Thursday, 4 December 2008

Thai Airway resume flight

Taxis wait for passengers outside of Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport December 4, 2008. Bringing hope to 230,000 stranded foreign tourists, Airports of Thailand said the $4 billion Suvarnabhumi airport, one of Asia's largest, would resume "full service" at 0400 GMT on Friday after a week-long shutdown by PAD protesters.REUTERS/Darren Whiteside (THAILAND)

Passengers wave towards cameras as they exit an Thai Airways flight from Phuket, the first to land at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport December 3, 2008, after a week long anti-government protest paralyzed air travel.(Chaiwat Subprasom/Reuters)

Tourists from Greece pose as they exit an Thai Airways flight from Phuket, the first to land at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport December 3, 2008, after a week long anti-government protest paralyzed air travel.(Chaiwat Subprasom/Reuters)

Passengers exit an Thai Airways flight from Phuket, the first to land at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport December 3, 2008, after a week long anti-government protest paralyzed air travel.(Chaiwat Subprasom/Reuters)

Lawyers Thursday demanded the release of former Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan

Former Khmer Rouge President Khieu Samphan stands in the dock before a ruling by Cambodia's genocide tribunal on an appeal against his second pre-trial detention, on the outskirts of Phnom Penh December 4, 2008. Khieu Samphan is charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity.REUTERS/Heng Sinith/Pool (CAMBODIA)

Former Khmer Rouge President Khieu Samphan sits in the dock before a ruling by Cambodia's genocide tribunal on an appeal against his second pre-trial detention, on the outskirts of Phnom Penh December 4, 2008. Khieu Samphan is charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity.REUTERS/Heng Sinith/Pool (CAMBODIA)

Former Khmer Rouge President Khieu Samphan prepares to sit in the dock before a ruling by Cambodia's genocide tribunal on an appeal against his second pre-trial detention, on the outskirts of Phnom Penh December 4, 2008. Khieu Samphan is charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity.REUTERS/Mak Remissa/Pool (CAMBODIA)

Former Khmer Rouge President Khieu Samphan (C) stands in the dock before a ruling by Cambodia's genocide tribunal on an appeal against his second pre-trial detention, on the outskirts of Phnom Penh December 4, 2008. Kieu Samphan is charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity.REUTERS/Mak Remissa/Pool (CAMBODIA)

Khmer Rouge Leader Demands Release Due To Missing Translation

Easy Bourse
Thursday December 4th, 2008

PHNOM PENH (AFP)--Lawyers Thursday demanded the release of former Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan by Cambodia's U.N.-backed genocide tribunal because his case file hasn't been translated into French.

Khieu Samphan, 77, appeared before the court and listened carefully to arguments between his defense team, which includes famed French lawyer Jacques Verges and Cambodian lawyer Sa Sovan, and prosecutors.

Khieu Samphan's lawyers argued that in the absence of the translation of the documents into French, one of the court's three official languages, their client wouldn't have a fair trial.

"The charged person has suffered multiple violations of his rights such that it is no longer possible to uphold his right to a fair trial, and he should be released immediately and unconditionally," his lawyers said in the court document read by a judge.

But prosecutors argued that the appeal was inadmissible, because the court's governing laws don't provide for appeals relating to the issue of translation.

Khieu Samphan was detained by the court in November last year on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity under the Khmer Rouge's brutal 1975-1979 regime.

Khieu Samphan went before the court for the first time in April to appeal against his pre-trial detention.

But the judges adjourned the hearing and warned Verges over his behavior after he said he was unable to act for his client, because court documents hadn't been translated.

The controversial Verges, who has defended some of the world's most infamous figures, including Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie and Venezuelan terrorist "Carlos the Jackal," told reporters at that time he was "indignant" to discover 16,000 pages of court documents hadn't been translated into French.

A fierce anti-colonialist, Verges, who was born in Thailand, reportedly befriended Khieu Samphan and other future Khmer Rouge leaders while at university in Paris in the 1950s.

Khieu Samphan is one of five Khmer Rouge leaders who have been detained by the court for their alleged roles in the regime.

Up to two million people are believed to have been executed or died of starvation and overwork as the communist regime emptied Cambodia's cities, exiling millions to vast collective farms in a bid to forge an agrarian utopia.

Cambodia's genocide tribunal convened in 2006 after almost a decade of haggling between the government and the U.N.

One-time freedom fighter, drug counselor dies

By Scott Smith
Record Staff Writer
December 04, 2008

MEMORIAL
Friends and colleagues at the Gospel Center Rescue Mission will hold a memorial service at 1 p.m. Saturday at the facility located at 229 E. Church St.


STOCKTON - Buntha Nhep, a Stockton drug counselor who feared deportation and certain death in his native Cambodia where he was a one-time freedom fighter, has died. He was 58.

Nhep overturned his motorized wheelchair the day before Thanksgiving at the Gospel Center Rescue Mission in Stockton, where he lived and counseled homeless addicts. In the accident he hit his head, which led to his death Saturday, said Ada Brown, a treatment program director at the Rescue Mission.

"I'm sad, but I'm peaceful because I know he's peaceful now," Brown said. "He hurt so bad."

Nhep lived a life riddled with personal struggle amid global strife. In the early 1970s, he fought against the brutal Khmer Rouge in pitched battles throughout Cambodia. In 1976, he fled to the United States and eventually settled in Stockton.

Divorce sent Nhep into depression and drug use, which landed him in jail, he said in a 2006 interview with The Record. He cleaned up and became a registered addiction specialist only to find out that federal immigration officials wanted to deport him as a noncitizen legal resident because of his drug conviction.

A diabetic, Nhep said he feared certain death in Cambodia either from a lack of medical care or at the hands of his decades-old political enemies. In the past two years, he had his right leg below his knee and a left toe amputated.

"I'm gong to die not too long," he said in the 2006 interview of his pending deportation. "Probably not too long at all. No dialysis over there."

The University of California, Davis, School of Law's Immigration Law Clinic took up Nhep's case and most recently had brought it to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal, said Raha Jorjani, a supervising attorney at the law clinic.

Jorjani said Nhep carried the threat of deportation on his shoulders to his death. He had no money and no family in Cambodia to care for him. He lived his last years in a room at the Rescue Mission, she said.

Working with recovering addicts gave him a sense of purpose, Brown said, adding that he was long ready for his physical pain to end.

"He said, 'I'm done with this. I just need to move on,' " Brown said. "I asked him if he was ready and he said, 'I'm ready. I can't stand the pain anymore.' "

Contact reporter Scott Smith at (209) 546-8296 or ssmith@recordnet.com.

IMF queries Cambodian defence spending, but aid up

04 Dec 2008
Source: Reuters
(Releads with IMF)

PHNOM PENH, Dec 4 (Reuters) - The International Monetary Fund on Thursday queried a planned increase in Cambodia's military spending and other donors urged it to pass an anti-corruption law, but they promised to increase aid to the country next year.

The government has said it would double military spending to $500 million in 2009, announcing the figure in October after a brief clash between Thai and Cambodian troops over a disputed area on their border.

"Military spending should concentrate on critical needs to avoid crowding out other essential spending, unnecessarily widening the deficit and potentially weakening the external position," John Nelmes, the IMF's representative in Cambodia, told a donors meeting.

Donors have promised at least $900 million for 2009, a hefty increase on the $600 million that has been offered in the past, said Hang Chuon Naron, secretary-general of the Finance Ministry, adding Japan pledged the biggest amount.

"This is a reward for the government's good performance," he told Reuters, adding that he expected pledges to reach $1 billion by the time the meeting wraps up on Friday.

However, the donors called on Cambodia to pass an anti-corruption law that has been delayed for 10 years.

"Passing the law will be an important signal, providing investors and development partners with confidence to make more long-term commitments in Cambodia," Qimiao Fan, newly appointed World Bank country manager, told the meeting. (Reporting by Ek Madra; Editing by Alan Raybould)

Vietnam-Cambodia visa exemption likely to boost tourism

Thanh Nien
Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Vietnam-Cambodia visa exemption for ordinary passport holders which comes into effect today will create more opportunity for tourism, local travel agents say.

The director of Lua Viet Company Nguyen Van My said the pact will encourage more Vietnamese to travel to Cambodia.

“The number of tourists from Vietnam to Cambodia will rise about 30 percent as agencies and travelers can now save time and money for visa application at the border gates,” My said.
Nguyen Thi Tuyet Mai from Fiditourist Co. said the company is planning to increase tours to Cambodia from two to three or four per week in 2009.

“If the plan is realized, the number of our customers traveling to Cambodia will double,” Mai said.

Sapaco Tourist also announced plans to increase bus tours between Ho Chi Minh City and Phnom Penh from 10 to 14 trips a day, while trips from HCMC to Siem Reap would run daily.

Regarding Cambodian visitors, My said the number would only rise slightly as the neighboring government’s procedures make it difficult for their citizens to obtain ordinary passports.

Many travel agencies in HCMC had previously operated four-day tours by bus to Cambodia at an average price of US$210-220, including visa application fees, while Vietnamese citizens had to spend $20 to apply for a visa to enter Cambodia prior to the exemption pact.

According to the agreement signed in Hanoi on November 4 by Vietnamese Prime Minster Nguyen Tan Dung and Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen, citizens of both countries with ordinary passports valid for at least six months can stay in the visited destination for up to 14 days without a visa.

Reported by Mai Phuong

ADB to help Cambodia improve public financial management for Rural Development

balita-dot-ph
December 4, 2008
by pna

MANILA, Dec. 4 — The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is providing US$ 10.81 million to support efforts by Cambodia to improve its public financial management to ensure that much-needed government funds reach the rural poor.

The program consists of a US$ 6.71 million grant for the first of two subprograms that will strengthen public financial management (PFM) reforms in the three ministries supporting rural development – the Ministry of Rural Development, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology.

Another US$ 4.1 million grant will fund an institutional and capacity development project under the program.

The two grants will focus on improving the capacity of the three ministries in PFM sub-systems relating to budget formulation, execution, procurement, and reporting; and internal audit for better service delivery to rural communities.

The two grants support Cambodia’s Public Financial Management Reform Program, which was launched in December 2004 by the Ministry of Economy and Finance to address weaknesses in the public financial management system.

While the benefits of recent growth have been widely spread across Cambodia, the rural poverty rate has not declined as expected.

It was estimated at 39 percent in 2004 compared to the national rate of 34 percent. With an estimated 80 percent of the population living outside the main urban centers, this translates to more than 4 million people living below the poverty line in rural areas.

Poverty reduction is severely hampered by the limited effectiveness of public spending due to the weak link between policy and the budget.

“The ministries that support rural development in Cambodia are currently the weakest and most underfunded of all the ministries. As a result, service delivery in rural areas is slow and the rural poor do not have many economic opportunities,” said Prasanna Kumar Jena, Governance Specialist of ADB’s Southeast Asia Department.

A strong public financial management system will help the government implement its National Strategic Development Plan, which aims to reduce poverty, particularly through policy and financial support to the agricultural sector – which employs an estimated 70 percent of the rural population and accounts for a third of gross domestic product.

The capacity development needs of the government’s National Audit Authority will also be taken into account by the program to improve the overall governance framework of Cambodia’s public sector. (PNA)

Cambodia's elite applaud Vancouver director's ambition

MICHELLE VACHON
Special to The Globe and Mail
December 4, 2008

PHNOM PENH -- Director Robert McQueen's first taste of meshing opera with diverse cultures came by way of the Vancouver Opera, which asked McQueen to set Mozart's The Magic Flute among British Columbia's native people. His 2007 production used a forest setting with props and costumes inspired by traditional designs from 10 West Coast native groups, and he modified the text to include words from a Coast Salish language. But "the story remained the same," McQueen said, "and I did not touch one note of the music."

Then, used to uncharted waters, McQueen decided to take on another challenge, this time with an entirely new work: staging Cambodia's first rock opera, set in that country, and blending rock music with the eerie sounds of its traditional instruments.

Where Elephants Weep premiered last Friday in Cambodia's capital of Phnom Penh. Fred Frumberg of Cambodia's non-governmental organization Amrita Performing Arts, which is producing the show, says it is the most ambitious production staged in the country since the 1960s.

So rare was the occasion that on Friday Cambodia's major players in arts and culture as well as the city's usual special-event crowd, complete with government officials and the diplomatic corps, packed the Chenla Theatre at the corner of Mao Tse Tung and Monireth boulevards.

McQueen, just days before the opening, was still nervous about the finished product. "If you're directing a Neil Simon play, you can probably figure out on day one what opening night is going to look like," he said while overseeing one of the last rehearsals in Phnom Penh. "What's kind of extraordinary for me is that I have no idea how it's going to turn out."

It was the concept, rather than the scale or newness of the work that had prompted McQueen to get involved in the project. He said the two years he spent working on The Magic Flute in Vancouver, his hometown, made him incapable of going back to the usual musical or opera fare.

Until then, McQueen's career had followed a more traditional path, which had included directing Puccini's La Bohème for the Canadian Opera Company in Toronto and the musical The Spitfire Grill at the Grand Theatre in London, Ont., and playing the role of associate director for Mamma Mia! at New York's Winter Garden Theatre.

While he worked on The Magic Flute, he said, "without consciously knowing it at the time, it began to alter the kind of theatre that I wanted to be doing."

McQueen said he was now eager to explore how cultures could come together in a project and not so much blend as "inform" each other.

In Where Elephants Weep, a Cambodian man visits his homeland in the mid-1990s after immigrating to the United States as a child at the end of the Khmer Rouge regime in 1979. As he finds himself a stranger in a culture he no longer knows, he falls in love with a woman pledged to her brother's business partner in an arranged marriage.

The story reflects the mixture of Western and traditional elements of today's Cambodia: women in long silk skirts next to others in short dresses or pants; men praying at Buddhist pagodas in the morning and splitting their time between karaoke bars and sex workers at night.

At Friday's performance, the artists received a standing ovation, which is quite unusual in Phnom Penh, and at the reception afterward, Cambodians as well as foreigners were enthusiastic about the show, the few dissenting voices those who dislike musical theatre in general.

Where Elephants Weep was created by Cambodian music composer Him Sophy, Franco-American librettist Catherine Filloux and U.S. executive producer John Burt. McQueen met the team in Phnom Penh in 2003 while he was travelling in Asia. But with Burt and Filloux based in New York and Him Sophy in Phnom Penh, it would be four years before the three were ready to call on McQueen finally to stage the show.

The cast consists of one Cambodian singer and New York singers with Asian roots, as no Cambodians with musical-theatre-type voices could be found in the country. Actors, dancers and the 11 rock and traditional musicians are Cambodian.

Many of the scenes, and especially those at pagodas, involved "cultural protocol considerations," McQueen said: "I couldn't just stage the scene the way that I wanted to ... because to a [Cambodian] local audience, it might be complete confusion if they see monks doing something that monks would never do."

Customs in Cambodia are mainly taught through oral tradition, so McQueen relied on his Cambodian assistants to let him know whenever a scene did not ring true. And yet, he pointed out, "I still had to draw on what I know as a theatre maker - I can't abandon that because that's me, the storyteller - and I had to include the information that was coming at me and figure out a way of weaving them together so that they meet."

Most of the opera is in English with occasional Khmer songs and dialogue; subtitles were provided in English and Khmer.

Where Elephants Weep is being staged in Phnom Penh through Sunday, with plans to tour in Asia and North America, Burt said. As for McQueen, he is heading for the Galaxy Theatre in Tokyo where he will stage "Carousel, one of the most American musicals ever written, and I'm doing it in Japanese."

China, Cambodia agree to further comprehensive, cooperative partnership

www.chinaview.cn
2008-12-04

PHNOM PENH, Dec. 4 (Xinhua) -- China and Cambodia agreed here Thursday to further promote bilateral comprehensive and cooperative partnership during the talks between China's top political advisor Jia Qinglin and Cambodian Senate President Chea Sim.

Jia, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), spoke highly of the development of bilateral relations in the past five decades of diplomatic ties.

He said China attaches great importance to its relations with Cambodia and the Chinese side will work with the Cambodian side to explore potentials and continuously push forward bilateral partnership of comprehensive cooperation so as to achieve reciprocal and win-win results.

The further development of bilateral traditional friendship is the common aspiration of the two peoples, conforms to the fundamental interest of the two countries, and will contribute to regional prosperity and development, said Jia, who arrived here Tuesday on an official goodwill visit as Chea Sim's guest.

He said the Communist Party of China attaches importance to its relations with the Cambodian People's Party and Funcinpec Party, and the CPPCC will strengthen exchanges and cooperation with the Cambodian Senate.

Chea Sim said Cambodia takes China as a close friend, neighbor and cooperative partner, hoping that the two sides will actively push forward bilateral cooperation in such fields as economy, trade, tourism culture and education.

He also hoped that the two sides will enhance cooperation within the framework of the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and strengthen coordination in international and regional affairs.

Cambodia is the last leg of Jia's four-nation visit which has taken him to Jordan, Turkey and Laos.

Editor: Chris

Cambodia Wants To Establish Greater Cooperation With Malaysian Media

From Mohd Hisham Abdul Rafar

PHNOM PENH, Dec 4 (Bernama) -- The Cambodian government, in an effort to develop its people, especially the Muslim community, hopes for greater cooperation between the Cambodian and Malaysian media to facilitate dissemination of information.

Its Deputy Labour and Vocational Training Minister, Othsman Hassan, said this included magazine and newspaper publication as well as radio broadcasts.

"We are hoping for assistance from the Malaysian media to teach us how to produce magazines and newspapers and also to disseminate information through the radio," he said during a courtesy call by a member of the Yayasan Salam Malaysia's board of trustees, Datuk Ahmad A. Talib, to his office.

"When our media people are well-trained, they will be able to disseminate information to all levels of the society and also to correct negative perceptions about Islam," he said, adding that he wanted the Cambodian people, especially the Muslim community, to have access to information.

Othsman, who is also Minister of Islamic Affairs, said currently, Cambodia only had one radio channel, which uses the Champa language, specially for the Muslim community and hoped to have another channel in the Cambodian language by next year.

"We don't want to close the Champa radio channel because we don't want the language to disappear, but we want to have another channel in the Cambodian language because not all of the Champa community understand it," he added.

Othsman, who is fluent in Malay, said Cambodia had a population of 13 million people, including 5,000 Muslims.

Ahmad spent about an hour with Othsman during which they also discussed introducing the use of solar system to generate electricity for houses in the interior areas, which currently use generators.

Meanwhile, Ahmad, in response to Cambodia's request for assistance from the Malaysia media, said he would relay the matter to the media organisations, including Bernama.

"It'll be good if we can have a journalist exchange programme between Malaysia and Cambodia to understand each other's world of journalism. They will be able to learn faster," he added.

Yayasan Salam Malaysia (Salam), a non governmental organisation, and the Kedah veteran Malaysian Association of Youth Clubs, comprising about 50 volunteers, are in Cambodia on a humanitarian mission.

Besides providing aid to poverty-stricken Cambodians, they also help in building schools and mosques.

Salam and Kedah veteran MAYC also brought along various prayer necessities for the Muslim community as well as used clothing and 60 cows to be slaughtered for the Aidiladha celebration.

The beef will be distributed to about 3,000 residents in three villages -- Tropengbeang, Tanaksawai and Praksandai -- in the Kratie province.

-- BERNAMA

Civil Society Asks the Government to Prevent Mineral Exploration That Affects the Environment and Security of the Citizens - Wednesday, 3.12.2008

Posted on 4 December 2008
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 589

“A joint statement ahead of next week’s annual Government-Donor Consultative Group Meeting by development and non-government human rights organizations said that Cambodia has the goals for its most important Protected Areas, which define local ownership rights or has clearly defined areas for independent and legal development, not yet clarified.

“This group pointed out that this is a step back in the implementation of the plans of the Royal Government for controlling land use, agriculture, and human resources development, with good governance, which is the traditional model in the process of development in Cambodia, as in the documents provided by the NGO Forum on Cambodia, published about activities of development partnership in Cambodia. This group added that during the Government-Donor Consultative Group Meeting this year, the government should show new models which could be presented publicly every three months, about all mineral licenses planned for the future and all already granted.

“The executive director of the NGO Development and Partnership in Action, Mr. Mam Sambath said, ‘I think it is necessary that the government reconsiders the conditions and how to improve development.’ He added, ‘I think that mineral exploration really affects the life of citizens in rural areas, especially of ethnic tribespeople.’

“According to the report, the non-government organizations said that mineral exploration licenses, which are now provided, result in concerns, as they cover areas amounting to half of all environmental preservation areas in Cambodia.

“According to this document, if such exploration continues, the influence on most Cambodian citizens can hardly be estimated. Existing legislation is not sufficient to control the exploration of minerals, where at present all official documents with companies related to mineral exploration are made secretly; that means also that the assessment of the effects on the environment are frequently kept secret.

“According to this report, residents of Preah Vihear, Stung Treng, and Banteay Meanchey reported that exploration of minerals is going on without any permission, by fencing their forest land, serving notice that there will be evictions, with no plans to relocate the citizens to live in new places, or by forcing them to sell their land.

“This statement by non-government organization was made while the mineral exploration industry worldwide is facing a significant crisis, with an increase in the price of metals and the collapses of the credit markets.

“The Credit Suisse Group said last month that as a result, US$50,000,000,000 for mineral development projects was postponed.

“OZ Minerals, an Australian mineral explorer, announced recently that it is reducing US$440 million of projected expenses by postponing the project, including its plan to expand its copper exploration in Laos, and is reducing its operational budget. However, operators of the company said that the mineral exploration of the company in Cambodia continues as planed.

“The Minister of Industry, Mines, and Energy, Mr. Suy Sem, said that mineral exploration in Cambodia is not slowed down by the financial crisis, and the authorities control the industry well.

“Mr. Suy Sem added that it is not necessary to impose any temporary restrictions, as the companies are proceeding only with tests in forests and are digging the land, only searching to find minerals.

“Mr. Suy Sem went on to say that mineral exploration does not affect the environment. But we should be careful when the real extracting operations start.

“The Minister of Environment, Mr. Mok Mareth, had criticized conservation groups in 2007, saying that ‘it is not so good’ that animal refuges and protected forests cover one fourth of the country’s land, and therefore minerals can be extracted. Since then, the government developed maps for reserved areas which have the most ecological problems and require to be controlled by recently adopted laws about protected areas, but they will be adjusted after mineral deposits are found.

“Mr. Suy Sem said that Cambodia will not destroy our own country. The government has already checked the balance of the benefit from mineral exploration. Non-government organizations suggested that the government should announce a temporary ban and not issue licenses for mineral exploration until Cambodia can control the safety of this industry well, because mineral exploration can threaten and destroy the landscape and affect the citizens and the environment.”

Khmer Sthapana, Vol.1, #150, 3.12.2008
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Le papier ne peut pas envelopper la braise

"Paper Cannot Wrap Up Embers"

Donors come in for rebuke

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Prime Minister Hun Sen greets donors and government officials on Wednesday.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Kay Kimsong and Brendan Brady
Thursday, 04 December 2008

Hun Sen raps world powers, institutions over financial crisis

Prime Minister Hun Sen sharply criticised the world's leading economic powers and development groups for poor financial management Wednesday at the opening of a three-day meeting between the government and donors, during which Cambodia is expected to negotiate foreign aid for the coming year.

"It's like an elephant falling on a lamb," he said, describing the effects of the global economic recession on developing countries, which he blamed largely on the United States.

The rebuke followed the announcement of US$215 million in aid from China, which Hun Sen has repeatedly praised for supporting Cambodia without demanding reforms in return.

The prime minister said that while the government needed to overhaul its public spending management, so too did developed countries and financial institutions, calling out the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and Asian Development Bank - all of which were present.

The prime minister also turned on his own government, telling his ministers, "You must transfer money into the national treasury, and not lend it out to make profit".

Hun Sen predicted Cambodia would be able to pay off all its foreign debt within the next five years - a figure that currently stands above $3 billion, according to recent figures from the Finance Ministry.

He also highlighted government efforts promoting human rights, multiparty democracy and natural resource conservation - areas that have drawn criticism from Cambodian and international observers.

Praise, and criticism

Qimiao Fan, country manager of the World Bank in Cambodia, applauded the government for achieving a more than 30 percent increase in revenue collection this year over last, and for faster disbursement of funds for public services, according to tabs kept by the bank.

But he said "significant changes" would be needed in the transparency of revenues from the emerging oil and gas sectors - touching on a sensitive topic following a scathing attack by environmental watchdog Global Witness on an industry it accused of being inundated with graft.

Global Witness has called several times on foreign donors to withhold funds to the government for its failure to tackle corruption.

For some observers, the annual donor meeting is little more than a showcase of the government's failure to deliver on its reform promises.

But SRP lawmaker Son Chhay criticised donors, saying: "They need to make the government more responsible and not focus on pleasing its leaders".

He was also skeptical of China's aid contributions, calling them thinly veiled attempts at one-upmanship on the eve of expected aid announcements by other foreign donors.

"The Chinese do this to challenge and threaten other donors," he said.

Govt delays on bomb ban

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sebastian Strangio and SamRith
Thursday, 04 December 2008

The impact of the international cluster munitions ban on Cambodia's defence capabilities must be assessed before the Kingdom can sign on, officials say

CAMBODIA has delayed signing the Convention on Cluster Munitions after expressing concerns that the international agreement could affect the country's defence capabilities, officials said Wednesday, adding that the government has not ruled out signing at a later date.

The convention, signed by nearly 50 nations Wednesday at a conference in Oslo, obliges signatories to cease the use of cluster munitions, or to not "develop, produce, otherwise acquire, stockpile, retain or transfer [them] to anyone, directly or indirectly".

It also requires nations to destroy stockpiles within eight years and to clear all contaminated land within a decade.

But Leng Sochea, permanent deputy secretary general at the Cambodian Mine Action Authority (CMAA), said the government will delay signing the treaty while studying its impact on the country's weapons stocks and defense readiness.

"We are not saying we won't sign the convention, but we need more time to discuss it," he said, adding that the study, headed by Defence Minister Tea Banh, would "begin soon".

Thai tensions
Another CMAA official said that in light of the continuing border dispute with Thailand, the country needed time to assess the consequences of signing the treaty.

"We have to be sure [before signing] that the convention does not negatively affect our defence capacity under the current circumstances," said the official, noting that Vietnam and Thailand had also delayed signing the convention.

"We will have discussions soon with different organisations ... to find out the disadvantages and advantages of participating in the cluster bomb ban."

A defence expert who declined to be named said that the decision to delay the signing was a logical response to the refusal of Thailand and Vietnam to do the same.

Thailand, particularly, is known to have cluster bomb stockpiles in "very good" condition, as well as the means to deploy them, the expert said.

" You're not going to give up your sword if they don't give up theirs. "

"Between two nations that have been enemies for hundreds of years, you're not going to give up your sword if they don't give up theirs," he said. "It's as simple as that."

However, Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, denied Cambodia's delay was related to the situation on the Thai border and said that in the interim, the government would continue to observe the treaty's provisions.

"We have to understand exactly what they want in order to carry out and implement [the convention]," he said. "We want to do this correctly."

UN Resident Coordinator Douglas Broderick said by email that the UN Development Program "has supported Cambodia's involvement throughout the two-year Convention on Cluster Munitions negotiation process and stands ready to support the government as a signatory in any way it can".

(ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY TRACEY SHELTON)

Verges returns to the KRT

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Georgia Wilkins and Sam Rith
Thursday, 04 December 2008

FORMER Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan is to return to the dock today for a public hearing that will once again see his co-lawyers demand his entire case file be translated into French.

Co-lawyers Sa Sovan and Jacques Verges declared in August that their client's trial could not proceed until thousands of pages of court documents were translated into Verges' native tongue, French.

They are now appealing the court's decision to deny the translation.

Verges, nicknamed the "devil's advocate" for defending notorious figures such as Nazi war crimes suspect Klaus Barbie, claims it is impossible to ensure a fair trial if he cannot understand the charges against his client.

"When we detain someone with no clear explanation of why he was arrested, it is illegal and an abuse of human rights," Verges' counterpart Sa Sovan told the Post Wednesday.

"Our purpose is not to delay the trial. I support my co-lawyer and demand documents be translated into French."

But observers have been more sceptical of the defence team, in particular of Verges, who is known for his abrupt and theatrical defence style.

"This is a defence technique to delay the trial," said Sok Sam Oeun of the Cambodian Defenders Project.

Disability day targets discrimination

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
A dancer at Wednesday's celebrations to mark the International Day of Disabled People.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Mom Kunthear
Thursday, 04 December 2008

Organisers hope to show that the Kingdom's disabled are an integral part of modern society as government officials say that the number of those suffering afflictions is rising

GOVERNMENT officials highlighted the plight of the more than half-million Cambodians living with a disability Wednesday, saying the Kingdom would not turn its back of these people as it marked the 16th annual International Day of Disabled People.

"We have never forgotten disabled people," said Ith Sam Heng, minister of social affairs.

He added that the CPP-led government had renewed its commitment to promoting the rights of disabled people in Cambodian society.

Ith Sam Heng said that years of war had left almost two percent of Cambodian people disabled. But even after a decade of peace, the percentage of the population afflicted by a disability was still rising.

"The increase is due to the dangers of land mines, traffic accidents, work hazards, diseases, malnutrition, natural born disabilities and those brought on by old age," he said.

Keo Borein, director of the ministry's Technical Department, said that the celebrations on Wednesday aimed to give Cambodians a better understanding of disability.

"Since 1994, [the Ministry and its partners] have trained 117 people in the techniques of producing artificial legs and splints, and currently we have 10 centres for vocational training," he said. "From 1987 to 2008, we have trained 12,924 disabled people, and 6,878 of them are now employed."

Living with disability

Sun Try, a 20-year-old music player in the Krousar Thmey organisation - which works with disabled youth - said that he became blind at the age of four because of measles.

"When I became blind I lost confidence in my life and felt hopeless because I would never see anything," he said.

"I wanted to be a doctor and I tried to study hard in order to succeed, but everything had gone and my friends and neighbours looked down on me," he said.

"After I learned music at Krousar Thmey, I felt that my life had light because I met new friends who are the same as me," he said.

Kouch Srey, also 20 years old, said she has had withered legs since she was young because of polio and used to feel disappointed in herself.

"Of course, I was angry at myself because my friends stopped talking to me," she said. "But now I am happy and don't feel disappointed anymore because I am not the only one who is handicapped - there are also my friends. If they can live, so can I."

Renakse Hotel faces demolition: manager

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Titthara
Thursday, 04 December 2008

THE disputed Renakse Hotel across from the Royal Palace is facing demolition, according to its manager, who claims the ruling Cambodian People's Party has declared the building "too dangerous" to live in and has ordered it be razed.

Manager Kem Chanta said Wednesday that she has received a letter from CPP lawyer Khiev Sepphan informing her that the 100-year-old hotel was unsafe and that he has requested that it be examined by the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction.

"When they act like this, it means they want to tear the building down because they could not break the contract," she told the Post Wednesday.

The CPP announced in September that it would break its 49-year lease with Kem Chantha.

Kem Chantha was informed that the new owners, Alexan Inc, would take possession at the end of that month and develop the property as housing for government officials, but the manager has refused to leave her hotel.

Khiev Sepphan's letter states that unless Kem Chantha can prove the building is safe, the CPP will reclaim it to "find a solution to rebuild, to avoid danger for the people who stay in the hotel".

But Kem Chantha remained defiant. "If they want to play tricks and construct a new building they should take a look at the contract because it says we can't tear the building down, only repair it," she said.

Te Bou, chief of Daun Penh district's Cadastral Department, said that as of Wednesday, he had not received any letter from Khiev Sepphan's office.

China pledges $215m in loans and grants at public-private talks

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
China's Minister of Public Security Meng Jiangzhu (left) is shown attending a meeting on Sunday.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Vong Sokheng
Thursday, 04 December 2008

Fund package offered by Chinese officials in Beijing last month to boost construction, education, health and tourism sectors

A VISITING Chinese government-business delegation signed an agreement Wednesday granting Cambodia US$215 million in loans and grants, which officials say will further bolster economic, trade and political links between the two countries.

The funds, pledged by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao during last month's Asia-Europe Meeting in Beijing, include $200 million in loans for infrastructure, health, education and tourism, and an additional $14.52 million in loans and grants, said Information Minister Khieu Kanharith.

" We have worked together for fruitful results and continue to strengthen ties. "

"We have worked together for fruitful results and continue to strengthen the diplomatic ties established by the past leaders of the two countries," he said Wednesday.

"The two countries approach the 50th anniversary [of diplomatic relations] with good friendship and cooperation, which we will take to the next stage."

Khieu Kanharith added that China's development would contribute to the peace and development of the region, and that Cambodia had again affirmed its support for the One-China Policy - a central pillar of Beijing's ideology.

Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Yim Sovann said that he welcomed all aid from the international community, but warned that the injection of large amounts of Chinese aid could create accountability concerns.

"We see that China is very active in supporting Cambodia, but they have never considered the corruption issues within the government," he said.

"I think widespread corruption will make loans or aid from the international community diverge from their aim of helping Cambodian people."

The Chinese delegation, headed by Jia Qingling, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, arrived in Phnom Penh Tuesday for a four-day visit that includes meetings with King Norodom Sihamoni, Prime Minister Hun Sen and other senior officials.

Bun Rany recommends abstinence

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
A young participant at a World AIDS Day event in Phnom Penh on Monday.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Khoun Leakhana
Thursday, 04 December 2008

Prime minister's wife says individual self-control is a crucial factor in the fight against HIV/Aids

CAMBODIA's first lady, Bun Rany Hun Sen, has warned HIV/Aids campaigners that distributing free condoms may stimulate the nation's sexual appetite, claiming traditional moral practices, such as abstaining from sex until marriage, are more useful tools in the global fight against Aids.

"In my opinion, condom handouts should not be done too much as individuals need to be able to think for themselves," the prime minister's wife told participants at a World Aids Day event on Monday held in Hun Sen Park.

"Even if the government calls for a fight against Aids, it is not the most important factor - the spread of HIV/Aids is greatly reliant on the self- control of the individual.

"People who like sex must use condoms, but I think they must also consider reducing the number of sexual partners they engage with to reduce the risk," said Bun Rany, who is also president of the Cambodian Red Cross.

Chhay Sophal, communication consultant for the local NGO Khana, said the purpose of NGOs is not to stimulate sexual desire, but that this may, unintentionally, be a result of their efforts to reduce HIV/Aids in the Kingdom.

"[Stimulating sexual desire] is not our objective. As NGOs we always check with the social environment before doing anything," Chhay Sophal said.

Opposition parliamentarian Mu Sochua says NGOs should not reduce handouts of condoms, as there is still much work to be done to combat the threat of HIV/Aids in the Kingdom. As of 2006, infection rates stood at 0.9 percent of the population, according to UNAids figures.

"It is [the NGOs'] responsibility to expand the knowledge of Aids and HIV for people in the whole country," she said.

Prize-winning activist returns

Photo by: Christopher Shay
Somaly Mam receiving a prize from the German ambassador at a ceremony Wednesday.


The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chhay Channyda
Thursday, 04 December 2008

Founder of anti-trafficking NGO Afesip Somaly Mam is lauded abroad while defending herself at home against criticisms of her efforts to fight exploitation

ANTI-trafficking activist Somaly Mam returned from abroad Wednesday after receiving her most recent international award, ready to defend her efforts to fight sexual exploitation amid criticisms of her organisation, Afesip.

"We are against forced sexual exploitation," she said, after receiving recognition from German embassy officials in Phnom Penh for being given the coveted Roland Berger Dignity Award.

German Ambassador Frank Marcus Mann, who presided over the event, praised the work of Afesip, using the opportunity to address allegations of malpractice by the NGO.

"There has been a comment from a human rights activist in Cambodia saying that children who are being cared for by Somaly Mam's shelter do not have the right to contact their parents," the ambassador said.

"These [comments] are not acceptable.

"Somaly Mam said that she treats all the victims of trafficking she works with the same, adding that criticism from parents of the sex-trafficking victims in her care is unjustified.

"I make sure that we care for the victims because [I have been] a victim too," she said, adding that Afesip welcomed all parents.

But if the NGO suspected parents of visiting their children with the intention of bringing them back into prostitution, they would be denied access.

Somaly Mam had just returned from the award ceremony proper, held in Berlin on November 24, at which she received a one million euro (US$1.3 million) cheque to support her future work. The 38-year-old was herself a victim of sexual exploitation, and has been fighting against sex trafficking since she founded Afesip in 1996.

"We are proud to present the prize to the Somaly Mam Foundation and to help her continue her work," Mann said. Somaly Mam said she will split the award money between all the programs Afesip works with.

Lectures mark Human Rights Day

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Camilla Bjerrekaer
Thursday, 04 December 2008

HUMAN RIGHTS

A series of four lectures on human rights, aimed at educating and inspiring Cambodian youth was launched Wednesday at the Pannasastra University of Cambodia by Rafael Dochao Moreno, charge d' affaires of the Delegation of the European Commission (EC) to Cambodia. The lectures mark the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, celebrated on Human Rights Day on December 10. "Through these lectures, [students] will have the opportunity to hear about the EC's support of human rights in Cambodia," Moreno said. "We need to make sure that [Cambodia's tragic] past will not repeat itself."

Phnom Penh has a bright future with new streetlights

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
The Independence Monument lit up at night - as more attractions may soon be.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chun sophal And Hor hab
Thursday, 04 December 2008

In an effort to make Phnom Penh more attractive at night, the municipality plans to spend US$1m to illuminate its streets

PHNOM Penh Municipality plans to spend US$1 million early next year to illuminate the city at night in order to give tourists a more beautiful view of the capital.

"We want Phnom Penh to become a tourist destination of the world," the capital's governor, Kep Chuktema, told the Post Wednesday after the inauguration of a new road.

"I think it is time for the municipality to show tourists Phnom Penh's nighttime charisma," he added.

Last month with France's help, the municipality finished a feasibility study on the project, and next week Kep Chuktema will visit France to discuss the finances of the plan. He said that the funding will come from France either in the form of aid or loans.

The project includes new streetlights and spotlights on main buildings and tourist attractions.

Tourist attraction

Both the Ministry of Tourism and city travel agents welcomed the prospect of a brighter Phnom Penh.

Ho Vandy, the president of Cambodia Association of Travel Agents, said that it could increase the number of tourists.

"I welcome this project and I believe that tourist arrivals to the city will increase between 10 to 15 percent when the project is finished," he said.

According to Ministry of Tourism statistics, 833,422 visitors passed through Phnom Penh in the first 10 months of this year - about half of the 1.7 million tourists who have travelled in Cambodia during the same period.

"This number will increase faster if the city is well-organised," said Kong Sopheareak, director of the Statistics and Tourism Information Department at the Tourism Ministry.

Nothing new

Independent tourism analyst Meoung Son doubted, however, that a few lights would bring more tourists to Phnom Penh.

He believes that tourists want to see things they do not already have in their own countries.

Meoung Son emphasised that during the 1960s, Phnom Penh had many tourists because of the city's old, unique buildings - not because of its lighting.

"I think the light installation is good, but I believe it won't last long, because the city is facing an electricity shortage," Meoung Son added.

But Victor Zona, director general of the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy, disagreed.

"I think this project will not be affected by the [current] shortage of electricity [in Phnom Penh] because the power supply from Vietnam will be ready," he said.

Remembering the real regime

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Gunnar Bergstrom in Phnom Penh's Tuol Sleng genocide museum.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Vorak Ny
Thursday, 04 December 2008

COMMENT

The legacy of the Khmer Rouge will live on much longer than its victims, who perished under the brutal regime. Its legacy continues to have visible effects on Cambodian's lives. I, too, woke up with a feeling of denial that April 17th never took place. It is nonetheless still impossible to escape Cambodia; it keeps coming back.

Looking at the recent photo exhibition by Gunnar Bergstrom in August of 1978, the pictures were troublesome and disturbing - an almost deserted city. In 1978, Cambodian were dying in their thousands.

What was it like in Sweden in 1978? I wouldn't know and neither would Cambodians living in a country engulfed in war under the Khmer Rouge. But only Gunnar Bergstrom, himself and his team visiting the country, would know.

Phnom Penh in 1978 may have looked like Stockholm, but it was a city with over two million people at the height of war in 1975. Simply imagine a mass evacuation within days with no humanitarian aid and no diplomatic ties with the outside world.

Does it require critical thinking to see what is so obviously at hand? A picture taken in deserted streets, houses, hospitals and schools. What's not to see or what did his conscience tell him that was morally imperative, for example, in the one photograph Gunnar Bergstrom took standing in front of the deserted bus station in Kampong Cham, a city which used to be the second most populated and once served as a major transit town between Phnom Penh, standing empty.

In his second visit to the country, Gunnar Bergstrom admitted more than his conscience told him in 1978. He was allowed to freely roam the deserted cities, sleep on the victim's bed, wine and dine with Khmer Rouge at the Royal Place. Could the regime be more accommodating to blind him?

Humanity is Gunnar Bergstrom's central misjudgment during his visit to Cambodia in 1978. The team [that travelled with Bergstrom on a propaganda tour] witnessed no torture, saw no starvation, and experienced no misery.

Thirty years on, only five surviving suspects of the Khmer Rouge are now in custody, but none have been charged with genocide. Pol Pot and Ta Mok, Yugoslavia's Slobodan Milosevic and Chile's Augusto Pinochet, all died before they could be brought to justice. Yet, it is their victims that prevailed and outlasted their evil acts.

Anything that nature didn't kill, the Khmer Rouge did in just a few short years. The blame is passing down from highest to lowest cadres, denial and acknowledgement of the killings. Those that are still alive blame the dead.

Politics is a dirty word and there are many hands in Cambodia's blood. China has been lobbying hard to suppress the trials because of Beijing's support for Pol Pot and its efforts to export revolution to the region, while most believed that the Chinese-supported atrocities during the Khmer Rouge regime could far exceed the horror of the Rape of Nanjing. To date, Beijing claims no criminal liability for alleged Khmer Rouge atrocities in Cambodia. The rest is most likely to follow.

In the 1970s and 1980s, America was still reeling from an embarrassing defeat in Vietnam and the Watergate scandal at home. The Soviet Union was at its peak, expanding its influence in Afghanistan, while the Vietnamese were occupying Cambodia. Yet the West is proud - their people are living in an open society, free. As a war refugee, I have to be optimistic and live my life almost in denial.

Cambodia underwent one of the 20th century's most appalling experiments in both political and social upheaval. I arrived in the US with only a pair of pants, one shirt and a winter jacket given to me at the airport. Books and scrap notes were probably the most valuable items in my possession; the notes that helped me piece together the missing pieces to the puzzle of life under the Khmer Rouge and beyond.

Pol Pot's death may have brought the end of one man responsible for the death of millions of his countrymen and exposed one of the worst genocidal regimes of the 20th century. But to those born after 1980, the Khmer Rouge's legacy is a distant childhood memory of their parents' past. But his death became an unfinished tragedy as Cambodians learned that the cost of justice does not end with the death of their loved ones.

Had one been able to foresee the fallout of the regime and the liberation of Cambodia by the country's historic foe, the occupation of Vietnam in the 1980s, would things have worked out differently? Would the re-education and executions been avoided? Pol Pot and his clique went to their graves without any sense of guilt or regret, and it is unlikely that any of those still living will. It is no coincidence that they are human, just as it is no coincidence that they too were born Cambodian.

The few aging Khmer Rouge leaders indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity have no intention of going down alone and quietly into the history of war crimes and genocide. In his defense, Brother No 2 Nuon Chea wants the evidence held by China, the US and Vietnam to disclose their spy networks and intelligence reports, including names of the US National Security Advisers: Henry Kissinger, Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski.

I learned to have forgiveness in my heart. The desire for revenge and justice remain. Condoning the Khmer Rouge's brutal acts has been difficult, and revenge largely depends on how much one can accept and understand the true nature behind it.

The world has changed in the 60 years since the Nuremburg trials. With the Khmer Rouge tribunal now in place, I can only hope that justice will find its place and a new chapter can open. Writing helps me recall happy times, and above all, it preserves the voices and faces of my family who I dearly love.

___________
Vorak Ny is a survivor of the Khmer Rouge regime who now lives in the US state of Washington.

Milton students to attend dedication of Cambodia school they 'built"

Published December 03, 2008
- At 2:45 this morning, eight students, six teachers and chaperones were climbing aboard a bus to begin an epic journey, the culmination of their yearlong quest to build a school in Cambodia.

Pupils to attend dedication of foreign school they "built"

By Wayne Laepple
The Daily Item

MILTON -- At 2:45 this morning, eight students, six teachers and chaperones were climbing aboard a bus to begin an epic journey, the culmination of their yearlong quest to build a school in Cambodia.

By airplane, boat and bus, their trip will take them to a tiny village called Mean in Kampong Cham Province to see the dedication of the Milton School, believed to be the first school in Cambodia built with funds raised by American public school students.

They will see first-hand what their work has meant to the children of the poverty-stricken Southeast Asian country. It was their efforts to raise money that built the school.

Larissa Luu, a Milton senior who is the spark plug of what came to be known as Educate Cambodia, is among the group taking the trip. She became the face of the effort, speaking before church and civic groups, urging her fellow students on, and her work brought her the 2008 Young Heroes Award from the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia.

"I'm really excited that it's built," she said. "But I'm nervous about the trip."

The trip is costing each of the participants about $3,300, a price that includes a deep discount by American Council for International Studies, of Boston, which made all the travel arrangements.

Michael Conn, who teaches history and world cultures at Milton, visited Cambodia during the summer of 2007. He saw the desperate poverty and hunger for knowledge and made the initial pitch to help build the school.

Luu and her fellow students took it from there.

Conn and two other teachers, high school Principal Bryan Noaker, a teacher's sister and a parent, will accompany the students.

Conn said there hasn't been much contact with the people in Mean.

"We got an e-mail last Friday telling us the school was open and kids were attending," Conn said. "That's when it really hit us that we had done it."

The Milton School in Mean has 145 students and 11 teachers, and more pupils are expected as word spreads through the region about the school.

A week from today, Luu and her fellow students plan to wear the "Educate Cambodia" T-shirts they sold as fundraisers to the dedication.

Community response phenomenal'

William Clark, Milton's superintendent, said those going on the trip are "ambassadors of educational goodwill."

Focus shifts to king as Thailand airport gets going

grachiMail & Guardian Online

ED CROPLEY

BANGKOK, THAILAND
Dec 04 2008

Thailand's crippling political crisis shifted its focus on Thursday from Bangkok's gradually opening Suvarnabhumi Airport to King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who will address the nation on the eve of his 81st birthday.

The revered monarch, thrust into the centre of the political fray by the anti-government People's Alliance for Democracy's (PAD) persistent invocation of his name, is due to make his remarks on radio.

Bringing hope to 230 000 stranded foreign tourists, Airports of Thailand said the $4-billion Suvarnabhumi airport, one of Asia's largest, would resume "full service" at 4am GMT on Friday after a week-long shutdown by PAD protesters.

Thai Airways said it had 12 flights out of the 125 000 passenger-a-day hub on Thursday, but sources said other carriers were being rail-roaded into getting back in the air and were worried about short-cuts to safety and security procedures.

"We are under enormous pressure to open -- from the airport authorities, from stuck passengers, from shareholders, from the tourist industry," said one airline official, who asked not to be named. "But our genuine security concerns are being ignored."

The airport shutdown has already cost the tourism- and export-dependent economy hundreds of millions of dollars.

The central bank slashed interest rates by a shock 100 basis points to 2,75% on Wednesday, reflecting the impact of the airport siege -- the latest twist in a three-year political crisis -- on an economy already feeling the effects of a global slowdown.

Whether the king can calm the waters remains to be seen.

Regarded as semi-divine by many Thais, he has intervened decisively in politics three times during his six decades on the throne, favouring both democratic and military administrations.

His remarks in the last three years have been nuanced and focused on the need for national unity, although his calls for clean government were widely read as a swipe at Thaksin Shinawatra, the populist prime minister ousted in a 2006 coup.

More trouble in store

Despite the return of relative normality, analysts said more trouble was in store after the hiatus of the king's birthday when Parliament meets on Monday to select a replacement for Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat, sacked by the courts this week.

Somchai's People Power Party (PPP), which the PAD accuse of being a front for the now-exiled Thaksin, was dissolved in the same ruling but most of its rank-and-file members simply switched to another "shell" party.

It and the other five parties in the ruling coalition have more than enough numbers in Parliament to form the next administration, an eventuality that is bound to cause the PAD to resume its street protests.

-- Reuters

Cambodia urged to curb human trafficking

The Brunei Times

PHNOM PENH
Thursday, December 4, 2008

GERMANY'S ambassador to Cambodia yesterday called on the Cambodian government to step up measures against human trafficking to combat exploitation of the country's poorest citizens. Ambassador Frank Marcus Mann said at a press conference in Phnom Penh the German government supported Cambodian efforts to curb the growing number of people being trafficked in the country and urged the government to adopt new anti-abduction laws.

"Because Cambodia is a signatory to international conventions to fight abduction we want to see Cambodia's parliament take action and pass new anti-abduction laws," he said. Ambassador Mann also said the German government supported Cambodian efforts to arrest and convict German citizens guilty of engaging in human trafficking crimes.

The ambassador was joined at the press conference by Cambodian human rights advocate Somaly Mam, who was awarded the Roland Berger Human Dignity Award in Berlin in November for her fight against human trafficking.

Somaly Mam, who received 1 million euros ($1.93 million) as part of the award, warned that human trafficking could increase in Cambodia due to the international financial crisis and higher rates of poverty and unemployment.

"The government and NGOs (non-governmental organisations) need to work together to protect women and children and lead them away from exploitation," Somaly Mam said.

"This award is not for me. It is for the Cambodian people, and the money I have received will go towards fighting human trafficking in Cambodia," she added.

Rights groups say human trafficking is becoming more prevalent in Cambodia, where thousands of men, women and children every year are reportedly forced into sexual exploitation and unpaid labour through coercion and deception.

In 2007 Cambodia was listed in the US Department of State's Trafficking in Persons Watch List Report.

DPA

Cambodian officials warn of widespread dengue in 2009

2008-12-04 (Beijing)
Xinhua English

PHNOM PENH, Dec. 4 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian health officials have warned of a possible outbreak of dengue fever next year as the number of children seeking treatment continues into the disease's low season, state media reported Thursday.

"Everyday, the hospital still receives more than 20 children with dengue fever," Lam Eng Hour, deputy director of Phnom Penh's Kantha Bopha children's hospital, was quoted by the Phnom Penh Post as saying.

"We are worried this is a sign that the number (of infections) will be higher next year," he added.
According to Lam Eng Hour, Kantha Bopha hospitals in both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap have received 5,552 dengue cases so far this year, of which 43 have been fatal.

He said that despite being a dramatic decrease from last year's23,000 cases, children lining up for dengue treatment this late in the year is a bad sign for 2009.

"An outbreak can happen every two years," he said.

National statistics from January to November this year showed that throughout the country 8,783 cases have been recorded by national and Kntha Bopha hospitals, Ngan Chantha, the national dengue control program director at the Ministry of Health, told the Post.

Foreign donors meet in Phnom Penh for aiding Cambodia+

PHNOM PENH, Dec. 4 (AP) - (Kyodo)—International aid donors opened the annual Consultative Group meeting here Thursday to decide on the level of aid disbursements to the country for 2009.

More than 100 representatives from 16 donor countries, including Japan and the United States, and from seven international financial organizations such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are participating in the forum and are expected to make aid pledges at the end of the two-day meeting.

The group has met annually since 1996, and as of today, Cambodia has received foreign aid worth more than $3 billion, an average of $500 million per year -- accounting for almost half the government's annual budget.

Last year, Cambodia appealed for $600 million, but the donors pledged an aid package up to $690 million for 2008.

This year, however, due to the global economic crisis, Cambodia is seeking less aid.

Prime Minister Hun Sen, in his opening address to the group, promised that his government will tackle several hot issues including corruption, judicial reform, land disputes, and good governance, all of which have been often cited by the donors as areas of concern.

Last week, Global Witness, a London-based environmental advocacy group, urged international donors to use their leverage over Cambodia to bring about improved governance and transparency in Cambodia's petroleum and mining sectors.

"Cambodia is on the verge of a petroleum and minerals windfall, but both sectors are already exhibiting early warning signs of the corruption, nepotism and state capture which plagued Cambodia's forest sector," Global Witness said in a statement.

A day before the meeting, opposition lawmakers issued a statement calling for the government, donors and key development partners to strictly use the Joint Monitoring Indicators, which are agreed tools to measure progress in the implementation of strategy for growth.

The statement by the lawmakers of the Sam Rainsy Party said the government must adopt a long-awaited anti-corruption law and take concrete measures to stop grave violations of Cambodia's laws and serious violations of human rights, and take further steps toward strengthening a true system of checks and balances to uphold democratic principles.

Cambodia is one of the world's poorest nations, with some 35 percent of its 14 million people living below the poverty line, defined as earning less than $1 dollar a day.

Cambodian rice production up, eyes exports

Trade Arabia

New Delhi:


Cambodia is all set to play a big role in the global rice market with a surplus crop helping the country ship at least 2 million tonne.

Media reports said Cambodia’s production of unmilled rice has increased 12 per cent this year, which would create a surplus of 2.8 million tonnes in 2008, up 300,000 tonnes over last year’s figures, according to Commodity Online.

The country also hopes that the quantity of rice production will continue to increase next year.
The Cambodian government expects total production of unmilled rice to hit 6.8 million tonnes, which would represent a million-tonne gain over last year.

Cambodia is negotiating with several countries to secure additional markets for Cambodian rice.
The country will export at least 2 million tonnes of rice in 2009 to countries in the region, in the Middle East, the European Union and in Africa.

World Economic Woes Affecting Golf Growth In Cambodia

December 3, 2008

Matthew Harvey - AHN Sports Reporter

Siem Reap, Cambodia (AHN) - In recent years, the golf scene in Cambodia has swelled considerably. The course Angkor Wat golf resort is PGA-rated, and was designed by Nick Faldo.
Built for both beauty and polish, it adds a recreational aspect to a vacation to Cambodia - one that sorely could use some diversions.

At present, tourism is not a booming industry, a stop for mostly history buffs who would view the ancient Khmer temples, side by side with the killing fields of millennia past.

Nonetheless, two million people make the trip to Cambodia, and while it's not quite as bustling as Cancun or the Bahamas, officials on the tourism board believe many of these folks would golf if they had the chance.

The resort is named for Cambodia's largest attraction, the 800-year-old sandstone temple of Angkor Wat.

The golf expansion in Cambodia is facing a serious drought as the world economy hits a tumultuous flux. The head of the Cambodian national golf association, Suos Yara, was hoping to convert the local into a golfer destination, though progress has become slower.

At present, there are four high-caliber golf courses under construction. They are hoping to double their total intake of golfing tourists by 2011, but whether or not this plan will survive the drop in visitors due to the crisis is yet to be determined.

One thing they have working for them: golf has always been seen as recession proof. Even in the Great Depression era of the United States, golfing was a busy industry, and many professionals were still making a decent living at it.

Light also can be seen at the end of their tunnel, as the Asia Golf Tour will bring talent to them in December for the Cambodian Open.

World Bank helps Cambodia to strengthen Demand for Good Governance

www.chinaview.cn
2008-12-04

WASHINGTON, Dec. 3 (Xinhua) -- The World Bank Group Wednesday approved a 20 million dollar grant for the Demand for Good Governance (DFGG) Project in Cambodia to help enhance citizens' engagement in development and governance processes, and government responsiveness to their demands.

The DFGG Project represents an integral part of the World Bank's efforts to tackle governance issues in Cambodia, according to a statement released by the World Bank.

Even though the country has achieved impressive economic progress over the last decades, governance remains a key impediment for broad-based development and further poverty reduction, it added.

This innovative project will seek to enhance the demand for good governance in priority reform areas in Cambodia by strengthening institutions, supporting partnerships, and sharing lessons, said the World Bank.

It will do so by promoting so called "demand-side" approaches, which strengthen the ability of citizens, civil society organizations, and other non-state actors to work constructively with government and to hold it accountable. These approaches also enhance the capacity of the government to become more responsive to citizens.

"This project is part of the Bank's response to calls for broader engagement in governance reform in Cambodia. The Bank has provided leadership on supporting the public sector governance reform in the past," said Qimiao Fan, the World Bank Country Manager for Cambodia.

"Now it is a great time to work with a broad range of stakeholders such as the government, private sector, civil society, donors, parliamentarians, and media, to create a stronger demand for good governance," he added.

Good governance is increasingly recognized as a fundamental prerequisite for sustainable development. Its opposite -- corruption -- is also recognized as a major impediment to efficient and effective government, with a disproportionate impact on the poor.

Stimulating citizen demand for better governance has become a fundamental tool for more transparency and accountability in public affairs, and an integral part of the World Bank's governance and anti-corruption strategy.

Editor: Yan

More buses run for HCM City-Cambodia trips

Tourists pose for picture in front of the Independence Monument in Phnom Penh.

04/12/2008

VietNamNet Bridge – Ho Chi Minh City-based Sapaco Tourist Company increased bus tours between the city and Cambodia on December 4, the day the Vietnam-Cambodia visa exemption for ordinary passport holders takes effect.

At its station in HCM City, the company operates daily seven buses to Phnom Penh instead of five previously, departing at 6 am, 7am, 8am, 9am, 10am, 11:30am and 1pm.

At its station in Phnom Penh, the seven buses leave for HCM City at 6 am, 7am, 8am, 9am, 11:30am, 1pm and 2 pm.

In addition, Sapaco buses between HCM City and Cambodia’s Siem Reap, home to Angkor, now run daily instead of every two days.

Before December 4, Vietnamese holders of ordinary passports had to pay US$20 for Cambodia entry visa.

On November 4, the government of Vietnam and Cambodia signed an agreement on visa exemption. Under the agreement, which takes effect on December 4, citizens of both countries with ordinary passports valid for at least six months can stay up to 14 days in the other country without a visa.

Given this visa exemption, Vietnamese tour operators and tourism companies expect that more Vietnamese and Cambodian tourists will visit the other country.

(Source: SGGP)

China lends Cambodia $305m

THE STRAITS TIMES
Dec 3, 2008

PHNOM PENH - CHINA on Wednesday gave impoverished Cambodia more than US$200 million (S$305 million) in loans and grants to re-build the country's infrastructure, a government official said.

Chinese and Cambodian officials inked an agreement to give a 200-million-dollar-loan to rebuild roads in the kingdom during a meeting between Prime Minister Hun Sen and China's visiting top political advisor Jia Qinglin, government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said.

During the meeting, Mr Jia also announced a grant of US$7.26 million and the same amount as a non-interest loan, he said.

The announcement came just a day before the annual aid meeting between the government and international donors.

Last year, Cambodia's donors pledged US$689 million to the impoverished country, including tens of millions from China.

China, a former patron of the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime, routinely gives Cambodia hundreds of millions in aid outside the donor structure, and has been repeatedly praised by Mr Hun Sen for not attaching any conditions to its money. -- AFP

Civil Society Asks the Government to Prevent Mineral Exploration That Affects the Environment and Security of the Citizens - Wednesday, 3.12.2008

Posted on 4 December 2008

The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 589

“A joint statement ahead of next week’s annual Government-Donor Consultative Group Meeting by development and non-government human rights organizations said that Cambodia has the goals for its most important Protected Areas, which define local ownership rights or has clearly defined areas for independent and legal development, not yet clarified.

“This group pointed out that this is a step back in the implementation of the plans of the Royal Government for controlling land use, agriculture, and human resources development, with good governance, which is the traditional model in the process of development in Cambodia, as in the documents provided by the NGO Forum on Cambodia, published about activities of development partnership in Cambodia. This group added that during the Government-Donor Consultative Group Meeting this year, the government should show new models which could be presented publicly every three months, about all mineral licenses planned for the future and all already granted.

“The executive director of the NGO Development and Partnership in Action, Mr. Mam Sambath said, ‘I think it is necessary that the government reconsiders the conditions and how to improve development.’ He added, ‘I think that mineral exploration really affects the life of citizens in rural areas, especially of ethnic tribespeople.’

“According to the report, the non-government organizations said that mineral exploration licenses, which are now provided, result in concerns, as they cover areas amounting to half of all environmental preservation areas in Cambodia.

“According to this document, if such exploration continues, the influence on most Cambodian citizens can hardly be estimated. Existing legislation is not sufficient to control the exploration of minerals, where at present all official documents with companies related to mineral exploration are made secretly; that means also that the assessment of the effects on the environment are frequently kept secret.

“According to this report, residents of Preah Vihear, Stung Treng, and Banteay Meanchey reported that exploration of minerals is going on without any permission, by fencing their forest land, serving notice that there will be evictions, with no plans to relocate the citizens to live in new places, or by forcing them to sell their land.

“This statement by non-government organization was made while the mineral exploration industry worldwide is facing a significant crisis, with an increase in the price of metals and the collapses of the credit markets.

“The Credit Suisse Group said last month that as a result, US$50,000,000,000 for mineral development projects was postponed.

“OZ Minerals, an Australian mineral explorer, announced recently that it is reducing US$440 million of projected expenses by postponing the project, including its plan to expand its copper exploration in Laos, and is reducing its operational budget. However, operators of the company said that the mineral exploration of the company in Cambodia continues as planed.

“The Minister of Industry, Mines, and Energy, Mr. Suy Sem, said that mineral exploration in Cambodia is not slowed down by the financial crisis, and the authorities control the industry well.

“Mr. Suy Sem added that it is not necessary to impose any temporary restrictions, as the companies are proceeding only with tests in forests and are digging the land, only searching to find minerals.

“Mr. Suy Sem went on to say that mineral exploration does not affect the environment. But we should be careful when the real extracting operations start.

“The Minister of Environment, Mr. Mok Mareth, had criticized conservation groups in 2007, saying that ‘it is not so good’ that animal refuges and protected forests cover one fourth of the country’s land, and therefore minerals can be extracted. Since then, the government developed maps for reserved areas which have the most ecological problems and require to be controlled by recently adopted laws about protected areas, but they will be adjusted after mineral deposits are found.

“Mr. Suy Sem said that Cambodia will not destroy our own country. The government has already checked the balance of the benefit from mineral exploration. Non-government organizations suggested that the government should announce a temporary ban and not issue licenses for mineral exploration until Cambodia can control the safety of this industry well, because mineral exploration can threaten and destroy the landscape and affect the citizens and the environment.”

Khmer Sthapana, Vol.1, #150, 3.12.2008
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Thai crisis defused but dangers ahead

The first commercial airliner in a week of Thai Airways lands at Suvarnabhumi international airport in Bangkok, Thailand, Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2008 after . Victorious anti-government protesters lifted their siege of Bangkok's two airports Wednesday while leaders of the ousted government named a caretaker prime minister to lead the politically chaotic kingdom.(AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
By DENIS D. GRAY, Associated Press Writer

BANGKOK, Thailand – Flights in and out of Bangkok resumed Wednesday after anti-government protests that paralyzed the capital's international airport for more than a week ended with the peaceful ouster of the prime minister.

But most of the explosive issues that have divided the country for more than two years remained unresolved and long-term prospects for stability were dim.

"It is nothing more than an intermission. It is not over until the two sides of the political spectrum can reconcile and the prospect of that happening is very bleak," said Charnvit Kasetsiri, a historian and former rector of Bangkok's Thammasat University.

The People's Alliance for Democracy, which has led six months of street demonstrations and the airport protests, warned that it would be back on the streets if a new government maintained links to the man who has torn apart the Thai political fabric since being ousted in a military coup in September 2006 — Thaksin Shinawatra.

Although exiled, Thaksin remains extremely popular among the rural poor and the new government is certain to include his allies. The alliance, commonly called PAD, has vowed to eradicate his influence, accusing him of massive corruption and seeking to undermine Thailand's much-revered monarch.

All sides awaited the annual birthday speech Thursday of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who over the past four decades has stepped in to defuse several bloody political confrontations.

"Expectations are very high. If the royal comments are seen as fair and balanced with a way (out of a crisis), people will try to think about that and maybe to push for that way forward," said Thitinan Pongsidhirak, a political scientist at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University.

But Thitinan said that the king's guidance, if any, might not be sufficient to heal the deep polarization.

"It's also possible that one side or the other will see it as insufficient, in which case they will not stand down and go home quietly. It is uncertain whether all sides will accept the royal comments," he said.

On Wednesday, PAD supporters cleaned up Suvarnabhumi international airport and handed it and the domestic Don Muang airport over to authorities after a weeklong occupation, which had stranded more than 300,000 travelers.

The first commercial airliner to arrive — a flight by the national airline Thai Airways from the resort island of Phuket — landed at Suvarnabhumi at 2:15 p.m. (0715 GMT). Also Wednesday, a Thai Airways flight took off from Suvarnabhumi for Sydney.

Meanwhile, about 700 soldiers inspected the airport for bombs and weapons, and airport security officials set up a perimeter around the airport as they dismantled blockades and checkpoints set up by the alliance.

Following months of protest by the alliance, in which at least six people were killed and scores injured, the country's Constitutional Court ruled Tuesday that the three ruling coalition parties were guilty of committing fraud in the December 2007 elections which brought them to power.

The ruling banned Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat, Thaksin's brother-in-law, and 59 executives of the three parties from politics for five years.

A meeting Wednesday among the three ousted parties, which vowed to stick together in a coalition, endorsed Deputy Prime Minister Chaowarat Chandeerakul as the caretaker prime minister.

Charnvit said that despite its losses the coalition was still strong enough to form a government dominated by pro-Thaksin politicians.

"Neither side has been completely ruined and until that happens, Thailand will go from one crisis to another," he said. "Both sides are beyond reconciliation or typical Thai-style compromise."

The anti-government alliance claims Thailand's rural majority — who gave landslide election victories to the Thaksin camp — is too poorly educated to responsibly choose their representatives and says they are susceptible to vote buying.

It wants the country to abandon the system of one-person, one-vote, and instead have a mixed system in which most representatives are chosen by profession and social group.

Pro-Thaksin politicians have been pushing to amend the constitution to allow Thaksin, who is also banned from politics and convicted on corruption charges, to make a comeback.
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Associated Press reporters Ambika Ahuja, Vijay Joshi, Mike Casey and Mick Elmore contributed to this report.