Saturday, 13 September 2008

Cambodian economy gets an additional US$ 24 million bonanza

Cambodge Soir


The American government announced a donation to help Cambodian economic development. The Agreement will be signed during John Negroponte’s visit.

Erin Soto, USAID mission director and Sok An, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Council of Ministers of Cambodia, will sign an agreement for US$ 26 million on behalf of their respective countries on Monday September 15. The ceremony will be presided over by John Negroponte, the US Deputy Secretary of State and Hun Sen, the Prime Minister of Cambodia. This amount aims at strengthening and developing the Cambodian economy. The US, through their Agency for International Development (USAID) will inject US$ 24 million, whereas the Cambodian government will commit US$ 2 million.

A four-year long agreement, it will facilitate growth. The USAID project for micro-companies and small and medium companies will be strengthened and enlarged to the private sector. The public domain will be included in the programme to guarantee a conducive background for companies and businesses.

USAID, in 2008, plans a US$ 57.5 million budget distributed through different programmes.

Thai soldiers encroach upon Cambodian territory

The Phnom Penh Post


This time they settled in a temple in the Dongrek Mountains, claiming it belongs to Thailand.

Thai military are on the ball; while the country is in a period of uncertainty, a hundred soldiers decided to take a short trip to Cambodia for two days. On Wednesday September around 6:30 pm, a detachment of soldiers invested the Kingdom at the Takrabey temple, located only 15 km from Ta Moan temple, in the mountains of Dongrek, in Oddor Meancheay province.

They regard the temple as being in the disputed free zone between the two countries and that it belongs to Thailand. The Thai soldier’s’ incursion occurred after a deployment of Cambodian soldiers around the temple.

Early Thursday afternoon, negotiations were held between both countries heads concluding in a modus vivendi. The Thai militaries agreed to evacuate the temple area and to withdraw to their territory subject to two conditions: that Cambodian soldiers also evacuate the zone and that guards can keep watch from time to time.

This new incident inspired comment from the spokesperson of the Council of Ministers. “Thailand is again invading, and as usual peaceful negotiations were held. The incident will be notified to the international community”, he explained.

Pillar of salt


The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Heng Chivoan
Saturday, 13 September 2008

A salt collector carries two panniers of salt out of a warehouse filled with raw, natural sea salt harvested in Kampot province last week. Exceptionally rainy weather this year has many in the salt business expecting record yields, raising hopes that the Kingdom may be able to export to markets overseas.

Shooting denied

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Vong Sokheng
Saturday, 13 September 2008

Thailand says its soldiers were not responsible for casualties in latest cross-border gunplay

THE Royal Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh released a statement Thursday denying that Thai soldiers were responsible for the injury of a Cambodian who they claimed crossed the Thai-Cambodian frontier to engage in illegal logging in Thailand's Trat province.

"The Thai border patrol soldiers are not aware of any injury to a Cambodian man," the embassy said, adding that on September 5 Thai soldiers were patrolling the border in an area known for its illegal logging and came across five men in Cambodian military uniforms, whom they tried to capture.

"The Thai soldiers asked the Cambodian men to stop, but they opened fire, and the soldiers counter-attacked. During the firefight, the Cambodian men escaped," the embassy statement said.

It also noted that after the Cambodians had fled, the Thai soldiers found four pieces of valuable hardwood, known in Khmer as beng.

Ly Vuoy, Samlot district police chief, told the Post that Morn Meuoth, a 37 year-old Cambodian soldier, was severely injured.

"We don't know about his condition at the moment," Ly Vuoy said. "It is difficult to say who made the mistake, but the incident occurred in the [border's] overlap area. The Thai soldiers should not have opened fire because of an accidental border-crossing."

60,000 hectares of land ceded to private company for rubber

The government signed contracts with 90 private companies between 1992 and August 2007, ceding 1.178 million hectares of land in 16 provinces. Of these, 37 contracts have been cancelled, with 300,000 hectares reclaimed.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Cheang Sokha
Saturday, 13 September 2008

The PM has signed off on the deal for K Thom and Kratie, which is part of the government's vast 'economic land concession' scheme

PRIME Minister Hun Sen has conceded nearly 60,000 hectares of government-owned forests in Kampong Thom and Kratie provinces to a private business owner, according to a letter from July.

The letter, dated July 10 and signed by the prime minister, outlined the government's plan to transfer control of 58,658 hectares of forest to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries for its Economic Land Concession program.

The identity of the private company expected to invest in the land has not been revealed, but Kampong Thom Governor Nam Tum said he has received a development proposal from the Thimas Resources Co, which hopes to invest in the land bordering Kratie province.

"We have not yet discussed details of the investment plan with the company," Nam Tum told the Post Thursday. "I'm not sure whether it is a local or foreign company, but they want to invest in rubber production.

"Nam Tum said provincial authorities have more than 200,000 hectares of land reserved for concessions to private business owners. Some 66,000 hectares have already been offered to companies producing rubber, cashews and acacia trees, and employing more than 2,000 local residents.

Ny Chakrya, head of monitoring for the human rights group Adhoc, expressed concern that recipients of land concessions will try to steal additional land from local farmers.

" People living near the development areas always suffer from such projects."

He said many residents have already tried to protest unlawful land seizures by companies but that local and military police have threatened or assaulted them on behalf of the companies.

Problems for residents

"Past experience shows that people living near the development areas always suffer from such projects," Ny Chakrya said. "Before concessions are given, the government should evaluate the impact on local residents and clearly demarcate the area given to the companies."

An agriculture ministry official, who asked to remain anonymous because he was not authorised to speak to the press, said seven companies have received concessions in Kratie province, while four others have received concessions in Kampong Thom.

"Any company that does not follow the terms of their contract will lose their concession and the land will be reserved for social concessions [to benefit local residents]," the official said.

Overseas agencies aid migrant workers

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by khoun leakhana
Saturday, 13 September 2008

CAMBODIA has sent roughly 20,000 labourers to work in South Korea, Malaysia and Thailand through a network of international employment agencies that protect them from exploitation, say officials at the Ministry of Labour.

Oum Mean, undersecretary of state at the ministry, said the government encourages Cambodian labourers to apply through such agencies, which would guarantee fair treatment while overseas.

"Our legal workers are protected," Oum Mean said Thursday, during a consultation meeting on the protection and promotion of the rights of migrant workers. "[But] those workers ... cheated into working illegally are faced with many problems." He added that about 90 percent of Cambodia's overseas labourers went through the proper channels.

But Sinapan Samydorai, convener of the Task Force on Asean migrant workers, said there were many challenges facing itinerant workers. "We have agencies at the grassroots level that educate people about the difficulties of the work," he said. "And then we let them make their own decisions."

Ministry official Nhem Kimhoy said that the Kingdom's 17 registered employment agencies have sent legal labourers to Malaysia since 1998, to South Korea since 2003 and to Thailand since 2006. "In 2009, Cambodia will also send labourers to work in Qatar," he added.

Larger-than-life comic breaks the mould

PHOTO SUPPLIED; Comedian Peng Paung (left) acts in a scene from the movie Mother’s Death. The comic actress has amassed a career spanning some 50 films and television appearances.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Mom Kunthear
Saturday, 13 September 2008

The actress known by the stage name of Peng Paung turns her looks to her advantage and forges a successful film and television comedy career

THIRTY-three-year-old Moeun Nimol, who goes by the stage name Peng Paung, has used her unconventional looks to her advantage, becoming one of the most famous female comedians in Cambodia.

"If you are looking for me and ask my real name, no one knows because I have a nickname and all the audiences know me as Peng Paung. If I used my real name, maybe I wouldn't have become famous," she said.

Peng Paung noted that there are about 20 professional female comedians in Cambodia, and she expressed admiration for all of them because most of them have helped her to be a better comedian.

"I've gotten a lot of wisdom and experience from the older generation of comedians," she added, noting that her favourite comedian was Mabnoya, a star from an older generation and "very fat like me", she said.

"I follow in her steps because I am as fat as her, and she was a famous comedy actress during the 1970s," she added.

"To be a female comedian is not so difficult because I have performed for many years, so I feel familiar with it," Peng Paung said. "But at first it was really difficult."

Men can't do it alone

"I am proud of myself because I can perform with and for male comedians. Male comedians cannot perform if they don't have a female comedian," she said.

" I really want feedback from audiences.… I don't know what they say behind my back. "

"Charlie Chaplin is my favourite international comedian because he is famous. He never spoke when he acted, but the audience laughed at his performances because of his mannerisms."

Peng Paung said she became interested in comedy about six years ago because her father was also a comedian.

"I learned how to perform from the older generation of comedians and producers who taught me how speak, perform and act," she said.

"I couldn't be an actress because my body is too fat. I could just perform as a bit-part actress."Peng Paung said after she performed in her first film, a number of movie production companies invited her to perform in their karaoke and movie productions.

"I have acted in more than 50 comedy movies, and I also often perform comedy on television," she said.

"I played on live television in 2003 and 2004, and I felt very nervous being live because I was afraid I would get my lines wrong and there are a lot of people watching me. I thought at least seven million people were watching me on television," she said.

Performing live on television

"Acting in a film is really different than television and a lot easier than performing live on the spot. I can do it over again whenever I perform something wrong, and I have a script to read first before I go on. But with live television, there's no chance to do it again. I have to be careful when I perform live because I have to use my own words."

"I don't feel as scared as I used to and find it easier to perform live on television," she said.

"I really want to have feedback from the audiences because I want to know what I am doing wrong or what I have to change. I am not angry with them because they can make my performing better," Peng Paung said.

"I've never heard the audience say anything bad or have a negative reaction to my performances because I am very careful and I never use obscene language," she smiled.

"But I don't know what they say behind my back.

"I am very happy and enjoy performing very much when there is a big audience and producers and my friends admire my work," she said. "My family usually corrects me when I'm wrong and encourages me if I'm lacking in some points.

"When she performs, Peng Paung said she often has to express difficult emotions, such as crying for a scene, to evoke a reaction from the audience.

"I like to do things that are difficult for me, especially live television, because I can get a reaction or criticism from the audiences and it can make my performances stronger," she said.

Don't give up your dreams

Before Peng Paung became a comedian, she was a vendor and a radio commentator on 98FM. She married in 2005.

"When I have free time I like to read magazines and newspapers, visit some tourist places and family members, and I have to research new ideas or styles to perform for the audiences," she said.

"My advice to people wanting to get into comedy is that they have to be patient and not give up on their dream. To be a comedian is more difficult than to be a movie star so they have to be very determined if they want to be comedians," she said.

Thai soldiers claim another Cambodian temple, military says

Cambodian soldiers are ill-prepared to face Thais in actual combat, said the SRP's Yim Sovann. "The government has about 8,000 generals. They are enjoying their luxury cars in Phnom Penh instead of being sent to the border to defend Cambodia."

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Thet Sambath
Saturday, 13 September 2008

Thai soldiers have moved into Ta Krabey temple, but military commanders say negotiation will be used to solve the problem

MORE than 100 Thai soldiers seized control of the Kingdom's Ta Krabey temple Wednesday evening and are refusing to leave, despite the best efforts of some 50 Cambodian soldiers who remain at the site, military commanders stationed at the border said.

Ho Bunthy, deputy commander of Border Military Unit 402, said that Cambodian soldiers - who have controlled the small temple for years - tried to defend the site by shooting in the air but that the Thai soldiers still marched in.

"They dared to enter because they know Cambodian soldiers got the orders not to use violence and shoot," Ho Bunthy said.

The Wednesday night incursion involved around 100 Thai soldiers who had previously tried to prevent Cambodian troops from accessing the temple by cutting down trees and using them to block the entry road.

"Thai soldiers cut trees down on the road around 13 kilometres away from Ta Krabey temple on Wednesday afternoon to prevent our armed forces from walking to this temple and help them to send their troops to enter the temple in the evening," Ho Bunthy said.

Ho Bunthy said that before the Thai soldiers entered the temple he ordered 50 Cambodian soldiers to stand in a "fence" formation to try to prevent them from entering but to no avail, adding that the Thais had been eyeing the temple for days.

Negotiations again

Chea Morn, commander of Military Region 4, said that military commanders on both sides are trying to solve the problem through negotiation. "We are standing at the temple together now and we will negotiate with Thai military commanders later on," he said.

" It is a big problem when two countries are at war. we are trying to avoid it. "

"If we tried to prevent the Thai soldiers from entering the temple, there would be a clash between the two sides so we will let the border committee demarcate first," Chea Morn said.

"It is a big problem when two countries are at war. We are trying to avoid it," he added.

San Vanna, deputy governor of Oddar Meanchey province, said that he has been informed about the Thai soldiers occupying the Ta Krabey temple.

"It saddens me to hear about this. The Thai soldiers shouldn't have entered the temple."Yim Sovann, opposition Sam Rainsy Party's parliamentarian, criticised the government for taking a weak stance against Thailand.

"It is embarrassing that our government is too weak to defend our nation," he said.

Schools to adopt national anti-smoking curriculum

Vandy Rattana; An adult smoker enjoys a cigarette Thursday in Phnom Penh. The government is trying to stop children from smoking.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Titthara
Saturday, 13 September 2008

Officials hope that highlighting the risks of smoking at a young age will keep children from ever starting

A PROGRAM by the Ministry of Education, Sport and Youth warning of the dangers of smoking cigarettes will soon be part of the national school curriculum, officials told the Post Thursday.

"Cigarettes share similar properties with opium," said Ton Sa Im, director of the ministry's Pedagogy Research Department. "Smokers have difficulties in quitting smoking, even though it seriously damages their health and that of anyone near them."

She said the ministry is currently updating textbooks for primary and secondary schools, targeting biology and social studies lessons.

"We want students to know the dangers of smoking and avoid starting," she said.She said the curriculum will specifically target secondary students, as smoking rates among this age group are most worrying to government officials.

Krisna Keo, project manager for the Adventist Development and Relief Agency Cambodia, said he hopes the school program will prevent young people from ever starting to smoke.


"Some 7.9 percent of children aged 13 to 15 years smoke cigarettes every day," he said, adding that one percent of that number are girls.

He said 53.9 percent of all Cambodians smoke cigarettes, of which nine percent are female."They smoke because tobacco companies advertise on television and radio," Krisna Keo said. "They sponsor concerts and promote their products by giving away free samples and telling young people they will look handsome if they smoke.

"Krisna Keo said many children also suffer because they live in households where family members smoke.

They learn by example or suffer the effects of second-hand smoke."Children should know about the health problems they are likely to suffer if they decide to start smoking, including lung cancer and damage to their blood vessels," he said.

He said tobacco companies should be prohibited from advertising in print or broadcast media and the government should impose anti-smoking laws in public spaces.

Meth Rina, 36, a teacher at Tuol Sleng primary school, said the new curriculum could have a big impact on her students.

"Younger people will be less likely to start smoking because teachers will explain the serious health risks," she said.

Some 5.4 million people die each year from smoking-related disease, according to the World Health Organisation. That figure could reach 8.3 million by the year 2030.

About 80 percent of those deaths occur in developing countries suffering from extreme poverty, according to WHO estimates.

Pursat oil hunt raises queries

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Thet Sambath
Saturday, 13 September 2008

AN unnamed private company has begun preliminary studies for oil exploration along Cambodia's National Road 5 near the Tonle Sap Lake in Pursat province, according to local officials.

Plastic wire has been set up around the area, and trucks with power generators are now stationed along the road.

"A private company is looking for oil around Tonle Sap lake," Mao San, director of Pursat province's Department of Industry, Mines and Energy, told the Post Thursday, but he refused to name the company.

"The company has previously evaluated land in local villages, in the mountains and all around the lake," he said. "But they're focusing now on the area along National Road 5."

Men Den, director of the Petroleum Exploration and Production Division of the Cambodian National Petroleum Authority, hesitated to call the company's work "exploration".

"Right now, they are just assessing the soil. Then they will begin exploration," he said. "I will not yet call it exploration. That will come later."

Chea Sieng Hong, secretary of state for the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy, said the company has conducted exploration in several provinces around the lake.

"They are looking all around Tonle Sap lake," he said. "The exploration extends all across the country."

A tale of 2 lost boys and ties that span an ocean

Joe Rice and Houch Chhoeung met for the first time last week at the USS Bowfin memorial. Houch returns to Cambodia on Wednesday. Email Foster Parents International

Joe Rice wishes his e-mail foster child, Houch Chhoeung, 19, well before a performance at Central Union Church on South Beretania Street. REBECCA BREYER The Honolulu Advertiser

Cambodian orphans from the Future Light Orphanage of Worldmate performed Sunday afternoon at Central Union Church. The orphans are in Hawai'i to meet their e-mail foster parents as part of Email Foster Parents International, a nonprofit affiliated with the Future Light organization. REBECCA BREYER The Honolulu Advertiser

Hawaii man, orphan from Cambodia make a lasting connection

The Honolulu Advertiser

By Mary Kaye Ritz
Advertiser Staff Writer

The list of what Houch Chhoeung doesn't have, back in the outskirts of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, starts at unimaginable and ends at heartbreaking.

He doesn't have hot and cold running water. He doesn't have his family to come home to. He doesn't have siblings. He doesn't have parents.

But Houch does have someone here in Hawai'i. That someone is Joe Rice, president of Mid-Pacific Institute, who wants to mean something to Houch. A former foster child himself, Rice knows older orphans' opportunities to be adopted grow slimmer as the years go by.

Theirs is a story about how two lost boys — one past and one present, and a generation apart — came to connect in a way that changed both their lives.

The back story

Even growing up in a family of 12 children, Joe Rice was a lost boy. The oldest — his mother got pregnant with him when she was 13 — he soon was saddled with a stepfather who was often drunk and abusive. The children were hungry, dirty — and worse.

More than once, Rice and his sibling were taken away from the family and sent to foster care. Not that there was much of a home to be taken from; they often lived out of a station wagon.
Rice found the strength to stand up to his stepfather during his senior year of high school in a fiery confrontation that led to him going into foster care for the final time.

Rice graduated from high school, and with other helping hands, eventually made his way through college. Now, after recognizing how other people helped him along, Rice wants to pay it forward.
"I always felt like, when it comes to foster and orphaned children, they need our care. ... If you have the means to help, you should," said Rice.

Four years before, he'd heard about an orphanage through his Rotary group — "it was the first time I was able to do something on a personal basis" — and specifically looked into helping an older child.

He and Houch began to e-mail.

A dossier on Houch listed his age, now 19. He has lived in an orphanage for more than half his life. He's in the 10th grade at Chumpouvan High. He wants to be a math teacher. He plays drums.

But more than that, he's gone on Webcam and met his foster family, Joe and Florence Rice. Houch calls them Mom and Dad.

Countdown begins

Florence and Joe Rice have four children, two of whom are grown, two in college, so they've prepared for homecomings before. Still, ministrations took on epic proportions before the big meeting of their foster son.

"My wife has gone overboard, cleaning the house," Joe Rice said. They hit Costco to stock up on rice and meat. Florence Rice had been "obsessing with how she's going to cook."

Not only how to cook but what to cook occupied Florence Rice's mind. They were told not to go overboard on the ice cream, because you don't want to overwhelm the Cambodians' systems with too much dairy. The kids are not used to that.

All foster parents had been briefed on what to do to make the youths comfortable. Take nothing for granted, they were warned.

During their first tour of the house, for example, it was suggested they pantomime the most obvious things, such as how not to scald yourself with hot water from the faucet, and how to throw the TP in the bowl after use, rather than the wastebasket.

The arrival

When the 30 Cambodian youths finally landed last week at the USS Bowfin memorial after a bus ride from Honolulu International Airport, there'd been a plan.

The assembled foster parents, Rice included, were to line up in two parallel lines in a traditional Cambodian greeting. They'd let the kids and their teacher-chaperones promenade down the line, about 25 yards long. Then, they'd meet up at a nearby picnic area to bestow lei.

The plan sounded so right, as they rocked back and forth on the balls of their feet in the hot sun. It sounded so smart, waiting there with lei in the crook of their elbows.

But then Sreysrash Check bolted off the giant tour bus and directly into the arms of her foster mother, sobbing. Elizabeth Keith hugged her back, crying just as hard.

Suddenly, it was chaos, and not a dry eye in sight.

Joe Rice lost track of the young man he'd only seen via grainy Internet feed. Students were pouring out, and what had been two neat lines became an amorphous mass of humanity and happy noise.

Nancy Walden was the first to spot Houch coming down the steps and called out to Rice, pointing to the top of the young man's head.

"Joe! Joe!" she called. "He's over here, Joe!"

Rice made his way to Houch, much smaller and more childlike than most American 19-year-olds. Houch pressed his hands together like a prayer and bowed his forehead to Rice. In response, Rice crushed him in a giant squeeze of a hug.

After snapping pictures and greeting Houch's friends, they sat at a table to have a snack.
What especially was Houch looking forward to in America?

"Hamburger. And pizza. Everything!" he said, as Rice beamed at him.

The acclimation

A week later, it's obvious to Florence Rice that Houch has developed a great affinity for her husband.

"He just lights up when Joe comes into the room," she said. "It's a boy-with-his-dad kind of thing. It makes me want to cry."

After a nap the first day, the family went home to visit, and their son's friends came over. Soon, a rollicking competition over Wii tennis and bowling ensued.

"He caught on so quick, you'd thought he'd been doing this all his life," said Joe Rice. "His score was 215, mine was 137. He'd never played before! He kept looking at me, as if to see if I was mad that (he's) beating me."

The group's itinerary has been packed — besides performances and rehearsals, there's been sightseeing at the zoo and aquarium — as well as visits at three high schools. When he gets back home at night, Houch loves to view and review the digital photos and video they've taken of the people he's met while here.

He hasn't become an all-American teen, of course: Houch prefers a cup of saimin noodles for breakfast to Florence Rice's spread of scrambled eggs and pancakes.

As for making himself at home, Houch finally passed a milestone, Joe Rice recounted:

"Yesterday, he opened the fridge without me telling him. OK! He's starting to feel like this is his place. Being able to get his own glass out, opening the fridge to see what's in there like other kids do nine times a day. I see that as a breakthrough."

Asked what he believes Houch will take away from this experience, Joe Rice grows quiet when he remembers a particular moment:

When Rice came home one night this week, he asked Houch how he was doing.

"Good," the young man responded.

Rice then pressed for details — can he tell him more? What, exactly, is good?

"The people," Houch said.

Then Houch impetuously turned and wrapped his arms around Florence Rice.

What's next

Through sitdowns here and with plans to continue the pep talks and encouragement via e-mail, Joe Rice is urging Houch to stay in school.

Both Joe and Florence Rice are hoping to be there when Houch graduates from high school in Cambodia. And wouldn't it be grand if he passes the exams that allow him to go on to college?

Still, even filled with hopes of future connections, Rice gets choked up, just thinking about what will happen next Wednesday.

It's obvious he already dreads their parting.

" I hate to think what it will be like when they leave," said Rice, who takes a moment to compose his voice, which cracks slightly. " ... You think you've been doing this for them, but ... "

Sure, there are other children, right here in Hawai'i, that Joe Rice will be able to help — scholarship students, victims of domestic abuse, others he reaches through his good works and Rotary projects.

Houch doesn't volunteer much about his life before the orphanage. And of course, Joe Rice is getting flashes from his own past, as well.

It's not about exorcising demons, Rice said.

"I just want to be a good person," Joe Rice said. "You have to live your life for others. I don't want people to think I'm doing this because I need to do that. ... (Houch) doesn't want to dwell on the past. He wants to look forward. I admire that about him. That's kind of where I am. I guess there are reasons for looking back, dealing with things, but most times, I don't find any good in doing it. I'd rather be thinking about what I can be doing for my family and others."

Incline fifth graders raise funds for Cambodian children

Kaelie Drago, Carson Goetz, Bryan Banuelos and Krisine Ballan look over photographs of orphans in Cambodia in Steven Wartman's fifth grade class Tuesday morning at Incline Elementary School.
Bonanza Photo -Jen Schmidt
North Lahe Tahoe Bonanza
By Kyle Magin
Bonanza Staff Writer

Each year Steve Wartman, “Mr. Wartman” to his Incline elementary fifth graders, gives his students a difficult vocabulary word which describes them. He tagged this year’s class with “compassionate,” a quality which he said has emerged from a class project on which the students are embarking.

The students are learning about and collecting loose change for “The Center For Children’s Happiness,” a program in Cambodia which rescues children sent to labor at the Steung MeanChey trash dump near the capital city, Phnom Penh.

“These are very compassionate kids,” Wartman said. “They warmed up to the idea of helping these children very quickly, they seem to really like the idea of being helpful to others.”

Life in Steung MeanChey is very different for children than those in Incline Village. Many orphans there live in extreme poverty, Wartman said, working for about 50 cents per day to feed themselves.

“What I think it’s important these children understand is that on what they spend on lunch each day they could clothe and feed these children in the orphanages,” Wartman said.

He said he’d like to shield the children from some of the more brutal realities of life at Steung MeanChey, such as its reputation for being a hub of the human trade, and the terrible toll diseases take on 10 year olds sifting through garbage each day. Many children have been orphaned by the near-constant state of war in Cambodia over the past decades, one which has seen the rise and fall of totalitarian governments and extreme brutality. The dump also leaves children exposed to extreme drug problems later in life.

“We passed around some of the more reasonable pictures and while I don’t want them to internalize it, but I do want them to think about how fortunate they are to have good food, clean air, and to live in a very nice place,” Wartman said.

He also wants them to realize that some of the children who belong to The Center for Children’s Happiness make good on the education’s their change will pay for. He points to one girl, bordering on malnutrition while at the dump, who was eventually adopted and sent to a high-achieving international school in Singapore where she is now fluent in multiple languages.

“I want them to see that if you don’t give up on a child in a dump, you shouldn’t give up on class here,” Wartman said.

Many of the students in Wartman’s class grasp their good fortune relative to their Cambodian counterparts.

Mia Severance said she appreciates what a life in Incline has afforded her and what a little change means for the children at Steung MeanChey.

“I know a lot of kids don’t have a lot of the things that I do, and if I can help them to have some of the things I have it just makes me feel really good inside,” Severance said. “Most of them can’t afford school, so we’re raising money for orphans to have a good home and get an education.”

Classmate Josh Lewis said he feels lucky because life in Steung MeanChey is very different than life here.

“They don’t have a lot of money and they just pick up their clothes from the trash, and they don't eat a lot,” Lewis said. “I think it’s really cool and it feels good to help out other kids around the world.”

So far the children have raised more than $50 for The Center, with a stated goal of raising $400. Wartman said the goal is achievable and each month the children plot out their progress on a graph.

Carson Goetz, another student in the class, said it makes him feel happy that he is doing a good thing for the children in Cambodia.

“The kids in Cambodia are very poor and we want to give them money,” Goetz said.

Thai soldiers seize Cambodian temple: military



PHNOM PENH -- Cambodian military said that more than 100 Thai soldiers have seized control of the Kingdom's Ta Krabey temple and are refusing to leave, despite the best efforts of some 50 Cambodian soldiers who remain at the site, local media reported Friday.

The Cambodian soldiers, who have controlled the small temple for years, tried to defend the site by shooting in the air but that the Thai soldiers still marched in, Ho Bunthy, deputy commander of Border Military Unit 402, was quoted by the Phnom Penh Post as saying.

"They dared to enter because they know Cambodian soldiers got the orders not to use violence and shoot," Ho Bunthy said.

The Wednesday night incursion involved around 100 Thai soldiers who had previous tried to prevent Cambodian troops from accessing the temple by cutting down tress and using them to block the entry road, he said.

Ho Bunthy said that before the Thai soldiers entered the temple he ordered 50 Cambodian soldiers to stand in a "fence" formation to try to prevent them from entering but to no avail, adding that the Thais had been eyeing the temple for days.

Meanwhile, Chea Morn, commander of Military Region 4, said that military commanders on both sides are trying to solve the problem through negotiation.

"We are standing at the temple together now and we will negotiate with Thai military commanders later on," he was quoted as saying.

Cambodia Allows Hijab at Schools

Female Muslim students can now don hijab at Cambodian schools. (Google photo) & Newspapers

CAIRO — Cambodian Muslim students will be allowed to wear Islamic attire, including hijab, as of the new academic year in October, reported the Phnom Penh Post daily on Friday, September 12.

"While students are supposed to wear white shirts and blue trousers to school, Khmer Muslim students will be allowed to wear traditional uniforms to school because we are open minded about students believing in different religions," said Undersecretary of State at the Ministry of Education, Sport and Youth Chey Chap.

Prime Minister Hun Sen pledged two months ago to allow Muslim students to wear their Islamic attire at schools.

The decision will be effective when the new academic year starts in October.

Previously, Muslim students, both boys and girls, had to abide by a standard uniform determined by their schools, usually comprises a shirt and a pair of trousers.

This had forced many Muslim students, particularly girls, to abandon their studies.

Some schools were bending the rules to allow female Muslim students to don headgear.

"At the moment Khmer Muslim students don't wear their traditional clothes at school, but they still wear folded scarves around their faces," said Dy Tep Kosal, the director of Chea Sim Cham Reun Roth Secondary School, where Muslims make up nearly 40 percent of its students.

Hijab is an obligatory code of dress for Muslim women.


The government decision drew cheering from Cambodian Muslims.

"This shows that the government doesn't want to discriminate against Muslim students and will show people that there are a lot of Khmer Muslims within the education system," said Zakaryya Adam, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Cults and Religion.

Abdulhalim Kasim, a Muslim student at Norton University, said the decision comes in the right time for female Muslim students.

"While it doesn't make any difference to me because I am a man and can wear whatever Khmer students wear, girls need to wear scarves over their faces," he said.

Kasim said the decision also has broader implications.

"The fact that the government will allow us to wear our traditional clothes means it accepts all religions [and] it will make it easier for Khmer Muslims to study."

There are estimated 700,000 Muslims in Cambodia, making up 5 percent of the country's 13 million population.

Cambodian Muslims are generally located in towns and rural fishing villages on the banks of the Tonle Sap and Mekong rivers and in Kampot Province in the south.

CPP Leaders Approve Draft Administration

Top leaders of the Cambodian People's Party, from left: National Assembly President Heng Samrin, Senate President Chea Sim and Prime Minister Hun Sen.

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
12 September 2008

Khmer audio aired 12 September 2008 (1.07 MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 12 September 2008 (1.07 MB) - Listen (MP3)

The ruling Cambodian People's Party has mostly finalized a draft of its new administration, controlling as expected every ministerial position and giving only Funcinpec lower positions in the executive branch.

Cheam Yiep, a CPP lawmaker and member of the party's standing committee, said Friday a July 29 draft of the administration passed the committee and will be formally approved just ahead of a swearing-in ceremony later this month.

The draft shows eight CPP positions at deputy prime minister and one for Funcinpec, and 12 CPP senior ministers, with four for Funcinpec.

No positions in the executive branch will be offered to the Sam Rainsy, Human Rights or Norodom Ranariddh Party, according to the draft.

The new administration shifts more control squarely into the hands of the CPP, a reflection of the party's overwhelming win in July's election, where it took 90 of 123 National Assembly seats.

The new administration will have a higher number of positions in each ministry, in part because positions such as secretary, undersecretary and advisor were offered to members of the Sam Rainsy Party who moved to the CPP ahead of the election.

"The members of the new government are experienced in their capacity and potential for push the government's work to success in the next five years," Cheam Yiep said.

The posts of secretary and undersecretary of state could change in a final decision to be made by the CPP Sept. 22, he said, two days before the National Assembly swears in and opens its first session.

Groups in Geneva to Lobby for UN Envoy

By Taing Sarada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
12 September 2008

Khmer audio aired 11 September 2008 (1.54 MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 11 September 2008 (1.54 MB) - Listen (MP3)

[Editor's note: Kek Galabru, founder of the rights group Licadho, recently traveled to Geneva, where the ninth annual meeting of the UN's Human Rights Council is considering whether to continue the mandate of a UN rights envoy to Cambodia. She spoke to VOA Khmer by phone from Geneva.]

Q. What is the aim of your trip?

A. I have come to Geneva with Adhoc president Thun Saray and four other Khmers, who live in the foreign countries and have helped facilitate our participation in the Human Rights Council annual meeting in Geneva. The Human Rights Council is opening a meeting from Sept. 8 until Sept. 23. In the meeting they will also bring the Cambodia issue to discussion, regarding the mandate of the UN representative on human rights in Cambodia. We civil society want to see the term of the UN representative to be continued in Cambodia. We don't want to see them cut this term out of Cambodia.

Q. Alongside the discussion about the term of the UN representative on human rights, what are the specific things that the meeting is focusing on?

A. In that meeting they are not only focusing on the Cambodian issue, but they are also talking about children and women's issues, as well as some other issues. But in that meeting, they have raised our Cambodian issue. We really want the term of the UN representative on human rights in Cambodia to be continued, as we know that the Cambodian government doesn't want this mandate to be continued. So our civil society strives hard to talk about it with the Human Rights Council members in order to lobby and negotiate with our Cambodian government so that the Cambodian government can allow the mandate to continue. Whether the UN representative on human rights can continue its mandate depends on the Cambodian government's permission.

Q. The Cambodian government plans to close the Office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights in Cambodia. Is the Human Rights Council in Geneva reacting to this plan?

A. The permanent Office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights in Cambodia won't be discussed in this Geneva meeting. It could be discussed between our government and the United Nations, and should not be discussed at the Human Rights Council. The Human Rights Council is talking about the mandate of the UN Special Representative on Human Rights. We have received unofficial information that perhaps our government won't oppose this suggestion. But the UN secretary-general, he doesn’t want the UN Special Representative appointed by him anymore. So he wants to see the UN Special Rapporteur instead of a UN special representative. For the mandate, we really want to see that the position of the UN Rapporteur remains the same as the position of the UN Special Representative’s position, in coming into Cambodia to monitor the human rights situation and then reporting to the Cambodian government on how to change those institutions in order to respect human rights.

Q. If the Office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights in Cambodia closes, what will be the affect to the civil society and the political situation?

A. We hope that the Office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights in Cambodia won't close its door. If the government does not allow this office to continue its work, it will affect a lot to the Cambodia people because we still have a lot of human rights issue that so far haven't been solved completely. So we need more cooperation with the UN, we need more technical support and human resources support. So I think we still need more support from them.

Former Official Gets Nine Years in Land Trial

By Chiep Mony, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
12 September 2008

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Friday sentenced 15 people accused of illegally occupying state land and destroying protected forest up to nine years, with the heaviest sentence going to a former provincial official.

Meas Savoeun, the former deputy governor of Preah Vihear province, was given nine years in prison and a fine of 80 million riel, about $20,000, for his role in leading a number of villagers to deforest land in Preah Vihear province.

He was also ordered to pay 20 million riel, or $5,000, in compensation to the provincial forestry administration of the Ministry of Agriculture. Fourteen other people received sentences between one and seven years, for their roles in the land case.

Top Royalists Lock Horns in Lawsuit

By Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
12 September 2008

Two senior officials from opposing royalist parties were called into a Phnom Penh court Friday, in a defamation and disinformation complaint highlighting the fractured nature of Cambodia's royal politics.

Norodom Ranariddh Party Secretary-General You Hockry filed a complaint on June 19 against Funcinpec Deputy Secretary-General Srey Kosal, accusing him of defamation and disinformation for comments made ahead of July's election.

Both men were called into court Friday. If found guilty, Srey Kosal faces up to five years imprisonment and 100 million riel, or $25,000, in fines.

Illegal Evictions a Continued Threat: Experts

Sek Sovanna, a lawyer from the Community Legal Education Center, left, and Chan Saveth, an investigator for the rights group Adhoc

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
12 September 2008

Forced evictions are seriously impacting the daily lives of many Cambodians, requiring an "advanced solution" as displacement persists, a rights official said Thursday.

"Development should be a benefit for people, but if it makes thousands of people lose their interests, how can we call it development?" said Chan Saveth, of the rights group Adhoc, as a guest on "Hello VOA."

Forced evictions of residents in the Sambok Chab neighborhood of Phnom Penh and a community living along Monivong Boulevard highlighted the problem, where people were removed to distant locales outside the city, far from work, school and services.

Residents of the Boeung Kak lake area, the city's latest development project, are continuing to protest their impending eviction, saying an $8,000 buyout option from the government is too low.

Sek Sovanna, a lawyer from the Community Legal Education Center, said the $79 million lease the city has made with Shukaku, Inc., to develop the area was illegal.

"They violated the law, the land law," she said.

Kampot villagers say economic zone is destroying sea life

More than 300 villagers have filed complaints with the Kampot provincial governor to stop a private company from developing a coastal fishing area.

Club of Cambodian Journalists Asks Politicians for Communication If They Think Media Are Important

Posted on 13 September 2008
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 577

“Representatives of the Club of Cambodian Journalists asked all politicians to communicate better with the media if they think that the media are important.

“Mr. Pen Samithi, the president of the Club of Cambodian Journalists, said during a Roundtable Discussion to Review the Media Coverage During the Elections in the morning of 11 September 2008, that during every election, the media were considered to be most important for conveying messages to the citizens in rural areas as well as in the cities, to understand the election processes, and to know the parties that participate in the electoral competitions. Therefore, the media become political hostages during each election period, and after the elections are over, there has been always criticism by some parties against the media, saying to have shown bias, and to not have published enough about their specific party.

“Mr. Pen Samithi added that some parties did not have spokespersons, and if journalists wanted their phone numbers, they could not get it. How can they report? If the politicians want good publicity, there should be better communication from now on, not just one month before the elections. If communication start so late, it is hopeless.

“Mr. Pen Samithi said that he has never seen that any political parity contacted the media for reporting, and if the journalists wanted to contact them it was difficult. He went on to say that almost all parties have no media policy; so how can the media report? He said that if political parties think that the media are important, they have to communicate properly with the media, and not just blame the media after the elections, because earlier on, when the media approached the parties during the time of the elections, almost all such contacts were limited or were set under conditions to do this or to do that - but the media do not set any conditions in turn.

“Mr. Keo Sothea, the editor-in-chief of Samleng Yuvachun Khmer, said that during the discussion in the morning, his newspaper had raises some negative points which have to be criticized, in order that they are corrected and there will be improvement. Some newspapers always write only negatively related to the government, but as for some needs or weak point, they do not seems to dare to write them, and to report about improvements by the government is an issue which is difficult to trust, because people have to think what a real improvement is, and what a lack thereof is.

“Mr. Kol Panha, the executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections – COMFREL – said that the media must be examined, because media are most important for sending information to the citizens who are the voters, and the media have a very significant role in the process of democracy. If someone is not listening or watching the media about the election process, or does not know any political parties, they will not be able to freely and broadly voice their opinion. However, if a publication spreads a lie, it really affects the voters strongly.

“Mr. Kol Panha continued that the media are important, therefore journalists have to be neutral, they have to have morality, and journalistic skills, so that voters receive broadly based information. He added that when the elections approached, most media showed a certain reluctance towards the government, as taking up certain things might lead to conflicts, and rather raised mainly different, positive points for comments, but seldom criticizing the government. Also, he expressed his regret that during the elections in 2008, there was serious incidents related to the media: the murder of Mr. Khim Sambo, a journalist of Moneaksekar Khmer, and the arrest and detention of Mr. Dam Sith, the editor-in-chief of Moneaksekar Khmer. He said that whether one agrees or not, such cases somewhat frighten other journalists and they think a lot before they write.

“Mr. Kol Panha asked to include also the Equity Program [produced by the UNDP] into programs related to the National Election Committee [NEC]. Laws should be created to punish any media that have committed wrongdoings, but there should not be prison term punishments.

“Mr. Chhay Sophal, a member of the Club of Cambodian Journalists, said that this discussion will continue further, regarding the above suggestions.”
Samleng Yuvachun Khmer, Vol.15, #3407, 12.9.2008
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Friday, 12 September 2008