Monday, 20 April 2009

Cambodian fishermen catching fish for their daily diet on the Tonle Sap river

Cambodian fishermen use a wooden boat for catching fish for their daily diet on the Tonle Sap river in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Monday, April 20, 2009. Fish play a major role not only in the diet, but also in the economy of the Cambodian people.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)


Cambodian fishermen use a wooden boat for catching fish for their daily diet on the Tonle Sap river in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Monday, April 20, 2009. Fish play a major role not only in the diet, but also in the economy of the Cambodian people.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Cambodian fishermen use a wooden boat for catching fish for their daily diet on the Tonle Sap river in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Monday, April 20, 2009. Fish play a major role not only in the diet, but also in the economy of the Cambodian people.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Pol Pot jailer 'burned woman's breasts'

Daily Telegraph
http://www.news.com.au

From correspondent in Phnom Penh
April 20, 2009

A WITNESS at Cambodia's UN-backed war crimes court wept today as he testified that the former prison chief for the Khmer Rouge regime executed his uncle at a secret jungle camp.

Chan Veoun, 56, said he saw the jailer, known as Duch, shoot dead his uncle while he himself worked collecting food at the prison camp, M-13, in the early 1970s.

"He was my uncle. He was shot by Duch. He killed him in front of my eyes,'' Chan Veoun said, weeping.

He did not give a reason for the slaying.

Duch - whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav - charged in response that the testimony was fabricated.

Last month Duch apologised at the start of his trial, accepting blame for overseeing the extermination of 15,000 people who passed through the regime's notorious main prison, Tuol Sleng, also known as S-21.

He has maintained however that he never personally executed anyone and has only admitted to abusing two people.

Chan Veoun told the court Duch regularly beat prisoners and once stripped a woman to her waist to burn her breasts with a torch soaked in gasoline.

"I saw him tie the female and take off her shirt and burn the chest of that lady,'' he said.

Once, he added, prisoners kept shackled in pits were left to drown in monsoon season floods.

He went on to describe how staff at the camp would gauge Duch's mood.

"When he spoke to the guards with a straight face, things were okay. But if he had a smile on his face, there were problems,'' Chan Veoun said.

Duch denied his accounts, saying he recognised Chan Veoun but the witness had never worked under him.

"This is a complete fabrication - probably of what he heard and (he) added something on top,'' Duch told the court.

"About the crimes committed at (M-13) I cannot forget it. It is a serious matter that affects me psychologically.''

The court has been hearing evidence about M-13, which Duch ran during the 1971 to 1975 Khmer Rouge insurgency against the then US-backed Government, to better understand Tuol Sleng's organising structure.

The Khmer Rouge were in power in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979, when Duch is accused of supervising Tuol Sleng prison and sending thousands of people to their deaths in the so-called "Killing Fields.''
The former mathematics teacher has denied assertions by prosecutors that he played a central role in the Khmer Rouge's iron-fisted rule.

Duch faces charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture and premeditated murder for his role in the Khmer Rouge.

He faces life in jail at the court, which does not have the power to impose the death penalty.

KRouge chief executed my uncle: witness

AAP

April 20, 2009

A witness at Cambodia's UN-backed war crimes court wept on Monday as he testified that the former prison chief for the Khmer Rouge regime executed his uncle at a secret jungle camp.

Chan Veoun, 56, said he saw the jailer, known as Duch, shoot dead his uncle while he himself worked collecting food at the prison camp, M-13, in the early 1970s.

"He was my uncle. He was shot by Duch. He killed him in front of my eyes," Chan Veoun said, weeping. He did not give a reason for the slaying.

Duch - whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav - charged in response that the testimony was fabricated.

Last month Duch apologised at the start of his trial, accepting blame for overseeing the extermination of 15,000 people who passed through the regime's notorious main prison, Tuol Sleng, also known as S-21.

He has maintained however that he never personally executed anyone and has only admitted to abusing two people.

Chan Veoun told the court Duch regularly beat prisoners and once stripped a woman to her waist to burn her breasts with a torch soaked in gasoline.

"I saw him tie the female and take off her shirt and burn the chest of that lady," he said.

Once, he added, prisoners kept shackled in pits were left to drown in monsoon season floods.

He went on to describe how staff at the camp would gauge Duch's mood.

"When he spoke to the guards with a straight face, things were okay. But if he had a smile on his face, there were problems," Chan Veoun said.

Duch denied his accounts, saying he recognised Chan Veoun but the witness had never worked under him.

"This is a complete fabrication - probably of what he heard and (he) added something on top," Duch told the court.

"About the crimes committed at (M-13) I cannot forget it. It is a serious matter that affects me psychologically."

The court has been hearing evidence about M-13, which Duch ran during the 1971 to 1975 Khmer Rouge insurgency against the then US-backed government, to better understand Tuol Sleng's organising structure.

The Khmer Rouge were in power in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979, when Duch is accused of supervising Tuol Sleng prison and sending thousands of people to their deaths in the so-called "Killing Fields."

The former mathematics teacher has denied assertions by prosecutors that he played a central role in the Khmer Rouge's iron-fisted rule.

Duch faces charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture and premeditated murder for his role in the Khmer Rouge. He faces life in jail at the court, which does not have the power to impose the death penalty.

Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot died in 1998, and many believe the UN-sponsored tribunal is the last chance to find justice for victims of the regime, which killed up to two million people.

The tribunal was formed in 2006 after nearly a decade of wrangling between the United Nations and Cambodian government, and is scheduled to try four other senior Khmer Rouge leaders.

However the court is now jeopardised by allegations of political interference and corruption in the wake of claims that Cambodian staff were forced to pay kickbacks for their jobs.

Talks between the United Nations and senior Cambodian officials to stop corruption at the court ended earlier this month with no agreement on how to create anti-corruption measures.

KRouge chief killed and tortured inmates: witness

Kaing Guek Eav, commonly known as Duch, the former Khmer Rouge prison chief of the notorious Tuol Sleng prison in Phnom Penh in late March. A witness at Cambodia's UN-backed war crimes court openly wept as he testified that Duch executed his uncle at a secret jungle camp.(AFP/Pool/File/Mak Remissa)



by Patrick Falby Patrick Falby

PHNOM PENH (AFP) – A witness at Cambodia's UN-backed war crimes court wept Monday as he testified that the former prison chief for the Khmer Rouge regime executed his uncle at a secret jungle camp.

Chan Veoun, 56, said he saw the jailer, known as Duch, shoot dead his uncle while he himself worked collecting food at the prison camp, M-13, in the early 1970s.

"He was my uncle. He was shot by Duch. He killed him in front of my eyes," Chan Veoun said, weeping. He did not give a reason for the slaying.

Duch -- whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav -- charged in response that the testimony was fabricated.

Last month Duch apologised at the start of his trial, accepting blame for overseeing the extermination of 15,000 people who passed through the regime's notorious main prison, Tuol Sleng, also known as S-21.

He has maintained however that he never personally executed anyone and has only admitted to abusing two people.

Chan Veoun told the court Duch regularly beat prisoners and once stripped a woman to her waist to burn her breasts with a torch soaked in gasoline.

"I saw him tie the female and take off her shirt and burn the chest of that lady," he added.

He said prisoners kept shackled in pits were once left to drown in monsoon season floods, and described how staff at the camp would gauge Duch's mood.

"When he spoke to the guards with a straight face, things were okay. But if he had a smile on his face, there were problems," Chan Veoun said.

"After interrogations he was very happy and expressed feelings of happiness."

Duch denied his accounts, saying Chan Veoun had never worked under him.

"This is a complete fabrication -- probably of what he heard and (he) added something on top," Duch told the court.

"About the crimes committed at (M-13) I cannot forget it. It is a serious matter that affects me psychologically."

The court has been hearing evidence about M-13, which Duch ran during the 1971 to 1975 Khmer Rouge insurgency against the then US-backed government, to better understand Tuol Sleng's organising structure.

The Khmer Rouge were in power in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979, when Duch is accused of supervising Tuol Sleng prison and sending thousands of people to their deaths in the so-called "Killing Fields."

The former mathematics teacher has denied assertions by prosecutors that he played a central role in the Khmer Rouge's iron-fisted rule.

Duch faces charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture and premeditated murder for his role in the Khmer Rouge. He faces life in jail at the court, which does not have the power to impose the death penalty.

Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot died in 1998, and many believe the UN-sponsored tribunal is the last chance to find justice for victims of the regime, which killed up to two million people.

The tribunal was formed in 2006 after nearly a decade of wrangling between the United Nations and Cambodian government, and is scheduled to try four other senior Khmer Rouge leaders.

However it is now jeopardised by allegations of political interference and corruption in the wake of claims Cambodian staff were forced to pay kickbacks for their jobs.

Talks between the United Nations and senior Cambodian officials to stop corruption at the court ended earlier this month with no agreement on how to create anti-corruption measures.

Khmer Rouge chief denies murder charge

World News Australia
http://www.sbs.com.au

April 2009
Source: AFP

A witness at Cambodia's UN-backed war crimes court has testified that the former prison chief for the Khmer Rouge regime executed his uncle at a secret jungle camp.

The prison chief known as Duch - whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav – charged in response that the testimony was fabricated.

Chan Veoun, 56, said he saw the jailer, known as Duch, kill his uncle while he himself was collecting food at the prison camp, M-13, in the early 1970s.

"He was my uncle. He was shot by Duch. He killed him in front of my eyes," Chan Veoun said, weeping. He did not give a reason for the slaying.

Last month Duch apologised at the start of his trial, accepting blame for overseeing the extermination of 15,000 people who passed through the regime's main prison, Tuol Sleng.

He has maintained however that he never personally executed anyone and has only admitted to abusing two people.

Chan Veoun told the court Duch regularly beat prisoners and once stripped a woman to her waist to burn her breasts with a torch soaked in gasoline.

Once, he added, prisoners kept shackled in pits were once left to drown in rainy season floods.

Duch denied his accounts, saying he recognised Chan Veoun but the witness had never worked under him.

"This is a complete fabrication – probably of what he heard and (he) added something on top," Duch told the court.

"About the crimes committed at (M-13) I cannot forget it. It is a serious matter that affects me psychologically."

The court has been hearing evidence about M-13, which Duch ran during the 1971 to 1975 Khmer Rouge insurgency against then then US-backed government, to better understand Tuol Sleng's organising structure.

The Khmer Rouge were in power in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979, when Duch is accused of supervising Tuol Sleng prison and sending thousands of people to their deaths in the so-called "Killing Fields."

The former mathematics teacher has denied assertions by prosecutors that he played a central role in the Khmer Rouge's iron-fisted rule.

He faces life in jail at the court, which does not have the power to impose the death penalty.

Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot died in 1998, and many believe the UN-sponsored tribunal is the last chance to find justice for victims of the regime, which killed up to two million people.

Cambodian cuisine without borders: Web-style sandwiches

Poum Boeung (Tonle Sap, Siem Reap, Cambodia). 10/10/2002: Morning breakfast for villagers. ©John Vink/ Magnum


By Laurent Le Gouanvic

Late 2007, Epicurious.com, the American website specialising in gastronomy, made surprising predictions about new food trends: the site announced that in 2008 Cambodian cuisine was going to topple its Siamese sister on exotic and trendy menus. More than a year later, the numbers of restaurants claiming to exclusively offer traditional Cambodian gastronomy have doubled in New York: indeed, there are now… two Cambodian eating places in the Big Apple, the latest of which, “Num Pang”, has just opened its doors and only offers sandwiches. Even though they are not as popular in international kitchens as their Vietnamese and Thai neighbours’ bò bún and tom yam, the Cambodian amok, loc lac and kroeung nevertheless start to circulate their scents on the Web as several sites now offer gourmets the possibility to discover an endless selection of flavours from the small Khmer Kingdom.

Flavours: rare and gorgeously tempting
Even though Ratha Chau is regularly congratulated by New York food critics for having managed to promote traditional delicacies, he is still an exception. Indeed, the American chef of Khmer descent runs the “Kampuchea ” restaurant, the one and only Cambodian eating place (or at least the one which dares to call itself as such) in New York City, nonetheless famed for its gastronomic diversity.

Late March, “Num Pang ” (meaning bread in Khmer) came to top up the rather slight offer, an initiative launched by the same Ratha Chau, who now proposes sandwiches filled with coriander, catfish or shrimp with grated coconut… Just enough to arouse the appetite of the New York clientele, now more and more eager for good products and new sensations. “Having been open for just under two weeks, the place is already a hit, with lunch lines 20 people deep stretching down the street.”, a food critic reported at the beginning of April in the Washington Square News , part of the media network of New York University. This was confirmed by pictures published in the “Fork in the Road ” food column, showing the small crowd standing in front of the New-York Khmer sandwich shop.

Prahok: the new magic potion?
A few weeks after the opening, Ratha Chau and his commercial partner were already selling 500 Cambodian-style sandwiches every day, from what the food website Serious Eats - New York , who interviewed the Cambodian chef on the reasons for his success. Beyond the conventional speech about quality products and the love of things when they are well-made, his explanation comes down to two syllables: “prahok”. The answer will seem somewhat daring to those who have had the pleasure of having a sniff of the condiment known for its very special scents - strong enough to make Westerners jump if they happen not to be used to preparation based on fermented fish… But the chef dares to tickle the palates (and nostrils) of customers with his compositions. And his challenge, which appeared quite risky to start with, is eventually a success. A year ago, he was invited by Food & Wine to share with readers, on the website of the prestigious magazine, six recipes of his own invention, presented as “a lesson in Cambodian flavours”.

Ratha Chau is not the only one who fights a lack of recognition – or more simply, of knowledge – of Cambodian cuisine within the international gastronomic milieus. Several internet users also set out to spread the good stuff about Khmer food in the world. Khmer dishes, most of which are neglected by most generalist culinary websites – in English or in French – including Epicurious , the one which issued predictions about the coming glorious future of Cambodian gastronomy, stating that “Cambodian food has stronger flavours than Vietnamese, slightly more subtle that Thai and is not as heavy as Chinese”, now appear without any shyness on blogs or websites exclusively dedicated to them, where they are lovingly explained by gourmet webmasters.

Khmer cuisine… Karaoke-style
This is the case of the well-named Cuisine-du-Cambodge.com , which sports an attractive and refined presentation and look as it was recently redone by its designer Romerix Oum, a French-Cambodian young man specialised in web marketing. On top of a few recipes, including the classic amok , delicious condiments (see kroeung ) or beef noodles , the site also has a “Khmer Food TV”. It mainly focuses on cooking classes – Khmer karaoke and Angkor sunset style – patiently elaborated by another internet user, a 29 year-old Cambodian-American woman who also publishes the videos on her YouTube page alongside make-up lessons videos (the mixes are also of great interest). The different types of fried rice, dishes cooked with all sorts of sauces, soup and yummy desserts detailed step by step and image after image and presented by the young woman will hold no secret for would-be Web cooks, even if they do not perfectly master Ronald Mac Donald’s language (ingredients are detailed via English subtitles as the video plays) and only come moderately close to Khmer music hits (there is always a possibility for users to turn the volume down or switch it off)

Bread rolls, sauces and snacks
A larger choice, but presented with a lot more austerity, is on the menu of the ‘Cambodia’ page of AsiaRecipe.com where some sixty “Cambodia-style” recipes are displayed, among which an interesting selection of vegetarian dishes and a dozen sauces, essential assets for any Khmer cook with a minimum of self-esteem.

Other websites, like Cambodia Cooking Class – cooking classes organised for Western tourists and expatriates in Phnom Penh, leave aside the best known dishes and give away for free a few “snack” and easy-to-make soup recipes, meant to make one’s mouth water, on top of handy pages on the most commonly used products and ingredients.

An invitation to the voyage of tastes
With gargantuan appetite and a delighting open-mindedness towards world foods, the “Station Gourmande” initiated by Anne Rolland, a French national who now lives in Siem Reap and works with the Sala Baï cooking school invites the reader to travel around scents and compositions of tastes. Thus, you can find there a recipe for Breton shortbread as well as a detailed way of making a “succulent” [grapefruit Khmer salad http://stationgourmande.canalblog.com/archives/2007/03/07/4219636.html]. The “mohop Khmer” find their perfect place on a site dedicated to delicacies from all places in the world and gladly orientated, along the spirit of Sala Baï and its elegant recipe book , towards the notions of sharing and the discovery of new colours and tastes.

A quest for identity
The choice of the authors of the Khmer Krom Recipes website is different but no less relevant for that matter: they present many recipes of traditional dishes from the region of Kampuchea Krom, now located on the Vietnamese territory and where an important community of Khmer speakers resides. Those simple cooking recipes, like those, rarer, of the Cham community of Cambodia , are incidentally or purposefully orientated towards a claim for identity. Fact is something other than the plain history of food lies behind those sandwiches, sauces and soups. One of the authors of the website Cuisine-du-Cambodge stresses that point, as an introductory note for starters: “Ancestral crowned link which remains with the wire of time and the times, at home in its kitchen, its country or with the other end of the ground and of its same origins; crowned link which links the generations, the people and the individuals of any medium. Let us share and preserve this gift which is terrestrial food”.

Cambodian private equity fund closes on $27m

20/04/2009

Source: AltAssets
http://www.altassets.com

Leopard Capital, a Cambodian private equity firm, has closed Leopard Cambodia Fund on $27m.

The fund's investor base is made up of institutional investors and high net worth individuals from Europe, North America, Asia, and Australia.

The fund, which was launched in March 2008 with an anchor investment of $1,000, will invest in private companies as well as real estate in Cambodia. In terms of company investments, the strategy focuses on venture, expansion and buy-out opportunities in the mid-market. The mandate allows the fund to hold either controlling or minority positions in its investments.

Targeted sectors include financial services, agriculture, food and beverage production, building materials, tourism, and property development.

Leopard Capital expects to take an active role in managing its investments by working closely with the investee companies' management teams on strategic and operational issues such as product development, marketing strategies, executive recruitment, and financial planning and controls.

Douglas Clayton, managing partner of the firm, said, "Fundraising was challenging in the past year's shell-shocked global environment, but we're delighted to have received enough commitments to build a viable portfolio. We look forward to rolling out some very exciting investments in the coming months.

"Cambodia is feeling the chill of the global depression through its garment and tourism sectors, and surely faces a couple of tough years ahead. This slowdown puts us in a favourable position to negotiate investments, as we can put cash on the table when few others are willing or able to.

"But the storm won't last forever and we believe this promising, resilient country will be among the first to sail through it. We hope to get invested before Cambodia's intrinsic secular growth drivers overcome the immediate cyclical headwinds."

Leopard Capital will support the development of Cambodia's stock exchange, which is being developed with support from the Korea Exchange, according to a statement.

Last year, the firm reportedly competed to buy a stake in Acleda Bank, one of Cambodia's largest banks.

A gaur sent from France takes up quarters in Cambodia and starts off a unique genetics study

Tamao Mountain (Cambodia), 29/03/2009. A young gaur recently travelled from France to Cambodia and now resides in the Tamao Zoo. ©Vandy Rattana


Ka-set
http://cambodia.ka-set.info

By Stéphanie Gée

The Phnom Tamao Zoo, located slightly more than 25 miles to the Southeast of Phnom Penh, received late March a new resident: a gaur, sent from France on a Boeing 747. There are allegedly 200 animals of this wild cattle species left on the Cambodian territory and on a global scale, numbers are said to go between 15,000 and 20,000 animals, but those figures are distorted by the fact that 90% of those living in India are domesticated. “Gaurs are the largest bovines and paradoxically, the least studied”, Norin Chai regrets. He is the founder and president of Yaboumba, a French association working on the study and conservation of wild fauna. The Franco-Khmer doctor, who also holds a PhD in Science, is a veterinary doctor and researcher at the French National Museum of Natural History in Paris and had the idea of this conservation programme with the goal of leading the first rigorous study on the genetics of gaurs.


A pioneering genetics study about gaurs
By taking an interest in the genetic taxonomy of gaurs, Norin Chai is innovating. Indeed, DNA sequencing will reveal which species are genetically close to each other, and even to uncover “genetic nodes”, i.e. the division of a single species into two species at a certain point in its evolution. The menagerie at the Jardin des Plantes, France’s main botanical garden, shelters gaurs from the Berlin zoo which allegedly come from India originally. However, after a close look at the question, the gaur enthusiast – who arrived in France at the age of 4 with his teddy bear called “Yaboumba”, to whom he promised that “when he grows up”, he would save him and his buddies – discovered that those animals are more likely to come from Southeast Asia, and particularly from his native country, Cambodia.


“Much to our amazement, we realised that there was a great similarity between gaurs from the menagerie and those in Cambodia”, says Norin Chai, who accompanied the gaur in its long journey to Phnom Penh. Thus the idea sprung up: introducing in Cambodia a gaur from the French menagerie to provide some young blood to Cambodian gaurs, and then collect the sperm of the animal and freeze it by elaborating artificial insemination straws which would then be sent over to France. This way, we officialise a programme for the international breeding of gaurs by including Cambodia where gaurs from a strain genetically compatible with the Cambodian natural milieu will be reintroduced.”

By maintaining the animal ex situ, in this case zoological parks, risks of inbreeding are high when, as pointed out by Norin Chai, the goal of conservation itself is to strengthen wild populations, i.e. “in situ”. Cambodia lends itself perfectly to this experiment as despite everything, it still offers many preserved forests. The main reason why the animal catches the eye of Norin Chai, who studied at the Maisons-Alfort Veterinary School (France) and started out as director of the 114,000ha of the Manda National Park in Southern Chad, is because gaurs are one of the rare “mega-herbivores” – or an animal species that has kept its prehistoric form – and because their existence is now threatened in Southeast Asia. Norin Chai intends to send a French Veterinary School student to work on this project. The mission will be to take care and study the gaur recently sent to the Phnom Tamao zoo.

Gaurs: beyond the animal, symbols
Gaurs can attain the height of 20 hands, they are dark-coated and wear white “socks”. They are a sort of “flag-species, symbolising biodiversity” and “a pedagogical medium for conservation in general”, Norin Chai claims. In addition to that, the animal has a special connotation in Cambodia where it symbolises peace and serenity. Therefore, as illustrated by the 39 year-old Franco-Khmer Doctor, a pagoda in Longvek, some 30 miles away from Phnom Penh, is entirely dedicated to the animal. There is also the persistent legend of a gaur allegedly stolen from the Khmers by the Thai. This story shall not be told without a second voice, that of Norin Chai’s mother, Ung Daravichet Chai, who manages the Asia section of Yaboumba, opened in 2004 and registered with the Cambodian Ministry of Agriculture.

To sum up the legend by allowing many shortcuts, this is the story of a woman who gives birth to a son (Preah Keo) and a calf (Preah Kor). The village, upon seeing this much incongruous dual birth, evicts the family, thinking it is a malediction. Many episodes later, the Thai King, who has his eye on the Khmer territory, offers the Khmer monarch to gamble his lands in animal fights. The calf, which had since then become a robust cow, offers to turn into a rooster to represent the Khmer side, and wins the fight. But the Thai King finds out about the hoax and also hears that this cow has in itself the whole knowledge of Cambodia. He covets the animal and during the third round, sends a mechanical animal to fight against it, an invincible animal bound to dominate over the cow. The victorious Thai King takes the cow to his country but after waiting for so long to return to its country, the cow turns into a statue. “A Khmer prediction says that the day when this cow returns to Cambodia, peace will return too! The gaur that we brought back to Cambodia is that very cow! And the symbol of it is even stronger since the animal was originally due to go through Vietnam, but finally passed through Thailand due to technical reasons...”, Ung Daravichet points out, now reassured and feeling peaceful about the future of her country.

Yaboumba : serving the ecological and social cause...
Beyond this operation, the core goal of the Yaboumba Association is to create an impact on the landscape on a permanent basis. This is why the association tops up its projects with micro conservation projects which the local population would directly benefit from. Here, the restoration of a pagoda, or there, the publishing of books with Khmer tales for children, or even buying a cow for a school in Udong to offer students the possibility to approach the living world practically. The operative word of the association is multidisciplinarity”, the veterinary doctor says with determination. He has been lovingly looking after the French Jardin des Plantes for ten years now.

The concepts presented on the website of Yaboumba, named after Norin Chai’s teddy bear, bear no ambiguity: “Too often, we see the waste that international Conservation projects can represent when they are led from a distance or literally coated with dollars without any real preoccupation about true on-the-ground issues. […] Keeping a cultural identity which favours a successful dialogue between cultures is essential in sustainable projects. Moreover, before “conserving”, the point is to talk first and work on the interests protagonists have in common, like cultures, traditions, religions... After that, a solid approach can be followed for the conservation and rational management of natural resources.”

... throughout the world
The Yaboumba Association expanded very quickly and now has branches in Spain, Italy, Belgium, Bangladesh as well as a branch office in Africa and one in Asia. The vet, who is the grandson of Ministers from the Lon Nol regime, never stops with initiatives. He launched a quarterly magazine for post-university training: the “Pratique des animaux sauvages et exotiques” (Practice of wild and exotic animals), is the first and only veterinary magazine in French specialised in new pets and other exotic animals. As a side activity, Norin Chai organises congresses and eco-tourism trips for experts in his congregation of veterinary doctors, which will allow him to finance his research, among other things. Norin Chai definitely kept his promise and was loyal to his childhood teddy bear...

Pol Pot's shoes up for sale

The sandals belonging to Pol Pot (left), who died in 1998, were made of car tyre.
PHOTO: HANDOUT

The Straits Times

April 20, 2009

PHNOM PENH - A PHOTOGRAPHER for the Khmer Rouge said on Monday he is putting leader Pol Pot's sandals up for auction along with a pair of cameras used to picture life under his brutal regime.
Nhem En, who photographed inmates at the notorious S-21 torture centre and also snapped pictures at official ceremonies for the Cambodian regime, told AFP bidding for the items would open at US$500,000 (S$750,000)

'Now I offer for auction a pair of Pol Pot's sandals and my two cameras that I used to shoot Pol Pot and other Khmer Rouge leaders, as well as those who died and were victimised at S-21,' Nhem En said.

The sandals belonging to Pol Pot, who died in 1998, were made of car tyre, while the two cameras were manufactured in Germany and Japan, he added.

Nhem En, now a deputy governor of northwest Anlong Veng district, said he hoped to use the money to construct a museum to showcase photographs and items from the Khmer Rouge period, including Pol Pot's old toilet.

'I call for an auction of the items because I need the money to build a big museum in Anlong Veng,' he said.

Up to two million people died of starvation, execution, overwork or torture as the Khmer Rouge, which ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979, dismantled society in a bid to forge a communist utopia.

The former chief of S-21 prison, Kaing Guek Eav - better known as Duch - is currently on trial for crimes committed during the regime. Cambodia's UN-backed court also plans to try four other senior Khmer Rouge leaders for war crimes and crimes against humanity. -- AFP

FROM KILLING FIELDS TO TENNIS COURTS

NEXT GENERATION: Tennis is slowly making a comeback in Cambodia as the survivors of the Khmer Rouge get back teaching young people the sport they love.

Cambodia's tennis playing survivors of the Khmer Rouge are trying to pick up the pieces and rebuild a once proud tennis nation
Bangkok Post

By: Robert Davis
Published: 19/04/2009

Former champion Yi Sarun reaches into his tennis bag, takes out an old wrinkled plastic bag filled with black and white photographs and sets the stack on the table. He carries them everywhere he goes, for they are reminders of when life was good to be a Cambodian tennis player.

In one photograph Yi is seen wearing a coat, tie and trousers and carrying an armload of wood tennis racquets while disembarking from a plane. Another one shows him on the court at the Cambodian Sports Club right after an epic five-set match against a Vietnamese opponent. Yi's arms are raised in victory and an exhausted smile spreads across the face of a young man in the prime of his life. One after another, Yi passes photos around, studying each one as if he were seeing it for the first time. Suddenly, the photographs stop. For it is 1975, the year the Maoist group of soldiers called the Khmer Rouge came to power. And then all hell broke loose.

Phnom Penh was once considered one of the most beautiful cities in Southeast Asia. Now with the Khmer Rouge in power it would become a town of terror. It was the upper class who would pay the heaviest price; doctors, teachers, lawyers, and even tennis players. Throats were slit, skulls crushed with a whack of a shovel and babies tossed from windows. Those who were not killed or tortured to death were force-marched to the countryside to develop an agrarian utopia immortalised by the film The Killing Fields.

Life as Cambodians knew it stopped. A new era began and Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot called it "Year Zero". In Year Zero, marriages were dissolved and families were banned. Parents were separated from their children. Even children's toys were thrown away, because there would be no time to play.

BASICS: Cambodia still lacks courts and equipment, but not enthusiasm.

Two popular slogans of the new regime were "To spare you is no profit. To destroy you is no loss". And, "Better to kill an innocent person, than to leave an enemy alive". With that mantra, the Khmer Rouge went on a blood-thirsty hunt for anyone associated, even remotely, with the bourgeois. Some was just plain ridiculous, like anyone wearing eye-glasses were considered intelligent and must be executed. And if you happened to play tennis, you must be an elitist and were marked for death. From 1975 to 1979, the Khmer Rouge would go on to commit one of the worst genocides of the twentieth century, killing an estimated 1.7-2 million people.

Rewind a few years earlier, on a sunny spring day in Phnom Penh where a young Prince Sihanouk is sitting by the tennis courts at Le Cercle Sportif, an exclusive country club. He is watching the national champion of Cambodia and Davis Cup player Tep Kunnah train. Children are gathered around too, all watching the man called affectionately "Mr Tennis". It was not unusual for the Prince to regularly attended Tep Kunnah's matches.

STILL PLAYING: Former champion Yi Sarun.

"In the '60s and early '70s, tennis was considered as an elitist sport worldwide and Cambodia was no exception," explains Rithi Tep, the Secretary-General of the Cambodia Tennis Association and a son of Tep Kunnah. "Cambodian tennis at the time was at its prime, dominating all regional countries like Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Burma and Laos."

Little could anyone imagine then that those neatly manicured lawns and private tennis courts of the Le Cercle Sportif would be the setting for political executions carried out by the Khmer Rouge. Most notably that of Lon Nol and other government figures. In 1968, Yi Sarin - a team-mate of Yi Sarun - was the number one junior ranked player in Cambodia. Like Yi Sarun, he was ordered to Takeo province to labour in the fields.

"I was so scared that they [the Khmer Rouge] would find out I was a tennis player," Yi Sarin admits. "So many tennis players were killed because they were considered upper-class. I refused to even think about tennis."

Both Yi Sarun and Yi Sarin survived the Khmer Rouge, but at least 37 other tennis players did not. Cham Prasidh, the present Minister of Commerce and President of the Tennis Federation of Cambodia, is a survivor of the killing fields. He remembers when they were forced to eat anything that crawled.

"We were allocated only one kilo of rice per 50 people," Cham Prasidh recalls. "I remember counting the number of rice grains in my bowl. Obviously, with the impossible hours and workload each day we could not survive with only that. So we ate whatever we could. Even earthworms were dug up and pounded into a paste to mix with mother's milk to try and keep the babies alive. We thought the protein would help them survive."

DEDICATED: Many give their time to coach young people.

After Vietnamese forces removed the Khmer Rouge from power in 1979, slowly life began to resume some sort of normalcy. It would take a few years for tennis to return to Cambodia, as all the equipment had been destroyed. But thanks to expats and diplomats, racquets, balls and nets were donated to the former players and clubs. Then goodwill sporting tours inspired by the Soviet Union sent athletes all over the world to play games.

Tennis was back again. Yi Sarin must have thought his life something of a wild roller-coaster ride. Now he is on a flight rumbling over the Aral Sea en route to Moscow. There he will board a train and back track for 17 hours in the freezing snow where he will eventually arrive in Lithuania to play tennis.

He and Yi Sarun would travel to other parts of the Soviet Union like Estonia and Kiev to play tennis matches. Today, Yi Sarin is the national coach of Cambodia.

But the driving force in the effort to return Cambodian tennis to glory is Rithi Tep.

"It is a legacy that I feel I have to perpetuate on behalf of my family," he says. "Because of not only what tennis meant to my father and uncle, but also what they did for tennis too. My family believes that such a legacy has to be carried on by my children to continuously remind of the greatness of a Cambodian athlete and their grandfather and uncle."

With only eight public courts and a handful of private ones in the entire country, tennis has a long way to go in Cambodia before it regains its former status. But at the 2007 Southeast Asia Games in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, Cambodia showed it is ready to challenge again.

When Nyssan Tan captured the bronze medal in the men's individual singles category his team-mates and coaches erupted in celebration as if he had just won the gold, not the bronze. For a country that has seen so much death and destruction, and suffered so many hardships, any medal is something to be cheered. A visibly shaken, but jubilant Rithi Tep, is crying tears of joy.

"We have waited over 30 years for this," he says while hugging the kids and coaches. "Finally!"

Suresh Menom, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) Development Officer for Asia, feels Cambodia only needs a little help to get going again. Already the ITF has sent equipment and is considering an Olympic Solidarity Fund financial grant to Cambodia for coaching expertise.

"Despite their lack of facilities and tennis infrastructure development," Mr Menom says, "Cambodia has managed to achieve some remarkable success in the Southeast Asian tennis arena in recent years. The SEA Games bronze medal and 14 and under juniors that were selected on the ITF teams is a demonstration of the tenacity and determination of the Cambodian players in achieving success despite facing insurmountable hardships.

"If the Tennis Federation of Cambodia can have a centre of its own to develop players, the future is going to be much brighter for Cambodian tennis."

At 63, former champion Yi Sarun still gets paid to play tennis. People working for NGOs and expatriates slip him a couple of dollars per hour to play a set or two at Phnom Penh's VIP Club. Yi Sarun's skin is sunburned a dark walnut colour and his face is gaunt with high cheekbones.

A hearing aide dangles from his ear and a shy smile reveals that only a few teeth remain. While his strokes have become as stiff as his stride, he can still beat most of his younger clients, although he lets them win just enough to keep them coming back. From a nearby court, Yi Sarin is watching him play.

"Still, after all these years he never learned to volley," he says with a laugh, just as Yi Sarun dumps a backhand into the net.

Yi Sarun might not have learned to volley, but just like other tennis playing survivors and their descendants of the Khmer Rouge, he has not given up trying to improve either.

Caravan to explore Kwai Bridge



33 motorbike riders of three clubs, ACE Motor Saigon, Motor Nha Trang and HOG (Harley), are preparing to start a motor caravan, the first of its kind in Vietnam, organised by Viking Travel Company in collaboration with Thailand’s TAT Tourism Company, from Vietnam to Thailand.

“The trip has been well-prepared by the Tourism Ministry of Thailand. Two police motorcycles will escort the group throughout the trip. The motorbike caravan is allowed to drive in highway at over 100 km.p.h speed, and are not required to stop at red lights. They are, however, regulated to drive in the left side and use their horns only in emergency”, said Pichai, Director of TAT in HCMC.

“Receptions will be held in Pattaya, Kwai and Bangkok respectively. After exploring hidden places from west to east, drivers will share driving experiences and enjoy mixing with each other”, said Tran Xuan Hung, Director of Viking Company.

From Bavet, the group will go to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, then to Kor Kong. In Thailand, the group will meet members of the three biggest motor clubs of Thailand, including Pattaya, Kanchanaburi and Bangkok.

Interestingly, the tour will pass Kwai Bridge, a well-known bridge to the world which was introduced in a novel of Pierre Boulle and the movie, “Bridge over the river Kwai”, by David Lean.

“The group will be in Kanchanaburi on April 28th and visit Kwai Bridge, the one that helped the movies win 7 Oscar Awards. The spot attracts more than 10 million visitors to Kanchanaburi each year”, said Tran Xuan Hung.

Talking about caravan tours, Hung said that the most impressive one was the one in Lunar New Year 2008 to Malaysia. Within 10 days, participants finished a more than 5,000km long tour from Vietnam to Cambodia then to southern Thailand and finally to Kuala Lumpur of Malaysia.

In the future, Viking Company will launch further, similar tours. The next ones will be at the end of June to explore the Himalayas, and then a pilgrim to Kailash, the Holy Land of Buddhism in India.

Source: TN

Translated by Hoang Anh

Powder power

Photo by: SOVANN PHILONG

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Post Staff
Monday, 20 April 2009

Children play New Year's games with the help of talcum powder at Wat Phnom last week. Claiming the powder was a dangerous menace to drivers, police conducted regular raids, confiscating powder bottles from young revellers, but were unable to stop the fun as hidden powder bottles would re-emerge moments after the departure of law enforcement officials.

Protected forest gets RCAF site

Photo by: MICHAEL FOX
An RCAF soldier walks past construction work on a new bridge extending into a protected forest area in Preah Vihear province last week.



The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Michael Fox
Monday, 20 April 2009

Officials say base could derail forest conservation efforts

Preah vihear province

MILITARY engineers have begun construction of a military base in the Preah Vihear Protected Forest Area located in the Emerald Triangle region near Thailand and Laos, a move that Forestry Administration officials said could potentially compromise their conservation efforts.

Sao Socheat, deputy commander of RCAF Military Region 4, which includes Preah Vihear province, told the Post on Sunday that the location of the base, to be used by RCAF Brigade 9, was "more suitable" than other proposed locations, though he acknowledged that its construction could damage forested areas and wildlife habitats.

Hunter Weiler, technical adviser to the Forestry Administration's Emerald Triangle Protected Forest Complex, a joint conservation project between Cambodia and Thailand, said the base would house 3,000 people, adding that he viewed it as a "significant new challenge" that could prevent the government from meeting its conservation goals.

"On the edge of a totally undisturbed wilderness that we are trying to keep that way, the people who live there will be carving out homes in the surrounding forest, catching, snaring and shooting animals for their own consumption and for trade," he said.

Weiler added: "It's a threat to some of the goals and protection measures, but hopefully those threats can be mitigated ... so [military officials] can achieve their goals and we can achieve ours."

Weiler said he believed construction of the base began in either late 2008 or early 2009. Sao Socheat said he could not specify the start or end dates for the project, nor could he say how much it would cost.

In addition to the base, two military roads are currently being built in the 197,027-hectare area, which received protected status in 2002.

The military roads will link the new base to the existing Mombei military base as well as to Rabonh village.

Weiler said Rabonh village is at the edge of the most important area in the forest, which is home to elephants, wild cattle, gaur and banteng populations, as well as several endangered birds, including the white wing duck, the forest crane and the hornbill.

Wildlife Conservation Society technical adviser Hugo Rainey described the area as "hugely important for many large mammals and many rare birds" such as the giant ibis, adding that "elsewhere their habitats are completely lost".

The giant ibis, like many other species in the Preah Vihear Protected Forest Area, is found nowhere else in the world, he said.

Weiler said officials involved in the Emerald Triangle Protected Forest Complex project were most concerned about the base's potential effect on the core protected area in Preah Vihear - the part of the forest identified as having the highest population densities and preferred habitats of many threatened species.

National security
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has previously called for the settlement of border areas in the interest of national security, a view echoed by Sao Socheat in an interview Sunday.

The base would be "useful for the nation and for the people, but national defence is most important", Sao Socheat said, adding that military commanders would instruct their soldiers "not to touch wildlife or cut trees in the forest".


Weiler said he believed deforestation at the border would itself pose a threat to national security.

"I would argue there is a national security threat posed by destruction of these forests on the border areas," he said, describing the threat as "just as real and tangible as a theoretical military threat from Thailand or Laos".

He added that he was confident that the government's national security interests could be reconciled with its conservation goals.

Rainey said remote border areas are often home to a range of species that thrive in areas that are not densely populated.

Weiler said examples of development projects in similar areas indicate that the settlement of previously unpopulated regions can lead to the decimation of local wildlife populations and that deforestation in particular can lead to soil erosion and "massive flooding".

Weiler said the threats of poaching and illegal logging were also of particular concern to the Emerald Triangle Protected Forest Complex, noting that the government had in recent years made progress in clamping down on these practices in Preah Vihear. He said settlement locations should be chosen carefully and be clearly demarcated so they are not allowed to expand.

Tong Yee, chief of the Forestry Administration's Chom Ksan division, said his office was also concerned about the presence of the soldiers.

"We are worried that the military base is being built in the protected area," he said. "We have requested that the military commanders help protect the wildlife here because we are concerned the soldiers might use their guns to shoot wildlife."

Tong Yee added that his office had requested that the residential quarters on the base "don't spread out too far".

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY THET SAMBATH

Travel warning to Bangkok maintained


Written by Cheang Sokha
Monday, 20 April 2009

AN ADVISORY issued by the government warning Cambodians against travelling to Bangkok and surrounding areas remained in effect Sunday, despite the fact that political unrest there had largely subsided.

Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith told the Post on Sunday that Cambodians making trips to Thailand should inform Cambodian embassy officials in Bangkok about their proposed travel dates and locations, which he said would make it easier for the officials to reach them in an emergency.

"We have not banned them from travelling to Bangkok, but we are warning them," he said. "Our Constitution grants people the right to travel."

He said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued the advisory on April 13 in response to the country's political turmoil, which involved massive demonstrations and riots staged by so-called "red shirts", anti-government protesters drawn largely from the country's north and northeastern regions.

The advisory was published by various media organisations, including newspapers and radio and television stations.

"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs would like to appeal to all Cambodian citizens not to travel to Bangkok or surrounding areas because they are currently not safe," it reads in part.

Koy Kuong, an undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said officials would not remove the advisory until "Thailand announces that the safety of the people can be ensured".

He said the ministry had not heard of any Cambodians running into difficulties in Thailand due to the unrest.

Tim Sakhorn to seek asylum in America

TROUBLED MINORITY
In a 2009 report, Human Rights Watch documented Vietnam’s “ongoing violations” of the rights of the country’s Khmer minority – commonly known as Khmer Krom – citing ethnic-based grievances and demands for religious freedom as particular concerns.


The Phnom Penh Post
http://www.phnompenhpost.com/

Written by Meas Sokchea
Monday, 20 April 2009

Khmer Krom activist says he will seek refugee status following his flight to Thailand

KHMER Krom activist Tim Sakhorn, who has fled Cambodia claiming he was forced to live in a stateless limbo without identity documents, is to seek refugee status in the United States, he told the Post Sunday.

"I will go to meet the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Bangkok [Monday] to have them help me seek refugee status," he said. "I escaped from a lot of fear when I arrived in Thailand."

Before he fled to Thailand last week, local authorities were keeping a close watch over his house - an activity he saw as a threat to his family, he said.

"I miss my homeland. I wanted to be a monk in our homeland, but Cambodia did not issue an identity card to acknowledge me," he said, referring to what he called bureaucratic discrimination against Khmer Krom citizens of Cambodia.

Without an identity card, it is more difficult to prove Cambodian citizenship and obtain access to services - or safety from arbitrary deportation, he said.

"The [Cambodian government] pushed me to Vietnam and Vietnam pushed me back," he said, adding he was fearful of this happening again unless he was given documents and legal status as a Cambodian citizen.

The former monk, who was arrested and defrocked in Cambodia in June 2007 before being deported and jailed for a year in Vietnam on charges of undermining its national unity, returned to his native Takeo province to visit family on April 4. He then fled to Thailand after being reordained.

The 41-year-old told the Post that his stay in Thailand was only temporary and that he was planning to seek permanent refugee status in America.

Ang Chanrith, executive director of the Khmer Krom Human Rights Organisation, said Sunday that local human rights groups were encouraging UNHCR's Bangkok office to help him secure refugee status.

"I am optimistic that Tim Sakhorn will receive refugee status because the world is watching," he said, adding that the monk had been defrocked illegally.

A UNHCR official based in Phnom Penh, who declined to be named, said he did not know of the Bangkok office's intentions, but confirmed that local rights groups were advocating on behalf of Tim Sakhorn.

The official added that before Khmer New Year the UN had gone to Takeo province to encourage authorities to issue Tim Sakhorn an identity card, but that they said the request would be granted only after the holiday period.

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said that there was no threat to Tim Sakhorn in Cambodia.

"His comments were made just in order to leave for a third country. No one is bothering him," he said. "More than 13 million people can live in Cambodia, so why can't he live here?" Vietnamese embassy officials could not be reached for comment Sunday.

Road Safety: Accidents down during New Year


Written by Khoun Leakhana
Monday, 20 April 2009

Traffic police across Cambodia have reported a drop in the number of traffic accidents during the Khmer New Year compared with the three-day holiday period last year. "Now Cambodian people have learned more about road accidents," Hem Ya, the deputy of the traffic police in Phnom Penh, said on Sunday. From Tuesday to Thursday last week, there were 10 major traffic accidents in Phnom Penh, which killed four people and seriously injured 11. During the same period in 2008, there were 15 major accidents, killing eight people and seriously injuring 13. Police in Prey Veng and Battambang reported similar drops. Sath Kim San, Battambang province's traffic police chief, said, "We notice that road accidents always happen during national celebrations.... Most are caused by drunkenness, speeding and traffic violations."

Tuol Sleng survivors prepare to be questioned at ECCC

AFP
Human Rights Party leader Kem Sokha lays flowers at the stupa of Choeung Ek Genocide Memorial Centre during a commemoration of the fall of Phnom Penh to the Khmer Rouge 34 years ago Friday.



The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Neth Pheaktra and Georgia Wilkins
Monday, 20 April 2009

Judges at the Khmer Rouge tribunal are expected to turn the court’s attention towards S-21 this week, as the trial against the prison’s chief continues

AS the trial of former Khmer Rouge jailor Kaing Guek Eav enters its third week, the regime's notorious Toul Sleng prison will, at last, become the subject of the judges' questions, and former S-21 staff and survivors say they are bracing themselves to take the stand.

"During the Khmer Rouge regime, if I did not obey orders, I would be executed by Duch," Him Huy, a former guard at the prison, told the Post, referring to the accused by his revolutionary name.

"I did ... kill five prisoners at Choeung Ek," he said when asked what he was preparing to tell the war crimes court.

"Before execution, [Duch and S-21 deputy chief ‘Hor'] asked me ‘absolutely or not?' In respect of Angkar ... I answered, ‘absolutely'. If I didn't answer with this, they would kill me," he said, referring to Duch's alleged revolutionary commitment to executions.

He added that during a reenactment at Choeung Ek in 2008, Duch denied in front of judges that he ordered Him Huy to kill people.

Over the course of Duch's trial thus far, judges have only heard questions relating to the operation of a previous secret detention camp, M-13, which Duch also headed. Although M-13 falls outside the court's limited temporal jurisdiction, it was believed to be important in establishing his role in the regime.

Judges are now expected to call on witnesses to describe how S-21 was established and how it functioned, including how prisoners were taken to the Choeung Ek killing fields for execution, a central policy of the ultra-Maoist regime.

Those expected to be called on include three living survivors of the prison, who are likely to be pivotal in determining the validity of Duch's defence, which positions him as a scapegoat who was only following orders. Another, Nhem En, was responsible for taking photos of the detainees shortly before they were killed.

"To survive, we had to respect the orders of Angkar. My life and my destiny belonged to Angkar. Angkar could smash [kill] me any time that he needed to," Nhem En told the Post.

According to a Radio France Internationale broadcast Saturday, Australia has released over US$400,000 worth of donations to the Cambodian side of the court, which has suffered a budget shortfall since donor funding was frozen last July following graft allegations. Embassy officials were unavailable for comment Sunday, but court spokesperson Reach Sambath said, "If it is true, we appreciate their commitment."

Cambodia faces alien threat

Photo by: HENG CHIVOAN
Cambodia’s alien invader - the mimosa pigra, or giant mimosa, a thorny plant originally from the Amazon jungle - growing by a roadside in Phnom Penh’s Russey Keo district.


ORIGINS IN SE ASIA
The giant mimosa and its seeds probably floated down the rivers from Thailand in the 1980s, according to Robert van Zalinge at WCS, meaning the plant is not Vietnamese as its colloquial Cambodian name would suggest.


The Phnom Penh Post
http://www.phnompenhpost.com/

Written by Christopher Shay and Khouth Sophak Chakrya
Monday, 20 April 2009

An invasive plant species from the Amazon jungle is threatening Cambodia's biodiversity as well as costing farmers and fishermen lots of time and money

AN alien has invaded Cambodia and taken over large swaths of land, threatening the Kingdom's ecosystem, and it appears the uninvited guest is here to stay.

The alien threat is the mimosa pigra, or giant mimosa, a thorny plant originally from the Amazon jungle that is out-competing Cambodia's indigenous plants and putting the country's biodiversity at risk. It is also costing Cambodian farmers and fishermen time and money.

"It's a very strong, hardy plant. It can tolerate flooding, and it can tolerate dry [conditions]," Robert van Zalinge at the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) said.

Taking over flooded plains that have been cleared of natural vegetation, the giant mimosa forms dense, homogenous stands, says Chai-Aing Sopharith, the ecotourist manager at Osmose, an NGO that operates around the Tonle Sap.

Neou Bonheur, the deputy secretary general at the Tonle Sap Basin Authority, said that though studies have tended to be small, it's clear the giant mimosa problem has spread across the entire Kingdom.

Despite the threat, Long Kheng, the core area director of the Tonle Sap Conservation Project, said that at the moment, "we don't have any program to control the invasive species".

The alien plant has made only small incursions into the most biologically diverse areas around the lake, but according to Long Kheng, it still poses a serious ecological threat.

"If we don't take action, the mimosa pigra will destroy the ecosystem of the area," he said.

The rapacious plant threatens 20 percent of the Tonle Sap flood area - a "huge area", said Zalinge.

The plant has already become the bane of Cambodian farmers, who spend money and labour clearing their plots of the plant.

Srey Kong Bunna, 37, a farmer from Phsa Krom in Kampong Chhnang, said that he regularly chopped down the plant and even tried burning the plants down, but nothing has stopped it from reappearing.

"I pay at least 100,000 riels (US$25) every year to clear the giant mimosa from my small rice crop," Srey Kong Bunna said.

The giant mimosa can survive floods and fires, and can grow back from its root system, said Neou Bonheur.

It's not just the farmers who worry about the giant mimosa infestation. Fishermen fear the plant as well.

"We worry that we won't be able to catch fish in the future because the giant mimosa grows in our lake," Srey Kong Bunna said, adding that fish refuse to spawn in areas with a giant mimosa infestation.

There have been no comprehensive studies on the economic effects of the plant on Cambodia's fish stock, but fishermen, conservation groups and scientists agree the plant has a serious negative impact.

"You can imagine that vast homogenous stands - especially of a thorny species that doesn't provide much food - will be avoided by fish," said Zalinge.

There are a few ways to combat an invasive species, but they all take money and political will - both things the Kingdom is lacking at the moment, Zalinge said.

In Australia, biocontrol - the introduction of a predator of the invasive species - has been used against the giant mimosa with some success, but the initial costs required to ensure that the new alien pest will not also damage the ecosystem are very high. But as Zalinge points out, "It's a lot of work initially but once it's released, it works for free."

Manual removal has also been used effectively in Vietnam in small areas, and the WCS recommends this technique for the Tonle Sap core area where the infestation is still scattered.

There is also a Minnesota-based chemical company, MSK International Chemical, started by a Cambodian refugee, that claims to have a comprehensive plan to deal with the giant mimosa in Cambodia.

The active ingredient of the company's chemical, triclopyr - approved by the US Environmental Protection Agency for use in aquatic areas - "does not affect human health", according to Darith Sokchan, the deputy director of Mincam Cambodia, the company that imports the chemical from the US.

By using aerial photography and mapping software to prioritise treatment combined with proper training of sprayers, MSK Chemical thinks it can control the plant.

But Zalinge at WCS stressed that the most effective way of slowing the plant's spread was to protect the natural vegetation in sensitive areas and says that if native species are replanted after the giant mimosa has been removed, then perhaps they could better compete with the invasive mimosa.

With a combination of techniques to battle the invader, Preap Visarto, the deputy director of plant protection at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said Cambodia could become a more productive nation, liberating its farms and fisheries from the menace. But, he said, the Kingdom simply does not have the funds.

And if the money does not arrive, Zalinge predicted that "the worst is still to come".

29 arrested for assault on Thai border casino

The Phnom Penh Post
http://www.phnompenhpost.com

Written by Khouth Sophakchakrya
Monday, 20 April 2009

AT least 29 Battambang villagers were arrested and charged with destroying public and private property and assaulting police during clashes along the Cambodian-Thai border on the first day of the Khmer New Year holiday, a court official said.

Sar Yousthavrak, chief prosecutor at Battambang's provincial court, said Sunday the villagers were arrested Tuesday while they fought with police and attacked a Thai-owned casino near the border in Kamrieng district's Boeung Raing commune.

"We detained them in Battambang prison on Friday and are awaiting an investigation," he said Sunday.

He added that the villagers, responding to the reported beatings of two Cambodians inside Thailand, had caused serious injuries to two police officers during the clashes, in addition to vandalising a Military Police car and hurling rocks at the Sranasie casino, reportedly owned by a Thai businessman.

New Year gone wrong
Battambang police chief Sar Theth said that fighting started during a New Year's dance, leading to the attack on the casino early Tuesday morning. He said as many as 60 people threw stones at the facade of the main building and at police brought in to quell the violence.

Police arrested 44 people on the spot, but 15 people were later released when it was found they were innocent of wrongdoing, he added.

"Now we will arrest some more of the inciters of the attack in order to send them to court," Sar Theth said.

Nam Mech, 32, a villager in Kamrieng district's Doung village, told the Post that the villagers who attacked the casino numbered more than 60 and tried to force their way across the Doung border crossing armed with rocks and wooden branches.

But he said the group was turned back by police and Military Police armed with guns and electric tasers.

"I and other villagers are very nervous because we have never seen this kind of riot before," he said.

Pol Pot's shoes, S-21 cameras up for sale

The Phnom Penh Post
http://www.phnompenhpost.com/

Written by Sam Rith
Monday, 20 April 2009

FORMER Tuol Sleng prison photographer Nhem En has made an open call for offers on two of his cameras and a pair of Pol Pot's shoes to fund a museum in his hometown, the former communist stronghold Anlong Veng.

"I would like to call on both national and international, private and state companies to start bidding on a pair of Pol Pot's shoes and two cameras for the [starting] price of US$500,000," Nhem En, now deputy governor of Anlong Veng district, Oddar Meanchey province, said Sunday.

He said he used the cameras, one German and one Chinese, to photograph prisoners at Tuol Sleng before their death, which are now viewed by tourists visiting the genocide museum. He added that the cameras shot about 80 percent of S-21's pictures, which is why he set the starting price so high.

"Right now, I do not have enough money to continue setting up my museum. That's why I decided to offer a pair of Pol Pot's shoes and two cameras for auction," he said.

Nhem En said he will hold a news conference soon to announce details of the sale.

The ex-cadre has struggled to finance his museum despite numerous calls for donations. So far, he says, he has spent about $200,000 on buying and clearing some 50 hectares of land.

Nhem En says the museum, if it's built, will showcase items and photos from the Khmer Rouge era, including a walking stick owned by deceased former leader Ta Mok.

Auctioning history
Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, said it was Nhem En's individual right to sell the items, as they were his own private property. However, he questioned the merit of having the items in the private sphere, as opposed to in a museum.

"It does not matter [if Nhem En sells the items], but I think it would be better to keep the cameras and the shoes in a museum to show the younger generation," he said. "If Tuol Sleng museum is able, it should request to keep the items there. Once things are put on auction, you do not know where they will end up."

Him Chhem, minister of culture and fine arts, said he had not yet been informed about the sale but said he would find out whether the items were the rightful property of Nhem En.

Sweet success for Phnong honey

Photo by: CHRISTOPHER SHAY
Flowers like these on a hillside in Mondulkiri on Friday attract the province's wild bees.



The Phnom Penh Post
http://www.phnompenhpost.com/

Written by Khouth Sophakchakrya
Monday, 20 April 2009

Hoping to improve the living standards of Mondulkiri’s Phnong minority, a conservation group has set up a project to boost quality of the province’s wild honey and sell it overseas

APRIL is peak season for honey production in Mondulkiri, and a wildlife NGO hopes that the sweet nectar could provide a new, sustainable livelihood for the province's Phnong minority.

Honey from wild bees in the protected areas of Mondulkiri has the potential to attract both national and international customers, and with rising prices Mondulkiri's Phnong minority - given a little training and marketing - are well situated to take advantage, the conservation group WWF said..

"This year, the price of wild honey in the local market doubled compared to last year," said Seng Teak, country director for WWF, adding that it now sells for upwards of 20,000 riels (US$4.88) per litre at local markets.

Even though the Phnong in Mondulkiri's Krang Teh and Pou Chrey communes already collect more than 1,000 litres of wild honey a year, Seng Teak says it still does not come close to meeting demand.

"Now, the Phnong will set up bee farms in their community forests to increase the amount of wild honey produced to meet market demand," he said.

But in order for Mondulkiri honey to succeed internationally, it needs to maintain a consistent standard that differentiates itself from other honey products in the region.

Femy Pinto, the country facilitator for the Non-Timber Forest Product-Exchange Program (NTFP-EP), said that Mondulkiri honey "can achieve a competitive advantage if it is a sustainably harvested, quality product".

NTFP-EP, with financial support from WWF, have been training Phnong in two communes to raise wild bees and collect honey products hygienically as well as help package the product to international standards.

"We have been motivating the communities to process wild honey and to maintain the intimate relationship between people, forests and the non-timber forest products," Amy Maling, a WWF technical adviser, said.

Tep Asnarith, the senior communications officer at WWF in Cambodia, said this pilot project's efforts have strengthened the relationships between supporting organisations, Phnong communities and government partners, hopefully setting the foundation for a long-term, successful project.

The project has already seen many Phnong taste the sweet success of a commercial hit.

"Many hundreds of litres of wild honey products have been packaged up to standard for export to regional markets," he said.

Relocation site to get funds for clean water


Written by May Titthara
Monday, 20 April 2009

New international funds will allow Andong village to be linked up to city water mains

RESIDENTS of Dangkor district's Andong village are to get access to clean water after the Association Internationale des Maires Francophones (AIMF) pledged €200,000 (US$261,161) to the Phnom Penh Municipality to upgrade the area's water mains, officials said last week.

The funds were pledged in Geneva, Switzerland, on March 26-27 during the 65th meeting of AIMF, an international body of French-speaking countries. Ten cities in seven countries were approved to receive money aimed at improving access to potable water.

Andong is home to some 6,000 families, most of whom were evicted from Tonle Bassac commune's Sambok Chab community in June 2006. Promised plots of land at the site in compensation, the community has lived without access to basic services for years.

Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun said AIMF had pledged the funds to extend clean water to Andong village, and that construction was slated to begin once the funds were received in October.

"Of Phnom Penh's eight districts, four districts in the city have 100 percent access to clean water and four districts on the outskirts have about 70 percent [access]," he said Sunday.

Relocation site to get funds for clean water

The Phnom Penh Post
http://www.phnompenhpost.com

Written by May Titthara
Monday, 20 April 2009

New international funds will allow Andong village to be linked up to city water mains

RESIDENTS of Dangkor district's Andong village are to get access to clean water after the Association Internationale des Maires Francophones (AIMF) pledged €200,000 (US$261,161) to the Phnom Penh Municipality to upgrade the area's water mains, officials said last week.

The funds were pledged in Geneva, Switzerland, on March 26-27 during the 65th meeting of AIMF, an international body of French-speaking countries. Ten cities in seven countries were approved to receive money aimed at improving access to potable water.

Andong is home to some 6,000 families, most of whom were evicted from Tonle Bassac commune's Sambok Chab community in June 2006. Promised plots of land at the site in compensation, the community has lived without access to basic services for years.

Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun said AIMF had pledged the funds to extend clean water to Andong village, and that construction was slated to begin once the funds were received in October.

"Of Phnom Penh's eight districts, four districts in the city have 100 percent access to clean water and four districts on the outskirts have about 70 percent [access]," he said Sunday.

New Year's blessings

AFP/TANG CHHIN SOTHY


Written by AFP/TANG CHHIN SOTHY
Monday, 20 April 2009

Buddhist monks throw holy water over a crowd of New Year's revellers during the last day of the Khmer New Year celebration at a pagoda in Ksach Kandal district in Kandal province on Thursday.

Rubber sector slows

Photo by: Christopher Shay
Newly planted rubber trees in Mondulkiri province. Fewer trees are being planted as rubber prices fall.


Written by Chun Sophal
Monday, 20 April 2009

Falling international rubber prices are leading to a sharp drop in cultivation, putting govt production targets at risk

Expansion of Cambodia's rubber cultivation will lose momentum by an estimated 61 percent in 2009 year-on-year, according to new government figures.

Ly Phalla, director general of the Rubber Plantation Department, told the Post Sunday that an additional 10,000 hectares of rubber trees would be planted in 2009 compared with an increase of 25,901 hectares in 2008.

"Looking at seedlings, I believe that plantations this year will not increase as much as last year," said Ly Phalla.

In 2008, Cambodia had 107,901 hectares under cultivation, up 31 percent on a total 82,000 hectares in 2007.

The expected decline comes as international rubber prices hit US$1,400 per tonne, down from $3,500 per tonne in 2008, according a report by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

Lower automobile sales and rising stockpiles in China have contributed to sinking global rubber prices.

Ly Phalla said that lower international rubber prices and the global financial crisis are putting pressure on Cambodian farmers but that the decrease had not affected the national plan to cultivate 150,000 hectares by 2015.

"I think that the cultivation of rubber trees will increase again in 2010 as more trees are planted in western and northern provinces," Ly Phalla said.

Hak Vantha, a farmer from Chamkar Leu district of Kampong Cham province, who owns 20 hectares of rubber, said the slowdown was causing him to reconsider plans to plant more trees.

"I have 11 hectares of banana farm land, but I cannot cut down the banana trees to grow rubber trees because the rubber price is still not good," Vantha said. "I may cut down the banana [trees] to grow rubber next year if prices increase," said Hak Vantha.

Ly Phalla said that the slowdown has put some rubber planting projects in doubt.

"What we can see now is that some companies are attempting to cancel their rubber plantation development plans because they have difficulty raising money from banks," he said.

Nationwide, 8,205 hectares of rubber are grown under land concessions.

Another 45,469 hectares are grown on state land cultivated by private companies, and 4,041 hectares are grown under international development projects.

The remaining 50,186 hectares are grown by families.

Despite the slowdown, a $100 million plantation deal was signed this month, between the Khaou Chuly Group and the French company Socfina, to plant 20,000 hectares of rubber trees by 2010.

Plans made to help food standards

The Phnom Penh Post
http://www.phnompenhpost.com/

Written by May Kunmakara
Monday, 20 April 2009

Govt holds talks with Chinese on new facility

THE government has appealed to China to provide funds and advisers to build a new food inspection laboratory to improve quality standards for export goods, it said.

Meng Saktheara, director general of the Industry Department at the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy (MIME) told the Post that the proposal was made by the minister, Suy Sem, when he met with Chinese delegates last week.

"Now, most of our local business operators produce goods without any quality checks, so if we build a new laboratory we can improve the quality of our local goods for export," he said.

The ministry's existing laboratory is ill-equipped to serve the needs of the Cambodian market, said Meng Saktheara.

He said that the new laboratory would help the government to maximise the impact of relevant legislation.

"When we have better equipment, the ministry will be able to enforce existing quality control laws," he said.

"This does not mean we will force them to check their products; we only want to make it easier for them to get recognised internationally for export," he added.

Chhorn Ravuth, manager of a local palm-wine producer, said he supported the ministry's directive to improve the quality of Cambodian products.

"If the ministry can do this, it will help make users trust our products more and to increase exports," he said.

FTB launches biometric ATMs

Photo by: TRACEY SHELTON
FTB ATMs will soon feature biometric technology.

The Phnom Penh Post
http://www.phnompenhpost.com/


Written by May Kunmakara and Steve Finch
Monday, 20 April 2009

Foreign Trade Bank teams up with Indian IT company Opus Software Solutions to install Cambodia’s first ATMs that use fingerprint and voice-recognition technology

CAMBODIA'S first biometric ATM service has been launched by the Foreign Trade Bank (FTB), according to a press release last week by ElectraCard Services, the Indian company responsible for the technology.

The ElectraSWITCH system, designed to improve ATM security, will feature fingerprint-recognition technology and voice-instruction equipment, Thursday's statement added.

"A large number of our customers are still not technology-savvy enough to use ATM machines themselves. Handing over their own cards and sharing their PIN numbers with a friend or a relative to withdraw cash from ATMs are commonly found cases," Gui Anvanith, general manager and board member of the FTB, said in the press release.

The bank said that the new technology would also help to prevent fraud while making banking quicker and easier for customers given that personal identification numbers would no longer be required.

"Biometric ATMs are the way of the future," said Ramesh Mengawade, CEO of ElectraCard Services.

The press release added that FTB and ElectraCard Services - a wholly owned subsidiary of India's Opus Software Solutions - would be working together in the future to develop further banking products including prepaid credit cards.

The two companies have previously collaborated to develop the technology to support FTB's credit cards, the statement said.

The FTB was not available for further comment on Sunday.

Other Cambodian banks said they had no plans to follow FTB's lead.

Cheam Teang, ACLEDA Bank's executive vice president, chief of treasury and international cooperation officer, said on Sunday his bank did not see the benefit to customer satisfaction that such a system might provide.

"It is a little hard for customers when they want to have their own password; they could only use their thumbprint, so if they needed to change a password, they will need to come back to us [the bank]," he said.

Tal Nay Im, director general of the National Bank of Cambodia, was unavailable for comment on the development on Sunday.

FTB, Cambodia's first bank to be created after the fall of the Khmer Rouge, has existed as an independent entity of the NBC since 2000, when the central bank sold its controlling stake.

More of the same


Written by Trevor Keidan
Monday, 20 April 2009

Investors may have to wait for global markets to recover

The recent G20 summit was touted as a "make or break" effort to rescue the world's flagging economy, and US President Barrack Obama even called the meeting "historic".

But what difference has the event - which was attended by a group of 20 of the world's leaders - really made to ordinary people like you and me?

And, now that the summit in London is over, what action should we choose to take following its many discussions?

To begin with, we need to ask if the strategies proposed by world leaders would actually do anything to improve the global financial outlook. And on this particular point there appears to be huge differences of opinion.

In an interview on a business news program shortly after the summit had concluded, one pundit appeared to infer that the G20 summit would have some positive results but there would still be "a lot of crunch and not much credit" when it comes to the world's financial markets.

Nevertheless, almost immediately after the summit the world's stock markets staged a rally - this was in the wake of the announcement that world leaders had pledged a total of US$1.1 trillion in funding to tackle the global financial crisis. (This included $750 billion to be donated to the International Monetary Fund, $250 billion to assist global trade and $100 billion to be made available for loans to some of the world's poorest countries.)

The $1.1 trillion pledge was considered a massive amount and one that had the world's media talking for days after the actual summit had concluded.

For some - especially those under the impression that the global financial crisis is being caused by a lack of confidence in the world's institutions - it was considered a very big deal.

In the aftermath of the summit, there appeared to be a lot of talk as to whether the market had actually bottomed out and whether those all important "green shoots" had started to appear.

But almost as soon as the television commentators started talking about "signs of economic recovery", the market once again took a turn for the worse.

So, despite the fact that the summit did provide some welcome respite, it was not enough to cancel out the bad news that many were expecting to hear during "earnings season" - the reporting season that actually started in the middle of last week and continues into next.

Right across the globe, company results are expected to be poor and so are their outlooks.

The markets are already reacting to the dire forecasts and have factored in the losses even before results are announced. Accordingly, the markets have already lost some of the gains they had previously made.

So what can we expect after the G20 summit?

For the time being it appears that the volatility that has plagued the markets throughout last year and into 2009 is here to stay.

So, with this in mind, what should we as investors do?

Probably the best advice is to continue to "drip feed" investments on a monthly basis to take advantage of US dollar cost averaging. By investing a set amount each month we are able to take advantage of market fluctuations.

Dollar cost averaging allows us to buy more units or shares when the market is down and less when the market is high.

By taking this approach we protect ourselves from the wild swings that look set to continue as a result of the global financial crisis, a situation that is likely to impact financial markets for some time.
_______________________________________
Trevor Keidan is managing director of
Infinity Financial Solutions. Should you
wish to contact Trevor please email tkeidan@infinsolutions.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it