Saturday, 27 December 2008

Christmas in Thai

Thai transvestites dancers watch tourists on Patong Beach in Phuket, Thailand, on Christmas Day, Thursday, Dec. 25, 2008. Recent political unrest in Thailand coupled with a global economic slowdown has damaged the tourism industry with many hotels reporting cancellations.(AP Photo/David Longstreath)

A Thai vendor smiles as she sells roses in Phuket, Thailand, on Christmas Day, Thursday, Dec. 25, 2008. Recent political unrest in Thailand coupled with a global economic slowdown has damaged the tourism industry with many hotels reporting cancellations.(AP Photo/David Longstreath)

Tourists look on as Thai transvestites dance in Phuket, Thailand, on Christmas Day, Thursday, Dec. 25, 2008. Recent political unrest in Thailand coupled with a global economic slowdown has damaged the tourism industry with many hotels reporting cancellations.(AP Photo/David Longstreath)

Independent Appeal: 'I was shunned for disability, now I'm shown respect'


A farmer whose legs were blown off by a mine is rebuilding his life with the help of a charity in Cambodia. Paul Vallely reports

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Ou Sarin was 43 when both his legs were blown off. You have probably never heard of the war in which it happened. Look in the record books and you won't find anything about minefields being laid in Cambodia as recently as 1991. It was just one of those small local wars – between a group of rebels whose cause was lost in the midst of history – and government troops.

When the fighting was over in the fields where Mr Sarin grew maize and rice, the departing government soldiers told him: "Don't worry. All the mines have been 100 per cent cleared." But they hadn't.

It took 24 hours for his friends to carry him from the village of Kamnop to the nearest hospital in Takeo province. By the time he got there the doctor had no other choice than to amputate both his legs, one below the knee, the other above. Because he also had severe malaria he was kept in hospital for two months. He told his relatives to sell all his oxen and his wife sold her gold jewellery. Between them they raised $2,500 (£1,700). It just about paid the hospital bill.

He returned to his village in a battered old wheelchair given to him by the hospital. "When I got back there was a big change in how everyone treated me," he recalls. "No one wanted to speak to me. I was shunned. Everyone treated me as a burden."

Worse than the ostracism was the mockery. The villagers gave him the cruel nickname "the Frog" because of his posture. "They said that all frogs were good for was eating." Cambodian drinkers like grilled frogs to eat while drinking alcohol. The disdain became so bad that, combined with his sense of shock at the condition in which he now found himself, he decided to kill himself. "I would have done it many times but my wife was strong and counselled me and built the strength in me."

For the first year his wife ran the farm. "All I could do was help clean the rice after the harvest and put it in sacks." But he was determined to keep on. From his wheelchair he began to plant trees – 20 mango, 15 jack fruit, 30 lemon trees. But, despite all his efforts, he could not make a success. Then, four years after the explosion which took his legs, an aid worker came to the village and suggested that he go away to a rehabilitation centre for people with disabilities, to get some training. He learnt how to repair motorbikes and afterwards returned to Kamnop to set up his own one-man business.

"I had a lot of customers but they would only come to me when they had no money," he says. "They asked for credit, but they never paid the bills. They felt they could cheat me because they knew that I would not be able to catch them to get the money."

For Mr Sarin the turning point came with the arrival of workers funded by Action on Disability and Development (ADD) which is one of the charities being supported by this year's Independent Christmas Appeal. They taught him that he had rights under Cambodian law as a disabled person. ADD also offered to fund a scheme which had been germinating at the back of his mind since he first went to the training centre. "Until I went there I had never met another disabled person. I thought I must be the only one who had to live like this," he recalls. "I developed a plan to go to all the villages around Kamnop to find out whether there were other disabled people like me."

But he had lacked the confidence to set out to fulfil the plan. ADD gave him that confidence: "My son began to give me a lift on his motorbike to other villages." ADD expanded Mr Sarin's initiative and three other disabled people joined him in what it now calls the "counterpart" programme. "We now have joined up 294 disabled people in three different communes in 22 self-help groups," he says.

That work has been replicated elsewhere, thanks to ADD. The counterpart programme now reaches hundreds of disabled people – and educates local officials, teachers, council staff and community and religious leaders about the rights of disabled people. The status this has given Mr Sarin with the local authorities has rubbed off on the people in his village. "Today I am treated with respect. People have listened to me for the first time. They have begun to think what life must be like for someone with a disability. Attitudes have really changed."

Southeast Asia reflects on tsunami's anniversary

Western tourist and others gather to light candles during remembrance services at Dolphin Park on Patong Beach in Phuket, Thailand, Friday, Dec. 26, 2008, on the fourth anniversary of the Asian Tsunami.More than 230,000 people were killed when the tsunami struck Dec. 26, 2004.

Dec 26, 2008

BANGKOK, Thailand (Map, News) - Scientists thought it would take a decade for Southeast Asia's coral reefs to heal after 2004's deadly tsunami but they said Friday that Indonesia's reefs have bounced back with surprising speed, restoring livelihoods to countless small communities.

The findings came as communities across the Indian Ocean remembered the disaster that struck Dec. 26, 2004 with prayers, songs and tears. About 230,000 people were killed in a dozen countries when a magnitude 9.0 earthquake triggered the tsunami.

Surveys of coral reefs after the tsunami showed that up to one-third were damaged and experts predicted it would take a decade for them to fully recover.

Scientists from the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society, working with the Indonesian government and the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, said their examination of 60 sites on 497 miles (800 kilometers) of coastline along Indonesia's Aceh province showed the reefs were bouncing back.

"On the 4th anniversary of the tsunami, this is a great story of ecosystem resilience and recovery," said Stuart Campbell, coordinator of the Wildlife Conservation Society's Indonesia Marine Program.

"Our scientific monitoring is showing rapid growth of young corals in areas where the tsunami caused damage, and also the return of new generations of corals in areas previously damaged by destructive fishing," Campbell said in a statement. "These findings provide new insights into coral recovery processes that can help us manage coral reefs in the face of climate change."

Healthy coral reefs are economic engines for Acehnese communities, Campbell added, supplying fish to eat and sell as well as tourism dollars from recreational diving.

The tsunami decimated coastlines across the Indian Ocean, wiping out villages, killing entire families and crippling the economies in parts of Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Thailand.

The United Nations estimated that Aceh alone lost $332.4 million ($1,599/ha) from the loss of its reefs to the destructive waves.

But four years on, the multibillion dollar rebuilding process is almost complete with more than 120,000 homes built in Aceh alone and the reconstruction of tourist hotels and restaurants along Thailand's Andaman coast.

Thousands gathered Friday to celebrate the progress but to also remember the dead and reflect on a tragedy that turned their lives upside down.

"I don't think people will ever forget the tsunami. It changed a lot of people's lives," said Alisara Na-Takuatung, a local Phuket radio disc jockey who took part in a ceremony on Thailand's Patong beach attended by 200 people.

About 50 Buddhist monks prayed while school children played traditional Thai instruments.

"I know people who lost their husbands, their kids. Those people won't forget about the tsunami," she said. "They will see it as a lesson. You think about what you can do for others."

Ibrahim Musa, a 42-year-old civil servant who joined thousands in a prayer service in the hard-hit Aceh province of Indonesia, said it feels like yesterday that his family was taken by the sea.

"Even after four years, I cannot forget how I lost hold of my wife and baby," he said. "I have tried in vain to look for them for three years. Now I have no choice but to accept their departure as destiny."

Siti Hasnaini, 40, who still lives with her two sons and husband in a temporary shelter in Aceh, prayed "for my daughter who was washed away with my house."

In India, where thousands also perished, interfaith prayers and a moment of silence were held. The Sri Lankan government declared two minutes of silence for the 35,000 people killed there as well as other victims of natural disasters.

The healing trend embraced by those devastated by the tsunami has extended to the reefs with communities responding to calls to protect them from illegal fishing, pollution and coastal development.

Campbell said citizens have been particularly responsive in Aceh where fishermen have stopped using illegal techniques like dynamite and villagers have transplanted corals into areas that were hardest hit.

"The recovery, which is in part due to improved management and the direct assistance of local people, gives enormous hope that coral reefs in this remote region can return to their previous condition and provide local communities with the resources they need to prosper," Campbell said.

Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, a reef expert from the University of Queensland in Australia who did not take part in the study, said the findings were not surprising since corals typically will recover if not affected by fishing and coastal development.

"The mechanical damage from the tsunami left a whole bunch of shattered corals on the bottom of the sea," Hoegh-Guldberg said.

"Left alone, these things can quickly grow back into what looks like a coral reef in a short time," he said. "We are seeing similar things around the southern Great Barrier Reef where reefs that experience major catastrophe can bounce back quite quickly."

John Bruno, a reef expert from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, agreed saying it shows coral reefs are able to recover after severe disturbances.

"There has been so much bad news about coral decline lately, and the threats to corals seem to increase every year. It is important to recognize that these invaluable ecosystems are not lost," he said in an e-mail interview. "We just have to implement some common sense policies locally and substantially reduce emissions of greenhouse gases at a global scale."

Nixon's Cambodian Shock Treatment


Weekend Edtion
December 26-28, 2008

"Just Bomb the Hell Out of Them"


I recently stopped in at a Cambodian restaurant that I have been going to for many years. Although eating the food for which a particular group is known is perhaps the most superficial of ways to communicate with people, I found myself involved in small talk with the people who staffed the restaurant on this particular winter day in Providence, Rhode Island. The young men and women who staffed the business were indistinguishable from those of their peer group. They were about my children’s ages. They spoke of their families, the holiday, and their dislike for the annoying reality program that played on the television meant to “entertain” those waiting for take-out orders.

When our conversations ended, I thought of the events of long ago that propelled me to become a war resister. The incursions of Richard Nixon into Cambodia in April 1970, purportedly to stop the flow of troops and armaments traveling down the Ho Chi Minh Trail from North Vietnam into South Vietnam, unleashed consequences that even Nixon could not have foreseen, but needed to avoid. National Security Archive transcripts just released relate interchanges between Richard Nixon and his Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Regarding the dropping of millions of pounds of bombs on Cambodia by the U.S., Nixon responds to Kissinger: “That shock treatment [is] cracking them. I tell you the thing to do is pour it in there every place we can…just bomb the hell out of them.”

Mass demonstrations broke out spontaneously on campuses across the U.S., students were killed at both Kent and Jackson State Universities, and I decided that I had had enough and became a resister to the war. The attacks inside Cambodia weakened the government of that country and hastened the murderous regime of Pol Pot that resulted in the massacre and torture of over two million people. The governments of the world, knowing the lessons of Hitler’s Holocaust, did little or nothing to stop the carnage!

In the early 1990s I asked one of the owners of the same restaurant about a jar placed next to the cash register in the establishment that bore a label about an agency working to support relief efforts in Cambodia. The owner spoke about her family members who had been killed during the Cambodian genocide.

What is the record of superpowers and world governmental organizations coming to the aid and stopping holocausts in the contemporary era? Holocausts and genocide are not to be confused with “traditional” warfare that kills millions, but rather according to the United Nations (1948):

“any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, national, ethnic, racial or religious group, including: (a) killing a member of the group (b) causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group (c) deliberately inflicting on the group on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part (d) imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group (e) forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

Few are ever brought to justice for carrying out genocide. The history of modern holocausts, contemporary with, and just prior to, the Nazi Holocaust that killed 6 million Jews include:
Bosnia-Herzegovina: 1992-1995- 200,000 deaths; Rwanda: 1994- 800,000 deaths; Pol Pot in Cambodia: 1975-1979- 2 million deaths: Rape of Nanking: 1937-1938- 300,000 deaths; Stalin’s Forced Famine: 1932-1933- 7 million deaths; Armenians in Turkey: 1915-1918- 1.5 million deaths (The History Place, 2000).

Added to the above are the more than 400,000 deaths in Darfur cited by the Coalition for International Justice, a nongovernmental agency working for the U.S. Agency for International Development (The Washington Post, “Darfur’s Real Death Toll,” April 24, 2005). Even in the present, the fact of a holocaust seems to draw attention for a short period of time and then fades from consciousness, both personal and official. The conclusion is that humanity hasn’t become any more advanced or humane in the 21st century in dealing with international crises and wars since the barbarian hordes of the ancient world!

For many years I worked with a woman in public schools who was instrumental in finding housing in Rhode Island for refugees as they entered the U.S. from Cambodia and resettlement camps outside of Cambodia. Her work made a lot of sense to me. It seemed more practical than my resistance to the Vietnam War had been, but people do what they can given their immediate circumstances. That the world, governments, international organizations, and international laws have become little better at preventing mass murder against a particular group is of grave concern to those who value peace.

Howard Lisnoff teaches writing and is a freelance writer. He can be reached at

Real Estate Crunch Hits Local Banks

By Ros Sothea, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
26 December 2008

Nearly every morning over the last few weeks, owners of construction companies around Phnom Penh have gathered at their sites, looking sadly on under-constructed homes they've been unable to sell. These investors worry constantly over how to collect the large sums they need to pay back loans they made for real estate investment.

Experts worry that this inability to repay loans on large mortgages will lead local banks into their own economic crisis, echoing the global downturn that was itself caused by the failure in part of the US housing market.

Nearly 50 percent of Cambodian real estate investors, from almost 20companies, depend heavily on borrowed money from local banks, which had until recently provided them with great benefits in a booming sector, real estate agents say. But after the global financial crisis,the price for land and houses in Cambodia fell dramatically.

Somaly, who owns a self-named company, told VOA Khmer recently she owed the banks around $500,000, which must be paid back at the end of the year. Unfortunately, she said, she can't even pay the interest,about $5,000 per month.

"A lot of houses got stuck [and] can't be sold because there are many sellers and no buyers," said Somaly, who only gave one name. "If so,how can we find the money to pay them back?"

Investors like Somaly worry that their properties will be seized by the banks if they have no money to pay the interest.

Equity loans rapidly emerged at the end of 2006, as several large commercial banks competed with each other for investors. Land prices were high and rising, and by the end of 2007, property development loans reached $100 million, according to statistics gathered by the National Bank of Cambodia.

The market slowed in 2008, with a sharp drop in the final quarter, and investors will face collection from the banks in the first four months of 2009.

"Those who used bank credit, they now have no choice," said Sung Bunna, head of the Bunna Realty Group. "That will cause our land market even more silence."

In such a climate, economists worry that banks will not only fail to collect debt but can ruin their own credit in the process, as they collect confiscated property instead of cash.

Kong Chandararoth, president of the Cambodian Institute of Economic Study and Development, said banks in Cambodia could face a financial crisis if they couldn't get their loans back in cash.

"If [investors] are not unable to pay back the banks, mortgaged property will be confiscated," he said. "So the banks will face theirown financial crisis, because what they get back is not liquid cash."

"There will be a problem," said Sam Genthy, a banking expert at the Royal University of Law and Economics and former adviser to the National Bank. "We'll wait and see what happens. If the bank can't find resources to replace their ruined credit, they will suffer."

Economists worry Cambodia's banks will suffer the same fate as US and European banks that offered up nearly 100 percent of their credit to real estate loans and are now bankrupt, despite a regulation put out by the National Bank in July that permitted only 15 percent of total credit to be loaned to real estate borrowers.

Stephen Higgins, chief executive officer for ANZ Royal bank, said his bank had been insulated from the crunch through the selection of valued customers.

"We have some loans, property development loans, but they are from very good customers who have plenty of cash flow," he said. "So for ANZ Royal bank, we don't have a problem."

However, representatives of other local banks confessed anonymously that some of their resources were already stuck with real estate loans in collection.

Tal Nay Im, general director of the National Bank of Cambodia, saidshe hasn't received any reports of crisis, but she said banks thatface market downturn difficulties will have to sort the problems forthemselves.

Should Royals Be Kept From Politics?

By Pin Sisovann, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
26 December 2008

The appointment of princes and princesses to positions at the Royal Palace, effectively removing them from politics while preserving the royal image, has generally been welcomed, but views differ on whether a law should be put in place to officially keep them out.

In general, many royal family members have decided to leave positions in political parties, as advised by former king Norodom Sihanouk, said Prince Norodom Sirivuth, but they should still be allowed to express their ideas for the national interest.

"I myself am delighted and congratulate seeing the royal families help the king and the monarchy with some work that is non-political," he said. "I believe for sure that the government would support this move,because royal family members should have some role to serve the nation outside of politics."

Prince Norodom Ranariddh, who had been the most politically influential royal outside his father, Norodom Sihanouk, recently recused himself from politics and was promoted by King Norodom Sihamoni to supreme adviser, with a rank equal to prime minister.

Aside from him and Norodom Sirivuth, 25 other princes and princesses have been appointed as royal advisers, said Prince Sisowath Thomico,himself an adviser to the king.

Nguon Nhil, first vice president of the National Assembly, hailed the appointments of royals away from politics as a good move, adding that the appointments were not initiated by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

"Maybe His Majesty wishes for royal family members to stay in a cycle out of politics," he said. "If they stay in politics, inevitably there will be clashes that will have an impact on the image of the monarchy."

A law defining the work of royals and the expenses for their work was not unreasonable, he said, as the number of appointments was increasing.

Hun Sen has already said he would support a law to bar royals from politics, Nguon Nhil said.

"If there is no clearly defined law, they could become a group practicing politics from within the Royal Palace," he said. "There should be something to define them, with such a definition to prevent princes and princesses from politicking, which could damage the images of the Sisowath and Norodom bloodlines."

Sisowath Thomico said the appointments did not mean that royals would stop serving the nation through other initiatives that were not directly competitive with politics. This natural turning point was better than creating a prohibition, which would run counter to a constitution that guarantees each citizen the right to political involvement, he said. Such a law would also be a waste of human resources, he added, as many royals have high levels of education.

"The present leaders of the nation should give a clear definition of what politics are," he said. "If royal family members take leadership roles in activities in culture, health, education and humanitarianism,are they practicing politics? If the government doesn't want us to do anything, they can just open a museum and put all the royal family members into it and just sell tickets."

Sok Sam Oeun, executive director for Cambodian Defenders Project, said creating a law to ban any group of people from politics would be unconstitutional. "It would be better to find a solution other than creating such a law," he said. "Another solution would demonstrate that our country is continuing on the path of liberal democracy."

Sisowath Thomico, meanwhile, said history showed that when Cambodiawas invaded by foreign countries, or underwent some kind of chaos, itwas the royal family, representing national unity and hope, that wasmost popular. That was not the case, he said, in a time of independence and peace.

Vietnam Donates Khmer Rouge Films

By Kong Sothanarith, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
26 December 2008

The Vietnamese government has agreed to hand over 16 documentary films about the Khmer Rouge to the Documentation Center of Cambodia, which help in the prosecution of leaders of the regime, officials said Friday.

The film donation marked a first among Asean countries in aiding the tribunal, which is preparing for the first trial of five jailed leaders in early 2009.

The films, which include English and Khmer language, were shot by Vietnamese soldiers between 1977 and 1982 and document several aspects of the regime: conditions for children, criminal evidence against Pol Pot in Prey Veng province, Tuol Sleng in 1979, the treatment of foreigners and the killing of Vietnamese nationals in Vietnam's Tai Ninh province.

"This is an indictment of war crimes," said Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center, as he prepared to travel to Hanoi Friday to pick up the films. "These documents are very important. They show a step forward in what was a clash between the Khmer Rouge and Vietnamese troops. And some of the documentaries are related to information that can serve as evidence that has not been use or analyzed yet."

Ethnic Vietnamese suffered heavily under the Khmer Rouge, and hundreds were killed in Tuol Sleng, the prison headed by Duch, who is scheduled to be the first leader of the regime to face trial.

"I think these documents will serve for research on the genocide of the past," said Trinh Ba Cam, a spokesman for the Vietnamese Embassy in Phnom Penh.

He did not comment on the reason behind the donation, but Youk Chhang said Friday it was likely due to the killings of Vietnamese soldiers and residents, as well as the independent nature of his documentation center.

Tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath said the films were "valuable for theevolution" of the courts, which have already used many of thedocuments gathered by Youk Chhang and his researchers over more theyears.

Pope: Christmas Greetings for the World Over


After reading a litany of the world's woes, Pope Benedict XVI added a lighter touch, reciting holiday greetings in 64 languages, including Latin, the Church's official tongue. (Dec. 25)

Queen Elizabeth II Gives Somber Christmas Broadcast


Queen Elizabeth II has delivered a somber Christmas broadcast, acknowledging the economic crisis and calling for people to show courage. (Dec. 25)

King Sihanouk: Ex-Cambodian king fighting cancer

In this Sep. 2, 2006 file photo, Cambodia's retired king Norodom Sihaouk, right, and former queen Monineath, left, greet well-wishers on their departure for China at the Phnom Penh International Airport, Cambodia. Sihanouk is fighting his third bout with cancer but is optimistic he will recover and return to his homeland from China, according to a message dated Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2008 on his Web site.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith, File)

In this Sep. 2, 2006, file photo, retired Cambodian King Norodom Sihanouk greets well-wishers before his departure for China from Phnom Penh International Airport, Cambodia. Sihanouk is fighting his third bout with cancer but is optimistic he will recover and return to his homeland from China, according to a message dated Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2008 on his Web site.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith, File)

Cambodia Is Not on the List of 27 Countries Receiving Drugs Against the Drug Resistant Most Serious Tuberculosis of the World - Friday, 26.12.2008

Posted on 26 December 2008

The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 592

“Phnom Penh: The director of th the National Center for Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control said that Cambodia is excluded from a list of 27 countries of the world with cases of drug resistance related to the most serious tuberculosis, but there are 30 people dying quietly per day in this country.

“The director of the National Center for Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control, and an advisor of the Ministry of Health, Dr. Mao Tan Ieng, telling state and private service providers during a workshop on Thursday morning that, according a new report of the World Health Organization, 27 countries of the world with high numbers of patients with drug-resistant tuberculosis, Cambodia is not among those countries.

“He added, ‘Tuberculosis drug resistance is most devastating; it kills human quietly.’

“He went on to say that in Cambodia, there are between 1.2% and 1.3% of the patients that have drug-resistant tuberculosis, and around 5 to 6 people get infected by tuberculosis per day. At present, 50 to 60 patients with drug-resistant tuberculosis are receiving treatment, and there is still medicine left for curing 100 patients with drug-resistant tuberculosis. He said also that per year, Cambodia has between 400 and 500 patients with drug-resistant tuberculosis.

“He continued to say that drugs to treat a [normal] tuberculosis patient costs US$20 to US$30, while drugs for a drug resistant patient are US$5,000, when the drug is bought from specific organizations. If the national program and the government want to buy it from this chanel, they have to get the permission from the Green Light Committee in Geneva/Switzerland. If one buys from the outside, around US$30,000 are needed to be spent to buy drugs for a patient with drug-resistant tuberculosis.


As the article does not mention why Cambodia is not on the list of the Green Light Committee - whether it applied and was rejected, or whatever may be the reasons - we quote here from a document of this organization.
One point seems to be crucial: To receive Green Light Committee support, it is necessary to have a strict control of the procedures to apply the drugs - because otherwise the sickness will become more severe.


“Controlling multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) is one of the six components of the WHO Stop TB strategy

“Although prevention must be the highest priority for TB control programs, many countries have patients with drug-resistant TB who must be treated too. Such countries should take specific measures to gradually incorporate appropriate strategies for treatment of this form of tuberculosis into their tuberculosis into their Misuse of second-line anti-TB drugs results in further resistance to these same second-line drugs, creating incurable forms of tuberculosis
“It is imperative that second-line anti-TB drugs are used wisely.

“The WHO Guidelines For The Programmatic Management Of Drug Resistant Tuberculosis (hereinafter referred to as the Guidelines) provide recommendations for appropriate management of drug-resistant TB so as not to generate further drug resistance. To help programs develop and implement strategies for the management of drug-resistant TB, the Green-Light-Committee for Access to Second-line Anti-tuberculosis Drugs (Green Light Committee) was created by the WHO and its partners in January 2000.

“The Green Light Committee consists of six to seven experts in programmatic, scientific, clinical, and microbiological aspects of TB that serve the WHO in an advisory capacity. The Committee is responsible for reviewing applications,evaluating proposed projects,assisting applicants,monitoring approved projects, and contributing to the evidence base for the programmatic management of drug-resistant TB. Each individual and his/her alternate represent a leading public health institution active in TB control internationally. Each institution is allowed one vote, and the Green Light Committee freely consults outside experts as needed. All members are required to adhere to rules of conflict of interest and confidentiality and, thus, are recused for voting onapplications from projects with which they have or had a direct relation.”

“Treatment takes from 18 months to 2 years, while treating normal tuberculosis takes only 6 months.

“According to the National Tuberculosis Control Program, since the start of cooperation between state and private services from May 2005 up to the present, the program has been expanded to 11 provinces and cities covering 36 operational districts among the 77 districts of the 24 provinces and cities.

“Aiming at effient cooperation between the state and the private services to encourage research about and treatment for tuberculosis patients, Dr. Mao Tan Ieng said that in early December, Ms. Monica from the Green Light Committee in Geneva assessed the cooperation and found good results and some inactive program problems that need to be solved.

“An official of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) associated with the National Tuberculosis Control Program, Dr. Nishiyama, said that JICA supports the cooperation between state and private services that are cooperating to send suspected tuberculosis affected people to be checked and treated with public services of the state.

“He added, ‘Some patients go to discuss with private services, which have a very crucial role to find suspected people and send them to receive state services, so that all Cambodian citizens have good health.

“A Secretary of State of the Ministry of Health, a pharmacist, Mr. Yim Yan, said that tuberculosis infection is very high hazard. Therefore, the Ministry of Health created a policy to link state and private services. He continued to say that we see progress which demands more efforts, and problems faced that we will solve in this workshop.”

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.16, #4778, 26.12.2008
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Friday, 26 December 2008

Cambodia's Former King Has Cancer For Third Time - Web Site

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AFP)--Cambodia's former king Norodom Sihanouk has been diagnosed with cancer a third time, according to a message posted on his Web site.

The 86-year-old, who left for Beijing in July to receive medical treatment for another illness, wrote on Thursday that his Chinese doctors had found a new cancer, but he didn't disclose where it was.

Sihanouk has suffered from a number of ailments, including cancer, diabetes and hypertension.

Despite giving up his role as monarch, he remains a prominent figure in Cambodia who often uses messages to weigh in on matters affecting the country.

In his latest message he said the doctors, who had treated his two previous cancers, were optimistic about his treatment, saying the "current one is situated in a part of my body which will allow relatively simpler and easier treatment."

In another letter marked "confidential" but also posted on his Web site, the former king said his planned return to Cambodia in February would be delayed for treatment.

He said he will return when "my eminent (Chinese) doctors shall have healed me."

Sihanouk was first diagnosed with B-cell lymphoma, a cancer affecting blood cells crucial to the immune system, in 1993.

The cancer began in his prostate, and recurred in 2005 in his stomach.

Earlier this month Sihanouk said his health was deteriorating and hinted that he believed he didn't have long to live.

BBC drama aims to educate

Photo by: Photo Supplied
Scenes from the film The Village Nurse’s Charms.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Christopher Shay
Friday, 26 December 2008

The Village Nurse's Charms employs a compelling love story to provide viewers with useful tips on how to prevent malaria in Cambodia's rural areas

THE BBC World Service Trust released a 30-minute drama last week called The Village Nurse's Charms, which is aimed at educating Cambodians on how to better protect themselves against malaria.

In the short film, Samphors - a beautiful young nurse - returns to her village and finds herself caught in a love triangle between an ice cream salesman-malaria health volunteer and a handsome young actor. In order to compete for the love of Samphors, the smitten health volunteer will need to prove himself worthy. And, surely, his knowledge of malaria prevention will come in handy.

Entertaining education

"[The film] is very entertaining. It's important to create characters that people can relate to. It's not too dry and technical," said Vanessa Johanson, head of the project.

The film is part of a two-year project by the BBC World Service Trust that started in early 2008 and includes TV and radio spots aimed at educating Cambodians about malaria prevention.

Though none of the malaria-specific TV spots have run yet, prior BBC World Service projects designed to raise awareness about HIV and human trafficking have been deemed successful, according to Johanson.

One reason for Johanson's optimism about the project is the incorporation of audience research that has allowed the project to target specific knowledge gaps in malaria prevention.

"Our research has shown that there was a high usage of bed nets but not a high usage of treated bed nets, which are much more effective, and that's just one example," she said.

The film also focuses on teaching Cambodians that pregnant women and young children have low immunity to the disease and about the importance of taking a full course of unexpired medicines while avoiding dangerous cocktails of drugs.

Johanson said she hopes the film's theme song, "The Malaria Song", will prove to be a useful vehicle for education.

" [the film] is very entertaining ... it’s not dry and technical. "

Spreading the message

The film will be broadcast nationally seven times on TV5 and Bayon TV from March to May next year, just as Cambodia moves towards the wet season when anti-malarial measures are particularly important.

The film will also be distributed heavily in a workshop environment in Pailin, Battambang and Preah Vihear - provinces with high malaria rates - through provincial village health workers from the National Center for Parasitology, Entomology and Malaria Control.

Johanson expects people to learn how to take steps to prevent malaria while at the same time thoroughly enjoying the first-of-its-kind film.

"To my knowledge, there has never been a drama focused on fighting malaria before, so this is a very exciting time," she said.

Malaria is found throughout Cambodia, except in Phnom Penh and Tonle Sap lake region, experts say.

About 262,000 Cambodians are diagnosed with malaria each year, according to 2006 statistics from the World Health Organisation. Pregnant women, small children and men who work in the forests are particularly at risk.

Indian company eyes local pharmacy plant

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
A local pharmacist displays an assortment of imported medications. Many drugs on Cambodian shelves are imported knockoffs.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Kunmakara
Friday, 26 December 2008

The company hopes that producing high-quality pharmaceuticals in country will cut demand for counterfeit medicines imported from abroad

AN Indian investment group has tabled a plan at the Cambodian Chamber of Commerce to recruit private partners to build a new pharmaceuticals manufacturing plant in Cambodia, the body's director general, Nguon Ming Tech, told the Post.

He did not identify the investors but said they were prepared to devote up to US$1 million to the new facility in a push to curb counterfeit drugs in Cambodia.

"They are interested in this sector because they don't want to see Cambodia rely on imported drugs," Nguon Ming Tech said.

"Thousands of pharmacies in the country offer imported medicine, much of which is counterfeit."

Yim Yann, president of the Pharmacists Association of Cambodia, said Cambodia has about 1,000 registered pharmacies, with an additional 1,000 pharmacies operating illegally.

"I think a new pharmaceuticals factory will bring new technology to Cambodia and will be able to take advantage of local resources," he said.

"Presently, there are only seven local pharmaceutical factories, which can produce only basic medicine and which serves only about 20 percent of the population."

"A new factory must be able to produce specialised drugs. Otherwise, it will be of little use to us," Yim Yann said, adding that Cambodia spends nearly $100 million on specialised medicines each year.

Nguon Ming Tech said India is a leader in the manufacture of pharmaceuticals and that a facility to produce drugs locally would represent a significant developmental step for the country.

"The Cambodian Chamber of Commerce strongly supports the investment plan because it will improve health care in the country by allowing the production of locally made and safe medicines," he said.

"The Indian investment group wants to establish a partnership with local business people, and we are waiting to see their official proposal. Now, we are only helping to facilitate negotiations with relevant government ministries," he said.

Health Minister Mam Bun Heng said on Sunday that he welcomed investment in the pharmaceuticals sector but warned that any such plan must comply with foreign investment rules.

He said many kinds of medicines are available across the nation but acknowledged the benefits of a local manufacturing plant.

"If the proposed factory can produce specialised medicine for the treatment of heart and lung disease, cancer and liver ailments ... this would be very crucial for our country," he said.

He said curbing drug counterfeiting remains a priority for the Health Ministry.