Friday, 30 May 2008

Funcinpec members bet on own demise

TRACEY SHELTON A quiet Funcinpec headquarters is pictured in Phnom Penh, May 28. Members of the once-influential royalist party are hoping to cash in on their movement’s unpopularity with voters by betting on how few Funcinpec leaders will be elected to parliament in the July elections.

Courtesy of Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sebastian Strangio and Khouth Sophak Chakrya
Friday, 30 May 2008

n the run-up to July’s general elections, Funcinpec supporters are betting on the royalist party’s political demise – quite literally.

One high-ranking party punter has wagered $3,000 that his once-powerful political machine will fail to secure even one parliamentary seat.

His gambling partner, Funcinpec activist Chhun Saron, is giving the party slightly better odds, and stands to win a few thousand dollars even if the royalists lose all but one of their 26 seats in the National Assembly.

“If Funcinpec wins one or more seats in this election, I will win $3,000 from him,” Saron said of his high-profile opponent, who did not want to be named.

“Maybe he’s stupid,” Saron said. “But I am sure I will win. Funcinpec is certainly not the worst party in the election.”

Although unofficial gambling is illegal under Cambodian law, informal wagers among friends and colleagues are becoming a popular activity in the capital’s cafés as the election approaches.

At the Olympic café on Sihanouk Boulevard, friends of all political persuasions meet to discuss politics over coffee and fried noodles, and informal wagers – of either cash or beer – have become a common means of settling disagreements.

Eang Khun, a supporter of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, and a group of friends have bet a group backing the opposition Sam Rainsy Party that the CPP will increase its share of National Assembly seats at the election.

If the CPP wins fewer than its current 73 seats, or the SRP more than 25, Khun’s group pledges to organize and pay for a lavish party for the entire group.

“No side will really lose in this game, because the winners and losers will all celebrate together at the party after the release of the election results,” Khun said.

Chan Pheakdie, who is rooting for the SRP, agrees that the bet is no more than a harmless game among friends.

“Even if we each support different parties, we are still Khmer and we will still remain friends,” he said.

At the Kirirom Café, 65-year-old bookie Phal is offering odds of almost two to one that either the Norodom Ranariddh Party – headed by Funcinpec’s ousted leader Prince Norodom Ranariddh – or civil society activist Kem Sokha’s Human Rights Party will win seats in the National Assembly in July.

“If you bet that the NRP or HRP will win one seat or more, or if you bet that the NRP or HRP will not win any seats, and the result is correct, you win,” he said, noting that the two minor parties had so far attracted little interest from gamblers.

Khan Keomono, chief of the Public Information Bureau at the National Election Committee, said he was not aware of any election-related betting but warned backyard operators that their activities were illegal.

“The Election Law does not allow or disallow betting on the election,” he said. “But these actions are illegal in Cambodia.”

CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap also agreed that such activities were illegal without the approval of the Council of Ministers, adding that he disapproved of party members betting against their own party.

“Anyone who bets that the CPP will lose seats is not a true CPP activist,” he said.

However, Lu Laysreng, first deputy president of Funcinpec, was unsurprised by reports that party rank-and-file were betting on the outcome of the election, and admitted the party was powerless to stop it.

“Our Cambodia is a gambling country,” he told the Post by phone on May 22. “People here will even bet on whether the rain will fall.”

PM warns of more gas price hikes

Courtesy of Phnom Penh Post

Written by Kay Kimsong
Friday, 30 May 2008

Gasoline prices in the capital have topped 5,550 riels ($1.37) a liter and are set to continue rising as record-high fuel costs batter motorists and drive up inflation to near crippling levels.

World oil prices remain above $130 a barrel after reaching highs of $135 in May, and Prime Minister Hun Sen has warned that local pump prices will keep climbing on the back of global fuel costs.

“We have talked recently of the price of crude oil at $133 ... my prediction is that next week it will be $140 and then it will increase up to $200 per barrel ... the price of fuel will not decline,” Hun Sen said May 28.

“Skyrocketing oil prices continue to drive up the costs of Cambodia’s gasoline and food items,” he said, adding that even the anticipated start of oil production in Cambodia would do little to dull the negative effects of global oil prices.

Following the discovery in 2005 of undersea oil and natural gas deposits, the government has banked on vast petroleum reserves to wean the country off of costly fuel imports.

But it is unclear exactly how much oil and gas can actually be recovered, and Hun Sen said, “Even fuel producing nations have had to increase the price of gasoline.”

While motorists are feeling the cost crunch at the pumps, spiking fuel prices have had a ripple effect across all markets, most notably for consumer goods such as cooking gas and food.

According to Hun Sen, food prices have risen nearly 30 percent since 2006, while transportation costs increased by 13.5 percent.

The result has been double-digit inflation that has pushed more Cambodians deeper in poverty as staple items that were once affordable climb out of reach.

Inflation, which was at 10.8 percent at the end of 2007, will also likely stunt the country’s economic growth by as many as two points this year, according to officials.

Gross domestic product growth is expected to slow to 7.5 percent this year, compared with growth of 9.5 percent in 2007, Finance Minister Keat Chhon said on May 22.

He said the government expects to lose $300 million this year in uncollected tax revenue from fuel imports as it struggles to curb rising pump prices and ease inflationary pressures.

“Yes, we are able to control inflation by subsidizing fuel,” Keat Chhon told reporters on May 22.

The government has maintained a flat tax on imported fuel of $309 a ton, saying that raising tariffs to keep pace with world oil prices would result in far higher pump prices.

Economists, however, say that even with a flat tax on imported fuel, Cambodia is largely at the mercy of global economic forces such as fuel prices and the weak US dollar.

“This makes it difficult to bring inflation down,” said Dr Kang Chandararot, of the Cambodia Institute of Development Studies.

(Additional reporting by Meas Sokchea)

Sex, booze and exotic meat put on hold for magic's sake

BRENDAN BRADY Sok Samol, a.k.a. Solo the Magician, abstains at times from some meats, alcohol, cigarettes and sex to preserve his “magical powers” but admits getting married has had an impact on his discipline.
Courtesy of Phnom Penh Post

Written by Mom Kunthear and Brendan Brady
Friday, 30 May 2008

Written by Mom Kunthear and Brendan Brady
Friday, 30 May 2008

A chilly city of the former Soviet Union might not appear a fertile breeding ground for magicians, but Cambodia’s leading illusionist, Solo the Magician, owes his preeminence in the Kingdom’s – admittedly small – magic market to training he received in Kiev, Ukraine. “Solo” is the stage name of 46-year-old Svay Rieng native Sok Samol, which he created by combining the titles of two of his favorite comedians – the German Sacklo and Cambodian Loto. Samol began studying “magic” in 1981 at the Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh when he was 19 years old. But it was only when he found himself in Kiev with a generous stipend and a belly full of cabbage that he had the chance to really hone his magical skills. Now back in Cambodia, Samol and his wife – who is also his on-stage sidekick – run a magic school at their home in Phnom Penh. He casts his spell on the Post’s Mom Kunthear and Brendan Brady.

Why did you decide to study magic?
I thought I had a natural talent for it. I liked watching magic shows on television or at public events. So I decided to study magic at the Royal University of Fine Arts.

How important was Kiev to your career in magic?
I learned so much there. When I came back in 2000 was when I first performed on television and became famous here. Then, I was also working at the Department of Fine Arts at the Ministry of Culture but my salary at the ministry was very low, so I stopped working there and opened a magic school. Kids see me on television and want to perform like Solo. But when they finish the class, they don’t want to perform because they realize they won’t earn a lot of money.

Why “Solo”?
I didn’t want to use my real name because it is difficult to remember. I thought if I had a name like Solo it would be easier to become famous.

How do you prepare for shows?
When I used to perform regularly, I got up at midnight to meditate and I didn’t eat wildlife, drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes or have sex because all these things weaken your magical powers. After I got married, I stopped learning a lot of new magic because I couldn’t stop myself from doing all of these things. Today, before every show I rehearse the whole routine five times in front of the mirror. Nowadays, I learn new tricks from catalogues and DVDs I buy in Singapore. I am now learning a new big trick. When I’ve mastered it, I will perform on Cambodian Television Network and Bayon TV.

Can Cambodian magic become famous?
If more people pay attention to it! I wouldn’t say magic in Cambodia is bad, but because of the war it’s not very popular. A lot of circus performers were killed during the Pol Pot regime. After the Khmer Rouge, there were only five or six professional magicians left in Cambodia and even they stopped performing magic and looked for other jobs. Now there are not many magicians in the country.

What kind of venues do you perform at?
I perform in hotels in Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville and Siem Reap. Sometimes I turn down nightclubs because I have to perform late at night and the audience often gets too drunk to pay attention. I perform on local television a few times each year.

Any famous fans?
I do shows for regular people and for famous and rich people. High-ranking people want me to go to their houses – if it’s an Okhna or an Excellency I don’t go because I’m afraid. Sometimes I don’t realize they’re rich and powerful until I get there, and then it’s too late. Hun Sen has asked me to perform for him several times. I can’t say for sure if he liked the show because I was afraid to ask.

What is the key to ever-lasting fame?
Don’t perform too often. I perform on television two or three times a year. They ask me to perform more, but I know if I show too often, audiences will get tired of me. I know the audiences like my shows because I always go down to the audience after the show and ask them what they think of it. They always say it was great.

If you are angry with someone, do you put a spell on them?
I never use magic when I am angry with someone. I learned magic to make money and to make people laugh. I have never used it in a bad way. I have been asked to teach people magic to use against others, but I would not do it. I promised my teacher not to teach people how to put spells against others. I also don’t teach my sons magic because I’m afraid they might use it the wrong way and create a problem. I can say it will disappear with me when I die.

Police Blotter: 30 May 2008

Courtesy of Phnom Penh Post

Written by The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 30 May 2008

May 17: A gunman and three accomplices fired a hail of bullets into a group of prostitutes who were waiting for clients on Monireth Boulevard near Disco One (formerly known as U2) in Phnom Penh. Srey Lin, 19, was shot through the head and died at the scene. Srey Nu, 27, who was six months pregnant, was shot several times in the abdomen causing her stomach to split open. She died at Preah Ketomealea hospital. The victims had attempted to hide behind flowerpots in front of house 61BCo but were followed by the gunman who shot them at pointblank range. The incident occurred at 2.15am.

May 19: Two unidentified boys, aged 14 and 16, and Mao Sokheng, 18, have been arrested by Chamkarmon district police, after the father of a four-year-old girl accused them of raping his daughter. Police said that Sokheng went to visit relatives who lived next to the victim’s house. The victim’s parents were not at home so he coaxed the two other boys into entering the house with him and told them to embrace the girl. The two boys refused and left the house. Sokheng then carried the girl into another room and raped her. The two boys then returned and, seeing the naked child, fondled her but did not rape her.

May 20: Daun Penh district police arrested 16 youths on drug charges at Mlop Mien guesthouse on Street 242. Police closed the guesthouse on May 21, saying it had become a drug smoking den.

May 20: An armed robber was arrested by Daun Penh military police after he snatched a foreigner’s necklace then escaped with an accomplice. The incident happened in broad daylight on Street 178 south of Wat Koh. Police sources identified the man as Seyha Pich, 20, of Tanguon village, Dangkor disctrict.

May 20: A Kandal province man killed his two children by feeding them poison after his wife left him. Police said Sron Samnang, 30, confessed to killing his sons, one aged two years and the other seven months, in Por Tunle village, Koh Thom district. Samnang told police he continued to feed his sons poison despite them vomiting profusely, until he realized they weren’t dying and decided to strangle them.

May 21: A disabled man was repeatedly chopped with a cleaver by his wife at 8pm in Otaporng village, Bakan district, Pursat province. Police said 46-year-old Phoeung Phal’s head, hands, neck and back were chopped more than 50 times until he looked like he had fish gills. The attacker, Som Sinan, 34, said she was angry with her husband because he accused her of being treacherous and having a new lover. Phal said he bears no malice toward his wife because she came to the hospital in tears to see him.

May 22: A mechanic inserted a high-pressure air hose designed to fill car tires into his four-year-old son’s anus and blew him up. Try Sieng Him said he was “playing” with his son when the incident took place. The child’s stomach became distended and his mother rushed him to hospital. He is now in a stable condition. Police said no action will be taken against the father as the incident was caused by “stupidity.”

May 26: One member of a ten-strong group of men who gang raped a woman in Kandal province has been arrested. The men raped the 29-year-old woman shortly after midnight as she was returning home from a dance party in Prek They village, Saang district. Police said the arrested man, Ra Phearom, 25, told them his nine accomplices “really raped” the victim but he had only raped her once.

May 26: Phnom Penh municipal police publicly paraded three recently arrested robbers who achieved notoriety as members of “the AK-47 robbery gang.” Police identified the ringleader as Chhim Sophal, 33, and his two accomplices as Nop Bunthoeun, 45, and Seng Kleung, 35. Police are still hunting five more members of the gang that has terrorized many provinces and towns, carrying out over 30 robberies in Phnom Penh alone.

Mass support for nation's path: survey

Courtesy of Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sebastian Strangio
Friday, 30 May 2008

Nearly four out of five Cambodians think the country is moving in the right direction, a survey by the US-based International Republican Institute has found.

The poll, released May 27 and conducted between January 27 and February 26, found that 77 percent of Cambodians were upbeat about the country’s development, compared to 20 percent who thought the country was headed “in the wrong direction.”

Of those who thought the country was moving in the right direction, 77 percent listed the construction of roads as a positive aspect, followed by 63 percent approval rating for hospitals.

Inflation (32 percent) and corruption (30 percent) drew the greatest responses as negatives.

Government spokesman Khieu Khanarith said the positive poll results “show that the government is going in the right direction.”

But Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, said the government couldn’t claim sole credit.

“It is not just the government that has made a difference. All the stakeholders have played a role [since 1993], including donors and the UN,” he said.

The poll surveyed 2,000 respondents in 22 of Cambodia’s 24 provinces

Ethnic minorities call for help to save their land from loggers

TRACEY SHELTON Members of Ratanakkiri’s ethnic minorities sign a petition in Banlung on May 23 calling on the government help them solve land disputes in the northeastern province.

TRACEY SHELTON Ethnic minorities from Ratanakkiri province put on a united front in Banlung May 23 to protest alleged land-grabbing and the illegal logging of their ancestral lands in Cambodia’s remote northeast. Members of a range of ethnic groups traveled to Bunlung from around the province to demonstrate against perceived neglect from the government in land affairs, with more than 250 signing a petition calling for assistance. The protestors honored a request not to march through the provincial capital, alleviating fears of a violent clash with police who maintained a heavy presence during the demonstration.

Courtesy of Phnom Penh Post

Written by Cheang Sokha and Tracey Shelton
Friday, 30 May 2008

RATANAKKIRI – The plan had been for hundreds of ethnic minority people to march through the center of the provincial capital of Banlung in one of the largest demonstrations yet over the illegal seizure and logging of their ancestral homelands.

But in the end, threats of arrest and a heavy police presence kept some 250 Jarai, Phnong, Kreung and Tompoun protesters confined to the tiny garden of a local human rights office, where on May 23 they instead signed a petition demanding that the government enforce land rights’ laws in the remote northeastern province.

This decidedly muted rally, however, was the latest display of anger over what rights groups say is the exploitation of some of Cambodia’s most vulnerable communities.

Impoverished, disenfranchised and with their ancient, semi-nomadic way of life already under threat from development, Cambodia’s ethnic minorities have also become perhaps the easiest targets of an unprecedented property boom that has seen a run on their tribal lands.

“Neither the central government nor local officials consider the impact on minority groups when awarding land concessions to private companies,” said Pen Bunna, the Ratanakkiri coordinator for the Cambodian rights group Adhoc.

He added that many tribal people in the area were uneducated and did not fully understand their rights when confronted with land speculators or smooth-talking local officials promising unlikely sums of cash for their land.

The country’s real estate market has over the past several years worked itself into a frenzy of buying and selling on the promise of easy riches, resulting in tens of thousands of people being uprooted, according to rights groups.

Long Dy, a villager from Konmom district, said he decided to attend the meeting in Banlung after a private company under license from the government logged more than 200 hectares of his community’s forestland in April.

“The ethnic minority groups are very concerned about the destruction of ancient forests,” he told the Post.

Complaints were made to commune and district authorities, but these were ignored, Dy said.

“If it doesn’t stop, sooner or later the natural forests will be extinguished. The villagers in the community don’t have the power to stop the logging and when we file petitions to the authorities, they do not help us,” he added.

Protestors from Lumphat district told a similar story, saying logging trucks were a familiar sight along the region’s dusty forest roads.

Ieng Son, an ethnic Kreung, said he had lived a traditional life in Lumphat’s forests for more than 60 years until a few months ago when local villagers were prevented from entering the area.

Son said local authorities had justified the exclusion of Kreung people from the forests because of their traditional slash-and-burn agricultural practice, which officials said endangered the forest.

“I see the trucks that take the valuable timber from our ancient forest everyday and no local officials dare to seize it. But if a villager cuts some wood for building a house we will be arrested or fined,” Son told the Post in Banlung.

The quiet showdown between authorities and ethnic minority protesters marked a cooling of tensions following clashes in December where Banlung police turned fire hoses on protesting tribal people and prevented a workshop on land rights from taking place.

But it also illustrated the heavy-handedness which officials have been using to clamp-down on growing tribal dissent over land.

“Local authorities warned us that if any villagers dared to come to the meeting they would be arrested,” Vath Pieng, a 27-year-old from Taveng district, told the Post May 23 as he arrived at the meeting, held at the Banlung office of Cambodian rights group Adhoc.

“Some villagers were afraid of the warning and did not dare to come,” he added.

About 40 local and military police and two fire trucks were deployed around the meeting place and, although they did not interfere in proceedings, their presence angered Adhoc monitor Chan Soveth.

“The police have deployed fire trucks today not for the protection and security of the people but to threaten the rights and the will of villagers trying to seek justice,” Soveth said.

“How can they [Cambodia’s ethnic minorities] live when their lands are taken and they cannot enter their farms?” he asked.

A defining moment draws near

KAY KIMSONG Var Kimhong: The border with Laos will be fully demarcated by the end of June.

Courtesy of Phnom Penh Post

Written by Kay Kimsong
Friday, 30 May 2008

C ambodia expects to finish demarcating its border with Laos in June and its boundary with Vietnam on schedule by 2012, but there is no timeframe for concluding negotiations with Thailand, a senior government official said.

Var Kimhong, the chairman of the Government Border Committee, told reporters on May 17 the Cambodia-Laos border committee had inspected 86 percent of the markers along the 540-kilometer border and only a few issues remained to be finalized.

A 14-member Laotian delegation will be in Phnom Penh from June 3 to 5 for talks on the border, said a senior official at the Laotian embassy, Kengchai Sixanonh.

“The Cambodia-Laos joint border committee has been working very smoothly and I think the relationship will get better in the future,” Kengchai said.

Kimhong meanwhile said work on demarcating the border with Vietnam had been accelerated under an additional treaty signed with Hanoi in 2005.

He said the treaty increased from one to five the number of groups working on delineating the 1,270km border, which will have more than 350 granite markers.

However, Kimhong said differences with Bangkok over the 805km border with Thailand remained a problem, and he referred to a reported incursion by armed Thai paramilitary rangers on May 16 during which some houses were damaged at Choam Sa Ngam, in Anlong Veng district of Oddar Meanchey province.

Kimhong said he was “surprised” by the incursion because negotiations had been taking place with Bangkok on opening a border crossing at Choam Sa Ngam linking Oddar Meanchey with Thailand’s Si Sa Ket province.

The governor of Anlong Veng district, Yin Phanna, said on May 19 the situation had “cooled down” after talks earlier that day between Cambodian officials, including members of the provincial border commission, and Thai army officers.

“Negotiations were the only way to solve the issue,” Phanna said, adding that no Cambodian troops were deployed in the area where the incursion took place.

Despite occasional incidents along the border with Thailand, Kimhong said Cambodia regarded the bilateral relationship as one of “eternal friendship.”

“We are like brothers or friends who live near each other ... we don’t need to deploy any troops,” Kimhong said.

The Cambodia-Thailand Joint Border Commission began its demarcation work in 2006 – three years after the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding to resolve border issues – and has focused its efforts on finding the 73 markers installed by a French-Siamese commission.

“The search for border markers has no schedule or timeframe for completing the task; what is most important is that an agreement can be reached,” Kimhong said.

Asked about the main obstacles to demarcating the Cambodia-Thai border, Kimhong said the legacies of colonialism and years of conflict meant that it was not a “normal” border.

Tribal groups seek voice in KR trials

TANG CHHIN SOTHY/AFP Students from a Phnom Penh fine arts school reenact murders committed by the Khmer Rouge during a "Day of Anger" ceremony held at the Choeung Ek killing fields on May 20. The macabre reenactment is performed every year in remembrance of the 1.7 million people who lost their lives under the Pol Pot regime.

Courtesy of Phnom Penh Post

Written by Cheang Sokha and Tracey Shelton
Friday, 30 May 2008

Distance from ECCC proves a problem in the provinces

RATANAKKIRI – When news first reached Banlung’s ethnic minority Kreung community that the Khmer Rouge’s top remaining leaders had been arrested by Cambodia’s genocide tribunal, Teal Perng was eager to add her story to the court’s growing record of regime atrocities.

But nearly two years since the start of the court, convened to try those responsible for the deaths of a quarter of the country’s population during the communists’ 1975-79 rule, Perng and many other tribal people feel increasingly left out of Cambodia’s bid for justice.

Separated by culture and language, Cambodia’s ethnic minorities have historically been placed apart from Khmer society.

But it is physical distance, more than anything else that has kept those living in isolated pockets in the wilds of eastern and northeastern Cambodia from adding their voices to those of other regime victims.

Like other Cambodians, minority groups suffered greatly at the hands of the Khmer Rouge, whose radical restructuring of society emptied cities, abolished money and destroyed families in a frenzied bid to forge an agrarian utopia.

“I saw a lot of indigenous people beaten and killed by the Khmer Rouge soldiers,” said Perng, who was 12-years-old when the guerillas took control of her village in northeastern Cambodia.

“Two of my nephews were taken and killed. I was separated from my parents and had to work far from them,” she said, describing workdays that stretched deep into night and one incident where she was forced to pull a plow through a field “like an oxen.”

“I want to see the faces of those KR leaders directly when they are on trial,” she said.

“But we do not have the money to travel to Phnom Penh to visit the court.”

Of the more than 1,000 civil complaints filed with the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) only a handful come from minority communities.

“Some show fear at the mention of the words ‘Khmer Rouge’, but most show their satisfaction to hear that these leaders have been arrested and jailed,” said Nget Nara, who monitors the tribunal’s progress for the rights group Adhoc and has interviewed tribal members.

“I think if the transportation is provided most of them would come to the court to see the trial process,” he added.

The Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-CAM), a research group that has spent the last decade compiling evidence of Khmer Rouge crimes, said only 12 of the 896 complaints it has received by the end of April came from ethnic minorities.

“Every effort has been made to include all groups in the trial process but minority groups are often hard to reach in isolated areas,” said DC-CAM director Youk Chhang.

ECCC press officer Reach Sambath also said that only a small number of people from ethnic minority communities had visited the court or filed complaints.

“At the court we open to the door to anyone that wants to participate and we appreciate their help, but we do understand their problem because most of the minority groups live far from Phnom Penh,” he said.

Five former Khmer Rouge leader are currently detained by the tribunal pending trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The first public trials are expected to start later this year.

Police launch probe into UFO explosion

VANDY RATTANA Ready, set, roll!A wheelchair racer takes a drink during the second annual “Wheelie Grand Prix” organized by the Cambodia National Volleyball League (Disabled) at Hun Sen Park, Phnom Penh, on May 25. Thirty-two disabled athletes took part in the event, with the 100m men’s race won by Phnom Penh radio mechanic Van Savin.

Courtesy of Phnom Penh Post

Written by Thet Sambath
Friday, 30 May 2008

Ouch Neakk was tending to his water buffalo at 10am on May 27 when a large chunk of steel fell from the sky and landed just four meters away from him.

The 62-year-old farmer from Kampot province's Prek Kreng village said he heard repeated explosions and saw a trail of smoke below the cloud line before more pieces of metal debris began landing his rice field.

"I had no idea what was going on," Neakk told the Post.

"I thought someone was throwing stones at me before I realized it was pieces of steel from an explosion."

Similar sightings were reported along the Cambodian and Vietnamese coasts, sparking a slew of explanations, from a plane crash to UFOs.

Islanders from Phu Quoc Island in southern Vietnam reported hearing explosions, seeing something burning in the sky and finding shards of metal debris - but quite what it was, no one knows.

Phu Quoc Island's district's military chief, Colonel Nguyen Van Qui, reported on May 28 that "an unidentified flying object exploded at about 10am on May 27 over the northern part of Phu Quoc Island," according to the state-run Vietnam News Agency.

Huynh Tan Hung, an official of the people's committee of the island's Ganh Dau commune, said local people had heard a series of noises, including a loud bang, just after 10am.

"We all saw something burning in the sky, north of Phu Quoc Island. The fire was in the sky near Cambodian territory. In our commune, we collected one piece of metal, measuring one meter by about 60 centimeters," he said.

In Kampot, deputy military commander Kung Mony told reporters that day that a small plane had crashed in the southern part of the province but later retracted his comments.

Airlines in Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand said all of their planes were accounted for and Cambodian aviation officials have denied that any aircraft are missing.

But eyewitness accounts and the metal debris discovered in the Kampot vicinity indicate that something - most likely an unmanned spy drone, according to Kampot police - went down in the province.

Kampot police official Khieu Sopheak said that in addition to Neakk's find, three Kampot fishermen reported pulling chunks of steel out of the sea while fishing.
I thought someone was throwing stones at me before I realized it was pieces of steel from an explosion.
– Kampot farmer

"They were going to sell them to scavengers but we are checking them out because I suspect they are pieces of some kind of aircraft," Sopheak said.

The three pieces of debris weighed between half a kilogram and 10.2 kilograms.

Two officers from the headquarters of the National Police in Phnom Penh went to Kampot to investigate and they have taken the shards of steel to Phnom Penh for further investigation, Sopheak said, adding that local police are also interviewing all eyewitnesses for information.

Kampot province deputy police chief In Chiva said police suspected the shards of metal were "pieces of an unmanned spy drone."

He added that the provincial police had no equipment to carry out further tests on the debris and sent it to Phnom Penh on May 29 where it would be investigated properly.

CPP vows to rule alone

Courtesy of Phnom Penh Post
Written by Nguon Sovan
Friday, 30 May 2008

Prime Minister Hun has vowed that his ruling Cambodian People’s Party would govern alone if victorious in July’s general elections, ending a coalition government deal that has been in place since the early 1990s and quashing hopes that minor parties could have some share of power.

“In the past there was a stalemate ... so I had to facilitate this party or that party and enter into a coalition government. Now the winner gets 100 percent [of government],” he said.

“If there is an A, there will be no B. If there is a B, there will be no A. There is me or him,” Hun Sen added on May 26, referring to a year-long deadlock following elections in 2003 during which the CPP and the royalist Funcinpec struggled to hammer out a coalition deal.

Hun Sen also warned that leadership positions in the National Assembly – often the only source of leverage for non-ruling party players – would not be divided between the parties, as had been following past elections.

“There is no need to come and beg for the posts of commission chairman or vice-chairman,” Hun Sen said, taking aim at senior opposition party politicians who he blamed for using their leadership roles to simply criticize the government.
There is the danger of a setback to the democratic process.
– Koul Panha, Comfrel

“You are opposition members, but you have another rank as chairmen or vice chairmen of commissions so you must perform your obligations,” he said.

Hun Sen’s vigorous rhetoric comes ahead of July 27 polls that observers say will likely establish his total political dominance following a wave of defections from the ruling party’s biggest antagonist, the Sam Rainsy Party, and the disintegration of former coalition partner Funcinpec, which has been fractured by infighting following the ouster of its leader, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, two years ago.

In the aftermath of the 2003 standoff, a constitutional amendment was approved requiring only a simple majority in parliament to form a government, rather than the two-thirds needed in previous polls, a move that has all but assured the CPP of ruling on its own after the July election.

Analysts, while acknowledging that any party with a majority vote had the right to govern on its own, warned that a single-party government could result in too much power for any one political group.

“We’re concerned over losing the balance of power because we worry that the CPP will control every level of administration, from the top government posts to the village,” said Koul Panha, executive director of the election monitor Comfrel.

“There is the danger of a setback to the democratic process,” he added.

Sok Touch, a professor of political science at Khemarak University, agreed, saying that any system of checks and balances in government would largely disappear with decisive single party victory.

“After a party wins, what will it do? If there is only one party, there will be no control over the implementation of policy,” he told the Post on May 28, adding, though, that a single-party government might be forced towards greater accountability.

“If the CPP wins total power, it will not be able to put the blame for mistakes on any other party.

The CPP will be responsible for both right and wrong – doubling its responsibility,” he said.

High costs of electricity deterring foreign direct investment

Courtesy of Phnom Penh Post

Written by Kay Kimsong
Thursday, 29 May 2008

Cambodia's electricity prices remain among the highest in the region and present a major obstacle to attracting foreign investment to the impoverished country, industry and government officials say, adding that energy costs are also driving up the price of other crucial utilities.

"This challenges our ability to compete with neighboring countries such as Thailand and Vietnam," said Chan Sophal, director of the Cambodian Economic Association, a private industry group.

At the heart of the problem is Cambodia's lack of a national power grid, which puts supply in the hands of dozens of small, private power producers operating in a loosely regulated system.

Because most of these producers rely on diesel-powered generators, spiraling global oil prices are being passed on to Cambodian consumers through the power companies.

The result is electricity that can be as much as four times as expensive as in Vietnam or Thailand, said economist Sok Sina, adding that the government is in no position to lower its taxes on imported petroleum products - a move that could see fuel and electricity prices drop.

"Any slowdown in investments is on the back of concerns over high electricity costs ... but if gasoline taxes decrease, the national budget will be affected," he told the Post on May 21.

"The problem will not likely be fixed until 2012" when Cambodia hopes to bring several hydropower projects online, he added.

Until then, the country will have to limp along under the current patchwork of independent power suppliers, officials say.

"The electricity supply still does not meet the basic demand for electricity, especially in rural areas, where a 24-hour supply of electricity is still not assured, and the quality of electricity is not reliable," the Council for the Development of Cambodia says on its website.

The state-run Electricite du Cambodge (EdC) is only able to provide about three-quarters of the 250 megawatts consumed by Phnom Penh each day, said one EdC official who did not want to be named, explaining the frequent blackouts that blight large swathes of the capital and force many to resort to expensive diesel fuel generators.

The situation becomes much worse, in the countryside, where regular power is available to only a fraction of the households.

The government has struggled to keep electricity prices in check, spending more than $40 million in subsidies for the EdC, Prime Minister Hun Sen said on May 20.

But spiraling power costs are not likely to ease anytime soon, business officials say, adding that demand for electricity is growing by 15 percent each year, putting further pressure on the country's fragmented power system.

"The investors are going to have to be patient and wait for a few more years to get lower electricity prices," said Nguon Meng Tech, director general of the Cambodian Chamber of Commerce.

Cambodia hands over Vietnamese soldiers’ remains

Nhan Dan
May 30, 2008

The authorities and military section of Cambodia’s Preah Vihear province have handed over 50 sets of remains of Vietnamese voluntary soldiers, who died in the province in war-time in Cambodia.

Addressing the hand-over ceremony on May 28, provincial representative Prap Dan expressed gratitude to the fallen soldiers and other Vietnamese volunteers, who devoted their lives to help Cambodia escape the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime that claimed more than 2.7 million of Cambodian lives. (VNA)

Malaysia's RTM To Collaborate With Cambodian Broadcasting Agency

Friday May 30

PHNOM PENH, May 30 Asia Pulse - The Malaysian Information Ministry plans to cooperate with the Cambodian government in culture, arts and broadcasting.

Its minister Ahmad Shabery Cheek said a study would be carried out on how its broadcasting arm Radio Televison Malaysia (RTM) could collaborate with the Cambodian Broadcasting Agency to strengthen bilateral ties.

"We can cooperate with each other by having programmes like the 'Titian Muhibah' (a joint music show broadcast over RTM and TVRI of Indonesia) to promote the culture of both countries.

"The ministry plans to discuss the matter with the Cambodian government after the country's general election in July," he told Bernama and RTM here Thursday.

Ahmad Shabery Ahmad is accompanying Malaysian King Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin and Queen Tuanku Nur Zahirah who are on a six-day state visit to Laos and Cambodia from Monday.


More Vietnamese travellers go to Cambodia


HA NOI — Cambodia in the first four months of this year welcomed more than 80,000 Vietnamese visitors, an increase of 97 per cent compared with the same period last year, according to Cambodian Tourism Minister Thong Khon.

Khon said he supported the proposed tourism co-operation and joint venture plans between Lam Dong province and Cambodian localities during a meeting with a Lam Dong province delegation in Phnom Penh on May 27.

The new figures bring Viet Nam to third place, following the Republic of Korea and Japan, in terms of the number of visitors to Cambodia, an advance from the fourth and the sixth position in 2007 and 2006, respectively.

In the first four months of this year, Viet Nam also hosted around 50,000 Cambodian visitors, up 80 per cent from the same period of last year.

LA jury convicts ex-Marine in sex tourism case
The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A retired Marine captain was convicted Thursday of having sex with pre-teen girls while working as a teacher in Cambodia.

A federal jury found Michael Joseph Pepe guilty of seven counts of engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places. The federal law targets people who go overseas for so-called child sex tourism.

During trial, six girls who were between 9 and 12 at the time of the abuse testified that Pepe drugged, bound, beat and raped them. Pepe was arrested in Phnom Penh in 2006 by Cambodian police investigating the sexual abuse allegations.

Prosecutors said Pepe forced the girls to give him massages and oral sex when they came home from school. Pepe would also give the girls a date rape drug before having sex with them, Assistant U.S. District Attorney Patricia Donahue said during trial.

Pepe, 54, of Oxnard, faces up to 210 years in prison when he is sentenced in September.

Deputy Federal Public Defender Carl Gunn said he might file an appeal after sentencing.

During trial, Gunn argued the assaults were committed by a prostitute and her boyfriend who had access to Pepe's house.

BBC News : In pictures: Life on the lake

But hundreds of thousands of people depend on the fish in the lake to live - which is why properly managing its resources is so important.

Others are experimenting with new money-making projects, such as growing mushrooms inside their houses.

As fish stocks fall, some families have turned to breeding Siamese crocodiles for their skin and their meat. They harvest snakes from the lake to feed them.

In the floating villages, every aspect of life is connected to the lake, its seasonal changes and the fish that live in it.

People are very poor and most depend on fishing to live. But the population around the lake is growing, leading to the over-exploitation of its resources.

Others live in high stilted houses around the lake. For half the year they live on dry land, but for the other half their fields, roads and bridges disappear under water.

Many people live in floating villages like Preak Toal. In the dry season people group together. But when the lake expands, they spread out and move deep into the flooded forest.

The Tonle Sap is vital to Cambodia, both in terms of the wildlife it nurtures and the communities that depend on it to live.

Saving Cambodia's Great Lake

Hundreds of thousands of families around the lake depend on it to live

Many people live in floating communities on the lake

Life on the lake

Dr Bonheur says efforts to protect the lake must be sustained

Thursday, 29 May 2008
By Philippa Fogarty
BBC News, Tonle Sap lake

Every May, when the rains come, water levels in the Mekong start to rise.

When the river flows into Phnom Penh it meets another river that drains from a lake in central Cambodia.

So full is the Mekong that it reverses that river's flow, forcing water back upstream and expanding the lake more than five-fold.

This is the Tonle Sap, the largest freshwater lake in South East Asia. Cambodians call it the Great Lake.

It is an area of extraordinarily rich biodiversity and a key breeding ground for fish, which migrate upstream from the Mekong to spawn in seasonally-flooded forest areas.

The lake is vital to Cambodia. It provides two-thirds of the country's protein and more than one million people depend on it directly for their livelihoods.

But the lake faces serious threats.

Cambodia's population has risen rapidly and pressure on resources has increased. Fish stocks are threatened by over-exploitation and illegal fishing methods.

Farmers and developers have taken advantage of weak governance to seize and drain land in the flooded forest, destroying key wildlife habitats and polluting the lake.

More trees have been felled for domestic use by local people, some of whom have been hunting rare wildlife to compensate for smaller fish catches.

Last year, Prime Minister Hun Sen warned of a "serious environmental disaster" if the problems were not addressed.

Fish sanctuary

The Asian Development Bank-financed Tonle Sap Environmental Management Project (TSEMP) is leading efforts to do that.

Eight years ago, more than half the lots on the lake allocated to commercial fishing were released to local communities.

Part of TSEMP's work is helping villages create legally-recognised community fisheries to protect and preserve their own resources. More than 170 of these groups have now been set up.

Soer Tao is deputy head of the community fishery in Kampong Klaeng, on the lake's northeast shore.

The village is home to about 10,000 people living in stilted houses to cope with the seasonal flooding. Some 85% of residents depend on fishing for their livelihoods.

Ten years ago, Soer Tao says, illegal fishing and destruction of the forest were causing serious problems to villagers. But local management of resources is bringing benefits.

The village boundaries have been formally set. Residents patrol the area and if people are fishing illegally or if developers are trying to encroach into the flooded forest, they should now be better positioned to tackle the problem.

The village has also established a fish sanctuary, 300 metres by 30 metres, where fish can spawn during the dry season. It is marked by red flags and guarded at each end.

When the flooding comes, the fish will swim out - hopefully in greater numbers every year.
"The fish sanctuary will protect the fish as livelihoods for everyone," Soer Tao said.

New projects

But it is not just about protecting fisheries.

Preak Toal is a floating village. Everything floats, even the school and the petrol station, and everyone depends on the lake to live.

Now projects are being set up to help families diversify their livelihoods away from the lake in a bid to reduce pressure on resources.

Former poachers patrol a biosphere reserve, guarding the rare water birds that they used to hunt. Tourists pay to enter and local families use pedalos to show the day-trippers around.

Some residents have built floating gardens for fruit and vegetables, while others are growing mushrooms in their floating houses. One group is trying to turn water hyacinth into charcoal-like fuel.

But the initiatives are, of course, not perfect. It is still much simpler for villagers to get firewood from the forests and to sell fish for quick profit.

'Turning point'

Dr Neou Bonheur, director of TSEMP, admits that trying to promote environmental awareness to those struggling to make a living can be difficult.

"It is hard," he says, "but when we teach them not to cut the forest because it is a breeding ground for the fish, they see the benefits of that."

The villagers, he says, are not the greatest challenge.

"Now we are at a turning point - rice and fuel prices are up and there is a tendency to look for resources such as land, not from the communities but from outside groups who want to claim areas for development.

"That's the most difficult thing for us, the people who damage the communities and fisheries in that way."

Community resource management was put in place at the right time, he says, but it must be strengthened to ensure local people have a permanent voice.

He describes efforts to date as "so far, so good", but says they must be sustained.

"We cannot say it is now enough - we have to continue to work hard on many areas."

But there is one key issue Cambodia cannot control.

China, Thailand and Laos all want to dam the Mekong for hydropower, something experts say could have a serious effect on the seasonal influx of water and wildlife into the lake.

"We are a downstream country and less powerful compared to upstream countries," says Dr Bonheur. "We can only hope that through dialogue, Cambodia can voice its concern."

"The Tonle Sap is a great asset for Cambodia. We must protect it at all cost."

Help for rare hairy-nosed otter

Dara has been promised a new pen and regular fish supply

BBC News
Thursday, 29 May 2008

One of the world's rarest otter is receiving help from a Scottish-based wildlife charity.

Dara, a male hairy-nosed otter, is the only one of his species to be kept legally in captivity.

The International Otter Survival Fund (Isof) on Skye has an agreement with Phnom Tamau Zoo and Wildlife Rescue Centre in Cambodia to fund his care.

Dara had been kept as a fisherman's pet on Tonle Sap Lake, before ending up in a small illegal zoo.

It was shut down by the government and the mammal, along with other animals, was donated to Phnom Tamau Zoo.

Grace Yoxon, of Isof, said the agreement with the centre included providing funds for the care of 10 smooth-coated otters.

She said: "Dara is being built a brand new pen and now a regular fish supply is ensured."

Fur trade

Hairy-nosed otter had previously been thought extinct, but it, along with the smooth-coated, Asian small-clawed and Eurasian otter, were still being hunted in Cambodia.

Fishermen trap the animals to supplement their incomes.

Otters are listed on the database of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites).

The international agreement between governments aims to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

Isof is backing a campaign to help end the illegal killing of rare otters in south east Asia and the trade in their furs.

Cambodia to send 15-member delegation to Beijing Olympics

Special report: 2008 Olympic Games

PHNOM PENH, May 30 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia will send a 15-member delegation to participate in the Olympic Games in Beijing in August, hoping for medals in swimming and marathon, English-Khmer language newspaper the Cambodian Daily said Friday.

The team will include Thong Khon, Tourism Minister and president of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia (NOCC), and depart for Beijing on August 7, the paper quoted Nhan Sok Visal, an NOCC administrator, as saying.

King Norodom Sihamoni and Education Minister Kol Pheng also plan to attend the opening ceremony of the Games, he added.

Among the delegation members are 23-year-old Hem Bunting and 19-year-old female Sou Titlinda for marathon, and 18-year-old Hem Thon Ponloeu and his 16-year-old niece Hem Thon Vitiny for 50-meter free style swimming race, he said.

Hem Bunting won silver and bronze medals in track and field at the SEA Games in Thailand in December, he added.

It is not the first time Cambodia has sent athletes to the Olympics.

The first post-war delegation of five Khmers competed in the Atlanta Games in 1996, and Cambodia subsequently sent four athletes to both Sydney in 2000 and Athens in 2004.

Editor: An Lu

San Miguel eyes projects in Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar

By Elizabeth Sanchez-LacsonPhilippine
Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—Beverage and food conglomerate San Miguel Corp. is looking at possible investments in brewery and liquor production in Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar, encouraged by the growth of tourism in these countries, San Miguel president and chief operating officer Ramon Ang said.

The three countries consume at least 300,000 hectoliters of beer and other alcoholic beverages, Ang said on the sidelines of the annual general meeting of San Miguel’s liquor arm, Ginebra San Miguel Inc.

"These markets are just opening,” he said. “There are no manufacturing facilities [for beer and liquor] in those markets."

He said tourism was spurring economic growth in the three countries, which belong to the Association of Southeast Asian Countries, like the Philippines.

"Like in Angkor Wat [in Cambodia], foreign tourist arrivals in 2007 hit almost four million, compared with the Philippines' 2.7 million last year," Ang said.

He said San Miguel was in talks with potential partners, but declined to identify these.
Ginebra San Miguel reported Thursday that its revenues grew 14 percent to P3.4 billion in the first quarter.

Saving children from Cambodia's trash heap

Phymean Noun is helping give Cambodian children a chance at a better life.

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (CNN) -- Walking down a street in Cambodia's capital city, Phymean Noun finished her lunch and tossed her chicken bones into the trash. Seconds later, she watched in horror as several children fought to reclaim her discarded food.

Noun stopped to talk with them. After hearing their stories of hardship, she knew she couldn't ignore their plight.

"I must do something to help these children get an education," she recalls thinking. "Even though they don't have money and live on the sidewalk, they deserve to go to school."

Six years after that incident, Noun is helping many of Phnom Penh's poorest children do just that.

Within weeks, she quit her job and started an organization to give underprivileged children an education. Noun spent $30,000 of her own money to get her first school off the ground.
In 2004, her organization -- the People Improvement Organization (PIO) -- opened a school at Phnom Penh's largest municipal trash dump, where children are a large source of labor.

Today, Noun provides 240 kids from the trash dump a free education, food, health services and an opportunity to be a child in a safe environment.
Watch Noun and some of the children who attend her school

It is no easy task. Hundreds of them risk their lives every day working to support themselves and their families.

"I have seen a lot of kids killed by the garbage trucks," she recalls. Children as young as 7 scavenge hours at a time for recyclable materials. They make cents a day selling cans, metals and plastic bags.

Noun recruits the children at the dump to attend her organization because, she says, "I don't want them to continue picking trash and living in the dump. I want them to have an opportunity to learn." Watch Noun describe what life is like for children at the trash dump

Growing up during the Pol Pot regime, Noun faced unimaginable challenges.

"There were no schools during Pol Pot's regime," she recalls. "Everyone had to work in the fields. My mother was very smart. She told them that she didn't have an education. That was how she survived. If they knew she was educated, they would have killed her."

Noun's mother died of cancer when Phymean was 15. Phymean's sister fled to a refugee camp, leaving her young daughter in Phymean's care.

"When my mom passed away, my life was horrible, " says Noun. "It was very sad because there was only my niece who was 3 years old at that time." Yet Noun was determined to finish high school.
Watch Noun decscibe the hardships of life during the Pol Pot regime

That dedication paid off, and after graduating she spent the next decade working with various aid organizations.

"I tell the children my story and about the importance of education," she said. "I'm their role model."

Some of the children who attend her school continue to work in the dump to support themselves and their families. Without an education, she said, these children would be vulnerable to traffickers or continue to be caught in the cycle of poverty.

"We are trying to provide them skills that they can use in the future," Noun said. "Even though we are poor and struggling and don't have money, we can go to school. I tell them not to give up hope."
Noun has even bigger plans for them. "These children are our next generation and our country depends on them. They are our future leaders."

Rice price set to rise in the UAE

Business Times
By Issac John (Deputy Business Editor)
29 May 2008

DUBAI — Prices of all varieties of rice are expected to rise in the UAE following India's decision not to relax a ban on rice exports imposed in March.

India, the largest rice supplier to the Gulf, has been widely expected to ease curbs on exports of rice with the prospects of an imminent record crop. However, dashing hopes of easing export curbs, Trade Secretary Gopal Pillai said on Tuesday that despite the promise of a bumper crop in 2008, the country would not be following Cambodia's lead in allowing shipments of rice.

India is set to harvest a bumper crop. Output in the year ending June may reach a record 95.68 million tonnes, compared with 93.35 million tonnes produced a year earlier.

Like other Asian rice exporters, India banned exports of non-basmati rice after a series of earlier partial restrictions, in a bid to boost supplies to contain record high inflation.

Importers and distributors in the UAE said prices of non-basmati and basmati rice would come under further pressure as stock levels are fast depleting. "The shortage of popular non-Basmati variety such as Palakadan Matta and Thanjavoor Ponni is already being felt at small and medium retailers." With the current stocks unlikely to last more than two months, the UAE and other GCC countries are going to face a serious supply crunch despite news that Vietnam, following Cambodia, is expected to relax export curbs in July.

India, the world's second largest exporter of the grain — exporting about four million tonnes annually — accounts for more than 50 per cent of UAE's rice imports. Indian rice export to the UAE is around 120,000 metric tonnes per month. Prices of non-Basmati rice have gone up by 25 per cent from Dh15 per five kilo bag to Dh20 while traditional Basmati price has surged 87 per cent — from Dh8.5 to Dh13 per kilo. The price of US-style Thailand rice has almost surged by more than 70 per cent, from Dh40 to Dh70 per 20 kilo bag.

Market analysts said the shortage of rice supply will further inflate prices in the UAE, where core inflation is estimated to be around 13 per cent this year. Deepak Thawani, an expert on commodities, said prices of rice in the UAE are unlikely to return to earlier levels in the near future as global demand for rice would continue to outstrip supply, particularly with hopes of an export relaxation by India fading.

Globally, rice prices have skyrocketed by around 76 per cent between last December and April, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation Rice Price Index. Experts blame the trend on higher energy and fertilizer costs, greater global demand, droughts, the loss of rice
farmland to bio fuel plantations, and price speculation. To avoid food scarcities in their own countries, major rice exporters have imposed export bans, taxes or caps.

Although the Indian government has set the minimum export price of premium traditional Basmati at $1,000 per tonne, the current market price is $2,500 per tonne, and for the medium type Basmati, price is hovering between $1,700 and $1,800 per tonne.

India's move to ban non-basmati rice exports and curb sales of the superior basmati variety triggered protectionist measures by other leading producers to secure supplies for the staple consumed by half of the world. The curbs trebled benchmark Thai prices. Prospects of a good harvest in India and some other countries have softened prices, prompting Cambodia to lift a ban on rice shipments it imposed two months ago, the first major Asian exporter to roll back such curbs.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, global output of milled rice in 2008 will be 445.3 million tonnes, up 2.3 per cent from last year's record 435.2 million tons,. Consumption will rise 2.4 per cent.

Vietnamese island showered with UFO remains?

South East Asia News.Net
Thursday 29th May, 2008 (ANI)

London, May 29 : Aliens from outer space might not be a thing of science fiction anymore, especially after a small Vietnamese island was showered with metal-like debris, courtesy a UFO explosion.

According to reports, the unidentified flying object is not believed to be a plane as none have been reported missing in the area.

Investigators are working on the theory the explosion happened five miles above the ground.

A search of Phu Quoc island off southern Vietnam uncovered shards of grey "metal" up to four feet long.

On May 29, soldiers examined the area for clues as airlines in Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand insisted none of their aircraft were missing in the area.

Villagers in the nearby Cambodian province of Kampot said on May 27 that they had heard a loud explosion.

A day later they found chunks of material near the coastline.

After the explosion Kung Mony, of Cambodia's Air Force, claimed it could have been a foreign plane but he later backed down from the theory.

One explanation could be that the plane was a military one - but none of the nearby countries has admitted to losing any aircraft.

Legal and Judicial Reform Remain Main Problems for Cambodia

Posted on 30 May 2008.
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 562

“Phnom Penh: The Senate of Cambodia, in cooperation with the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and the Center for International Migration and Development, held a conference about ‘Legal and Judicial Reform for the Modernization of the Kingdom of Cambodia’ on 27 May 2008.

The chairperson of the Commission on Legislation and the Judiciary of the Senate, Mr. Ouk Bunchhoeun, stated, ‘The main problems for our commission to deal with are the legal and judicial reforms towards modernization.’

“Mr. Ouk Bunchhoeun said that strategies for reforms in the fields of legislation and of the judiciary were adopted by the Royal Government in June 2003, to consider four basic areas:

individual rights, democracy, the separation of powers, and legislation [cf. the address on 'Doctrine of Precedents, Separation of Powers, Checks and Balances' by Minister Sok An at a 'Workshop on National Vision and Priorities on the Rule of Law and Judicial Reform,' 10-11 June 2002].

“Mr. Ouk Bunchhoeun hopes that the Royal Government will speed up the reforms on legislation and the judiciary, and also push to take policy initiatives to promote the wider provision of legal and judicial services, which are key conditions for a continuous development of social justice and for poverty alleviation.

“Mr. Kong Phaleak, a professor of law and a member of the Arbitration Council, mentioned that the legal and judicial reform process in Cambodia, from the past until now, has four main concerns: the general view of the legal and of the judiciary reforms, strategies for organizing the reforms, the implementation of the reforms, and the results of the implementation of the legal and judiciary reforms.

“The professor said that the general view of the legal and judiciary reforms is related to the political will of the Royal Government of Cambodia, where a Council for Legal and Judicial Reform was created in 2002. A permanent coordinating unit was created in 2002, and a project management unit was also created in 2002.

“Mr. Kong Phaleak stressed that the goal of the legal and judicial reforms is to create a state of law and a court system which can be trusted and which have the necessary stability to support the policies of individual rights, the separation of powers, and of the legislative process.

“The professor raised the question, ‘What should be done to achieve the goal of the legal and judicial reforms?’ Strategies for organizing the legal and judicial reforms have to consider basic values when organizing related documents, and these involve the four basic considerations of the Constitution of 1993: those views are individual rights, democracy, the separation of powers, and the constitution itself.

“The President of the Royal Academy for the Legal Professions, Mr. Tep Darong, intervened by pointing to the fact that the law is a tool which plays a most important role to guarantee economic growth, the progress of politics, of the culture, and of many other sectors.

“Mr. Tep Darong stated that a large number of judges and prosecutors working in the courts countrywide were not educated in professional legal educational institutions. Their basic capacity is low, which makes it difficult to implement important laws which will be adopted soon.

“Dr. Jörg Menzel, a Senior Legal Advisor to the Senate, said that in the process of the legal and judicial reforms in Cambodia, one should look and focus on minor points and start from there.

“Dr. Menzel raised as an example that now, when traveling at night and the traffic light is red, still there are vehicles crossing. At this point it is necessary to think what people should do when there are traffic lights, but people do not obey them.

“A Senate member from the Sam Rainsy Party, Mr. Kong Korm, said that so far, legal and judicial reforms have not yet clearly focused on the separation of the legislative, the executive, and the judicial powers, as well as on the decentralization policy – all this is very difficult.

“Mr. Tep Darong explained that so far, the separation of the three powers has not yet been clearly established, i.e. the separation is still weak.

The Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia:

Article 128:The Judicial power shall be an independent power…

Article 130:Judicial power shall not be granted to the legislative or executive branches.
“He affirmed that if we want to achieve the separation of powers, we have to wait until an elected party fully adopt that absolute principle of law. Talking about decentralization, a part of the [executive] power is transferred to the communes, but this is not the whole power.

“He added that the reason why the Royal Government proceeds step by step is that the capacity for training for commune councilors is limited, and most of the commune councilors have a low level of knowledge.”

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.16, #4601, 29.5.2008

Cambodian Experts Call For Ban On Cluster Bombs

PHNOM PENH (AFP)--Munition experts and activists in Cambodia, one of the world's most heavily-mined countries, regretted Thursday that key nations hadn't signed a landmark treaty in Dublin to ban cluster bombs.

"The cluster bomb is very dangerous for both experts and villagers. Cambodians are often killed and injured by cluster bombs," said Khem Sophoan, director general of Cambodia Mine Action Center.

Delegates from 111 countries agreed Wednesday to a pact to outlaw the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions by its signatories.

But the deal lacks the backing of major producers and stockpilers since the U.S., Russia, China, India, Israel and Pakistan didn't attend the talks. (END)

Dow Jones Newswires

Angkor Palace Resort & Spa launches Nick Faldo Golf Promotion

Asia Travel Tips

The Angkor Palace Resort & Spa is offering a package celebrating the opening of a new championship golf course designed by Nick Faldo.

The 5-star resort in Siem Reap, famed for the legendary Angkor Wat temple complex, is offering a two-night ‘Golf @The Palace’ package priced at US$479 for two, including a round of golf at the new Angkor Golf Course.

Valid until September 30th, the package also includes daily breakfast, one dinner and two-way transfers from the hotel between both the airport and golf course.

Golf legend Nick Faldo, who captains the 2008 European Ryder Cup, recently opened the new Angkor Golf Resort course, saying, “I’m certain this golf course will become world renowned.

The first signature designed golf course in Cambodia challenges golfers of all standards, from casual weekend players to seasoned professionals.”

“I believe our course will turn Siem Reap and this part of South East Asia into a true golfing destination while still remaining a spiritual Mecca for tourists.”

The Angkor Palace Resort & Spa is part of WORLDHOTELS' Deluxe Collection. The resort is set amidst 11 hectares of exotic tropical gardens and offers a delightful resort base from which to discover the legendary temples of Angkor, just 15 minutes away. It combines traditional Khmer architecture with modern facilities such as wireless internet access in most of the public areas, business centre, 24 hour in-room dining and concierge services.

The resort’s Kainnora Spa is a relaxing sanctuary offering a wide range of holistic body treatments including traditional Khmer massage, as well as a range of pampering massages, body wraps and scrubs. Other recreational facilities include a gym, tennis courts and a large attractive swimming pool.

The resort is also well equipped for meetings and events with a Royal Ballroom accommodating up to 200 theatre style or 300 for a cocktail reception. Other function rooms are also available for smaller events.

Aid Shipment Leaves Cambodia for Burma

By VOA Khmer, Washington
Video Editor: Manilene Ek
29 May 2008

Dy Khamboly reports in Khmer - Download (WM)
Dy Khamboly reports in Khmer - Watch (WM)

A World Food Programme (WFP) plane left from Cambodian capital Phnom Penh for Yangon on Saturday May 10, 2008 to deliver aid despite the risk of having supplies seized by the military government.

A plane full of construction equipment and generators left Cambodia after the military government in Myanmar seized two WFP planeloads of high-energy biscuits - enough to feed 95 - thousand people.

With phone lines down, roads blocked and electricity networks destroyed, it is nearly impossible to reach isolated areas in the delta, complicated by the lack of experienced international aid workers and equipment.

But the junta has refused to grant access to foreign experts, saying it will only accept donations from foreign charities and governments, and then will deliver the aid on its own.

State media say 23,335 people died and 37,019 are missing from Cyclone Nargis, which submerged entire villages in the Irrawaddy delta. International aid organizations say the death toll could climb to more than 100,000 as conditions worsen.

Information for this report was provided by APTN.