Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Bird Flu

Ducks are pictured at a farm in the outskirts of Phnom Penh December 17, 2008. Cambodia began culling poultry near its capital on Wednesday, officials said, five days after a young man from the area was confirmed with H5N1 bird flu by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the government.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

A dead duckling is pictured at a farm in the outskirts of Phnom Penh December 17, 2008. Cambodia began culling poultry near its capital on Wednesday, officials said, five days after a young man from the area was confirmed with H5N1 bird flu by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the government.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Dead ducks are hung at a farm in the outskirts of Phnom Penh December 17, 2008. Cambodia began culling poultry near its capital on Wednesday, officials said, five days after a young man from the area was confirmed with H5N1 bird flu by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the government.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Ducks rest after eating at a farm in the outskirts of Phnom Penh December 17, 2008. Cambodia began culling poultry near its capital on Wednesday, officials said, five days after a young man from the area was confirmed with H5N1 bird flu by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the government.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

ASIA: Bird Flu Widens Across Region

KAMCITY
Wednesday 17th December 2008

China, India, and Cambodia have ordered the culling of hundreds of thousands of poultry, after the dreaded H5N1 bird flu was detected in regions of each country. The announcement brings to a light a resurgence of the epidemic, which has already affected Hong Kong, and even countries as far afield as Egypt. The moves are bound to add further pressure on suppliers and retailers in the poultry industry, who are already struggling with lower demand due to the effects of the ongoing recession.

Cambodia began culling poultry near its capital today, five days after a young man from the area was confirmed with the virus. The government has ordered a three-month ban on poultry transportation from the province of Kandal, south of Phnom Penh, after tests confirmed it was hit by the deadly virus. The Agriculture Ministry is also investigating in the province of Kampong Speu, west of Kandal, after reports of dead chickens and ducks.

Meanwhile, in eastern India, a poultry cull began after tests on dead birds confirmed the presence of the virus. The culling is being conducted in the states of West Bengal, Assam and Meghalaya. And in China, the culling of 377,000 chickens has been ordered after the virus was detected in two areas of Jiangsu province, northwest of Shanghai.

Last week, Hong Kong health authorities ordered the slaughter of 80,000 chickens after three dead birds tested positive for H5N1. Since H5N1 resurfaced in Asia in 2003 it has killed more than 200 people in a dozen countries, according to the WHO. Experts fear the constantly mutating H5N1 virus could change into a form easily transmitted from person to person and potentially kill millions worldwide.

Asean sets the date, but it wasn't easy

Bangkok Post
Wednesday December 17, 2008

THANIDA TANSUBHAPOL

The launching of the Asean charter and the setting of a new date for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit, from Feb 24 to 26, were agreed on only after extensive negotiations.

There was no debate on where the summit should be held, however.

Whether it is in Bangkok or Chiang Mai is irrelevant, as both cities are in Thailand.

The problems concerned the way to organise the charter launch and the date for the summit.

Cambodia and Singapore insisted the Asean Charter, which was supposed to be launched at the 2008 summit in Thailand this week, should not be postponed. So it was proposed the landmark charter be launched at the Asean Secretariat, which is in Jakarta.

It made perfect sense and fitted the notion of the secretariat being an icon for all member countries. Similarly, the charter is meant to unify all members under a common brand.

The idea was well received by the member countries. But before it got to that point, there were many things that needed to be sorted out.

After close consultation with Asean secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan, Thailand agreed to contribute 1.5 million baht to spruce up the secretariat office and grounds to welcome the Asean foreign ministers.

This included buying a new meeting table to replace the existing one.

It was the first time the secretariat office had hosted this kind of meeting in its 41 years of operation.

While the Thai and Asean staff were busy preparing the venue for the launch, the Thai host encountered another problem. It had no foreign minister to lead the delegation at the event.

Sompong Amornvivat lost his job on Dec 2 as a result of the Constitution Court's verdict, which disqualified the People Power party and two other coalition parties for election fraud.

A few days before the meeting, Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Nam Hong sent a letter to his Indonesian counterpart Hassan Wirajuda proposing it be cancelled because, in his view, Thailand was not ready.

A source quoted Mr Wirajuda as saying "ignore it".

Back in Thailand, many ministers who were not affected by the court ruling were nominated to lead the delegation. But most of them declined. So the Foreign Ministry nominated its special adviser, Manaspas Xuto, for the job.

But Cambodia again opposed the idea, saying only a minister could attend the meeting.

Acting Prime Minister Chavarat Charnvirakul had to lobby hard on Saturday to get a minister to fly to Jakarta.

The final decision came at the last minute, not long before the delegation departed, with Information and Communications Technology Minister Mun Patanotai going on the trip.

Mr Mun said he was given a briefing only a few hours before arriving in Jakarta.

But as one problem was resolved, another emerged.

Indonesian officials wanted to replace the video presentation of Asean prepared by Thailand with choral performances by the University of Padjadjaran on the new Asean anthem, the "Asean Way", during the opening ceremony.

Only after a long negotiation was a compromise reached - Thailand would go ahead with its presentation, and the Indonesian performances would follow at the end.

When the meeting came to the important discussion about choosing a new date for the summit, one proposal was for January.

But many countries' schedules are blocked with the Chinese New Year holiday, budget debates, and bilateral visits. So the consensus came down to Feb 24 to 26.

Rock gig spotlights human trafficking

Composer Duncan Sheik, nominated for Best Original Score (Spring Awakening), poses at the 2007 Tony Award nominee reception in New York on May 16, 2007. (UPI Photo/Ezio Petersen)

United Press International
Dec. 16, 2008

SIEM REAP, Cambodia, Dec. 16 (UPI) -- A group of international rock musicians took part in a concert at the Angkor Wat temple in Cambodia to raise awareness about human trafficking.

Sponsored by the MTV End Exploitation and Trafficking campaign, a project supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development, the event was the first rock concert ever performed at the massive 12th century temple, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

More than 1,200 fans turned out to see and hear The Click Five from the United States, Placebo from the United Kingdom, U.S. Grammy- and Tony Award-winner Duncan Sheik, Australian pop star Kate Miller-Heidke, Cambodian hip-hop icon Pou Klaing and Cambodian pop stars Sokun Nisa, Meas Soksophia and Chorn Sovanrech.

"We're here to call attention to human trafficking, a form of slavery that is as big a problem today as perhaps anytime in history," Placebo lead singer Brian Molko told the invitation-only audience.

The concert also featured traditional Khmer dancers and clips from "Traffic: An MTV Special," a documentary about human trafficking that was funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, the agency said in a news release.

MTV EXIT Director Simon Goff said: "Millions of people are currently living in slavery as a result of being trafficked. This is a grotesque human-rights abuse and we must all act to stop it."

Cambodia’s blossoming scene

Cambodia’s blossoming scene

Sydney Star Observer
Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Phnom Penh-raised Long, 27, believes the blossoming gay scene in Cambodia’s capital is directly linked to the Government pursuing international investment in his country.

“The international community has started to do business in Cambodia. People are now interested in the country,” he said.

Between 1976 and 1998, Cambodia was torn apart by domestic and foreign conflict. Following the murderous regime of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge between 1976 and 1979, Khmer Rouge holdouts were embroiled in a war with the Vietnamese occupying forces that overthrew Pol Pot. Although Vietnam withdrew from Cambodia in 1989, the Khmer Rouge’s guerrilla war against the government only fully subsided with Pol Pot’s death in 1998.

These three decades of internal upheaval left Cambodia economically crippled, with the current Government determined to build Cambodia’s economic credentials.

“The Government has a policy of encouraging foreign investment, now that we are politically stable and peaceful,” Long said.

In 2006 Cambodia’s Prime Minister, Hun Sen, announced various initiatives to entice foreign investors.

“Cambodia’s economic outlook is good. We will make utmost efforts to ensure double digit growth for the next five years to come,” Sen said.

Cambodia’s economy has been growing around 10 percent annually for the past five years, propelled by clothing, tourism and real estate. As international companies look towards Cambodia, their representatives visit the country, and tourists come for such attractions as Angkor Wat, the demand for evening activities is created.

Salt was the first successful gay bar opened in Phnom Penh to cater for that demand. Thai business partners opened Blue Chilli in 2006 and a Vietnamese entrepreneur opened Green Flame. An Australian, Greg Smith, and his partner Kim opened the Manor House, a gay-friendly hotel in 2004. Miss Cindy’s is a recent addition and is connected to the spa, Khmer Town.

Long is concerned by the recent influx of tourists into the country. “I just hope tourists who come to Cambodia do not come in search of a sex holiday. I hope they come in equal friendship and for the culture,” he said.

When interviewed in August this year, Oak, Blue Chilli’s owner, said, “Soon I think the gay scene here will be like Bangkok.”

This is Long’s biggest concern.

“There are some people who want to turn Sihanoukville into the Cambodian equivalent of Pattaya [a Thai beach resort known for its sex trade]. Sihanoukville has a beautiful beach. It’s relaxing and quiet. I hope the government controls the sex tourism.”

Homosexuality has never been illegal or legal in Cambodia, because there is a general lack of understanding surrounding the concept. “When I was growing up, I didn’t know anything about gay life,” Long said.

For a country that has only recently been introduced to the concept, the former King was remarkably outspoken on the issue.

King Norodom Sihanouk at the age of 81 wrote on his website in 2004 that Cambodia should allow “marriage between man and man … or between woman and woman.” The BBC also reported, “he had respect for homosexuals and lesbians and said they were as they were because God loved a ‘wide range of tastes’. ”

After holidaying in Sydney, Long hopes to return to undertake an MBA.“Sydney is very open and very accepting of gay people,” he said.

WWF: More Than 1,000 New Species Discovered in Southeast Asia

Dragon millipede Desmoxytes purpurosea 2007 from Lansak district, Uthaithani Province, Thailand

By VOA News
17 December 2008

An international environmental group says scientists have identified more than 1,000 new species in the Greater Mekong Region over the past decade.

A new World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report says striped rabbits, bright pink millipedes and a spider bigger than a dinner plate are among a host of species discovered in the region.

According to WWF, researchers found 1,068 plant and animal species that were previously un-cataloged, or were believed extinct.

The report says most of the new species were found in the largely unexplored jungles and wetlands along the 5,000-kilometer Mekong River, that flows through six Southeast Asian countries - China, Burma, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. But some were first seen in unusual places - like a Laotian rock rat, thought to be extinct for 11 million years, that turned up in a local food market.

Scientists say many more species are yet be discovered in the area.

It says the findings made between 1997 and 2007 include more than 500 plant species, close to 300 fish, close to 90 frogs and more than 40 lizards.

The report urges the governments of the Greater Mekong to agree on formal cross-border measures to protect the region's immense biodiversity.

Poverty Forces Children to Leave Home and Find Jobs Anywhere

Posted on 17 December 2008
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 591

“With the hands trying to pull and the legs trying to walk ahead, to drag a heavy cart with insufficient energy, drops of sweat flow across a face that is covered with a cotton scarf and with a hat over the head to shield off the heat of the sun. This is serious hard work - but when the hat and the cotton scarf are not covering the person, one recognizes that she is a teenage girl working in a brick kiln. Because of the poverty of her family, she decided to leave her hometown to work in a suburb of Phnom Penh. Because of such poverty, some children are forced to leave their home to find jobs in cities in order to earn money and send it to their parents and families at home.

“The girl who was dragging a cart with bricks to be put into a kilns said that she comes from Prey Veng to work in a brick kiln; she no longer goes to school. She said, ‘Sometimes I carry clay, sometimes I have to pound clay, and sometimes I drag carts. It is difficult to carry clay, it hurts my chest. If I have money, I send it to my mom to buy food.’

“Another girl who was cleaning up garbage in front of a house, selling rice soup, said that she was 13 years old, and she was sent by her mother from Kompong Chhnang to work in this house and earn Riel 70,000 per month [approx. US$17.50].

“This girl added that working here, she can rest three days per year – only during the Chinese new year. She said, ‘My mom comes to Phnom Penh to take the money. I came to sell soup. I get up at 6:00 a.m. and go to bed at 10:00 p.m. Sometimes I am very sleepy.’

“A woman from Prey Veng, who was waiting for her children in front of a brick kiln along National Road 6A, said that she always comes to take Riel 200,000 [approx. US$50] from the children every month.

“She continued to say that because of having no land for rice farming, she sent two children to work here to seek money to support her three other small children at home. She added, ‘We are poor and it is difficult, at home we cannot do rice farming, and we owe more and more debt; whenever there is work, I bring my children to work.’

“A boy, whose name is Sarak, 14, who comes from Kampot, washing cars around the Phsar Kandal market, said that because his parents at his hometown are poor, he had to stop going to school since the time he was in grade 3, in order to work as a car washer and now earn Riel 150,000 [approx. US$38] per month, and send it to his parents at home. He said, ‘Because we have no money, I had to find a job to earn money to buy rice and food.’

“The director of the Department of Child Labor, Mr. Veng Hieng, said that the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training has so far removed 22,000 children working in critical situations who can easily get harmed, such as working at brick kilns, salt fields, and as domestic servants, and provided them with the opportunity to go to school and to learn different skills. As for the parents of those children, the ministry offers them different jobs.

“Mr. Veng Hieng added, ‘We provide opportunities, both with materials aid and with some money, for those children to go to school, and if their parents are poor, we help to train them and provide them money as a loan to create jobs. If the children are too old to go to school any more, if they are over 15 years old, we train them in skills, and after the training, we provide them with certificates and contact enterprises or factories to accept them to work. For children, who can create their own jobs, if they can find their own jobs we grant them materials, because some children do not want to go to school. For example sewing - after we have trained them, they can also work as tailors at home, and if this is not possible, they can work in factories.

“The National Project Coordinator for the Elimination Child Labor, ILO-IPEC, Mr. Un Vuthy, said that according to a nationwide study, there are 250,000 children involved in critical forms of labor in seven provinces, and there are 16 kinds of critical jobs that children do.<“Mr. Un Vuthy added, ‘Children in critical situations of child labor are those working on salt fields, working at sea and fishing, at brick kilns, as domestic servants, at Poipet working as porters, and at rubber plantations.’

Note:
You can get access here to the following book - but also to other related studies:
Experiences and lessons learned on child labor monitoring: rubber, salt and fishing sectors in Cambodia - by Theng Chhorvirith, Seang Meng and Sao Kosal, Phnom Penh: ILO and Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training, 2005, vii, 82 p.]

“To protect children, this organization strengthens policies and promotes the understanding about child labor. It also intervenes directly, which includes to remove children from certain places of work, offering education, including training in professional skills, as well as prevention, when children are in danger to fall into child labor situations. Another problem related to child labor is trafficking.

“The total number of children involved in work in these seven provinces is 1,500,000. The children are between 5 and 17 years old.

“The director of the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights – LICADHO, Ms. Pong Chiv Kek [also known as Dr. Kek Galabru] said that not sending children to school is against the Constitution of Cambodia, and it is against the international UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which says that states should ‘make primary education compulsory and available free to all.’

“Mr. Veng Hieng said that the ministry, cooperating with non government organizations, sees that the number of children working in critical forms of labor declines, because their parents understand the importance of their children going to school.

“He suggested to children in hard work, ‘If those children want to go to school, they can contact the Ministry of Labor or the Education Department of their province, because we have much money, provided by the state for priority groups for the Education Departments, especially for the national plan Education for All. If there are cases of child labor, contact the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training!”
Khmer Sthapana, Vol.1, #158, 14-15.12.2008
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Monday, 15 December 2008

Cambodian leaders cautiously welcome new Thai government

The Earth Times

Wed, 17 Dec 2008
Author : DPA

Phnom Penh - Cambodian foreign affairs officials on Wednesday welcomed the ascent of a new government to power in Thailand but said it needed to take immediate action to resolve an ongoing border dispute between the two countries. Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Kuy Kung said the new government was likely to improve relations between the two South-East Asian neighbours despite Thai prime minister-designate Abhisit Vejjajiva's history of strong rhetoric over the Preah Vihear temple dispute.

"We continue to have a good relationship with Thailand, and this will improve with the appointment of Abhisit Vejjajiva as prime minister," Kuy Kung said.

"We are waiting until Thailand has a new Parliament to resume negotiations about the border issue, but we believe the new government will end delays in negotiations and bring about a fast resolution," he said.

Tensions over border demarcation at the 11th-century temple escalated into a military standoff in July after UNESCO added the site to its World Heritage List.

Abhisit in July called on the Thai government to take a stronger stance on the dispute to ensure Thailand maintained control over the area.

He is the leader of the opposition Democrat Party, which put together a coalition government after the former ruling People Power Party was dissolved this month on a court order that found it guilty of vote buying.

Cambodian Information Minister Khieu Kanarith told the Phnom Penh Post newspaper the appointment of the new Thai government would end months of anti-government protests in Bangkok by the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), which he said had stalled negotiations over Preah Vihear.

"The border demarcation is purely a technical problem," he said. "The PAD politicized it, not the Democrat Party."

Rice farmers see brisk trade with Vietnam in premium rice stocks

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Hor Hab
Wednesday, 17 December 2008

The government, local millers say rising sales of high-quality grain to Vietnamese traders balances the lack of larger export markets

WITH this year's harvest in, traders report surging sales of high-grade rice to Vietnam where it is popular on the domestic market, experts say, adding that the trend is working in Cambodia's favour.

"It is good that farmers can sell at a high price to the Vietnamese because we don't have enough credit to buy rice from farmers and we also don't have a proper [local] market," Tes Ethda, president of the National Rice Millers Association of Cambodia, told the Post Monday.

According to Tes Ethda, this strong foreign demand has helped mitigate the impact of falling rice prices for farmers without driving up the price of the staple grain on the local market.

Tes Ethda added that Vietnamese traders only buy premium-grade rice - usually in an unprocessed form - while local demand is generally satisfied by poorer quality grains.

Cambodia is expecting a 2.81 million tonne raw rice surplus, which can be processed into 1.8 million tonnes of milled rice, at the end of this year's harvest season, according to a recent government report.

Suor Khieng, vice president of the Rice Millers Association of Kampong Cham, which represents about 30 rice millers, said local mills don't have enough money to buy up the Kingdom's premium-grade rice.

"We [millers] can buy only small amounts of rice for processing because we don't have drying machines," Suor Khieng said, adding that the mills also offer lower prices than the Vietnamese traders.

"Our association reserves about 50,000 tonnes of milled rice after the close of the harvest season," he said.

Suor Khieng said that without purchases from Vietnam, the rice sector would suffer because Cambodia does not yet have a developed domestic market.

"The Vietnamese want to eat Cambodian rice because it is good and more hygienic than their locally-produced rice," he said.

Song Hong, vice president of the Cambodian Rice Millers Association in Battambang, said the Vietnamese have been arriving in the province to purchase high-quality jasmine, phkar malis and phkar romdoul rice since November.

"We and the Vietnamese traders offer similar prices to farmers, but we are able to buy only small amounts of rice due to capital constraints and a lack of proper technology," Song Hong said. "No capital, no competition."

The Vietnamese buy wet rice from farmers, while local millers buy only dry rice because they don't have drying machines, he added.

"Hundreds of trucks containing premium rice are being driven to the Cambodian-Vietnamese border every day," Song Hong said.

He said the his milling association has about 20 local millers that produce rice for local demand, as well as for possible overseas exports.

"We have to wait and see whether we can find a proper export market for our rice," Mao Thora, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Commerce, told the Post Monday.

He added that the government would be prepared to ban all rice exports in the event of shortages at home.

A ban on rice exports was imposed from March through May this year to ensure sufficient stocks for local demand.

Battling battery in Battambang

Photo by: ELEANOR AINGE ROY

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Seng Sovan
Wednesday, 17 December 2008

A man reads an anti-domestic violence information leaflet in Battambang last week. A campaign targeted the provincial capital, with volunteers handing out leaflets throughout the town centre. One woman who endured years of abuse at the hands of her former husband tells the Post her story - and how she finally found the courage to escape.

See the full story

Senator to sue Phnom Penh governor

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Kay Kimsong
Wednesday, 17 December 2008

CPP senator to file suit over 44 'stolen' hectares on Koh Pich

CPP Senator Peou Sithik has announced plans to sue Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema and Pung Kheav Se, president of Canadia Bank and head of the Overseas Cambodia Investment Corp (OCIC), for US$100 million over 44 hectares of land on Koh Pich that Peou Sithik claims the pair stole from him.

Peou Sithik said that he and his wife had owned 44 hectares of land on Koh Pich from 1994 to 2005, when Kep Chuktema issued a decree that voided all official land titles. According to Peou Sithik, Kep Chuktema proceeded to lease the land to the OCIC for 99 years at a price of $47.5 million.

"If he had done that in other countries, he would already be in prison," said Peou Sithik. "He robbed my land from me and sold it."

Peou Sithik said he filed complaints to various embassies, the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank to discourage foreign investors from buying land at Koh Pich.

Rein Sambath, the manager of OCIC, told the Post on Tuesday that this matter had already been resolved by Peou Sithik's brother-in-law, Suor Pheng, who negotiated the terms of the agreement with Kep Chuktema.

"It is an internal family dispute," Rein Sambath said. "Kep Chuktema did not rob the land. He cleared the decision with Suor Pheng, and compensation was paid. Peou Sithik simply did not accept the money that was distributed to family members." He added that the lawsuit will not affect the Koh Pich development project unless the court issues a warrant.

A relative of Suor Pheng who wished to remain anonymous claimed that the land was owned by Suor Srun Enterprises, and each family member was offered US$700,000 when the land was declared government property.

Charles Vann, deputy general manager for Canadia Bank, declined to comment on the dispute, while Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema was in France and was unable to be reached for comment Tuesday.

Authorities rush to contain bird flu

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chhay Channyda
Wednesday, 17 December 2008

NEARLY one hundred people living in the immediate vicinity of Cambodia's first confirmed human case of the H5N1 virus in over a year have been tested as authorities scramble to determine the extent of the latest outbreak.

Blood samples from people who had contact with the 19-year-old man diagnosed with avian influenza have so far revealed no signs of the disease, a health official said.

The 19-year-old is the Kingdom's eighth known case of bird flu, and all previous cases have been fatal. Though the disease has killed fewer than 30 people worldwide this year, the threat lies in the flu's potential to mutate into a strain transferrable between humans that could set off a lethal global pandemic.

According to Sok Touch, the director of the Communicable Disease Control Department at the Ministry of Health, 99 villagers from Kandal and Kampong Speu provinces have been tested and, so far, no new cases have been found. Not all 99 blood samples, however, have been processed.

Kao Phal, director of the Animal Health and Production Department at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said Tuesday that they have collected 76 ducks, chicken and geese from the two provinces for testing and expect results to be ready later this week.

"We will take immediate action to destroy the birds if bird flu is found," he said.

According to Kao Phal, authorities have educated villagers throughout the country about how to avoid avian influenza by providing booklets and leaflets to villagers.

"We know that villagers understand how to protect themselves from bird flu, but still people get infected," he said.

Nation lagging in education goals

Photo by: HENG CHIVOAN
CITA President Rong Chhun at a protest over the government’s handling of the Preah Vihear dispute earlier this year.
MillenNium goal could fade next to grim reality
A recent monitoring report sponsored by Unesco claimed progress towards the education for all goals was being undermined by a failure of governments to tackle broader inequalities based on income, gender, location, ethnicity, language, disability and other markers of disadvantage. The report also noted dire circumstances in the East Asia region. According to the most recent statistics, 51 percent of out-of-school children in the region were boys, although in Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Macau (China) and East Timor, the majority of “missing” school children were girls. The report added that the possibility that out-of-school children might eventually attend school was also gender-skewed in the region, with 88 percent of boys expected to enroll late, compared with 67 percent of girls. According to the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, there are about 8,000 schools in the Kingdom with 3.4 million students. But a survey released by Save the Children Norway in December 2007 found that as few as 138 out of 1,000 students who enrolled in the first grade would go on to complete primary school in Cambodia.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Khoun Leakhana
Wednesday, 17 December 2008

The UN's millennium goal of ‘education for all' by 2015 looks set to fail, prompting education specialists to urge the government to restructure policies around more realistic standards

AS SCHOOL dropout rates continue to rise amid reports that the United Nations' millennium development goal of "education for all" by 2015 is impossible, education specialists are urging the government to take a more realistic approach to the Kingdom's ailing school system.

"The objective of education for all, which is a mechanism for promoting the completion of primary school education for all children in the world by the year 2015, will not be successful in Cambodia," Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association, told the Post Monday.

He said the government's pre-election promise to promote informal education - known throughout the country as "The people who know more teach the people who know less" - to help achieve the millennium development goal of education for everyone has failed to correctly identify the root cause behind low pupil turnout and high dropout rates.

"We know the reason for this failure in Cambodia. It is the poor implementation [of education policy] by the government, which makes children's dropout rates increase year to year," he said.

Rong Chhun said the government needed to take a more pragmatic approach to education funding rather than using the loftiness of the informal system as an excuse to avoid change.

"The Cambodian government should work on policies to reduce the dropout rate of Cambodian children by building more schools, fulfilling the demands of teachers [and raising salaries], supplying learning materials to children and reducing poverty," he said.

"The informal education system that the government has created has gone through no change. It is just a promotion to make the government look good. [Implementation] at the moment is nothing different from what has already been practiced," he said.

A Unesco global monitoring report released earlier this month warned that the UN's millennium objective was likely to fail in developing countries.

The report re-estimated that by 2015 up to 29 million children in the world would still not have the chance to go to primary school.

" The objective of education for all ... will not be successfull in cambodia. "

We'll meet goal: Govt
Chey Chab, secretary of state for the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, said that it was pessimistic for groups to dismiss the goal set by governments.

"The UN and other NGOs have the right to evaluate education in the world," he said. "But I would like to say that no matter how many reports by NGOs evaluating education in the world saying that we cannot succeed with this goal by 2015, the government will still promote this policy."

Chey Chab reaffirmed the government's use of informal education and questioned the ethics of those criticising it.

"Before responding to the statement that the government creates the informal education in order just to look good, we want to ask them, what is their attitude towards the government? We try to improve things, but they try to hinder the implementation of our policies," he said.

"We believe that what the government has done about informal and formal education policies since 2001 has been positively contributing to education up to now. So, although Cambodia is not 100 percent successful in the education sector, it reaches near success," he added.

Situation remains dire

Kong Santhara, program manager of local NGO School for Life of Education Support, said that the situation on the ground continued to look dire.

"Since 2005, we have conducted research into education in three of Cambodia's provinces: Kampong Cham, Kratie and Ratanakkiri. The result of the research shows that the dropout rate of children is still high when they reach the labor force age," she said.

According to the research, about five percent of children in the three provinces had dropped out of primary school, and there were only 150 schools and 14 junior high schools in the three provinces.

"We also found that eight percent of children do not go to school and are not educated at all because they are orphans, minority groups or very poor," she said, adding that a lack of teachers was the biggest problem.

"For the three years that we have conducted research, there have never been enough teachers in some areas of the countryside," he said.

Opposition pledges to go it alone

Photo by: HENG CHIVOAN
Parliamentarians in the National Assembly on the first day of debate last week.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Meas Sokchea
Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Both the SRP and the HRP have announced they will not seek appointments to Assembly committees, saying they are concerned their right to speak will be limited by the CPP

MEMBERS of the opposition Sam Rainsy Party and the Human Rights Party this week announced they would not seek appointments to parliamentary committees for fear that their right to express dissent would be further hindered.

Mu Sochua, deputy secretary general of the SRP, said appointments to committees would provide no advantage to the opposition party, but would rather stifle an important voice of opposition.

"We will not participate in committees," she told the Post. "We will stay outside because if we don't, we will not be permitted to complain.

"She blamed the ruling Cambodian People's Party for trying to silence opposition parties in Parliament and said her party would not abandon the HRP at a time when the government was trying to further marginalise them.

During last week's National Assembly debate on the 2009 budget, the HRP's three lawmakers were prevented from participating under a clause that prohibits parliamentarians who are not affiliated to a bloc of at least 10 voting members from speaking.

"Parliamentarians must have the right to express their views even if they don't have the required number of voting members. Otherwise, we lose all checks and balances," Mu Sochua said.

Silenced in parliament

HRP Secretary General Yem Ponharith said Monday his party's greatest concern is the ability to address Parliament.

"We have rejected the idea of joining committees. What is important for us is to be able to express our views. Now, we have no right to speak. We are required to have 10 party members if we want to speak," he said.

He added that the HRP would not seek alliances with other parties as a way to satisfy parliamentary regulations.

"If we join with [other parties], we will lose our identity as a party and provide political benefits to others, who will simply announce that we have endorsed their agenda by joining them," Yem Ponharith said.

He added that being outside parliamentary committees would hamper the party's ability to get information about legislative agendas.

CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap told the Post Monday that opposition groups have a right to choose not to join committees.

"We do not force them to enter committees. Whether they enter or not is up to them. We just want them to think about the absolute majority of the CPP. They have enough rights to speak," he said.

He added that Parliament simply wants the HRP's three parliamentarians to join with other parties that they support in order to satisfy Assembly rules.

"If they do not join with other parties in order to achieve the 10-member requirement, they will continue to face parliamentary regulations," Cheam Yeap said.

Govt optimistic over appointment of new Thai PM: Minister

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Neth Pheaktra and Brendan Brady
Wednesday, 17 December 2008

But civil society leaders say that Cambodia is simply wasting time negotiating with a succession of powerless Thai governments

WHILE the newly selected premier of Thailand, opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva, had criticised his country's ruling party for allowing Cambodia to list Preah Vihear temple as a UN World Heritage site in July, the Cambodian government insists the change will not reshape the border talks, which they say have always been rooted in past treaties and not in the personalities of the negotiators.

"The border demarcation is purely a technical problem. The PAD politicised it, not the Democrat Party," Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said, distancing the new premier's party from the mobs of the anti-government People's Alliance for Democracy movement that has led six months of disruptive and, at times, violent protests to oust the ruling party, and had sent protesters to the border to lay claim to Preah Vihear temple.

While he acknowledged that the new government "will have a tough time dealing with the (border) issue", he said they could not deny the existing treaties in place to support Cambodia's claims.

Union leader Rong Chhun, who has been a vocal critic of the government's hands-off approach in negotiations with Thailand over the disputed territory along the shared border, said the time to abandon bilateral talks was long overdue.

"I've requested that the government stop negotiating with the Thai government. We will just lose a lot of time trying to negotiate with the new government. The Cambodian government must send a new letter to the United Nations' International Court," he said.

He also suspected the new premier's Democrat Party of involvement in the PAD's protest against Cambodia's ownership of the 11th-century border temple, despite there being no formal links between the groups.

" I've requested that the government stop negotiating with the Thai government. "

But Thun Saray, the president of local rights group Adhoc and a regular commentator on social and political affairs, said without crippling resistance from PAD protesters, the new administration should prove a more able negotiating partner.

He also pointed to the newly approved Asean charter, which some say will give the bloc, often dismissed as toothless, greater clout in brokering disputes in the region.

"Only if the new regime blocks the negotiations, then it will be time to bring the case outside Cambodia."

Pending approval by the Thai king, which officials expect will happen in the next few days, 44-year-old Oxford-educated Abhisit Vejjajiva will become the country's third prime minister in four months.

The office of prime minister in Thailand has been a veritable rotating door this year, limiting the chance of any resolution being reached on its disputed territory with Cambodia.

Stepping out of the shadows: one woman's victory over violence

Photo by: ELEANOR AINGE ROY
Maly sobs as she remembers her abusive marriage, from which she eventually escaped.

The anti-domestic violence campaign in Battambang
Volunteers at Boeung Chhouk market caused a stir among the hordes of motodops and early morning shoppers, many of whom sought out the volunteers to request information and a white ribbon. Many women in the crowd said they hoped the leaflet would change things – with places to call for help and advice about how to control your anger – and many men were willing to talk openly about why domestic violence may occur. Yun Savong, 42, a motodriver, said he thought the campaign was a brave way to tackle the problem. “Domestic violence occurs because people are poorly educated, illiterate, drunk and they don’t think about the impact to their family and society. I hope this campaign will wake people up.” Later that night by the river, more than one hundred volunteers walked the streets campaigning as a local youth theatre group performed skits about domestic violence. As darkness fell, a candlelight vigil was held for the victims of domestic violence and dozens of people, including 69 monks, sat on the grass to watch the spectacle, sending a strong message to perpetrators that violence against women is not acceptable.

The Phnom Penh post

Written by Eleanor Ainge Roy and May Titharra
Wednesday, 17 December 2008

A campaign last week sought to transform public attitudes to domestic violence, inspiring Maly, a Battambang resident who escaped an abusive marriage, to tell her tragic story

BATTAMBANG

When Maly was 17, she was married to a man she didn't love. Having lost her parents to the Khmer Rouge, Maly was married off by her aunt and grandmother, who were afraid she would become pregnant if she followed her dreams and went to the city to study nursing.

To avoid this shame, they paired her up against her will, and threatened to cut her off if she did not agree to their demands. Her husband was also forced into marriage, his parents believing Maly had "good heritage", or good blood.

"My husband was in the military, and he was not a good man. He was very handsome and many women wanted him. I was not beautiful, and when we walked down the street together, men would shout out to him: ‘Your wife is so ugly! Why do you have such an ugly wife when you are a handsome man?' People said that we were not equals."

Shortly after Maly's first child was born, her husband began beating her. Rapes also became commonplace. The abuse happened mostly when her husband had been drinking, but he would also fly into rages if Maly could not provide him with money or food.

Maly thinks the wine provoked these attacks, as well as her husband's low level of education. She says he didn't care about his family and he didn't care about the future.

"I would try to defend myself, but I was thin and weak from lack of food, and when he was raping me, he would slap me hard and make me faint. I begged him to stop but he would not."

Events came to a head one night in 1989 when Maly and her husband got into a fight over money. By this time Maly had endured ten years of marriage with her abusive husband and had borne him four children, all of whom were young and still in need of care. Money and food were scarce in the family, and life was a constant struggle.

"We were arguing about money, and he said I was a bad women and Pol Pot killed my mother because of me. I said you can insult me, you can hit me and hurt me, but don't you dare insult my mother. She was innocent. She didn't do anything wrong."

Maly's tears began to flow freely as she recalled the final beating that ended her marriage.

"I was bending over stirring the rice, and he came up behind me and hit me with a stick over my head. CRACK! I fell to the kitchen floor and was unconscious. When I awoke, I heard my youngest daughter's voice crying. She was just a small baby, and she was pressing herself against my body trying to get to my breast for milk. I couldn't open my eyes and I couldn't move my body. All I could do was talk to her ... I just kept saying, ‘I want to stay alive to see you but maybe not, maybe I will die now.'

A quarter of women affected

According to a government report released in late November, violence against women is on the rise in Cambodia, with almost one-quarter of all women suffering abuse at some point in their lives.

" I was bending over stirring the rice, and he came up behind me and hit me with a stick over my head. CRACK! I fell to the kitchen floor. "

The report stated that the growing consumption of drugs and alcohol by men was fuelling the increase, but a culture of passivity among women was compounding the problem, with many refusing to report abuse.

In 2005, the government passed the Law on Domestic Violence and Prevention of Victims, but human rights group Licadho says it has failed to be widely enforced, due in large part to inadequate wording, which does not specify which authority is required to take action to protect victims.

Leu Somaly, deputy director of the Women's Affairs Department in Battambang, said this year there have been 320 reported cases of domestic violence, which is down slightly from last year.

"Most of our work in the women's department is going out into the provinces and directly talking to people about domestic violence. We can help victims by removing them from their homes, and we have a safehouse where we can take them. We can also help them with divorce proceedings if they need it."

Maly managed to crawl to her neighbour's house, and they took her to hospital, where the doctor expected she would be permanently impaired from the injuries to her head and back. Today, she still has to take pills for her head injuries. Otherwise, she feels dizzy and sick.

Escaping abuse

Maly's children were cared for by her aunt while she spent two months recovering in hospital. When she was well enough to leave, she filed for divorce from her husband - on the grounds that he would kill her if she stayed - and moved her family to Battambang, where her one remaining brother lived. Her two other brothers had drowned earlier in the year while trying to flee as refugees to Australia.

From 1990 to 1993, Maly and her small family lived as peasants, first with her neighbours and then with her brother's family. But she says she was despised by anyone that took them in because her children were dirty, sick and ill-fed.

In 1993, Maly's life changed. She said she got a job cleaning the hotel rooms of UNTAC workers in Battambang and met a rich man who fell in love with her. She said he offered her a lot of money to sleep with him - US$2,000 - and she took the money.

"I didn't want to do it, but I thought it was the best way to care for my children. What I did is a great shame for Cambodian women, [but] I thought I was lucky to have this opportunity to care for my children."

She said the man was very kind to her and she fell deeply in love with him. And for the first time in ten years, she was happy. But his wife soon discovered the affair and her lover took flight.

"I would come home from work every day and ask my children, ‘Has he come to visit me?' And every day they would say to me, ‘No Mother, he never comes.'"

When recalling the memory, Maly's tears fall as fast as when recalling her abusive marriage, and it seems her lost love is the hardest pain of all to bear.

Breaking the cycle

Last week in Battambang, NGO groups, government ministries and individuals came together to campaign for an end to violence against women. Early on the Friday morning, over 70 volunteers took to the streets, brandishing white ribbons, information leaflets and a desire to talk.

Ali Avery, one of the coordinators of the event, said the purpose of the march was to raise awareness and instill a sense of personal responsibility among the community.

"I think one of our major aims was to get people to ask themselves, What can I do? We wanted to start a discussion on this topic, which is not often openly talked about. We also wanted some of our volunteers - young teachers and activists - to get training in organising large-scale events like this."

Preah Vihear book to be published

Photo by: HENG CHIVOAN
Preah Vihear temple has become the subject of a soon-to-be-released book.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Titthara
Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Renowned scholar Ros Chan Trabot traces the ancient and modern history of the famed site

A BOOK detailing the long history of the Preah Vihear temple complex has been completed and will be published in January, its author told the Post on December 3.

Prasat Preah Vihear, by historian Ros Chan Trabot, will begin with the construction of the temple and follow its history until the present time.

Ros Chan Trabot, who is also vice president of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said he has conducted in-depth research on the temple since 2001. The author says he was attracted to the topic by the temple's former importance as one of the Kingdom's hubs.

"In the past, Preah Vihear was the middle point of Cambodian land and was a centre of religion, history and politics," he said.

About 5,000 copies of the first edition of the book, which is nearly 400 pages, will be published in January and will sell on the market for between US$6 and $7 per copy, the author said, adding that he would like to see the book distributed as widely as possible.

"If we get support from the government to print more copies, I will distribute them to all ministries, departments and schools because we want to make sure it reaches readers' hands," he added.

You Bo, vice president of the Khmer Writers' Association, told the Post he expected the book to reflect the author's scholarly experience.

"[Ros Chan Trabot] is a man who has strong experience in research, so what he has done will be very interesting and true," he said.

"The book will be very important for younger generations because they will be able to know the real story of Preah Vihear temple, and it will encourage them to love their nation," he added.

Sex workers flocking to Ratanakkiri

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sam Rith
Wednesday, 17 December 2008

THE number of sex workers in the isolated province of Ratanakkiri has risen sharply, hotels managers and health officials there say, during a year in which police in urban centres launched aggressive and often violent, campaigns to wipe out street-based prostitution.

"They [sex workers] moved to Ratanakkiri from Phnom Penh and other provinces where their careers were banned," said Lanh Ra, who heads the government's HIV/Aids program in the province.

"They moved here because so far in Ratanakkiri there has not been any action by the police to punish - directly or indirectly - sex workers. I haven't seen any brothel or karaoke club closed."

Increased HIV risk

He said the rise in the numbers of sex workers has also exposed the province's residents to increased risks of contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

"Already, we've noticed a ten percent increase in the number of people living with HIV/Aids compared to the number last year," he said.

According to Lanh Ra, all of the province's residents infected with the virus were either sex workers or their customers. He said his health office had stepped up sex education in the area in order to prevent increased transmission in the province.

Mer Veasna said the number of sex workers meeting customers at the Sesan guesthouse he manages in the province's capital, Banlung, has doubled - a trend also observed by Keo Vey, the manager of the nearby Kimorakat Hotel. Most of the new faces, they said, had recently arrived from nearby provinces or Phnom Penh.

In February this year, a new US-backed anti-trafficking law came into force. The legislation seeks to stop human trafficking by criminalising the sex industry as a whole, leading to police raids across the capital. Many observers have condemned the raids, saying they have given the police licence to rape and rob vulnerable sex workers.

Agriculture chief tells youths to stay put and learn to farm better

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Participants at a CEDAC-sponsored conference on leadership on Monday.
The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Khouth Sophakchakrya
Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Minister Chan Sarun says unemployed youths should improve farming skills rather than seek migrant work across neighbouring borders

YOUNG people must strive to learn and practice better farming techniques to avoid becoming migrant workers in neighbouring countries, the minister of agriculture said Monday.

"We all need to learn more skills in agriculture to improve our families' living standards. It is much better than leaving our farms and crossing the border for jobs," Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Chan Sarun said at a workshop organised by the Cambodia Centre for Study and Development in Agriculture (Cedac).

"Currently, the agriculture sector is stepping up to help boost GDP by around three to five percent, as the garment, construction and tourism sectors are in decline due to the global finance crisis," he told a lecture hall packed with 240 agricultural workers from 17 provinces at the National Education Institute.

He cited the example of the remittance-dependent Philippine economy and that of North Korea, where 12 percent of GDP annually comes from migrant labourers, saying this had cost them a skilled domestic workforce and social security.

"Our country has millions of hectares of agricultural land waiting for us to develop, so we do not need to find a job outside our country. We only need to develop more agricultural skills," he said.

Unemployed youth

Yang Saing Koma, president of Cedac, said out of Cambodia's estmated population of 14 million, around 300,000 youths enter the job market each year. But only 70,000 of them find jobs.

"Government-created jobs for youths rely on Cambodia being attractive to investors, but many foreign companies demand skilled employees, meaning thousands of youths face unemployment every year," he said.

Cedac has been running agricultural training courses since 2006 that aim to encourage unemployed youths to become skilled farmers, return to their communities and spread this knowledge, Yang Saing Koma said.

Meoun Nim, 27, a participant from Kampong Cham province, told the Post he uses his knowledge to train farmers in his village.

"Now my family can get better results on their farm than before I started with Cedac," said Moeun Nim.

Bookings tumble in provincial tourist hubs

AFP
Tourists at the Angkor Wat ruins in Siem Reap. Hotel operators outside of Phnom Penh report fewer bookings than last year.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sam Rith
Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Hotel and guesthouse operators in formerly busy provincial tourism spots say rooms are empty as travellers stick to the capital in hard economic times

DESPITE government assurances that the Kingdom's tourism sector remains strong, hotel and guesthouse owners in Cambodia's popular provincial destinations say bookings have dropped as much as 80 percent over last year's numbers.

Operators cite the global economic crisis, political turmoil in Thailand and territorial disputes along the Thai-Cambodian border as the leading causes behind their empty rooms.

Mer Veasna, manager of the Sesan guesthouse in Ratanakkiri province's capital Banlung, said room bookings plummeted nearly 70 percent from last year.

"Our bookings started to drop in April. [Tourists] do not come to Ratanakkiri because they are scared about the situation along the border with Thailand," he told the Post on Monday.

A supervisor at the Ratanak Hotel in Ratanakkiri who asked not to be named said he did nearly 80 percent more business last year.

"It is very quiet this year. There are many days when I get no customers at all, while last year I had five to six guests per day," he said.

Even hotel operators in Cambodia's most popular tourism hubs say fewer travellers are booking accommodations.

Chem Vicheat, office manager at the Golden Sand Hotel in Sihanoukville, said the number of foreign guests at his hotel has declined 30 percent from last year.

"The drop in our guest bookings was the result of the global crisis and the closing of Bangkok's airports," he said, referring to sit-in protests at Thailand's Suvanabhumi and Don Muaeng airports by the anti-government People's Alliance for Democracy, which led to the closure of both airports last month.

A staff member at the Angkor Hotel in Siem Reap - Cambodia's most popular tourist destination - said the 192-room hotel last year reached 50 to 60 percent occupancy. But this year's has remained below 40 percent.

The growing number of hotels in Siem Reap has made it harder to fill rooms, he added.

"As the number of hotels and guesthouses increases, we have to compete much harder [for business]," said the staff member, who asked not to be named.

Kong Sophearak, director of the Statistics Department at the Ministry of Tourism, said the ministry has yet to calculate the exact number of new hotels, but he estimated that tourism destinations such as Siem Reap and Sihanoukville have each seen three or four new businesses opened.

He said there were 395 hotels and 891 guesthouses operating throughout Cambodia last year, accounting for a total of 32,033 rooms.

He added that while this year's international arrivals have remained steady, most of them were no longer travelling to the provinces. "They mostly stay in Phnom Penh," he said.

Battambang's battered buildings


PHOTO BY ELEANOR AINGE ROY, INSET IMAGE SUPPLIED
This French colonial house has been earmarked for preservation by the Battambang District Administration . The drawing (inset) by the administration’s Master Plan Team is the start of that process.
The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Eleanor Ainge Roy and May Titthara
Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Preserving Battambang's architectural past is key to protecting its tourism future

BATTAMBANG, Cambodia's second largest city, is home to some of the finest French colonial-era buildings in the country.

This rich architectural heritage is a legacy of the northwestern city's importance as a regional administrative centre and a vital link between Phnom Penh and Thailand during the period of French rule from 1863 to 1953.

While views on the benefits or otherwise of French rule inevitably remain mixed, few disagree that the city's nearly one million inhabitants have done well out of France's attention to architecture and urban design. The city's wide boulevards, grand gardens and sweeping alleys of trees make the city an attractive place to live and visit.

Battambang district Governor Uy Ry is well-aware of the importance of the city's colonial French architecture to tourism in the city, particularly the simple French shophouses that flank the edges of the Sangke River, which flows through the centre of town.

"There are 800 good examples of French colonial architecture in Battambang province, most of which are shophouses or flats," he said.

"It is very important that we preserve their original style both for tourists and students who want to conduct research on this style of architecture.

"The Battambang District Administration is leading the preservation effort, dividing the city's examples of French colonial architecture into two categories.

Almost 800 properties have been listed in the "Important" category and are considered to be of utmost priority for conservation. Another 40 have been listed in the "Secondarily Important" category.

As part of the conservation effort, the administration has initiated a number of regulations relating to the preservation of French colonial architecture in the city, including a ban on owners making changes to the exterior of protected buildings. Interior renovations are permitted.

The Battambang District Administration has also recently begun receiving aid from Germany and the EU to help preserve and restore the houses.

Uy Ry says conservation is of utmost priority. "Recently the owners of these French colonial houses have started thinking about their value and realising that, if they are willing to protect them and keep them in good condition, they can potentially make a profit," he said.

Khoun Vanthat, whose family has long lived in a French colonial house in the city, is among those waking up to the economic potential of her home. "When I was a child, I didn't want to live in this house because it was too old," she said.

" One of the biggest problems is a lack of awareness about the cultural and economic heritage value of these buildings. "

"But as I grew up I came to realise the value of it. Many tourists like to see the house, so I am now happy to live here. But it is badly damaged, and I am worried that in five or 10 years I may lose it as I don't have the money to repair it in the same style."

Long road ahead

Walter Koditek, who is working as an urban planning adviser to the city for the German Development Service [DED], said the majority of colonial-era houses in the city are in poor condition, mainly due to a lack of regular maintenance.

"A lot of heritage buildings from the French-era are in rather poor condition, but this does not mean they cannot be renovated, as the buildings' substance and structures are generally very solid."

However, renovation must be done carefully. Today, economic progress rather than neglect is the greatest threat facing the buildings, as private owners undertake renovations and updates themselves, often making a mess of the original structure.

"The major changes have appeared with economic development and investment done by the owners - mostly small-scale businesses - during the last ten years," Koditek said.

"Furthermore, some public buildings in prime locations have been sold or swapped, and the administrative heritage buildings are under serious threat of being demolished for new developments. Some are gone already."

There were two main obstacles to preservation, he said. "One of the biggest problems is a lack of understanding and awareness about the cultural and economic heritage value of these buildings among the public and officials in Cambodia. Everyone is focused on the Angkor temples.

"The second challenge was the lack of a specific law for urban heritage buildings and ensembles, he said. "The existing regulations are too general, and they are not properly implemented."

Koditek said a draft regulation for heritage conservation was prepared years ago by the Ministry of Land Management Urban Planning and Construction but was never passed into law.

Local action

The future of the city's architectural history is now in the hands of the Battambang District Administration, which has delegated responsibility to its Master Plan Team, with support from the central government, the European Union and Koditek's DED.

The team, which was originally charged with working on spatial planning issues in Battambang, is made up of 10 to 12 officials from district offices and some provincial departments. It began paying attention to conserving the city's rich urban architectural heritage just last year.

The group has already begun its work under Koditek's supervision, surveying the buildings in the old city centre with a view to designating the area as a conservation zone for the preservation of colonial buildings.

A survey has also been carried out on the old provincial hall, and a Battambang Heritage Calendar will be released in 2009 to raise public awareness. A heritage seminar is also scheduled for next year.

Bol Chantrea, a receptionist at Moon guesthouse, said the success of the preservation effort would be critical for the tourist industry.

"I am worried about the French colonial houses because some are damaged and soon more will be damaged," he said. "If the authorities do nothing, we will have a problem."

Pig shipment set to boost local production: company

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
One of the pigs imported from England that is hoped to help boost Cambodia’s pork production.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Hor Hab
Wednesday, 17 December 2008

With breeding programs and massive processing facilities in the works, Cambodia’s pork industry is going large-scale

CAMBODIA'S small-scale pork industry may be set for an overhaul, with large-scale breeding programs and factory-farm projects in the works.

The arrival of 150 breeding pigs from England on Monday, coupled with planned factory farms and processing facilities, are part of what sources say is an unprecedented change in the industry.

The Mong Reththy Group, which is set to import three more shipments before February, said it hopes to boost local production and quality.

The pigs will initially be used for breeding to increase pork supplies while curbing illegal pig imports from neighbouring countries.

"We won't sell or distribute [the pigs] to any farms for selling in the market until we breed 2,000 or 3,000 more," said Tann Monivann, the group's vice chairman.

The company announced the plan in September, saying it would invest US$5 million to buy 600 male and female breeders to boost domestic supplies.

"The only solution for meeting local pork demand is to import breeders and distribute them to local pig raisers," Mong Reththy told a meeting of the Swine Business Forum on September 11.

Cambodia consumes 7,000 pigs per day - 1,600 in Phnom Penh alone, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

The government allows imports of up to 800 pigs daily, principally from Thailand, but many more are smuggled from abroad.

In October, the Mong Reththy Group said it had finished building a $1 million quality-control facility on five hectares of land in Phnom Penh with a capacity to inspect 10,000 imported pigs per day.

Later that month, the company said it would invest another $4 million in a state-of-the-art slaughterhouse and processing facility that meets international sanitary standards.

The facilities would be equipped with imported German machinery and are slated to open next year.

The Cambodian Pig Farmers Association said it is pleased with the new arrivals.

"I think the price of piglets and pigs will drop if there are more competitors in the market," said Srun Pov, adding that the program will benefit large numbers of people.

However, he said that illegal pig imports remain a serious problem for the industry.

"If the government does not crack down on smuggling, it will kill the local pig farmers," Srun Pov said.

He said the pork industry is slowly consolidating and that small farmers with less than 30 animals may be driven out of business.

Local farmers supply about 30 to 40 percent of the market, down from 50 to 60 percent before illegal imports gained a foothold.

Factory farming

Meanwhile, the Thai Betagro Group announced on the weekend plans to build a $4.5 million pig-breeding farm in Cambodia next year and an $8.5 million animal-feed plant in the next two years.

The farm would be capable of raising 2,000 animals, and the feed plant would have a capacity of 6,000 tonnes per month, according to a report in the The Nation.

Betagro expanded into Cambodia three years ago and exports 2,000 tonnes of animal feed to Cambodia every month, the report said.

NGO fetes 15th school it's built in Cambodia

Class act: Students wave flags during the completion ceremony of a new school built by AMATAK House of Cambodia in Pingpong village, Battambang Province, last January.
COURTESY OF AMATAK HOUSE OF CAMBODIA

The Japan Times
By ALEX MARTIN
Staff writer
Fourth in a series

Ever since its founding in 1995, Tokyo-based nonprofit organization AMATAK House of Cambodia has been dedicated to building schools and promoting better education in the poverty-stricken Southeast Asian nation.

Under the direction of the Rev. Fumio Goto, founder of the organization, AMATAK has so far built 14 elementary schools throughout Cambodia, and a 15th, a school in Poytasek village in Banteay Meanchey Province, will hold a completion ceremony on Jan. 26.

"With our limited number of staff members and funding, building one school per year is the best we can currently do," Goto said, noting some of the education facilities funded by AMATAK are now more than 10 years old and are in dire need of maintenance.

"The locals have low cash income, and the municipalities are very poor," forcing them to be overly dependent on our help, Goto said, expressing concern that starting next year, the NGO might have to direct its activities toward repairing schools instead of building new ones.

This year, AMATAK received ¥178,119 from the 2007 Japan Times Readers' Fund — support Goto says is "very, very important for us."

"We need to be careful that we ourselves don't become too dependent on contributions," Goto laughed.

It's not only the building of schools that AMATAK is involved in.

Goto recalled how he was overjoyed when he visited Cambodia in August and met a girl AMATAK saved from child prostitution.

"She had just finished elementary school when we first met her," Goto said, "and her parents were about to sell her off as a prostitute."

AMATAK prevented this from happening, and helped her attend junior high and high school. Goto said she began teaching at one of their schools in September.

"I told her to let us know if she encountered any other children who might be facing similar hardships. We are here to help them," Goto said.

AMATAK plans to invite a Japanese violinist to perform for the new school's completion ceremony in January.

"We couldn't find a piano anywhere in the village to accompany the violin, but the violinist told me that wasn't a problem," Goto said.

"He said he'll play Bach's 'Unaccompanied Violin Sonata,' " Goto continued. "When I asked him whether that won't be too complicated for the children, he said they'll understand the beauty of the music whether it be the first time they've ever listened to a violin."

Clare pharmacist to volunteer in Cambodia

Clare pharmacist Tim Siv will spend six weeks in Cambodia, packing his suitcase with items such as tooth brushes and tooth paste which he will donate to local families overseas.
Fairfax Media.
17/12/2008

Clare pharmacist Tim Siv will spend six weeks in Cambodia working in orphanages and schools during the Christmas holidays.

Mr Siv, whose parents fled Cambodia when he was three years old, will return to the town of his birth to give back to his former community where he also plans to build a playground for local children.

And he won’t be travelling light - planning to pack his suitcases with toothbrushes, tooth paste, tennis balls and other useful items which are normally in short supply in that country.

“It’s something I have always wanted to do (return to Cambodia) in terms of giving back,” Mr Siv said.

This is where my heritage is and it will be a big experience for me. The house I was born in is still there,” Mr Siv said.

Although this will be a personal visit for Mr Siv he will participating in local aid work, teaching English and undertaking other community work.

“I just hope to make an impact on someone’s life while I am over there,” he said.

Kate Miller-Heidke rocks historic Angkor Wat

Kate Miller-Heidke.

Brisbane Times.
December 17, 2008

Australian pop singer Kate Miller-Heidke has performed at an historic concert against human trafficking at Angkor Wat temple in Cambodia.

About 1200 fans attended the first rock concert ever held at the ancient site set in the Cambodian jungle on December 8, which was organised by anti-trafficking campaign group MTV Exit.

Miller-Heidke was the only Australian artist on the bill, which featured rock group Placebo, US singer Duncan Sheik and various Cambodian bands.

The 27-year-old Brisbane singer received one of the biggest cheers of the night for her operatic cover of the Britney Spears hit Toxic.

She described the concert as amazing and humbling.
"The setting was magical and timeless," Miller-Heidke said.
"As soon as the music started, all these Khmers came out of the forest and were dancing under the stars.

"While we were doing sound check, about a dozen Buddhist monks in their saffron robes were peering out of the temple at us, curious about what was going on. It was utterly surreal."

MTV Exit, in partnership with music channel MTV, is holding a series of high profile concerts around South East Asia to raise awareness among possible victims of human exploitation.

"I was shocked to discover there are more slaves today than have ever existed throughout history - not thousands but millions of people are being forced into sex slavery and slave labour," Miller-Heidke said.

"I felt extremely moved watching the other bands play in that amazing setting for such an important cause.

"It was humbling to be there and I will never forget the experience."

AAP

Number of Vietnamese Visitors Jumps

By Chiep Mony, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
16 December 2008

The number of Vietnamese tourists visiting Cambodia jumped nearly 75 percent in the first ten months of 2008, coming in at No. 2 for the first time in 15 years, officials said Tuesday.

The 176,600 Vietnamese visitors, up from 102,577 in the same period last year, was second only to the number of Korean visitors, 234,880, according to figures from the Ministry of Tourism.

Attributing the increase to improved Cambodian infrastructure and Vietnamese livelihoods, Tourism Minister Thong Khon said Tuesday most visitors went to Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.

Trinh Ba Cam attributed the rise to “a situation in Cambodia where there is enough stability and peace.”

The rise in Vietnamese visitors also parallels the rise in Vietnamese investment in the country, mainly in agriculture, hydroelectricity, telecommunications and banking.

Overall, Cambodia’s tourism sector—the second-most important engine for the economy—saw more than 2 million visitors in 2007, bringing with them $1.4 billion in revenue.

Aid Money Urged for Development

Kuoy minority community representatives, from left: Sok Heng, of Oddar Meanchey, and Ruos Han, of Kratie province

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Original from Washigton
16 December 2008

The $1 billion in foreign aid promised to Cambodia earlier this month should go into the hands of the people and their communities, addressing government policies, a community leader said Monday.

“Poverty reduction is not what the government’s policy is,” said Sok Heng, a minority representative from Oddar Meanchey province, as a guest on “Hello VOA.”

Joined by Ruos Han, a Kuoy minority from Kratie province, Sok Heng urged the government to undertake better studies of land and forest concessions before handing them over to private businesses.

Land theft and disputes have emerged as a continuous problem in Cambodia in recent years, with minority groups especially hard hit, and both men urged the government Monday to use the foreign aid to develop communities to help alleviate it.

“Where more development occurs, that’s where people are facing difficulties,” Sok Heng said.
“Without the preservation of our natural resources, our minority community cannot survive,” Ruos Han said. Without such resources, minorities have a very difficult time surviving, because they don’t engage in typical businesses, he said.

After nearly 15 years of development, Cambodia remains heavily reliant on foreign aid for its operations, and donor countries and agencies were especially forthcoming with funding this year.

Both men said Tuesday that money does not reach its targets and is often hard to track. Money for infrastructure, schools, clinics, seed, canals and other agriculture was needed, they said.

Day in pictures

A Cambodian farmer, left, throws a bunch of rice to the other site during the rice harvesting season at Beung village, in Kandal province, 25 kilometers (15 miles) north of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. About 85 percent of the population of 14 million people are rural dwellers.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

A Cambodian mother does laundry as a girl stands nearby on a wooden bridge a long the Tonle Sap River bank as her mother, center, washing cloths in the early morning on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, Cambodia.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

A Cambodian soldier is seen at the crest of the Chuor Phnom Dangkrek Mountain in this October 16, 2008 file photo. Cambodia's government has slashed its proposed military budget for 2009 after the International Monetary Fund questioned the big increase it had announced, officials said on Monday.REUTERS/Adrees Latif/Files

Bird Flu

A girl feeds a chicken at her house on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. A 19-year-old Cambodian who ate dead poultry has been confirmed with H5N1 bird flu, the country's first human case in more than 18 months, the World Health Organization (WHO) and government said on Friday.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

A vendor checks her grilled chickens on a street in Phnom Penh. A 19-year-old Cambodian who ate dead poultry has been confirmed with H5N1 bird flu, the country's first human case in more than 18 months, the World Health Organization (WHO) and government said on Friday.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Seng Sopheak, infected by H5N1, rests at Calmet hospital in Phnom Penh. The 19-year-old Cambodian who ate dead poultry has been confirmed with H5N1 bird flu, the country's first human case in more than 18 months, the World Health Organization (WHO) and government said on Friday.REUTERS/Stringer (CAMBODIA) BEST QUALITY AVAILABLE