Thursday, 16 April 2009

Cambodians' day to mourn Friday

Two local groups will gather to commemorate a somber annual rite.

By Greg Mellen, Staff Writer
Posted: 04/15/2009 09:42:39 PM PDT

LONG BEACH — On Friday, two local Cambodian groups will gather to commemorate a somber annual rite.

April 17 marks the 34th anniversary of the date the Khmer Rouge rolled into Phnom Penh and cemented its ascendancy in Cambodia. It is also the date that is associated with the Killing Fields genocide campaign that left more than 2 million Cambodians dead from execution, starvation, disease and deprivation under the brutal 45-month reign of the Khmer Rouge.

As a result, for many Cambodians in Long Beach and worldwide, April 17 is a day of mourning, prayer and remembrance.

The Killing Fields Memorial Center began formally remembering April 17 in 2005 with a candlelight vigil, after it helped lead a fight to prevent the first Cambodian New Year Parade from being held on the 30th anniversary of the rise of Khmer Rouge.

This year, the group will stage its fifth annual memorial day at Wat Vipassanaram, also known as Wat IRAP, 1239 E. 20th St, with a day of prayer, testimonials and a candlelight vigil.

Also on Friday, for the first time, the United Cambodian Community will commemorate the day with remembrances and a fundraising dinner at New Paradise Restaurant.

At Wat Vipassanaram, survivors share tales every year about experiences in Cambodia during the genocide years. Often their voices quake with emotion.

One time, Chhom Nimol, a popular singer with the group Dengue Fever, showed up at the event and sang several

traditional Khmer songs a cappella.
Chantara Nop is a poet who has written about the Killing Fields and is a regular at the memorial.

He said it is vital for the community to remember and share survivor stories so that history won't be repeated in Cambodia and so that children learn about the history of their forbears.

It is also important for the victims, according to Nop.

"It feels much relief when people are supportive," Nop said. "You go through so much pain if you don't tell and you keep secrets."

For UCC, the experience is new but continues efforts it has undertaken this year to heal wounds and close the generational gap.

"This year we're piggybacking on what we've done to help heal the community," said executive director Sara Pol-Lim. "We're addressing the past. We hope by facing it we can put it behind us."

Pol-Lim is also inviting the Jewish community to the UCC event, because of the history of suffering the two cultures share.

In addition to the dinner, the UCC event will feature Buddhist blessings and Jewish prayers, speeches and proclamations by elected officials, the honoring of survivors, poetry by youth and a veterans' salute.

Cambodia's Kampot Pepper Makes a Comeback

Bags of Kampot Pepper for sale by Farmlink-Cambodia

By Rory Byrne
Kampot, Cambodia
16 April 2009

Kampot province in southern Cambodia was long famous for the quality of its pepper. But under the Khmer Rouge regime in the late 1970s, almost all of the province's pepper plantations were uprooted to make way for rice. Now a local company is leading an effort to revive Kampot pepper by earning it Geographical Indication protection, similar to Champagne or Parmesan cheese.

Many French chefs consider Kampot pepper the best in the world.

During the French colonial era, about one million pepper plants were grown in the province, mainly to produce pepper for export to France.

Famed for its strong, yet delicate, aroma, Kampot pepper can range from intensely spicy to mildly sweet.

Jerome Benezech, the director of Farmlink, which is working with local farmers to increase pepper production, says the pepper's unique flavor is thanks to a combination of factors found only in Kampot.

He says Kampot pepper has a distinct flavor. It has a very fresh aroma with hints of eucalyptus and it lingers in the palate. He says its unique flavor is due to the combination of Kampot's rich soil, the climate in this area which is between the mountains and the sea, as well as the experience of several generations of pepper farmers.

Under the Khmer Rouge government in the late 1970s, Kampot's famous pepper plantations were uprooted and replaced with rice fields.

But in recent years the spice has been making a comeback and production is once again on the rise.

Farmlink works with 125 local farmers with the aim of doubling pepper production over the next five years.

More than 20,000 pepper vines have been planted since 2003 - still a fraction of the amount produced under the French.

Many pepper farmers like Ngnoun Lay come from generations of pepper growers:

He says since he was born his mother and father grew pepper and now he does the same thing. In fact, he says, they have grown pepper in his family for the last four generations. Whether the price is high or low he stills plant pepper because, apart from growing rice, it is all he has ever known.

Farmlink staff members say that while pepper requires more labor than growing rice, it is more profitable for farmers.

Kampot pepper is the first Cambodian product to apply for Geographical Indication protection similar to Champagne or Parmesan cheese. GI status means that only pepper actually grown in Kampot can use that name.

Angela Vestergaard, Farmlink's marketing director, leads the effort to secure GI status. The aim is to help promote Kampot pepper around the world, and to protect its quality.

She says the GI project will protect the environment in this region and make sure that Kampot pepper keeps its high quality and is not mixed with lesser quality peppers. She says Farmlink wants the consumer to be guaranteed the highest quality and to be sure that what they are getting is authentic Kampot pepper.

Despite the economic slowdown, demand for Kampot pepper is growing, although more slowly than before.

But growers are hopeful that if Kampot pepper can earn GI protection next year, the province can regain its status as one of the world's premier pepper growing regions.

Canada to close embassy in Phnom Penh

PHNOM PENH, April 16 (Xinhua) -- The Canadian Embassy in Phnom Penh will close its doors in May after 17 years' operation, said an embassy statement received here on Thursday.

The Canadian government "has decided to change the nature of its diplomatic representation in Cambodia.... Our intention is that a Canadian Ambassador in a nearby country will be accredited to Cambodia," according to the statement.

The decision to close the embassy came after "serious re-examination of Canada's current diplomatic representation throughout the world," it said.

Although the Phnom Penh embassy is closing, new Canadian government offices will be opened, "mainly to take advantage of emerging markets," it said, adding that three of these have already been opened, with two in India and one in Mongolia.

Until now, the Canadian Embassy has occupied a small corner of the Australian Embassy on Street 254 of the capital city.

The Australian diplomats will move into new quarters later this year, and no space there has been allocated for their Canadian counterparts.

Malaysia To Help Cambodian Muslims

April 16, 2009

KUALA LUMPUR, April 16 (Bernama) -- The 'Majlis Muafakat Dakwah Malaysia-Kemboja' or MMDMK council will help to enhance the socio-economic status of Muslims in Cambodia by setting up several special institutions for the purpose.

MMDMK chairman, Datuk Mohd Nakhaie Ahmad said for a start the council will help the Selangor International Islamic College (KUIS) to open a campus branch in Cambodia which would be known as Cambodia Islamic College by the end of the year.

He said an organisation that functions like Tabung Haji would also be set up soon to help Muslims in that country to contribute and be able to perform the 'haj'.

Nakhaie said also given focus was having 'halal' certification for canned food from that country.

"Our efforts will be easier as the Cambodian government allows Muslim communities in other countries to aid Muslims there," he told reporters after receiving a 10-member delegation headed by the Cambodian Muslim Development body headed by Othsman Hasan who is also Cambodia's minister for vocation and labour.

Nakhaie said three memoranda of understanding on economics and education were signed.

Meanwhile, Othsman thanked Muslims in Malaysia for their continued support.

He said his organisation was trying to change the mentality of Muslims there, who were about 40 years behind Muslims here, so that they could easily respond to swift development.

"The Champa community which is still leaving on raft-houses will be moved to permament places to do farming and be more competitive.

"We will use all expertise, including in agriculture and fisheries, contributed by Malaysia and help Cambodian Muslims get out of poverty," he said.

The Muslim community is a minority group in Cambodia with about 700,000 people or four per cent of the population.


Living in Cambodia on Less Than $500 a Month

How to live abroad in Cambodia on less than five hundred dollars a month for expatriates on a really tight budget!

Thursday, April 16th, 2009


Other than Pol Pot, the spectacular ruins of Angkor Wot and, according to the Cambodians, Muay Thai style kick boxing, Cambodia doesn’t really hit the map for an awful lot of things - and let’s face it, in the case of Pol Pot maybe some things are certainly best forgotten.

But it is cheap – and there are very few places left in the world where you can live very cheaply, but if you’re prepared to live frugally it can be done here. Prices in the capital Phnom Penh have been rising but you can still live on $500 (roughly £340) a month in Cambodia.

So, if you want to move abroad to escape the recession in the UK, you want to find a more affordable nation where your pension will go far further or you just fancy discovering a very interesting nation – this article about living cheaply in Cambodia may well inspire you!

Rental apartments are difficult to find below $250 (£170) a month, but they are available if you look hard, or use the services of the now famous Art the homefinder, a Cambodian entrepreneur who sources living accommodation for foreigners in Phnom Penh.

The influx of NGO’s, English language teachers and expats who’ve chosen to retire in Cambodia have all helped to push prices up. When you put another $30 (£20) on each month for electric, you can see that renting an apartment in Phnom Penh including costs will run to around $300 (£200) per month. If your budget is really tight there are plenty of cheap and clean hostels where accommodation can be found from $2-$3 (£1.35 - £2) per night, but you will have to share with at least one other person.

As accommodation usually takes up the biggest chunk of a budget, managing to keep accommodation below $300 (£200) is a good start to proving that you can live in Cambodia on less than $500 a month.

So, you have arrived and got yourself sorted with accommodation. What other costs are you going to have living abroad in Cambodia? One of the first ones that’s probably worthwhile sorting out is a business visa. On entry into the country you can pay $25 (£17) and receive a business visa, this allows you to work in Cambodia. With this visa you don’t need to leave the country every few months and you can work if you can find a job - or you could just do as other expats do and just buy a bar! To renew the visa after the first month costs around $250 (£170) for a year, so we’ll pop another $25 per month on the budget. We’re now at $325 (£220) on our budget for living in Cambodia on $500 a month.

As regards eating out in Cambodia, local restaurant prices start from $1 - $2 (£0.70 - £1.35) a meal - but if you’re on a budget then street vendors are great. Two meals a day can run to $25 (£17) per month. Khmer, Asian and international food starts from around $3 (£2) rising to $10 (£7). Beer tends to run at about $1 - $1.50 (£0.70 - £1.00) a bottle and spirits from $6 (£4), and if you want to go bar hopping a tuktuk, (a motorbike and side car or trailer) runs to about $10 (£7) a day. Obviously if you hit the wine list you can pretty soon bump things up to $50 (£34), so street vendors and fruit shakes are the order of the day.

Whilst you probably aren’t going to be saving much, and always watch out for the poverty trap, it is possible to live in Cambodia on $500 a month.

Cambodian Movies by Camerado in New York 4/24; Award Winning Director Attending from Phnom Penh (One Night Only)

US filmmaker J Rosette ("BookWars" -" "Lost in New Mexico" - will be in New York City from Phnom Penh, Cambodia on April 24, 6PM, @ New York University. He'll be presenting several new movies he's over the past 4+ years he's been living and working in SE Asia, including "Vuth Learns to Rock", a compelling and hilarious cross cultural Cambodian rock n' roll documentary, and other work.

New York, NY, April 16, 2009 --( Phnom Penh-based filmmaker J Rosette ("BookWars" -" * "Lost in New Mexico" - * NYU Film/TV Alumnus 91') will be in New York City one night only, screening several new movies he's over the past 4+ years he's been living and working in SE Asia, including:

"Vuth Learns to Rock", a compelling and hilarious cross cultural Cambodian rock n' roll documentary:

Mr. Rosette is also the founder of Cambodia's first and only independent movie festival, CamboFest (, and is developing his third feature, the VN War-era drama, "Freedom Deal", with plans to shoot in Cambodia and Thailand.

Two teens need help to spread the word of God

Fred Pace
Register-Herald Reporter

April 15, 2009

Scared and proud. Those are the two words Donna Cottle used when talking about her teenage son’s upcoming missionary trip to Cambodia.

“As a parent, I’m scared he is going so far away, but I am also very proud of him at the same time,” she said.

Teenagers Austin Cottle and Brandon Accord attend Mossy Living Word Church.

“We, along with our pastor, Rev. Paul Basham, are planning a missionary trip to Cambodia,” Austin Cottle said. “While there, we will be helping construct a church to teach the people of Cambodia about the word of God.”

However, the two ambitious teens and their pastor need help to make the trip.

“We are doing several fundraisers to help earn the money needed to cover our expenses,” Austin Cottle said.

They are also taking donations.

“We are hoping and praying that even in difficult economic times the generosity of the public will shine through and they will open their hearts to make a donation in any amount, no matter how small, to help us make this dream a reality. We want to share the word of God’s love.”

Donna Cottle says Accord and her son are unique teenagers.

“They are very active in the church,” she said. “Austin is not forced to go to church or on this missionary trip; it’s something he wants to do. You don’t see very many teenagers like these two in today’s world.”

Donna Cottle says pastor and the two teenagers leave on Monday.

“Any donations received after that would be placed in missionary fund at the church,” she said.

Donations can be mailed to Austin Cottle, c/o Donna Cottle, Route 1, Box 180, Oak Hill, WV 25901.

For additional information, call 304-469-9659.

Pol Pot murdered Scot in Cambodia

Report shows dictator ordered shooting of academic

Sunday Herald

MORE THAN 1.5 million people died in the killing fields of Cambodia, but one of the most puzzling footnotes in the slaughter and destruction of that country is the unsolved murder of the only British victim - the first Westerner caught up in the violence.

Gunmen burst into Scottish academic Malcolm Caldwell's Phnom Penh government guesthouse and shot him repeatedly in the chest and leg, killing him instantly. He was found with his apparent assassin slumped by his body and also riddled with bullet holes. At the time, the BBC reported he was killed by Vietnamese agents to discredit Pol Pot, but 30 years after the murder documents newly obtained by the Sunday Herald under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that the genocidal dictator himself ordered the assassination, early in the morning of December 23, 1978.

Just hours earlier, the 47-year-old father of four had met the despot, demanded to see deposed leader Prince Sihanouk and had asked about missing Cambodians and ministers, most of whom, it transpires, were already dead.

According to the classified documents, journalist Wilfred Burchett had seen an official Cambodian report a year later which said: "Caldwell was murdered by members of the National Security Force personnel on the instructions of the Pol Pot government."

An unnamed British civil servant adds: "Caldwell told Burchett he had every intention of asking some pointed questions and that he was absolutely determined to see Sihanouk.

"It is likely, therefore, that he upset his hosts, who were probably concerned that a prominent supporter/apologist of the Pol Pot regime might report in a critical vein on his return home.

"Matters probably came to a head after a private interview which Caldwell had with Pol Pot."

The papers also reveal a chilling account of the murder from eyewitness Richard Dudman, made five days later at the British embassy in Washington. The journalist for the St Louis Dispatch told officials of the moment a young gunman shot at him and Caldwell in the Khmer Rouge VIP guesthouse at 12.55am.

Born in Stirling into a middle-class Tory-voting household, Caldwell went on to get a double first at Edinburgh University by the time he was 21. He became a Marxist academic at London University's School of Oriental and African Studies and a left-wing activist, serving as head of CND in 1968-70.

A supporter of the Khmer Rouge, he was one of the first Westerners allowed into the country after 1975, and travelled to Cambodia with Dudman and fellow American journalist Elizabeth Becker just as the true horror of the genocide was becoming apparent.

Caldwell had spent three weeks touring the country surrounded by Khmer Rouge minders but had seen and surreptitiously photographed the impoverished peasants.

Dudman reported that in Phnom Penh he knocked on Caldwell's door as a young uniformed man appeared in the corridor with a machine gun on his shoulder and a pistol in his hand and fired at the two men. Dudman ran into his room and two shots were fired into the door. Then he heard more shots. 90 minutes later, a Cambodian security officer told Dudman that Caldwell was OK and he had to stay in his room.

But, Dudman then said, "An hour later a high ranking foreign office official told me Malcolm Caldwell was dead and asked me to witness the scene."

Dudman went to look and saw the open door of Caldwell's room and saw his dead body "supine, eyes wide open and body soaked in blood".

He estimated Caldwell had been hit at least three times. The official told Dudman that the dead gunman had shot Caldwell and then shot himself.

Becker's account indicates that the murder scene could have been staged. The Washington Post journalist found herself face to face with the killer and ran back into her room and hid in her bath.

After the shots, she then heard bodies being dragged up and down stairs on three different occasions. Dudman and Becker later noticed that there were bloodstains on the stairs and corridor.

The Foreign Office officials speculate that because of the time lapse and Becker's account, it was very possible that Caldwell's murder scene had been stage-managed.

Onondaga Road pupils help Cambodian orphans

Photo courtesy of Kathleen Hart-Zavoli
Schoolchildren at an orphanage in Cambodia review school projects and books sent by pupils at Onondaga Road Elementary School.

Photo courtesy of Kathleen Hart-Zavoli
Students at an orphanage in Cambodia review school projects and books sent by pupils at Onondaga Road Elementary School.

Photo courtesy of Kathleen Hart-Zavoli
A student at an orphanage in Cambodia looks at a letter sent by pupils at Onondaga Road Elementary School.
Photo courtesy of Kathleen Hart-Zavoli
Students at an orphanage in Cambodia review school projects and books sent by pupils at Onondaga Road Elementary School.


by Catie O'Toole / The Post-Standard
Wednesday April 15, 2009

Pupils in Jessica Goodnough and Virginia Madden's classes at Onondaga Road Elementary School in the West Genesee school district took part in a project to help children in a Cambodian orphanage with their English lessons.

Goodnough's fourth-graders wrote original stories, with themes ranging from a pencil boy who wanted to be an eraser, to moving from the earth to the moon. Meanwhile, Madden's second-graders wrote letters telling the children in Cambodia about life in Central New York and at Onondaga Road school.

Kathleen Hart-Zavoli, whose son is in Goodnough's class and whose daughter is in Madden's class, hand-delivered the stories and letters to the Cambodia Tomorrow English School at the Kompong Speu Orphan Center in Cambodia during the last week of February.

Hart-Zavoli, of Camillus, is a volunteer board member for Cambodia Tomorrow, a non-profit group started by parents who adopted children from the orphanage.
Both Hart-Zavoli's children were adopted from different orphanages in Cambodia.

"I thought it was a good idea to give the students a connection outside of Camillus, and also give the students in Cambodia a connection to other children," Hart-Zavoli said. "The kids here have been so excited, and the kids in Cambodia were equally as excited to receive the letters and stories."

Last week, Hart-Zavoli brought Onondaga Road Elementary students letters from the students in Cambodia.

In their letters, the children in Cambodia drew pictures and wrote about their Khmer New Year, which is April 14 to 16.

Hart-Zavoli said the children at Onondaga Road were excited to learn about a different culture.

"They think this is a very cool thing they're doing and the fact that they got responses to their letters seemed to really make their week," she said.

Researchers find source of arsenic

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

By: Julia Brownell

Faculty and students from the Environmental Earth Systems Sciences (EESS) program have found the source of arsenic that has been poisoning groundwater in South Asian river deltas.

The project, conducted south of the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, was orchestrated by EESS Prof. Scott Fendorf and his team of graduate students, in conjunction with Research Development International (RDI) Cambodia.

The health effects of ingesting arsenic range from mild callusing and darkening of the skin to lesions on the skin and lungs, leading to melanoma and lung cancer.

The humanitarian aspect of this research on arsenic is very important to Fendorf and his team; Fendorf said that he believes that the humanitarian spirit permeates the EESS department.

“Definitely, EESS research has a human element to it…It was one of the founding ideas,” he said. “Once you see the gravity of the situation in South Asia in my case…you start migrating to those types of issues.”

Due to intense civil war in Cambodia over the past 30 years, the citizens have only started to dig wells to the aquifer for drinking water over the past decade. Therefore, they have fewer symptoms of poisoning because of their limited exposure.

“It takes often two decades before effects start manifesting themselves,” Fendorf said.

Most health effects are more visible in the Ganges-Brahmaputra river delta in India and Bangladesh, where thousands die of cancers related to the toxin.

“It’s really, really bad,” Fendorf said. “Bangladesh and parts of India are really getting hit hard with the health effects now, and Cambodia is on its way.”

To get to the bottom of the mystery, the team dug wells in a section of the Mekong delta to study the distribution of the dissolved arsenic.

“We were able to figure out how the water flows, and follow the chemistry of [the arsenic] as it moves down,” Fendorf said.

The wells allowed the team to study the exchange of water between the river and the wetlands surrounding it. The wetlands are flooded by the Mekong River each year, which deposits sediment containing insoluble arsenic from the Himalayas. Once deposited, the arsenic is used as fuel by anaerobic bacteria, which turn it into a soluble form that flows with water from the wetlands down into the citizens’ drinking water. The aquifer then feeds back into the river.

“We think it’s about a 300-year travel time [in the strongest spots],” Fendorf said. “It’s a steady state; you have arsenic in the sediment and arsenic in the water. It’s been happening for thousands of years, and it’ll just keep doing that.”

Fendorf stressed that the project was not one without hope of solution. He recently returned from a conference in Cambodia about how to proceed using the new findings. The conference stressed how scientists can help inform policy-makers and the public.

In addition, Fendorf mentioned specific measures being considered to remedy the problem for the citizens of the delta who have no other source of water and are running out of time against the health risks.

“You can filter the water,” he said, “but you have a number of risk factors—how do you prevent filter failure and how do you work if a filter does fail?”

Due to limited options of other water sources, Fendorf said another option may have to be “rainwater harvesting.”

Cambodia’s civil war included genocide against citizens outside the government who were educated or held positions of power. Fendorf stressed that RDI Cambodia made sure the project worked cooperatively with the community in Phnom Penh to help educate them and provide work opportunities.

“That was RDI’s mantra–immerse themselves in the local community and not just bring in Westerners to do the work,” Fendorf said. “Helping to bring back an educated class is really important.”

Though on the right track, Fendorf qualified that this research is by no means an end or solution to the puzzle.

“It was an important step…[the research] is having and will continue to have a positive social influence,” he said. But, “We’re actually still working over there…It’s an ongoing process.”

OSK Holdings to focus on regional integration

Business Times

OSK Holdings Bhd will focus on strengthening its existing regional networks in Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Indonesia and Cambodia this year to remain profitable.

OSK Investment Bank's managing director/chief executive officer, Ong Leong Huat said the emphasis this year would be on the integration of the operations in the region, especially the new businesses in Indonesia and Cambodia.

"OSK Holdings will continue to focus on these areas (Indonesia and Cambodia) as well as expanding its business there," he told a media briefing after the company's annual general meeting here today.

Ong said OSK Holdings expected 40 per cent contributions from its overseas operations to the pre-tax profit this year.

"The concentration and focus will be in these markets. There is a huge potential in these markets," he said.

He said the insurance business in Malaysia was over-crowded and after evaluation, the company decided not to include insurance in its portfolio.

On economic performance, Ong said Malaysia was in a better position compared with other countries as it was resource-based.

"We are resource-based country. Oil and gas resources and palm oil sector contribute alot to the economy," he said. -- BERNAMA

UN chief shares US concern about Aung San Suu Kyi

Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi speaks at a press conference in 2002

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) — UN chief Ban Ki-moon said Wednesday he shared the concern expressed by 10 US senators about the continued detention of Myanmar's democracy icon and Nobel peace prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

In a letter released Tuesday, 10 women US senators urged the UN secretary general to step up pressure on Myanmar's ruling junta to scrap elections plans and free Aung San Suu Kyi.

A UN statement Wednesday said Ban and his special adviser Ibrahim Gambari "share their (US senators') concern about the continued detention of Aung San Suu Kyi" and "have repeatedly called for her release and that of other political prisoners and will continue to do so."

In their letter, the US lawmakers also appealed to Ban to publicly urge the military regime to end human rights abuses, "eliminate rape as an instrument of war" and bring violators to justice.

They also pressed him to ask the military to "abandon plans" to hold elections in 2010 under a much-criticized new constitution approved in May 2008, after Cyclone Nargis devastated southern parts of the country and left 138,000 people dead or missing.

The letter was signed by Senators Dianne Feinstein, Kay Bailey Hutchison, Patty Murray, Olympia Snowe, Blanche Lincoln, Maria Cantwell, Susan Collins, Barbara Boxer, Amy Klobuchar, Barbara Mikulski, and Lisa Murkowski.

Aung San Suu Kyi has spent most of the last 19 years under detention by the military junta that has ruled the southeast Asian country since 1962. Her National League of Democracy won a landslide election victory in 1990 that the junta refused to recognize.

Watkinson School's Commitment To Service In Cambodia

Jenni French
Front Row: (left to right) Maggie Blackburn '11, Lauren Freisinger '10, Sage Hess '11, Seng Song, Haleigh MacCloy '11, Karen Bovard. Back Row (left to right): Dan Hunt '10, Patrick Owens '10, Rebecca Ross '10, and Ryan Sitner '11.

Hartford Courant

School Stuff
Submitted by Katie Novak on 2009-04-14.

2009 marks the fifth year that volunteers from Watkinson School will visit the village of Poum Knha, Cambodia to continue important service work through the school's Global Studies Program. This year eight students will work with Seng Song and the Cambodian Living Arts program to continue teaching English and developing the arts.

Cambodian Living Arts is run by Charley Todd, Watkinson's former Head of School. Previous Watkinson volunteers helped to build a friendship hut for English lessons, a new latrine and shower, and planted fruit trees to provide missing nutrients for the villager's diets. This service learning trip is an integral part of Watkinson's Global Studies Diploma Program, whose mission is to develop in students the power to be knowledgeable and effective world citizensacting locally and globallyand to foster respect for diverse people and cultures.

Watkinson's next open house is April 28 at 6 p.m.

Son Dismisses Rumors in Police Chief’s Death

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
15 April 2009

The son of deceased police chief Hok Lundy has added his voice to officials who say his cause of death in November last year was indeed from an aircraft accident.

Dy Vichea, who also goes by Hok Lundoak, told VOA Khmer by phone Tuesday that his father had died from weather complications in a helicopter crash in Svay Rieng province, claiming he had heard rumors to the contrary but did not believe them.

“It is known to everybody that it was caused by weather, and rumors are only heard,” he said. “I’ve also heard them.”

Following the Nov. 9 helicopter crash, politicians, businessmen, civil servants and analysts have said they suspect foul play—such as an act of terrorism or assassination—but officials have maintained the cause of the accident was due to storms over Svay Rieng.

Hok Lundy, then 51, was the powerful chief of national police and a strong supporter of Prime Minister Hun Sen and the Cambodian People’s Party. He was implicated in a number of rights abuses he maintained as groundless.

Om Yienteng, a senior advisor to Hun Sen and deputy chief of the national Counter-Terrorism Authority, said rumors of a criminal end were spread by people who “may sit and think too much.”

“Not only does the government regret the loss of our own senior official, but we have thoroughly investigated,” he said. “Having seen the debris, we made a judgment, and having seen the corpse, we made a judgment.”

Recordings from air-traffic control and the helicopter also confirmed the crash was weather related, he said.

Thai Prime Minister Cancels State Visit

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
15 April 2009

Thailand’s prime minister has postponed an April trip to Cambodia, as political turmoil in Thailand continues to shake the government.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva had planned to visit April 18, where he was scheduled to return seven Angkorian statues to Cambodia and hold talks with Prime Minister Hun Sen and King Norodom Sihamoni.

Abhisit’s government is facing a wave of protests from supporters of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, and tens of thousands of red-shirted demonstrators swarmed the capital and clashed with police earlier this week.

A Thai Embassy official in Phnom Penh confirmed the cancellation and said no date has yet been set for another visit.

Cambodian and Thailand are engaged in a protracted border dispute, with hundreds of troops on each side entrenched near Preah Vihear temple, the site of small clashes and several casualties earlier this month.

Thailand revokes ex-PM Thaksin's passport

Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra speaks on a live video broadcast from Dubai during a FCC luncheon in Hong Kong in this March 12, 2009 file photo. Thailand has revoked the passport of Thaksin for instigating political unrest, the government spokesman said. (REUTERS/Bobby Yip/Files)

Wednesday April 15, 2009

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand has revoked the passport of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, saying he helped instigate the unrest that caused an Asian summit to be cancelled, the government spokesman said on Wednesday.

"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has revoked the passport of Mr. Thaksin since April 12," Panitan Wattanayagorn told Reuters, adding it was due to incidents that led to the scuttling of the East Asia summit last weekend in the seaside town of Pattaya.

"According to the law, the government has the right to revoke a passport of a person who damages the country and the Pattaya incident has shown that Mr.Thaksin is trying to damage our country."

Thaksin, who was ousted in a 2006 coup, is living in self-imposed exile to avoid a two-year jail term on corruption and abuse of power conviction.

A court issued arrest warrants on Tuesday for Thaksin and 12 other leaders of his protest movement, the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD).

The UDD on Tuesday ended a three-week siege of Government House in central Bangkok to avoid a potentially bloody confrontation with troops.

POLITICS: China Makes Deep Inroads Into Cambodia


By Antoaneta Bezlova *

SISOPHON, Cambodia, Apr 15 (Newsmekong) - Chem Hout sits at the Maxxi coffee shop on a busy thoroughfare in this rural town of western Cambodia, waiting for the school bus to drop off his nine-year-old son. When the mini-bus eventually pulls by, it carries the Chinese characters for the local Chinese bilingual school - the enviable choice of Chem and other parents who can afford to send their children there.

"It does cost more than the state school (where tuition is free)," admits Chem, who runs his own eatery in Sisophon. "But I like the Chinese and I wanted my son to study their language. I hope he can go to China one day."

It is hard to question the wisdom of Chem’s decision, as the best hospital facility and several clinics in town are also Chinese-run. Chinese money has gone into a couple of language training schools, which take in not only Cambodian Chinese but increasingly ethnic Khmer pupils too.

After a period of prolonged repression, China’s presence in Cambodia is on the rise and traces of this in the impoverished countryside are remarkable. While Japanese and South Korean investors have been pouring money into real estate projects in Cambodia’s up-and-coming capital Phnom Penh, China has sought to combine an influx of state and private investments with a sizable chunk of aid that is now transforming swathes of Cambodia’s hinterland.

"It is remarkable in a way, but it is also a revival of a longstanding tradition of Chinese people providing services to Cambodians. In the old days Chinese merchants were buying and selling Cambodian farmers’ products," says Lao Mong-hay, a Cambodian-Chinese and former director of the Khmer Institute of Democracy in Phnom Penh.

To Khmer people, China always appeared a faraway giant, Lao muses, and since there was no historical incidence of wars, Cambodians did not harbour negative sentiments toward the Chinese. Animosity was mostly reserved for Cambodia’s more belligerent neighbour to the east - Vietnam.

Yet China has played a sinister and covert role in Cambodia’s turbulent past.

Beijing was a generous and dedicated patron of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime from its inception as a rebel group in the 1960s through its grisly 1975-1978 rule, during which a quarter of Cambodia’s population was killed. This support continued even after Vietnamese forces ousted the Khmer Rouge in 1979, when it continued to survive on the fringes of the traumatised society and operated from jungle camps along the Thai border.

Fearing a Soviet-backed Vietnamese expansion in Indochina, Beijing trained the Khmer Rouge guerrillas and supplied them with arms, food and technical support. According to Lao Mong-hay, who now works as a senior researcher for the Asian Human Rights Commission, China donated at least two billion U.S. dollars to the movement, half of it after Vietnamese forces ousted the Khmer Rouge and evidence of Pol Pot’s genocidal rule was made public.

Not a single official media outlet in China has reported on the ongoing trial of former Khmer Rouge leaders, which after 30 years of anguished waiting opened in Phnom Penh in late March. Five ageing Khmer Rouge figures are to be tried on charges of crimes against humanity and murder in cases that are supposed to last until 2012.

The most notorious one - Kaing Guek Eav, known as Comrade Duch, is responsible for the torture and killings of up to 14,000 men, women and children under his watch at the Khmer Rouge extermination centre S-21 in Phnom Penh.

"It is misguided to believe that China supported the Khmer Rouge in their internal affairs," says Zhang Xizhen, South-east Asian researcher at the School of International Studies at Beijing University. "Premier Zhou Enlai was ill in a hospital and still tried to persuade them not to repeat the mistakes that China had made before, but they did not listen."

"Although China could not accept what they were doing domestically, it could not interfere directly in their internal affairs," Zhang says in defence of China’s record. He insists Beijing had no other choice but to support the Khmer Rouge’s foreign policies because they were the only "force of resistance against Vietnamese expansion in Indochina" and that constituted a "serious threat to China".

But numerous records detail that throughout the time that Pol Pot ruled Cambodia, Chinese advisers - perhaps numbering around a thousand - played an important role within the country. They remained important even as, in a twisted irony, the regime’s distaste for ethnic Chinese living in Cambodia soon deteriorated into horrific ethnic cleansing.

Today, even as the Khmer Rouge trials proceed in Phnom Penh, China’s role in Cambodia’s past is mentioned little, if at all.

"The Khmer government never brings up Chinese involvement in Cambodia’s past," says Ou Virak, president of the Cambodia Centre for Human Rights. "China is our biggest investor and donor and the number one recipient of land concessions. Both countries want to sweep the past under the carpet."

According to the Cambodian Investment Committee, China has topped the list of foreign investing countries for the last 14 years, with a total amount of 5.7 billion dollars at the end of 2007. Beijing has promised Phnom Penh an additional 257 million dollars of aid for 2009.

But China’s largesse does not come without strings, asserts Ou Virak.

"The Hun Sen government is acting as Beijing’s spokesperson," he says, referring to Cambodia’s prime minister. "They are keen on emphasising America’s role in aiding the Khmer Rouge to seize power because it helps China keep the United States at bay in ASEAN (Association of South-east Asian Nations)."

As part of its Vietnam campaign of the late 1960s up to the early 1970s, the U.S. military bombed Vietnamese sanctuaries in Cambodia, leading to many thousands of civilian deaths. The U.S. aggression aided the Khmer Rouge to rally national support in the name of fighting foreign imperialists, and paved the way for its ascent to power. "Both China and the Untied States are culpable," says Theary Seng, executive director for the Cambodia Centre for Social Development. "It is also revisionist on China’s part to try and repudiate its role in the Khmer Rouge because it contradicts historical evidence."

An apology and a trust fund for Khmer Rouge victims would be an appropriate way for China to close that page of history and make financial amends, she says. "All these big investments and generous donations - they are all very well but Cambodian people need to be told that they are entitled to them," Theary Seng adds.

(*This story was written for the Imaging our Mekong Programme coordinated by IPS Asia-Pacific)

Khmer Rouge trials will not bring justice

UPI Asia

By Chak Sopheap
Guest Commentary
Published: April 15, 2009

Niigata, Japan — It is not surprising that many foreigners know the details of the Khmer Rouge regime, which ruled Cambodia from 1975-1979, while the young generation of Cambodians may not even know that this inhuman regime ever existed. Cambodian schoolchildren are taught almost nothing about this dark period of their country’s history. Even 30 years after the Khmer Rouge committed its atrocities against the Cambodian people the subject is still sensitive among political groups.

Fortunately, “A History of Democratic Kampuchea,” written by Cambodian author Khamboly Dy and published in 2007, helps to fill in the gap and educate the nation about the murderous regime. The Education Ministry has approved the book as a "core reference" for history classes, but not as part of the core curriculum.

Still, the scope of the textbook is limited and it is controversial in its naming of only certain individuals involved in the regime, its characterization of the massive movement against the Khmer Rouge, and its unclear interpretation of a long-standing political debate in Cambodia over whether Vietnam “liberated” or “invaded” the country when it ousted the Khmer Rouge. Therefore, the young generation is still skeptical about the truth concerning the Khmer Rouge.

When the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, popularly known as the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, was established, many Cambodians hoped it would bring justice, truth and reconciliation for the victims and survivors of the regime. This new hybrid, national-international tribunal was expected to accomplish three things:
First, it should bring justice to those who died and help those who survived to release their suffering.

Second, it should strengthen the rule of law by judging and punishing the criminals in fair and open trials. It should be a model marking the end of impunity and the beginning of law enforcement in Cambodia, and serve as a deterrent to all who contemplate such inhuman behavior in Cambodia or in the world.

Third, it should educate the people of Cambodia and raise awareness about this darkest chapter in the country's history, especially among the young generation. Ultimately, this would lead to the reconstruction of the society as a whole.

However, it is questionable whether these expectations will be met. The claim that the Khmer Rouge Tribunal will benefit Cambodians could turn out to be merely a myth – such a tribunal may not be the best option for national reconciliation.

For one thing, the scope of the tribunal is limited to senior regime leaders who planned its actions or gave orders, as well as those most responsible for committing serious crimes. The foreign countries that supported the Khmer Rouge, or acted as the main catalyst for the emergence of this cruel regime, will not be brought to court. The tribunal’s regulations indicate clearly that only individuals who committed crimes will be tried. This court is not mandated to sentence countries or organizations.

Therefore, only local leaders and a few high-level leaders that were directly involved in the genocide will be sentenced, while many others will go unpunished. It is doubtful if justice and the rule of law will prevail.

Those who support the tribunal may say it is better than nothing, that it is better to accept justice in a narrow sense than to have none at all. But real justice would only be achieved if all who are accused are treated fairly by the court. If the trial procedures do not reveal the root cause of the problem, it is unacceptable.

It is also unclear to what extent these trials can serve as a model for an independent court system in Cambodia, as corruption and nepotism are so widespread, even within this court. Moreover, it is unlikely that the whole truth about the Khmer Rouge regime will emerge through the proceedings of the tribunal. If this tribunal is to be the final page in the Khmer Rouge history, it will be unjust and misleading for future generations.

There are better alternatives to this court setup if justice and national reconciliation are the goals. The funds allocated for the court, which have already exceeded the original budget, should have been used for restorative justice – a healing process – rather than this imperfect retributive justice.

For Cambodian society, real reconciliation will be found only when trust returns between individuals; when they can smile at and trust each other again. Thus, a national dialogue or truth commission should be set up so that people, especially the victims, can fully participate to address their suffering and their needs.


(Chak Sopheap is a graduate student of peace studies at the International University of Japan. She runs a blog,, in which she shares her impressions of both Japan and her homeland, Cambodia. She was previously advocacy officer of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights.)