Monday, 22 September 2008

Pakistan govt fingers al-Qaeda for hotel blast

AFP; Pakistani security personnel walk past a crater in front of the devastated Marriott hotel in Islamabad on Sunday.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by AFP
Monday, 22 September 2008

A massive suicide bomb attack that destroyed the Islamabad Marriott hotel has the 'hallmarks' of an al-Qaeda attack, govt and security officials say

ISLAMABAD - Pakistan on Sunday blamed al-Qaeda-linked Taliban militants for the massive suicide truck bombing at the Marriott Hotel that killed at least 53 people and injured more than 260.

Dramatic footage of Saturday night's attack showed the carnage could have been far worse, but the attacker failed to get through a secondary barrier when he crashed his explosives-laden truck into the hotel's security gates.

The interior ministry said the truck was packed with 600 kilograms (1,300 pounds) of explosives, and pointed a finger at Taliban militants allied with al-Qaeda who are based in the remote areas along the border with Afghanistan.

"It has the hallmarks of al-Qaeda," a senior official involved in the investigation told AFP. "It was an al-Qaeda-style bombing."

Ministry official Rehman Malik said 53 people were killed and 266 were injured in the attack. The security official said at least 60 people were dead.

Rescuers were continuing to pick through the rubble of the hotel, which was all but destroyed in the massive blast, heard for miles around, and a subsequent fire that swept through the 300-room hotel.

The brazen attack appeared to have been timed to inflict maximum casualties, ripping through the hotel when it was packed with families having dinner to break the daily fast in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

The bombing came on the one-year anniversary of Osama bin Laden's call for Pakistani Muslims to unleash jihad, or holy war, against the government, a vital ally in the US-led "war on terror".

Closed-circuit footage showed that the attacker rammed his truck into the gates but failed to get through a second barrier. Malik said the attacker intended to drive right into the lobby of the hotel.
He apparently tried to persuade the guards to lower the second barrier - and when they would not, he blew himself up in the truck's cabin.

The guards then tried to put out the fire in the truck, and it was several minutes before the second, larger blast devastated the Marriott, which was popular with politicians, foreigners and the Pakistani elite.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, which came just hours after Pakistan's new president, Asif Ali Zardari, delivered his inaugural address to parliament and vowed to wipe out terrorism. AFP

Korean lawsuit targets PMT

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Kay Kimsong
Monday, 22 September 2008

THE families of 11 South Korean tourists killed last year when their chartered PMT Air flight crashed into the side of a mountain in southern Cambodia are suing the airline for US$3.88 million, claiming that the carrier failed to prevent human and mechanical errors.

The Seoul Central District Court said Friday that the families filed the suit demanding compensation for loss of income, funeral fees and emotional stress, according to the Korean Yonhap News Agency.

"As the employer of the pilot of the plane and the contracted party for passenger transportation, PMT Air is responsible for compensation for damages incurred by the accident," the families claimed in the court document.

The Russian-made AN-24 crashed during bad weather on a forest-covered mountain near the coastal town of Kampot as it was on its way to Sihanoukville Airport from Siem Reap. A total of 22 people, including crew, were on board. There were no survivors in what was Cambodia's worst air crash in a decade.

South Korean investigators have concluded that the accident was caused by pilot error, problems with the airport's automated radar terminal system and defects in the plane.


Police beat cheat sheets

Vandy Rattana

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Vandy Rattana
Monday, 22 September 2008

A girl is told to leave notes and cheat sheets behind at the gates of Phnom Penh's Preah Yukunthor High School early Friday morning. All the school's students had to pass through heavy security checks at the campus on Monivong Boulevard, as security was tightened at high schools throughout the capital in an effort to curb cheating during the two-day exam period.

Border calm as truce agreed; high-level talks to resume soon

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Thet Sambath
Monday, 22 September 2008

FM expresses hope that negotiations will resolve crisis

CAMBODIAN and Thai military commanders have pledged to avoid violence along the border despite the limited progress made by their governments, whose talks on disputed areas of the frontier have been stalled for more than a month.

"We signed an agreement not to use military force along the border in the provinces in Cambodia controlled by Military Region 5 and the provinces in Thailand controlled by its Military Region 1," regional deputy military commander Ek Sam On told the Post by phone Sunday.

Military Region 5 covers Pursat, Battambang and Banteay Meanchey provinces, as well as Pailin municipality - areas that saw heavy fighting throughout much of the 1980s and 1990s.

"We have to avoid armed confrontation. If we have any problem, we will raise the issue and solve it by exchanging information," Ek Sam On said.

He said that during a meeting in Thailand last Wednesday and Thursday with his counterparts, the only objection he raised was against a recent incident in which Thai soldiers confronted Cambodian troops stationed at O'Plok Damrey in Pursat province and demanded they remove the border fence there and withdraw.

"I informed them about this because we want to prevent small confrontations from spreading into larger conflicts," Ek Sam On said.

Otherwise, calm has returned to the border regions occupied by soldiers, according to officers stationed at the major flashpoints, Preah Vihear, Anlong Veng and Ta Krabey.

Bilateral talks again

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said Friday that Cambodia would continue to engage in bilateral talks following the formation of a new government in Thailand.

"I hope we get back to meeting soon and resolve the border dispute through peaceful bilateral talks before we have to take the issue to the international court," Hor Namhong told reporters last week in Phnom Penh.


KR court graft review unfairly names and shames, govt says

Heng Chivoan; Sok An, shown here in a file photo, has written to the UN.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Georgia Wilkins
Monday, 22 September 2008

UN has yet to officially inform government of nature of corruption complaints made against Cambodian officials at UN-backed tribunal

THE government has criticised a UN review of kickback complaints at the Khmer Rouge tribunal, saying that Cambodian officials have yet to be officially informed of the allegations and that the naming of more than one individual suspected of graft showed a lack of due process.

A statement released Friday by the Council of Ministers also says that the review, which was submitted to the government last week, failed to detail the complaints made against staff on the Cambodian side of the UN-backed court, amid allegations that some Cambodian tribunal employees were forced to hand over significant portions of their salaries to their bosses.

Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, who has been corresponding with the UN over the graft scandal, has "expressed his concerns regarding lack of due process, including the naming of individuals who have not been informed of the charges against them", the statement said.

The exchange is the latest in a row over who should handle corruption allegations made against the Cambodian side of the court, which is being heavily funded by foreign donors.

The government maintains that a 2003 agreement on the tribunal "places responsibility for the management of the Cambodian staff on the Cambodian government, but until now none of these complaints have been presented to any competent Cambodian authority".

Court spokeswoman Helen Jarvis, one of the tribunal's two ethics monitors, said she had not yet seen the UN review, but reiterated that "we have never received [the complaints], no one has ever received them".

She did say that a recently formed government task force was investigating a fresh corruption complaint filed by a court employee last week.

Keeping a lid on corruption
According to an August circular by Sok An, all future complaints will now go directly to the ethics monitors, and will remain confidential until received by the task force.

Observers to the tribunal say that it is still unclear whether this process will be used for previous graft allegations once they are received by the government.

"We are concerned about how the government will deal with the allegations of the past once they are received," said Long Panhavuth of the legal NGO Open Society Justice Initiative.

"One of the greatest problems is the lack of information currently coming out of the court," Long Panhavuth said.

"It would be good for the court to release more information about what is going on so that people's trust can return."

US man held on sex charges

HENG CHIVOAN; American Jason Todd Baumbach is escorted by police into the Phnom Penh Municipal Court Friday.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Brendan Brady and Cheang Sokha
Monday, 22 September 2008

Suspect, who court says was target of monthlong investigation, faces 15 years in prison if convicted of paying to have sex with a 13-year-old Cambodian girl

An American man was charged Friday with purchasing sex from a minor after being arrested for allegedly carrying on a long-term sexual relationship with a 13-year-old Cambodian girl, court officials said.

Jason Todd Baumbach, 40, was arrested last Tuesday after a monthlong investigation by the Ministry of Interior's Anti-human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Unit, according to Phnom Penh Municipal Court deputy prosecutor Sok Kalyan.

"He [Baumbach] is in Prey Sar prison now," Sok Kalyan told the Post Sunday, adding that Baumbach faces between seven and 15 years in prison if convicted.

Baumbach, who arrived in Cambodia in 2007, met the girl through her sister, Sok Kalyan said. He added that pornographic videos, including child pornography, were found in Baumbach's home by police.

"The videos aren't directly related to the charges but we think there might be a link since he might have been using them to teach the girl about various sexual acts," he said.

Ke Sakhan, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court judge investigating the case, could not be reached for comment Sunday.

According to Teng Manet, a lawyer at the anti-paedophile watchdog group Action Pour Les Enfants, Baumbach allegedly paid US$100 a month for the girl's English-language lessons in exchange for having sex with her in his rented house.

Under Cambodian law, it is illegal to have sex with anyone under the age of 16 years, even if the act is consensual.

Dozens of foreigners have been jailed for child-sex crimes or deported to face trial in their home countries since Cambodia launched an anti-paedophilia push in 2003 in a bid to shake off its reputation as a haven for sex predators.

Seven foreign nationals have been arrested on accusations of paedophilia so far this year, compared with eight during all of last year, according to Bith Kimhong, director of the Interior Ministry's anti-human trafficking department.

He attributed the relative rise in arrests of child-sex offenders to efforts by the Cambodian government, in particular in enforcing the new law on trafficking.

Cambodia used to apply its debauchery law to almost all sex crimes, but has recently updated its statutes to include the new charge of indecent acts.

The new law came under fire from anti-paedophile NGOs at the end of last month when it was used to reduce the debauchery charge against Belgian national Philippe Dessart.

The 47-year-old had originally been sentenced to 18 years in prison, but had his punishment reduced to just three years after being retroactively charged with indecent acts.

POLLUTION Ammonia blamed for bad air days

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Mom Kunthear and Khoun Leakhana
Monday, 22 September 2008

More than 20 families living next to an ice factory in Tuol Kork district have accused district officials of ignoring their complaints over ammonia fumes they say are leaking from the plant. Heng Mony, who has lived in the area bordering Boeung Kak lake for 23 years, said the noxious odours are causing health problems among neighbourhood residents. "The ammonia released by the factory has a bad effect on our health. I get headaches and have colds," he said. Heng Mony added that the villagers lodged their first complaint with City Hall two months ago but have not received a response. "We will continue to complain," he said. Van Sarath, chief of Boeung Kak 2 commune, said he had already solved the problem once, but that the fumes returned last week. "We will hold a meeting about this on Monday [today]," he told the Post.

'Cloggers' find new way to exchange ideas on technology

Eleanor Ainge Roy; Participants at the BarCamp Phnom Penh on Saturday.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Eleanor Ainge Roy
Monday, 22 September 2008

An 'unconference' on Saturday - the BarCamp Phnom Penh - signals to the world that Cambodia's IT industry is thriving, organisers say

"GEEKS this way" read the sign proudly, directing the 200-plus bloggers, computer programmers, IT professionals and other interested persons towards Phnom Penh's first BarCamp, an information technology 'unconference' held Saturday at the Royal University of Phnom Penh.

The concept for the meet-up, which originated in Palo Alto, California, in 2005, was to have informal - and generally hastily arranged - gatherings where people could meet and exchange ideas, usually tech-related.

The idea quickly spread, spawning similar get-togethers in nearly 350 cities, and has particularly caught on in Southeast Asia. Bangkok hosted a conference in January, Malaysia in July, and Vietnam is set for its first BarCamp in November.

Cambodia's meeting held true to the open, collaborative essence of its origins.

"How it is run, how people participate, it is completely different from a normal conference" says 26-year-old Tharum Bun, this year's BarCamp Phnom Penh organiser.

"There's more freedom here, it's a more democratic, open environment. BarCampers have the chance to present on a topic of interest to them, and they have the chance to choose what they want to learn," he said.

Informal fun

The event was certainly informal. The mostly youthful crowd wandered in and out of the convention hall, dipping into discussion groups in the garden about the best programming language or crowding excitedly around some fine new piece of technology.

Debates raged freely but didn't degenerate into arguments, and English was the preferred tongue. Participants included bloggers - or "cloggers", as the many Khmer web scribes refer to themselves.

" How it is completely different from a normal conference. "

As well as technology-related lectures and discussions, a handful of people presented on such topics as "The Art of Seduction", "How to Twitter" and "How to Date a Khmer Girl".

"I'm excited to be here," said Clogger Phirun, 17. "It's a chance to meet people and share ideas about technology. And there is so much here for me to learn."

BarCamp Phnom Penh 2008 cost US$3,000, and attracted people from all over Southeast Asia, Tharum Bun said.

He added that he hopes it may be the start of a flourishing IT industry in Phnom Penh.

"BarCamp Phnom Penh 2008 is a signal to the outside world that the Cambodian industry is really ready to begin," he said.

Come heavy, or don't come at all

Heng Chivoan; A monk feeds pigeons on Phnom Penh’s riverside as multiple bodyguards, in blue shirts, look on.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Titthara
Monday, 22 September 2008

For some Cambodian monks, the path to enlightenment is cleared by armed bodyguards who have become an increasingly common accessory for the clergy making their rounds

WHILE in the past the primary concern of monks was to find a quiet place for contemplation, today's new generation of young clergy seem less able to leave base material concerns behind and are instead hiring bodyguards to protect themselves and their possessions.

Tep Sao, a monk at Wat Botum, said that monks are now choosing to hire bodyguards because Cambodia is a socially and politically unstable country and monks need some heavies around if they are to go out into the community and engage in social work.

"As monks we can't act disorderly like ordinary people. When we don't have bodyguards, people sometimes don't respect us as monks and they sometimes try to attack us. When we have bodyguards we feel safe and we don't have to worry," Tep Sao said, adding that some high-ranking monks, such as the chief monk at his pagoda, were assigned bodyguards by the government.

But, Tep Sao was quick to point out that bodyguards who work for monks do not have an adverse effect on Buddhism because they are different from the bodyguards who work for high-ranking officials. "We do not allow our bodyguards to shoot guns even though they have them," he said.

Michel Tranet, former undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, said that he cannot condone monks having bodyguards because the monks' good deeds should mean that they do not have any enemies.

Against Buddhism?

"If they are monks and think only of dharma, how could they ever have any enemies?" Tranet asked. "Monks should avoid violence and never think of anybody as an enemy even if someone tries to do something bad to them. If monks have bodyguards, this breaks Buddhist rules.

"If a monk has a bodyguard it means that he is afraid and hasn't calmed down his emotions yet," he added.

Ki Sophorn, who works as a bodyguard for the chief monk at Wat Champoh Kaek, said that he has been ordered to protect the monastery's elder by the chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces. "It is the order of the government that all chief monks must have a bodyguard," he said.

Most bodyguards who work to protect monks are provided by RCAF, the military police or ordinary police forces, and draw their salary from the government - not from the monks, said Ki Sophorn, adding that sometimes the chief monk helps him out by supplementing his wage.

"Working as a bodyguard for a monk is very easy," he said.

Meas Pov, a businessman at the Deumkor market, said that monks only use bodyguards because they are growing wealthier - frequently carrying phones and cash - and need to protect themselves from thieves.

"Monks should not have bodyguards because it makes it very difficult for people to meet them," he said.

"People have to ask the bodyguard for permission before they can approach the monk."

Both Chhorn Iem and Zakaryya Adam, secretaries of state at the Ministry of Culture and Religion, told the Post that they were unable to comment as they did not have any information about monks using bodyguards for protection.

Letter to Ex-King Norodom Sihanouk By Sourn Serey Ratha Chief Mission of CACJE

Cambodian Action Committee for Justice & Equity

No: 3 Fountain Ave. Cranston RI, 02920 Web:, Email:
"CACJE’s mission is working & advocating for Social Justice & Human Equity"

No: 0036/CACJE
Date: 18th Sptember 2008,

TO: SAMDACH NORODOM SIHANOUK, Ex-King of Cambodia and former Chief of State

Subject: Request your Majesty to make statement before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC).

Reference: (1) Your letter to me (When I was President of NGOs Alliance for Freedom and Advocacy) dated on July, 2006.

(2) You’re your interview with the BBC dated on January 4, 1999. In reference to the above subject, I request Your Majesty to have the courage to come to the ECCC on your own free will without the convocation of the co-Investigating judges and co-prosecutors of ECCC.

In spite of your role as a victim, or witness or defendant, I request and insist your Majesty to enlighten the ECCC about the prime cause/reason of the creation of the Khmer Rouge regime in order to clarify about the responsibility of foreign governments behind the scene.

I request you especially to name the names of people and organizations who were your collaborators for the creation of your Marquis, your Royal Government of National Union of Cambodia (GRUNK) and the National United front of Cambodia (FUNK) which became later the Khmer Rouge regime leadership which committed genocide against its own people.

In my last letter to the co-Investigating judges and co-prosecutors of ECCC of September 16, 2008, I point out the weakness of the ECCC on the fact that the Courts investigation and the verdict would base mainly its decision on the bulk of documents of Tuol Sleng, S-21 Prison and the Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-CAM).

Indeed, these evidences were fabricated and doctored by Hanoi government officers and DC-CAM produced research not very accurate.

I believe that the ECCC aim is to reveal the truth but not bury the truth.

For this reason, I insist your Majesty to come to the ECCC with courage as you have shown in your quoted letters, as dignified by your high royal title voted by the National Assembly as the great king who renders justice to millions of victims and their loves ones who were slaughtered during the Khmer Rouge regime, to enlighten the courts on your own free will without the court subpoena of the co-Investigating judges and co-prosecutors of ECCC.

I believe that your Majesty likes much more to have justice done than your title and your immunity rights.

Not only that your Majesty would like to have justice done, and also you would like to have the punishment fit accordingly to the importance to their committed crime as former leaders of Khmer Rouge Regime who ordered or as leaders who executed the order to commit genocide against its own people.

Very respectfully,

Sourn Serey Ratha
Chief Mission

 Your original letter on July, 2006
 BBC News Online Network January 04, 1999

International law best way to solve border standoff

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Lay Vicheka
Monday, 22 September 2008

Dear Editor,I feel strongly positive regarding the Thai-Cambodian controversy over the temple border after reading the Post's [September 15] article: "Govt to take temple row to the UN".

I endorse the Cambodian government's gentle measures regarding this issue, bilateral negotiation, not instigating gunfights and other impulsive measures. Cambodia has, by far, suffered too much internal bloodshed, poverty and an economic downward-spiral, and we have just experienced economic growth, regional globalisation (Asean, WTO), so my best advice to the government is to immerse itself into the full-scale dedication towards these positive sides, rather than compelling Cambodia into more bloodshed, of which we already know the result.

Resorting to the UN Security Council and the International Court of Justice is the best solution for Cambodia and I am sure that justice will prevail.

Well, the Iraq war is a material breach of international law and it does seem that international law lacks teeth in respect to this. But Thailand is not the US, it is just a country that has a better economy than Cambodia.

Lay Vicheka
Phnom Penh

Migrant Workers Festival

Migrant Workers Festival. Photo by Lee Jong-geun/The Hankyoreh.

The Hankyoreh Media Company


ANSAN - The Migrant Workers Festival was held by a missionary division of the Jogye Order of Buddhist at Ansan Elementary School on September 21.

Approximately 700 migrant workers participated in the festival, including migrant workers from Cambodia, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, who are wearing green, blue and red t-shirts, respectively.

Given the current economic situation in which high inflation and a high currency exchange rate are among the most pressing problems in Korean society, migrant workers are having an especially difficult time of it. Some are having a hard time finding employment, while others are unable to send as much money home as they were last year due to the increase in the exchange rate.

However, it’s possible that the festival, which offered food, games and a chance to reconnect with community, provided a little relief.

Kingdom needs morality to end exam bribery

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Meas Bunly
Monday, 22 September 2008

Dear Editor,Pictures of police guarding schools, preventing people from throwing documents into exam rooms, become normal for public eyes. It looks funny sometimes, but it really provides a bad image of Cambodian culture and education and also creates conditions for economic failure.

The practice is a sign of weakness in the country's education system. A culture of bribery is introduced and promoted that strongly discourages the culture of competition among students. Putting effort into study is not as important as being able to find suitable ways to bribe for certificates. It also reverses any results from the government's efforts to develop the education sector.

Poor education leads to poor human resources. This is serious because all development can be done sustainably only if Cambodia has her own strong human capital.

Insufficient education causes high unemployment and this is currently true. Thousands of students graduated from universities and high schools are not able to get jobs. Besides, the job market is small, but the level of knowledge and experience demanded from recruiting companies and institutions has become higher. Students cannot adapt or respond to this based on what they learned from their schools.

Weak human resource influences economic growth. Cambodia remarkably integrates into world and regional markets and this requires competition in most sectors. Human capital is one of them. Cambodia loses competitiveness in the labour market, especially with neighbouring countries when the country's citizens have poor knowledge.

However, there is good news to make education better. The ongoing government's willingness is very vital but speeding up the pace of reforms would be a major development and is much needed. The government should eliminate any problems, such as bribery in exams, which slow down their efforts.

An active Cambodian media, especially broadcast media, in promoting morality among the public would be very helpful in promoting education. The media have great chances to educate the public that committing bribery or cheating in schools means the same thing as burning their children's future. This kind of morality is absolutely necessary in Cambodians' minds.

The other supplement in raising education standards is globalisation. The phenomenon brings educational resources and communication technologies that ease Cambodian students' study and research. For instance, the internet could link students to world resources and it also keeps them informed of latest development in sectors they are interested in. The question of how much Cambodian students could benefit from those new resources and technologies is another issue that should not be ignored.

Meas Bunly
Master of media and journalism and globalisation
City University, London

'Big six' petrol suppliers drop pump prices

Tracey Shelton; Workers take a break from their jobs at a Sokimex filling station in Phnom Penh.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Nguon Sovan and Chun Sophal
Monday, 22 September 2008

Critics say costs still not in line with international rate declines

Cambodia's petrol suppliers will cut prices by 100 riels (US$0.02) today, a government official said, but critics argue Cambodia's prices are still out of step with the international oil market.

"From Monday, all oil suppliers have agreed to lower prices by 100 riels per litre," Finance Minister Keat Chhon told reporters last week following a meeting with representatives of Cambodia's six petrol suppliers.

Prices of Total and Caltex petrol reached 5,700 riels per litre last month. Sokimex and Tela petrol sold for 5,600 riels last month before gradually declining to 5,100 riels and 5,000 riels respectively last week.

The minister said the price drops will help keep inflation low but that the petrol price hikes remained substantially lower than those on the international market.

International crude oil prices soared more than 84 percent by June 2008, while the price of petrol in Cambodia only rose about 40 percent, the minister said, crediting the difference to the government's "silent subsidy" of petrol.

Cambodian officials say they have kept pump prices in check by not raising the import tax on fuel suppliers, a move they say has cost the government tens of millions of dollars in uncollected tax revenue.

Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay criticised the planned price drop, saying international prices fell up to 26.5 percent, while the cuts in Cambodia represent only a 10 percent drop.

Chan Sophal, president of the Cambodian Economic Association, said the price drop would do little to slow the Kingdom's rising inflation.

He said a virtual monopoly by Cambodia's few oil suppliers has kept prices high.Heu Heng, deputy director general of Sokimex, told the Post Sunday that suppliers had to use up their stocks before buying oil at the lower price.

"We will cut prices further if the international market continues to drop."

Chhor Bonavy, head of the Excise Office at the Customs and Excise Department, estimated that petrol demand has increased more than 24 percent, or 144,537 tonnes, in the first half of 2008 compared with the same period last year.

Compensation demands delaying PMT crash case

File Photo; Emergency workers reach the site of the PMT crash in Kampot’s Bokor Mountains in June 2007. There were no survivors.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Kay Kimsong
Monday, 22 September 2008

Officials for PMT Air say families of South Korean victims are asking for an unreasonably high amount of money in damages

MORE than a year after a chartered PMT Air flight bound for Sihanoukville crashed into a mountain in southern Cambodia, killing all 22 people on board, the families of 22 people who perished in Cambodia's worst air mishap in a decade are still waiting for compensation.

The families of 11 South Korean tourists killed in the crash have been driven by frustration to sue PMT last week for nearly US$4 million.

But officials for the airline say the compensation claim is too high and is only delaying a resolution in the case.

"They are demanding $4 million in compensation, which is too much," PMT President Sar Sareth told the Post Sunday.

"That is why a solution cannot be reached," he said. "We have learned from other air crashes around the world that this compensation is too high."

He added that negotiations with the victims' families are ongoing in Singapore, but that lawyers for a London-based insurance company are acting on behalf of PMT, which is not directly involved in the talks.

Talks on

"Attempts to negotiate are ongoing, despite the lawsuit," he said, declining to name the insurance company involved.

But Sar Sareth also maintained that it was not PMT's responsibility to pay any compensation. "Our company only leased the plane from another company," Sar Sareth said.

He explained also that compensation agreements had already been reached with the families of the Cambodian victims, saying, "We don't have any difficulty over the Cambodian victims".

But he added that those families will not see any money until the issue with the South Korean families is resolved.

"We need some time for a solution," he said.

Soy Sokhan, secretary of state for the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation, said the families of the Cambodian victims were entitled to the same compensation package as the Koreans.

"A Korean is one life, a Cambodian is also one life," he told the Post. "So compensation should be equal."

The crash raised the alarm over the state of domestic air travel in Cambodia, which is experiencing a sustained tourism boom that has made air travel between its popular destinations increasingly lucrative. PMT, which ran services to some provincial airports, had a record of minor accidents.

The worst previous passenger air crash in Cambodia occurred in 1997 when a Vietnam Airlines flight slammed into the ground as it tried to land during a rain storm in Phnom Penh. Only one passenger, a toddler, survived. Sixty-five others died.


A path toward enlightenment, an example for all to follow

By Julie Johnson
Record Staff Writer
September 22, 2008

STOCKTON - Gnorm Chap squinted as the hot morning sun rose over the roof of Wat Dhammararam Buddhist Temple. The light hit his face, then spread across the shoulder not covered by his saffron-colored monk's robe.

He fidgeted with a cigarette and a cell phone. It'd be another 100-degree day.

"I try not to think about anything," he said.

He sat still as it got hotter. Perhaps he waited for his mind to empty. Or perhaps he waited for the weekly call from his wife and children.

Chap is one of 11 monks who live at the Cambodian Buddhist temple on Carpenter Road just east of Highway 99. About half were monks in Cambodia and came to the United States to live at the Stockton temple. The rest grew up in Stockton and are continuing a family tradition.

"Like my father, he used to be a monk," Chap, 44, said. "So now I'm just like him being a monk. Just follow the generation."

Chap said his wife, Rose, cried when he first donned the rust-orange robe and shaved his head.

He had paid off the mortgage on their home in Holland, Mich. He asked his family to help support her and their five children. He had her cut off the long ponytail that trailed down to his waist.

"She said I'm going to be a monk forever. I said, I'm not," Chap said.

Chap and his fellow monks follow 227 rules to create a lifestyle that approaches how Buddha reached enlightenment. Most people can't afford the time or have the resources to live this austere lifestyle.

Monks serve as stand-ins, so to speak, on behalf of the rest of the community. They lead in religious practices but, more importantly, they represent the way people should live.

Because of this, it is an honor for someone in a family to live as a monk - even if only temporarily.

Chap committed five years to learning Buddhist teachings and living a monastic lifestyle. He has two more to go. Then he'll return home to his wife and children.

The practice is common among Cambodian men. A son will live at the temple for a few days or weeks after a parent's death. A student will spend part of his summer vacation at the temple studying Buddhism. It's an honor to the family when a man devotes a few years to living like Buddha lived.

Oeun Chin, a fellow monk, said it was a common way for parents to educate their children in Cambodia.

"The only education the parents could afford is to send their sons to be a monk," said Chin, 37, who has lived at the temple since he was 19.

Tony Son, a soon-to-retire barber at Clipper Town on Hammer Lane, was a monk at three different times during his life in Cambodia.

"You don't feel like it, you get out," he said.

For some young men in Stockton, it can be a temporary refuge from the reality of unemployment and gang culture.

Nhem Phang, who uses William as a first name, knew he wanted to be a monk when he was 12 or 13 years old. He entered the temple as soon as he got his high school diploma at age 18.

But after six years he wanted to use the Buddhist teachings that he had learned in ordinary life.

"Monks that are old when they're ordained, they have a lot of experience in life out there already," said Phang, now 27 and a medical supply manager at St. Joseph's Medical Center.

"For me, I don't have experience yet because I was ordained at 18," he said. "I was still a teenager."

The transition to life outside the temple was harder than Phang expected. He returned to the temple to sleep for the first two weeks after he left.

"It's too noisy out there, all the cars and all the sirens, the cops and kids running around," he said.

For Chap, the temple is a sanctuary from the stress of the outside world.

Chap's family moved to Stockton from Cambodia to escape the brutality of the Khmer Rouge when he was 16. He attended Stagg and Edison high schools, but didn't graduate.

"A lot of things happened, like, bad things, so I dropped out," Chap said.

He joined a Cambodian gang and, he said, just partied.

One night he passed out drunk and woke up to find the tattoo of a cross on his left bicep.

About 10,000 Cambodians live in San Joaquin County, and a disproportionate number of their youth are in gangs. The Stockton Police Department has documented about 400 Asian gang members, most of whom are Cambodian, according to Officer Pete Smith.

In Cambodia, children often drop out of school to help earn money for the family, said Matthew Lam, youth outreach coordinator for Stockton's Operation Peacekeepers, a city program that aims to help gang members.

The dropout rate for teenagers once they come to the United States is high, he added.

Lam said they struggle to learn English on top of placement tests and a whole new social culture.
"I used to hate going to my ESL class; I felt so discouraged," said Lam, 32.

"Back then, that was considered the dumb class."

Chap left Stockton soon after dropping out. He sold fish in Washington, painted houses in Boston and studied for an auto mechanic certificate in Michigan.

This wanderlust subsided after he met his wife, Rose, at a friend's party in Holland, Mich. They married and now have four children: Songha, 12; Sheyna, 10; Anna, 9; and Krishna, 5.

As best he can, Chap is still an active parent for his children. Even during morning prayers his cell phone is tucked inside his robe so he doesn't miss his children's weekly calls. He's the one teachers call when his oldest son, Songha, acts up in school.

"He don't listen to his mom," Chap said.

He hopes one of his sons will continue the tradition and spend some portion of time at the temple. He's got his eye on his oldest son, Songha, who he said reads any book he can get.

"When he get older, then I'll ask him to be a monk for a couple of years, couple weeks, couple months," Chap said. "If he don't do it, that's his problem."

Bank officials express calm amid crises elsewhere

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Kay Kimsong
Monday, 22 September 2008

But local real estate broker seeks govt reassurances

REAL estate brokers in Cambodia worry that current economic instability in the United States and other international markets could affect foreign business investment at home.

"I think the economic slow-down in the US has made some potential investors wary of putting money into land or property," said Sung Bonna, CEO of Bonna Realty.

He said the government needs to reassure investors over stability in Cambodia in light of the bankruptcy of the US financial services firm Lehman Bros, announced last week, and the government bailout of AIG, formerly one of the US's largest insurance and financial management firms.

Sung Bonna said a new government must be announced as soon as possible and policies should be implemented to encourage greater investment in the banking and real estate sectors.

Fewer property deals

Government measures to curb inflation by increasing capital reserves requirements for banks have led to a 50 percent drop in new real estate loans, Sung Bonna said.

"The government needs to encourage investment and demonstrate that the economy and political situation here is stable," he said.

Meanwhile, some in the banking sector say Cambodia remains largely insulated from economic turmoil abroad.

"We've weathered this kind of crisis before, and I don't see any problem for our banking sector," Nguon Sokha, deputy director of the Research Department at the National Bank of Cambodia, told the Post.

She added that Cambodia, unlike Thailand, has few direct stakes in US financial firms.

In Channy, president and CEO of Acleda Bank, said he has seen no impact on commercial banks in Cambodia because they don't have substantial stakes in the US stock market.

Overheated real estate

He added that anti-inflationary measures such as the hike in capital reserves was intended to stabilise a booming real estate market that saw rampant over-valuation in market prices since 2007.

"The problem with Lehman was a drop in share prices on the stock market," In Channy said. "We don't have a stock market, so the direct impact is minimal."

But Cambodia does have significant investments from Korea, China and the European Union that could be subject to market fluctuations in some international indexes, said Hing Thoraxy, senior research fellow for Cambodia International Corporation for Peace.

The problem with real estate, for Hing Thoraxy, is not the global crisis but local speculation.

"We are trying to protect our economy, and we will not allow a real estate bubble due to speculation," he said.

The prospect of a housing crisis in Cambodia could further shake foreign investors' confidence."If speculators artificially drive up prices on land in Cambodia, no one will risk investing here," he said.

Cambodia, Vietnam open trade expo in bid to boost commerce

HENG CHIVOAN; Dancers perform during the opening of a Cambodia-Vietnam trade expo that opened at the weekend.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Kunmakara
Monday, 22 September 2008

FOREIGN Minister Hor Namhong has urged Cambodia and Vietnam to increase trade to US$2 billion by 2010, speaking last week at the seventh annual trade exposition aimed at introducing Vietnamese products to Cambodian markets.

"The aim is to encourage the large-scale sale of high-quality Vietnamese products in our country," he told reporters at the start of the five-day event featuring about 150 Vietnamese manufacturers, adding that previous trade fairs have contributed significantly to cross-border commerce.

Trade currently stands at just under $1 billion for the first half of the year. Hor Namhong said the government was trying to encourage Vietnamese manufacturers to begin producing goods in the Kingdom for export to third countries where Cambodia has preferential status, benefiting from low tariffs.

Nguyen Cam Tu, Vietnam's vice minister of industry and commerce, said strong economic growth in Cambodia was key to greater trade between the two countries. "There are a lot of products imported into Cambodia from countries other than Vietnam," she said.

Pchum Ben: the poor are getting richer

Believers are very generous during Pchum Ben

Cambodge Soir


Is the festival of the death a lucrative business? This is certainly the hope of the poor who are begging in large numbers throughout the pagodas during this period.

While the ancestors, called “Brêts”, are authorised to return to Earth amongst the living, thanks to “Yama”, God of Death, the destitute people try to benefit from the believers’ generosity by visiting the pagodas in search of a few cents. Chouly, 63 years old and from Prey Veng province, settled in front of Wat Toul Tum Poung in Phnom Penh on the first day of Kan Ben, the ceremony preceding Pchum Ben.

“The faithful give me about 5000 riel per day, she explains, which allows me to feed my children.” A little further, Sina, 32 years old, says that the older ladies are the most generous ones. “They feel sorry for us, she says. And it’s true that for Buddhists, offering some money ensures a better situation in next life.” Some destitute people came with their children. They’re often the ones who look after the shoes of the believers at the entrance of the temples, which allows them to earn at least one hundred riel per pair. According to Kour Sopheap, deputy chief of the Koul Totoeung pagoda in Kandal province, beggars are considered as living “Brêts”. “During the festival of the death, says the monk, believers are more generous than usual.”

But it’s not all. In front of the pagodas, the poor sell incense, candles, cakes and also birds: all kinds of offerings used for ceremonies. “I’m poor, continues Sina. But I feel ashamed to beg, so I’m trying to do something else. This year I’m a money changer. For eight new notes of 100 riel, I can receive 1000 riel. It’s a business like any other, and it’s going well because the believers prefer to offer new notes to the pagoda. They believe that this will give them better karma.”

However, each year during Pchum Ben, the destitute come in larger numbers to the pagodas. An NGO member who wants to remain anonymous deplores that. According to him it’s a sign that Cambodia still is a poor country.

The provisional detention of Nuon Chea extended another year

Cambodge Soir


The former “brother n°2” of the Khmer Rouge regime asked to be released, considering his detention to be “illegal”.

The provisional detention of Nuon Chea has been extended another year, stated Helen Jarvis, spokesperson for the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, on Friday 9 September, according to a dispatch from the Agence France Presse,Nuon Chea, 82 years old, was arrested on the 19th of September 2007 in the former Khmer Rouge stronghold of Pailin.

On the 28th of August, the tribunal had refused a request for annulment filed by his lawyers, Son Arun and Michiel Pestman, who asked for certain acts to be removed from the procedure, in particular an audition from 20 September 2007, held while Nuon Chea was only assisted by a Cambodian lawyer.

Cambodian elections: people who received a sentence must pay, reminds the NEC

The National Election Committee

Cambodge Soir


The people who were sentenced by the National Election Committee after the elections have 30 days to settle their fine, reminded the NEC on Friday 19 September in a communiqué.

“In case they don’t pay their fine, legal measures will be taken”, states the communiqué.

Amongst the four people sentenced over violations of the election law is the opposition leader, Sam Rainsy, who will have to shell out 10 million riel (2,500 dollars) for having insulted the three leaders of the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP).

During the election campaign Sam Rainsy had accused Chea Sim, Heng Sa, Rin and Hun Sen of being “thieves of the nation”, using a Global Witness report about deforestation.

Considering Sam Rainsy’s remarks to be an “unforgivable” insult, Hun Sen stated on the 17th of September that the CPP would probably file a complaint against the deputy, above his sentence given by the NEC.

Two out of the three other people who were sentenced are CPP militants, accused of having committed frauds during the election period. They’ll each have to settle a fine of 5 million riel.

Ta Krabey: the Cambodian Ambassador shows his determination

Cambodge Soir


While confirming the sovereignty of his country over the temple of Ta Krabey, despite the military and diplomatic attempts from the neighbouring Kingdom to take control, Ung Sean condemns these Thai intrusions.

Tit for tat. “On the geographic maps, the temple of Ta Krabey, known under the name of Ta Kwai in Thailand, is located on Cambodia’s territory”. This small clarification, using very diplomatic terms, was written in a mail sent by the Cambodian Ambassador to Bangkok to the Foreign Minister of the neighbouring Kingdom. “This action is a violation of the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Cambodia”, wrote the Ambassador.

Yet, on 16 September, the Permanent Secretary of the Thai Foreign Minister had sent a “reminder” to the Cambodian Ambassador, in which he accused Cambodia of having “violated its territory” by sending military on the site. According to him, the temple indeed belongs to the Thai province of Surin. As a consequence of the Preah Vihear dispute, Thai soldiers are increasing the number of incursions on Cambodian territory, under the pretext that the outline of the border remains vague.

Ung Sean reminds that, at 6pm on 10 September, about one hundred military from the neighbouring country invaded and occupied the temple, despite the repeated protests from the local Cambodian authorities, before leaving the next day.

These tensions go on since last July’s registration of the temple of Preah Vihear on the Unesco World Heritage list. Because of the Thai crisis, the border issue is dragging on.

Somchai wants to solve the border dispute with Cambodia

The Thai Prime Minister, Somchai Wongsawat

Cambodge Soir


The new Thai Prime Minister wishes for the Thai and Cambodian Ministers of Foreign Affairs at the UN to meet in New York.

Somchai Wongsawat declared being ready to negotiate with his Cambodian counterpart, Hun Sen, concerning the border dispute opposing both countries since several months, states the English language Thai newspaper “The Nation”.

“I’m ready to negotiate with Prime Minister Hun Sen in order to reach a better understanding and some progress from both sides”, said Samak’s successor.

The new strongman of Bangkok also invited Thai and Cambodian delegates of the United Nations to meet outside the General Assembly of the United Nations, between the 25th and 29th of September in New York.

An informal meeting between the representatives of the Asean countries will likely take place on the 29th of September at the United Nations Headquarters.

On Wednesday 17 September, Hun Sen had complained about the encroaching of Thai troops upon Cambodian territory. On the 10th and 11th of September, Thai military occupied the temple of Ta Krabey in the Dongrek Mountains. Bangkok justified this incursion by declaring that this temple, known under the name of Ta Kwai in Thai, is part of the Thai territory, even if the border hadn’t yet been laid out around that area.

The Thai Foreign Minister summoned the Cambodian Ambassador to Bangkok, Ung Sean, in order to complain against the Cambodian encroachment upon Thai territory, which allegedly took place in “August and September”.

The name of the new Foreign Minister of the Somchai government remains as yet unknown. He will be the fourth Head of Thai Diplomacy over a period of just a few months, after the forced resignation of Noppadon Pattama on the 10th of July, during the crisis of Preah Vihear. His successor, Tej Bunnang, only held out 40 days before resigning, seemingly victim of pressure. Saroj Chavanavirat, former Thai Ambassador to Paris between 2000 and 2002, nominated by the King during the last days of the Samak government, shouldn’t get his position back.

Khmer Rouge Tribunal: the Council of Ministers assures that everything goes well

According to the communiqué, Duch should be judged in 2009

Cambodge Soir


On Friday 19 September, the Council of Ministers published a communiqué aiming to reassure the population about the trial of the former Khmer Rouge leaders. According to the Council, “everything was going well”.

In a press release of 19 September, the Council of Ministers assured that the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) were functioning correctly. “Compared with other tribunals, the ECCC, with its small allocated budget, can be pleased about the transparency of their procedures and about the large number of parties involved, particularly on the victims’ side.” The investigations proceed well, assured the Council of Ministers, before adding that Duch will be judged in 2009.

Furthermore, he breached the subject of the complaints filed against some Khmer ECCC officials, members of the administration, but also against magistrates. These complaints have been brought to the UN Headquarters in New York, without transiting through the Cambodian government. The communiqué reminds however that the management of the Khmer staff falls under the authority of the Kingdom, in compliance with the agreement made with the UN. “Sok An, Deputy Prime Minister and President of Royal Task Force at the court has declared on numerous occasions that if complaints were filed before the competent Kingdom’s authorities, they would be examined”, explains the Council of Ministers. “On the 29th of August, continues the communiqué, Sok An issued an administrative circular letter which designates a system to process the received complaints.” Moreover, he is allegedly studying the first one, filed under the framework of this new procedure.

Border conflict: two NGO’s request the help of France

Moeung Sonn, President of the KCF

Cambodge Soir


The Khmer Civilisation Foundation (KCF) and the NGO Cambodian Defenders Project (CDP) have requested the intervention of France concerning the border issue between Cambodia and Thailand, during a press conference in Phnom Penh on Friday 19 September.

According to the KCF and CDP, Cambodia needs the support of France in the border dispute with Thailand. “Until 1953, Cambodia remained under the French protectorate, meaning that France offered its collaboration regarding the delimitation of the Kingdom’s territory, stated Moeung Sonn, president of the KCF. It was also present during the signing of the Franco-Thai conventions in 1904 and 1907, as well as co-chairman of the Paris Agreements signed in October 1991. Moreover, France is in the possession of important documents concerning our country. If it accepted to offer us support and would bring the issue, along our side, before the UN Security Council, Cambodia could swiftly recuperate its territories.”

The KCF and CDP are welcoming the government’s initiative of filing a complaint before the international court, following the encroachment of the Thai soldiers upon Cambodian territory in the area of the Dangrek Mountain. Indeed, although Prime Minister Hun Sen still believes that negotiations are possible with the neighbouring Kingdom, he asserts that all contact came to a halt after the resignation of the former Thai Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tej Bunnaj.

US FBI agents assist Cambodian journalist murder investigation

ABC Radio Australia
September 22, 2008

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation has sent two agents to Phnom Penh to assist in the investigation of the murder of opposition journalist Khim Sambo and his son.

The Phnom Penh Post quotes a US embassy spokesman saying the agents were assigned to Cambodia following a request from the Ministry of Interior, and that their role will be purely supportive of the Cambodian investigation.

He says the agents have no definite timeframe for their involvement and could stay until the investigation is complete.

Phnom Penh's Deputy Police Chief Hy Prou who is heading the investigation told the newspaper local police currently have no leads on a suspect and that the complexities of the case have made investigation difficult.

Khim Sambo was killed instantly after being shot twice in the back while riding on a motorbike driven by his son, who was also shot twice from behind and died later that night in a Phnom Penh hospital.

Cambodia snipes at former UN human rights envoy

The Earth Times

Mon, 22 Sep 2008 06:23:13 GMT
Author : DPA

Phnom Penh - Cambodia's government strongly criticized former UN human rights special envoy Yash Ghai Monday with a letter to the editor published in a leading national newspaper.

Ghai resigned from the post a week ago. His relationship with the Cambodian government broke down amidst claims from Ghai that the government ignored him and from the government he was not neutral.

The national English-language Cambodia Daily newspaper published a letter Monday from Information Minister and government spokesman Khieu Kanharith rebutting quotes the paper ran Wednesday of Ghai's resignation speech, which was read to the UN by a proxy.

The letter was entitled "Ghai's quotes only prove his incompetence," and accused Ghai of lying to incite animosity.

On Wednesday, the paper also quoted Ghai as criticizing the UN and the international community, saying they failed to support him.

"(Prime Minister Hun Sen) called me 'deranged,' 'short-term tourist' and 'lazy,' while the government spokesman Khieu Kanharith called me uncivilized," the paper quoted Ghai, a Kenyan national, as saying. "Mr Kanharith said that Kenyans are rude and savage."

In a strong letter, Kanharith strongly denied the final point, saying he would never look down on an entire nation or people.

"The accusation made by Mr Yash Ghai is only aimed at creating animosity ... and this shows his despicable attitude and manner are unfit for the high role given to him by the UN," he wrote.

Cambodia has said it will welcome a new UN rights envoy but had refused to work further with Ghai, saying he was biased and favoured groups whom the government views as pro-opposition and claims sometimes misrepresent human rights issues for political gain.

Cambodia, Thailand to restart talks on border dispute

PHNOM PENH, Sept. 22 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia and Thailand will restart bilateral negotiations to resolve their 10-week border dispute on Sept. 29 on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session in New York, national media reported Monday.

Either Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen or Foreign Minister HorNamhong will fly to New York this week to attend the General Assembly session, Chea Sokhum, deputy secretary-general of the Permanent Organizing Commission for National and International Ceremonies, was quoted by the Cambodia Daily newspaper as saying.

Whoever attends will also lead the Cambodian side Sept. 29 during negotiations in New York with the Thai foreign minister, Chea Sokhum told the newspaper.

Military leaders of both countries will also meet in early October in Siem Reap to resume negotiations concerning the withdrawal of troops from Preah Vihear temple, RCAF Region 4 Commander Chea Morn said.

The renewed talks will come four weeks after Thailand indefinitely postponed bilateral military meetings.

The border row erupted after Cambodia's arrest of three Thai nationalist protesters on July 15, whom authorities alleged crossed illegally into Cambodia close to the disputed temple site.

Since then, Thailand and Cambodia have been building up their forces near the temple and tensions have escalated, spreading to other temple sites along the border.

Editor: Lin Liyu

There's more than casinos on Koh Kong

The Bangkok Post
Monday September 22, 2008


Thai tourists are being reminded that the Cambodian border province of Koh Kong offers much more than just the casinos for which it is famous.

Mayuda Mang, deputy chief of the Tourism Department of Koh Kong, said at the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) workshop on biodiversity conservation and tourism development in Bangkok that the 11,000 sq km province has a wide variety of tourist attractions.

"Koh Kong is home to the country's largest mangrove areas and we still have several small pristine islands eligible for ecotourism development," said Ms Mayuda.

She said that no matter how volatile relations between the two countries have been in recent months, Koh Kong and the opposite province of Trat have remained on good neighbourly terms.

Trat has sent experts to help Koh Kong villagers preserve mangrove forests, said Ms Mayuda, adding: "We appreciate that cooperation and would like to see deepened collaboration on nature conservation in our country."

However, she conceded that Road No 48, which was jointly opened by then-deputy prime minister Somchai Wongsawat and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, with a bridge linking the Thai border to Koh Kong and on to Phnom Penh, would inevitably attract all kinds of investors, traders and gamblers to Cambodia.

The Thai government gave financial support to build the road.

It takes about one hour to drive from Trat to Koh Kong and another three hours to go on to the capital Phnom Penh.

The owners of the casino projects are Thais and Cambodians and gamblers come not only from Thailand, but also from China and Taiwan, as well as a few locals.

Asked how much progress Thailand's former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra had made in his reported investment in Koh Kong, Ms Mayuda said he had taken 10 interested parties to meet Hun Sen last April, but none of them, including Mr Thaksin, had yet confirmed they had initiated any projects.

"The picture will become clearer after Hun Sen's new government is up and running. Until that time, probably only two or three investors might seriously want to pursue business in Koh Kong," Ms Mayuda said.

Mr Thaksin has shown interest in leasing Koh Kong Khrao, an 80 sq km island off Koh Kong, to develop an entertainment complex, but she did not know how negotiations were progressing.

She also said that a South Korean company had been given a 99-year lease to develop hotel, entertainment and eco-tourism businesses on Koh Yo, another small island off Koh Kong.

And a Kuwaiti investor has pledged US$15 million (511 million baht) to help transform Cambodia into an agro-business hub.

Koh Kong's efforts to lure different kinds of tourists is part of Cambodia's wider strategy to develop the industry nationwide so that the impoverished country will not continue to rely on its top drawing card, Angkor Wat.

Anne-Maria Makela, senior tourism adviser for the Netherlands Development Organisation, said at the workshop that too much focus has been placed on Angkor Wat and Siem Reap, and the country should bring more communities into the tourism picture.

Thailand, Cambodia leaders agree to border dispute talks

ABC Radio Australia
September 22, 2008

Thailand's Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat and his Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen are reported to have agreed to resolve the border dispute around Ta Kwai temple.

The Bangkok Post says they have decided to discuss the matter at the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting in New York, on September the 29th.

It quotes a foreign ministry official in Bangkok saying the premiers from the two countries held a telephone conversation recently and both agreed that the Thai-Cambodian border row can be solved through bilateral means.

The new development comes after Cambodia's prime minister accused Thailand of border intrusion into Ta Kwai last week.

Throwing rice to offer to the spirits who died with no relative during Pchum Ben

Young Buddhist devotees pray as they attend the annual Festival of the Dead, or "Pchumben" ceremony at a temple in Phnom Penh, early September 22, 2008. The festival culminate on the fifteen day of the tenth month of the Khmer calendar with millions of Cambodians visiting temples throughout the country to offer prayers and food to the spirits of their loved ones.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)
Buddhist devotees pray as they attend the annual Festival of the Dead, or "Pchumben" ceremony at a temple in Phnom Penh, early September 22, 2008. The festival culminate on the fifteen day of the tenth month of the Khmer calendar with millions of Cambodians visiting temples throughout the country to offer prayers and food to the spirits of their loved ones.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Cambodian Buddhist followers hold cooked rice in preparation for throwing those to offer to the spirits who died with no relative during Pchum Ben, or ancestors' day, celebrations on the 15th day of the 10th month in Khmer calendar on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Sunday, Sept. 21, 2008.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Cambodian Buddhist followers carry cooked rice and candles before throwing those to offer to the spirits who died with no relative during Pchum Ben, or ancestors' day, celebrations on the 15th day of the 10th month in Khmer calendar on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Sunday, Sept. 21, 2008.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Meeting celebrates Khmer people’s Sene Dolta Festival

VietNamNet Bridge – The Khmer people’s Sene Dolta Festival was attended by more than 500 officials of central agencies, committees for religion from Mekong Delta provinces and Ho Chi Minh City, dignitaries, monks and nuns in Can Tho City on Sept. 19.

Lieut. Gen. Luu Phuoc Luong, Deputy Head of the Steering Committee for the Southwestern Region, delivered a greeting letter from Permanent Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Sinh Hung to the southern Khmer people during the festival.

The letter stated: “This year, the government, ministries, branches and Mekong Delta localities continue implementing the Party and State policies aiming to promote socio-economic development in the region, especially areas inhabited by the Khmer people. All members, including monks and nuns, of the Khmer ethnic minority group have upheld the sense of solidarity and emulation in production and learning, and active participation in revolutionary movements.”

The Deputy PM said he believed that the officials, people and Buddhist monks and nuns of the Khmer group in the southern region will overcome all difficulties, actively strive for a happy life, bring into play the tradition of unity among nationalities and religions, and heighten revolutionary vigilance to contribute towards national construction and defence.

At the meeting, several religious dignitaries and Khmer people expressed thanks for the sentiments expressed by the Party and State towards ethnic minority people in the southern region, including the Khmer people.

The Sene Dolta Festival is the 2nd largest annual festival after the Chol Chnam Thmay (New Year) of the Khmer people in the Mekong Delta.

During the Sene Dolta Festival the Khmer people gather at pagodas to pray for bumper crops and pay tributes to their ancestors, and enjoy a range of light-hearted activities, including traditional song and dance performances at the end of a hard working year.

(Source: VNA)