Saturday, 4 October 2008

Cambodia - News : gunfire at Preah Vihear - 04.10.2008

Cambodia warns Thailand after border clash

Cambodia's Information Minister Khieu Kanharith speaks to the media during a news conference in Phnom Penh July 24, 2008, file photo.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Zee News

Phnom Penh, Oct 04: Cambodia protested to Thailand on Saturday about a border shooting incident in which three solders were wounded and said in a letter to the Thai Ambassador that such "intentional armed provocation" could lead to conflict.

However, Cambodian Information Minister Khieu Kanharith told a news agency that Phnom Penh had agreed to an investigation at the border into Friday's exchange of fire and Thailand's Foreign Ministry said the situation was calm.

Two Thai soldiers and one Cambodian soldier were injured in what was the first clash in the disputed territory near the 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple since the two countries agreed to pull back in August after a serious confrontation.

Each country has accused the other of encroaching on its territory and said troops from the other side fired first.

Cambodia's Foreign Ministry sent a letter of protest to the Thai Ambassador on Saturday.

"Such armed provocation by Thai soldiers could lead to very grave consequences, including full-scale armed hostility which would adversely affect the present efforts of the two governments to seek a peaceful and amicable solution to the current border problems," the letter seen by a news agency read.

For its part, Thailand's Foreign Ministry said in a statement issued late on Friday that the situation had returned to normal.

The Thai military immediately initiated high-level contact with Cambodian counterparts about the incident.

"The Cambodian side agreed to investigate the matter and reaffirmed that the incident would be contained without any further armed confrontation," the Thai ministry statement said.

"The Cambodian side also affirmed that it would coordinate more closely with the Thai side to prevent any recurrence of similar incidents."

Foreign Ministers of the two countries agreed in July to find a peaceful end to the diplomatic and military spat, centring on 1.8 square miles (4.6 sq km) of scrub near the temple.

Both sides have claimed Preah Vihear for decades. The International Court of Justice awarded it to Cambodia in 1962 and the ruling has rankled in Thailand ever since.

The row earlier this year was sparked by protesters seeking to overthrow the Thai government, who attacked Bangkok's backing of Cambodia's bid to list Preah Vihear as a United Nations World Heritage site.

Political elements on both sides fueled the conflict for their own ends, but tensions eased considerably after Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's victory in a general election in late July in which the temple, and nationalism, featured heavily.

Bureau Report

Fighting Spirit: What Landmine Doesn't Destroy

Yong's shabby hut is situated beside a large drain. Photo courtesy: Cambodian Sin Chew Daily.


Some of the pigs he keeps at his backyard. Photo courtesy: Cambodian Sin Chew Daily.

He repairs bicycles on the outside his house. Photo courtesy: Cambodian Sin Chew Daily.

When he has a little bit of time, he would sit on a chair and wait for customers. Photo courtesy: Cambodian Sin Chew Daily.

Cambodian Sin Chew Daily
2008-10-04

"I've never asked a single cent from friends or relatives. Their school fees have been financed entirely from my meagre income accumulated bit by bit over the years."

Having gone through years of wars and turbulence, Cambodia has lost millions of its citizens.
While some might have been lucky enough to keep their lives, they have nevertheless lost their limbs or been permanently disabled.

The heinous wars might have been over for some time now, yet the landmines which have since remained have generated countless of tragedies up to this day.

According to statistics, about 200,000 Cambodians, or approximately 2% of the country's population, are disabled--some were born disabled, while the disability of others has been caused by illnesses, wars, or landmines.

55-year-old Yong Lincang has served in the army for more than a decade.

In 1995, he accidentally stepped on a landmine in Koh Kong province near the Thai border, and lost his right leg. His life has since been changed for good.

All that is left of his right leg is but a meaty lump, and he needs a pair of clutches to help him walk around.

He and his wife and three grown-up daughters are living in a dilapidated hut beside a drain in the village, on a land that belongs to someone else.

There are a few holes on the wall, which cannot shield them from the scorching sunlight or the storm.

When the reporter reached out to Yong, he looked squarely gloomy, as if he had a lot of dissatisfaction with his life.

He earns a living by repairing motorcycles and bicycles, a skill which he picked up at the disabled centre in 1996, and which he has been living on since 1997.

Other than this livelihood, Yong is also keeping ten pigs at his backyard, and the money he gets from selling the animal allows him to lessen the burden of his children's school fees.

He said his three daughters are still schooling--the eldest daughter pursuing a master's degree in marketing in Phnom Penh, the second daughter doing a course in banking, while the youngest still in a high school.

The reporter was curious how he had managed to raise the school fees for his three children. Yong reacted in an unexpectedly exaggerated manner, "If not fighting hard on your own, are you going to wait for the money to fall from the sky?

"I've never asked a single cent from friends or relatives, their school fees have been financed entirely from my meagre income accumulated bit by bit over the years."

His two eldest daughters are currently working part-time to pay for their school fees, and this has helped reduce the family's burden a little.

Yong said, "Life is like a duel. We must persist in our fight through the toughest times, and work hard to explore a world that belongs to ourselves.

"Our life will only become more glorious and meaningful if we have experienced life ourselves."

(Translated by DOMINIC LOH/Cambodia Sin Chew Daily)

Cambodia protests to Thailand over border gunfight

www.chinaview.cn
2008-10-04

PHNOM PENH, Oct. 4 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia protested to Thailand on Saturday about Friday's border shooting incident, which was the first clash between the two countries in the more than two-month-long border dispute.

"On Oct. 3, 2008, at 15:30, a group of Thai soldiers entered Cambodian territory in the area of Phnom Trap and fired gunshots from M.79 at the Cambodian troops stationed at Veal Intry area on Phnom Trap hill side, located approximately 2,000 meters to the west of Keo Sikha Kiri Svara pagoda (in the area of Preah Vihear Temple)," said Cambodia's Foreign Ministry in a letter to the Thaiembassy which was obtained by Xinhua.

"The shooting resulted in the injury of one Cambodian soldier from Brigade No 43," the letter said, adding that Cambodian troops returned fire in self defense, which was followed by a brief exchange of gunfire between the sides.

"The Royal Government of Cambodia considers the above act by Thai soldiers as a serious armed provocation, contrary to the commitment to exercise utmost restraint made during the Meetings of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the two countries on July 28, 2008 at Siem Reap, Cambodia and on Aug. 18-19, 2008 at Cha-am, Thailand," the letter said.

The Cambodian government strongly protests against this "deplorable and intentional armed provocation" by Thai soldiers, it said.

Such armed provocation by Thai soldiers could lead to very grave consequences, including "full scale armed hostility" which would adversely affect the present efforts of the two governments to seek out a peaceful and amicable solution to the current border problems, it added.

Meanwhile, Cambodian officials said the area was calm Saturday and that an investigative committee was inspecting the area to determine how the incident occurred since troops on both sides have been ordered not to fire.

Thai new Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat is scheduled to visitCambodia on Oct. 13, which is a routine visit to ASEAN (the Association of South East Asian Nations) members after he was elected as Thai leader.

Cambodian Information Minister and government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said late Friday that the exchange of fire would not affect the visit of Thai Prime Minister to Cambodia.

The border row between the two neighbors erupted after Cambodia's arrest of three Thai nationalist protesters on July 15, whom authorities allegedly crossed illegally into Cambodia close to thedisputed Preah Vihear 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: David Du

Thai protests Cambodian border incursion and clash

M&C Asia-Pacific News
Oct 4, 2008

Bangkok - Thailand on Saturday issued an official protest to the Cambodian government over an alleged border incursion and subsequent clash that left three soldiers injured, Thai officials said Saturday.

On Friday a Thai military patrol encountered Cambodian troops allegedly situated about 1 kilometre inside Thai territory near the Phreah Vihear temple, an 11th century Hindu temple that has been the cause of many border disputes between the two neighbouring countries for almost five decades.

'According to the Thai military the Cambodians were definitely inside Thai territory, and the Cambodian side opened fire first,' said Thai foreign ministry spokesman Tharit Charungvat.

Two Thai soldiers and one Cambodian were wounded in the brief firefight on the border.

The foreign ministry's permanent secretary Virsakdi Footrakul plans to submit a formal letter of protest to the Cambodian charge d'affaires in Bangkok over the incident at 5 p.m. Saturday, said Tharit.

Preah Vihear, an ancient Hindu temple built on a 525-metre- high cliff on the Dongrak mountain range that defines the Thai- Cambodian border, has been the cause of a border conflict between Thailand and Cambodia for decades.

In 1962, the two countries agreed to settle joint claims to the temple at the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Cambodia won, but the court stopped short of defining the border in the area.

Thailand claims that a 4.6-square-kilometre plot of land adjoining the temple is still disputed.
The ancient spat got a fresh start in July when UNESCO agreed to list Preah Vihear as a World Heritage site. Although the inscription excluded the 4.6 square kilometres of disputed territory, and Thailand protested the listing.

The spat escalated from a diplomatic row to a potential military conflict in mid-July when three Thais were detained for entering the disputed temple territory, and both sides dispatched military troops to the area.

Efforts have since been made to solve the dispute diplomatically but this path has been slowed down by political turmoil in Thailand which last month saw its prime minister sacked for moonlighting as a TV cook show host and had to appoint a new chief executive and cabinet.

Cold border standoff turns hot

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by By Thet Sambath and Brendan Brady
Saturday, 04 October 2008

Cambodian and Thai troops suffered injuries during an exchange of gunfire Friday afternoon near Preah Vihear temple, in the first real military fighting of the prolonged border standoff, say Cambodian officials.

"One Cambodian was shot in the arm, and we believe one or two Thai soldiers were injured," according to Yim Phim, the commander of brigade 43, which is stationed in the area.

He said the incident started at around 3:00pm when about a dozen Thai soldiers approached a Cambodian army encampment at Phnom Troap, just a couple kilometres from the World-Heritage listed temple, and demanded troops there leave.

"They showed them a Thai-made map and told the Cambodians to get off the land. An argument went on for a while," said Yim Phim. "The Thais then withdrew about ten meters and started firing."

"Thai soldiers first fired an M-79 (grenade launcher), and Cambodians shot back with a B-40 (grenade launcher). Then both sides fired with machine guns," he said.

He said the Thai soldiers withdrew across the border after dark, around 5:30, while the Cambodian soldiers remained in their original position.

"In that area, soldiers from both countries used to stay close to each other, but the situation has changed and now everyone is on high alert."

Srey Doek, the highest-ranking military official stationed inside the Preah Vihear temple complex, told the Post Saturday morning that his Thai counterpart had requested to meet him Saturday afternoon in the local pagoda, but he still did not have authority from his superiors to attend.

Cambodian government and army leaders have thrown a wet blanket on the first reported violent military clash since the standoff began more than 11 weeks ago, characterizing it as a localized incident that would not threaten to spread to other points along the border.

Chea Morn, head commander of Military Region 4, which includes Preah Vihear province, corroborated that "a clash", as described by the brigade commander, had taken place, but said it was "just a small problem... and would be resolved.

"Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs would contact its Thai counterpart to discuss to incident, but called it "a problem between the soldiers stationed in that area... and not a problem between the governments."

"The government's position is still that diplomatic negotiations must be used to solve this dispute."

Just earlier this week, in the sidelines of the UN General Assembly summit in New York, top foreign affairs officials from both sides reiterated the commitment of their governments to resolving the dispute peacefully.

Phay Siphan said talks between the Cambodian and Thai prime ministers on October 13 in Phnom Penh would proceed as planned.

Thailand claims Cambodia fire on Thai troops first

Following a Friday afternoon incident in which two Thais and one Khmer soldier were
wounded, Thailand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has denied that Thai soldiers patrolling near the ancient Preah Vihear temple on the Thai-Cambodian border provoked a gunfight with the Cambodian, but accused the Khmers of intruding into Thai territory.

The statement, issued Friday night, quoted Tharit Charungvat, director-general of the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs Information Department saying that according to Thai military sources the exchange of gunfire which took place at about 3.45 pm erupted when a Thai military unit patrolling the border about one kilometre west of the temple encountered a Cambodian military unit.

The Thai soldiers said the Khmer troops had encroached about one kilometre into Thai territory.

Negotiations asking the Cambodian troops to withdraw as requested by the Thais failed, said the Thai foreign ministry statement.

"As the Thai military unit was moving out of the area to report to their commander, the Cambodian military unit opened fire at them," according to the Thai ministry statement. "The Thai side was therefore compelled to return fire," the statement noted.
 
Two Thai and one Cambodian soldiers were wounded, according to the foreign ministry, which said the Khmer soldier's wound was in his hand.

The situation has now returned to normal and the Thai military had initiated higher-level contact with the Cambodian military, said the statement.

"The Cambodian side agreed to investigate the matter and reaffirmed that the incident would be contained without any further armed confrontation," it added.

The Cambodians affirmed that they would coordinate more closely with the Thais to prevent any recurrence of similar incidents.

Tensions between the two neighbours flared up in July after Preah Vihear temple, which belongs to Cambodia, 
was awarded world heritage status by the UNESCO, angering Thai nationalists who still claim ownership of the 11th century temple.

The International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that the temple belongs to Cambodia, but the surrounding land remains in dispute. (TNA)

Cambodia warns Thailand after border clash

Sat Oct 4, 2008

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - Cambodia protested to Thailand on Saturday about a border shooting incident in which three solders were wounded and said in a letter to the Thai ambassador that such "intentional armed provocation" could lead to conflict.

However, Cambodian Information Minister Khieu Kanharith told Reuters Phnom Penh had agreed to an investigation at the border into Friday's exchange of fire and Thailand's foreign ministry said the situation was calm.

Two Thai soldiers and one Cambodian soldier were injured in what was the first clash in the disputed territory near the 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple since the two countries agreed to pull back in August after a serious confrontation.

Each country has accused the other of encroaching on its territory and said troops from the other side fired first.

Cambodia's Foreign Ministry sent a letter of protest to the Thai ambassador on Saturday.

"Such armed provocation by Thai soldiers could lead to very grave consequences, including full-scale armed hostility which would adversely affect the present efforts of the two governments to seek a peaceful and amicable solution to the current border problems," the letter seen by Reuters said.

For its part, Thailand's Foreign Ministry said in a statement issued late on Friday that the situation had returned to normal.

The Thai military immediately initiated high-level contact with Cambodian counterparts about the incident.

"The Cambodian side agreed to investigate the matter and reaffirmed that the incident would be contained without any further armed confrontation," the Thai ministry statement said.

"The Cambodian side also affirmed that it would coordinate more closely with the Thai side to prevent any recurrence of similar incidents."

Foreign ministers of the two countries agreed in July to find a peaceful end to the diplomatic and military spat, centering on 1.8 square miles (4.6 sq km) of scrub near the temple.

Both sides have claimed Preah Vihear for decades. The International Court of Justice awarded it to Cambodia in 1962 and the ruling has rankled in Thailand ever since.

The row earlier this year was sparked by protesters seeking to overthrow the Thai government, who attacked Bangkok's backing of Cambodia's bid to list Preah Vihear as a United Nations World Heritage site.

Political elements on both sides fueled the conflict for their own ends, but tensions eased considerably after Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's victory in a general election in late July in which the temple, and nationalism, featured heavily.

(Reporting by Ek Madra in Phnom Penh and Orathai Sriring in Bangkok; Editing by Alan Raybould and Alex Richardson)

Thailand claims Cambodian troops crossed border

Cambodian soldiers at the Preah Vihear temple


BANGKOK (AFP) — Thailand's government Saturday denied that its forces had provoked a border skirmish which left three soldiers injured and accused Cambodian troops of intruding into Thai territory.

On Friday Cambodian officials said more than a dozen Thai soldiers had crossed into disputed territory near the ancient Preah Vihear temple.

But Thailand's foreign ministry blamed its neighbour and said the three-minute exchange of gunfire came after Cambodian troops trespassed.

"They had encroached about one kilometre (more than half a mile) into Thai territory," foreign ministry spokesman Tharit Charungvat said in a statement.

The statement said that on Friday at around 3:45 pm (0845 GMT), a Thai military unit patrolling the border area, about one kilometre west of the Preah Vihear temple, came across a Cambodian military unit.

Thai soldiers first attempted to negotiate a withdrawal and were leaving to report to their commander when the Cambodian soldiers opened fire, it said.

But according to Cambodia, Thai troops had been turned back by Cambodian soldiers and Thai soldiers were the first to open fire.

Two Thai soldiers were injured in the exchange, and one Cambodian soldier's hand was hit.

Thai officials said the incident had been contained with high-level military officials on both sides agreeing to establish closer contact to prevent any repeat. They said Cambodian officials had agreed to investigate.

The incident comes as both countries attempt progress in talks to resolve the decades-long border dispute.

Tensions flared in July after the ancient Khmer temple of Preah Vihear was awarded world heritage status by the UN cultural body UNESCO, angering nationalists in Thailand who still claim ownership of the site.

Those tensions turned into a military standoff, in which up to 1,000 Cambodian and Thai troops faced off for six weeks.

Both sides agreed to pull back in mid-August, leaving just a few dozen soldiers stationed near the temple.

Cambodia protests 'armed provocation'

THE AGE
www.theage.com.au
October 4, 2008

Cambodia's foreign ministry has formally protested to Thailand over a border skirmish which left at least three soldiers injured, warning that Thai troops risked "full scale armed hostility".

One Cambodian soldier and two Thai troops were wounded when units briefly clashed near an ancient temple along their disputed border. They have swapped accusations of trespass and firing first.

"The Royal Government of Cambodia strongly protests against this deplorable and intentional armed provocation by Thai soldiers," said Cambodia's foreign ministry in a letter to the Thai embassy obtained by AFP.

The letter said Cambodian troops had only returned fire in self defence and went on to warn that "armed provocation by Thai soldiers could lead to very grave consequences, including full scale armed hostility".

Thailand's foreign ministry earlier blamed its neighbour and said the three-minute exchange of gunfire came after Cambodian troops had crossed into Thai territory.

Cambodian officials said the area was calm and an investigative committee was inspecting the area to determine how the incident occurred since troops on both sides had been ordered not to fire.

The skirmish comes as the countries attempt progress in talks to resolve the decades-long border dispute.

Tensions flared in July after the ancient Khmer temple of Preah Vihear was awarded world heritage status by the UN cultural body UNESCO, angering nationalists in Thailand who still claim ownership of the site.

Those tensions turned into a military standoff, in which up to 1,000 Cambodian and Thai troops faced off for six weeks.

Both sides agreed to pull back in mid-August, leaving just a few dozen soldiers stationed near the temple.

Ministers from Cambodian ruling party to resign parliamentary positions

Mathaba
2008/10/04
From: MNN

PHNOM PENH, Oct. 3 (Xinhua) -- Prime Minister Hun Sen has announced that the lawmakers from the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) who hold both government posts and seats in the National Assembly will resign their parliamentary positions and concentrate on their ministerial responsibilities, national media reported Friday.

"If we keep them in two positions it will be difficult for them to stand with one leg in the National Assembly and the other one in the government," Hun Sen was quoted as saying in the Phnom Penh Post.

"I have already signed off on (a letter) to the National Election Committee (NEC) regarding the replacements," Hun Sen said.

Hun Sen named the resigned parliamentarians as Minister of Rural Development Chea Sophara, Minister of Information and government spokesman Khieu Kanharith, Minister of Education, Youthand Sports Im Sethy, Minister of Environment Mok Mareth, and Minister of Social Affairs Ith Sam Heng.

Nguon Nhel, the first deputy president of the National Assembly, said that a total of 40 CPP parliamentarians holding dual positions or being considered for fresh government posts were in line to be replaced.

"Such replacements are the strategy of Hun Sen," he told the Post Thursday, adding that "we have already approved the names of the candidates."

Meanwhile, the three Human Rights Party (HRP) parliamentarians who boycotted the Sept. 24 swearing-in of the new Assembly will have the chance to be sworn-in in a separate session with the replacement CPP parliamentarians.

A hotel with heart and soul

The Shinta Mani Hotel and Hospitality Institute in Siem Riep, Cambodia is noted for giving back to its community in a vareity of innovative ways.Photograph by : Michael Wuitchuk, for the Calgary Herald


The Institute of Hospitality Training is funded entirely with hotel funds and donations from guests and others from overseas.Photograph by : Michael Wuitchuk, for the Calgary Herald

Michael Wuitchuk and son Daniel met with villagers to donate a host of essential items. Photograph by : Michael Wuitchuk, for the Calgary Herald

Children saying thank-you for packs with school supplies and a uniform.Photograph by : Michael Wuitchuk, for the Calgary Herald

The Shinta Mani hotel in Cambodia has become a poster child for responsible tourism

Michael Wuitchuk,
The Calgary Herald
Friday, October 03, 2008

The Calgary-based NGO, Future Group, has reported that the most conservative number of prostitutes and sex slaves in Cambodia alone is between 40,000 and 50,000, and higher estimates range between 80,000 and 100,000.

Many of the children are from communities so poor that girls and boys as young as six are actually sold to brothels by their own families.The dark underbelly of southeast Asia is all the more reason to take responsible tourism seriously. If you go, consider taking a proactive approach.

On a recent trip to Cambodia, my son Daniel and I discovered that you can be an active witness to the magnificence of the region and still leave a positive footprint. Amazingly, we accomplished this not by joining an aid organization, but by staying at a hotel.

The Shinta Mani Hotel and Hospitality Institute is a lovely 18-room boutique hotel in Siem Reap. Facilities include spacious and well-appointed rooms, an atmospheric outdoor restaurant and air-conditioned indoor dining room, and a spa with the elegance and serenity one would expect of a five-star property.

Although the Shinta Mani is loaded with class and charm, there is a heart and soul to this place that was apparent from the moment we were greeted by the smiling young staff.

As responsible tourism goes, this hotel is a poster child.

Owner Sokhoun Chanpreda founded the Hospitality Training Institute in 2004 - the first class of 21 young people selected from the poorest of families graduated in 2005.

Students, all of whom were considered "at risk" due to extreme poverty, can choose between cooking, serving, housekeeping, reception and spa services - each are taught in nine-month modules.

The school is funded entirely with hotel funds and donations from guests and others from overseas.

We were so impressed with the Hospitality Training Institute that we extended our stay to accompany Theany, the hotel's "community liason officer," on one of her forays into the many poor villages around Siem Reap.

We drove in the hotel pickup truck loaded with treadle sewing machines, backpacks filled with school supplies, bags of rice, vegetable seeds and a bicycle - and watched Theany and her staff do aid work, Shinta Mani style.

The model is simple - use the labours of salaried hotel staff (who are dedicated to giving their time - the communities are, after all, their own communities), donate $5 from every guest night to the community program, and provide an opportunity for guests to both see the program in action and donate to specific projects. Among the range of options, guests can contribute a mechanical water well ($100), a pair of pigs ($80) or even a small concrete house ($1,250).

We visited villages that had been working with the Shinta Mani staff for some time, and some that were new to the community program. The villages that had received water wells had well maintained vegetable plots and a few small concrete houses - in these communities the women and children turned out in numbers, their hands extended in prayerful thanks.

In a village new to the Shinta Mani program, we met a family that had been recently chosen to receive a well - their entire worldly possessions were the clothes on their backs and a tired set of cooking pans.

These people and their neighbours seemed both desperate and skeptical - they were clearly not used to receiving aid or good news of any kind.

Later, while sitting in the hotel's lovely outdoor restaurant, general manager and Sri Lankan ex-pat Chitra Vincent told us that Shinta Mani means "the gem that provides for all" in Sanskrit - the place could not be better named.

Some numbers

. We met two teachers in rural schools - each had four years of experience after teacher training and each made $20 a month.. Theany's husband is a policeman - she says he makes $25 a month.. A student at the Shinta Mani Hospitality Institute receives a uniform, $10 a month and four kilos of rice per week for their families.. When hired as employees, they earn $50 a month while on three-month probation, and $80 a month when full time.

If you go

. Skip the air-conditioned cars to the temples - take a tuk tuk. Far cheaper ($10-$14 and they wait at each temple), and far more fun.
. Avoid the cheap massages in Siem Reap - and for the rest of Asia for that matter. Go to a reputable spa, pay $40-$50 for a professional massage as good as anywhere. I suggest the Shinta Mani or Victoria Spas in Siem Reap. The Victoria also has wonderful spas in Sapa and Hoi An, Vietnam.
. Tip: browse the booking companies, read the reviews, but always go to the hotel website itself - I have found better rates than through internet "discounters."
. Read, The Road of Lost Innocence, by Somaly Mam, Virago Press.. Check out, thefuturegroup.org . Accommodation: The Shinta Mani Hotel internet rates, about $100 plus tax double shintamani.com
. Junction of Oum Khum and 14th Street, Siem Reap, Cambodia, Phone (855) 63 761 998, Fax (855) 63 761 999.

Protecting Cambodia's Treasures

VOA Khmer
03 October 2008

The United States government and the government of Cambodia have agreed to extend their Memorandum of Understanding "Concerning the Imposition of Import Restrictions on Archaeological Material from Cambodia from the Bronze Age through the Khmer Era."

This extension, consistent with a recommendation made by the Cultural Property Advisory Committee, represents a continuation of cooperation that began in 1999. Emergency U.S. import restrictions were then implemented to help reduce the pillage of Cambodia's archaeological heritage and the illicit trafficking in such material.

This U.S. action is in response to a request made by the government of Cambodia under Article 9 of the 1970 United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. Cambodia is the first country in East Asia to receive the cooperation of the United States in protecting its cultural property in this manner.

The extended Memorandum of Understanding expands the scope of the original to include archaeological objects from the Bronze and Iron Ages. It specifically restricts the import into the United States of ancient Cambodian stone, metal, and ceramic archaeological material unless an export permit is issued by Cambodia or there is verifiable documentation that the objects left Cambodia prior to the effective date of the restriction.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has published a list of restricted categories of objects, amending it to include material representing the Bronze and Iron Ages. The restricted objects may enter the United States only if accompanied by an export permit issued by Cambodia or documentation verifying its provenance prior to 1999 and if no other applicable U.S. laws are violated.

The United States is also helping Cambodia protect its cultural treasures through financial grants provided by the U.S. Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation. The U.S. State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Cultural Heritage Center has recommended an award in excess of $957,000 to the World Monuments Fund for the conservation of the 10th century Phnom Bakheng Temple in Cambodia.

The United States is committed to working with Cambodia to preserve its rich and ancient cultural heritage.

Charmed by the steps of the ancients in Cambodia

Life chances: students at the Apsara Arts Association range from four to 23; many are orphans


AFP/Getty Images
Golden treasure: apsara dancers take years to learn the requisite control of both body and mind



Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge did their best to wipe it out. But Cambodia's historic dance is making a recovery of sorts

THE INDEPENDENT
independent.co.uk

By Rob Crossan
Saturday, 4 October 2008

Boramey Chhaychan is 23. She has been dancing since she was nine, and learning apsara – the ancient and almost extinct dance of Cambodia – for the past six years . "It takes a huge amount of concentration to be the best," she tells me as she smoothes down the tiny creases in her makot – the silk gown into which she is sown before each performance, in order to achieve the requisite figure-embracing fit.

"The body has to be soft and flexible at the same time, your fingers have to be soft, too. There's also so much bending involved if you are the lead dancer that you absolutely can't be fat either," says Boramey. The list of requirements goes on. The apsara dancer should have, according to instruction manuals, "a round body like the body of a red ant" and "the eyes must be oval and sharp with folds in the eyelids".

Assuming that their eyelids are blessed with the requisite folds, the apsara dancer can then take to the stage, accompanied by instruments including the kong thom, a horseshoe-shaped semi-circle of metal chimes resting on wood that the player sits in the middle of, taut drum skins called rumana and a fish-skeleton-shaped xylophone called roneat thung.

Tonight, after days of sporadic power cuts, electricity miraculously returns to light up the stage as Boramey begins to perform the ancient dance of the perfect celestial female beings of the Khmer kingdom. Her hips roll in slow motion, fingers rise coquettishly to the hips and lips, long thin fingers are outstretched, beckoning and then recoiling. But only the tiniest glimmer of coy sexuality is ever hinted at. The falsetto choir of voices of the dozen singers to the side of the stage wails as the drum, slow and steady as a heartbeat, begins to flutter and float. Boramey kneels on the floor, seemingly as brittle as a falling leaf, before rising like an uncoiling snake. Her bare soles and heels are just as expressive as the hands and arms; every limb creates a flowing narrative of shapes.

Boramey ends by joining both thumbs together in the centre of the chest – an expression that is circumspect, meditative and motionless.

This extraordinary dance dates back to the 12th century. Yet in the late 20th century Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge almost succeeded in wiping it out for ever.

Even now, it only just survives: "The locals don't really seem to care about apsara," laments Vang Metry, of the Apsara Arts Association. "We only really get visitors from overseas who come to see our students perform. I give away free tickets sometimes but still almost nobody from round here shows up. They'd rather go and see rock'n'roll, I guess."

The Apsara Arts Association, set up 10 years ago, is a remarkable creation. It is located in the district of Thmey in the west of chaotic Phnom Penh. The theatre is built on concrete stilts beneath a thatched roof. The sides of the theatre are exposed to the huge lotus plants that rest on the waters of the Pong Peay. This is a stagnant expanse that carries the weight of much of the neighbourhood's sewage; to Westerners, the first word of the area's name is spot on.

The 130 students at the apsara school range in age from four to 23. A significant number are orphans. Accommodation is provided for them within the school; they practise dance in the morning and study in the afternoon. It's not just the allure of rock'n'roll that is preventing any chance of apsara regaining ground in the popular consciousness. Fire destroyed the National Theatre in 1994. And the University of Fine Arts, where apsara and other traditional dances are taught, was sold off to a property developer last year. The faculty was moved far out of Phnom Penh on a dirt road that is regularly washed away in wet season, a move which has had dire consequences for student numbers.

An additional problem is that to be a lead apsara dancer you must be unmarried and a virgin. When one of the country's best new prospects performed in front of the tourism minister for Cambodia in 2000, he decided to marry her.

"He stole her from us!" claims Metry. Now divorced, Ouk Phalla still dances. But, due to the law of the apsara, can no longer play the lead in ancient stories such as The Churning of the Ocean Milk, which tells how apsara girls were created through a symbolic Brahmanist scripture.

According to myth, the apsara dancers performed in the sky. Their curvaceous figures grace the bas-reliefs of the Angkor Wat temples. The iconic towers of this ancient complex comprise Cambodia's most popular tourist attraction. Angkor Wat was once home to thousands of apsara dancers, who performed for Cambodia's kings during the 12th century, a time when the kingdom covered vast areas of what today is Thailand and Vietnam.

The dancers on the walls of the temples are naked, though dancers today are adorned in silk chorabab skirts and five-pointed crowns with red frangipani flowers sown on to the side with cotton thread to create the effect of a falling stem.

Performances continued in the dancing pavilion of the Royal Palace for moonlight shows until the Khmer Rouge seized power in the mid-Seventies. Pol Pot's murderous thugs began to exterminate anyone who they believed stood in the way of achieving a peasant agrarian utopia. That included the practitioners of apsara.

Anybody with any hint of intellectual merit was slaughtered by order of "Brother Number One", as Pol Pot was known. Judgments were made on terms as spurious as whether a person wore glasses. Veng was a dance instructor who was forced to leave Phnom Penh and work in the fields.

"I had to hide my CV," Veng tells me. "The Khmer Rouge asked me what my job was and I lied and told them I was a farmer. It was only by going into the fields and observing what people did that I didn't get killed. I watched the farming methods that everyone else was using and simply copied whatever they did. Somehow they never noticed that I wasn't a farmer and I avoided death."

After the regime was finally defeated by an invading Vietnamese army, apsara was considered a low priority when it came to rebuilding this most disturbed and abused of societies. It was only in 1995 that the first revived performance was staged, guided by Princess Boppha Devl, a dancer with the royal troupe in the Sixties. She studied the bas-reliefs at Angkor Wat to re-learn the 1,500 positions that masters of the dance must know.

As the light darkens and a post-show dance class ends with the students giggling as they try to maintain their difficult stances, Vang laments the problems of keeping apsara alive.

"It's not getting any easier. We have power cuts almost every day in this part of the city. The government doesn't support us in any way," she says. "We rely entirely on funding from foreign donors.

Culture is not a high priority for the government, which is a shame as this is such an important part of Cambodian history. A lot of the students here are now dancing in the tourist restaurants near Angkor Wat. I would love there to be a day when visitors would mention apsara before they mention Pol Pot. If this is lost, then a part of Cambodia is lost forever."

Soldier Injured in Border Skirmish: Officials

Friday's skirmish was the first since soldiers like this one, photographed in July, took up positions along the Preah Vihear provincial border.

By Kong Sothanarith, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
03 October 2008

Khmer audio aired 03 October 2008 (770 KB) - Download (MP3) Khmer audio aired 03 October 2008 (770 KB) - Listen (MP3)

At least one Cambodian soldier was injured Friday afternoon in an exchange of gunfire between Thai and Cambodian troops near the Preah Vihear provincial border, in the first reported act of military violence in a prolonged standoff, a military official said.

Thai soldiers fired a grenade at a group of Cambodian soldiers, injuring a Cambodian in the leg, while a Thai soldier was wounded in the abdomen in the return gunfire, according to a reliable military officer in the area, who asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue.

"At 3:35 pm, around 10 [Thai soldiers] entered the Cambodian position, and Cambodian soldiers called to them not to enter, and they did not listen," the officer said. "And then they shot with the M-79 [grenade]."

The soldiers were nearly 200 meters from the Cambodian position on Phnom Troap, more than 1 kilometer from the Preah Vihear temple complex, the officer said.

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith told the Associated Press the Cambodian was “slightly wounded” when Thai troops fired an M-79 grenade from their own territory. Khieu Kanharith confirmed the Cambodian side had returned fire, AP reported.

A report from Ministry of Defense information office obtained by VOA Khmer Friday coroborrated the statements of the military officer and said both sides remained at a standoff at 5 pm.

The exchange of violence, which lasted only moments, was the first reported in an 11-week military standoff over Preah Vihear temple. Officials had cautioned that prolonged proximity between the troops could end in bloodshed.

Both Cambodian and Thai officials have said they are committed to peaceful resolution of the impasse, which began following the inscription of the temple, which abuts a disputed border area, onto a Unesco World Heritage list in July.

Defense Minister Tea Banh could not be reached for comment, and a person answering the phone of the Thai Embassy's first secretary said he was unavailable.

Political Landscape Shifts as Prince Quits

By Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
03 October 2008

Khmer audio aired 03 October 2008 (1.38 MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 03 October 2008 (1.38 MB) - Listen (MP3)

The announcement Thursday night by Prince Norodom Ranariddh that he was quitting politics for good led to an emergency session of his party Friday and suddenly altered Cambodia's political landscape.

Prince Ranariddh, who emerged in the 1990s as Hun Sen's chief political rival and only returned to Cambodia on Saturday after a year and a half of exile, told journalists at a dinner party Thursday night he was done with politics.

"I will resign from politics. I will go to work at the Royal Palace, if King [Norodom] Sihamoni allows me to work with him," Prince Ranariddh told a crowded banquet room of reporters. "My resignation will not affect my party."

The prince planned to appoint Norodom Ranariddh Party Vice President Chhim Serkleng as the leader of the party, he said. In an emergency meeting Friday, NRP officials planned to hold an open vote for Chhim Serkleng's leadership role.

Prince Ranariddh left the country in early 2007 ahead of a breech of trust trial, in which he was found guilty in absentia and sentenced to 18 months in prisonfor profiting from the sale of Funcinpec party headquarters when he was its president.

He was granted a royal pardon by King Sihamoni in September, with the approval of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Prince Ranariddh's resignation announcement was a regretful consequence of political pressure from the ruling Cambodian People's Party, other political leaders said.

"The resignation of Prince Norodom Ranariddh may be from a condition for his return to the country," said Kem Sokha, president of the Human Rights Party. "However, I'm not surprised at his resignation. The prince should have resigned from politics a long time ago, because his popularity has been decreasing."

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said Friday the prince's resignation was in the country's interest.

"In the political situation now, we need to compromise with parties for national reconciliation," he said.

Prince Ranariddh's political career began in March 1983, when he formed the Front Uni National pour un Cambodge Indépendant, Neutre, Pacifique, et Coopératif, or Funcinpec, party, contesting national elections in 1993.

Funcinpec won 58 National Assembly seats in the UN-sponsored elections, seven more than the Cambodian People's Party, led by Hun Sen, who denied the results and threatened open war and the declaration of an autonomous zone.

A power-sharing deal ensued, and the two men acted in a co-premiership until 1997, when the CPP seized control of the government following two days of armed conflict in Phnom Penh.

Following a contentious election win in 1998, the CPP offered a coalition deal to Funcinpec, beginning a tradition of political partnership that has lasted until today.

However, Prince Ranariddh split from Funcinpec and opened his own party from exile ahead of local commune elections in 2007 and national elections in July.

Both Funcinpec and the Norodom Ranariddh Party won only two seats apiece in July. The CPP offered the Funcinpec coalition status, but none was forthcoming for the party of the prince.

Laborers Protected Under Law: Officials

Tun Sophorn, Cambodia coordinator for the International Labor Organization, left, and Yi Kanitha, deputy director of the occupational health department at the Ministry of Labor

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Washington
03 October 2008

Khmer audio aired 02 October 2008 (3.92 MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 02 October 2008 (3.92 MB) - Listen (MP3)

As Cambodia experiences a construction boom, construction workers and other laborers should know they have rights to leave, medical treatment and other basic rights, two officials said Thursday.

While Cambodia’s labor sector has a robust union tradition, with workers able to collectivize against perceived unfairness, many laborers desperate for work, earning about $5 a day, may overlook their basic rights.

Cambodian law places the responsibility for workers' safety on companies that hire them.

“The companies have to pay workers in accordance with the law,” said Tun Sophorn, Cambodia coordinator for the International Labor Organization, as a guest on “Hello VOA.”

Yi Kanitha, deputy director of the occupational health department at the Ministry of Labor, agreed.

When workers are hurt, “we go and investigate the seriousness of the accidents, what the cause is, and then we evaluate before making a decision on how much the company has to pay,” he said, also as a guest on “Hello VOA.”

Workers should call on the office of occupational health in every province or the capital if they need help, he said.

Former Monarch Praises Hun Sen 'Prestige'

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
03 October 2008

Khmer audio aired 02 October 2008 (898 KB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 02 October 2008 (898 KB) - Listen (MP3)

Former king Norodom Sihanouk welcomed the appointment of Prime Minister Hun Sen to lead the next administration, calling him “deserving the prestige” in a letter posted his official Web site.

Hun Sen was appointed premier following a ceremony Sept. 24 boycotted by three Human Rights Party lawmakers, who claim the results of July’s national election were fraudulent.

Norodom Sihanouk applauded Hun Sen as a “supreme statesman,” saying the premier “is the better guide, smart, most talented and of the highest nationalism, who has achieved great victories in all fields in building achievements across the country.”

Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said the letter of praise was a shift in tone from the former monarch, who had criticized Hun Sen in the past.

Both royal parties, Funcinpec and the Norodom Ranariddh Party, slipped in recent elections, including widespread losses for Funcinpec in the 2006 commune elections and a modest showing—two lawmakers each—in July’s polls.

Troops fire near 'Cambodia' temple

The International Court of Justice awarded the temple to Cambodia in 1962 [EPA]

Al Jazeera
News Asia-Pacific
Friday, October 03, 2008

Three soldiers have been injured in a gunfight near a disputed 900-year-old temple on the Thailand-Cambodia border, officials say.

One Cambodian and two Thai soldiers were wounded on Friday near the Preah Vihear temple, a site which both countries claim as their own.

Seni Chittakasem, the governor of Thailand's Si Sa Ket border province, said the incident lasted for at least two minutes.

"It happened around 3:45pm (08:45 GMT) in the disputed area and lasted for two to three minutes," he said.

"Two of our troops were slightly wounded, and I heard three soldiers on the Cambodian side were wounded. The situation has returned to normal now.

"Cambodian officials said one of their soldiers was hurt.

"There was a clash but we don't know how many Thai soldiers got injured.

On the Cambodian side, one soldier was injured in his left hand," said Hang Soth, director-general of the Preah Vihear authority, the body tasked with the conservation of the ancient Khmer-era site.

The incident comes as both countries attempt to resolve the decades-long border dispute.

Somchai Wongsawat, the Thai prime minister, is scheduled to visit Cambodia on October 13 to meet Hun Sen, his Cambodian counterpart.

The current conflict focuses on an area of scrubland surrounding the 11th-century temple which was recently awarded World Heritage listing by Unesco, the UN cultural organisation.

Cambodian officials said the incident took place after more than a dozen Thai soldiers crossed into disputed territory.

According to a Cambodian border police official, Thai troops had initially entered the area but were stopped and turned back by Cambodian soldiers.

Exchange of fire

They then opened fire with M-79 rockets and M-16 assault rifles after re-entering the territory.

The official also said that Cambodian troops responded by shooting a single B-40 rocket and then opening fire with their AK-47 rifles.

A Cambodian official said a letter of complaint was being drafted to be sent to the Thai government.Much of the border remains in dispute, and the slow pace of clearing old landmines from the area has delayed its demarcation.

Tensions erupted in July after the World Heritage listing, angering nationalists in Thailand who still claim ownership of the site.

Those tensions turned into a military standoff, in which up to 1,000 Cambodian and Thai troops faced off for six weeks.

Both sides agreed to pull back in mid-August, leaving 20 troops from each side stationed at a small pagoda in the border area, while 40 Cambodian and Thai solders remain nearby.

Talks to resolve the dispute were postponed amid political turmoil in Thailand, as well as both countries continuously swapping accusations of violating each other's territory.

Pol Pot ordered murder of British mine-clearer, court told

Trial hears Khmer Rouge leader had blanket policy to murder foreigners on grounds they supported the government

Ian MacKinnon in Phnom Penh
guardian.co.uk,
Friday October 03 2008
Article history

A British mine-clearing expert who was murdered in Cambodia and his remains burned to hide the evidence was killed on the orders of the Khmer Rouge leader, Pol Pot, a court heard today.

The trial of five former Khmer Rouge cadres accused of the kidnap and murder of Christopher Howes, 37, more than 12 years ago, heard that the communist leader had a blanket policy to murder foreigners on the grounds that they supported the Cambodian government.

Howes was shot within days of his capture while leading a mine-clearance team north of Siem Reap - home to the Angkor Wat temple complex - after his abductors lulled him into a false sense of security by laying out a sleeping mattress for the night and giving him fruit.

His interpreter, Huon Houth, who was among the 30-strong team from British-based Mines Advisory Group (MAG), was murdered a day earlier when his captors deemed him "no longer necessary" because one of the alleged killers spoke English.

The disappearance of the former British army engineer from Backwell, near Bristol, and Hourth remained a mystery for more than two years as Cambodia's civil war ground on in its death throes.

Investigations by a Scotland Yard team working with the Cambodian police eventually unravelled Howes' fate, declaring he was murdered after forensic tests on bone fragments found in a fire.

The evidence collected from witness statements in the two years after Howes' disappearance was presented at the Phnom Penh court today by former Metropolitan police anti-terrorism officer, Mike Dickson, now an advisor to the UN-backed Khmer Rouge genocide tribunal.

The men in the dock had lived freely in the Khmer Rouge stronghold of Anlong Veng until their arrest a year ago despite suspicions of their involvement in the killings. A deal to end the civil war in 1998 pardoned many Khmer Rouge cadres.

One of the accused, Khem Ngoun, 59, the former chief-of-staff of the one-legged Khmer Rouge army commander, Ta Mok, was a brigadier-general in the Cambodian army until his arrest.

Along with the others, Loch Mao, 54, a Khmer Rouge officer who became a civil servant, Cheath Chet, 34, Puth Lim, 58, and Sin Dorn, 52, the frail Ngoun faces life imprisonment for murder and illegal detention when the investigating judge, Iv Kimsry, delivers his verdict in 10 days' time.

In a marathon session the court heard today of the chilling last days of Howes and Hourth after their abduction on March 26 1996. Some of the de-mining team escaped almost immediately while all the others were released after Howes declined to abandon his staff to fetch ransom money.

Howes and Hourth were taken towards Anlong Veng. But in an interview with the British detectives, Khieu Sampan, the Khmer Rouge's nominal head of state, said that Hourth was killed in Kul village after Ngoun said the interpreter was unnecessary.

Howes was held in a school where Ngoun interrogated him, before he was taken out into the countryside to a road near the house of Mok, who passed the order to "solve the problem" and kill him.

Howes was taken in a white Toyota pickup truck driven by Lim, accompanied by four guards including Ngoun, Mao, and two others, Khem Tem and Soeun Rim, who subsequently died. In a statement to police before his death, Rim said Mao killed Howes with two bullets from an AK-59 rifle provided by Ngoun.

Both Ngoun and Mao changed earlier statements they made and maintained only Rim, who died in 2004, fired the fatal shots. Mao is adamant his weapon jammed and he could not fire.

All the accused argued they acted on orders of the Khmer Rouge's brutal "brother number one" and that failure to do so would have meant certain death.

But Lou McGrath, MAG chief executive who was present at the hearing, dismissed the defence.

"It's good to see this trial," he said. "But I think the defence that if you don't kill others you will be killed yourself is what leads to genocide. It's no excuse and I hope the judge decides that they will feel the full weight of the law."

Law to Control Non-Government Organizations Triggers War of Words

Posted on 4 October 2008
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 580

“During a speech on Friday, 26 September 2008, about general policies, Samdech Hun Sen announced that a law to control civil society organizations will be adopted during this term. Samdech Hun Sen explained that Cambodia is a rule-of-law country, so it is necessary for us to know ‘the origin, resources, and the activities of those organizations.’ He raised a surprising reason, ‘Terrorists might come to the Royal Government of Cambodia and hide themselves under the banners of non-government organizations.’ Obviously, a Muslim organization, called Om Al-Qura, was involved with the Al-Qaeda networks.

Note:
Om Al-Qura is one of Kuwait’s leading educational services – and Cambodia is in the process of setting up closer relations with Kuwait, since the visit of the Kuwaiti Prime Minister.

There are also a series of educational institutions under the name of Om Al-Qura in Saudi Arabia, under the Ministry of Eduction of Saudi Arabia.

When, in 2004, the Al Qaeda operative Riduan Isamuddin, alias Hambali, and others, spent some time in Cambodia – probably to organize an Al Qaeda cell, this was, of course, not organized or registered as a non-government or civil society organization.

“The head of the government raised another reason: non-government organizations always talk about transparency and accountability related to income and expenses of the government, but the government has never cared about income sources of those organizations; they want to know all activities of the government, but when we want to know their activities, they oppose it; doing so is not fair. This is the complaint by Samdech Hun Sen. According to his speech, so far, local non-government organizations or associations just register at the Ministry of Interior or at the Council of Ministers, and everything is done. As for international non-government organizations, they just register at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Samdech Hun Sen added that after the registration, some organizations and associations act differently from providing humanitarian assistance. Therefore, there must be one strict law to control civil society organizations.

“However, this kind of law is not what civil society organizations would like to have. The director of the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association - ADHOC - Mr. Thun Saray, said that since more than 10 years, non-government organizations do their activities in Cambodia. They are thoroughly monitored by donors through audits by independent companies working according to international standards. Mr. Thun Saray said that civil society organizations never cause trouble, but they help the society and the poor. Are civil society organizations afraid of such a law law? No. This was the response that Mr. Thun Saray gave immediately. He clarified that if that law aims to facilitate our work, there is no problem, but if that law aims at limiting the activities of civil society organizations, there are two points to be worried about. The first relates to the finance of non-government organizations if they were administered by the government. This point might be a major obstacle for the activities of civil society, if the government would try to create any trouble. The second point relates to the prohibition for civil society to be involved in politics - but it is not clearly stated what political activities are. Mr. Thun Saray worries that this point might be used to stop the activities of any organization. He raised as an example that an organization, which does activities to strengthen democracy or human rights, might be accused to be involved in politics. The director of the Center for Social Development, Ms. Seng Theary, said that in the present situation, Cambodia does not need such a law, while many other important laws do not yet exist. However, Mr. Sok Sam Oeun, the director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, did not want to make any comment, because he had not yet seen a draft of that law. He said that if this law is formed to ease the work of civil society, it would be better, but he knows that in some dictatorial countries, such laws just aim at limiting the activities of civil society organizations. Nevertheless, he hopes that this law must not go against democracy, since Cambodia follows democracy.

“But during the speech of nearly five hours, Samdech Hun Sen announced, ‘Civil society always want us to follow the law, but as for them, they do not want the law to control themselves. This is unfair.’ This is the response of the Prime Minister to the criticism by non-government organizations. The head of the government said, ‘Non-government organizations have to curse the government, so that they can receive aid. I had told the former UN Secretary-General, Mr. Kofi Annan, that I do no longer hope to be able to read positive reports about Cambodia, as long as those reports are organized by human rights expert agencies, or by local human rights organizations.’”

Cambodge Soir, Vol.1, #52, 3-8.10.2008
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Friday, 3 October 2008

CPP brass to vacate NA seats

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Cheang Sokha
Friday, 03 October 2008

Party announces departure of ministers from the assembly

CAMBODIAN People's Party lawmakers who hold both government posts and seats in the National Assembly will resign their parliamentary positions and concentrate on their ministerial responsibilities, Prime Minister Hun Sen announced Thursday.

"If we keep them in two positions it will be difficult for them to stand with one leg in the National Assembly and the other one in the government," Hun Sen said during a speech to scholarship students at the National Institute of Education.

"I have already signed off on [a letter] to the National Election Committee (NEC) regarding the replacements."

Hun Sen named the resigned parliamentarians as Minister of Rural Development Chea Sophara, Minister of Information and government spokesman Khieu Kanharith, Minister of Education, Youth and Sports Im Sethy, Minister of Environment Mok Mareth, and Minister of Social Affairs Ith Sam Heng.

NEC Secretary General Tep Nytha said that he had not yet received a formal letter from Hun Sen outlining the resignations.

Nguon Nhel, the first deputy president of the National Assembly, said that a total of 40 CPP parliamentarians holding dual positions or being considered for fresh government posts were in line to be replaced.

"Such replacements are the strategy of Hun Sen," he told the Post Thursday. "We have already approved the names of the candidates." However, he could not reveal how many ministers were on this list.

Kek Galabru, president of local rights group Licadho, said that according to the Constitutional Council's law, the legislative, executive and judicial institutions had to be separated in a properly functioning democracy, and that government officials should not simultaneously hold parliamentary seats.

"It is a conflict of interest when they hold two positions at the same time," she said. "All officials who have government positions should resign their parliamentary seats."

The three HRP parliamentarians who boycotted the September 24 swearing-in of the new Assembly will have the chance to be sworn-in in a separate session with the replacement CPP parliamentarians.

KRT detainees' families seek access for religious holidays

HENG CHIVOAN; Nuon Chea, shown here in a file photo, wants to celebrate P’Chum Ben, despite his former regime’s ideological opposition to religion.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Thet Sambath and Georgia Wilkins
Friday, 03 October 2008

The families of ageing Khmer Rouge detainees appeal for them to be allowed to join relatives in marking P'Chum Ben and another religious festivals

IN an ironic twist of fate, the families of detained Khmer Rouge leaders, ideologically opposed to religion during their political reign, want access to detainees to celebrate Cambodia's national religious holidays, which began with P'Chum Ben and will continue through October.

"I want to ask the Khmer Rouge tribunal to allow my husband to go to the pagoda during P'Chum Ben," Ly Kimseng, wife of "Brother No 2" Nuon Chea, told the Post Thursday. "But I know I have no hope it will be allowed."

As Pol Pot's top lieutenant during the Democratic Kampuchea regime, Nuon Chea initiated policies that banned religious ceremonies at pagodas during the Khmer Rouge's five-year reign of terror.

But Nuon Chea's lawyer claims he has regularly participated in the religious holidays and wants to visit a pagoda.

"Every year before his detention [Nuon Chea] celebrated P'Chum Ben," Nuon Chea's lawyer Son Arun said Wednesday. "Now he cannot."

The provisions of their pretrial detention prohibit defendants from leaving their cells for fear they will flee or become the target of intimidation.

"He should be allowed to go to the pagoda during P'Chum Ben because it is a Cambodian traditional festival where we meet relatives, children, parents and grandparents at the pagoda," Ly Kimseng said. "It is a ceremony for our ancestors."

She said she will ask lawyers to allow her husband to visit a pagoda even though the P'Chum Ben holiday is over.

"I will [petition] the court to allow him to ... make ceremony at the pagoda as other people have done, because we still have more ceremonies," she said.

So Socheat, wife of former head of state Khieu Samphan, said Thursday she and her children had no chance to give her husband food and cakes during P'Chum Ben, as the court was closed.

"I was going to meet him and offer him food and cake during P'Chum Ben, but staff did not work on at that day," she said.

"I made sticky cake mixed with sticky rice, pork and banana but I could not give it to him when I visited and now they are spoiled."

" EVERY YEAR BEFORE HIS DETENTION [NUON CHEA] CELEBRATED P’CHUM BEN. "

Phat Pouv Seang, Ieng Thirith's lawyer, said Thursday he was disappointed that families could not see each other during the P'Chum Ben days already passed.

"Relatives could not meet suspects during P'Chum Ben because police and administration staff were on holiday," he said. "I want my client to go to pagoda."

Court spokesman Reach Sambath said it was important that defendants stay out of the public eye.

"Our job is to make sure that they stay free from any kind of intimidation or threats," he said Thursday.

"If the families want to spend time together, they can do it at the detention facilities."

Broadcasts promote safe water message

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Mom Kunthear
Friday, 03 October 2008

RADIO programs that aim to educate Cambodia's rural residents about the dangers of unsafe drinking water can now be heard in Battambang province, Suam Rassy, the project coordinator of the Well of Life program on Far East Broadcasting Cambodia (FEBC), told the Post.

In Cambodia, where 50 percent to 60 percent of people do not have safe drinking water, most people do not know that contaminated water can lead to diarrhoea or waterborne illnesses, Suam Rassy said.

"I created the Well of Life program because I saw that many people in rural areas don't know how to use clean water," he said.

"We have made this program for two years and we worked in two provinces, Prey Veng and Kampong Chhnang. Now, we also work with Battambang province," he said.

Educational aims

The goal of FEBC programs is to help people learn about hygiene, irrigation, the science of wells and the importance of providing clean water for livestock.

"We have two programs. One is called the Well of Life, a 15-minute drama that runs once a day for a week, and the other is a 30-minute spot that is simply informative that runs two days a week," Suam Rassy said.

"We travel around to villages and tell people about the importance of clean water. We give them filters when they can answer our questions related to clean water," he said.

Ministry of Rural Development figures show that 85 percent of rural residents do not have access to safe drinking water and many suffer from waterborne diseases as a result.

Officials see progress in new restaurant, stall inspections

Rick Valenzuela; Phnom Penh market vendors often display laxity in the sanitary handling of their food products.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Mom Kunthear
Friday, 03 October 2008

The Municipal Health Department says the inspections have been successful in raising sanitation awareness

The Municipal Health Department has begun conducting food sanitation inspections at Phnom Penh restaurants and street vendor stalls to raise awareness of the importance of hygienic food preparation, the department's director told the Post.

Dr Veng Thai said the inspections were geared toward educating food vendors and restaurant owners about simple measures to ensure the food sold is safe to eat.

"We explain to food vendors that it is important they follow simple sanitation procedures, including cleaning their hands and wearing [appropriate] uniforms," he said "We also tell them not to use chemicals to preserve vegetables or meat."

"There are still some vendors who don't understand about sanitation and say they don't need to wear gloves or have clean hands during meal preparation, and that there is no need to cover the food because the dirt can't be seen," he said.

Signs of progress

According to Veng Thai, the educational inspection program organised by the health department is slowly getting the message across.

"We have had approximately a 60 percent success rate," he said.

Long Sivan, general manager of Guitar D'Amour Restaurant and Pub in Phnom Penh, said he is careful about the quality and sanitation of the food sold at his restaurant.

"If customers have health problems after eating my food, this will impact my business," he said, adding that approximately 100 to 150 customers eat at his restaurant daily.

Seang Sopheng, chef at Guitar D'Amour Restaurant and Pub, said she always considers sanitation before taste.

"I buy fresh vegetables, meat or fish, I clean it with salt and always keep it for only a day," she said.

Shira Ray Para Juli, the owner of Sher-e-Punjab restaurant, agrees that food sanitation is the most important consideration in food preparation.

"I always keep vegetable, fish and meat in the fridge all day and I check it daily, and if it smells bad I will throw it out," he said.

"I don't want to make money by killing my customers."

Two Thai girls caught with 145 yaba pills on Poipet border

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chrann Chamroeun
Friday, 03 October 2008

Court promises full investigation and says it is likely the pair – who were caught selling yaba outside a casino – will end up in prison

TWO Thai girls have been caught carrying 145 methamphetamine or ‘yaba' pills on the Cambodian side of the Poipet border, according to local government officials.

"Vilav Van, 25, and Hak Thykan Santhi, 21, were detained at 2:40 pm on September 30 after they were caught selling the drugs outside a casino in Kbal Spearn village, Poipet commune, O'Chrov district," Chhiv Nem, the director of the government's anti-drug bureau in Banteay Meanchey province said.

He added that the girls were unemployed and had probably smuggled the pills over the border."I sent the two defendants to the provincial commissioner‘s department on the primary charge of selling illegal drugs on Wednesday, and I believe they will be sent to the court on Thursday," Chhiv Nem said.

"The two Thai girls are now in custody at my department and will be sent to the court Thursday evening," confirmed Banteay Meanchey provincial police commissioner Hun Hean. "They have been charged with posession of 145 methamphetamine tablets."

The prosecutor at the Banteay Meanchey provincial court, So Vat, said he was informed by the police about the arrest Thursday, and that the court was expecting the suspects to be transferred to them shortly.

"I can't say how many years they will serve in jail, as that requires testing the drugs and a full investigation," he said.

According to last month's report by National Authority for Combating Drugs (NACD), methamphetamine use accounts for about 80 percent of drug use in Cambodia.

Drunken wife swap ends with rape charge

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chrann Chamroeun
Friday, 03 October 2008

TWO wives have accused their husbands of rape following a botched drunken wife swap in Russeay Tamoan village, Bakan district, Pursat.

Set Ly, Russey Tamoan village chief, said that Chea Touch and Yea Yon forged a verbal agreement to swap wives for a night after a late night drinking binge. "The two men drank 10 bottles of grape wine and made the agreement around 11pm on Monday night.

"Yea Yon's wife attempted to lodge a complaint with the Bakan district police, accusing Chea Touch of sexual assault the following day, but the police office was closed for P'chum Ben, he said.

"Yea Yon's wife has now asked for US$2,000 in compensation from Chea Touch and Chea Touch's wife has asked for US$2,500 in compensation from Yea Yon," he said.

Jail term appropriate

Eng Chhun Han, co-ordinator for the human right's organisation Licadho, said the prosecutor is questioning the two wives while the investigating judge is meets with the two husbands.

"I have requested that the court punish the two husbands with a jail term for rape," he said, adding that reconciliation is inappropriate in a case of sexual assault.

Prosecutor Sok Chan Sereyvuth decline to comment on the case.

Opposition parties talk up merger

HENG CHIVOAN; Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha at a press conference immediately after the July election.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Meas Sokchea and Eleanor Ainge Roy
Friday, 03 October 2008

Party officials move to quash rumours of a widening rift between the Kingdom's two largest opposition parties, suggesting they plan to fight the 2013 election under a single banner

AN opposition party merger is again in the cards, with officials from the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) and Human Rights Party (HRP) suggesting the two groups may unite for the 2013 election, despite the collapse of their planned boycott of last month's National Assembly inauguration ceremony.

The SRP pulled out of the Assembly boycott after last-minute talks with government officials, an act that some observers said was evidence that the two parties were pulling in opposite directions.

Speaking to reporters after the ceremony, Prime Minister Hun Sen made suggestions there was dissension in the opposition's ranks. "Sam Rainsy has cheated [HRP president] Kem Sokha," he said.

However, Kem Sokha said the SRP's attendance at the ceremony had not driven a wedge between the two allies. "Making different decisions for the moment will not impact our alliance," he told reporters after a meeting with the SRP last week. "We will still work together and have the goal of working together for the future."

HRP Secretary General Yem Ponhearith added that the two parties, facing a CPP-dominated government for the next five years, would consider merging to consolidate their strength.

"Our alliance is the same as ever," he said. "A merger would become a possibility if the circumstances made it necessary... [and] there might be more chance of success, since it would be easier for people to remember and vote for us."

" A merger would become a possibility if the circumstances made it necessary. "

SRP Deputy Secretary General Mu Sochua agreed that the ties between the parties remained strong. "There is no sign of a division," she said. "We are on a step-by-step road to a merger, and our common goal is to win the 2013 election."

A marriage of inconvenience

Despite all the talk of unity, however, some observers say a merger between the two parties is unlikely to succeed. "They will not be able to effect a successful merger," said Sok Touch, a professor of political science at Khemarak University. "Both parties are too proud, and how will they function when there are two men and both want to sleep in the middle?

"Puthea Hang, executive director of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections, agreed that the question of the new party's leadership could trigger a clash of personalities between Kem Sokha and Sam Rainsy.

"If they want to merge to increase their chance of winning, one leader must stand as No 1 and one [must stand] as No 2. If they take this stance, a merger could be successful, but at the moment I think they are both too proud," he said.

Indeed, relations between the two opposition leaders have been cool since the establishment of the HRP in March 2007.

At the time, Kek Galabru, president of local rights group Licadho, lamented the formation of a new opposition party. "It is a pity. If you have a cake and you begin to split it, you start to have smaller and smaller pieces," she said, adding that "the electoral system.... favours the big parties.

"In response to criticisms at the time that the newly-formed HRP would steal votes from the SRP and damage its chances of success in the 2008 election, Kem Sokha said Sam Rainsy had lost his credibility as an opposition leader.

"I told the SRP of my plan and I explained the model of the kind of party I wanted," he said. "[But] the people do not trust Sam Rainsy any more.... Now [he] has long talks with Hun Sen behind closed doors and there is no transparency."

Sam Rainsy responded by saying: "I don't think it's very important what Kem Sokha said. To respond to such comments will divert attention from more important matters. Why should I respond? I will let the people decide on these matters."

But tensions eased after the July 27 national election, when the HRP, SRP, Funcinpec and the Norodom Ranariddh Party united to reject the provisional election results, which they claimed were manipulated through the illegal amendment of voter lists.

New world, new leadership

VANDY RATTANA; Voters display evidence of casting their ballots.

"Leaders do not have to be heroes, but they must not be afraid to face reality."

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Vicente Salas
Friday, 03 October 2008

COMMENT

BY VICENTE SALAS

New global challenges call for different leadership styles

If globalisation means anything, it means that local events have international consequences. For better or worse, we are compelled to embrace change and accept that the uncertainties of the global political economy are part and parcel of living in such an interdependent world.

What happens at home doesn't stay at home. East Asian economies prospered miraculously in the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s, before disaster struck with the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997.

No one could have predicted that such a crisis could hit at the epicentre of a major emerging economic bloc.

The result was widespread political instability and a downgrading of human security.

The crisis taught us to be conscious of global uncertainties.

And then came SARS and bird flu-another aspect of globalisation that demonstrated our global vulnerability to disease. Global migration moves much faster today and remains beyond the control of nation-state institutionalism.

Natural disasters have global impacts: the Southeast Asian tsunami in 2004, Hurricane Katrina in the US in 2005, Cyclone Nargis in Burma in May 2008 and the Sichuan earthquake in China 10 days later.

Global climate change has achieved an unprecedented level of awareness.

Through mass media, we are learning more about what is happening around us. World leaders are working shoulder-to-shoulder to cope with our changing environment. It is the first time in human history that we have achieved such a broad consensus on a common issue.

We now face a global financial crisis that began with the collapse of financial institutions in the US. On September 30, stock prices plummeted worldwide as investors feared market instability.These are the new realities of global interdependence.

The complexity of global networks requires effective tools to deal with the unpredictability of events and the advent of international crises.

We are forced to consider the correct response. Should we panic? Should we pull back from our global alliances?

The key to all these pressing concerns is leadership, the lack of which has proven disastrous.

Leaders must keep their minds open to new ideas. They do not have to be heroes, but they must not be afraid to face reality.

'Liquid leadership'

Scholars and policy-makers have proposed many models of leadership: adaptive, invitational/participative and moral. To these, I would add "liquid" leadership, which can be defined as adaptive, reflective, engaged, flexible, gentle, transparent, dynamic and down to earth - just like water.

Water is global. We need water to survive. We are living in a melting pot of social, cultural, political and economic ingredients, and water accommodates them all.

Water is a source of reflection - figuratively and literally. Leaders must constantly reflect on action and the consequences of action.

In past ages, water was used to predict the future. Today, leaders must be adept at watching trends and foreseeing possible outcomes.

No one can break or cut water. So, leaders must be patient and strong, but also yielding.

Water has been used in religious rites to confer blessings or good fortune. New Year's celebrations in Cambodia, Thailand, Burma and Laos include the ceremonial dousing of friends, relatives and more commonly complete strangers with water as a way of ensuring health and future happiness.

Our leaders must also work for the common good of all people.

The world is calling for such liquid leadership.

We must adapt our skills to cope with a truly global society. We live amid diversity, uncertainty and risk. We must adapt. We must rally our intellectual forces to find more effective solutions to common challenges.

Every individual has the potential to make the world a better place.

Our leaders must bridge the gap between individuals - not by virtue of their authority, but in the spirit of global participation to achieve the ends we seek.

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Vicente Salas is a medical doctor and health care consultant based in Phnom Penh.