Monday, 17 November 2008

CMAC spends $1m on dogs

CMAC mine detection dogs parade through the streets during Independence Day celebrations last week.
The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sam Rith
Monday, 17 November 2008

Program to teach dogs to sniff out unexploded mines and ordnance needs more recruits, CMAC officials say, but puppies and training are not cheap

BREEDING and training a new generation of specialised mine-detecting dogs is costing the Kingdom around US$1 million annually, new figures reveal.

"We spend from $860,000 to $1 million per year on mine-clearing dogs," Khem Sophoan, director general of the Cambodia Mine Action Center (CMAC), told the Post Sunday, adding that the money comes from both the Cambodian government and various donors.

According to Khem Sophoan, CMAC's total expenditure reaches somewhere between $9 million and $11 million a year.

He said a sizable chunk of this funding goes to CMAC's Mine Detection Dog program, founded in 1996, which trains dogs to sniff out mines and buried explosives.

Most of the 87 mine-detecting dogs that have been through the program are purchased ready-trained from a centre in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

One dog costs around $4,000 and once, it reaches Cambodia, training continues. However, CMAC is trying to reduce its reliance on imported dogs.

Puppies please

According to Khem Sophoan, the MDD program needs 10 imported mine-clearing dogs every year to replace the old ones. Now the MDD is making an effort not only to train dogs at the centre but breed them.

Ten puppies were born at the centre eight months ago. However, only three of this historic first litter of puppies survived infancy.

Mong Sokunthearath, director of the Kampong Chhnang CMAC center, home of the MDD program, said that there are two kinds of dogs:

Those that specialise in mine-clearing and those that unearth unexploded ordnance. The dogs start their training when they are two years old.

"They take from six to eight months to be trained," he said. "They are first trained to [obey] humans and then to sniff out explosives, such as TNT."

Experts estimate that up to six million unexploded land mines remain in Cambodia.

"They [land mines] were placed in almost every province throughout Cambodia," Khem Sophoan said. "As part of the government's strategy, we plan to clear all mines in Cambodia by 2020."

Chinese delegation arrives for trade, aid talks with ruling CPP

Heng Samrin (centre) at the Water Festival last week.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sebastian Strangio
Monday, 17 November 2008

The visit by a Chinese Communist Party delegation aims to strengthen ties with the Kingdom's Cambodian People's Party

A CHINESE Communist Party (CCP) delegation was to arrive in Phnom Penh today for investment and aid talks with members of the Cambodian People's Party, according to Cambodian and Chinese officials.

The delegation, led by Zhang Gaoli, a member of the CCP Central Committee's political bureau, arrived in Siem Reap Thursday and spent the weekend sightseeing at Angkor Wat prior to travelling to the capital where official talks were slated to begin.

Qian Hai, first secretary of the Chinese Embassy in Phnom Penh, said the trip was a yearly event that symbolised the close relationship between the ruling CCP and the ruling party in Cambodia.

"Between them, the CCP and CPP will visit each other every year," he said, adding that Chinese officials had played host to then-Funcinpec president Keo Puth Reasmey on a similar trip in February.

‘Goodwill' tour

Cambodia is the delegation's first stop in a regional tour designed to strengthen the friendship between the CCP and four of the region's ruling parties: the Communist Party of Vietnam, the Lao People's Revolutionary Party, Myanmar's State Peace and Development Council, and the CPP and Funcinpec in Cambodia.

Qian would not say what would be discussed during today's talks, but cited the growing economic and political links between Beijing and Cambodia.

"It is the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries," he said. "We have a long history of ties, and this week will strengthen them. China and Cambodia cooperate in many things."

CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said the talks would centre on new opportunities for Chinese aid and investment.

"We will propose to the Chinese delegation that they assist us with aid to the tourism sector, for hydropower [developments] and for investment in Cambodia," he said.

"We are talking with the Chinese delegation about strengthening the friendship, the solidarity and the cooperation between both countries."

In recent years, China has risen to be Cambodia's foremost foreign donor, pledging US$280 million for infrastructure works at the Asia-Europe summit in Beijing last month in addition to a 2006 loans-and-grants package worth $600 million.

Cheam Yeap added that a Cambodian delegation would make a return trip early in the new year.

"At the beginning of 2009, Samdech Heng Samrin will lead a Cambodian delegation to China," he said.

Rain stops important border road works

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Thet Sambath
Monday, 17 November 2008

NINE kilometres of road works from Preah Vihear's Kou village to Ta Moan Thom temple have been postponed due to flooding and rain, officials said Sunday.

"We can't build the road due to the ongoing rain. We have postponed it until the rain stops," said military engineer Kvan Siem.

Ho Vuthy, deputy commander of Border Military Unit 402, said that the current condition of the road is a big problem for soldiers travelling to Ta Moan Thom and Ta Krabey temples.

"We have trouble travelling from one place to another place along border. But it is our custom to do it this way," he told the Post on Sunday.

Lights, camera: satisfaction

Director Tom Som (left) is pictured with actors on the set of his first full-length feature film, Staying Single When.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Anne-Laure Porée
Monday, 17 November 2008

Award-winning director Tom Som talks about Star Wars, his love of cinema and how he hopes to direct the next Bond film

You've just won a Freddie award for the TV series Facing the Truth about HIV/Aids. Why did you want to become a director?

I just felt in love with action films when I was young. Me and my brother watched Rambo and we pretended to be him. I also watched Robocop and Star Wars. And later on, when I compared them with Cambodian films of the late 1980s and early 1990s, they looked very different, the way the films were made, the quality. So I thought I could do better in the future. I just felt that it would be easy.

How did this dream become reality?

When I graduated from school there was no film school here so I just studied photography and business, which was my second option. I started working by doing surveys for other people. Later on I saw a newspaper advertisement: Matthew Robinson was looking for a director, I applied for the job and I got it. I was so ready for it, I wanted it.

What did your family say when you told them about wanting to be a director?

They said: "You are not going to survive." Now I've proved I can survive. They watch my films and they like it. Some of their comments are good, some not so. They are a little bit older, so the way they think is different from me.

Do you still think it's easy to be a director?

Now I know it is very difficult to make a film but I love it. You have to work long hours, you have to work late. You don't just do your work in the office, you have to work at home, you have to learn, you have to research. When I got a script, I don't just read it. I have to make it into pictures, to think about how I am going to shoot it. I also have to adapt it because sometimes the way it is written does not work. At the same time, I look at other Hollywood or foreign films, which have a similar story. I'm not copying them. I look for their ideas and combine them and look for something suitable for Cambodia.

How did you learn to visualise the script?

It's instinct. When I read the script I can already imagine the picture. I know I want the actor coming from here and going there and what is going to happen next and how he is going to perform. I just have it in my mind. Sometimes it doesn't work because the first imagination is just rough.

What are the qualities of a good director?

You have to be prepared and you have to be flexible. No matter how much we plan, on a shooting day it never works the way you wanted. Sometimes when you go to some location, it's the sound, the actors, the location itself, the light, which has to change.

What do you still have to learn as a director?

A lot. I watch DVDs every day so I keep on learning from other directors because I want to become like them. Here we do not have enough talented people and we do not have new equipment, that's why I still have to learn by myself.

Do you love cinema only through action movies?

When I was young I always wanted to make action films. But later I found out that an action film is not as difficult as an emotional film. Action is just like "Bang! Bang! Bang!" For emotional films you have to be smart to talk to the actors in order to make people cry with him or laugh with him, you have to get the right script. I have never shot an action film before, although I have done a lot of dramas. I would like to do action, but in Cambodia we do not have the budgets and we lack the people who are good at doing stunts like explosions and car crashes. But my dream is to direct the next James Bond film: I want to shoot part of it in Cambodia.

Why don't you like Bollywood films?

People turning to singing and dancing, that's not reality. Magic is not real at all. But a car crash, an explosion, it could happen. When I do something, I want it as real as possible, I don't want to lie to people.

How is it possible for the Cambodian film industry to develop?

We are trying to get our company, Khmer Mekong Films, more recognition. If one company grows, the other will die if they don't try to raise their quality. So if we try to grow, I hope that the other companies will improve. Then everyone will care more about quality.

What kind of film do you think young Cambodians like to watch?

Something new and fast. For me, I don't want films about old stories or classic Cambodian culture. I think youth want to watch something about new lifestyles, something exciting, adventure with a romantic story, set in Cambodia. Because if they see the story of a Cambodian guy in America, it will be an American film for them.

Critical time in anti-malaria fight

Sy Mon sells a three-person bed net, manufactured in Cambodia with Vietnamese fabric, for US$5 at her shop in Phsar Cha. She said she sells about 20 bed nets a month.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Christopher Shay
Monday, 17 November 2008

Researchers say a rogue strain of malaria native to western Cambodia is quickly developing resistance to the only drug that is able to treat it, threatening fresh outbreaks of the disease

NEAR the Thai-Cambodian border, one fatal strain of malaria shows signs of overcoming the most potent drug designed to destroy it, say malaria researchers.

Artemisinin, a drug first isolated by Chinese scientists four decades ago but only recently adopted internationally, is seen as the front line defence against malaria, and in Cambodia is the only effective drug against the most lethal malaria strain, Plasmodium falciparum.

"Artemisinin combination therapies are ... central to global efforts to control malaria," said Shunmay Yeung, a researcher at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

"They are safe and well tolerated ... and can be used in both uncomplicated and severe malaria."

But for five decades, western Cambodia has been a hotbed of drug-resistant malaria, and artemisinin appears to be following the same path of older antimalarials - such as chloroquine and mefloquine - which have been made obsolete by adaptive malaria strains.

Drug of last resort

"If the parasite becomes resistant to artemisinin, we don't have another drug.... Artemisinin is the only one that is strong enough to kill enough parasites," said Duong Socheat, the director of the National Centre for Malaria (NCM).

"If malaria becomes resistant to artemisinin, many in the world will die."

Amir Attaran, professor of law and population health at the University of Ottawa, echoed Duong Socheat's fears.

"If the artemisinin drugs were lost to resistance before an alternative was found - and none is on the horizon - then there's nothing else and malaria is untreatable," he said.

Every year since 2000, the NCM has run tests determining the effectiveness of artemisinin in western Cambodia, and every year the drug gradually loses its punch.

"The drug used to take 24 hours to clear the parasite. Now it can take more than 72 hours," Duong Socheat said.

A few factors conspire to make western Cambodia the epicentre for malaria drug resistance. A transient population of gem miners and itinerant workers from across Southeast Asia allow different malaria strains to mix together, increasing the likelihood of gene mutation.

" If malaria becomes resistant to artemisinin, many in the world will die. "

And almost all the pharmacies in the region are unregulated private providers who often prescribe improper treatments and dosages.

But even if patients avoid improper treatments and counterfeit drugs, monotherapy dosages of artemisinins - which rapidly increase the tolerance rate of the malaria parasite - are still widely prescribed.

As a fast-acting, potent drug, artemisinin needs to be prescribed with a slower partner drug to wipe out any residual malaria parasites that might have developed resistance.

"Artemisinin and its derivatives ... are recommended for use in combination with other groups of antimalarial drugs," said Awash Teklehaimanot, director of the malaria program at Columbia University.

Currently, the Cambodian government does emphasise combination therapy, but experts with local experience say more needs to be done.

"A ban on the import and selling of oral artemisinin monotherapies is going to be issued, but everybody agrees that this is not enough," said Yeung.

"It needs to be accompanied by enforcement, training, lots of communication and incentives to change the behaviour of providers and consumers."

The NCM, with the help of the World Health Organisation, has been working closely to educate private pharmacists about the importance of combination therapies. But with pharmaceutical distribution still relying on unlicensed distributors, the NCM faces an uphill battle.

There is also evidence that some patients avoid taking the partner drug even when combination therapy is properly prescribed. Currently, the recommended therapy is artemisinin and mefloquine blister-packaged together, allowing people to avoid taking the partner drug, mefloquine, which has more adverse side effects.

"Ideally, the drugs should be co-formulated: ie, both drugs in one tablet so they cannot be taken separately," Yeung said.

A critical period

The rising threat follows a decade of real gains that have been made against the parasite in Cambodia. Ten years ago, more than 1,000 Cambodians died each year from malaria, a figure that has been reduced to fewer than 200.

But modeling done by the Mahidol-Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit suggests that the only way to stop a resistant malaria parasite in Cambodia is to eradicate the most fatal strain of malaria completely.

"All strategies tested reveal that the only way to get rid of the resistant phenotype is by getting rid of all falciparum malaria in western Cambodia," said Arjen Dondorp, the unit's deputy director.

Dondorp advocated a three- pronged attack, stressing the need to get artemisinin monotherapies out of the private sector, distribute treated bed nets, and repeatedly carry out mass screenings and treat the infected with combination therapy.

Although Duong Socheat is optimistic that Cambodia can eliminate malaria by 2015, the University of Ottawa's Attaran paints a darker picture.

Though reduction is possible, he said that talk of eradicating malaria is "nonsense".

Storm churns towards Vietnam

International Herald Tribune
Published: November 17, 2008

By Ho Binh Minh

A strong tropical storm churned towards southern Vietnam on Monday, threatening a direct hit on the densely populated Mekong Delta and substantial damage to the country's coffee production.

State-run forecasters said Tropical Storm Noul, with winds of 88 kph (55 mph), would reach landfall around the tourist spots of Nha Trang and Mui Ne late on Monday and cross the coffee-growing province of Lam Dong.

Vietnam is the world's second-largest coffee producer and the third-largest producer of crude oil in Southeast Asia.

Noul's arrival coincides with the peak of the coffee harvest in the Central Highlands. Torrential rains could halt the harvest and prevent farmers from drying beans outdoors, causing delays and lowering quality.

The storm could also wreak havoc in the delta, which normally avoids the worst of the storms that roll in from the South China Sea, making people who live there relatively unprepared for disaster.

"It could cause huge damage to lives and property," Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Sinh Hung said in an urgent telegraph to provincial authorities and state oil and gas group Petrovietnam.

All offshore oil production remained operational, an official from Petrovietnam said, although state television said Vietsovpetro, a Russian joint venture, would temporarily shut operation on four oil rigs and evacuate workers.

It did not say how much production would be affected.

In his telegraph, Hung ordered the immediate recall of all fishing boats in the area and said children should not go to school as preparations were made for mass evacuations across a 400 km (250 mile) swathe of coastline.

More than 74,000 people needed evacuation while more than 133,000 fishermen had been warned to take shelter as the storm moved to within 100 kms (65 miles) of the coast, the government said.

In neighbouring Cambodia, Prime Minister Hun Sen cancelled a scheduled trip on Tuesday to the coastal province of Kampot, abutting Vietnam, because of the storm.

Vietnamese government reports said more than 17,000 fishing boats were operating near the Spratlys in the path of the storm.

The Mekong Delta, where the latest rice crop has been harvested, is rarely hit by storms. Typhoon Linda caught the region unawares in November 1997, killing at least 464 people. The government never revised an initial tally that listed more than 3,200 people as missing.

(Additional reporting by Nguyen Nhat Lam and Ek Madra in Phnom Penh; Editing by Ed Cropley and David Fox)

Interpol Seizes $6.65 Million in Counterfeit Drugs

By Simeon Bennett

Nov. 17 (Bloomberg) -- Interpol seized more than $6.65 million of counterfeit drugs against malaria, HIV and tuberculosis in Southeast Asia and made 27 arrests.

The haul, part of the five-month Operation Storm across Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, involved almost 200 raids, Aline Plancon, an officer involved in the action, said today by e-mail from Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Global sales of fake drugs may reach $75 billion in 2010, an increase of more than 90 percent from 2005, the Geneva-based World Health Organization said on its Web site, citing the New York-based Center for Medicine in the Public Interest.

Under Operation Storm, which ran from April 15 to Sept. 15, police seized more than 16 million pills, including fake antibiotics for pneumonia and child-related illnesses, Plancon said.

Counterfeits account for as much as 30 percent of all drugs in developing nations and less than 1 percent of all drugs in developed nations such as the U.S., according to the WHO.

About 40 percent of 1,047 counterfeit drug-related arrests worldwide last year were made in Asia, according to the Washington-based Pharmaceutical Security Institute.

Transnational trade of rare birds flourishes

The cream-color shama that bird breeder Luong Cong Khanh sold for US$2,360

Monday, November 17, 2008

A southern bird breeder recently sold a unique bird belonging to the black shama species for US$2,360.

Although there are millions of black shamas, the one that Luong Cong Khanh of An Giang Province’s Long Xuyen Town sold was cream-color, with red eyes, pink feet and beak rather than black ones like normal black shamas.

The customer, a Vietnamese-Cambodian, paid at once without bargaining “because the bird was so beautiful,” Khanh said.

Khanh also has a male magpie robin which is cream-color instead of black. He has been offered more than VND42 million ($2,480) for the bird but said he wants to keep it to see how it sings differently from other black shamas.

He had acquired the two special birds six months ago from a bird catcher in An Giang province named H.

H. sold the pair of birds for a measly VND8 million ($472) because he was too poor to take care of them, Khanh said.

Several years ago, Khanh had the chance to attain a one-year-old white magpie robin. The owner had asked for a new Wave motorbike worth more than VND30 million ($1,800), but another buyer beat him to the purchase. The bird was then sold to Cambodia at a price equal to three such motorbikes.

Khanh said that nowadays bird breeders from Cambodia and Taiwan are actively hunting for special birds in Vietnam.

One of his red magpie robin was sold at VND10 million ($590) to a Cambodian, who resold it for ten times the price to a Taiwanese buyer.

“If only I had more land, I would create a habitat for the birds to commingle to produce more unique species,” Khanh said.

Milton students honored for letters

Lindsay Musser,16, of Milton searches for the copy of her letter to the editor she wrote earlier this year that earned her the Thomas Paine Award for Citizen Journalism. Musser recieved her award during a banquet at the Front Street Sation in Northumberland Sunday night Nov. 16, 2008. Liz Rohde /

They earn citizen journalism award

By Rob Scott
The Daily Item

NORTHUMBERLAND -- Two Milton High School students who helped raise $35,000 for a school in Cambodia were honored for writing letters to the editor in defense of the project earlier this year.

In March, William Reish, of West Milton, wrote a letter to the editor chastising the Milton Area School District for flying a tattered and faded American flag outside the high school. In his letter, he referred the district's efforts to raise money to build a school in Cambodia, implying that the money would be of better use replacing the flag.

Students Lindsay Musser and Jehoshaphat Reich responded by writing letters of their own, criticizing Reish's insinuation that the district was somehow wrong for raising money for the school while ignoring the flag.

Lindsay and Jehoshaphat were honored Sunday, along with about a hundred other letter writers, by the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. They received the Thomas Paine Award for citizen journalism.

"I was just so mad and disgusted that someone would waste their time writing this letter," said Lindsay, 16, after she got her award.

The money raised for the Cambodian school came entirely from donations and fundraisers, she pointed out, not from the district's coffers.

Mike Conn, a teacher at the high school whose trip to southeast Asia inspired the fund drive, said the district raised $35,000 in 4 1/2 months.

"(The students) took this very personally," he said. "It touched me deeply, and it says a lot about their character and they felt so passionately about what we were doing."

Robert Shabanowitz, a Lewisburg resident who also wrote to defend the school, received an award of his own Sunday.

"The kids were doing everything the flag symbolizes," he said. "These kids were doing such a magnanimous gesture. To hear them get so much criticism for that ... broke the camel's back for me. They were putting into action what few of us do."

Jehoshaphat was looking at colleges and could not attend the awards ceremony, according to Conn.

Keeping their memories alive

Press-Telegram Long Beach
By Greg Mellen, Staff Writer

LONG BEACH - It is a pairing that seems simultaneously incongruous and yet fitting.

Jewish World Watch might not be an organization that immediately springs to mind when talking about Cambodian issues. And yet, with their experiences as survivors of genocide, Cambodians and Jews share an elemental connection that goes beyond cultures.

It is for that reason, in part, the Jewish World Watch is presenting its second annual iWitness Award tonight to Cambodian filmmaker Socheata Poeuv.

Poeuv, who was born on New Year's Day in a Thai refugee camp, produced and directed the award-winning film "New Year Baby" to raise awareness of the horrors of the Cambodian genocide.

The movie not only recounts her family's harrowing story of survival, but talks about bridging the gap between parents, who often bury their past, and their children.

Poeuv is also the founder of Khmer Legacies, which attempts to connect Cambodian-American youth and their survivor parents through filmmaking and documentation by the children of the survival stories of their elders. Her goal is to have 10,000 children interview their parents and document their stories.

Janice Kamenir-Reznik, co-founder and president of Jewish World Watch, said it was Poeuv's dedication to keep the memories of the Cambodian genocide alive and particularly the idea of having children connect with their parents through the filmmaking process that impressed her.

And as Holocaust survivors know, and Kemenir-Reznik articulated, "you need to confront the past to face the future."

For all the Jewish and Cambodian communities might seem to share in terms of painful histories, Kamenir-Reznik said they had never really connected.

But when Sara Pol-Lim, executive director of the United Cambodian Community social service provider in Long Beach, contacted Jewish World Watch it became obvious they had much to share and teach each other.

Pol-Lim said she hopes Cambodians can use the Jewish community as a role model.

"We want to see the ways we can improve and go in the same pattern," Pol-Lim said.

The UCC leader said she is particularly interested in closing generational gaps in the Cambodian community.

"One of the barriers we learn from our youth is their parents feel shame," Pol-Lim said.

Kamenir-Reznik says learning about the Killing Fields and the Cambodian experience should be eye-opening to her community.

The iWitness Award honors representatives from communities that have been victims of genocides in the 20th century and those who play a role in documenting and educating the world about the genocide. Last year, Jewish World Watch memorialized the Armenian genocide.

Jewish World Watch is a coalition of 60 synagogues working to combat genocide and human rights violations worldwide. It chose Darfur as its first advocacy campaign and has allocated more than $2 million in direct assistance to the people in Darfur.

Kamenir-Reznik hopes her group can engage with the Cambodians in their cause.

"We want to mobilize the community to be part of the tapestry of the anti-genocide movement," she said.

The film will be shown at 5:30p.m. Tonight's other events begin at 7 p.m. at the Alpert Jewish Community Center, 3801 Willow St. and will feature Cambodian music and dancing as well as the presentation of the award.

The International Image of Cambodia - Sunday, 16 November 2008

Posted on 17 November 2008

The Mirror

Looking back at a week in the press always presents the challenge to either lift up one exceptionally interesting or important issue, or to see the links between seemingly unrelated affairs and bring them together, showing how they are positively related or in mutual contradiction.

There have been a series of celebrations during the last two weeks – celebrating the Royal Coronation of King Norodom Sihamoni, then the Royal Birthday of the King Father Norodom Sihanouk, remembering that Cambodia became independent from France 55 years ago, and finally the Water Festival.

Now it is time to wake up to the bitter realities we are facing.

The Minister of Commerce, Mr. Cham Prasidh, is quoted to have made some frightening but probably realistic statements at an international meeting: “While the world moves toward a very painful financial crisis… and the volume of exports goes down which make many people around the world to fall into poverty… only those who can adapt themselves to these changes can escape from poverty.”

But there was not much said about how this adaptation can be achieved, except that “it is crucial to make joint efforts, so that our country is rightly and surely known and supported by developed countries.”

Looking into the international press, what points catch the attention about Cambodia?

- Cambodia is among the Least Developed Countries in the ASEAN region, where 69% of the citizens live by earning less than US$2 per day.

- Cambodia has a “plan to double the expenses for the military sector” - an idea that is proposed by the government and welcomed also by the opposition party – though the Minister of Economy and Finance questions where the US$500 million will be taken from.

- There are regularly reports about alleged criminal actions by persons in, or related to public office – for example, a military officer of the Ministry of Interior is accused of grabbing land; a Poipet immigration police chief continues to demand US$5.75 each from Khmer workers coming back from Thailand - and often there is no follow up that a prosecutor started to act, that investigations were started, and that a case was brought to an end. The reputation that there is a lot of impunity in Cambodia is on-going.

- It is highlighted that, among the different unsolved points in negotiations between Cambodia and Thailand, one that created tension was Cambodian opposition to the Thai idea to put, after the (Khmer) words “Preah Vihear” also the words “Pra Viharn” (in Thai). With this kind of resistance to cooperation and understanding for the other side’s position, how will it ever be possible to comply with the UNESCO World Heritage Site condition, which is to present a Progress Report in February 2009 about the management plan which has to be “produced jointly by Cambodia and Thailand” for the 2010 session of the World Heritage Committee? The Cambodian media have hardly informed the public that the Cambodian negotiators promised to develop joint management. And we have still not seen that any media in Cambodia have published the UNESCO documents saying that “the core area has been much reduced and now only includes the temple and its immediate surrounding and not the wider promontory with its cliffs and caves.” The accompanying map was produced by the Cambodian side for the negotiations and accepted by the Thai side. The Khmer press also disregards that the final Cambodian map and documents suggested listing Preah Vihear “without at this stage a buffer zone on the northern and western areas of the Temple” - the areas where there has been military confrontation. - It is difficult to hope for a positive international response to the plea of the Minister of Commerce - “so that our country is rightly and surely known and supported” - as long as the commitments made by the representatives of the Cambodian government, such as those in the Preah Vihear case, are not acknowledged or discussed by the national press and the public. The international community may also wonder about why and how this issue became so hot, and how it has been handled. Nowadays the Preah Vihear Temple is discussed as if it had been of great concern to the country since time immemorial. However, a map of Cambodia, printed in 2000 by the official geographical agency of the government, does not even mention the Preah Vihear Temple location at the border, even though it is in a province of the same name. That the border was not of much concern until recently is also obvious from the situation found: previously, the site was well visited by tourists, peacefully, and with mutual benefit. The approach was summed up: “There Should Be 73 Khmer-Thai Border Markers - 29 Markers Are Found, 19 Are Being Checked, and 25 Are Being Sought.” Who cared in the past?

Official map of Cambodia, dated 10.10.2000

The Province of Preah Vihear with the Thai border - no reference to the Temple

- Finally, there has been a mixed reaction to an agreement between the Cambodian and Vietnamese governments that soon no visas will be required for travel between the two countries. Such an achievement might be welcome – especially given the fact that 20,000 more Cambodians went to Vietnam in 2007 than the 120,000 Vietnamese that came to Cambodia. But some see such developments – which are in line with general ASEAN goals – as a danger. This week’s press includes fears that “more Vietnamese can use passports without visas to come to live in Cambodia illegally.” Actually, an entry without visa does not give residence rights. When the press mixes these two situations they, create unnecessary confusion. Given the frequently expressed regrets about the culturally isolated situation of the Khmer speaking minority in Vietnam, one might have thought that lifting visa requirements would have been welcome, as it will facilitate mutual visits. Also, it will help the many Cambodians who travel to Vietnam for medical services. Objective observers might also welcome the current negotiations for Vietnam to sell electricity to Cambodia at a wholesale price of US$0.05; in an area in Kompong Cham, electricity costs up to US$1.25 per kilowatt/hour, and a businessman has been criticized for adding the costs of transport to the cost of fuel sold in the province of Mondolkiri.

The call by the Minister of Commerce that “it is crucial to make joint efforts, so that our country is rightly and surely known and supported by developed countries” is important not just in general, but particularly with regard to Cambodia’s neighbors. Economic development to alleviate poverty, and also other kinds of progress, depend on whether the international community sees a movement towards peaceful and friendly relations. No country can thrive in isolation.

Cambodians flock to Buddha-shaped termite nests

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — Hundreds of devout Cambodians have flocked to see five unusually shaped termite nests that look like seated figures of Buddha, witnesses said Sunday.

The iconic insect homes appeared on the cement floor of 56-year-old Kuong Keo Ry's house near Phnom Penh, shortly before a traditional death festival held in October when she was mourning her late husband.

"I am happy that my house has been chosen. After other people and I pay respect to the Buddha shapes, we all feel content," the widow told AFP by telephone.

She said she first became curious about the nests in October because she would sweep them away every day -- but that the wood-munching bugs would rebuild them overnight.

Over the past month around 50 to 60 people had come to her house every day to view the Buddhas, Kuong Keo Ry said.

A journalist who went to see the termite Buddhas said he was "thrilled" by them.

"It's like a miracle to me," said Sok Samnang, who hosts a Cambodian television show.

"One night after we put jasmine ornaments around the five Buddha shapes, they became higher. Each of them is 50 centimetres (19 inches) tall and looks exactly like a seated Buddha," he said.

Cambodian Buddhist scholars have said that the Buddha shapes represent apparitions of deities.

"I've never seen anything like this before in my life. I believe the termites are trying to bring us a message from God," said devout Buddhist San Son, 60, who visits the nests regularly to pray.

Buddhism permeates all aspects of culture in Cambodia, despite attempts to eradicate it by the former Khmer Rouge regime.

ADB: Food aid well-used in Cambodia

PHNOM PENH, Nov. 17 (Xinhua) -- The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has called the first phase of its 40 million U.S. dollars emergency food program a success, state media reported Monday.

"This assistance is making a very real difference in the lives of Cambodia's most vulnerable," ADB country director Arjun Goswami was quoted by the Phnom Penh Post as saying.

He added that the program had effectively reached those in need and said the Cambodian government was to be praised for its efforts.

Meanwhile, the government on Monday launched its investigation with ADB observance into complaints that the food aid was not distributed fairly.

The ADB did not release the number of complaints but described them as "relatively limited" in quantity.

Editor: Zheng E

Former Khmer Rouge sympathizer arrives in Phnom Penh

Monday, the 17th of November 2008
Posted by Elena in ECCC

Gunnar Bergstrom, a Swedish communist who supported the Khmer Rouge, has returned to Cambodia for the first time since he was a guest of the regime in 1978. Bergstrom will be donating his archives from that trip to the country, promoting a photography book and speaking at several different public events -- at least one of which I will be attending.

Bergstrom was part of a Swedish Cambodian Friendship Association that undertook a 14-day "public relations" tour organized by the Khmer Rouge in 1978. The regime intended to use delegates from other countries to rally support abroad, according to a release from DC-Cam. The group saw factories, hospitals and schools, and even dined with Pol Pot and Ieng Sary and the Royal Palace.

"After the Swedes returned home, they proclaimed that Cambodia was at the early, albeit imperfect, stages of creating a model communist society," the release reads. "They said communism would save the Cambodian people. It was not until Gunnar had heard the stories of thousands of miserable refugees who poured into Thailand a year later that he realized he had made a grave misjudgment."

* Pictured: AP photo of Bergstrom being interviewed by journalists as he arrives in Phnom Penh on Sunday (above); old AP photo of Bergstrom touring Democratic Kampuchea (at left).

Asean must nudge 2 states on rights

Business Mirror
Written by Estrella Torres / Reporter
Sunday, 16 November 2008

JAKARTA—Former Indonesian foreign minister Ali Alatas said the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) needs to “convince” younger members, particularly Burma and Cambodia, on the importance of adopting a human-rights body as part of its charter, as he expressed pride in having his country adopt that particular provision.

Alatas is Indonesia’s representative to the Asean Eminent Persons Group (EPG) that provided policy advice on the charter.

“I’m happy that Indonesia has finally ratified the Asean charter,” said Alatas, who expressed hopes the charter “will finally be adopted” in the next Asean Summit in Chang Mai, Thailand.

Alatas was interviewed at the sidelines of the recent Asia-Pacific Regional Media Program on Journalism, Politics and Religion here, where he was the keynote speaker.

He said the human rights body has been accepted as essential by members Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Brunei. “But we need to do more convincing of the younger members of Asean.”

He also stressed that the Asean charter is important in helping individual member-countries address the lingering conflict and terrorism, particularly in the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia, where there is a large presence of the Al-Qaeda-linked Jema’ah Islamiyah and pockets of rebellion and Islamic secessionism.

These lingering problems have “given Asean a bad name,” said Alatas and “it is our hope that [the Asean Charter] will help the governments of Asean address the conflicts in the region.”

Dr. Surin Pitsuwan, secretary-general of Asean, congratulated Indonesia for ratifying the charter. “I would like to thank Indonesia for their support of the Asean Charter process. Counting Indonesia, nine Asean member-states have now deposited their instruments of ratification. We are right on track to have the entry into force of the Asean Charter by the 14th Asean Summit.”

Thailand, now facing political turmoil, is the remaining member that has yet to deposit its instrument of ratification. The Asean Charter will enter into force 30 days after the 10th Asean member deposits its instrument of ratification.

Asean groups the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Singapore, Brunei and Vietnam.