Friday, 31 October 2008

FTA with Cambodia to go into effect in November

SEOUL, Oct 31 (Yonhap) -- A free trade agreement (FTA) between South Korea and Cambodia will go into effect as of November, the government said Friday.

The Ministry of Strategy and Finance said the moves follows notification by Phnom Penh on Thursday that all domestic administrative and legal processes have been completed for the open trade regime, which is expected to greatly increase two-way trade.

Under the agreement, Seoul will immediately ax import duties on 10,658 manufactured goods made in the Southeast Asian country including those for various clothing and shoes. Tariffs on 108 farm and fisheries goods including bananas, pineapples, rice, beef and pork are to be excluded because of possible impact on the local economy, the ministry said.

"Importers that provide country-of-origin verification papers issued by Cambodia's commerce ministry could import goods free of duties starting Saturday," a official said.

Bilateral trade reached US$300 million last year, with South Korea posting a surplus of $270 million.

Cambodia is the ninth Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member to ratify such a pact, with Thailand being the only holdover.

An FTA with Singapore went into effect on March 2006, followed by Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and Myanmar in June 2007. Tariffs were cut for goods from the Philippines starting in January of this year, while those for Brunei Darussalam and Laos became effective in July and this month respectively.

South Korea is a late starter in the FTAs with its first going into effect in April 2004 with Chile. It has since ratified an FTA with the European Free Trade Association in September 2006, and signed a pact with the United States in late June, 2007 that is pending approval by lawmakers from both countries.(Yonhap)

I am no traitor: Noppadon

By The Nation

Former Foreign minister Noppadon Pattama Friday released his book "I am no traitor" to defend his record relating to the Preah Vihear Temple controversy.

Noppadon resigned his office in July in the wake of a censure debate on his involvement in the Cambodian push to include the ancient temple on the World Heritage List, seen by the opposition as having repercussions on the Thai territorial integrity.

"Facts in my book will show that I am a political victim," Noppadon said.

He said opponents of Thaksin Shinawatra tried to fault him as part of their smear campaign against the ousted leader.

He denied that the joint communique he signed had put Thailand at risk for losing 4.6 square kilometers.

Bilateral negotiations to resolve the border dispute with Cambodia are the best option available as other means, such as multilateral talks, international mediation, the United Nations involvement and the litigation in the International Court of Justice, will likely be a disadvantage to the Thai side, he said.

Banned Thai Rak Thai Party executive Chaturon Chaisang said Noppadon was swept out of office by the frenzy of ultra-nationalism although he was not at fault.

Classes unleash kids' creativity

Photo by: Leah Newman; Kids Create class.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Anita Surewicz
Friday, 31 October 2008

Kids Create classes build confidence and inspire children to discover their inner artists

KIDS Create will be offering painting classes for children between four and 12 years of age at Cafe Living Room in Phnom Penh starting November 5.

The weekly classes will be run by Leah Newman, who has been involved in art education since 1981, and will use painting to explore various subjects and themes, with a concentration on still life.

The classes place emphasis on artistic inspiration and help build children's self-confidence and improve their problems-solving skills, Newman said.

"We will learn different techniques, terminology and concepts and have lots of fun creating expressive artwork," Newman said. "Each young artist will be able to complete a few canvases - ready for hanging or ... gift giving."

As an educator, Newman has taught art in private and public schools in the metro Washington, DC, area as well as developed and implemented art programs for children (and adults) while living in Ethiopia and Bulgaria. In Baku, Azerbaijan, Newman worked for American University, and taught art for two years at the Baku International School.

Both her Kids Create and adult art classes provide expatriates and Cambodians with the experience of working with and learning from a professional artist.

"Creativity is the key to life. Whether you are a kid or an adult, you can use art as a tool to discover yourself," she said.

Kid's classes will be held from 3:30 to 5:00pm over four weeks starting November 5 and cost US$90 (including imported canvases). Please contact Leah Newman with any questions or to pre-register at
leahnewman@yahoo.com

Rubber workers compensated after private firm axes 275 jobs

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Kay Kimsong
Friday, 31 October 2008

Workers happy with their severance packages, but with state-owned rubber plantations being privatised, more layoffs might follow

THE government has spent nearly US$500,000 compensating 275 plantation workers who were laid off after state farms were privatised. The layoffs followed the plantation buyout by TTY Corp.

According to Kith Sina, chief accountant at the Memot Rubber Enterprise, the compensation was paid on Thursday in Phnom Penh.

The government handed over the Memot rubber plantation to its private owners on June 20.

The 9,200-hectare farm employed 1,470 workers, and Memot was one of six state-owned rubber plantation that has been privatised. The others are Boeung Ket, Peam Chaing, Krek, Chamka Leu and Ta Pao. The largest rubber plantation, Chub, is still for sale.

"As a private company, they can't keep the old workers. They imported machinery to replace workers," said Kith Sina.

He said the workers were satisfied with the compensation from the government.

Workers received upwards of US$4,000, depending on their seniority. Most have worked as security guards since 1979.

Kith Sina said that the company was responding to lower rubber prices and falling demand from China.

Rubber has dropped from US$3,100 per tonne to $1,500.

Pheng Hak, a 67-year-old security guard, said he was happy to leave the company after 28 years of work.

"I think it is a fair solution," he said," he said.

Ly Phalla, director general for the Rubber General Department, said other companies will be cutting staff.

"State and private management have different needs," he said.

"State companies will keep old workers on the payroll, but private companies won't. They need to make profit," he added.

"The government will earn more revenue if this sector succeeds, but we have to let the private sector function," said Ly Phalla.

Low quality hurts rice exports

Photo by: TRACEY SHELTON
A worker stands amid stacked rice sacks in O’Russei Market in Phnom Penh.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Nguon Sovan
Friday, 31 October 2008

High international standards and the need for better post-harvest processing have left Cambodia’s rice sector struggling to find overseas markets

CAMBODIA'S failure to produce rice that meets international hygiene and quality standards has seriously hindered exports to foreign markets, a senior agricultural official said Thursday.

Chan Tong Yves, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said poor rice cultivation techniques, rural poverty and outdated post-harvest technology makes Cambodian rice poor in quality compared with other nations.

"Foreign markets depend on phytosanitary (SPS) certification to prove that export products are free of disease or harmful chemicals. We have not been able to control SPS quality to conform to international standards," he said.

Chan Tong Yves addressed his remarks to a roundtable discussion group organised by the Club of Cambodian Journalists.

Quality control

The Agriculture Ministry has begun efforts to improve the quality of rice to bolster foreign exports, he said.

"The market is difficult for us. We have been trying to find new outlets for local rice so that we are not just producing it for food security," he said.

A key consideration to such improvements was more investment in irrigation systems and post-harvest technology, he said.

Much of Cambodia's rice sector depends on the rainy season. Only 44 percent of the country's rice fields are irrigated, according to official figures.

" WE HAVE NOT BEEN ABLE TO CONTROL...QUALITY TO CONFORM TO INTERNATIONAL STANDARDS. "

Problems in post-harvest processing also hinder exports, particularly to European markets.

"Our rice mills are small. When rice is processed, the grains break into small fragments, which are not suitable for the overseas market," Chan Tong Yves said.

Srun Sokhom, deputy chief of the ministry's Department of Agronomy and Agricultural Land Improvement, said delegations from Kuwait and Qatar had expressed interest in importing Cambodian rice but have not yet made a decision.

"We gave them samples, but they have not responded to us on the quality or how much they might want to import," Srun Sokhom said.

Cambodia exported 5,400 tonnes of organic rice to European countries in the first nine months of this year, Chan Tong Yves said. The rest of the country's rice exports have gone to Vietnam and Thailand.

High int'l standards

Mao Thora, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Commerce, said Cambodian rice does not meet European standards but was suitable for African markets.

"Our rice quality is based on two classifications: simple rice and polished rice," he said, adding that simple rice was suitable for export to Africa.

"We currently have no purchase orders from African countries, but we hope they will buy rice from us in the future," he said.

Mao Thora said better post-harvest processing would be necessary to increase production of polished rice and bolster exports to European markets.

Inflation could nearly halve on falling fuel costs: officials

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Consumers may get some breathing room if lower petrol prices lead to lower inflation.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chun Sophal and Hor Hab
Friday, 31 October 2008

Finance ministry officials hope lower global oil prices will ease financial pressure on consumers by reducing the inflation rate by 10 percentage points

FALLING fuel prices could nearly halve Cambodia's record-high inflation rate by January, officials said Thursday.

"We hope the inflation rate will drop to 15 percent by year's end and will reach nine percent next year if international crude oil prices stay below US$70 per barrel," Hang Chuon Naron, secretary general of the Ministry of Economy and Finance, told the Post Thursday.

International crude prices hit $69 per barrel on Thursday - a drop of more than 50 percent from July's high of $147 per barrel.

The comments followed a meeting between government officials and representatives of Cambodia's petroleum import companies, where it was announced that petrol prices would drop to 4,000 riels ($1) per liter by Monday.

World oil prices have plummeted on a slowing global economy and declines in demand, and Cambodian pump prices are expected to come down as a result.

Inflation in the Kingdom rose rapidly over the past year with rising fuel costs, and opposition politicians say they are not optimistic that commodity prices will fall as rapidly as the government predicts.

Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Yim Sovann said the government's inflation projections were unrealistic, as petrol prices in local markets have dropped less than in other countries.

"The government should not expect inflation rates to drop if petrol prices remain stable at over 4,000 riels per litre as they are today, because this rate will not help local products compete with imported goods," Yim Sovann said.

" The government has just confused matters with these predictions. "

"I don't believe the inflation rate will drop to 15 percent," he said. "I think the government has just confused matters with these predictions, and they continue to conspire with local petroleum companies to keep prices high and out of line with the international market."

Cambodia's inflation rate averaged 22 percent in July and August, according to the Ministry of Planning.

Outside experts, however, put the inflation rate at about 30 percent.

Target in doubt

Independent economist Sok Sina said he expects inflation to fall from current levels, but said that there was no guarantee it would decrease to 15 percent.

"It takes a long time for inflation to adjust because the country does not have full and fair competition," he said.

"But we would be happy to see the rate drop to nine percent next year from 30 percent last year," he added.

He said that inflation is also a symptom of other factors aside from petroleum prices.

"The price of commodities drops slowly, and they only drop when the government forces prices down, as they are trying to do with petrol," Sok Sina said.

"It will only drop faster if there is fair competition and good governance," he told the Post.

Groups demand an end to cluster bombs

Photo by: Christopher Shay
Man Hoeung, 10, and Sophan Rittay, 8, demonstrate how they handle live munitions in Kratie province’s Thom village.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Christopher Shay and Sam Rith
Friday, 31 October 2008

Children are most often the victims of cluster munitions, which are mistaken for toys or harmless pieces of scrap metal, say supporters of international ban

CHILDREN are most often the victims of cluster bombs, millions of which still litter the countryside, officials said Thursday, the final day of an awareness-raising tour through the eastern part of the Kingdom that remains largely infested by the deadly explosive devices.

"Most of the victims from such weapons are children because they think these weapons are toys," Khem Sophoan, the director general at the Cambodian Mine Action Center, said as the Ban Bus tour, organised by the UN Development Program and several aid orgnisations, wrapped up in Phnom Penh.

Cluster munitions - bombs that break into multiple smaller explosives that often fail to detonate, leave hazardous explosives behind - ones that are often mistaken for scrap metal or children's playthings.

The tour, part of an international effort to ban cluster bombs, aimed to collect at least 400 signatures from Cambodians in Kampong Cham and Kratie provinces, two of the areas most affected by the munitions.

The petition will be presented in December in Norway, at the formal signing of a global cluster bomb ban.

Cambodia has sent representatives to every international conference about the ban, and on Thursday Sam Sotha, the secretary general of the Cambodian Mine Action Authority, reconfirmed that Cambodia would sign the ban.

Douglas Broderick, the UN's resident coordinator, said: "By giving a good example in terms of land mines and awareness, we can have other countries duplicate it to build momentum in this global campaign."

The Ban Bus collected stories from bomb victims around Cambodia to share with the international community, and aid groups and victims hope the world will listen.

"The one clear resounding message coming from the people is that cluster munitions cause unacceptable harm to civilians," Broderick said.

Victims often said they felt empowered to know that others might not suffer in the same way."The ban on cluster munitions is not just important to my family, but other children around the world. I feel proud. I feel happy because the campaign prevents kids from being in danger," said Yoeun Sam En, who was blinded and lost both arms in a cluster bomb explosion.

Govt invites budget input

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Vong Sokheng and Cheang Sokha
Friday, 31 October 2008

THE National Assembly is seeking input from local and international stakeholders on a draft of the 2009 National Budget Law, which allocates US$2 billion in state funds, including large increases for the military.

The NGO Forum on Cambodia requested that a public forum be held on November 20, before lawmakers debate the draft law in early December, said CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap.

"We are inviting all stakeholders, including international organisations, government representatives, members of parliament and students [to take part]," he said.

In the draft law, the military budget has been doubled to about US$500 million.

NGO Forum deputy executive director Ngy San said the organisation had asked for a copy of the draft budget in order to make recommendations before the Assembly debate.

"Civil society is ready to join the workshop and will share some ideas with the National Assembly," he said.

But Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Son Chhay said the Assembly should implement procedures allowing the participation of opposition parties, rather than just a single day of talks with civil society groups.

"Last year, the Ministry of Defence wasted a lot of the national budget, so they have to review before adding to the military's budget," he said.

Opposition request for paliamentary role is rejected by Assembly

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Opposition leader Sam Rainsy addresses a post-election rally in this file photo.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Meas Sokchea
Friday, 31 October 2008

National Assembly says that Sam Rainsy Party’s demand to be recognised violated the Constitution and should not be honoured

THE Permanent Commission of the National Assembly rejected this week a request by the opposition Sam Rainsy Party for official recognition by the body and a guaranteed role in Parliament.

The commission said Tuesday the request, submitted by letter, was an illegal attempt to amend Assembly regulations.

SRP lawmaker Son Chhay told journalists Wednesday the Commission's rejection was based on a misunderstanding. The letter submitted by the party was not a request for amending regulations but an attempt to remind the Assembly of comments previously made by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

"The SRP did not request an amendment to the internal regulations of the Assembly. We wrote a letter last week to remind the chairman of the Assembly of what Prime Minister Hun Sen said after the first meeting," he said.

"Samdech Hun Sen said he will accept requests by the SRP to rearrange the Assembly's regulations to guarantee an official role for the opposition," Son Chhay said.

The president of the SRP submitted the letter only to remind Assembly Chairman Heng Samrin of this fact, he said.

"We also included in the letter an assessment by a foreign expert, who also supported giving opposition parties an official role in Parliament," he said.

"The decision of the Commission seems to suggest we requested new regulations, but we have not done this. We know that to do so would require approval of one-fourth of the Assembly, and the SRP doesn't have those numbers," Son Chhay said.

Request 'unconstitutional'

Cambodian People's Party lawmaker Cheam Yeap told the Post Wednesday the SRP request violated the constitution.

"We rejected the letter because the request was illegal. Samdech Hun Sen said we must guarantee a role for opposition parties, but that the assembly must verify the validity of any such requests. So, the assembly saw it was illegal and must be rejected," Cheam Yeap said.

Thun Saray, president of the rights group Adhoc, said the offer of a guaranteed role in government was simply a political tactic to get the SRP to attend the Assembly's swearing-in ceremony in September.

Hun Sen told journalists after the convening of the Assembly on September 24 that he guaranteed an official role for the opposition in Parliament.

Hundreds of street vendors protest amid crackdown

Photo by: Vandy Rattana
Female street vendors gather at the protest, angered by the use of police force to make them leave the area around Russian market.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Mom Kunthear
Friday, 31 October 2008

Vendors' stalls were stripped by police after they protested new municipal regulations requiring them to leave the area

MORE than 700 street vendors who peddle their wares around the Russian market became targets of a vicious police crackdown after they protested against new regulations that had them banned from the area as of Thursday.

Since 3am Thursday, groups of police have been collecting - and then damaging - vendors' merchandise and equipment, after they refused to pack up their stalls.

"They are killing poor people without thinking about their difficulties," said Moeun Chanvy, 40, a fish seller who has been on the street 20 years.

"I am so angry and I will protest against them until they find a suitable place for us to sell," she said.

Vendors were protesting against new regulations issued by the Phnom Penh Municipality on October 9 that prohibited them selling their products in the area.

"The police yelled and cursed at us to leave the street. But I am not afraid to protest against them because I know I'm not wrong," Moeun Chanvy said.

Municipality officials, who could not be contacted about the incident Thursday, had earlier urged vendors to set up their stalls in the new, privately run Beoung Trabek market, 500 metres from Russian market. But vendors said the new location did not offer any business.

"I cannot go to sell at the new place because I don't have a store, and it will not have customers," Peoung Vutha, a 34-year-old noodle vendor said.

" They are killing poor people without thinking about their difficulties "

"There were many vendors who used to sell there but they came back because there were no buyers," he added. "So I will continue protesting despite the crackdown because I have no choice."

Chheng Chheak, chief of Tuol Tompoung 1 commune, said that the new municipality regulations were created to make way for development, adding that the vendors made the city look unpleasant.

"We're not expelling them without thinking, we are just asking them to sell in another place," he told the Post Thursday.

"We need help from the prime minister and I hope that he will help us. If he cannot we will die, because we don't have any income," said noodle-vendor Peoung Vutha.

A police officer present at the protest, which continued throughout the day Thursday, declined to comment on the crackdown, except to say that he was "told to do it".

Years of flooding could be over for a Phnom Penh high school

Photo by: HENG CHIVOAN
Chruoy Changvar High School under water.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Titthara
Friday, 31 October 2008

CPP boss Chea Sim has partnered with a Korean firm to rebuild a local high school that has endured years of persistent flooding

A HIGH school in Phnom Penh's Russey Keo district will be rescued from the ravages of seasonal flooding by a remodeling plan expected to finish in 2010, a school official told the Post Thursday.

Chruoy Changvar High School has endured massive flooding each rainy season for several years, said Tek Sim Eth, the school's director.

"It has been hard on our students for the last four years since local villagers filled in ponds near the school. Whenever it rains, the school looks like a lake," he said.

"Now, we have started rebuilding half of the school, while students continue to use the other half, and we hope to finish by early 2010," he said.

The rebuilding project is being funded by Cambodian People's Party chief Chea Sim, who is sponsoring the construction of 23 additional rooms for the school, he said.

Tek Sim Eth added that the work is being done by a Korean company, under the direction of Chea Sim.

Constant flooding at the school has disrupted classes for years and proved a constant irritation to students and teachers, many of whom must help pump water from classrooms so studies can convene.

"My school always gets flooded whenever it rains," said grade nine student Thong Navith, who added that he never wears uniforms because they would be soiled by the dirty water.

" DESPITE THE FLOODING, WE HAVE TRIED TO KEEP CLASSES GOING. "

"Sometimes, we run away from school when it starts to rain, and the next day we cannot study because the teachers are pumping water out of our classes," he said.

"Despite the flooding, we have tried to keep classes going. But when too much water comes in, we have to stop for the safety of the students," he said.

Tek Sim Eth said about US$150,000 had been spend pumping sand into the school, but the total cost of the remodel was unknown.

"We will need to struggle a bit more before we have a nice school, but it is not so long until 2010," he said.

"After that, we will be fine."

Minorities march in R'kiri

Villagers at the protest Thursday in Ratanakkiri

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sam Rith and Sebastian Strangio
Friday, 31 October 2008

Community representatives and indigenous rights groups say they hope to draw attention to land-grabbing and forest clearing on ancestral lands

INDIGENOUS minority villagers marched in Ratanakkiri province Thursday morning, protesting the land-grabbing and illegal logging they say are threatening the traditions and livelihood of their communities.

Around 500 people from the province's various ethnic groups met at the office of local rights group Adhoc in the provincial capital Banlung, marching to Provincial Hall and the Forestry Administration Office to air their grievances.

"The goal of the land march is to stop land-grabbing, clearing state forestry land and anarchic illegal logging," said Chhay Thy, assistant to provincial Adhoc director Pen Bonnar.

About 1,000 people were expected to participate in this year's march - the third held since 2007 - but the turnout was less than expected due to heavy rain the day before.

"Today hundreds of people participated, but some people were not able to join due to the slippery roads caused by yesterday's storm," Chhay Thy said.

He added that provincial authorities had prevented two earlier attempts by Adhoc to organise a protest, on December 19 and May 23, when the protest was dispersed by authorities using fire hoses. But Interior Minister Sar Kheng granted permission for Thursday's protest in September, saying that "Provincial Hall has to cooperate and help to ensure safety, security and order to the peaceful land march".

Soeurn Veav, 36, a community representative from Patang village in Lumphat district, said between 50 and 100 people from his community participated in the march. "Many others in my community wanted to participate in the march, but they have no means of transport," he said.

"We march today to call on local authorities and officials to obey and implement the law, and not take bribes from rich and powerful people to grab community lands."

Vinn Sokhim, 25, a community representative from Toang Kraphu village in O'Chum district, said 70 people from his village took part because of a dispute with a rubber company.

"We participated today to get back 26 hectares of community land. The land was grabbed this year by powerful people for a rubber plantation," he said.

Ek Yothin, provincial program director for the Indigenous Community Support Organisation, said more than 3,000 hectares of land had been seized in Ratanakkiri since 2003 and he said he hoped the march would push the government towards ensuring the responsible management of natural resources.

"We heard a lot of news that after the election the government would take action on land-grabbing in Ratanakkiri, but in reality we did not see any," he said. "We hope that we will be able to change things little by little."

Thai police open fire on migrant workers

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Cheang Sokha
Friday, 31 October 2008

A CAMBODIAN worker is in serious condition after being shot in the head by Thai paramilitary troops in Thailand's Aranyaprathet district, as he was waiting for a car to take him to a nearby farm Monday.

Sun Savuth, deputy police chief of O'Chrov district in Banteay Meanchey province, said that the victim, Say Tong Khay, 16, was waiting in the road with his father and four other workers when a Thai paramilitary truck patrolling in the area approached. He said the workers ran away, fearing arrest, after which a Thai soldier opened fire on them from the truck.

Say Tong Khay was taken to Siem Reap Wednesday, where he remains in serious condition.

Educate to end poverty

Photo by: Christopher Shay
Phymean Noun shares a hug with some of the children who attend her Stung Meanchey school in Phnom Penh.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Christopher Shay
Friday, 31 October 2008

CNN Hero of the Year nominee Phymean Noun shares her philosophy

Profile

By Christopher Shay

DURING a visit to the Stung Meanchey Center, a school bordering Phnom Penh's municipal garbage dump, one young student ran spontaneously towards Phymean Noun, the school's founder, and lept into her embrace, kissing her on the cheek.

When the other students at the middle school saw this, they surrounded Phymean Noun and within moments, dozens of students were laughing and smiling as they sought her embrace. Phymean Noun's schools have provided these students not just with occupational skills but affection and hope.

Four years ago, Phymean Noun opened the Stung Meanchey Center for children working and living near the Phnom Penh dump, and for her efforts, CNN has selected her as one of the Top Ten CNN Heroes from over 4,000 entries from 25 countries. On November 27, CNN will announce its "Hero of the Year" during a show hosted by CNN anchor Anderson Cooper. The winner will be chosen by a public vote and will receive an additional US$100,000.

Many of the children at Stung Meanchey Center still work at the municipal dump for less than a dollar day when they are not at school. Before the Stung Meanchey Center opened, few of them had shoes, let alone access to education, but Phymean Noun believed that education could be their tickets out of poverty, as it was for her.

"Without education, poverty will continue nonstop from one generation to another. I always tell them about my life to show them that they can be successful. The world can change with educated children," she said.

Deciding to act

Before she founded the People Improvement Organization (PIO), Phymean Noun had overcome her own difficult youth. Orphaned at age 15 and left to raise a three-year-old niece in poverty, she eventually ended up landing a high-paying job at Untac. "I was successful. I had comfortable life and a nice car," she said.

Then one day in 2002, she was walking along the riverfront eating a piece of chicken. When she finished, she threw the bones in a trash heap and watched as children scrambled over the rubbish for her scraps.

Instead of ignoring what happened, she called over the kids, sat in the grass with them and talked. They told her about their families, their daily lives and why they did not attend school.
That night, Phymean Noun tossed and turned as she thought about the kids. By morning, she made the decision to quit her job and devote herself to helping kids like the ones she met on the riverfront.

Two years later, she opened a school next to the municipal dump.

"The conversations with the kids transformed my life. I saw these kids, and they reminded me of myself," she said.

But the first two years of the Stung Meanchey Center were "tough", Phymean Noun said. She spent over US$30,000 of her own money establishing and running the school.

In the early days, Phymean Noun had to go to the dump every day to persuade the parents to send their kids to her school, even bribing the parents with rice to let their kids attend. Today, PIO runs three schools and a vocational training centre, and Phymean Noun is forced to turn away some of the kids who want to attend - one of the things she hopes to change if she wins the $100,000 grand prize. Through the schools, PIO provides nutritious meals, uniforms, shoes and basic health care. In addition to studying basics of reading, writing and maths, the students can learn Apsara dancing, computer skills and beauty salon techniques.

Kelly Flynn, the executive producer of CNN Heroes, explained why CNN chose Phymean Noun over other contestants.

"[Phymean Noun is] an everyday person changing the world. From one moment witnessing children scavenge for her discarded chicken bones grew a commitment to educate the children.... She brought the education to them and gave them a way out. Phymean is proof that all it takes is the small effort of just one person to really effect change."

Phymean Noun is proud of the difference she's made and says, "Now the kids smile with hope for the future. I can see the change."
______________________________________

To vote for Phymean Noun, log onto http://heroes.cnn.com and for donations to PIO visit their website at http://peopleimprovement.org .

PAD declares it's under attack

Bangkok Post
Friday October 31, 2008

Bombs, shootings leave two dead in Bangkok

POST REPORTERS

Tensions between anti- and pro-government camps are on knife edge with more violence predicted following the bombing and shooting of supporters of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) in Bangkok and Chiang Mai.

The PAD declared yesterday it was now under attack.

A bomb thrown at the Makkhawan Rangsan bridge protest area killed a PAD security guard, Sathian Tabmalipol, and wounded five others early yesterday.

A bomb also exploded at the home of Jarun Pukditanakul, a judge of the Constitution Court.

A man identified as Sangwian Rujimora, 46, was also found dead under a tree on a footpath near Misakawan intersection, behind the Metropolitan Police Bureau and close to the rally site, shot through the right eye.

Pol Maj-Gen Anant Srihiran, chief of Metropolitan Police Division 1, said the man had earlier walked past a line of police. He had appeared drunk.

PAD coordinator Suriyasai Katasila said the alliance was now under attack. He said police and the government were not remaining neutral and accused them of negligence of duty in failing to prevent violence.

Mr Suriyasai believed further attempts would be made to provoke violence in the lead-up to tomorrow's pro-government meeting at Rajamangala Stadium, where Thaksin Shinawatra will address his supporters by phone from London during the Kwam Jing Wan Nee (The Truth Today) political talk show.

Air force chief ACM Itthiporn Suppawong agreed more violence is likely. He called on police and the government to enforce the law strictly and ensure the safety of the people.

Army specialist Maj-Gen Khattiya Sawasdipol denied involvement in the incidents, saying the PAD came under attack because many groups were increasingly dissatisfied with its actions.

Government spokesman Nattawut Saikua said the government was not involved.

He said Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat had instructed national police chief Pol Gen Patcharawat Wongsuwan and Metropolitan Police Commissioner Pol Lt-Gen Suchart Muankaew to speed up the investigations.

Witnesses said two men wearing black jackets rode a motorcycle up to the Makkhawan Rangsan bridge about 3am and the pillion rider hurled the bomb at a group of PAD guards, killing one of them.

About 4am, a group of men in black turned up near Misakawan intersection and opened fire on PAD supporters and security guards. Nobody was hurt.

Earlier, PAD guards detained a man carrying a petrol-soaked rag about 2am. Kittichai Saisa-ard, head of security team, said the man admitted he was paid 200 baht by a police officer to disrupt the PAD.

Earlier, around midnight, the bomb exploded in the garden of the home of judge Jarun, in Khlong Tan area, damaged an air compressor and smashed a glass window and a plate glass door. Nobody was hurt.

Pol Col Siwaroj Sukkhawanont, Khlong Tan police chief, said the bomb was a low-pressure type. It did not produce any dangerous shrapnel and was probably only meant to intimidate.

In Chiang Mai, a PAD supporter's car was destroyed by fire in a garage near a local radio station in Muang district about 4am yesterday. The car belonged to Therdsak Jiamkitwattana, who hosts a radio show which relays the ASTV broadcasts of the PAD rallies.

Police said the fire seemed to have been caused by an incendiary device.

Peaceful solution needed, says Somchai

Bangkok Post
Friday October 31, 2008

BORDER DISPUTE WITH CAMBODIA

The government wants to settle border disputes with Cambodia peacefully, Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat stressed yesterday. Defence Ministry spokesman Peerapong Manakit said the prime minister, also the defence minister, told the Defence Council that Thai troops will not provoke any confrontation with Cambodian troops in disputed border areas.

However, nor will they allow Cambodian troops to infringe on the country's sovereignty.

''If Thai soldiers are attacked, we would retaliate at the same level or as necessary,'' Lt-Gen Peerapong quoted the prime minister as saying.

Mr Somchai also encouraged soldiers in disputed border areas to be tolerant, as Thailand and Cambodia cannot give up on being neighbours.

Residents of both countries along the border could continue cross-border trade activities as usual, said the spokesman.

Lt-Gen Peerapong said Mr Somchai has asked the Foreign Ministry to hold talks with Cambodia and use diplomatic channels to prevent confrontations between the two sides.

A border skirmish erupted on Oct 15 near the World Heritage-listed Preah Vihear temple in which two Cambodian soldiers were killed and five Thai troops injured. Thai and Cambodian representatives met on Oct 23 in Siem Reap to discuss the clash. The Thai ambassador had told Cambodia of the government's desire to use peaceful means to ease border hostility, said Lt-Gen Peerapong.

Norwegians Support "Ban Bus"

ScandAsia
Norway

An international effort against cluster bombs has made its way to Cambodia, with donors and aid groups travelling through the eastern part of the country this week collecting signatures from villagers in support of a global ban on the deadly munitions.

The "Ban Bus", an effort organised by various groups, including the Cambodian Red Cross, Norwegian People's Aid, Religions for Peace and the UN Development Program, toured Kampong Cham and Kratie provinces Monday and Tuesday before returning to the capital where today it will try to raise awareness of cluster munitions, millions of which are still littered across large swathes of Cambodia.

During their trip through the provinces, organisers said they collected some 400 signatures, in addition to the 16,000 already given so far in Cambodia, and recorded the personal histories of cluster bomb victims.

The signatures will be part of a petition presented this December in Norway at the signing of an international ban on cluster bombs in Norway.

"A huge part of the [Ban Bus] is to raise awareness for international donors and to show that this is still affecting Cambodia. We'll be able to say, ‘Look, thousands of Cambodians have signed this treaty' and to share the stories of the victims with the donors," said Alex Hiniker, a communications and advocacy officer at UNDP.

Between 1969 and 1973, the US dropped about 80,000 cluster bombs on Cambodia during its secret bombing campaigns, scattering morethan 26 million submunitions, according to Handicap International.

Khmer soldiers accused Thai soldiers of destruction of forests near Preah Vihear temple

Thai soldiers built their camps inside Khmer territories near Preah Vihear temple on 18th August 2008.
By Sav Yuth
30th October, 2008
Radio Free Asia

Translated from Khmer by Khmerization

Cambodian soldiers said that hundreds of trees near the sites where Thai soldiers set up their camps have been destroyed by Thai soldiers because they cut down the trees to use them to cover their trenches to protect themselves from artillery shells should fighting break out.

A Khmer soldier stationing near the Preah Vihear temple said on 30th October that hundreds of trees the size of human thighs were cut down to build their trenches which made the dense and forested jungle become barren like an empty field. He said: "The trees are the sizes of our thighs. They said that the areas belong to them too so they cut down all the trees, even the ones opposite us. They cut down the trees next to their frontlines."

In regard to the Cambodian allegations, a Thai border official said that he did not receive any information about this matter yet.

A Thai border official based at Sisaket, Mr. Svang Prachumwong, said that he did not know clearly about the issue, but said that he went to the border areas very often and saw that not only Thai soldiers, but Cambodian soldiers also, cut down the trees.

He added that they only cut down small trees.A Khmer border official said that, while the border issues are not yet resolved, the cutting down of the trees are forbidden.

Mr. Var Kim Hong, chairman of the Cambodian Border Committee, said that he did not see with his own eyes about the forest destruction by the Thai soldiers. But if large numbers of trees were cut down by the Thai soldiers, it would be a violation of the joint Memorandum of Understanding on border issues, signed by both countries in 2000 to maintain the status quo.

Mr. Var Kim Hong said: " I did not see with my own eyes but if the allegations are true then it would be a violation of article 5 of the joint Memorandum of Understanding of 2000 because we promised to maintain the status quo, and not to change anything."

Cambodian soldiers said that since troops were sent to occupy Wat Keo Sekha Kirisvarak pagoda on the 15th of July, many Thai troops have set up camps opposite the Preah Vihear temple and they have cut down many trees to build their camps or to use as firewoods. They said that some high quality hardwood have been cut down to make axe handles or even cut down into small pieces and put in their knapsacks and took with them to Thailand.

Since 1997, Cambodia has banned logging which has seriously destroyed the environments and perpetrators of forest destruction will be severely punished by laws.

The Accusation Game

The map showing where the fighting on 15th October, 2008 took place. The yellow line is the delimitation line drawn up by Franco-Siamese Commission in the 1907 Franco-Siamese treaty. The red spots with red arrows pointing at them are the sites of the 15th October fighting. Top of the yellow lineis Thailand and bottom of the line is Cambodia, so the fighting took place inside Cambodian territories.

What do people often hear from Thailand saying about Cambodia? Well, Cambodia is known to many Thai people, Thai politicians, Thai intellectuals, and Thai scholars as the “betrayer, the insincere, and the distrustful,” written in their history, published by Thai media, and spoken out by their leaders and remembered in their people’s hearts.

Why are these terminologies used to paint the bad image of Cambodia? Has Thailand historically been affected and suffered by its relations with Cambodia? Yes, as Thailand has always claimed it.
The word which paints Cambodia as “the distrustful” is historically noted to hundreds of year back to the reign of king Naresuan, the king who freed Thailand (Siam) from the Burmese invasion in the 16th century. In the Thai history, it states that, the Khmer betrayed them by taking advantage of Thai weakness during the war with Burma, the Khmer attacked them. This word is thoroughly taught at school and learned and from then on they have labeled the Cambodians as “the distrustful.”

The word “insincere” is newly used after the border conflict between the two countries led to military clashes on 15th October 2008 which is written by Thanida Tansbpapo who raised questions about Phnom Penh’s sincerity in settling the border dispute through diplomacy.

There is still another one which is just recently termed that is, “the betrayal.” The term is painted when Thailand accuses Cambodia of planting new landmines, at the Veal Entry next to Preah Vihear temple which seriously wounded three Thai soldiers, the the betrayal of the Ottawa Conevention, 1997.

Of course, these words sound good to the Thais but they really disturb the Cambodians and they even reflect back to the Thais themselves regarding to history and legality and as reaction to the Thai accusation, the Cambodians always react with the word “thief” or “the ungrateful” to term the Thais, but rarely officially publicized.

Historically, Naresuan was not able to win the war against Burma in his leadership without the full support of Khmer King, Sattha. King Sattha sent his brother, Prince Srisuphanma, to lead troops who were experts of war elephants and martial art to help king Naresuan to fight against the Burmese King Bayinnuang. The war was successfully fought and freed Thailand from Burma. The Khmer Prince pulled the troops back to the Khmer Kingdom after helping Naresuan to win the war and hoped to continue to build peace with Thailand. Yet Naresuan, in stead of being grateful to the Khmer King, was so worried about the Khmer power reemergence, so he ungratefully decided to completely destroy the Khmer might when the Khmer were tired of war after helping Thailand and without preparation. Thai leaders really don’t want this truth be revealed to their next generations being afraid of losing the chance to claim for superiority to the Khmer among their people, condemning from the public or independent scholars, losing political sympathy from the general Thais and most importantly this can play a role as the political instrument in order to inspire and strengthen the spirit of nationalism among the Thai future generations.

Who must be demanded for “sincerity” in the part of Cambodia or Thailand? It would be Cambodia if Cambodia doesn’t respect the 1904 and 1907 Siamese-French treaties and the verdict of International Court of Justice (ICJ), 1962. But the Cambodia does respect these conditions. How about Thailand? As a matter of fact, Thailand must be the one that needs to show its sincerity at the first place because Thailand politically and intentionally shows that it doesn’t respect the 1904 and 1907 Siamese-French treaties, the verdict of ICJ, and the Paris Peace Accord, 1991 which Thailand itself legally recognized and signed and, in addition, it is even invading Cambodia. If Thailand were not a state but just an individual person, such an insult or abuse must be demanded for official apology, compensation, and other kinds of serious punishment according to law should there be any international judgment again.

The world clearly knows that Cambodia is ranked as one of the countries which have the most landmines in the world which planted from the Cambodian war of the 1970s into the 1990s. The landmine areas are geographically and politically marked the existence of Cambodian territory. So how can Thailand come up to such an accusation that Cambodia is the betrayal of the Ottawa Convention, 1997? Is Thailand really ignorant, as some Cambodians say about them, about history? Or is Thailand a perfect pretender?

In Thai territory, landmines do not exist since Thailand is always at peace. So, instead, Thailand should deserve the word “betrayal” or “thief “ named by Cambodia and the world for not respecting the spirit of the Paris Peace Accord, 1991.

Through centuries, Cambodia has been endured through all kinds of attack with both verbal and physical from her neighbors and remarkably Cambodian soft and compromised foreign policy has always been negatively paid back which historically happened with her neighbors.

With Thailand, the Thais always claimed that they helped Cambodia after the fall of the Khmer Empire and from the Pol Pot Regime to the present. How about the Khmers helped them to survive from the Mongolian huntin in the 12th century? How about the Khmer helped them to free from the Burma in the 16th century under the reign of Naresuan and the 18th century during the leadership of Taksin?

After the fall of the Khmer Empire, Thailand never helped Cambodia, but consistently invaded Cambodia in order to take control and compete for power balance against Vietnam.

During the Pol Pot regime, Thailand was not helping Cambodia to survive as they claimed but they helped push Cambodia destructively to die by secretively supporting the genocidal Khmer Rouge (KR) and other guerrilla groups in Cambodia during the1970s and 1980s through financial support and weapon trade, as Morton Abramowitz, former U.S. ambassador to Thailand, said in a 29 May 1994 Washington Post editorial that, “By graft or statecraft, Thailand has become [KR leader] Pol Pot’s best ally.” Interestingly, in April the new strongman in Bangkok, Army Commander Suchinda Krapayoon, told a US senator that he considered Pol Pot a “nice guy,” just as in 1985 the Foreign Minister of the previous dictatorship had described Pol Pot’s deputy, Son Sen, as “a very good man.” So, are all the good Thais in Thailand like Pol Pot and Son Sen? Is that what Thailand calls “help”?

In contradict to the spirit of Asean and United Nations and especially the memorandums and agreements signed by Thailand with its neighbors for respecting each country’s territorial integrity and strengthening friendship, Thailand is treacherously adopt the two-facial policy towards its neighbors as explicitly stated by a senior Thai official with security responsibilities, General Channa Samudvanija, to Milton Osborne, during an extended discussion of Thai-Cambodian relations in 1980 that, in essence, Thai policy towards Cambodia was to support those forces within the country that opposed the existing government. The rationale behind such a policy as the Realpolitik view of seeking to weaken a neighbor with which Thailand had substantial policy differences… According to this, can Cambodia trust Thailand in term of border resolution as it has publicly claimed? It can be trusted only if Thailand show its respect for all treaties it has signed and accepts the international body mediator such as UN or ICJ as proposed by Cambodia.

Respectively, the accusation game must be stopped because it gains for nothing but deepens the conflicts and hatred between the two countries and especially Thailand should take this chance to show the world that it is respecting the 1904 and 1907 Siamese-French treaties, the verdict of International Court of Justice (ICJ), 1962, and the spirit of the Paris Peace Accord, 1991 and withdraws its troops unconditionally from Cambodia. If Thailand can do so, friendship between the two countries will be re-strengthened, hatred will be healed, and accusations will be ended. Then, the two countries will peacefully co-exist.

SATTAHIP NAVAL TEAM RESCUE CAMBODIAN MEN FROM ISLAND FOLLOWING 8 MONTH ORDEAL AT SEA

PATTAYA DAILY NEWS
October 30, 2008

On 29th October 2008, Navy Deputy Commander In Chief Worajak Jannoo received reports that the owner of a fishing boat had spotted 5 men living on “Rohng Neung" Island, close to "Rohngkon" Island, located a fair distance from the Sattahip harbour. The men had waved to the fisherman but after realizing they were Cambodian he refused to help because he thought it would be unlawful to do so.

After receiving the report a naval rescue team in a rubber dinghy rushed to the island. They found 5 men, aged between 19 and 25, all Cambodian, in a serious physical condition. They had been starving for 4 days on the island.

They told police that they came from a village near Poipet on the Cambodia border. A Cambodian friend who had lived in Thailand for a long time told them he operated some kind of agency and had found a job for them. They decided to pay their friend 3000 baht each for taking them to Samutprakarn to work.

They traveled by train to Hualumpong railway station in Bangkok and then by taxi to Paknam, Samutprakarn, where they believed they would work at the Paknam Harbuor for 4000 baht a month salary.

However the friend had also taken 5000 baht commission for each person from a fishing boat owner. They were duly transferred onto the boat as soon as they arrived at Paknam and ended up working in the middle of the deep sea.

They had been working for 8 months without any salary and without one visit onshore or a single day off. Every now and then boats brought them food and took fish back to shore during which time their boat would have to travel to about 10 miles from Sattahip harbour.



Mr. Tah (25), one of the men said, "Eight months was too long to suffer, it was just like being in a prison. We were physically and mentally hurt and never had a chance to ask for some money to send to our families. We were not allowed to visit our folks. It was as if we were already dead so we decided to run for our lives"

He said, on the night of 25th October, while people were busy loading fish, they jumped into the sea and swam to an island they could see a long distance away. They had some drinking water in plastic bags with them. Two of the men, Mr. Tee and Mr. Aeun , who could not swim well, slowed everyone down but they finally managed to reach the island four hours later.

They spent 4 days and 4 nights on the island, catching fish and crab and drinking some rain water from the rock swamp until they saw the fisherman’s boat and waved for help. They were happy to be safe and would soon be heading back home to be with their families.

News Type : Community
Story : Nattaphumin
Photo : Nattaphumin
Translater : Sirithanon

N Korea, Cambodia agree on cultural exchange

PAKISTAN OBSERVER
Friday, October 31 2008

Phnom Penh—Impoverished North Korea and Cambodia have agreed to host each other’s art shows and movies as part of a cultural exchange to boost relations, a senior Cambodian official said Thursday.

The agreement, which outlines an exchange of cultural events from 2009 to 2011, was signed in Phnom Penh on Monday during a visit by a North Korean cultural relations delegation, said Chuch Phoeurn, secretary of state at Cambodia’s ministry of culture.

“The cultural exchange includes exhibitions, a week of movies and art performances,” he told AFP. Chuch Phoeurn said Cambodia sends performers to North Korea every year to participate in shows, particularly the isolated country’s national ceremonies.

Former Cambodian king Norodom Sihanouk is a long-time friend of North Korea who, during his frequent visits, stays in a palace in Pyongyang provided to him by the North’s first leader, Kim Il-Sung.

North Korean Prime Minister Kim Yong-Il last year made a rare visit to Cambodia focused on boosting trade between the two nations.—APP

Siam Cement delays Cambodia plant expansion

The Star Online
Friday October 31, 2008

BANGKOK: Siam Cement PCL has delayed cement plant expansion in Cambodia and a new investment in Indonesia as cement demand falls due to a global economic slowdown, its cement division president said yesterday.

Thailand’s biggest industrial conglomerate also saw domestic cement consumption dropping 6%-7% this year from 25.6 million tonnes in 2007, and at least 10% next year, Pramote Techasupatkul told Reuters in an interview.

Rather than expansion, Siam Cement would focus on a 4 billion baht (US$115mil) investment plan to increase energy efficiency at its cement plants in Thailand and Cambodia, Pramote said.

“We are assessing the global situation. We have to be more prudent on spending,” he said.

The company’s domestic cement sales this year would fall to nine million tonnes, in line with the industry-wide decline, although exports would be 8.1-8.2 million tonnes, close to last year, he said.

Siam Cement has been producing cement at 80% of a full capacity of 23.2 million tonnes this year, Pramote added, but might cut production next year in response to weaker demand. – Reuters

Cambodia readies for first rock opera

SFGate

Ker Munthit, Associated Press
Thursday, October 30, 2008

Phnom Penh, Cambodia -- Cambodia's first rock opera will premiere in Phnom Penh next month, a cultural milestone in the Southeast Asian country where performing arts were banned during the brutal Khmer Rouge years.

"Where Elephants Weep" is an East-meets-West blend of traditional Cambodian music and Western rock that is modeled after "Romeo and Juliet" and inspired by the Broadway musical "Rent."

Organizers say the show will open a 10-day run Nov. 28 in a converted movie theater in the capital, Phnom Penh, a year later than its planned premiere at the end of 2007.

The show was commissioned by Cambodian Living Arts, a project of the Boston nonprofit organization World Education, which seeks to revive traditional Cambodian performing arts and inspire contemporary artistic expression among Cambodians.

Charley Todd, a co-president of the arts group's governing board, said the opera had a successful preview last year in Lowell, Mass., which has a sizable community of Cambodian refugees. But producers needed extra time for fine-tuning.

It is expected to tour in other countries, including the United States, South Korea and Singapore.
Arts and entertainment were banned when the Khmer Rouge ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979 and killed roughly 1.7 million people through starvation, disease, overwork and execution. Execution sites from the time now serve as grim tourist attractions.

"Where Elephants Weep" is an operatic take on "Tum Teav," the Cambodian version of "Romeo and Juliet."
It tells the story of a Cambodian American who lost his father during the Khmer Rouge era and returns home after Cambodia's civil war to trace his roots. In Phnom Penh, he meets and falls in love with a Cambodian woman who works as a karaoke singer.

The music was composed by the Russian-trained Cambodian maestro Him Sophy. He was inspired by the rock opera "Rent," which he saw twice in New York City.

Cambodian musicians in the performance use electric guitars, electronic drums, keyboards and traditional instruments such as buffalo horns, bamboo flutes, gongs and the chapei, a long-necked lute with two nylon strings.

After seven years of work, Sophy said he expected a celebration - both onstage and in the country.

"It is going to be a big national cultural event," Sophy said. "And the entire team is committed to making it happen flawlessly and perfectly."

NUON PHYMEAN - CNN Hero of the Year

One of Cambodia’s most amazing heroes, Nuon Phymean has over the past years offered hundreds of children working in Phnom Penh’s landfill a way out through free schooling and job training. She is now one of the nominees for the CNN Hero of the Year Award to be announced on November 19 this year.

As her fellow Cambodians, let’s join hand-in-hand and VOTE for this legendary hero of ours. Please click on the above picture to do your part.

A million thanks for your cooperation!!!

CAMBODIA: Rising drug use jeopardises AIDS success

Crystal methamphetamine is usually smoked but sometimes injected


IRIN

PHNOM PENH, 30 October 2008 (PlusNews) - Evidence of the large-scale use and manufacturing of methamphetamine in Cambodia could pose a new challenge to the fight against HIV/AIDS, warned non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

In the capital, Phnom Penh, 14 percent of injecting drug users were found to be HIV positive in 2006, rocketing to 35.1 percent in 2007, according to statistics from the National Authority for Combating Drugs (NACD), a government body.

Studies have found that crystal methamphetamine - commonly known as "crystal meth" or "ice", and usually smoked but sometimes injected - is also associated with high-risk sexual behaviours that can lead to HIV transmission and could inhibit the body's ability to suppress the HIV viral load.

The potent central nervous system stimulant is highly addictive, causing paranoia, delusions and hallucinations. Studies at this point have obtained mainly preliminary data, but indicate that methamphetamine may also accelerate the onset of HIV-related dementia and interfere with treatment effectiveness.

"Though there are conflicting findings regarding methamphetamine ... for HIV infection," said Frederick Curtis, senior technical officer for drug use at Family Health International (FHI) in Cambodia, "a rise in crystal meth use in Cambodia looms as a threat to reversing the HIV-prevalence trend."

HIV infection levels in Cambodia declined from 3.7 percent in 1997 to 0.9 percent in 2006, according to UNAIDS figures.

Street children and sex workers, two groups at high risk of HIV, are especially prone to crystal meth addiction as they abandon the once popular yama, a local slang name for amphetamines.

Data gathered by the NACD revealed that treatment admissions for crystal meth addiction increased by 18 percent during the first six months of 2008, compared to the previous six-month period, while yama admissions fell by 15 percent.

The trend reflects similar data from Thailand and Malaysia, reported at the First Global Methamphetamine Conference in September 2008 in Prague, Czech Republic.

"We've also seen that users will turn to methamphetamines because they think it will help them overcome heroine addictions," Curtis told IRIN/PlusNews.

Addiction dangers and HIV

Crystal meth - with 80 percent purity - is more addictive than other drugs and could pose problems to HIV prevention services in Cambodia.

Curtis noted that the effects of the drug, described as an intense rush of pleasure, were experienced almost immediately; Yama pills were not as pure, and the effects only kicked in after 40 minutes when taken orally.

"This intense euphoria is not lost on youth looking for new thrills," Curtis said. Ice also seemed to be favoured by an ever younger population of users, replacing ecstasy as the drug of choice in nightclubs and bars.

Cham Sopheap*, 25, a male clubgoer in Phnom Penh, agreed, and didn't think meth would put him at risk of HIV as other drugs did. "The NGOs teach us not to inject drugs, so we don't," he said. "I don't understand how smoking a drug would spread a disease."

He was more likely to hire sex workers when using the drug. "I've done it maybe four times, and every time I call a prostitute at the end of the night to lay with me," he commented.

"Meth doesn't make me feel energised like I want to have a lot of sex, but just that I want to lay around with a girl. I think this leads to sex."

Cambodian Garbage Scavengers Face Deadly Health Risks

By Rory Byrne
Phnom Penh
30 October 2008

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

In countries around the world, hundreds of thousands of poor people face daily hazards to earn meager livings by scavenging for recyclable goods. In Cambodia, hundreds of scavenger families find their lives changing - they will lose their homes and livelihoods when the government closes the dump where they work. Rory Byrne has this report from Phnom Penh.

Steung Meanchey dump on outskirts of Phnom Penh

Officially, it is the Steung Meanchey landfill site, but those who live
here call it Smokey Mountain.

Steung Meanchey dump is a seven-hectare mountain of smoking garbage on the outskirts of the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh. Here some 2,000 workers, including about 600 children, sift through 700 tons of garbage a day.

In developing countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, garbage scavengers are among the poorest workers. In Cambodia, they typically earn about one dollar a day.

Ten-year-old Ya has been recycling bottles and cans at the dump for three years.



For children like Ya, going to school remains a distant dream


He says the situation here is terrible. He has to get up very early to work and finishes late in the evening. Ya says his life is very difficult. Collecting garbage brings him less than $1 a day which is not nearly enough to cover his expenses.

Most of the scavengers live in wooden shacks around the dump. There is no access to clean water or sanitation and epidemics are commonplace.

The risks here are high. Sharp-edged metals and broken glass leave nasty wounds. And garbage scavengers suffer high rates of serious diseases, such as hepatitis, tuberculosis and even AIDS. A number of scavengers have been killed or seriously injured when they were run over by garbage trucks.

Sok Kanhha has been working at dump for more than five years
She says it is very dangerous to work here - people can step on metal shards or nails for example or get hit and crushed by the dump trucks. She says she has injured herself with many things, like old needles.

Annette Jensen is the director of A New Day, a charity that provides free food, shelter and schooling to more than 100 children from Steung Meanchey dump.

"To see the children miserable, dirty, sad looking at the garbage dump and then have them arrive with their little plastic bag with all their belongings and move into the center. And to see their excitement about taking a shower. To see their excitement about getting their little bag of shampoo. And to see them clean, putting on their school uniform and going to school has just been amazing," says Jensen.



Annette Jensen, director of A New Day

But most of those working on Cambodia's landfills are not so lucky, and for children like Ya, going to school remains a distant dream.

Ya has he would go to school if he could stop working at the dump. He says he wants to go to school but cannot because his family is so poor.

Ya and his family now face a new challenge: the government plans to close Steung Meanchey and relocate the 535 families living there to land about 50 kilometers south of Phnom Penh.

The government will let them have tiny plots on which to build new homes. An official in charge of the project notes the location is near Udong Mountain, a tourist site, so that there are jobs available in the region. And he says, families are not being forced to move, but most are volunteering.

Still, no families have left so far. Many scavengers say they will be happy to leave the dump, but they are worried that they will not be able to make a living because the relocation camp is too far away from the city.

Thailand, Cambodia Near Agreement

Bangkok, Oct 29 (Prensa Latina) Thailand and Cambodia will resume talks by November, showing the dispute may be near an understanding.

The two countries will hold official talks over their border dispute, from November 10 to 14 in a meeting in Cambodia.

Sources from the Thai foreign ministry forwarded that the talks would also include a border dispute for the Preah Vihear temple.

According to the General Director of Treaties and Legal Matters Virachai Plasai, the meeting was organized after the Senate-House of Representative joint session that backed the Bangkok representation in the Joint Border Committee to negotiate a bilateral agreement in this field.

Differences between the two neighboring countries dated from decades ago although Phnom Penh has held its sovereignty since 1962, by decision of The Hague International Court of Justice.

The recognition awarded to those ruins prompted nationalist complaints by the Thai opposition.

In Cambodia, the Salaries Do Not Correspond to the Size of Property Owned by Civil Servants - Thursday, 30.10.2008

Posted on 30 October 2008
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 584

Notes:
- As 31 October 2008 is a National Holiday, commemorating the Royal Birthday of H.M King Father Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia, our next publication will be only for 1 November 2008.
- As I am traveling from 31 October to 10 November to Egypt in my responsibilities with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers – ICANN – the global Internet coordination - some of our publications may be delayed, depending on my travel schedule and the time zone differences between Cambodia and Egypt.

Norbert Klein, Editor


“The table of salary scales for members of the Royal Government was adopted on 30 September 2004, and it is supposed to be in force until the present. The salaries for the prime minister and for under-secretaries of state, including other related expenses, are between US$400 and US$900; that means, a prime minister receives more than US$900, followed by deputy prime ministers and ministers, who receive smaller salaries, down to under-secretaries of states who receive approximately US$400. Advisors to the prime minister or to deputy prime ministers have the same salary table, depending on their positions. As for low-ranking officials, they still receive smaller salaries – approximately US$30 as an average. Mr. Cheam Yeap, the chairperson of the Commission of Economy and Finance of the National Assembly, said that every year, the government spends nearly US$1 billion to cover salaries.

“Salaries are very important for low-ranking officials, for police or soldiers holding low ranks, and for teachers. Sometimes, they anxiously wait for the end of each month to approach, so that they receive their next salary - although it is small. However, for high-ranking officials, their salaries are just symbols. They do not even talk about their salaries, and it is true that they do not wait for their salaries. Where is the source of their big properties? This question is asked all the time, but everyone knows the answer without thinking. Mr. Thun Saray, the president of Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association – ADHOC, said without surprise, ‘In our country, when an opportunity comes, high-ranking officials seek bribes for their own interests, and then they share part of it with their higher-ranking officials, in order to maintain their positions. This habit has become a culture.’ He thinks that the present Khmer society evaluates people according to the property they own. He added that when people have money, the public considers them to be valuable. He went on to say, ‘On the contrary, the poor are not esteemed to be valuable, although they may be honest, have good morals, and may have a high education.’

“In Cambodia, one can clearly see the big gap between the salaries in the salary tables, and the property owned by high-ranking officials of the government. Considering their salaries, they cannot afford to buy [Toyota] Land Cruisers, villas, and land, as their salaries could not cover these their everyday expenses like this. The general public, and particularly the opposition parties, always criticize that the sources for such properties of those leaders must come from corruption. A Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian from Phnom Penh, Mr. Yim Sovann, said, ‘Every year, Cambodia is included among the most corrupt countries in the world by Transparency International. When there is an opportunity, high-ranking officials and the authorities always seek money for their own interest. This is the reason why they have big properties like this.’ This experienced opposition official did no forget to raise the economic growth of Cambodia, but he said that only one group of Khmers, especially the powerful and the rich, always benefit and become richer - as for poor farmers, they receive nothing.

“The salaries are still the major topic of discussion for low-ranking officials. Their salaries are small and are released late. The president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association, Mr. Rong Chhun, has criticized his very strongly. He explained, ‘A teachers’ average salary is Riel 180,000 (approx. US$45) per month. If we spend it carefully in an economical way, with this money a teachers’ family can survive only ten days. To go further, they have to seek money from other sources.’ Mr. Rong Chhun expressed also his anger, seeing too big a gap with the properties owned by state personnel holding different positions. He stated, ‘High ranking officials are rich, because they earn income everyday. In fact, just to cover the expenses of the utilities only, they can use their salaries.’ He went on to say that some teachers and other personnel of the Ministry of Education have not yet received their salaries for September.

“In Cambodia, everybody knows how much a normal civil servant earns. Therefore, they do not need to discuss this problem. Just by observing the wealth owned by an official, they can know how much they could earn from salary. When it is said that somebody ‘earns much’ in relation to an officials, this does not refer to salaries, but to the ability to seek income using their positions. But this habit has to be brought to an end. The creation of an anti-corruption law and a change of the mindset of Khmer people are necessary as an orientation towards human values, the two fundamental elements to reach those goals.”

Cambodge Soir, Vol.2, #56, 30-5-10-11.2008
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Thursday, 30 October 2008

Minority Groups Protest Forest Destruction

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
30 October 2008

Khmer audio aired 30 October 2008 (906 KB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 30 October 2008 (906 KB) - Listen (MP3)

More than 500 people from several ethnic minority groups staged a protest in Ratanakkiri province Thursday, upset by forest destruction and exploitation by rich and powerful men.

Several thousand hectares of forest across the province have been damaged or destroyed, including ancestral burial grounds, protesters claim.

Authorities have not done enough to stop powerful business interests from infringing on forest land the ethnic minorities say is important to their culture and survival.

The group held a march around the town of Ratanakkiri, passing provincial headquarters, courts, police headquarters and the offices of the Ministry of Agriculture’s forestry department.

NGO Law To Aid Counterterrorism: Official

Sak Setha, secretary of state for the Ministry of Interior

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Washington
30 October 2008

Khmer audio aired 27 October 2008 (6.31 MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 27 October 2008 (6.31 MB) - Listen (MP3)

A proposed law to govern the activities and monitor funding of Cambodia’s hundreds of non-governmental organizations will also help in the fight against global terrorism, a senior official said Monday.

The proposed “Law on Organizations,” sometimes mistranslated as the “Organic Law,” has been criticized by rights groups and other organizations as an attempt by the government to control them.

But the law will also prevent funding from Islamic extremism to Cambodia’s Muslim communities, said Sak Setha, secretary of state for the Ministry of Interior, which drafted the law.

“We focus on international terrorist organizations, not assistance from countries,” he said, as a guest on “Hello VOA.” “I believe that assistance from any country, if it’s proper by this law, will not be impacted.”

Sak Setha pointed to Muslim organization Um Alkura, which was linked to the terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah and closed by the government in 2006, as evidence that extremist funding was finding its way to Cambodia.

Many of Cambodia’s Muslim communities receive funding from Muslim patrons from the Middle East.

Meanwhile, Tieng Saphorn, a project manager for the NGO Star Kampuchea, welcomed the law.

“NGOs are partners of the government, and we have never committed any wrongdoing,” he said, also as “Hello VOA” guest.

“The law is in the interest of NGOs,” Sak Setha said, dismissing concerns from groups that the law would adversely affect them.

When the new law is passed, many of the country’s more than 2,000 NGOs will have to reapply and fill out additional documentation, he said.

US-Cambodians Worry After Obama Threat

By Taing Sarada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
30 October 2008

Khmer audio aired 29 October 2008 (1.21 MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 29 October 2008 (1.21 MB) - Listen (MP3)

A number of Cambodian-American supporters of presidential hopeful Barack Obama voiced concern over his safety after they learned this week of an alleged plot to assassinate him.

Authorities on Tuesday arrested two men in Tennessee, Paul Schelesselman, 18, and Daniel Cowart, 20, on suspicion they had planned to shoot Obama and several black students. The two men allegedly followed white supremacist beliefs.

Obama is the first black man in US history to run for president under a major party, the Democrats.

Kheun Somkhan, an education advisor in Lowell, Mass., said the reported threat was a reminder that the culture of racism in America and the world should be eliminated.

“I was very worried to hear about the plot to kill Obama,” he said.

“As you know presidential assassinations have already been listed in America’s history, so we are very concerned about Obama’s security,” he said, adding that the government should provide more security for the presidential hopeful.

Seth Kopha, a Democratic supporter from Illinois, agreed.

“I urge the government to take serious care of Obama’s security,” he said.

Another Obama supporter, Holl Sophorn, said US presidential assassinations should be a thing of the past and accused the two men of having mental problems.

“I think those two young men are barbaric,” she said. “The government and US competence should seriously protect these presidential candidates.”

Tach Saren, a Republican supporter in Virginia, said the two men were not professional murderers and were likely suffering from emotional problems. The alleged plot would not effect the election, he said.

“They just don’t like Obama and it came through in strong emotions,” he said. “My theory is that they are not experts.”

Virginia is still fresh with the memory of another shooting: the murder of 32 students by Seung Hui Cho at Virginia Tech in April 2007.

Amercia’s legacy of violence includes the assassination of president Abraham Lincoln in 1865, president John F. Kennedy in 1963, black civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr., in April 1968, and senator Robert F. Kennedy in June that year.