally transported wood, those who destroy the natural resources are not happy. So it is likely that maybe they put the blame on the three journalists unjustly.

“A man who directly witnessed the event said that the three journalists did not say anything to extort money from the owner of the wood; they just asked where the wood was carried from, to whom money was paid, and whether there was a legal permit for the wood or not.

“While the owner of the wood answered their questions, claiming that there was a legal permission and money had been duly paid to every place, the journalists also took immediately pictures of the truck, when suddenly police and the prosecutor arrived, spoke to the owner of the wood, and arrested the journalists. Police officials of Kompong Thom said that they would start to defeat the journalists.

“Many journalists are observing these events and are waiting to see the next actions that will be taken by the powerful prosecutor Ti Sovinthal, the Kompong Thom court prosecutor, towards the three journalists. However, what makes our journalists interested is to see if the detention is just a pretext to extort money [from the three arrested journalists, so that they will be released].”

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.7, #1648, 23.5.2008

Immigrants among Californians who gave lives for U.S. in Iraq, Afghanistan

Los Angeles Times

At least 58 of the 500 Californians who lost their lives in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were immigrants, according to a Los Angeles Times story based on a detailed analysis.

"At age 7, Victor H. Toledo-Pulido was smuggled from Mexico through rugged mountains into California. He and another soldier were killed in May 2007 when a roadside bomb exploded near their vehicle southeast of Baghdad."

"They judge us, and they say we just come to take their jobs and positions, but we also make sacrifices. Victor worked since he was little, in the fields and in restaurants," his mother, Maria Gaspar, said after the 22-year-old was killed. "He was Mexican, but he thought like an American. And he gave his life for this country."

"Dozens more were the children of immigrants, including Bunny Long, 22, a Marine lance corporal whose parents came from Cambodia, where the Khmer Rouge imprisoned them for four years in a labor camp."

"This is our home," Sim Long said after his son was killed in March 2006 by a suicide car bomber in Fallouja, west of Baghdad. "I'm very proud that Bunny was able to give back to his country. Our country."

ASIA/CAMBODIA - A statue of Our Lady of Lourdes found by fishermen in Mekong waters, where it had left during the war 33 years ago

Agenzia Fides

Phnom Penh (Agenzia Fides) - A group of fisherman found a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes in the deep, muddy waters near the shores of the Mekong River, next to Phnom Penh, in the network of rivers that unite opposite the Royal Palace. On the afternoon of April 11, eight men of Cham origin, Muslims, found a cast-iron statue entangled in their fishing nets, weighing 160 kilos and measuring a meter and a half in height. It had been in the river for at least 33 years, since the beginning of the regime of Khmer Rouge.

Not knowing what to do with it, they sold it for $7 US dollars to some local inhabitants that intended to recycle it and use it for raw material. Some Christian people who happened to pass through the area immediately recognized it as a statue of the Virgin Mary. Thus, it was passed to new owners, from the parish of Areaksat, being sold at $1,000 US dollars, which immediately translated into 10 sacks of rice. It seems that its new owners did not want to make a business deal with a sacred image. The statue is now at the parish of Our Lady of Peace. The Christian community has immediately expressed its gratitude to the poor family, for having donated the statue.

For some time now, the account of the statue’s appearance in the river has been circulating around Phnom Penh. In this month of May, consecrated to the Virgin, the faithful take her daily offerings and flowers. Especially on Sunday, numerous Christians come together to pray before the image of Our Lady of Lourdes, that has been named, “Our Lady of Mekong.”

For now, the origin of the statue is completely unknown. With the conquest of religious houses during the war, the statue was surely thrown into the waters, where it remained 33 years. The parish of Areaksat, near to the site of the statue’s appearance, in times of war was not located there, but 2 kilometers away from the site. Some of the area’s elderly folk were questioned regarding the statue, but they have been unable to recognize it or offer information as to its location before it was thrown into the Mekong River.

Thailand says poor rating is misinformed

By The Nation
Published on May 24, 2008

Rating falls from 105 to 118 with strong possibility of violence

Thailand has dismissed the Global Peace Index (GPI) report downgrading the country's peace and happiness ranking, saying the survey was not based on proper information.

Thailand's GPI rank dropped from 105 last year to 118 this year out of 140 countries. The most peaceful country is ranked first. Thailand is placed near Congo and Kenya in the rankings, while neighbouring countries such as Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia have higher rankings of 37, 51 and 91 respectively.

The GPI, conducted by Australia-based Vision of Humanity and University of Sydney, was unfair as the survey judged the situation in Thailand only on violence in the South, which only makes up a minor part of the country, said the Foreign Ministry's spokesman Tharit Charungvat.

Violence in the three southernmost provinces could not be used as weight indicators since people in 73 other provinces lived their lives normally and peacefully, he said.

Thailand's political instability was ranked at 3.6, almost the same level as last year. The highest point of instability is ranked 5.

The likelihood of violent demonstrations and the potential for terrorist acts in the country are both ranked as high as 4.

Tharit said the methodology and data-collecting system were doubtful in terms of updated information and accuracy.

The GPI survey was contrary to many previous surveys by other independent agencies, such as the Swiss-based Institute of Management Development, which upgraded Thailand in the World Competitiveness Yearbook 2008 from a ranking of 33 last year to 27 this year, he said.

Thailand is in top place for the World's Best Tourist Country surveyed by Swedish-based Travel News Magazine, he added.

"Even people from countries that are ranked high in terms of peace come to visit Thailand. That means we are peaceful as they are at home," he said.

Kuwait honors 2 foreign doctors

GENEVA (KUNA): The State of Kuwait awarded its Prize for Research in Health Promotion jointly to Dr Zaza Metreveli from Georgia and Dr Chuon Chantopheas from Cambodia, who received $20,000 each. Dr Zaza Metreveli is the Chief of the Department of Anesthesiology, Intensive Care and Critical Care Medicine at the Gudushauri National Medical Centre in Tbilisi, Georgia. During national emergency and conflict, especially during the war in the 1990s, he made a significant contribution to national welfare and has received recognition and awards from the Georgian government. When asked what he will use the prize money for, Dr Metreveli said, “I wish to channel some of the money towards a trauma prevention program.” Dr Chuon Chantopheas is the Deputy Head of the Technical Bureau of the National Laboratory for Drug and Food Quality Control at the Ministry of Health of Cambodia. She has played a leading role in raising awareness about food-borne diseases, a major cause of ill-health in her country. She has been recognized as an expert in this field, both nationally, and by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), and is regularly invited to address international meetings and public forums on food-borne disease.

Upon receiving the award, Dr Chantopheas said, “It may come as a surprise, but I would like to get an Internet connection in my own home in order to communicate my work to the communities more effectively. My work is targeted at rural communities and small businesses to produce and process safe food and reduce the incidence of food-borne diseases.” Kuwait’s Assistant Undersecretary for Public Health Affairs Dr Ali Al-Saif, who addressed the award ceremony Thursday evening on the sidelines of the 61st World Health Assembly (WHA), told the august meeting that Kuwait had also supported strengthening research in the medical field to combat disease and to improve medical care.

He added that this prize aimed at encouraging medical doctors to enhance their research.Al-Seif said that because of its conviction of the important role WHO played, the State of Kuwait had supported several WHO projects including its participation in a financial contribution towards building the East Mediterranean regional office in Egypt, set a prize for combating heart disease, cancer and others in the Eastern Mediterranean region, and made a substantial donation towards the establishment of the WHO emergency center in Geneva.The WHA is the supreme decision-making body of WHO.

Kyodo economic news summary -3-+


PHNOM PENH - In a ceremony to mark the beginning of the rainy season, Cambodia's chief astrologer assured the populace Friday the country's rice crop this year will be acceptable.

"Our prediction is that we will have a normal rice crop for the upcoming harvest," Royal Astrologer Korng Ken told a crowd of thousands at Veal Menru field in the heart of the capital Phnom Penh.

Tokyo stocks end mixed as profit-taking offsets rises on N.Y. gains

LCCS student on mission to combat Cambodia’s sex trade

By None, Anna Doneson

By Erin Frost
The Courier
Fri May 23, 2008

Lincoln, Ill. -

Lincoln Christian College and Seminary freshman Anna Doneson is on a mission. And that mission will take her to Cambodia within the month.

Doneson is involved with Rapha House, an organization that creates safe houses for girls involved in sex trafficking.

“We get girls from their parents, buy them from pimps, get them from brothels,” Doneson said. “We teach them life skills and we get them a job. We give them a new life and a new hope and everything.”

Doneson is currently working with several local organizations to raise money for the project.
She has hosted several fundraisers over the past month, including one Monday at Culver’s that she said had a very good turnout. Her final shot at raising money will be May 31 at Zamrazil Hair Studio, where a donation will get clients a free haircut.

“This is a fundraiser to help me get over there, and the rest will go to the girls,” she said.
Doneson plans to be in Cambodia from June 8 to June 23.

“The goal is to take a group of students over there to get a taste of what it’s like,” she said.
While in Cambodia, Doneson will be working to make Rapha House bigger and better as well as to extend its mission.

Rapha House is an organization “committed to rescuing young girls who are victims of slavery and prostitution and providing them with a safe home where they can heal and receive an education,” according to the organization’s Web site. “Rapha” is the Hebrew word for “healing.”
Its parent organization, American Rehabilitation Ministries, recently received official Non-Government Organization status from the Kingdom of Cambodia, meaning they were given the freedom to build a house in Cambodia for their rescued girls.

Rapha House had operated without government recognition since 2001.

Rapha’s girls currently live in a rented house with a Cambodian staff consisting of around-the-clock dorm mothers and security guards.

“Some of the girls who will be coming to Rapha House have experienced extreme verbal abuse,” said ARM President Joe Garman.

“The majority of them are younger than 18 and lack proper hygiene. They will suffer from an array of mental disorders, depression, alcohol and drug addiction, fear of being kidnapped again, low self-esteem, rebellious and suicidal tendencies, sexually transmitted diseases, skepticism and suspicion.

“Treating their emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual needs will be a lengthy process and monumental task; but rescuing, rehabilitating, and redeeming these victims of prostitution is the work of God.”

People can find out more about Rapha House by visiting and clicking on the link for Rapha House on the left.

Cambodia urged to lift ban on Burma supplement

Radio Australia

Human Rights Watch has called on Cambodia to lift a ban on a newspaper supplement about Burma.

Describing the move as "shameless" censorship on behalf of Burma'smilitary rulers, the group says it undercuts the credibility of efforts by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to convince the junta to open up to international aid.

The Cambodian police confiscated on Monday copies of the Burma Daily, which had been added to the English-language Cambodia Daily as a supplement.

The government said it had been published illegally without permission.

Cambodia: Garuda Add To Khemara's Misery

The misery continues for Khemara Keila FC when they conceded their second defeat in less than a week following their 1-0 loss to Moha Garuda at the National Training Centre.


Khemara had faltered to a 2-0 loss to Build Bright United a few days earlier.

And this time round, a 14th minute strike off P. Taboula was enough for Moha Garuda to pick up the win and the three points.

In the meantime, Phuchung Neak FC had to fight tooth and nail before they were able to hold Kirivong Sok Sen Chey FC to a 3-3 draw.

The score at the break was 3-2 in favour of Kirivong Sok Sen Chey FC with goals coming off Ly Ravy (35th minute), O. J. Chukwuma (43rd) and O. A. Jothan (44th) while Phuchung Neak replied off Lappe Lappe (17th) and Hok Sochivorn (30th).

However, Hok Sochivorn turned up to be the toast for Phuchung when he nailed his second goal of the afternoon and the equaliser deep in injury time for the win.

Royal Oxen Predict Fair Harvest for Year

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
23 May 2008

Khmer audio aired May 23 (120MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired May 23 (120MB) - Listen (MP3)

If the royal oxen are to be believed, Cambodia will see fair harvests of rice, corn and beans in the upcoming year.

In the annual royal plow ceremony Friday, which marks the beginning of the rainy season, the oxen chose those three staples following three rounds of plowing, foregoing water, grass and wine.

Their crop prediction also indicates the Cambodian people will be spared calamity, disease and natural disaster, royal astronomer Kang Ken said.

The royal ceremony was attended by King Norodom Sihamoni, National Assembly President Heng Samrin and other dignitaries. Not in attendance were Prime Minister Hun Sen and Senate President Chea Sim.

“I am very happy for the result of the royal plough ceremony,” said Meas Kunthea, a farmer from Svay Rieng province.

“I am very happy because my home village plants rice, corn and bean and will have fair production in this year,” said Kratie province farmer Koa Top. “I’m not concerned about my agricultural crops.”

The high price of rice did cast a pall over the royal ceremony, he said. “The rice price is high. I am not happy, but if I have high rice production, I will be.”

Villagers Flee Following Arrests

By Chiep Mony, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
23 May 2008

Khmer audio aired May 23 (904KB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired May 23 (904KB) - Listen (MP3)

A handful of illagers of Kampot province’s Banthey Meas district have fled their homes following arrests Thursday of four people over a land dispute.

Two suspects have been released, but at least six villagers say they fear for their own safety and have left their homes following the arrests, for alleged destruction of property and assault.

The charges stem from a dispute with local company Khov Chily, residents say.

“Many more residents might go into the jungle to hide themselves,” for further fear of arrest, said Preab Yim, a resident in the district.

Kampot court officials were not available for comment.

Ban on Burma Daily Should Cease: Group

By Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
23 May 2008

Khmer audio aired May 23 (876KB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired May 23 (876KB) - Listen (MP3)

New York-based Human Rights Watch condemned Friday the ban by the government on the Cambodia Daily newspaper’s attempt to publish a supplemental insert, the “Burma Daily.”

By banning the insert, the Cambodian government was covering up abuses and other flaws of the Burmese junta, Human Rights Watch said.

Authorities have ordered copies of the insert to be seized.

“Cambodia’s press censorship on behalf of Burma’s abusive military government is shameless,” said Human Rights Watch Asia Director Brad Adams.

Information Minister Khieu Kanharith dismissed the call, saying Adams did not understand Cambodia’s press law.

Cambodia Daily publisher Bernard Krisher said the insert does not require a separate license to publish, as claimed by the Information Ministry.

Will Trumps Gifts for Preah Vihear Voters

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Original report from Preah Vihear
23 May 2008

Khmer audio aired May 22 (3.32MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired May 22 (3.32MB) - Listen (MP3)

Voters in Preah Vihear province say they have been exposed to many irregularities and pressure in past elections, but none of that matters once they are able to cast their ballot in private.

Villagers in this remote province report gift-giving ahead of elections, of scarves, sarongs, T-shirts, hats and radios, as well as promised of rice and money. They report false oaths and political discrimination, threats of local authorities, difficulties in obtaining voter identification and other documents, confusion over polling sights, confusion over voter lists and denial of access to information.

More than 8 million people are registered to vote for 11 separate parties July 27, and many here say they will vote their will.

Ouk Thorn, 68, a Kuoy minority in the province, said she receives gifts every time an election comes around. She’s illiterate, she said, and depends on the village chief or other community leaders to check her name on the voter list.

A widow, she relies on the sale of groceries and farming; she can recall only party names and logos, she said. Still, she is able to vote freely once inside the booth.

“When going in, I just tick freely,” she said in a recent interview, laughing. In her tribe, people say, “Go vote alone, together.”

Another Kuoy, a man name Ly Meng, who has three children, said he has notices that election violence is declining, but gift-giving has continued.

Once he’s inside the voting booth, he said, people “do not know who we are voting for.”

A third Kuoy man who asked that he not be named said people are threatened ahead of elections, and on Election Day the local authorities stand around, adding indirect pressure, secretly marking who is associated with any particular group.

“They will make trouble to block those who are not the member [of the political party], but free those who are a member,” the man said, adding the nature of Khmers was to fear authority.

“There will not be a free and fair election,” he said, “as the ruling party forces villagers into their party, with or without the knowledge of the individual.”

Paha Village Chief Sao Sok told VOA Khmer there were no cases of irregularities or voter intimidation in this village, but he said the role of the chief is to help people vote on Election Day.

“Every party is there to monitor, so no one can intimidate or make fraud,” he said. “No way.”

Lon Sithan, of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, in Preah Vihear, said voters here are confused about information cards, and many of them have no identification or money to give to police to obtain them, so about 40 percent fail to vote.

“Sometimes voters are neglected; it’s both sides’ mistake,” she said.

Comfrel informs people to help them deal with the election, but they cannot see every irregularity.

“If they do it secretly, we do not know,” she said. “At night, we do not know, but we see the ruling party strengthening the party when elections come.”

About 50 percent of the people in the province are illiterate, so the vote “seems to favor only the ruling party.”

There are many reasons people fail to vote.

Ex-soldier Chhun Sreng of Tbeng Meanchey district, who lost his right had during the war, said his wife could not vote in 2007’s commune election because she was not issued information about an ID and photo ahead of time. He has seen gift-giving too, but that does not influence him, he said.

“I will not sell my idealism,” he said.

He’s happy to take gifts, because he is poor, he said, but “you do not know who I am voting for.”

Farmer Loeung Sideth, who moved from Kampong Speu province, said the village chief here had assured him he can vote without going back, but he said he wasn’t sure about his name on an election list.

Pon Pin, a 19-year-old laborer on a farm, said he was poor and busy working, though he had no money to get an ID card at home in Kampong Cham province.

Last election, his age made him ineligible to vote, he said, but now he was too busy working to get his card.

Kang Sophal, from the same village as Pon pin, said he did not have $20 to give police for a new ID, having lost his original last October.

“How can I do it?” he said. “They demand a lot, and I do not have money.”

Som Yon, chief of Parlhal commune, acknowledged that there were some police demands for money for cards, but he said in his commune there was no intimidation, fraud or violence.

People in his commune, he said, “vote according to will.”

Parliamentarians Must Serve Voters: Lawmaker

By Mean Veasna, VOA Khmer
Phnom Penh
23 May 2008

Khmer audio aired May 22 (5.00MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired May 22 (5.00MB) - Listen (MP3)

Ngoun Nhel is the first vice president of the National Assembly and a Cambodian People’s Party parliamentarian for Kampong Thom province. As Cambodia heads into general elections, he said Thursday, lawmakers must not forget their constituents.

“Parliamentarians have to serve their voters in each constituency, because each session of the National Assembly is held for three months,” he said, as a guest on “Hello VOA.” “After that, they have a three month holiday, and each lawmaker can go and visit his voters and resolve some problems.”

If lawmakers visit their constituents, they can see problems firsthand and find useful solutions.
Problems that cannot be solved by one lawmaker might have a solution when the National Assembly convenes, he said.

Cambodian oxen predict peace and good harvest ahead

Cambodia's royal oxen participate in the annual ploughing ceremony in Phnom Penh May 23, 2008. The oxen will have to choose between seven bowls including rice, corn, green beans, grass, sesame, water and wine to predict the future of the farming season. The tradition, which is hundreds of years old, is followed closely by the nation's estimated 14 million people, the majority of whom are farmers.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

M&G Asia Pacific News
May 23, 2008

Cambodians stopped for the annual Royal Ploughing Ceremony Friday, intently watching what two royal oxen would eat for clues to the upcoming rice season - and the answer was good, royal astrologers said.

Presided over by King Norodom Sihamoni in the royal field next to the Cambodian royal palace, the lavish ceremony saw dignitaries parade three times around the area's perimeter with the animals symbolically ploughing.

The oxen were then led to a range of seven bowls to eat from.

Cambodians believe how much corn, soy beans, sesame, rice, grass, water and rice wine the animals consume can predict the future.

The two deep-brown beasts, decked out in gold and crimson livery, devoured almost all of the corn, also nibbling on rice and soy beans.

They apparently decided it was too early to tipple at the morning ceremony, however, which is a good sign as if they drink rice wine it is believed to predict war and turmoil ahead.

Royal astrologers told the king that the animals' choices meant there would be corn in abundance, a better than average rice crop and a fair soy bean harvest.

The event was attended by around 1,000 spectators and simulcast on every television station in the nation.