Monday, 30 March 2009

Union to march for workers rights

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Vong Sokheng
Monday, 30 March 2009

THE Free Trade Union has announced it will hold a peaceful rally in Phnom Penh to demand the fair and legal treatment of recently fired garment workers. But union President Chea Mony said a date for the rally has not yet been set, registering concerns riot police will be called out to prevent the workers from gathering.

"Our rally aims to call on the government to enforce the law and for garment factory employers to treat all workers fairly," he said. "We do not know how many garment workers will participate in the rally, but we know that the there will be more than a few."

Chea Mony said that 17 representatives of the Free Trade Union were suspended from their job in September last year without proper cause, and that another 139 workers were fired between 2004 and 2008 without compensation.

"We found that there was discrimination against representatives in several garment factories, and the employers suspended our representatives because they want to cover up their abuse of the rights of workers in their factory," he added.

National Police spokesman Kirt Chantharith said Sunday that he was unaware about the union's plans to hold a rally.

"They can hold a rally, but they have to get permission from the municipal authorities," he said.

Social land concession given to Kampong Thom villagers

Photo by: Jess Bernhart
Local government officials handed over control of some 15,000 hectares of forest land to communities in Kampong Thom.



The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chrann Chamroeun and Jess Bernhart
Monday, 30 March 2009

Kampong Thom
NGO officials say move will cut down on deforestation and provide revenue opportunities to those caring for the land.

SOME 15,000 hectares of Kampong Thom forest were officially handed over Friday to local communities as a 15-year social land concession that development officials say will reduce exposure to deforestation and offer residents a new stream of income.

The agreement gives ownership of the land to 32 communities comprised of some 4,000 families. It represents the culmination of years-long negotiations between the government, NGOs and area residents.

Cambodia's forest cover has been severely depleted over the past couple of decades from large-scale logging concessions as well as pervasive illegal logging practices.

Development groups involved in the handover say forests in the hands of local communities have fared better than forests on public land or unregulated private land.

"[Villagers] have the most to gain and the most to lose from what happens to the forests they depend upon," said Yam Malla, executive director of Regional Community Forestry Training Centre. "They are the most willing and most able to invest time, effort and their considerable human resources to ensure the forest is protected and well managed."

The government says villages can renew the 15-year lease on the land.

The prakas establishing the community forests puts a five-year moratorium on any resource extraction from the land. Afterwards, villagers must propose sustainable commercial harvesting plans to the Forestry Administration for approval.

"The communities can harvest the forest's resources responsibly and in a sustainable manner, and can invest money earned in infrastructure projects such as education, irrigation, clean water and health services," said Yam Malla.

James Brampton, the centre's country director, is pushing for the land to be commercialised in fewer than five years so villagers do not have to wait so long for the income benefits to materialise.

If communities aren't seeing benefits, he argues, their motivation for protecting the forest will be weakened.

In his speech on Friday, Lun Cham, representing the 32 communities as Community Forest Management chairman, stressed that villagers must abstain from exploitative extraction if they are to be allowed to hold on to the land. Indeed, Ty Sokun, director general of the Forestry Administration, warned the villagers who break the terms of the deal by selling plots or engaging in resource extraction before the moratorium will have their land taken back and be punished in court.

Ty Sokun said the Kampong Thom concession could be the beginning of a much broader project. He promised a total of 2 million hectares of Cambodian forest to community forestry, although he did not specify a timeline. Such a plan would put 20 percent of the country's forests into the hands of local communities, according to Brampton, adding that currently the figure stands at just 3 percent.

Licadho urges action on Chi Kraeng clashes

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chrann Chamroeun
Monday, 30 March 2009

Villagers say they are being intimidated by police.

HUMAN rights group Licadho has urged the government to take action after four villagers were shot and wounded by police when a land dispute in Siem Reap province turned violent earlier this month.

"This was extremely serious violence against villagers committed by the government's armed forces, and it demands a strong response by the government," said Licadho President Kek Galabru in a statement.

"The police and other officials who committed this violence must be punished, and there must be a fair resolution to this land dispute."

Fifteen villagers gathered at the NGO's Phnom Penh headquarters on Friday to show what they say is a video of the shootings in Chi Kraeng district and to ask the government for help.

The clash followed a dispute over 92 hectares of farmland between two groups of villagers from neighbouring communes.

Licadho in a statement called on the Ministry of Interior to suspend Chi Kraeng district's Deputy Police Chief Srey Sam Ol, who the group said could be seen in the video firing the first shot, as well as a second policeman whom it said shot at least two villagers, pending an investigation into their actions.

Neither Srey Sam Ol nor ministry officials could be reached Sunday for comment.

Villagers, meanwhile, denied police claims that they had been carrying weapons.

Not carrying machetes
"We were not carrying machetes or wooden sticks as the authorities claim, and the video footage of the incident proves that," said village representative Thoang Sareith. "Their actions go against Prime Minister Hun Sen's speech saying to solve land disputes peacefully."

He said he was confident the government would help bring those guilty parties before the courts. But he also warned that villagers had been intimidated.

"Now we feel scared for our safety - we have received threats on our mobile phones, and the police patrol near our houses looking to arrest us, so we are afraid to go home," he said.

"We don't want an investigation after we've been killed - we want the government, NGOs and reporters to keep an eye on us and intervene."

Thoang Sareith said villagers wanted to be allowed to harvest their crops on the disputed land and that the nine villagers arrested by police be released.

Japan announces $40m for water treatment, demining

Photo by: HENG CHIVOAN
Finance Minister Keat Chhon at a JICA signing ceremony last Wednesday.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May kunmakara
Monday, 30 March 2009

Tokyo development agency to improve local demining capacity.

THE Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) announced more than US$40 million in development loans and grants, according to Minister of Economy and Finance Keat Chhon.

At a ceremony at the Finance Ministry on Wednesday, JICA chief representative Yoneda Kazuhiro pledged a $35 million loan for the government's Niroth Water Supply Project in Phnom Penh and a $5.5 million grant for an upgrade in demining equipment.

"This will be the first loan extended by JICA since the merging of the Overseas Economic Cooperation Operations of the Japanese Bank for International Cooperation with JICA, which has now become the sole development aid agency of the Japanese government," Keat Chhon said.

He said that the loan for the water supply project, which would upgrade water treatment facilities in Phnom Penh, would be supplemented by a loan of $20 million from the French Development Agency and a further $20 million from the Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority.

He said also that the demining grant was the fifth phase of such assistance from JICA, adding that from 1998 to 2004 Tokyo gave the Kingdom a total of $37.12 million for demining activities.

"Demining is a critical part of the government's effort to combat the legacy of war to reduce and eventually eliminate any further mine or UXO causalities," Keat Chhon said, "Many of the development projects cannot be carried out in a safe environment without mine or UXO clearance - mine action is a priority for the socio-economic development and poverty reduction of rural communities."

Kazuhiro said the demining grant aimed at improving the government's demining effectiveness, in order to achieve its target of clearing 427 square kilometres of the most heavily mined areas in Cambodia by 2012.

"We do our best to contribute to the development of Cambodia through these projects, based on the Rectangular Strategy and the National Strategic Development Plan of Cambodian government," he said.

Govt flunking vital indicators: report

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sebastian Strangio
Monday, 30 March 2009

Despite economic development, government spending on health and education still among lowest in developing world, group claims.

THE government's efforts to address patterns of deprivation and inequality are inadequate, according to a new report, which highlights "serious concerns" about the population's access to health, food, education, housing and potable water.

In a fact sheet released March 23, the US-based Centre for Economic and Social Rights said that, despite solid economic growth, the Kingdom lags behind in key economic and social indicators.

"Cambodia's GDP per capita continues to rise steadily. ... However, government expenditure on health and education is comparatively very low," the report says.

The report found that government expenditures totalled 3.5 percent of GDP - the lowest level of all low-income countries assessed - compared with 9.3 percent for Laos and 12.1 percent for Papua New Guinea.

Shelling out for health care
In addition, the report highlighted a "lack of government commitment" to providing needed health care, and noted that Cambodians spend more of their private income on medical treatments than people in other low-income countries. They paid a total of 5.8 percent of GDP for health care in 2006, compared with 4.5 percent in Vietnam and just 2.9 percent in Laos.

The report also commented on the decline in access to clean water and adequate housing, especially in urban areas where access to water has declined and four in five people live in substandard settlements, it said.

The group's fact sheet, prepared from local and international data sources, was released in advance of Cambodia's five-year report to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in May.

Education NGOs at risk from global crisis

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Robbie Corey-Boulet
Monday, 30 March 2009

A REPORT released earlier this month suggests that a growing number of education NGOs could soon find themselves scrambling to secure financial support, as backers re-evaluate their funding policies in response to the global economic downturn.

The NGO Education Partnership's (NEP) annual report, based on a survey completed by education NGOs in 18 provinces and Phnom Penh, found that an overwhelming majority - 78 of the 80 NGOs sampled - were "entirely dependent on financial support from their development partners" and thus "vulnerable to funding policy changes that will inevitably occur" as the downturn continues.

As of November 2008, when the survey was completed, 24 of the 80 NGOs "were still waiting for replies for 2009 funding", and two NGOs had been informed by their development partners that no funding would be available this year, the report said.

A lack of financial support was the most common challenge cited by NGOs involved in nonformal education activities.

Ly Somony, an undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Education, said Friday that he believed "maybe some small NGOs" would be affected by the crisis but that large ones would be able to continue operating at their current levels.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY MOM KUNTHEAR

Electricity exports expected by 2016, says govt official

Photo by: SebastiAn Strangio
Lorries are lined up at the construction site of Kamchay dam in Kampot province. The dam is one of a number of new hydroelectric projects that the government hopes will boost electricity supply in the Kingdom towards self-sufficiency by 2012.



The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chun Sophal
Monday, 30 March 2009

Cambodia will be ready to sell electricity produced at new hydroelectric dams by 2016, and should be energy self-sufficent by 2012, energy ministry says

CAMBODIA will start to export electricity in 2016 following the completion of a series of hydropower dams in the country's west and northeast, said a senior official at the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy last week.

Ith Praing, secretary of state at the ministry, said the country would sell 1,000 megawatts of electricity in 2016 and predicted that amount would increase in subsequent years as further hydropower dams were completed.

He predicted that the Kingdom would be self-sufficient in energy by 2012.

"The government is currently studying and building some big hydroelectricity dams in the north and east of the country along the Mekong, the Srae Pok River, and the Sesan River," he said.

"We expect to get 2,000 megawatts from these dams once they are completed in 2020."

He said the country currently uses a total of 400 megawatts, with three-quarters of that being consumed by Phnom Penh.

"From 2014, a total of five hydroelectric dams will be completed in the west of the country, and they will be able to generate 800 megawatts," Ith Praing said.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
What Cambodia has to do is persuade investors to come in and build more ... dams.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

A report from the ministry states that these dams are at Kamchay, Kirirom 3, the Attai River, Russey Chum, and Ta Tai River.

They are being built by companies from China and South Korea.

Victor Jona, deputy director general at the ministry's general energy department, also said Sunday that Cambodia would be in a position to export energy as it has substantial potential for hydroelectric power generation.

"Now what Cambodia has to do is persuade investors to come in and build more hydroelectric dams because the studies identifying suitable places for development have been completed," he said.

"The government is trying to balance the purchase and sale of energy with other countries in the region.

"Cambodia currently still has to import electricity - we buy 220 megawatts of energy from Vietnam along 13 transmission lines and 30 megawatts of energy from Thailand along eight transmission lines," said Victor Jona.

Regional cooperation
In 2002, Cambodia signed an intergovernmental agreement with Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, China and Myanmar that covers energy sales between the six regionally integrated nations.

Under the agreement Cambodia bought 150 megawatts to 200 megawatts last year, and will this year buy about 500 megawatts of electricity to fill the gap between what the country produces and what it needs.

Jona said the nation's energy needs were increasing by 10 percent to 15 percent annually, and that each kilowatt-hour of energy costs the nation $0.06 when imported from neighbouring Vietnam and Thailand.

Vietnam's energy ministry reported late last year that it will face a shortfall of up to 63 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) by 2015, and up to 226 billion kWh by 2020, and has begun discussions with Cambodia for future supply.

KRT corruption a 'cancer'

Photo by: ECCC/POOL
Former KR foreign affairs minister Ieng Sary's defence lawyer Michael Karnavas (centre) in court during a pretrial hearing.



The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Georgia Wilkins
Monday, 30 March 2009

The tribunal will achieve very little unless graft allegations are dealt with, says Ieng Sary's lawyer Michael Karnavas.

You were critical of the idea of a Khmer Rouge tribunal when it was first being discussed. As a lawyer for one of the [charged persons], do you still believe this is the case?
My primary objection back then - and it still stands today - is the fact that these trials will not deal with certain inconvenient truths, such as the responsibility of all actors involved in the events preceding and following the KR period. It is as if the process is being gamed to view and judge the period and events in the abstract, without any historical context. My belief ... is that a truth and reconciliation process similar to the South African model would be far more beneficial in getting to the historical truth and giving far more opportunities for those involved in these historical events to be heard.

These trials will fall far too short in determining what happened, let alone why these events came about in the first place and how might future generations deal with similar circumstances. Better to put the time, effort and money to better use.

How serious are the allegations of corruption levelled at officials at the ECCC?
If what is being reported in the press is true - and I say if, because we have yet to see the results of the investigations - this sort of corruption and the extent of it, as reported, would be in a class of its own. I think it is imprudent to simply suggest that this only deals with administrative matters and not judicial matters.

Those who are reported to be on the take or having to rent their positions by way of a shakedown mafia style have the ability to impact every level of the proceedings. If one has to pay to keep his position, then how can it be said that this very same person ... will not be subject to other pressures designed to achieve a particular result? If what is being reported is true, then the ECCC is suffering from cancer. The question now is whether there is a willingness to impose a regime of massive intervention to save the ECCC or simply allow things to persist to the point where the cancer becomes terminal.

Some argue that regardless of which individuals at the court have received kickbacks, the UN shares responsibility for revealing ... what these allegations are. How guilty do you see the UN in this saga?
The UN is all too quick to lecture about the rule of law, transparency and the need to have international standards. Regrettably, the UN at times behaves as if it is above what it preaches. The UN - which is an excellent institution and does an enormous service to humanity - is also a political institution and, as such, unfortunately, is overly sensitive to bad news.

In this instance, the UN would be better served if it came clean or risks being further tainted in this ongoing scandal. In the end, the UN may need to make a very hard decision: to stay with the ECCC and continue to fund it and actively participate in the proceedings from administrative to judicial, to cut its losses, try to preserve its name and reputation, and walk away.

You have criticised the UN's double standards when it comes to transparency in the past. Do you see the same pattern emerging here?
Yes. The UN should not be above scrutiny and criticism. The UN may be trying to take the necessary steps to get to the bottom of the corruption scandal, but it does need to be much more forthcoming; the sooner the better, especially given that we are dealing with a judicial institution.

Do you believe the court will leave behind a strong legal legacy?
It all depends on how the trials go! This is an exquisite opportunity for the Cambodian judicial system and legal profession to grow and develop. It is also a good opportunity to showcase a fair and transparent process which could go a long way in building confidence in the judiciary as a whole.

What is your greatest concern about the tribunal to date?
As with any other tribunal where I am involved in defending a case, my concern is whether my client can and will get a fair trial. Let's face it, all of the charged persons before the ECCC have already been found guilty in the court of public opinion. This, one can say, is a natural human reaction, which is why, of course, when an accused goes to court, it is expected that he will be tried by a detached panel of judges who will not be swayed by public opinion or pressures from outside forces - such as donor countries.

Finally, what, in your opinion, will the ECCC achieve?
I am afraid that unless and until the ECCC is cleared of this corruption scandal, very little will be seen to have been achieved at the end of the day. Justice needs to be seen to be done, and thus far, it is too early to tell if that is possible. There is a sense of urgency on the part of some of the donor countries to just get on with the trials, even if the process is flawed or tainted.

The problem with this myopic way of looking at things is that if the process is flawed the results are valueless. I cannot underscore enough that procedural justice is just as important - if not more important - than substantive justice - especially in a society where the rule of law is perceived ... to be a malleable commodity whose shape and form is dependent on situation, convenience and predestined results.

INTERVIEW BY GEORGIA WILKINS

Lenders see rise in bad microloans

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Microfinance lenders say the economic crisis is leading to higher rates of nonperforming loans in 2009. Last year, bad loans were just 0.67 percent of total lending.


The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Nguon Sovan
Monday, 30 March 2009

Cambodian microfinance institutions say economic crisis is taking its toll on the MFI sector and increasing the number of nonperforming loans to more than 1 percent

MICROLENDERS predict nonperforming loans (NPLs) will grow from 0.67 percent last year to more than 1 percent in 2009 as more borrowers struggle to pay their debts in an economic slowdown.

Even with the slowdown, some lenders say their total loans will increase in 2009 as demand for banking services grows.
That could lead to more asset seizures as lenders try to recuperate unpaid loans.

"Our major concern now is that nonperforming loans will go up," said Bun Mony, a member of the board of the Cambodian Microfinance Association (CMA) and chairman of Sathapana Limited. "We forecast that NPLs will increase to 1 percent or higher this year due to the economic downturn that is affecting our clients' incomes."

He said that his microfinance institution (MFI) Sathapana lent US$37.5 million last year to 37,000 clients and plans to increase that to $44.5 million this year to meet growing demand.

"The NPL rate at my MFI has increased twice since the start of this year, up from an NPL rate of 0.16 percent at the same time last year," he said.

"We project that bad loans at our microfinancer are around 1 percent this year."

More defaults
Chea Phallarin, general manager of microfinancer Amret, said Thursday that NPLs at his institution have increased over the last few months.

"Last year, NPLs were only 0.06 percent out of the $54 million in total lending - but since the start of the year, the NPL rate has increased sharply to around 1 percent," said Chea Phallarin. "For the whole year, it is forecast at 1.2 percent."

He blamed the troubles on the economic slowdown and the lack of a credit bureau, which allows some clients to obtain loans by misstating their finances.

Sim Senacheat, general manager of Prasac, with 97,000 clients, said Thursday that the NPL rate at Prasac during the first quarter of 2009 had risen to 0.5 percent, up from 0.28 percent last year.

"Bad loans are still controllable and we hope that they will stablise this year," he told the Post.

He said last year Prasac lent $60 million and plans to increase the figure to $75 million in 2009.

Bun Mony said microfinancers usually lend up to 50 percent of appraised collateral and said that bad loans will lead to more asset seizures.

Chea Phallarin said seizures of land and other assets only takes place after permission from the courts.

"Some of our clients have the ability to repay their debts, but they refuse to do so; we will sue them in court to seize collateral to clear debts."

"We only take clients to court if they fail to pay for between three and six months. This is a last resort," he said.

Sim Senacheat agreed that his institution has seized collateral such as land or houses to repay debts, but that it only does so through the court system.

"We do this when clients fail to pay and have defaulted for at least half a year."

Facing dollar uncertainty

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Trevor Keidan
Monday, 30 March 2009

The US dollar is facing intense scrutiny







What does the future hold for the United States dollar?

It's a topic that has been receiving a lot of attention in the press recently. There have been wild swings in the value of the dollar against some of the major currencies.

Two weeks ago the dollar posted its biggest one-day fall since 1985 against a basket of major currencies as the US Federal Reserve announced plans to try to revive the American economy by buying Treasury bonds. This sent alarm bells ringing, raising concerns that the Fed's action would lead to an oversupply of the dollar, which would trigger a sell off.

This was compounded by China and Russia calling for a drastic change to the global monetary system. Both nations have urged that the dollar be replaced by a single global currency.

Indeed Russia is intending to put forward a proposal for the creation of a new global currency to replace the dollar at the G20 Summit in London on Thursday.

But if you were to ask US President Barack Obama, for instance, he would tell you that the dollar will be the world's reserve currency for the foreseeable future.

Should the dollar remain the world's global reserve currency, which appears likely, then the theory is that it will be in even more demand. This will decrease supply and increase demand, and therefore its value remains high - and that's good for those of us holding dollars. It's not so good for exporting American companies.

However, there is another chain of thought that the US dollar could overheat and possibly crash as a result of unprecedented, excessive demand for the currency as a safe haven. This will obviously decrease the value - which is not so good for those of us with dollars but very good for US selling overseas.
______________________________

Trevor Keidan is managing director of Infinity Financial Solutions. To contact him, please send an email to tkeidan@infinsolutions.com.This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it Trevor welcomes comments and/or questions about his articles.

Siem Reap's giant puppets revive tradition, but with a modern twist

Photo by: Dave Perkes
Giant puppet of Hanuman, the monkey king, being paraded around Siem Reap Saturday night.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Kyle Sherer
Monday, 30 March 2009

The third annual giant puppet project is reviving the lost tradition of lantern puppets, with a parade of educational art pieces made by Siem Reap children in a series of workshops

Siem Reap


On Saturday night, a 15-metre long Siamese crocodile with a dozen children inside it staggered through the streets of Siem Reap before being strung up in the Royal Independence Gardens.

It was joined by larger-than-life artistic representations of a giant helmet, Hanuman the monkey king and a rocket ship - all part of the third annual giant puppet project.

The noisy and colourful parade featuring 10 giant puppets, 12 NGOs and 550 children snaked its way through Siem Reap's streets for an hour before ending in the grounds outside the Raffles Grand Hotel d'Angkor.

Puppetmaster Jig Cochrane said that, as well as being a lot of fun, this year's puppet festival had a serious goal - to revive the fading tradition of lantern puppetry.

"For thousands of years, lantern puppets have been a big thing in the East," Cochrane said.
"There's been a lack of that in Cambodia, which might have a lot to do with the fact that a lot of the artists were killed by the Khmer Rouge. It used to be part of the culture here and you don't see it anymore. But it's coming back."

The giant puppet project is a modernised version of the traditional lantern-puppet parade, although the flaming lanterns have been replaced by the more child-friendly alternative of fairy lights.

The puppets have been made by Siem Reap children in two-day workshops led by Cochrane, with the assistance of volunteers and apprentices from Battambang.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The project gives [children] a sense of achievement, pride and teamwork.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Simple goals
The giant puppet project was started in 2007 by Cochrane, Stuart Cochlin and Sasha Constable. Now Cochrane and Cochlin manage it, with an increasing help from the Battambang Phare Ponleu Selpak circus school, which they hope will eventually run the event.

Helping children with limited English to create and carry the puppets is a tricky process, but Cochrane said the goal of the operation is simple.

"My biggest aim is to find kids who've had a rough time and make them have a lot of fun. I really enjoy the kick kids get out of making something enormous and taking it to the streets and making people on the streets go ‘Wow'. ... The project we've made here really reaches out to kids at the bottom, and puts them on a platform where they are the centre of the attention, they're superstars. The project gives them a sense of achievement, pride and teamwork that they might not get elsewhere."

In addition to the puppets already mentioned, this year's procession included likenesses of painter Svay Ken, one of Cambodia's most celebrated artists who died recently; a giant catfish; a Sarus crane; dragon boats; flowers and several planets. And each puppet carried a message, said Cochrane.

"Every single puppet we make has an educational angle ... [The children want] to know who Hanuman is and what he is, and get excited about this great monkey king who's all over the temples," he said. "We want to teach the kids about endangered species in their country like the giant catfish. Tell them why it is disappearing. We're teaching children about the planets, because it's not on the school curriculum. And we built a big puppet rocket that children can fly around in, which is the fun part."

A giant motorbike helmet was also a big feature at the parade, and Cochrane hopes that it will save lives by making children remind their parents that wearing helmets is important.

"When people's sons and daughters are on the streets in a giant helmet, everyone will start thinking about it.

"Svay Ken was an artist who died recently, and we are celebrating his life with a piece of art - a big, giant Svay Ken puppet. Also we have dragon boats, which is part of Khmer culture. It's fun to get a lot of kids in puppet dragonboats, celebrating one of the greatest events that happens in Siem Reap - dragonboat racing."

The success of this year's parade has started Cochrane's mind buzzing with ideas for 2010. "I want it bigger, better, brighter, more fun, bigger things, more kids, more education, and to draw in more Khmer artists. I want to attract funding to pay local Khmers to make stuff for the carnival. I would love if we could spread the load between different artists, working in different places, who come together in more of a traditional carnival."

City switches off for Earth Hour

Photo by: TRACEY SHELTON
All lights out at Phnom Penh’s FCC for Earth Hour.


The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Michael Fox
Monday, 30 March 2009

Businesses around the capital, and the world, plunged into darkness Saturday night to show their support for Earth Hour and global action against climate change

If you had to eat in the dark on Saturday night you weren't alone, as businesses in the capital and around the world plunged into darkness to show their support for action against climate change.

The Hotel InterContinental, the Foreign Correspondents Club and Alley Cat were among the Phnom Penh locales that participated in Earth Hour, a global initiative where people turned off their lights between 8:30pm and 9:30pm in a symbolic gesture directed at world leaders.

Billed as the first worldwide election "between earth and global warming", the conservation group WWF-backed event, which is in its third year, aimed for a billion participants throughout the world.

FCC patron Terrence Hodges, from England, said he did not mind having to drink his beer in the dark.

"I think it's a great idea, especially in a place like [the FCC] that's got so much history," he said.

However, he had mixed feelings about whether climate change was caused by man or was part of the earth's natural cycle.

"Climate change is a good excuse for taxation, but I suppose if some of it goes towards climate change, that's good. I'd love the planet to be saved, I mean I've got children and a grandchild."

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
I'd love the planet to be saved, I mean I've got children and grandchildren.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Restaurant manager Benjamin Le Grand said nobody seemed to mind the hour-long blackout and most of the mainly foreign crowd had been aware of Earth Hour and the message behind it.

"They seemed quite OK to eat by candles," he said. "But we had some people come in and say they wanted some light, [and] then leave."

Earth Hour global spokeswoman Clare Treacy said that while Cambodia had not officially signed up, it was great to see local businesses participating.

"It will be fantastic if they come on board," she said, adding they hoped to see Cambodia sign up officially.

She said participation in Earth Hour, which began in Sydney in 2007, had been huge, with more than 4,000 cities and towns in around 90 countries involved - a target they had previously thought ambitious.

"It looks like [Earth Hour] really has gone off with a bang," she said.

The lights were out at famous landmarks around the world, including Big Ben in London, the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, the Empire State Building in New York and the pyramids in Egypt.

WWF intends to present the results at a conference on climate change in Copenhagen later this year, where governments will try to confirm a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, to which Cambodia is a signatory.

Unbeaten Laos win tourney

Photo by: JACOB CAWTHORNE
Laos flanker Sengchanpheng Ekasan (right, with ball) is tackled by Cambodian prop Chro Kim Seng during their international match Saturday in Savannakhet, Laos.
The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Ray Leos
Monday, 30 March 2009

In an exciting last match of the Asian 5 Nations Rugby tournament regional Southeast Asia series, Laos defeated Cambodia 8-3, scoring a drop goal and try in the last seven minutes

Savannakhet, Laos


LAOS winger Sengsourivong Paukham intercepted a pass deflected off the hands of Cambodia centre Lach Sopheara and raced 65 metres for the game-winning try with less than five minutes left, lifting hosts Laos to a 8-3 victory Saturday night over the Cambodian Koupreys in a thrilling finale of the HSBC Asian 5 Nations Series Southeast Asia Regional Rugby Tournament at the Savannakhet National Stadium.

With the win, Laos, which beat Brunei 28-8 earlier in the week, clinched the tournament championship. Brunei finished at one win, one loss while Cambodia went home winless.

The loss was the fourth straight test match loss for the Koupreys, with the side having not won an international rugby match for nearly two years.

It was a heartbreaking defeat for the Koupreys, who had led the favoured Laotian team for the majority of the match, which featured strong defensive play by both teams. It was also the third interception score against the Koupreys in the tournament.

"We outplayed them, and our defence was just great tonight," said Kouprey skipper Pich Ratana. "But all that doesn't really matter. We lost and that's what hurts."

A relieved Laos coach Ian Melhuish said his team was fortunate to come out with a win. "We made a lot of mistakes tonight, and they [Cambodia] really defended us well. It was a hard-fought game, and it shows how closely matched these teams are. It's a great rivalry and I expect it to continue in the coming years."

The fired-up Koupreys, who were attempting to rebound from their disappointing 21-10 loss Wednesday to Brunei, came on strong from the opening kickoff, shutting down the Laos running attack with some spirited tackling.

Centre Vannak Vireak opened the scoring just four minutes in with a penalty goal from 25 metres out, giving Cambodia a 3-0 lead. The rest of the match turned into an epic defensive struggle, as both teams moved inside the opponent's 5-metre line several times, only to be rebuffed by stout defending.

Laos flyhalf and English expatriate Chris Mastaglio, who last year led the Laos team to impressive victories over Cambodia, was unable to get much of anything going in the backline, as the inspired Kouprey defenders applied constant pressure in both the loose play and set pieces.

"Our defending was awesome," said Kouprey coach Peter Maley. "Our effort was 100 percent better than what we did against Brunei. He [Mastaglio] was looking flustered out there."

But the Kouprey offensive play was another matter entirely, as their backs were again unable to muster a consistent running attack.

"We had better phase play than we did against Brunei," Maley said. "We often moved through five or more phases of the ball. But unfortunately, we just couldn't finish it to get the score."

Those missed scoring opportunities ultimately proved to be the Koupreys' undoing late in the match as they turned the ball over on a missed pass near the Laos 10-metre line with ten minutes left to play.

The Laotians quickly took advantage as they drove inside the Cambodia half. After the Laos forwards drove further with a maul for another five metres, Mastaglio took the ball and made good on a drop goal from 34 metres out, knotting the score at 3-3 in the 73rd minute.

Cambodia answered quickly, getting the ball back off a lineout and then driving to the Laos 35-metre line. Vannak Vireak took the ball off a ruck and found a gap, with Lach Sopheara at his side.
Then disaster struck.

Vannak Vireak quickly fired a pass to his left, intended for Lach Sopheara. The ball bounced off Lach Sopheara's left hand and popped into the air, giving Laos's Sengsourivong the opportunity for the crucial interception.

Sengsourivong's try made it 8-3 Laos, but it remained that way as the normally reliable Mastaglio was unable to convert.

Cambodia had one last chance in the closing moments in another drive to the Laos 5-metre line, but an errant pass turned the ball over, and Laos centre William Luangrath was able to clear with a kick into touch for the final whistle.

Kouprey flanker Chey Sophal, while disappointed, said his team showed a lot of heart. "We had a very bad game against Brunei, but we came back, didn't give up and played hard tonight. That is a big improvement from last year's team."

Maley again praised the play of his youngsters, particularly wings Nheb Rotha and Bros Sophorn.

"Rotha and Sophorn were fantastic tonight" observed Maley. "They ran hard, didn't drop any passes, didn't make any silly passes, and they didn't cave in under pressure. These guys are the future of this team."

Cambodia next plays Laos in a friendly at Phnom Penh's Old Stadium on May 23.

Crown defend Hun Sen Cup

Photo by: NICK SELLS
Phnom Penh Crown manager Makara Be (front, green shirt) and goal-scrorer Keo Sokngorn (front centre) lift the Samdech Hun Sen Cup trophy while Oscar Mpoko (front left) flaunts the winners’ cheque for 60 million riels (US$14,640) with other teammates Saturday at Olympic Stadium, Phnom Penh.


The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Dan Riley and Robin Eberhardt
Monday, 30 March 2009

Cambodian football heavyweights Phnom Penh Crown successfully defended the Samdech Hun Sen Cup edging out fellow Casino-endorsed side Naga Corp 1-0 Saturday at Olympic Stadium

THOUSANDS of fans at Olympic Stadium witnessed local favourites Phnom Penh Crown defeat Naga Corp Saturday in a nail-biting 1-0 victory in the Samdech Hun Sen Cup final.

Security was ramped up a notch or 10 at the Olympic Stadium for the visit of Deputy Prime Minister Sok An and President of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Mohammed bin Hammam. Access to the main stand was restricted, forcing many fans to brave the unshaded sides of the stadium, which gave the ground a fuller and more colourful atmosphere. The central section of the main stand was awash with a sea of navy blue berets belonging to members of the military police, while supporters of the competing teams were also segregated; the red of Phnom Penh Crown on one side and and the white of Naga Corp on the other.

The game kicked off before the two dignitaries had arrived. They were presumably stuck in traffic while their decorated seats in the royal box remained empty during the first half.

A rousing crowd did their best to encourage the teams with fervent drumming and clapping in the opening minutes and were nearly rewarded when Crown's winger and national team star Chan Rithy found space just outside the area to shoot at goal. The strike had enough venom to trouble Naga keeper Choam Veasna into spilling, but fortunately a defender was at hand to clear.

Naga struck back with Mohamadou Ousmanou latching on to a loose ball that bubbled invitingly outside the box, but his left foot volley trailed just past the far post.

In the 15th minute, Naga's Meas Channa supplied a telling cross from a freekick on the left, but with white shirts queuing up to pull the trigger, Sun Sovannarith wasted the chance with a header over the bar.

Momentum was swinging from one team to the other, with both sets of players showing fighting spirit, tackling hard and leaving feet in the challenge. Naga captain Oum Thavirak especially was doing a sterling job patrolling the defence while keeping Crown's striker Jean Roger Lappe Lappe quiet with a commanding presence and clever positioning.

Chan Rithy was looking dangerous on the Crown left wing, making good progression in the final third, but was competently shut down by the Naga backline.

Naga's Sun Sovannarith was causing mischief in the middle of the park, often stealing the and ball befoe running through players with his quick feet. However, neither team could muster the extra effort to open the scoring and the half ended goalless.

Photo by: NICK SELLS
Deputy Prime Minister Sok An (left) and AFC President Mohammed bin Hammam watch the drama unfold Sunday.


Teams received their obligatory morale-boosting rants from managers during the interval and emerged with renewed vigour for the second period. Just after the restart, a smart cross from the right by Crown's Oscar Mpoko found an unmarked Srey Veasna, whose glaring miss was almost ignored by fans in the main stand applauding the belated arrival of Sok An and Mohammed bin Hammam.

Moments later, an altercation in the midfield following a strong challenge brought the teams together for a shoving match, but the hostility was quickly diffused.

With pressure mounting from a series of well-worked Crown attacks, the deadlock was eventually broken. Confusion in the Naga defence allowed a corner kick to ricochet around the area before falling at the feet of Crown substitute Keo Sokngorn, who calmly passed the ball into the right corner and left Naga defenders looking around desperately for someone to blame.
With Naga pushing hard to answer back, defensive errors crept in, including a weak backheader from Chek Sokhom that caused panic for Choam Veasna, who barely scrambled the ball clear from the lurking Crown forward Lappe Lappe.

Meas Channa for Naga was having an outstanding game on the right flank, curling in a host of crosses that colleagues failed to convert.

Lappe Lappe - so good they named him twice - showed tremendous skill and strength to muscle his way to the byline. His pullback was played high to the head of Keo

Sokngorn who was diving away from goal and couldnt transmit the necessary power to beat the Naga keeper.

Naga kept up the pusuit of an equaliser. A vicious attempted cross from Meas Channa looked to be heading for the top corner before Crown keeper Peng Bunchay expertly tipped the ball onto the bar.

Oum Thavirak was maintaining his enforcer role at the Naga back as he made several heavy-handed tackles and blocks on Crown forwards, and was fortunate not to get booked for a scything challenge from behind on Oscar Mpoko.

Tension filled the stands for the dying minutes. Crown manager Makara came charging from the bench, incensed by the referee's decision to award a foul on Naga's Sun Sovannarith by Chan Rithy, with Ek Sovannara sent off for the ensuing dissent as he was awarded a second yellow card.

Naga went all out to capitalise on their man advantage in the four minutes of injury time, but Crown defended magnificently to the end.

Photo by: NICK SELLS
Naga Corp captain Oum Thavirak slides across to challenge Phnom Penh Crown’s Jean Roger Lappe Lappe Saturday at Olympic Stadium.

Naga jubilant
When the final whistle blew, Naga players fell to their knees in dismay while the Crown players whooped and cheered, taking off their shirts to swing around their heads while chanting "Ole Ole Ole Ole!" in a circling huddle.

After the game, Crown manager Makara Be was delighted with his team's "fantastic" performance but voiced his disapproval with the referee's apparent bias towards Naga.

"They [Naga] played without the ball, they kicked without the ball," he said. "But no yellow cards, nothing.
"Today we played against the referee. We played 11 against 15. Every supporter could see [that]."
When asked to single out a player from his team that deserved man of the match,

Makara Be said: "Everybody is important for us. But Keo Sokngan is just back from injury and he got the goal for us today."

Questions were raised as to why Crown keeper Oum Thavirak was not awarded the best goalkeeper trophy and a cash prize of 1 million riels (US$243) after keeping a clean sheet throught the competition. "I don't know why," said Makara Be. "We didn't concede any goals, but my keeper didn't get the trophy for best keeper. We don't know what happened."

The prize was instead awarded to Hem Simay of Build Bright University.

The Crown boss also had praise for his defensive quartet. "I think all four of our back players should be in the national team, but only two [have been selected]."

Crown have now consolidated their place on top of the Cambodian football pecking order, but Makara Be was hesitant to get complacent. "We don't think we are the best team in Cambodia. We still have to do a lot," he said, noting that his team would have to prepare for the upcoming Singapore Cup at the end of April and the AFC President's Cup in May.

The Crown manager also hinted that star winger Chan Rithy would be heading for Thailand next year to play in the Thai football league.

Naga manager Michael Thachnan remained upbeat saying, "we lost, but I don't feel very bad".

"I think my players played very well," he said. "We had a few chances in the first half but we couldn't capitalise.

"Sometimes you need luck to win the game. You try your hardest - train hard and all that. You saw us kicking right in front of goal, three, four, five times but it always touched something."

Referee controversy
Thachnan strongly dismissed the Crown manager's allegations that the referee favoured the Naga players.

"The referee didn't do a good job, but to say somehow the referee supports one side, that's bullshit. We don't talk like that. A referee is a referee. If he's not a good referee, that's it. There's nothing he gets from me, there's nothing I get from him."

On surveying the dejected looks on his players' faces, Thachnan offered to "bring them back up".

"We will rest for a few days. Maybe I will take my team to the beach - kick back and don't think about anything."

However, the Naga boss said they would soon return to training. "Even though we lost today, i think we will be stronger in the league," he declared.

Navy-affiliated team Phuchoung Neak were awarded the fair play trophy with an accompanying check for 5 million riels (US$1,223) and Ranger FC striker Kuoch Sokumphiak took home the Golden Boot award and 1 million riels for top scorer in the competition with 15 goals.

After the obligatory closing speech from Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, the top three placing assembled to collect winners medals. Third-placed Preah Khan Reach received medals and their check for 20 million riels followed by runners' up Naga Corp who were decorated by AFC President Mohammed bin Hammam and given a check for 40 million riels.

Finally, members of the victorious Phnom Penh Crown team took to the stage to claim their winners' medals from Sok An and a presentation cheque denoting the 60 million riels cash prize.

Police Blotter: 30 Mar 2009

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Lim Phalla
Monday, 30 March 2009

MAN HELD AFTER KARAOKE BUST-UP
Eng Kuon, 35, was arrested by police March 22 after a drunken dispute erupted in violence when the accused's parents-in-law refused to let him sing karaoke in Prampi village, Battambang province. Police said that Yang Prasedh, 63, was struck in the nose and that his wife, Kyao Kong, was punched twice by Eng Kuon when she attempted to help her husband.
KAMPUCHEA THMEY

ARREST IN KOH KONG $10K CASH ROBBERY
Koh Kong police arrested, Khae Theim, 22 on a warrant issued as a result of a US$10,000 robbery. Khae Theim is accused of stealing the money from Reach Chantha, 42, and then fleeing to Koh Kong, where he spent 14 million riels between March 17 and 21.
KAMPUCHEA THMEY

ASPIRING POLYGAMIST RUMBLED BY WIFE
A soldier from Mondulkiri province, Chin Bunrong, 39, had his second marriage foiled by his first and still current wife on March 21. Police said Chin Bunrong faked his personal history in order to marry Kim Chanratana, 27. But his day was ruined when his first wife, Chea Sokha, arrived at the wedding ceremony with their three children, putting an end to the festivities. He has now returned to Mondulkiri province with his family to face the monogamy law.
RASMEY KAMPUCHEA

MAN SHOT DEAD AS HE WATCHES TV
Thoang Dara, 38, was shot dead by four men who stormed his house in Kwean village, Siem Reap province. The gunmen, who police said are not known to them, raided the house demanding drugs from Thoang Dara while he was watching television and shot him.
RASMEY KAMPUCHEA

MAN STOLE CASH ‘TO FIX HIS TEETH'
Villagers captured and handed over to police an alleged thief, Horm Veasna, 25. Horm Veasna is accused of stealing 100,000 riels from a gold shop in Sangkat Dangkum village, Siem Reap province, on March 25. Horm Veasna told police that he used a wine bottle to break into the showcase and then grabbed the money because he wanted to "fix his teeth".
RASMEY KAMPUCHEA

WEDDING GUEST INJURED IN CRASH
Chhot Chhean, 48, was severely injured after his motorbike hit a tractor in Dang Kor Kramang village, Battambang province. Chhot Chhean, who police said was drunk, ended up colliding with the tractor after he had left a wedding reception on March 24.
RASMEY KAMPUCHEA

The Phnom Penh Post News In Briefs

In Brief: Asean Secretariat restructures

Written by Sam Rith
Monday, 30 March 2009

Surin Pitsuwan, the secretary general of ASEAN, announced the restructuring of the ASEAN Secretariat to include a fourth department focussed on the region's community and corporate affairs. "A new and strengthened ASEAN Secretariat will be able to respond more efficiently and effectively to the challenges of building the ASEAN community," a March 24 press release quoted Surin as saying. The restructuring will take effect on April 15 once more people are recruited.


In Brief: Rally on grenade attack anniversary

Written by Vong Sokheng
Monday, 30 March 2009

Five hundred people are expected to participate today in marking the 12th anniversary of the 1997 grenade attacks that occurred during a rally in Phnom Penh, leaving at least 16 dead and more than 100 injured, according to Yim Sovann, an SRP spokesman and lawmaker, adding that representatives from the US and German embassies had also been invited to the memorial ceremony.


In Brief: HQ for overseas Vietnamese opens

Written by Mom Kunthear and Christopher Shay
Monday, 30 March 2009

The Vietnamese consulate general opened the new headquarters of the Overseas Vietnamese Association in Sihanoukville on Friday, according to Vietnamese state media. To coincide with the new office, the Committee for Overseas Vietnamese inaugurated a new US$86,000 Vietnamese primary school. The school, which already has 50 students, purchased its supplies through a 20 million dong donation (US$1,120) from the Vietnamese province of Kien Giang, Vietnamese state media reported.


In Brief: JCB gets official partner

Written by Nguon Sovan
Monday, 30 March 2009

British heavy construction equipment company JCB launched in Cambodia with an official partner on Friday. "We have sold JCB products for many years, but it is not on a large scale," said Ngorn Saing, deputy general manager of RM Asia, the exclusive distributor of JCB in Cambodia. "We see the potential in agriculture, mining and construction in Cambodia, so we decided to import these products into the Cambodian market aggressively." He could provide no sales forecasts for the year, citing the impact of the downturn. JCB is Britain's largest privately owned manufacturer of heavy moving equipment.


In Brief: Vietnamese trade fair

Written by May Kunmakara
Monday, 30 March 2009

A major Vietnamese trade show will be held from Tuesday to Saturday in Phnom Penh with more than 200 businesses set to attend, a trade official told the Post Sunday. The commercial counsellor at the Vietnamese embassy in Phnom Penh, Le Bien Cuong, said that attendance is up by 20 companies from last year. "I expect that this year we will see more Vietnamese sales because Cambodian products are becoming more popular. They have earned a reputation for high quality and fair prices," he said.

Cambodia trials begin for the murderers in Killing Fileds

The Extraodinary Chambers in the Court of Cambodia (ECCC) in Phnom Penh. Amnesty International has welcomed the opening of Cambodia's first genocide trial, but said the court must increase its caseload and address allegations of corruption.(AFP/ECCC/File)

Former Khmer Rouge prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, left, also know as 'Duch,' reads documents at a U.N.-backed tribunal Monday, March 30, 2009, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The notorious torture center boss went before Cambodia's genocide tribunal Monday for its first trial over the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million people at the hands of the Khmer Rouge regime more than three decades ago.(AP Photo/Mak Remissa, Pool)

Chief Khmer Rouge torturer Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch (C), sits between his lawyers for his trial on the outskirts of Phnom Penh March 30, 2009. Duch faced trial for crimes against humanity on Monday, the first involving a senior Pol Pot cadre 30 years after the end of a regime blamed for 1.7 million deaths.REUTERS/Pring Samrang/Pool(CAMBODIA CONFLICT SOCIETY)

Chief Khmer Rouge torturer Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, stands between his lawyers for his trial on the outskirts of Phnom Penh March 30 ,2009. Duch faced trial for crimes against humanity on Monday, the first involving a senior Pol Pot cadre 30 years after the end of a regime blamed for 1.7 million deaths.REUTERS/Pring Samrang/Pool (CAMBODIA CONFLICT SOCIETY)

People line up to attend the trial of chief Khmer Rouge torturer Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, on the outskirts of Phnom Penh March 30, 2009. Duch faced trial for crimes against humanity on Monday, the first involving a senior Pol Pot cadre 30 years after the end of a regime blamed for 1.7 million deaths.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA CONFLICT SOCIETY)

A security officer inspects vehicles as people arrive to attend the trial of chief Khmer Rouge torturer Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, for his trial on the outskirts of Phnom Penh March 30, 2009. Duch faced trial for crimes against humanity on Monday, the first involving a senior Pol Pot cadre 30 years after the end of a regime blamed for 1.7 million deaths.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA CONFLICT SOCIETY)

A vehicle carries former chief Khmer Rouge torturer Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, for his trial on the outskirts of Phnom Penh March 30, 2009. Duch faced trial for crimes against humanity on Monday, the first involving a senior Pol Pot cadre 30 years after the end of a regime blamed for 1.7 million deaths.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA CONFLICT SOCIETY)

A vehicle (R) carries former chief Khmer Rouge torturer Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, for his trial on the outskirts of Phnom Penh March 30, 2009. Duch faced trial for crimes against humanity on Monday, the first involving a senior Pol Pot cadre 30 years after the end of a regime blamed for 1.7 million deaths.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA CONFLICT SOCIETY IMAGE OF THE DAY TOP PICTURE)

A van carrying Kaing Gueng Eav, also known as 'Duch'n arrives from jail on the first day of a U.N.-backed tribunal Monday March 30,, 2009, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The notorious torture center boss went before Cambodia's genocide tribunal Monday for its first trial over the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million people at the hands of the Khmer Rouge regime more than three decades ago.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Cambodian Norng Chan Phal, one of only five children to survive in the infamous Tuol sleng Khmer Rouge prison, cries during a press conference in Phnom Penh. Cambodia's UN-backed genocide tribunal is set to resume with the ongoing trial of former Khmer Rouge prison chief Kaing Guek Eav - better known as Duch - who is expected to admit his role in the "Killing Fields" horrors three decades ago.(AFP/File/Tang Chin Sothy)

Members of the legal team at the genocide tribunal in Phnom Penh. Cambodia's UN-backed legal process is set to resume with the ongoing trial of former Khmer Rouge prison chief Kaing Guek Eav - better known as Duch - who is expected to admit his role in the "Killing Fields" horrors three decades ago.(AFP/Pool/File/Adrees Latif)

A Cambodian survivor of Tuol Sleng prison, code named S-21, shows how shackles were used at the norotious torture centre. Cambodia's UN-backed genocide tribunal is set to resume with the ongoing trial of former Khmer Rouge prison chief Kaing Guek Eav - better known as Duch - who is expected to admit his role in the "Killing Fields" horrors three decades ago.(AFP/File/Tang Chhin Sothy)

Cambodia's UN-backed genocide tribunal is set to resume with the ongoing trial of former Khmer Rouge prison chief Kaing Guek Eav - better known as Duch - who is expected to admit his role in the "Killing Fields" horrors three decades ago.(AFP/Pool/File/Adrees Latif)

Day in pictures

An elderly Cambodian woman looks on Sunday, March 29, 2009, in the village of Prey Ta Pork on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Today in Cambodia, according to government figures, less than 10 percent of the population is over 60 years old, a legacy of the Khmer Rouge regime. On Monday, March 30, Kaing Guek Eav, also known as 'Duch' will go on trial for crimes against humanity. 'Duch' was commander of the Toul Sleng prison under the Khmer Rouge where thousands were tortured and killed.(AP Photo/David Longstreath)

Cambodian amputee Meo, 48, sits in a wheelchair near his home in Prey Tapork village, Kandal province, about 30 kilometers (18 miles) west of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Sunday, March 29, 2009. Meo lost his legs in 1994 in a stronghold while he was a soldier fighting with Khmer Rouge. On Monday, March 30, Kaing Guek Eav, also known as 'Duch' will go on trial for crimes against humanity. 'Duch' was commander of the Toul Sleng prison under the Khmer Rouge where thousands were tortured and killed.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Cambodian amputee Meo, 48, climbs up a palm tree near his home in Prey Tapork village, Kandal province, about 30 kilometers (18 miles) west of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Sunday, March 29, 2009. Meo lost his legs in 1994 in a stronghold while he was a soldier fighting with Khmer Rouge. On Monday, March 30, Kaing Guek Eav, also known as 'Duch' will go on trial for crimes against humanity. 'Duch' was commander of the Toul Sleng prison under the Khmer Rouge where thousands were tortured and killed.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Cheam Uy, 70, of Prey Ta Pork village on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, poses to show of his new ball cap Sunday, March 29, 2009. Today in Cambodia, according to government figures, less than 10 percent of the population is over 60 years old, a legacy of the Khmer Rouge regime. On Monday, March 30, Kaing Guek Eav, also known as 'Duch' will go on trial for crimes against humanity. 'Duch' was commander of the Toul Sleng prison under the Khmer Rouge where thousands were tortured and killed.(AP Photo/David Longstreath)

Cambodian High School students from Kampong Cham province visiting Toul Sleng Genocide Museum Sunday, March 29

Cambodian High School students from Kampong Cham look at Khmer Rouge atrocities during a tour of Toul Sleng Genocide Museum Sunday, March 29, 2009, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. On Monday, March 30, Kaing Guek Eav, also known as 'Duch,' will go on trial for crimes against humanity. 'Duch' was commander of the Toul Sleng prison under the Khmer Rouge where thousands were tortured and killed. For many of the students it was the first time they had visited the museum.(AP Photo/David Longstreath)

A Cambodian boy, right, watches a portrait of former prisoner on display at a former Khmer Rouge prison, known as S-21, of the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Sunday, March 29, 2009. On Monday, March 30, Kaing Guek Eav, also known as 'Duch' will go on trial for crimes against humanity. 'Duch' was commander of the Toul Sleng prison under the Khmer Rouge where thousands were tortured and killed.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Cambodian students write down their note books during their tour to a former Khmer Rouge prison, known as S-21, of the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Sunday, March 29, 2009. On Monday, March 30, Kaing Guek Eav, also known as 'Duch' will go on trial for crimes against humanity. 'Duch' was commander of the Toul Sleng prison under the Khmer Rouge where thousands were tortured and killed.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Cambodian High School teacher Yi Sophy, far right, of Kampong Cham, points out Khmer Rouge atrocities to her students during a tour of Toul Sleng Genocide Museum Sunday, March 29, 2009, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. On Monday, March 30, Kaing Guek Eav, also known as 'Duch' will go on trial for crimes against humanity. 'Duch' was commander of the Toul Sleng prison under the Khmer Rouge where thousands were tortured and killed.(AP Photo/David Longstreath)

Cambodian High School teacher Yi Sophy of Kampong Cham points out Khmer Rouge atrocities to her students during a tour of Toul Sleng Genocide Museum Sunday, March 29, 2009, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. On Monday, March 30, Kaing Guek Eav, also known as 'Duch' will go on trial for crimes against humanity. 'Duch' was commander of the Toul Sleng prison under the Khmer Rouge where thousands were tortured and killed.(AP Photo/David Longstreath)

A high school student of Kampong Cham looks over one of the many human skulls on display at the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Sunday, March 29, 2009. On Monday, March 30, Kaing Guek Eav, also known as 'Duch' will go on trial for crimes against humanity. 'Duch' was commander of the Toul Sleng prison under the Khmer Rouge where thousands were tortured and killed.(AP Photo/David Longstreath)

Tourists walk past a "killing tree" during a tour at the memorial stupa filled with the skulls of more than 8,000 Khmer Rouge victims at the Choeung Ek site of the "Killing Fields" located on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, March 29, 2009. Former Khmer Rouge torturer Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, will face his second trial for crimes against humanity on Monday. At least 40 witnesses are expected to testify against the former chief of Phnom Penh's S-21 prison, where an estimated 14,000 people were tortured and killed.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA SOCIETY CONFLICT)

Incense burns at the memorial stupa filled with the skulls of more than 8,000 Khmer Rouge victims at the Choeung Ek site of the "Killing Fields" located on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, March 29, 2009. Former Khmer Rouge torturer Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, will face his second trial for crimes against humanity on Monday. At least 40 witnesses are expected to testify against the former chief of Phnom Penh's S-21 prison, where an estimated 14,000 people were tortured and killed.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA CONFLICT SOCIETY IMAGE OF THE DAY TOP PICTURE)

Tourists walk past mass graves near the memorial stupa filled with the skulls of more than 8,000 Khmer Rouge victims at the Choeung Ek site of the "Killing Fields" located on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, March 29, 2009. Former Khmer Rouge torturer Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, will face his second trial for crimes against humanity on Monday. At least 40 witnesses are expected to testify against the former chief of Phnom Penh's S-21 prison, where an estimated 14,000 people were tortured and killed.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA SOCIETY CONFLICT)

Tourists take photos at the memorial stupa filled with the skulls of more than 8,000 Khmer Rouge victims at the Choeung Ek site of the "Killing Fields" located on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, March 29, 2009. Former Khmer Rouge torturer Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, will face his second trial for crimes against humanity on Monday. At least 40 witnesses are expected to testify against the former chief of Phnom Penh's S-21 prison, where an estimated 14,000 people were tortured and killed.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA SOCIETY CONFLICT)

A Cambodian homeless man, left, sleeps under Cambodia's Preah Vihear temple sign board in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, March 26, 2009. Preah Vihear temple in a world heritage site is located near the Cambodian-Thai border, about 245 kilometers (152 miles) north of Phnom Penh, Cambodia.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

A merit making ceremony Sunday, March 29, 2009, in downtown Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The ceremony is in advance of Cambodian New Year's celebration

Cambodians pray their Buddhist monks during a merit making ceremony Sunday, March 29, 2009, in downtown Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Throughout Cambodia, Khmers are holding ceremonies in preparation for the coming New Year's celebration which lasts for three days, from April 14 through 16 this year.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Cambodians sit around Buddhist monks for offering some food during a merit making ceremony Sunday, March 29, 2009, in downtown Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The ceremony is in advance of Cambodian New Year's celebration which lasts for three days, from April 14 through 16 this year.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Cambodian Buddhist monks bless villagers during a merit making ceremony Sunday, March 29, 2009, in downtown Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The ceremony is in advance of Cambodian New Year's celebration which lasts for three days, from April 14 through 16 this year.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

A Cambodian Buddhist monk throws flower pedals during a merit making ceremony Sunday, March 29, 2009, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The ceremony is in advance of Cambodian New Year's celebration which lasts for three days, from April 14 through 16 this year.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Phu Quoc Island tour set to boost tourism to Cambodia

eTravelBlackboard - Asia Edition

Monday, 30 March 2009

Cambodian Ministry of Tourism Thong Khon has announced plans to open a new tour that links Cambodia’s four coastal provinces with Phu Quoc Island of Vietnam.

Mr Khon said he hoped that the new tour connecting Phu Quoc Island with the provinces of Koh Kong, Kongpong Som, Kampot and Posat, would boost tourism to Cambodia.

The minister said that Phu Quoc Island has emerged as an attractive destination for tourists in the region and according to some forecasts; it has the potential to draw around 3 million visitors annually by 2012.

Mr Khon added that Vietnam’s tourism sector has attracted a growing number of foreign visitors thanks to its increased amount of investment in tourism facilities and traffic infrastructure.

Cambodia's Day in Court

RADIO FREE ASIA

2009-03-29

Five ex-leaders of the Khmer Rouge go on trial, and Cambodia's youth get a chance to learn the truth about an era kept secret for the last 30 years.

Photo: AFP/Pool/Tang Chhin Sothy
Former Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan (C) sits in a dock in the courtroom during a pre-trial chamber public hearing on Feb. 27. The court had adjourned pre-trial hearing of Khieu Samphan to April 3, 2009.

PHNOM PENH—On April 17, 1975 Khmer Rouge troops “liberated” Cambodia from the Khmer Republic led by self-proclaimed president Lon Nol.

Huge crowds lined the streets of the capital, Phnom Penh, welcoming the Khmer Rouge army. Some waved white flags, expressing more enthusiasm than fear—believing that war in Cambodia was finally over.

“City-dwellers queued along pavement, giving the soldiers applause and expecting victory and peace. The soldiers smiled and didn’t take any actions against the people, so we trusted them,” one witnesses recalls.

“When they entered the city,” says another, “the people cheered, and Khmer National Radio broadcast songs of victory.”

Kem Sokha, now Cambodian Center for Human Rights chairman, was 22 and a law student at the time.

He wanted a change of regime because he saw too much corruption in what was then the Khmer Republic. He says he welcomed Khmer Rouge soldiers, along with the countless other Cambodians.

“I was a student at the law faculty. At the time, I was demanding freedom and social justice and fighting against corruption in society. I wanted a change. So at that moment, I thought this new group would be for the better,” Kem Sokha says.

The welcome was short-lived.

Less than 24 hours after they marched through the city, Khmer Rouge troops began to evacuate Phnom Penh.

“The began forcing people to leave the capital,” one witness says. “Then we began hastily gathering up some belongings. They told us to take something with us and walk straight out without returning.”

“Many intellectuals were executed right away. We saw many dead bodies along the way as we marched out from the capital.

Pol Pot regime

Fewer Cambodians were killed in 1975 than in the years that followed, under a government that called the country Democratic Kampuchea—but became known to the world as the Pol Pot regime.

“One of my children was killed in Prek Tamak and so was my husband,” one woman recalls. “My younger brother was accused of being a thief...Then he was beaten every night."

"My mother was so fatigued...She told me that she was dying and [told me], ‘Go with your family, and try to go back to our hometown.’ We didn’t return home, and then my younger brother was executed.”

Swift destruction

From April 17, 1975 to Jan. 7, 1979, Cambodia was subjected to one of the swiftest and most destructive revolutions in world history. No one was untouched.

In less than four years, as many as 2 million Cambodians—or one in four—died from overwork, malnutrition, suicide, execution, or lack of medical care.

All the executions and most of the other deaths can be traced directly to the policies imposed on the people of Cambodia by the Communist Party of Kampuchea, led from the shadows by Pol Pot, and concealed behind the name of Angkar Padevat.

And in tiny, impoverished Cambodia, the horror unfolded largely unnoticed by the outside world.

Not taught

Many young Cambodians now know little about the Khmer Rouge era, because the government hasn’t allowed Khmer Rouge history onto the national curriculum.

Eng Sodavy, a student at Boeung Trabaek High School, says Khmer Rouge history was very little taught.

“I was told little about the Pol Pot time. I knew nothing about it from my studies but from elderly people,” Eng Sodavy says.

“I want to know more about what difficulties people encountered and how much struggle they endured. I seem to have heard of killings during the Pol Pot regime.”

The exclusion of Khmer Rouge history from schools partly reflects political conflicts, says Sim Soriya, deputy director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia.

He says Khmer Rouge lessons at first were incorporated into textbooks but later was removed for political factors.

Youths note tribunal

But students have taken note of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), which will try former Khmer Rouge leaders.

Teacher Sambo Manara said that the creation of the ECCC to try former Khmer Rouge leaders has attracted his students’ attention.

“When the courts were established, there seemed to be some…momentum in the students’ curiosity,” he says.

“They particularly became extremely interested because they never before believed” accounts of what had happened during the Khmer Rouge regime, he says. “They began to learn.”

Five on trial

After years of negotiations, the United Nations and the Cambodian government agreed in 2005 to set up the ECCC.

On July 3, 2006, 17 Cambodian and eight international judges were selected to preside over the proceedings of former Khmer Rouge leaders.

The long delay saw Pol Pot himself die before he could face trial, in 1998.

His lieutenant Ta Mok, known as “the butcher,” died a prisoner, in July 2006. Other top leaders of the regime—Ieng Sary, Khieu Samphan, and Nuon Chea—are alive but elderly.

Only five top Khmer Rouge leaders are expected to face trial. First in the dock is Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch.

He has already admitted and apologized for his role in the deaths of thousands of Cambodians as head of Phnom Penh's notorious S-21 torture center.

His trial opens Monday, March 30.

This segment was first in a series by RFA's Khmer service, broadcast ahead of the trials that will bring to justice top leaders of the Khmer Rouge. Khmer service director: Sos Kem. Executive producer: Susan Lavery.