Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Cambodia: The Virginity Trade

Harrowing and intimate interviews from all sides of the virginity trade that exists in Cambodia today. Produced and Directed by Matthew Watson for Zealot Films.

Sacravatoons :" Cambodia: the Virginity Trade "

Courtesy Sacravatoon

Sacravatoons :" The Compensation "

Courtesy Sacravatoon

Joel Brinkley: Sad stories from Cambodia

The Sacramento Bee
Tuesday, September 2, 2008

By Joel Brinkley

ANDOUNG, Cambodia — Well past the city limits, beyond the sign that says "Bon Voyage; See You Again," after the paved roads end, down a rutted dirt track, Un Thea sits in the mud outside her shanty house, peeling bamboo shoots – and seething.

Two years ago, soldiers and police showed up in the middle of the night to throw her family and more than 1,000 others out of their homes on a plot in central Phnom Penh. The soldiers torched the crude houses before Un and the others had time even to retrieve their meager belongings. Then all of the residents were herded onto buses and ferried out here, about 15 miles away, and dumped in a rice paddy without so much as a bottle of water or a tarp for cover.

Then the soldiers left — though a few stayed behind to turn away the aid groups that came out to drop off emergency rations. Un's case is among several thousands more or less similar land seizures across Cambodia in the last three years.

"Out here, it is hard making business," Un complains with considerable understatement. She is 25 but already looks decades older.

"They dumped us here and gave us no money, no land title. Nothing." Cambodia is a democracy.

The modern state grew out of a U.N. peace conference in 1991 intended to create a free nation from the rubble the Khmer Rouge left behind. Since then, the government has purported to manage the country according to the rule of law.

Every democratic country, including the United States, fails at times to live up to its democratic ideals. But the cruelty the Cambodian government visits upon its weakest citizens can be breathtaking. You expect this in North Korea, or Zimbabwe. But Cambodia? In late July Cambodians voted in national elections that were generally peaceful with scattered complaints. Government leaders tolerate human rights groups that regularly castigate them and, within limits, critical stories in the news media.

Still, stories like Un's can overwhelm the positive developments here.

Chum Bon Rong is secretary of state in the National Land Authority, which is supposed to arbitrate land disputes like the Andoung case. Last week he told me that his agency has received more than 3,000 land-seizure appeals in the last two and one-half years. Of those, he acknowledged, only about 50 have been judged in favor of plaintiffs, the impoverished people whose land was seized. Even among those 50, he acknowledged with a rueful grin, "sometimes the cases disappear" after referral to another agency that is supposed to implement the Land Authority's findings.

In 2001, under pressure from the West, Cambodia enacted a Land Law that was supposed to set clear rules for property disputes.

Seven years later, the government has yet to write the regulations implementing that law. Meantime, the seizures continue unabated. Phnom Penh is booming, and when a developer spots a choice piece of land, he simply pays off the proper official to win a newly minted land title.
All that's left is rid the property of its pesky residents — almost always poor, uneducated people like Un.

Once the residents have been disposed of, they are forgotten.

Licadho, a local human rights group, noted in a new report that Un and the others dumped out here suffer from "malnutrition, typhoid, dengue fever, hepatitis A or B, hypertension, respiratory tract infections, gastro-intestinal illnesses including stress-related ulcers, depression," and last in this litany, "anger management problems." Um and her husband built a one-room shelter on stilts from scrap wood, bamboo matting and plastic tarps. Ten people now live in and under the house. She has no electricity or running water. No one in this community has a phone; there's not a single toilet.

"We have to buy water from the water seller," she says, nodding toward an earthen cistern beside the house. Mosquito larvae seem to roil the water surface. Tacked to her shelter's front wall, a poster warns of dengue fever, a mosquito-borne illness.

Um says she can make about 5,000 riel selling her peeled bamboo shoots at market. That's $1.22. She sends her young sons into Phnom Penh "to shine shoes for the people. They go and stay for a month." A few months ago, the United Nations issued a report saying the government here always "tilts in favor of businesses" that want to develop land, "pitting poor farmers against developers." Even though his own agency's numbers show the very same thing, Chum says complaints like that from abroad are "a case of propaganda."

World Bank appoints new country manager in Cambodia

www.chinaview.cn
2008-09-02

PHNOM PENH, Sept. 2 (Xinhua) -- The World Bank has announced the appointment of Mr. Qimiao Fan as Country Manager of the World Bank Country Office in Cambodia, said a press release received here on Tuesday.

Mr. Fan's appointment is effective Sept. 1, 2008, it said.

Mr. Fan, a Chinese national, joined the World Bank in 1991 through the Young Professionals Program and worked as a country economist on Russia during the crucial years of Russia's early transition, the release said, adding that he also worked briefly in the World Bank's Africa Region and Investment Department.

In early 1998, he took leave from the Bank and went to work as a senior executive in the private sector in China, before returning to the World Bank in late 2002, it said.

Mr. Fan is currently a Lead Economist and Program Leader for the Investment Climate Capacity Enhancement Program and the Public-Private Partnership in Infrastructure Program at the World Bank Institute, it said, adding that in this position, he has developed and implemented a number of innovative capacity building programs focused on regulatory reforms in challenging country environments.

Prior to joining the World Bank, he worked at the London School of Economics in England and at the Jiangxi Institute of Finance and Economics in China, it said.

With over twenty-two years of work experience with the World Bank, the private sector and academic institutions, Mr. Fan brings a unique combination of strong analytical skills on development issues, World Bank operations, and private sector management experience to the position, it added.

Editor: An

U.N.-assisted tribunal officials attend a meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Monday, Sept. 1, 2008

U.N.-assisted tribunal's judges, Motoo Noguchi, center, of Japan, sits between Cambodians Sim Rith, left, and Ya Narin, right, during a meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Monday, Sept. 1, 2008. Cambodia's genocide tribunal opened on Monday a weeklong meeting of its judicial officials to chart the next course toward opening the first trial but under the shadow of recent kickback allegations within its rank.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

U.N.-assisted tribunal officials attend a meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Monday, Sept. 1, 2008. Cambodia's genocide tribunal opened on Monday a weeklong meeting of its judicial officials to chart the next course toward opening the first trial but under the shadow of recent kickback allegations within its rank.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

U.N.-assisted tribunal's judges, Motoo Noguchi, center, of Japan, sits between Cambodians Sim Rith, left, and Ya Narin, right, during a meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Monday, Sept. 1, 2008. Cambodia's genocide tribunal opened on Monday a weeklong meeting of its judicial officials to chart the next course toward opening the first trial but under the shadow of recent kickback allegations within its rank.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

U.N.-assisted tribunal's co-prosecutor Canadian Robert Petit, left, and American Richard Rogers, right, with the defense support section, listen during a meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Monday, Sept. 1, 2008. Cambodia's genocide tribunal opened on Monday a weeklong meeting of its judicial officials to chart the next course toward opening the first trial but under the shadow of recent kickback allegations within its rank.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Day in Pictures

A yellow-cheeked crested gibbon sits in a cage at Cambodia's Phnom Tamau Zoo in Takeo province, about 45 kilometers (28 miles) south of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Friday, Aug. 29, 2008. The New-York-based Wildlife Conservation Society announced its findings in a statement Friday. The group says its researchers, working with Cambodian wildlife officials, have counted 42,000 black-shanked douc langurs along with 2,500 yellow-cheeked crested gibbons in the Seima Biodiversity Conservation Area in a remote northeastern corner of the country.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

A yellow-cheeked crested gibbon yawns in a cage at Cambodia's Phnom Tamau Zoo in Takeo province, about 45 kilometers (28 miles) south of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Friday, Aug. 29, 2008. Unchecked development could threaten two rare monkey species, yellow-cheeked crested gibbon and black-shanked douc langurs, that were recently discovered in Cambodia's remote northeast, international researchers said Monday.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

A yellow-cheeked crested gibbon sits in a cage at Cambodia's Phnom Tamau Zoo in Takeo province, about 45 kilometers (28 miles) south of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Friday, Aug. 29, 2008. Unchecked development could threaten two rare monkey species, yellow-cheeked crested gibbon and black-shanked douc langurs, that were recently discovered in Cambodia's remote northeast, international researchers said Monday.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

A yellow-cheeked crested gibbon sits in a cage at Cambodia's Phnom Tamau Zoo in Takeo province, about 45 kilometers (28 miles) south of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Friday, Aug. 29, 2008. Unchecked development could threaten two rare monkey species, yellow-cheeked crested gibbon and black-shanked douc langurs, that were recently discovered in Cambodia's remote northeast, international researchers said Monday.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Timeline: Thailand crisis

Street protests calling on Samak to quit began in May [AFP]
Al Jazeera
Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The Thai prime minister has declared a state of emergency, hoping to bring an end to protests against his rule and the worst street violence seen in a decade.

Protesters demanding Samak Sundaravej's resignation have been laying siege to Bangkok's main government compound for a week, the latest flashpoint in a series of woes for Samak's seven-month-old government.

His party's election ended nearly a year-and-a-half of military rule after the 2006 coup that ousted Thaksin Shinawatra as prime minister, but the shadow of his predecessor continues to hang over Samak.

Following are the key events leading up to the declaration of emergency rule:

December 23, 2007: Samak leads the People Power party (PPP) to election victory.

February 6, 2008: Samak unveils a cabinet made up of members of a six-party coalition which holds nearly two-thirds of parliamentary seats.

February 28: Thaksin, who had been in self-imposed exile for 17 months, gets hero's welcome from supporters as he returns to Thailand and goes straight to court, where he is released on bail on corruption charges.

May 25: The People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), a collection of anti-government groups, launches street protests calling for Samak to resign for seeking constitutional amendments they believe are aimed at helping Thaksin.

July 8-10: Court decisions force out of office three senior government officials - Chiya Sasomsub, the health minister, Noppadon Pattama, the foreign minister, and Yongyut Tiyapairat, the house speaker and PPP deputy leader.

July 15: A military standoff breaks out near a disputed temple on the Thai-Cambodia border, with the PAD accusing Samak of relinquishing Thai territory to help Thaksin with a business deal in the neighbouring country.

July 31: Thaksin's wife, Pojaman, is convicted of tax evasion and released on bail.

August 11: Thaksin and his wife go into exile in Britain, claiming they will not get a fair trial on the corruption charges mounting against them.

August 26: At least 35,000 PAD-led protesters raid a TV station, surround three ministries and break into Bangkok's main government compound in what they say is their "final war" against the government.

August 29: Scuffles break out between police and PAD supporters still laying siege to Government House. Protests spread, forcing the temporary closure of three airports at southern tourist hubs and a disruption to rail services.

September 2: Samak declares a state of emergency in Bangkok after overnight clashes leave one dead and dozens injured, allowing the army to move in to help restore order.

September 2: Thai election commission finds the PPP guilty of buying votes during December's general election and recommends the Supreme Court disband the party.

Hurricane Gustav prompts Louisiana couple to take flight -- again

Shrimpers Neang Pum and Sobong In fled Cambodia and survived Hurricane Katrina. Now they're forced to leave the boat they call home, with little gas and no place to go.

By Erika Hayasaki, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
September 2, 2008

JENNINGS, LA. -- They left the shrimp boat in which they work and live on the Louisiana shore, driving north at noon, daring the hurricane in their red Ford Expedition.

They were running on a tank of gas, and there were no stations open for miles.

Neang Pum, 66, and her boyfriend, Sobong In, 69, came to the United States as Cambodian refugees more than two decades ago. On Monday, they fled Hurricane Gustav -- which sent palm fronds flying, trees toppling and waves of water across the highway before them.

Pum and In had moved into a Federal Emergency Management Agency trailer after Hurricane Katrina three years ago, but the government recently took that home away. So the couple were living in the shrimp boat in Empire, La.

Pum said they hadn't had enough money to evacuate ahead of Gustav, so they decided to ride it out. But as the hurricane crashed along the coast Monday, rocking their boat with terrifying power, the couple decided to head to Lafayette, La., 200 miles away, where they had a friend with food and water to share.

"The hurricane was getting angry," Pum said. "My friend said, 'You must go; you will die.' "

The couple loaded the SUV with a pink flowered pillow, a striped burgundy blanket, a carton of ramen noodles, $40 in cash and their black-and- orange dog, Lucky Boy.

But by 4 p.m., the winds and rain on Interstate 10 had become so severe that they pulled up across the street from the Jennings Travel Center -- home to a casino, restaurant and truckers rest stop -- and hoped police would stop to help them.

Their gas was running dangerously low.

At the travel center, which was boarded up with strips of plywood, its gas pumps wrapped in plastic tarps, a man and woman with guns waved people away. Selina Landry, 43, a security guard in a Tinkerbell T-shirt with a pistol under her arm, had been charged with keeping looters away from the store. She brought her 20-year-old son, his wife and their 6-month-old daughter along. They had spent the night in the warehouse-shaped building, along with three other security guards and their families.

As rain swirled and wind whipped outside the building, children slept on black sofas and watched "Hannah Montana" while the adults monitored weather reports.Walking toward the sandbags that lined the front of the store -- near the zebra-print purses, popcorn balls, straw cowboy hats and bottles of hot sauce -- Landry said: "We're not scared one bit; we're cautious."

The guards and their families planned to hide in a cooler if the storm got worse, she added. "We're respectful of the storm."

Across the street, Pum and In could not find anyone to help them.

The couple were at least an hour from Lafayette -- where one person has been reported killed by a falling tree -- and the winds were pushing 80 mph. Through the foggy windows of their SUV, Pum and In watched the covering on a four-story yellow building flap in the wind.

"Maybe I should stay here and wait until it opens for gas," said In, looking at the shuttered station across the street as fierce gusts rocked the Expedition from side to side. He braced the steering wheel with his tanned, weathered hands, with dirt underneath his fingernails from shrimping.

"No," Pum told him. "It's not open today."

Barefoot and wearing a green jade bracelet, Pum looked away, shaking her head. Lucky Boy jumped into the back seat, whimpering near an American flag, a cooler and a beach towel.

"I don't have gasoline," she said, "I don't know what to do. I'm so scared."

After an hour, with the wind still screaming, the couple decided to keep driving.

Thailand's political stalemate deepens

Standoff: Protesters who took over Government House in Bangkok last week refuse to leave until the prime minister resigns. Andy Nelson/The Christian Science Monitor

Activists have disrupted air and rail travel, and refuse to leave government grounds.

By Simon Montlake Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
from the September 2, 2008

BANGKOK, THAILAND - By day, they listen to protest speeches, shake their rattles, and line up for free meals. By night, they bed down in the doorways of ornate buildings inside a walled government compound, guarded by their own militia against possible police attack.

A week after occupying the seat of civilian power here, thousands of Thai antigovernment protestors are digging in for the long haul. Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej – the main target of their sit-in – refuses to resign. A court last week ordered the arrest of nine protest leaders, but their lawyers are appealing. Authorities withdrew an eviction notice for protesters after clashes Friday with police, who were forced to retreat.

As pro-government supporters gather in smaller numbers in a nearby park, fears of violent confrontation are growing, underscoring deep social and political divisions. At stake are Thailand's shaky democracy and the future role of elites aligned with the monarchy and the military, whose dominance has been upended by decades of rapid social change.

In 2006, similar street protests against then-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, paralyzed the nation and led to a military coup that did little to heal these divisions. Mr. Thaksin and his wife recently sought exile in Britain after losing the first of several court cases filed over alleged abuses of power during his five years in office.

In an emergency session on Sunday, Mr. Samak berated his opponents in parliament for siding with protestors who had broken the law. He rejected a motion to dissolve parliament as a way out of the crisis.

"I want to show the world that democracy in Thailand was built to last," he said.

Two airports in southern Thailand reopened Sunday after protesters forced their closure Friday, stranding thousands of foreign tourists.

But railway services are still being disrupted by walkouts. The People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), the group that seized the prime minister's compound, has threatened to escalate such actions if their demands aren't met.

Among these royalist opponents of Samak, there is anger at the return to power of old political faces. They accuse Samak of corruption at the behest of Thaksin, his political patron, and of surrendering territory to Cambodia in a border temple dispute. Some call for an overhaul of a political system that gives too much weight to the poor, Thaksin's loyal constituency.

Leaders of the PAD are hostile to Western-style democracy, arguing that it has failed to produce suitable leaders and instead encouraged vote-buying and corruption. In its place, they propose a partially elected legislature and a backstop role for the military to keep politicians in line.

"It's a failure of political parties. Not a failure of democracy," says Kasit Piromya, a former Thai diplomat and an opposition supporter.

This criticism reflects both the frustration borne out of Thaksin's electoral success – repeated last December by Samak – and a conservative backlash against globalization. The PAD was formed in 2006 after Thaksin sold his family-owned telecommunications company to Singapore's government, igniting nationalist anger. A military-installed government later sought unsuccessfully to restrict foreign ownership in Thailand.

In 2006, tens of thousands of Bangkok residents wore royalist yellow at all-night PAD rallies. Far fewer have joined the current protests, though, while some former allies have condemned the vandalism of state property and use of weapons as extremist.

Police last week seized stacks of golf clubs and sticks from the PAD. Middle-class Thais who marched against Thaksin are weary of political turmoil and fiery nationalism.

Yet smaller numbers don't lessen Samak's burden in tackling the PAD, says Panitan Wattanayagorn, a professor at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. Sending riot police to oust them, as was attempted last week, could spark mayhem, and the blame would likely fall on the government, not the protestors. "If this crisis ends in bloodshed, regardless of the cause, the prime minister must leave office," he says.

Some PAD supporters want King Bhumipol, a constitutional monarch who has long been a guarantor of political stability, to step in. In 1992, Bhumipol intervened after months of antigovernment street protests ended in a massacre by troops. A royally appointed government was credited with steering the country back to normality.

Korn Chatikavanij, deputy leader of the opposition Democrat Party, says the government's refusal to dissolve parliament or negotiate with the PAD has created a dangerous stalemate. "The only force that could tip the scales one way or another is the military," he says.

Until now, the military has stayed out of the crisis. Samak has aligned himself closely with the current Army chief, who has ruled out staging a coup to end the crisis.

These tensions are belied by the atmosphere at the compound, where middle-class families picnic on ceremonial gardens that usually play host to foreign dignitaries and civil servants.

Outdoor market stalls sell clothes, souvenirs, snacks, and camp chairs. Rows of temporary toilets and showers offer relief to round-the-clock demonstrators.

But there's also a mood of fatalism among supporters who recall past political showdowns. "We don't worry about violence. We come in peace. But we're ready for anything," says Marut Asdorn, a truck-company owner.

The Government and the UN backing the poor farmers

Cambodge Soir

02-09-2008

In a press release dated 30th of August from the Xinhua press agency, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and Chan Sarun, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries announced a joint action in favour of the poor farmers.

The aid project in favour of the disadvantaged Cambodian farmers is the result of the cooperation between the Minister Chan Sarun and the FAO representative, Omar Salah Ahmed. It is part of the program “Initiative concerning rising food prices”, launched in December 2007 by the FAO, aiming to solve the global food crisis by promoting local production. It’s also being carried out in the framework of the technical cooperation program (TCP).

A rice seed distribution ceremony was held last Thursday under the presence of both men in the Bati district, Takeo province, outlining the main goals of this project. Besides seeds, petrochemical fertilisers will be handed out to the most disadvantaged farmers. These products became indeed difficult to obtain due to the oil crisis. The project spreads out over two seasons: the rainy season, from July to September 2008 and the dry season, from November 2008 until January 2009.

It is urgent to ensure affordable prices and a sufficient local production for the population. However, the FAO has more plans. It wishes to launch a larger program in order to substantially improve the productivity and the methods of preservation on the Cambodian countryside.

The NEC should announce the official election results tomorrow


Cambodge Soir

02-09-2008

The National Election Committee is waiting for a confirmation from the Constitutional Council in order to officially announce the definitive election results, which could happen today.

According to Tep Nitha, General Secretary of the NEC, the Constitutional Council should inform him on Monday that he has solved all the complaints regarding the elections. Tep Nitha specifies that “as a result, the NEC will be able to announce the election results from Tuesday morning onwards”. Keo Phalla, in charge of the complaints office, declares that hundreds of complaints made during the election campaign have been solved. He reveals that he “now takes care of administrative formalities such as the drafting of lists of elected representatives…”

No less than 258 complaints had been submitted to the NEC during the election period, followed by 205 complaints during the election process and the ballot counting, and by five complaints after the announcement of the preliminary results. During this same period, the Constitutional Council received six, then three complaints respectively. All have been solved.

The definitive results, ready to be announced by the NEC, should thus not differ from the preliminary results, in other words a landslide victory for the CPP. The SRP and HRP have decided to submit their dispute in front of international courts. They spoke to the 1991 Paris Agreements signatories, particularly to the co-chairmen like France and Indonesia, with the hope of receiving support. Both opposition parties accuse the CPP of election fraud. They’re demanding a revote in several polling stations.

Civic Parties’ freedom of expression, the KRT’s pas de deux

Cambodge Soir

02-09-2008

Thanks to a directive, and starting from today, everyone will know everything about the do’s and the don’ts before the Pre-trial Chamber.

The civic parties which aren’t represented by a lawyer will have the possibility to speak out on their own behalf before the Pre-trial Chamber “when their interests differ from the ones of the prosecution”. Whenever they wish to take the floor during a hearing, they’ll have to submit a written request and indicate the motives and content of their intervention, at least ten days before the hearing. The reason is to respect “the right of the victims to truth, justice and the fair rights of each party”.

There is no ambiguity concerning the lawyers and prosecutors. However, some uncertainties existed regarding the freedom of expression of the civic parties. The President, Prak Kimsan, has solved the situation in a directive from the 29th of August, with reference to the intervention of civic parties which are not represented by a lawyer during the hearings.

A text following the hearing of Ieng Sary in July, during which Seng Theary, a civic party, had dismissed her lawyer in order to testify on her own behalf. This strategy aims at getting round the refusal of the magistrates, while this practice had been allowed during previous hearings. In a decision dating from last week, the Pre-trial Chamber confirmed the refusal of the magistrates, stating that the July hearing of Ieng Sary wouldn’t be postponed.

Judges must not encroach on civil party rights, local organizations say

The Post.blog
Posted by Elena in ECCC
As the Khmer Rouge Tribunal's fourth plenary session opened Monday, civil society groups expressed concern that judges could use the week-long conference to limit civil parties' rights at the court.

"Despite initially adopting a progressive approach, the Pre-Trial Chamber's treatment of civil party participation has been restrictive of late," according to a statement from DC-Cam. "... The Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee (CHRAC) has expressed concern that the judges may amend the Internal Rules at the Plenary to limit civil parties' rights."

Included on the plenary agenda are "a number of amendments to the Internal Rules, and revisions to Practice Directions" related to issues such as transcripts of proceedings, scope of appeals and legal representation of Civil Parties, Kong Srim, president of the Supreme Court Chamber, said during a press conference Monday.

"The Rules are the framework under which we can deliver fair and open justice for the people of Cambodia," continued Judge Sylvia Cartwright. "As the process evolves, it is often necessary to amend or even add rules to ensure we can do just this."
But representatives from CHRAC hope amendments aren't too drastic when it comes to civil party participation.

Both Cambodian Law and the ECCC Internal Rules "permit victims to play an active role in the legal proceedings with full procedural rights, similar to those afforded to the charged person," according to a CHRAC statement issued Friday. "These participation rights afford the key beneficiaries of ECCC proceedings -- the victims -- direct access to justice and the opportunity to present their personal experiences, views and concerns."

As of July 30, the ECCC's Victim's Unit has received 1,743 complaints and civil party applications, the CHRAC statement continues.

Thus, a strong desire for participation exists. Perhaps too strong, argue those who think extensive civil party participation could delay and hamper tribunal proceedings.

The tension reached a flashpoint in July when civil party Theary Seng attempted to address the Pre-Trial Chamber in person during the hearing of Ieng Sary. In a split decision, the chamber denied her the chance to speak. Her subsequent application for reconsideration was recently denied by the court. However, the court did issue separate directions to unrepresented civil parties, saying that they could speak at pre-trial proceedings if they requested permission at least 10 days in advance.

"The challenge facing the Plenary Session's participants is to find a meaningful way of organizing the effective participation of a potentially large number of victims," the CHRAC statement reads. Joint legal representation and time limits for oral submissions can help achieve this goal.

"The court can regulate civil party participation without limiting the rights of victims, such as the right to speak in person," according to the CHRAC statement. "Thus, there is no need to restrict the rights of victims."

Cambodia: Tribunal Worries About Corruption

U.N.-assisted tribunal's judges, Motoo Noguchi, center, of Japan, sits between Cambodians Sim Rith, left, and Ya Narin, right, during a meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Monday, 1 Sept 2008. (Photo courtesy: AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

2008-09-02

PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA: A judge for Cambodia's genocide tribunal urged colleagues on Monday to aggressively investigate corruption allegations, saying such charges undermine the body's efforts to obtain justice for victims of the Khmer Rouge.

Accusations of graft have been leveled at the U.N.-assisted tribunal twice in the past two years and earlier this year caused donors to temporarily hold back more than US$300,000 for the monthly payroll for 250 Cambodian staff members.

Silvia Cartwright, a judge from New Zealand, called on the court to spare no effort in dealing with any future corruption issues at a planning meeting for the body, which is moving toward convening its first trial.

The tribunal is tasked with seeking justice for the atrocities committed by the communist Khmer Rouge, whose radical policies caused some 1.7 million deaths when the group was in power in 1975-79.

Cartwright, in her speech opening the meeting, described corruption in the ranks as "one of the major issues that has been troubling for all the judges.

The upcoming trials "are so important for the people of Cambodia (and) must not be tainted by corruption," she said.

In 2007, allegations arose that Cambodian nationals on the tribunal staff had paid for their jobs.

An investigation ended inconclusively, though procedures were changed to safeguard against such corruption. In June of this year, charges of kickbacks surfaced again. Salaries were initially withheld but paid once a probe, which is still under way, began.

Those working in the tribunal's Cambodian component dismissed the allegations as unsubstantiated. Tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath said that Cambodian staff members are committed to curbing any corrupt acts.

"We do not want to hear such allegations again as they can be quite troubling for the court," he said Monday (1 Sept).

He said during this week's meeting, the judges and prosecutors plan to make some amendments to the tribunal's guiding rules.

At this week's meeting, judges and prosecutors will make some changes to the tribunal's rules and discuss "weak and strong points" of the court as it prepares for its first trial, that of Kaing Guek Eav, one of five suspects in custody. Kaing Guek Eav ran the S-21 prison, which was the Khmer Rouge's largest torture facility.

The trial of the 66-year-old, also known as Duch, had been expected to open in late September.

But there are fears it could be delayed after the prosecutors decided to appeal the recent official order for him to stand trial. They want to have more charges added against Duch, who has already been charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes.

It is not clear how long it will take to rule on the prosecutors' appeal.

(By KER MUNTHIT/ AP)

YAMAHA MOTOR SETS UP ASSEMBLY, SALES OPS IN CAMBODIA

TOKYO, Sep 02, 2008 (AsiaPulse via COMTEX)

Yamaha Motor Co. (TSE:7272) said Monday that it has established a Cambodian assembly and sales unit that will roll out motorcycles using parts produced at a facility in neighboring Thailand.

Yamaha has a 70 per cent stake in Yamaha Motor Cambodia Co., which was set up in Phnom Penh on Sunday. Capitalized at about 1.2 billion yen (US$11.1 million), the unit is 20 per cent-owned by trading house Toyota Tsusho Corp. (TSE:8015), with the other 10 per cent held by local trading company Kong Nuon Import & Export Co.

This new unit is to acquire more than 90,000 sq. meters of land and will spend about 1 billion yen to construct a new factory on it by July 2009. This facility is expected to assemble 30,000 motorcycles in 2010.

According to Yamaha, the Cambodian motorcycle market totaled about 130,000 units in 2007 but is projected to grow to more than 500,000 units by 2015.

(Nikkei)

Cambodian tribunal worries about corruption

International Herald Tribune
The Associated Press
Published: September 1, 2008

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: A judge for Cambodia's genocide tribunal urged colleagues on Monday to aggressively investigate corruption allegations, saying such charges undermine the body's efforts to obtain justice for victims of the Khmer Rouge.

Accusations of graft have been leveled at the U.N.-assisted tribunal twice in the past two years and earlier this year caused donors to temporarily hold back more than US$300,000 for the monthly payroll for 250 Cambodian staff members.

Silvia Cartwright, a judge from New Zealand, called on the court to spare no effort in dealing with any future corruption issues at a planning meeting for the body, which is moving toward convening its first trial.

The tribunal is tasked with seeking justice for the atrocities committed by the communist Khmer Rouge, whose radical policies caused some 1.7 million deaths when the group was in power in 1975-79.

Cartwright, in her speech opening the meeting, described corruption in the ranks as "one of the major issues that has been troubling for all the judges.

The upcoming trials "are so important for the people of Cambodia (and) must not be tainted by corruption," she said.

In 2007, allegations arose that Cambodian nationals on the tribunal staff had paid for their jobs.

An investigation ended inconclusively, though procedures were changed to safeguard against such corruption. In June of this year, charges of kickbacks surfaced again. Salaries were initially withheld but paid once a probe, which is still under way, began.

Those working in the tribunal's Cambodian component dismissed the allegations as unsubstantiated. Tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath said that Cambodian staff members are committed to curbing any corrupt acts.

"We do not want to hear such allegations again as they can be quite troubling for the court," he said Monday.

He said during this week's meeting, the judges and prosecutors plan to make some amendments to the tribunal's guiding rules.

At this week's meeting, judges and prosecutors will make some changes to the tribunal's rules and discuss "weak and strong points" of the court as it prepares for its first trial, that of Kaing Guek Eav, one of five suspects in custody. Kaing Guek Eav ran the S-21 prison, which was the Khmer Rouge's largest torture facility.

The trial of the 66-year-old, also known as Duch, had been expected to open in late September.

But there are fears it could be delayed after the prosecutors decided to appeal the recent official order for him to stand trial. They want to have more charges added against Duch, who has already been charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes.

It is not clear how long it will take to rule on the prosecutors' appeal.

Fight to Save Cambodian Dolphin Continues

Or Channy, Executive Director of the Cambodia Rural Development Team

By Rory Byrne
Kratie,Cambodia
01 September 2008

Byrne report - Download (MP3) Byrne report - Listen (MP3)

Once upon a time, the Mekong River from Laos to Vietnam was teaming with thousands of freshwater dolphins, before more than thirty years of warfare and over-fishing nearly killed them off. But a recent study by the World Wildlife Fund found just 71 left, living in a short stretch of river from northern Cambodia to southern Laos. An effort to protect the endangered species by way of an eco-tourism project was begun several years ago, but as Rory Byrne reports for VOA from Kratie, Cambodia, is it too little, too late?

This small boat chugging up the Mekong River in Cambodia represents one of the last hopes for saving the endangered Mekong Irrawaddy Dolphin. The boat is carrying so-called "voluntourists" to the isolated fishing village of Sambor in northern Cambodia, which is close to an important breeding ground for some of the last remaining Mekong freshwater dolphins.

The foreign tourists will live and work in the impoverished village on the banks of the river in an effort to help protect the dolphin's natural habitat, while at the same time helping to improve the lives of some of the world's poorest people.

Or Channy is Executive Director of the Cambodia Rural Development Team (CRDT), in Kratie, Cambodia.

"We are developing agriculture in the area, improving the health care system and digging wells and toilets. But most importantly we are trying to save the dolphins by providing local fishermen with an alternative way to earn a living through tourism," he said.

Tourists pay about $60 for their three day stay in the village most of which goes directly into the pockets of local people.

In a country where almost almost half the people earn about a dollar a day, villagers here can earn $3 per tourist per night for sleeps overs, plus $2 for every meal.

In return for earning an income from tourism, the villagers work to conserve the Irrawaddy dolphin's natural habitat. They have constructed fish farms in the village to help conserve the dolphin's dwindling food supply. Fishing with nets and explosives in the river has been banned while at the same time villagers are being encouraged to view the dolphins as an important natural asset that can help attract growing numbers of tourists.

In the past, people cared little for the mammals, says local historian Sok Sim:

"In the early 1970's there was a lot of bombing in this area and many dolphins were killed. Others died later at the hands of the local people who considered them to be useless fish because they could not eat them. They just shot them for fun."

While staying in the village, the tourists help to develop the local economy by working on development projects such as digging toilets or planting rice to help alleviate the villager's over-reliance on fishing.

When the sun gets too hot for outdoor work, tourists can teach the local children some words of English. Local people say they are delighted with the scheme. Srey Bern is the President of the local Development Committee:

"There are a lot of benefits to having foreigners stay in our village. In the first place we can learn a lot from them - they give us new ideas and we can learn about their culture. The extra money helps a lot but for me it is not the most important thing," he said.

Grace Byrnes, a tourist from Melbourne Australia, says the experience is invaluable for everyone.

"It's a really great experience and something that you're not going to do everyday. You can see that any type of help that you offer is really appreciated and it's something that I'd definitely recommend for anyone who wants to come over to Cambodia," said Byrnes.

Despite an initial spike in dolphin numbers reported in the months after the scheme was introduced, it remains unclear whether it will have any lasting impact in saving the remaining dolphins.

Scientists say a deadly new mystery disease seems to be killing off the dolphin's babies which is threatening to undo much of the projects good work.

There are real fears that the disease, which some blame on chemicals from gold-mining in the area, could soon wipe out the species completely.

But whether the dolphins can be saved or not, the conservation project is at least helping to improve the lives of some of the world's poorest people while at the same time offering tourists, and local people, a glimpse at completely different way of life.

Cambodia and South Africa Start to Improve Cooperation in Economy and Commerce

Posted on 2 September 2008
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 576

“Phnom Penh: A discussion between Mr. Ouch Borith, secretary of state of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Mr. Douglas Harvey Monroe Gibson, the ambassador of the Republic of South Africa [to Thailand], showed that the governments of both countries, Cambodia and South Africa, want to improve bilateral cooperation in the field of economy and commerce.

“Mr. Ouch Borith said that considering the planned bilateral cooperation in economy and commerce between both countries, the South African ambassador said that the government of South Africa wants to ask the government of Cambodia to open an honorary consulate in Cambodia as the first step to strengthen and to expand the economic and commercial cooperation.

“The Ambassador said that on 14 and 15 December 2008, he will lead a delegation to attend a trade exhibition in Phnom Penh. South Africa will show red wine and white wine produced in South Africa for sale in Cambodia.

“In the meantime, Mr. Ouch Borith reported to the South African ambassador about economic growth, political stability, and especially, the results of the recent fourth term parliamentary elections in Cambodia.

“The Ambassador said that South Africa has only sightly over 5% economic growth, and he highly assessed that Cambodia has strong economic growth, particularly in 2005 with more than 13%.

“The South African Ambassador went on to comment on the recent fourth term parliamentary elections, although he was in Bangkok, but he observed the election in Cambodia, that the elections were well organized and were free, fair and non-violent, which was a very important step towards implementing democracy in Cambodia.”

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.16, #4682, 31-1.8-9.2008
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:Monday, 1 September 2008

SBI Opens Bank in Cambodia

Tokyo, Sept 1, 2008 (Jiji Press) - SBI Holdings Inc. <8473> opened a bank in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Monday, becoming the first Japanese financial company to launch banking operations in the Southeast Asian country.

Phnom Penh Commercial Bank Ltd., owned 40 pct by SBI and 57 pct by South Korea's Hyundai Swiss, initially focuses on deposit-taking business. It plans to expand into such fields as real estate-related financing and financing for foreign firms operating in Cambodia.

Star-Cell to go national by 2009, CEO says

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Kay Kimsong
Monday, 01 September 2008

MOBILE operator Star-Cell says it aims to increase its coverage to all 24 provinces by 2009 from eight currently, according to CEO Adam Cabot.

He said that Star-Cell would add three provinces in the very near future for its nearly 100,000 subscribers. The company operates on the 1800MHz frequency.

The base stations would be owned and operated by Star-Cell. Industry sources say a base station costs about US$30,000 to build.

Cambodia's mobile penetration rate is about 25 percent, and has grown by about 15 percent per year, according to industry figures.

Cabot said that Cambodia's mobile market has room for expansion.

"Our subscriber base in growing at roughly 35 percent monthly," he wrote in an email.

Cabot said that the telecom market in Cambodia is highly competitive, but that growth is expected to increase. The company recently teamed up with Ericsson to become the first-ever company to introduce solar-powered base stations. ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY GEORGE MCLEOD

Phnom Penh dredging plan gets green light from government

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by George McLeod
Monday, 01 September 2008

Conservationists warn of a lack of transparency, saying operation to widen Mekong River should have undergone public consultation

LOCAL developer Brothers Investment Group (BIG) has been granted permission from the Phnom Penh Autonomous Port and two government ministries to dredge the Mekong and build barriers along the riverside, in a massive project to make the waterway more accessible to large boats.

But conservationists say the US$300 million operation was never put to public scrutiny and did not appear to have enough authorisation from the government.

BIG has obtained permits from the ministries of Water Resources and Public Works and Transport, as well as from the port, which will "manage this project in co-operation [with BIG]", according to a document signed by port director Hei Bavy.

"This development plan ... will turn this area into an economic zone," the document said. "Especially to prevent the threat from flooding during the rainy season."

Another letter signed by Deputy Prime Minister Seng Lim Nauv says the Brothers Group would "manage and extend the port operation zone from Chaktomuk to Neak Leung and Chaktomuk-Tonle Bat along the Mekong River".

A third letter signed by Senate President Chea Sim states that the project would include "develop[ing a] caisson wall to prevent the continued soil erosion on [the] Mekong and Bassac River."

The project would be supported by World Link Japan and the Development Bank of Japan, according to documents.

But an official from a leading conservation group said that environmental and civil society organisations had not been notified of the dredging project.

" OUR NUMBER-ONE CONCERN IS IMPROVING PEOPLE’S LIVES WITH THIS PROJECT "

"We have heard rumours about a dredging operation, but have seen nothing disclosed so far.... A project of this scope would definitely require public consultation," said the official, who did not want to be named. "We know that there is a broader plan to dredge the [Mekong] to support the mining industry in the north and allow large container ships to travel up the river....There has been no transparency around these operation."

Documents seen by the Post contained no permit from the Ministry of Environment, which the conservationist said would be required for a project involving major dredging operations in the Mekong.

A spokesman for Kennertec, a Korean mining company with a concession in Preah Vihear province, said that plans have been afoot to dredge the Mekong, but that they involve Hyundai Group and not BIG.

BIG chairman David Chanaiwa was not available for comment, but in an interview last week, he said that his company had carefully studied the environmental impact of the dredging project, and had produced an environmental impact assessment.

"Our number-one concern is improving people's lives with this project," he said. Chanaiwa said that erosion from dredging the river is a serious concern for his company and he urged the government to allocate $300 million to reinforce the banks.

Port director Hei Bavy said in an earlier interview that the port would partner with the government and private companies to dredge the Mekong. The project would involve digging a seven -metre channel and clearing about five million cubic metres of sand, he told the Post.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY KAY KIMSONG

Regional tourism officials vow to protect environment

BRENDAN BRADY; Energy giant Sokimex is planning an expansive resort on the top of Bokor mountain, pictured here.

VAST REGION
The Greater Mekong Subregion includes about 320 million people, the vast majority of whom live subsistence lifestyles in rural areas. Officials hope that eco-tourism would bring both jobs and infrastructure to these communities and lift them out of poverty.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Kay Kimsong
Monday, 01 September 2008

Greater Mekong Subregion members to draft comprehensive tourism development plan that highlights eco-tourism

Regional tourism and environmental officials have agreed to better protect their countries' natural resources in a bid to encourage eco-tourism, Tourism Minister Thong Khon told the Post Sunday following a meeting last week of members from the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS).

"All beaches, mountains, protected forest areas, bird and animal sanctuaries are to be protected for a long-term and sustainable development," Thong Khon said.

He added that participants at the GMS meeting pledged to work together towards a comprehensive tourism development plan.

"As tourism continues to play an important role in the development of Cambodia, it is essential to secure a framework that allows for dialogue across the instrumental sectors of tourism, environment and the private sector," said Arjun Goswami, country director for the Asian Development Bank, which was present at the meeting.

"I am very encouraged to see that steps are being taken to further strengthen this collaboration," he said.

The Kingdom's tourism sector continues to post annual growth of around 20 percent, bringing millions of visitors and much-needed revenue to the country.

But some observers warn that rapid growth in the sector may come at the expense of Cambodia's natural attractions, which risk over-development if the sector is not properly regulated.

Some large resort projects in protected areas or national parks have already raised the alarm for some.

However, their supporters say these can be integrated with their surroundings, while also bringing jobs and infrastructure to some of Cambodia's most isolated areas.

"Cambodia has so many untouched areas," Thong Khon said.

"Fifty percent of world travelers target natural areas, so eco-tourism must be promoted," he added.

"Angkor Wat remains Cambodia's most popular attraction, but there are many eco-tourism destinations in the coastal areas or in the provinces near Vietnam and Laos that need to be protected.

"Om Pharin, vice president of the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents (CATA), said the private sector was working with GMS members to broaden the region's tourism sector to take advantage of all that the countries have to offer.

"Not every tourist loves temples or other cultural attractions," Om Pharin said.

"Nature tourism is more attractive" to many people.

The GMS is comprised of Cambodia, China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam.

Laos, Cambodia firm up investment, tourism ties

HENG CHIVOAN; Members of a business delegation from Laos pose for a photo in Phnom Penh during a swing through the region.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Kay Kimsong
Monday, 01 September 2008

Officials from both countries expect new international checkpoints will help improve relations by expanding cross-border tourism and trade

CAMBODIA and Laos have agreed to open two new international checkpoints in an effort to boost tourism, trade and investment opportunities, officials from both countries told the Post.

The checkpoints will be located along the border between Cambodia's Strung Treng province and Champassak province in Laos, and between Ratanakkiri province and Laos' Attapeu province, said Sonexay Siphandone, governor of Champassak province.

"We are preparing for two international gateways in areas where we currently have few border administration offices," Sonexay said during an interview at the Laotian embassy in Phnom Penh.

He said both countries will build new terminals, border police offices and facilities for all related authorities.

The Cambodia-Laos-Vietnam (CLV) program is pushing for expanded service sector cooperation between Cambodian and Laos by making it easier for tourist and commercial vehicles to cross the border.

"In the future, we will build a modern international gateway for tourism, trade and investment," said Sonexay, who recently led a 90-member delegation on a caravan tour from Laos through Siem Reap and Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City and back to Laos - a trip covering more than 2,200 kilometres.

" The more international border crossings open, the more trade will increase. "

The tour aimed to strengthen relationships and exchange experiences, as well as to explore agricultural trade opportunities, the Laotian governor said.

"We've never tried to organise a proper exchange program like this before, but now we're paving the way for greater development."

Road links between Cambodia and Laos have improved in recent years with the linking of National Road 17 in Stung Treng and Laos' National Road 13 in Champassak.

"We are urging investors, traders and companies to forge stronger business relationships," Sonexay said. "We bring tourists from Cambodia to Vientiane and Luang Prabang."

Cambodia and Laos currently allow tourists and residents with automobiles to cross each others' borders visa-free.

"We have provided easy access between the countries," he said, adding that trade relations will improve once additional agreements are implemented. "The more international border crossings open, the more trade will increase."

Om Pharin, vice president of the Cambodia Association of Travel Agents (CATA), said his organisation, which includes 166 travel agencies, is interested in promoting package tour sales for local residents and foreign travellers going to Laos.

"We have waited many years for this kind of opportunity, and now we have the infrastructure to support it," Om Pharin said.

He said both nations should add more international checkpoints and encouraged authorities to improve their service sectors with more hotels, guesthouses and other tourist-related services.

The CLV and Cambodia-Thailand-Laos (CTL) program development zones will be key to future agreements across the region, Om Pharin said.

New financial ties are also in the works. In Channy, the CEO of Acleda Bank, which recently opened three new branches in Laos, said there is considerable room for growth in the banking and business sectors, and that growth would be linked to improvements in tourism services and transport infrastructure.

Trade revenue between Cambodia and Laos currently stands at only about US$1 million, but the tourism sector could bolster this number significantly in the future, according to a commerce official.

Kong Sophearak, director of the Statistics and Tourism Department of the Ministry of Tourism, said Laotian visitors to Cambodia have sharply increased this year. In the first seven months of 2008, some 27,161 tourists visited Cambodia from Laos, an increase of more than 167 percent over the same period last year, when that number was 10,144.

"I think improvements to road access between the two countries and an increase in the availability of tour packages are the main reasons for the spike in tourism," Kong Sophearak said.

Tourism remains one of the Kingdom's few viable industries, with two million visitors bringing in more than $1 billion last year.

The government hopes to attract three million people annually by 2010.

KR victims to file fresh complaints

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Vong Sokheng
Monday, 01 September 2008

About 100 Khmer Rouge victims plan to file more complaints against the five former regime leaders in the custody of the UN-backed tribunal. On Friday, local rights group Adhoc held a seminar to discuss reparations for regime survivors. "On behalf of the victims, Adhoc appeals to the ECCC, the Cambodian government and the international community to hear the voice of the victims of the KR regime and reflect on the needs of victims," the group said in a press release. Survivor Chum Mey, 77, said by phone that Khmer Rouge victims must exercise their right to seek individual compensation. "Poor victims who file complaints against the former KR leaders should get a small amount of money," Chum Mey said. "We are poor and our mental health has suffered from the tortures of their regime."

Protests force temple scale-down

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Thet Sambath
Monday, 01 September 2008

Protests in Bangkok have forced the withdrawal of 300 military police from Preah Vihear temple, according to Cambodian military based on the border. "About 300 soldiers withdrew from the temple on Friday," said RCAF Brigade 12 Commander Srey Doek. "They were here to prevent Thai protesters from entering our temple, but now they can't come here because they are busy with the demonstrations in Bangkok." But Ho Bunthy, deputy commander of Border Military Unit 402, added that Thai soldiers had closed the gate at Ta Moan Thom temple and were keeping Cambodians from visiting the disputed site.

Easy does it

VANDY RATTANA

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Vandy Rattana
Monday, 01 September 2008

ar theft is increasingly common in Phnom Penh and some business owners, tired of being blamed by (former) car owners , are taking no chances. This warning sign telling people to watch their car is outside a construction site on Sihanouk Boulevard.

Khmer rouge: KRT to hear rape claim

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Georgia Wilkins
Monday, 01 September 2008

A transgendered survivor of the Khmer Rouge is to lodge a complaint to the Extraordinary Chambers Wednesday in the first attempt to hold the regime's former leaders to account for sexual violence.

Silke Stuzinsky, a lawyer representing victims of the regime, said the complaint would address the rape of a man who later underwent a full sex change. "She was punished for having committed moral offences and for behaving as a woman," Stuzinsky said in a statement issued Friday. "She was threatened with death if she refused to marry a woman, and the Khmer Rouge ordered the performance of sexual intercourse as part of the marital obligation."

Victim participation is expected to be an issue at the fourth plenary session of the court's judicial officers, which begins today and runs until Friday.

FAO donates seed and fertiliser in bid to prevent food crisis

LORD OF THE PESTS
Since crossing over from Vietnam, the so-called brown plant hopper (nilaparvata lugens) has wreaked havoc on Cambodia’s rice fields. Around 10,000 hectares of rice paddies were lost to the pests last year, said CEDAC President Yaing Sang Koma.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sebastian Strangio and Vong Sokheng
Monday, 01 September 2008

An emergency relief effort is under way to boost agricultural production and head off food shortages resulting from drought, pests

THE United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) will distribute US$200,000 worth of seed and fertiliser in a bid to raise domestic agricultural production and ease food costs, it has announced.

In partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries (MAFF), the FAO plans to distribute 56 tonnes of rice seed and 140 tonnes of fertilisers to poor households in Takeo province as part of its Initiative on Soaring Food Prices project.

"Soaring food prices have hit this country particularly hard.... The price of foods and other commodities are now well beyond the reach of consumers," said Minister Chan Sarun and FAO country representative Omar Salah Ahmed in a joint statement Thursday.

Emergency relief

Srun Sokhom, deputy director of agronomy and agricultural land improvement at MAFF, said that 2,800 rural families in Treang, Bati and Samraong districts would receive emergency rice seeds in order to alleviate the effects of drought and pests on the year's remaining harvests.

"We know that the impact of brown plant hoppers and drought was huge, so we are contributing emergency seed to vulnerable farmers," he said.

The FAO's distributions are intended to boost production during the current season and in the dry season harvest next year.

The relief package also includes 70 tonnes each of the petroleum-based fertilisers diammonium phosphate and urea, which due to spiralling global oil costs are beyond the reach of many Cambodian farmers.

Yaing Sang Koma, president of agricultural NGO CEDAC, said he did not oppose the FAO program, but added that increasing agricultural output would require longer-term solutions.

"I think they should also combine this with other activities and let farmers know that chemical fertiliser is not enough to increase harvests," he said, adding that education was the key to long-term development. "The program should be combined with education about rice-planting techniques," he said.

But Srun Sokhom said Takeo was hit particularly hard by drought and pests, adding that short-term relief was vital to avoid later food shortages. "In the three districts, we estimated 8,000 hectares of rice paddy were affected by drought and brown plant hoppers," he said.

"If we cannot help the farmers soon, individual households will face increasing food insecurity in the coming year."

More students failing their exams

VANDY RATTANA; Students in Phnom Penh wait to get their results Friday.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chhay Channyda
Monday, 01 September 2008

Despite rampant cheating, most students only manage the lowest possible passing score on their high school finals. Bribery allegations call into question whether grades reflect capacity

FEWER students passed their high school exams this year compared with 2007, according to results released throughout the country Friday - despite widespread cheating.

Some 70.7 percent of the 55,178 students who participated received passing marks, compared with 72.7 percent of students who passed last year.

However, with allegations of widespread bribery in the classroom, many question whether the results reflect students' real capacity.

According to the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports statistics signed by Ke Nay Leang, general director of education, Phnom Penh students had the highest pass rate in the country at 84.9 percent, while Stung Treng students had the lowest at just 39.6 percent.

Only two students in the country succeeded in getting grade A, the highest mark. Some 432 students got grade B, 3,289 got grade C, 14,769 got grade D and 36,706 students got grade E, according to statistics.

Chroeng Lim Sry, director of the Department of High Schools at Ministry of Education, told the Post Sunday that the lowest scores received this year were in the subject of Khmer literature. "While not many students received good scores for Khmer writing, they usually did OK in other subjects."

Chroeng Lim Sry acknowledged that cheating presented a problem during this year's exams. "We had over 79,000 students taking exams but only about 10,000 proctors to supervise," he said.

"We couldn't prevent cheating entirely, but we will punish those teachers who allowed for irregularities by suspending them from being proctors again."

Cheating, bribery rampant

Rong Chhun, president of Cambodian Independent Teachers Association, said that the fact that the majority of students passed shows a lack of strict measures to curb bribery. "There were many irregularities during the exam period," he said. "The exam results sometimes do not reflect students' real capacity.

"Even though there is no concrete evidence of corruption, the fee for passing an exam can range anywhere from 7,000 riels in the provinces to 12,000 riels in Phnom Penh, Rong Chhun added.

Chroeng Lim Sry said that while some students have paid bribes, he could guarantee that no formal cheat fees exist. He added that during exam day, two teachers were fired for taking money in exchange for test answers.

New 600km road to link four provinces along Thai border

ROAD TO SECURITY
Cambodian officials announced early August that military engineers would build roads at the Preah Vihear and Ta Moan Thom temple complexes in an attempt to improve border security in response to the six-week old standoff with Thailand.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Thet Sambath
Monday, 01 September 2008

Military engineers are set to build a new road to encourage agricultural development and improve security along the Thai border.

MILITARY officials hope a new road will bolster local populations and improve security in four provinces along the Thai-Cambodian border.

The more than 600km road will link Banteay Meanchey, Oddar Meanchey, Preah Vihear and Stung Treng provinces.

"We will build the road through the four provinces as soon as the rainy season passes," Kvan Siem, head of general command headquarters for military engineers, said last week.

"I received orders from Prime Minister Hun Sen to build the road to help people settle their homes along the border and farm their lands," said Kvan Siem, adding that he completed a study of the projected gravel road earlier in the month.

He said he will meet with Hun Sen to discuss the study but refused to say how much the road would cost or how it would be funded.

"These areas are full of forests, mountains and mines, so construction will not be easy," Kvan Siem said. "Only military engineers are experienced enough to do it."

He said engineers will initially construct a gravel road that would later be paved. "It will enhance communication and transport along the border and between provinces."

The area was the scene of brutal fighting between the Khmer Rouge and Vietnam up to 1989, as well as later conflicts in the civil war between the Khmer Rouge and Cambodian government forces that ended in 1998.

New tensions hit the region in July as Cambodian and Thai forces faced off over a boundary dispute at the Preah Vihear temple complex.

" [THE ROAD] HAS GREAT POTENTIAL FOR IMPROVING FARMING AND ... DEFNECE EFFORTS. "

The proposed road will run between one and four kilometres from the Thai border, with a second road planned closer to the border once Thailand and Cambodia complete negotiations over new border demarcations.

"[The road] has great potential for improving farming and national defence efforts," Kvan Siem said. "We will have people deployed along these areas after the road is built. Our border defence will be stronger because we will have more soldiers and local residents living together across the region."

He said the road is part of larger development plans that officials hope will modernise the border provinces and improve security.

"When the road is complete, more people will live here," Preah Vihear province Deputy Governor Long Sovann said. "They [and the military] will prevent any future encroachment and improve the nation's agricultural development."

Takeo librarians at forefront of school reading revolution

PRIYANKA BHONSULE Meas Siphen with some of the books in Moy U Sophea’s library.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Priyanka Bhonsule and Mom Kunthear
Monday, 01 September 2008

A six-day library management course teaches provincial librarians to bring the love for books to rural students

FIFTEEN librarians from high schools in Takeo province have descended upon Sok An Moy U Sophea High School for a six-day library management training course.

Im Mach, the assistant director at Kla Krohem High School who organised the course using funds from the New Zealand-based trust Books for Cambodia, was inspired to train librarians in his hometown after he attended a library-training course run by Societe d'Investissements en Participations last year.

"The main thing is to develop human resources. The librarians are interested - they concentrate, work hard and enjoy discussing what they learn."

One of the course attendees, Ngeth Saroeun, 36, said it was his first time studying about the workings of a library and how to become a better librarian. "I used to manage the library by following orders of my principal, and I didn't know how to persuade students to read books," he said.

Though he values the knowledge gained during the course, he said the training was just a first step. "I think that in order to improve students' knowledge we also need to improve the library."

Im Mach agreed, saying systematic organisation and training was important for a successful library. "This is a district-level course, but in the future, we may run it at a provincial level because it's very useful for schools and communities."

Looking to the future

Im Mach's wife, Meas Siphen, an English teacher at Sok An Moy U, said not all schools in Tram Kak district have libraries. She said most are just storage rooms, but the training course is laying groundwork for the future, adding that a recent book fair held by Hutt News/Books for Cambodia in New Zealand raised close to US$6,990 to buy more books and help with further training in Cambodia. "The Ministry of Education provides us with textbooks. Now we will be able to acquire more books that students are interested in reading."

" WE MAY RUN IT AT A PROVINCIAL LEVEL BECAUSE IT IS VERY USEFUL FOR SCHOOLS. "

The winners are the readers, and the delight of those rifling through books at Moy U Sophea's library is obvious. "Whenever I have free time, I come here. I like any books that are connected to law because I want to become a lawyer," said Sreymech Keo, 17.

Her fellow student Kimlay Leav, 17, said the previous library was crammed, which made it difficult to read.

National Library chairwoman Klot Vibolla said that while she does not know how many libraries exist in Cambodia, most schools now have a library.

"In the future all Cambodian schools will have a library because the government is paying attention to the education section."

Kingdom a haven for two rare primates

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Priyanka Bhonsule
Monday, 01 September 2008

SURPRISINGLY large populations of two globally threatened species of monkeys have been found in Mondulkiri's Seima Biodiversity Conservation Area, the US-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) said.

With an estimated 42,000 black-shanked douc langurs and 2,500 yellow-cheeked crested gibbons, all evidence suggests that Cambodia has the largest populations of the species in the world, said Edward Pollard, a WCS scientist, in a statement released Friday.

Before this discovery, the largest-known populations of the primates were believed to be in Vietnam, where the numbers of black-shanked douc langurs and yellow-cheeked crested gibbons hovers at around 600 and 200 respectively, said WCS.

While the total population of the two primates remains unknown, their numbers started to recover in 2002 following a joint program between WCS and the Cambodian government and have been stable since 2005.

WSC contributes the large primate numbers to successful management of the area, a cessation of logging and a gun confiscation programme. However, WSC researchers remain concerned that other looming threats, including agro-industrial plantations and commercial mining, will jeopardise recent successes.

The WCS's census was first presented at the 22nd International Primatological Society Congress, where another survey identified Cambodia as having the worst record for declining primate numbers, with 90 percent of species struggling to survive.

The survey covered an area of 789 square kilometres.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AFP

Burmese Troops on Alert over Border Dispute with Thailand

IRRAWADDY
By VIOLET CHO
Monday, September 1, 2008

Burmese military forces have reportedly stepped up security along a section of Burma’s border with Northern Thailand as the two countries discuss a disputed piece of territory there.

At a session of the Regional Border Committee (RBC) in Chiang Rai, Northern Thailand, the Burmese delegation demanded the return of Loilang, known in Thai as Doilang, a 32 square kilometre area of land once controlled by the Mong Tai Army but taken over by the Thai Army in 1987. The land is sandwiched between Monghsat in Burma and the Thai village of Mae Ai.

The Shan Herald Agency for News reported that the leader of the Burmese delegation, Maj-Gen Kyaw Phyoe, commander of Burmese forces in the Gold Triangle region, had accused Thailand of “violating the territorial integrity” of Burma during a speech delivered to local officials in Mongton township, Shan State.

Referring to Thailand’s dispute with Cambodia over the Preah Vihear temple. Kyaw Phyoe said: "Just as they (Thailand) have unilaterally taken possession of the Cambodian territory, they are doing the same at Loilang. The time will come when we'll have to deal with the issue properly.”

The English language daily The Bangkok Post reported that the issue has now been referred to the Thai and Burmese governments in the hope of resolving the dispute.

Opposition reshuffles leadership

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Meas Sokchea
Monday, 01 September 2008

Shift not related to National Assembly boycott, officials say

OPPOSITION party officials say a recent shake-up among top leaders is not due to divisions over their potential boycott of this month's National Assembly meeting to announce a new government.

The Sam Rainsy Party and the Human Rights Party have announced they will boycott the meeting, scheduled for September 24, over allegations of election fraud by the ruling Cambodian People's Party in last month's polls.

Nhek Vannara, deputy secretary general of the HRP, said the appointment of Yem Ponhearith in mid-August as the party's new secretary general was made because his background better conformed to the needs of the party.

Former HRP secretary general Ou Chanrath will become vice chairman of the party's discipline committee.

"We made this change not because of any problems in the party," Nhek Vannara said. "It is also not related to any potential boycott of the National Assembly.

"The Norodom Ranariddh Party announced that spokesman Muth Chantha will be replaced by Deputy Secretary General Suth Dina.

Suth Dina said he had no idea why the change was made and only recently heard about it from other party members.

"A letter announcing the change was sent to Prince Ranariddh last week, but I haven't seen a copy of it," Suth Dina said.

Former spokesman Muth Chantha told the Post on Sunday he did not know about the change either and could not speculate about the reason for it.

Meanwhile, SRP member Eng Chhay Eang resigned his position as secretary general.

Mu Sochua, SRP deputy secretary general, told the Post on Sunday that Eng Chhay Eang had previously informed the party of his decision but had not made it official until that day.

"I respect his decision because he made it for the benefit of the party," Mu Sochua said, though she could not elaborate on the reasons for his resignation.

Raising the bar

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Vandy Rattana
Monday, 01 September 2008

Students crowd around a list displaying their exam results in Phnom Penh on Friday. The pass rate has dropped since last year, but widespread cheating has officials concerned that even good results do not reflect students’ true capacity.

Many Factors Availed CPP Sweep: Monitors

The ruling Cambodian People's Party had among other assets a broad political organization to help its big win in July, election monitors say.

By Pin Sisovann, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
01 September 2008

The ruling Cambodian People's Party did even better than its own predictions in July's election, and monitors said in recent interviews it had done so by exploiting the election process and a position of advantage rather than an outright theft of votes.

The CPP dominated the polls in July, winning 90 of 123 National Assembly seats, more than enough to enact legislation, quorum and amend the constitution.

The opposition Sam Rainsy and Human Rights parties have accused CPP of stealing votes, but two top monitors said last week that the CPP was able to earn a high number of seats through myriad factors much more complicated.

These included loopholes in the election law, the deletion of voter names from registries, the abuse of administrative forms, widespread use of state assets and local authorities and the help of broadcast media, according to Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, and Hang Puthea, executive director of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia.

Koul Panha pointed out that the election law didn't stipulate a budget limit for campaigning, giving the CPP another advantage.

"A lot of upper-hand factors" have not been investigated, he said, "such as money and materials, giving out money to voters, support from local officials who knew which groups of people would vote for what party, messy voter lists and irregularities."

"The loopholes in the law and management of the election did not guarantee a fair election," he added.

The CPP also leveraged other advantages, such as a widespread political organization, the construction of infrastructure and a pre-election row with Thailand over Preah Vihear temple, both monitors said. Broadcasts on television and radio amplified these factors, they said.

"The CPP used the media to propagate its achievements and attract voters," Koul Panha said.
Commune and village chiefs were also a decisive factor this year, Hang Puthea said.

These authorities were able to exercise pressure on voters through a local ballot count, a new procedure this year that allowed them to identify opposition supporters, Hang Puthea said.

Local officials were able to instill bias by warning voters that the CPP would need to win in order for a community to have peace and security, he said.

Though many of the winning factors did not meet international standards for a fair and free election, both monitors said, the CPP also had legitimate reasons for winning seats.

These included economic achievements of the party, its grassroots political networks, powerful officials that solved some crises ahead of the election, and the party's ability to lure supporters away from its rivals.

National Election Committee Chairman Im Suosdey denied the CPP had unfair advantages in the election.

NEC officials followed election law without giving advantages to the CPP, he said, including in the recruitment of officials, the ballot count and throughout the complaints procedure.

Critics argue the NEC is dominated by a majority of CPP-appointed officials, and opposition leader Sam Rainsy said during hearings last week the Constitutional Council, which arbitrates appeals beyond the NEC, followed the CPP line as well.

"I don't think the election made any party gain the upper-hand over other parties," Im Sousdey said. "You claimed alleged upper-hand factors only after the election results had come out. It is not true. The NEC only abides by the law and doesn't want to give anyone the upper-hand."

Amendments to the election law will have to be done democratically, through legislation passed by the National Assembly, he said, and not through "groundless allegations" made by the losers of an election.

SRP lawmaker Son Chhay, however, said a biased NEC colluded with the ruling party to help it win, by allowing the use of state property and media in the election and not enacting a election finance law.

"The NEC is not independent," Son Chhay said. "It was created to help steal votes for the CPP. There is no neutral institution to file complaints with about the theft of votes. Going to the NEC, it is a puppet of the CPP. Going to Constitutional Council, it is the ruling party's puppet."

CPP lawmaker Chiem Yeap, who is also a member of the CPP's central committee, said the party had won its 90 seats legitimately.

Voters showed their gratitude to a party that liberated them from the Khmer Rouge, built peace, rebuilt the nation and its infrastructure and reduced poverty, he said.

"Let me ask you, where can a vote be stolen?" Chiem Yeap said. "The Sam Rainsy Party had agents who signed the proper electoral process report and party agents of all parties signed this to accept the election results."

The 90-seat win was a surprise, he said, but signaled a trend that could go on in the next commune elections and beyond. The party was looking for 84 or 85 seats this year, but it could win as many as 100 seats in the next general election, he said.

"As soon as I heard the NEC announcement of the unofficial result," he said, "tears of emotion came out of my eyes.