Friday, 1 May 2009

Vietnamese, Cambodian border provinces boost cooperation

Vietnam Cambodia
05/01/2009

Leaders of the Vietnamese border provinces of Tay Ninh and Long An and the Cambodian province of Svay Rieng have held a working session to review their joint collaboration programme on border protection.

At a meeting in Svay Rieng province this week, they shared the view that their joint programme has brought positive results, helping to maintain peace, stability and development along their common borderline.

They said that their relevant forces have worked closely to ensure border security, facilitating the exchange of trade, visits by relatives and tourism services while efficiently detecting and preventing cross-border crime, smuggling and the spread of infectious diseases.

In another development, during a working session in Phnom Penh on April 28 between Cambodia’s Deputy Prime Minister Sok An and a Vietnamese delegation of the Interior Ministry, the two countries reached an agreement, under which Vietnam will help Cambodia build an information archive and a human resource training institute.

Cambodia's floating villages

Tonle Sap largest freshwater lake in Asia
Michael McCarthy, Vancouver Courier
Published: Friday, May 01, 2009

One of the great wonders of the world is the vast temple complex of Angkor Wat, spread through the jungles of northern Cambodia. Aside from the gigantic size of the complex --it was the largest city in the world in the Middle Ages before the jungle consumed it after its unexplained abandonment--one wonders why the Khmer empire was located here in the middle of nowhere, with no rivers or trading routes to support the city and its huge population. However, another great wonder of the world can be found a few miles away.

Tonle Sap is Cambodia's Great Lake and the most prominent feature on the map of Cambodia, a huge body of water stretching across the northwest section of the country. In the wet season, the Tonle Sap Lake becomes the largest freshwater lake in Asia, swelling to an expansive 12,000 square miles, and the largest freshwater floodplain in the world. More than three million people live on the floodplain around the Tonle Sap but what's interesting are the 170 floating villages found on the lake itself.

In the rainy season, a unique hydrologic phenomenon causes the Mekong River to reverse direction, filling the lake up instead of draining it. The inflow expands the surface area of lake more than five-fold, inundating the surrounding forested floodplain and supporting an extraordinarily rich and diverse eco-system. More than 100 varieties of waterbirds and over 200 species of fish, as well as crocodiles, turtles, macaques, otter and other wildlife inhabit the inundated mangrove forests. The Tonle Sap provides more than half of the fish consumed in Cambodia.

Sitting on the edge of the lake are these distinctive floating villages, many sitting on towering stilts, with their economy and way of life deeply intertwined with the lake, the fish, the wildlife and the cycles of rising and falling waters. Visiting them is not easy unless you happen to travel with your own motorboat, but not far from Angkor Wat you'll find the tiny port of Chong Khneas, where a fast ferry departs daily for the capital of Phnom Penh, a five-hour journey across the great waters. Here the Khmer and Vietnamese boat people live in their floating homes and a guided two-hour boat trip through the floating village costs $6 U.S. and is an experience worth the time and effort.

Drifting through these drowned villages on a boat is the weirdest thing. In the dry season the houses stand eerily atop stilts in a sea of mud. At the height of the rainy season, the tops of trees poke through the surface of the water in a drowned landscape. Depending on the time of the year and the depth of the lake--it can be as little as a foot deep at times--trucks and cars look like they are being driven on top of the water and villagers appear as if they are walking on the surface. Huge fish traps are placed everywhere. Some of the houses float, others are on stilts, and yet others are boats on which entire families live.

Being so close to a major tourist site like Angkor Wat, this floating village gets plenty of visitors, and the villagers have devised interesting tourist attractions like the crocodile farm, where you can get face to face with some nasty creatures who are, thankfully, kept in a pit. Just don't fall in. Then there are the snake girls, who live on barges and run up to visiting boats thrusting giant water snakes into people's faces. Certainly you can take a photo, but be prepared to pay a fee. There are even floating bars and restaurants, markets, a clinic and a school. Watching kids play basketball in the middle of a vast lake is something different. If you don't want to descend from your boat to explore, villagers will paddle out to meet you, offering excellent ice-cold Cambodian beer and snacks.

Japan donates $4 million to Khmer Rouge tribunal

By SOPHENG CHEANG

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Japan has donated $4.17 million to the U.N.-backed genocide tribunal trying former Khmer Rouge leaders on war crimes charges, just as the troubled court was running out of funding, a court official said Friday.

The money will be used to offset a salary shortfall for 251 court staffers until at least the end of the year, tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath said. The court has been troubled by political wrangling and allegations that some Cambodian officials were demanding kickbacks from people trying to secure jobs with it.

The tribunal is tasked with seeking justice for atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge during their four years in power in the late 1970s. An estimated 1.7 million Cambodians died under the radically communist regime from forced labor, starvation, medical neglect and executions.

"The donation arrived on time since the Cambodian side of the court was running out of budget. We really appreciate what the Japanese government has done," Reach Sambath said.

The donation comes as Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, is being tried by the tribunal for crimes against humanity, war crimes, murder and torture.

The 66-year-old Duch (pronounced Doik) commanded the Phnom Penh prison, where as many as 16,000 men, women and children are believed to have been tortured before being sent to their deaths. Only a handful survived.

Four other former Khmer Rouge leaders, aging and infirm, are being held for trial on charges of crimes against humanity and war atrocities. The are likely to be tried in the next year or two.

The tribunal operates under the joint administration of Cambodia and the U.N., which have separate budgets. In January, Japan gave $21 million to the U.N. side of the operation.

In March, Japan donated $200,000 to the Cambodian side for that month's payroll.

"Japan places a great emphasis on the progress of the Khmer Rouge tribunal, as it believes that this process will promote peace, democracy, the rule of law and good governance in Cambodia," a statement from the Japanese Embassy said.

Critical of “polpotism”, Duch admits he committed evil acts out of cowardice

Kambol (Cambodia, Phnom Penh). April 30th 2009: The accused on the 15th day of Duch trial at the ECCC. ©John Vink/ Magnum

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

By Stéphanie Gée
01-05-2009

The Trial Chamber started on Thursday April 30 the examination of the third topic out a total of seven that were put down on the schedule of debates, namely the political implementation of the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK) in the S-21 detention centre, led by Duch. This introduction to the political line and orientations decided by the Party were much awaited by those who fear Case Number 2 (concerning former Khmer Rouge cadres Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary, Ieng Thirith and Khieu Samphan) might never come before the Trial Chamber. If such thing happened, the following hearings will then offer a rare opportunity to have a closer look at the CPK and the ideological principles that shaped it.

The policy of smashing enemies
Nobody was allowed to release people sent to S-21, “and even Pol Pot, the most important protagonist among the Khmer Rouge, used to say he was not allowed to order the release of whoever had been arrested”, Duch says during the hearing. And even though mistakes occurred when people were arrested, that policy was implacably implemented “to ensure security and make sure that the secret of S-21 was well-kept”.

There was nonetheless one way of dodging the rule. The accused reports, as a side anecdote, the case of a dentist who ended up in S-21. “Uncle Nuon [Nuon Chea] declared: ‘Don’t kill the dentist, he must be alive to treat our teeth!’ Even he did not make the decision for his release! The only thing he could do was to make sure he stayed alive to work at S-21. This was the only thing we could do: not smashing people and keeping them alive at S-21 where they were kept in semi-detention, if I may use that expression.”

Duch, referring to the first document adopted in 1960 by the CPK at the time of its creation, which defines the strategic line and policy of the party, remembers that it was about “gathering important forces to fight the enemy”. Before 1970, he explains, “nobody was purged internally”. “The party did not wish to purge cadres internally before 1970 because the policy implemented was that of a mobilisation of forces [...]. And it is only afterwards that they started adopting this policy of smashing [...]. It is only from 1973 onwards that they started following what I shall call class struggle. [...] Afterwards, after the April 17th [1975] victory, they began showing their anger against the exploiting classes [...] When people were arrested, it was always in the name of class struggle!”

Duch shows on the overhead projector a document dated March 30th 1976 and allegedly issued by the CPK Central Committee, which shows several “decisions”. One of these states that “in order to set up the rules which shape our revolution and to “strengthen socialist democracy”, “the right to decide to smash inside and outside the ranks” is granted, on base levels, to the Permanent Committee in charge of the zone concerned; for administrations linked with the Centre, that right was given to the Committee of central administration; in independent sectors, The permanent Committee was in charge, and for the army, the military commander made decisions. Duch adds that it is the Central Permanent Committee led by Pol Pot which decided to allow those four groups to smash. “As a consequence, as I said yesterday [Wednesday April 29] the fate of those who were sent to S-21 or to other police bureaus was already sealed.”

Enemies evolving as days and months pass
Before April 17, 1975, the Communist party of Kampuchea fought against “imperialists, bourgeois, the feudal system and reactionaries”. Duch corrects his own words and says in French: “reactionary bourgeoisie”. After the “great” victory, the CPK sees enemies everywhere “so much so that we found ourselves isolated”. The former S-21 director enumerates: “Former base people, former soldiers and Buddhist chiefs.... They also attacked religions, education was abolished....”

The Constitution of Democratic Kampuchea: a mere “filter”?
Duch claims he never relied on the Constitution of the Khmer Rouge regime, dating back to 1976, when it came to teaching his staff since he estimated that it concealed the real political line of the party. Thus, the preamble to the Constitution mentions “the aspirations of the people of the whole of Kampuchea and of the whole of revolutionary army of Kampuchea, who would like Kampuchea to be independent, united, peaceful, neutral and not aligned, with sovereignty in its territorial integrity”. But, the accused points out, “Who is entitled to happiness?” Well, in that case, communists, including myself, used to say that it was for the farming class and workers!”

He continues: “Building an ideal society, within the limits of possibility, is part of a theory called historical materialism and according to which we went from feudal society to an ideal society”. This is why Duch explains he preferred resorting to the slogan he learnt in French at school: “It is up to people to decide, depending on their capacities, jobs and needs”. “After April 17, the ideal society I was looking for was based on that slogan! [...] A society that was fair, socialist...”

Polpotism, not Maoism
Duch recalls that after the April 17th victory, a slogan was widely broadcast: that of the “Great Leap Forward”, explained by the president of the presidium of the state of Democratic Kampuchea, Khieu Samphan. “I saw lies in those lines! I mentioned that Mr Khieu Samphan’s explanation was a lie. The great leap forward – what is this? Pol Pot evacuated the whole of Phnom Penh, smashed capitalists and smashed intellectuals and who was left? Only the working and farming class! [...] Was I pleased with that ideal society created by Pol Pot? It was horrible because many people lost their lives and in the end, there were only two classes! Looking back on it, what kind of society were we experiencing? Some western analysts say that Pol Pot was a student of Mao Tse Toung’s and followed his principles. But I would like to insist on that point: it was Polpotism, not Maoism! Pol Pot wanted to go further than the Chinese popular revolution! [...] When I observed what was going on back then, it left me speechless. Many people lost their lives and I could not say anything. This was beyond words! [...] Back then, I had no idea that half of my family had died! So why did I attend all those horrible events and not flee? But where would I have gone?” He adds, later: “I could not escape, I had to continue”.

And when purges in revolutionary ranks intensified in early 1977, Duch says he started to be “in a state of shock”. He apologises: “That was rather cowardly, I was not brave enough to say no, I continued to follow orders...”, with the obsession of saving his own life and spare his relatives.

Organisational structure
At the base, “the very roots of the Party”, according to Duch, were the cells. Higher up stood the sector committees, zone committees and, on top of everything, the Party’s Central Committee. If the statutes of the Party, drafted in 1960, stipulated that any member with ten years of service in the ranks could claim the position of member of the Central Committee, however, the 1970 statutes established ten criteria for admission within the central organ.

“This was a filter wanted by Pol Pot, to prevent members from the Party to be admitted within the Central Committee when they should not be”, Duch explains in reference to the rule stating the ten criteria of admissibility. In order to make a good impression, Duch says, people had to be neither considered as rightists nor as leftists”, “stay neutral and not disturb anyone”, work hard to particularly meet the first three criteria *, and have networks around. Duch was never upgraded to the Central Committee, he says, and would not have liked to be. “All I wanted was my life to be spared... I was scared of not living long!”

Remaining families living in Lycée Descartes call to France for help

Phnom Penh (Cambodia), 30 April 2009. The remaining eight families who refuse to leave their dwelling inside Lycée Descartes are protesting outside the French embassy for suitable compensation.©Vandy Rattana

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

By Duong Sokha
01-05-2009

Cambodian families who have been living for several years in a building located on the premises of the Phnom Penh French high school René Descartes still refuse to leave and demand compensations higher than what the Cambodian government has so far offered. After about thirty Cambodian and French students organised a demonstration outside the school on April 9 in favour of the housing rights of 37 families living under threat of eviction, most of them have one after the other accepted to move out. Depending on the surface area of their home, they will receive a compensation of 5,000US$ to 10,000US$ as well as a 4metre by 4 metre plot of land in the Steung Meanchey area. Still, eight of them are resisting and voiced their message loud and clear on Thursday, April 30 in front of the French embassy in Cambodia.

Following a meeting at the Municipality of Phnom Penh with secretary of state and spokesperson for the Council of Ministers Phay Siphan and the capital’s deputy governor Mann Chhoeurn, sixteen out of the remaining twenty-four families who still live on the premises of the René Descartes high school eventually accepted the Cambodian authorities’ ultimate offer. They are due to receive a compensation of 8,000 to 15,000 US$, depending on the surface area of their current homes and whether they wish to have the piece of land in the Steung Meanchey area. For their part, the eight representatives for the eight remaining families gathered on Thursday April 30 outside the French embassy in Phnom Penh to express their disagreement and have a petition signed, urging the French government to intervene in their favour.

In front of the embassy’s main entrance, demonstrators put up three banners on which they had written, in Khmer, the following messages: “Friendship between Cambodian and France = justice for the people”, “You need a school, we need a home” and “We support the Royal Government of Cambodia’s policy to hand over the former Institute of Affairs [National Institute of Affairs – the school took over the premises in central Phnom Penh] to the French embassy, but we ask you to help us find suitable accommodation”.

“Yesterday [Wednesday April 29], sixteen families accepted [compensations] because the municipality of Phnom Penh told them it was an order of the prime Minister [Hun Sen]. They were told that this dossier was going to be sent over to deputy prime Minister Sok An to ask him for his recommendations, with a view to launch judicial action against residents. They got scared of the judicial system”, one of the demonstrators, Kim Vicheth, denounced. “There are ten of us in my family. The government offers us a 10,000-dollar compensation. With that, we cannot buy a decent house. Thus, we have come to the French embassy to ask for their intervention, either with people, or financially. We hope they will be able to help us”, the young man explained to journalists, accompanied by his father. In order to be able to accommodate together all of his family members in conditions that would be identical with those in their current apartment, Kim Vicheth claims compensations four times higher than those proposed by the state: a 8m x 16m piece of land and 40,000 US$.
Demonstrators then duly gave the petition they wrote for French ambassador Jean-François Desmazières to representatives of the French embassy in Cambodia. However, the French diplomats did not commit to anything with the representatives of the families.

Reached by Ka-set, deputy-governor of Phnom Penh Mann Chhoeurn pointed out for his part that the families who accepted to leave had started to receive on Thursday April 30, the sums of money they were due to get, as promised, “on an account at the Acleda bank”, to help them buy a new home. As for the remaining families, the representative of the Municipality did not wish to say any more: “This is about their right [to demonstrate], but they will leave”. “The goal of the French and Cambodian governments is to train human resources in the future, via the high school”, the high-ranking civil servant said. Cambodian authorities will certainly concentrate their efforts in the solving of this case before the visit, in France at the end of May... of the Cambodian head of government, Hun Sen.

Sun bears seized in Ratanakkiri


Photo by: TRACEY SHELTON
A member of the WRRT walks the two rescued bear cubs to their new enclosure at Phnom Tamao Thursday.

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

Written by Tracey Shelton
Friday, 01 May 2009

Two young animals rescued from wildlife trader earlier this week are now being cared for at Phnom Tamao wildlife centre

TWO sun bears are settling into their new enclosure at Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre after arriving Thursday from Ratanakkiri province following their rescue from a wildlife trader by the Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team (WRRT).

Seven members of WRRT, a government task force managed by the Forestry Administration with support from conservation NGO Wildlife Alliance, stormed the home of 36-year-old Eng Syda after an investigation carried out by the team confirmed the location of the bears.

After praising the WRRT team on a successful rescue operation, Nick Marx of Wildlife Alliance - who examined the cubs and said they appeared to be in good health - said the feisty male and placid female are probably siblings.

"Chances are the mother was killed," Marx said. "A mother bear is going to fight to protect her babies, so in most cases trappers will kill the mother to get to the cubs."

Koy Visedh, WRRT project manager, said the bears were discovered hidden in net sacks in the toilet of the offenders' home.

"This is the third time we've received information regarding these bears," Koy Visedh said, adding that the previous two attempts to locate the trader earlier this month had failed.

New information was received late last week and an operation was planned by the team, which drove to Ratanakkiri overnight Monday so as not to arouse suspicion, Koy Visedh said.

After a WRRT officer confirmed their location Tuesday afternoon, the other officers waiting nearby with local authorities moved in on the house, he added.

Dubious tale
Eng Syda told police he bought the three-month-old cubs in Stung Treng province seven months ago, a statement that cast doubt on his testimony, Koy Visedh said. He was held overnight for questioning before being charged with possession of a rare species.

Despite being recognised internationally as endangered, sun bears are considered rare under Cambodian law, meaning penalties for possessing them are less severe.

According to the law, if found guilty, Eng Syda could be fined up to three times the market value of the animals, which can be around US$3,000.

Ten to 15 bears on average are confiscated in Cambodia each year by WRRT, officials said. Five have been rescued by WRRT this year.

After their slow two-day journey in heavy rain on bumpy roads to their new home, the bears were eager to leave their cage to explore new surroundings. The cubs, which still require bottle-feeding, are being cared for by Free the Bears at Phnom Tamao.

Cambodia 'preparing' for flu

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

Written by Kay Kimsong
Friday, 01 May 2009

HEALTH officials said Thursday that there is no evidence of swine flu in Cambodia yet, but that the country must not become complacent as cases of the disease multiply rapidly worldwide.

"We've not yet seen this virus in Cambodia, but if and when it does [emerge], it will challenge the health system," said WHO representative Dr Michael O'Leary.

"Cambodia has been preparing for some time and has a well-developed plan to respond to a pandemic," O'Leary added at a press conference organised by the government and WHO, which has stepped up its global alert, signalling that a pandemic is imminent.

The Ministry of Health said that, in addition to measures already put in place to detect suspicious flu cases, people travelling to Cambodia will now be required to fill out health declaration forms.

However, only 157,500 Tamiflu pills, the main treatment for the virus, have been stockpiled, according to the ministry.

Sok Touch, director of the Health Ministry's Communicable Disease Control Department, said that the ministry was continuing to work with the WHO, UNICEF and the UN to find ways to tackle the flu threat.

He also said the government welcomed a meeting of ASEAN health ministers later this month to discuss a regional response to the outbreak.

Poll start sees vote bribe claims


Written by SEBASTIAN STRANGIO and VONG SOKHENG
Friday, 01 May 2009

THE campaign for the upcoming provincial, municipal and district council elections is set to kick off today, amid opposition claims the ruling Cambodian People's Party is engaging in vote-buying as a means of swaying poll results.

Members of the new councils will be selected by the country's 11,353 commune councillors at the May 17 election, following a May 1-15 campaign period.

The Sam Rainsy Party came forward Wednesday with a recorded telephone conversation it claims is definitive evidence of bribery - illegal under the Kingdom's Election Law.

In the March 16 taped phone conversation, available on the party's website, Lay Channareth, a former CPP councillor in Preah Sihanouk's Lek Boun commune, can be heard offering current SRP councillor Seng Sophorn a cash bribe to vote for ruling party candidates.

"[The CPP] would like you to support us.... For this support, they will give you US$700 or $800," Lay Channareth told Seng Sophorn in the recording. He added that since it is a secret ballot, he need not worry about being found out by his party.

"If they don't find out, you can work normally and [we can] provide you with money for some time," he said.

Even if he was expelled from the party, Lay Channareth promised, the CPP would provide Seng Sophorn with "100,000 riels [$25] every month until the end of the mandate", as well as an opportunity to stand as a CPP candidate at the next commune council elections.

SRP President Sam Rainsy told the Post he was unsurprised by the tape recording, since the CPP had made many previous attempts to "lure" SRP officials, but that the party's appeals to conscience would win out over the lure of material gain.

"Their tricks are based on money and promises of personal gain, but most SRP officials have ideals," he said.

SRP Cabinet chief Keo Phirum, who is the party's first candidate for the Preah Sihanouk provincial council, said the party had faced a lot of problems from vote-buying earlier in the year, but that he trusted the province's 41 SRP commune councillors to stand strong.

"[Two months ago], former commune councillors who defected to the CPP came back to persuade our commune councillors," he said. But he added that subsequent discussions with councillors had "strengthened" their will to stay within the opposition fold.

Senior CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap could not be reached for comment Thursday, but Tep Nytha, secretary general of the National Election Committee, said that any party with evidence of bribery could file a complaint with the NEC.

Koul Panha, executive director of election monitor Comfrel, said the upcoming election would likely involve "a lot" of vote-buying but was more concerned about the "limited" nature of the elections.

With the poll restricted to party representatives, the results were a foregone conclusion, Koul Panha said, providing incentives for vote-buying.

"This system limits participation, and we want to make sure it will be reformed," he said.

School community seeks French help on impending eviction

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

Written by May Titthara
Friday, 01 May 2009

ABOUT 10 residents of a community living near the Lycee Francais Rene Descartes school in Phnom Penh petitioned the French embassy Thursday to intervene in advance of their impending eviction by city authorities.

"We are [here] to ask the French ambassador to save us from eviction by the municipality," said resident representative Kem Vichet.

He added that during a meeting Wednesday, city officials told residents to pull down their houses by May 15, or authorities would take unspecified "administrative measures" and would bear no responsibility for any property lost.

During the protest, two community representatives were allowed to enter the embassy and present officials with a letter outlining their concerns.

"We agree that the government should give back the former National Institute of Business to the French embassy, but City Hall's compensation is not enough for us to find new houses," Kem Vichet added.

But Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun said that about 70 percent of the residents had already agreed to the city's offer of empty land in Meanchey district, in addition to between US$5,000 and $10,000 per family.

"I have advised them that if they don't want to live in their new location, they can buy new houses," he said. "The prices are only $5,000 to $6,000, and the location has clean water networks, electricity, a smooth road and a market, so it is easy to do business."

Around 37 families living on the site near the school were fenced out of their homes on April 6. Residents say the French embassy is involved in the transfer of the land to the school, a claim previously confirmed by district officials.

Fabyene Mansencal, first secretary of the embassy, said she could not comment as she had not yet read the residents' letter.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SEBASTIAN STRANGIO

Pro-SRP editor and publisher questioned


Written by Chrann Chamroeun
Friday, 01 May 2009

THE publisher and editor-in-chief of The New Liberty News, a pro-Sam Rainsy Party newspaper, were questioned Thursday morning by Municipal Court Deputy Prosecutor Plang Sophal in connection with a defamation and false information case filed by the publisher of the pro-government newspaper Koh Santepheap.

A March 10 article in The New Liberty News claimed that Koh Santepheap's publisher, Thong Uy Pang, and his wife were denied an entry visa to the United States in 2003 because American officials believed they were involved in human trafficking.

"I was very angry and anxious about this article, which badly insulted me without accurate evidence and wrongly charged me with involvement in human trafficking," Thong Uy Pang told the Post Thursday.

Sek Rady, editor-in-chief of The New Liberty News, stood by the story in an interview with the Post.

"We had accurate evidence to support the story," he said. "At that time [the US embassy in Phnom Penh] did not accept his visa. The embassy considered him to be involved in human trafficking and put him on its black list."

He said he had been told by Plang Sophal that the court was currently investigating the complaint, in which Thong Uy Pang is asking for US$100,000 in damages.

Tourism law to regulate industry

Photo by: HENG CHIVOAN
Foreign tourists wander the grounds of Phnom Penh’s popular Royal Palace last week.

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

Written by Vong Sokheng
Friday, 01 May 2009

Approved by the National Assembly, the new law is to crack down on unregistered tour operators

THE National Assembly on Wednesday approved a new draft tourism law, tightening industry regulations as part of efforts to increase security and crack down on rogue operators, officials said.

"Our tourism industry is growing fast, and we need to have a law making the industry accountable," Sam Prumnear, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Tourism, told lawmakers Wednesday. "The police will take control of [implementing the law] relating to the sex industry and human exploitation."

Tourism Minister Thong Khon said that around 30 percent of tourism-related businesses did not hold government licences, and that such operators would be given three months from the implementation of the law to register with the government.

Thong Khon added that the general situation of the industry at popular tourist spots was good, but that new rural destinations - especially a string of villages between Siem Reap and Kampong Thom offering home stays to foreign tourists - were still a concern. "There is a need for a public-awareness campaign, and the participation of citizens will help the tourism industry keep growing," he said.

However, opposition leader Sam Rainsy expressed concerns over widespread corruption in the tourism industry and appealed for lawmakers to give at least one year for poor tourism businesses to apply for licences. "Because of the lack of information about the law, smaller businesses will not have enough time to apply for licences within three months," he said.

Foreign tourist arrivals to Cambodia dropped 3.4 percent in the first quarter of 2009, falling to 622,288 from 644,205 in the same period in 2008, according to Ministry of Tourism statistics.

Four killed in police chase in Thailand


Written by Thet Sambath
Friday, 01 May 2009

FOUR Cambodians were killed and seven injured in Thailand's Sing Buri province on April 23 when the truck in which they were fleeing from police collided with a concrete pole, a Ministry of Defence official told the Post Thursday.

The Cambodians, all construction workers, were in Thailand illegally, said Lo Mithuna, the ministry official, who added that they were being taken by a Thai driver to work on a construction project on a farm when Thai police began chasing them, he said.

"We are sad for them," Lo Mithuna said of the victims.

"We are working with Thai officials to repatriate the four dead Cambodians and the seven injured Cambodians for funerals and treatment."

Morl Chit, a ministry official who prepared a report on the case, said Thursday that the relatives of the victims had travelled to the Poipet border crossing to receive the dead bodies and transfer the injured back to their homes in Banteay Meanchey province's O'Chrov district.

They were waiting at the border crossing as of Thursday afternoon, he said.

"I was told by Thai officials that the bodies were being processed to be repatriated into Cambodia," Morl Chit said.

"The injured people would also be sent back to Cambodia [today]," he added.

The injured Cambodians are currently in Thailand's Sa Kaeo province, he said.

The construction workers were returning to work in Thailand after visiting Cambodia for Khmer New Year.

Three women among dead
Smor Doeung, 43, said his niece and nephew were among the injured and that the husband of his niece was killed in the crash.

He said three of the dead were women: Rorn Ki, 30, Ren Lab, 44, and Srey Mao, whose age he could not provide.

The one man among the dead was Savoeuy Savong, whose age Smor Doeung also did not know.

Cambodia plagued by epidemic of drug-resistant conjunctivitis

Photo by: TRACEY SHELTON
The eye of a patient recovering from conjunctivitis on Thursday.




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

Written by Nathan Green
Friday, 01 May 2009

Ophthalmogists say they are keeping their eyes on a strain of the ailment that is proving particularly resistant to routine antibiotics

AN eye health specialist from the Ministry of Health warned Thursday that people suffering from a particularly tough-to-treat strain of conjunctivitis sweeping Cambodia should seek medical help rather than trying to cure it using over-the-counter medications.

Do Seiha, the coordinator of Cambodia's national eye care program and the resident ophthalmologist at Phnom Penh's Naga Clinic, said that most infections clear up on their own, but treatment with antibiotics is required if the infection persists.

However, the bacteria that are often responsible for the condition seemed to have developed resistance to the steroidal antibiotic eyedrop Maxitrol that is traditionally used.

"We don't know why, but the infection is resistant to routine treatment," he said. "It usually can be treated in one week, but now treatment is taking up to three or four weeks." He added that around 10 percent of sufferers develop a severe form of the condition.

Do Seiha recommended doctors use a two-pronged antibiotic drug response, prescribing Maxitrol drops alongside drops containing the third-generation synthetic antibiotic Moxifloxacin, which has only been available in Cambodia since December.

While these medicines can be bought over the counter, Do Seiha said they should only be prescribed by a medical doctor, as not all eye irritations are conjunctivitis, and not all conjunctivitis is bacterial. The condition can also be triggered by viruses or an allergic reaction, neither of which would respond to antibacterial treatment, while prolonged use of Maxitrol could damage the eyes.

They could also compound other conditions, such as causing ulcers in the eyes of those suffering from keratitis, an inflammation of the cornea, or worsening glaucoma.

Conjunctivitis outbreaks tend to hit Cambodia in November and December, but this dry season the epidemic came later in January and shows no sign of abating yet, Do Seiha said. He treated about 300 cases over the last three weeks in his ophthalmology practice at Naga Clinic, he added.

The infection is highly contagious and can be spread through person-to-person contact, picked up off surfaces and spread by dust - hence its prevalence in the dry season. Many people became infected when travelling to the provinces for Khmer New Year, Do Seiha said, picking it up from relatives or through exposure to dust-borne bacteria.

"Once one person in a family gets it, everybody will get it," he said. "To limit the risk, infected people must wash their hands regularly and avoid sharing towels." Recovered individuals also have a high risk of reinfection.

He expected the epidemic to persist until the rainy season arrived and reduced dust particles, which can carry conjunctivitis-causing bacteria.

Dolphin deaths rise in 2009

Photo by: TRACEY SHELTON
An adult Irrawaddy dophin in Cambodia’s Kratie province in this file photograph.



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

Written by Nguon Sovan
Friday, 01 May 2009

Conservation officials express concern that overzealous fishermen, hoping to cash in on wet season fish migration, are netting dolphin calves

ILLEGAL gill nets being used by fisherman in Kratie province have led to the deaths of two baby Irrawaddy dolphins this year, causing local experts to fear a another increase in calf mortality rates.

"Two baby dolphins weighing about 10 kilograms each died from gill net deployments in February and March. Last year only one dolphin died from illegal netting," Touch Seang Tana, chairman of the government's Commission for Conservation and Development of Eco-tourism in the Mekong Dolphin Zone, told the Post.

"We have arrested two fishermen in connection with the deaths and subsequently confiscated their illegal fishing equipment and educated them prior to their release," he said.

Traditionally, there is an increase of gill net deployment in the leadup to the wet season, with fisherman hoping to capitalise on fish moving into the new waterways created by the rains.

"We have launched a new crackdown until the end of next month, arresting fishermen who use illegal techniques such as dynamiting, electric fishing and gill netting - however I still predict that we will lose one or two more dolphins because our patrols are restricted by limited resources," Touch Seang Tana said.

The global conservation group WWF recently estimated Cambodia's Irrawaddy dolphin population living between Kratie and southern Laos at between 76 and 86.

In 2005, a similar study by WWF estimated the number to be between 108 and 146.

In 2004, Cambodia's dolphins were listed as a critically endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. WWF last year noted an increase in calf mortality and a decrease in birth rate being among several factors reducing the population.

Moreover, officials fear that resources for conservation work may be affected by a decline in tourist numbers.

"In the first quarter of this year, foreign tourists visiting the dolphins in Kratie dropped 14 percent to 4,303 from 5,029 at the same period last year," said Ia Monden, chief of Kratie's Tourism Department.

"I forecast that the number of foreign tourists ... will drop at least 15 percent this year as 80 percent of the visitors are Westerners and Europeans, all effected by the [global economic] crisis," he said.

City Hall approves May Day parade

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

Written by Sam Rith
Friday, 01 May 2009

THE Phnom Penh Municipality has given the green light for unions and workers to hold a parade to mark May Day today.

The city received a letter from the Cambodian Labour Confederation and the Free Trade Union on April 9 applying for a parade by 2,000 people, according to a letter signed by Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema.

"For this case, the Phnom Penh Municipality has no objection," the letter said.

Free Trade Union President Chea Mony said the parade will start at 8:15am today near Wat Botum.

Siem Reap and Poipet will also host May Day events.

Speed detectors to be deployed on Monday

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

Written by Khoun Leakhana
Friday, 01 May 2009

PHNOM Penh Traffic Police are to begin using new speed detectors and cameras Monday in an effort to crack down on speeding, deputy traffic police Chief Chev Hak told the Post Thursday.

"We have two types of devices for this operation," Chev Hak said.

"One type is for taking pictures of plate numbers, and the other type is for detecting speed."

He said the traffic police had been given five speed detectors and one camera.

The devices, which Chev Hak said cost about US$20,000 each, were donated by the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

He said the traffic police would rotate the equipment through various locations.

He said the speed limit for motorbike drivers is 30 kph and that drivers caught exceeding the limit could be fined up to 6,000 riels ($1.46).

The speed limit for automobiles is 40 kph and the maximum speeding fine is 12,000 riels.

For trucks, which have the same speed limit as automobiles, the maximum speeding fine is 25,000 riels.

For all types of vehicles, the maximum fine will be levied against drivers reaching speeds of 70 to 80 kph.

He said data collected by the traffic police indicated that 288 of the 700 road accidents reported in the capital last year were directly linked to speeding.

A princely plea for peace

Photo by: Christopher Shay
HSH Prince Alfred of Liechtenstein stands in his room in Phnom Penh on Tuesday.

Bridges – dialogues Towards peace

His Serene Highness Prince Alfred of Liechtenstein is in Cambodia this week, meeting with King Norodom Sihamoni and Prime Minister Hun Sen, among others. The Prince is visiting the Kingdom to publicise the “Bridges – Dialogues Towards a Culture of Peace” event series, which will bring at least seven Nobel laureates and pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy to Cambodia from November 2009 to April 2010 in an attempt to spark dialogues and build relationships between the laureates and artists and Cambodian institutions. Prince Alfred is the chairman of the advisory board of the International Peace Foundation, the organisation that initiated the Bridges program that has previously brought speakers to Thailand, the Philippines and Malaysia. Nobel laureates in chemistry, physics, economics, medicine and peace will visit Cambodia in 2009 and 2010. Prince Alfred is always interested in receiving feedback at wafz@anw.at.


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

Written by Christopher Shay
Friday, 01 May 2009

His Serene Highness Prince Alfred of Liechtenstein brings an event series to Cambodia aimed at building a culture of peace

What are the major threats to peace in the region?
Currently, we face the most severe economic crisis in the last 100 years because it is the first crisis that is really global in its nature. The engine of global progress - namely the banking system and the international finance system - is on the brink of collapse.

This has now spilled into the so-called real economy. Now, we are already in the beginning of an economic crisis.

As we go through the history of the world, the third phase of this type of broad depression after the economic crisis is a political crisis. Before the Second World War, for instance, there was a depression and this brought about demagogues in different countries, and ultimately, it led to war.

What we hope very much is that this time - and I'm sure we're just at the beginning of the economic crisis - we can at least avoid a political breakdown.

How will the "Bridges - Dialogues Towards a Culture of Peace" program help the world avoid a phase 3 political breakdown?
We can only make a modest contribution, of course. Between nations, cultures and civilisations, if you don't talk to each other, then you are bound to fall into propaganda. It becomes easy for demagogues to point the finger at someone as a scapegoat.

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In my view, The future of humanity will be decided in southeast asia and the development here.
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The first step is to meet, the second is to speak and the third is to listen to each other and gain an understanding.

Then out of this deeper understanding, empathy arises. The last step is to cooperate with each other. If you cooperate, you can build a community. At a global level, this is the goal.

The Bridges event program that you're bringing to Cambodia - how will it get people talking to each other?
All the speakers [who] are coming have never been here before. Of course, we always try to simplify our life and our thinking.

If someone mentions the word Cambodia, you think of the Khmer Rouge, you think about atrocities, you think about genocide, you think about poverty, you think, maybe, now about the UN tribunal.

That's Cambodia for the rest of the world because the mass media are not portraying an accurate picture. As they say in journalism, only bad news is good news.

The eminent personalities - Nobel laureates, artists - will come to Cambodia and they will have these kinds of concepts in their minds. They will come here and see and work together with the academic institutions. They will give lectures - they will meet the politicians, the King, the prime minister, and they will have lots of opportunities to talk with students. When they go home, their image of Cambodia will be transformed. They will go home and tell people a different story about Cambodia.

You spoke with Hun Sen [Tuesday] for more than an hour, what did the two of you talk about?
We learned a lot. Our approach is that we don't go with an attitude into a country and think we can teach something there. I like to listen to Cambodians and their stories.

Meeting with the prime minister was a wonderful lesson that I could get at no university because he's somebody who is part of the history of this country. I asked him to let us understand how the reconciliation process here worked.

Power and arrogance most of the time go along with each other. We speak about the arrogance of power. We in the West, particularly the stronger states, feel that we are on top of everything, on top of knowledge and education.

We sometimes have the inclination to look down on small nations. Because we feel that they are still developing, we wonder what we can learn from such a community. We have to bring them civilisation. It's the old idea of the missionaries that we have to bring them something.

This is the absolute wrong attitude. Countries like Cambodia should be studied carefully, because the people here have gone through all this pain and suffering.

During the economic crisis, a lot of unrest will come to a lot of countries. I'm afraid that people will become very angry and that there will be a lot of finger-pointing.

It's good to have models and see how even under the worst circumstances there are ways to reconcile and prevent major conflicts.

What lessons in particular do you think Cambodia can offer the West?
We do not have many models of reconciliation. Sometimes there are trade-offs between legal justice and forgiveness. These are not the same things. I think it's more important to find forgiveness. Of course, certain justice should be done too, but forgiveness is the real thing. If you have justice, only "cold" justice, this might reopen wounds.

It's like war and peace. The idea is always that you can have a war that brings peace. But we have to understand that you can have victory with war, but you can never bring peace.

Peace you can only achieve through forgiveness, understanding, empathy, dialogue. This is, I think, is one lesson that the world can learn from Cambodia.

Why did you choose Southeast Asia for your program?
In my view, the future of humanity will be decided in Southeast Asia and the development here. The major conflict that is on the horizon would be the conflict between the United States and China.

If you put yourself in the position of the elites in the United States, you have reached a position in the United States as a superpower.

All the predictions say that China will become a greater economic power than the United States. Ultimately, China will probably also become a greater military power.

If you put yourself now in the position of the decision makers in the United States, how would you react? Would you just welcome some other power or powers surpassing you in military and economic might, or do you use geopolitical strategy so that these powers do not surpass you?

All the other nations in Southeast Asia are deeply concerned to see if peaceful cooperation will take place between China and the United States, or if it will enter into a military confrontation, either directly or indirectly.

Our modest contribution is against this background. We hope that through dialogue we can encourage cooperation.

PM slams SEZ delays

Photo by: Sovann Philong
Prime Minister Hun Sen says the Cambodian government is already paying interest on a Japanese loan for the SEZ.


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

Written by May Kunmakara
Friday, 01 May 2009

Prime minister says he’s angered that the first stage of Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone is yet to be completed

PRIME Minister Hun Sen lashed out at planners of the Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Thursday for delays that are holding back construction and costing the government in interest payments.

The government took out a US$3 million loan in 2006 from the Japanese government, which was earmarked to be used for design work on the SEZ, but no progress has been made.

The next instalment is $30 million for construction of the 70-hectare site.

"I have told the [Japanese government] to begin building the SEZ. We already signed an agreement in 2006, but we are still waiting," Hun Sen said.

He added that the delays are also deterring Japanese companies from investing in the SEZ.

He pointed to two privately funded SEZs in the province - one in Steung Hav and one is in Prey Nob - saying they had already been completed.

"We should not be happy only accepting this loan. It has to be repaid, and we have nothing to show for it," he said.

He said that on March 31, 2008, the government agreed to a $31 million soft loan at 0.01 percent interest from Japan for construction of the SEZ, adding that the money has not yet been received because plans for the SEZ have not been finalised.

"I urge the JICA president to let us know whether the SEZ will go ahead because we are already paying interest on the loans," he said.

"If Japanese investors don't come, the SEZ will be used as a football stadium," he quipped.
He added that the SEZ should complement the port.

Lou Kim Chhun, director general of the Sihanouk Port Authority's special economic zone, said the SEZ will play an important role in allowing companies to export manufactured goods.

He said the project is behind schedule because the bidding process takes time, adding that two Japanese companies have been shortlisted for construction: Daiho and Panta Ocean.

"Development of the SEZ will cost about $33 million to build infrastructure, water and power. We expect it will create 30,000 jobs," he said,

"Now, we are negotiating the price to start building, and we expect construction will start in July 2009 and finish in 2011."

The SEZ will be located next to the port, which would make customs and transportation easier, he said.

"It will help the port. We expect assembly plants for vehicles, electronic goods and light manufacturing plants for goods like umbrellas, shoes and clothing."

Japanese invest in tourist port

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Nguon Sovan
Friday, 01 May 2009

New $4m port will cater to cruise ships

A JAPANESE company is investing US$4 million to develop a tourist port in Kep province, the provincial tourism chief said Thursday.

Rotong Development Group is behind the deal that would allow Kep to receive cruise ships and link the town to Phu Quoc island in Vietnam, provincial authorities said.

A ferry capable of accommodating 220 passengers would operate under the first phase of the project.

"The master plan for the port development has been given the green light from Prime Minister Hun Sen already," said Chhay Khoeun from the provincial tourism authority.

He said that the development would help attract visitors from Phu Quoc island.

The official added that the port will be built at a new location, rather than as an upgrade of existing facilities.

Tourism Minister Thong Khon said the development will begin soon and would "only take six months to complete".

Travel between Phu Quoc and Kep takes only 90 minutes, he said, adding that Phu Quoc has become a popular destination for tourists in the region and could draw around 3 million visitors per year by 2012.

According to provincial tourism statistics, in the first quarter of this year the number of foreign tourists to the province increased 10 percent to 1,231, and local tourists increased 2 percent to 76,813.

The province has only five hotels and about 10 guest houses.

Feeling the effects of the economic crisis

Photo by: STEVE FINCH
Cambodia’s traditional economy has sheltered it from some, but not all, of the effects of the global economic crisis, but with three of the country’s four key economic pillars in trouble it is not yet out of the woods.


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

Written by George McLeod
Friday, 01 May 2009

Cambodia’s days as the region’s economic success story may be over as three of the country’s four growth pillars suffer under the impact of the global economic slowdown

WHEN investment banking giant Lehman Brothers collapsed last year, it kicked off a financial tsunami that threatened institutions around the world, sinking many and leaving the rest heavily traumatised.

In Cambodia, government officials congratulated the country's financial institutions as if it were foresight rather than backwardness that shielded them from the toxic US sub-prime market largely responsible for the global financial fiasco. Prime Minister Hun Sen even went so far as to applaud the country on its lack of a stock exchange or complex financial products.

There were strong grounds for optimism. With the banks largely untouched, there was no immediate cause for concern about the health of the country's economy. After all, it was one of the world's most robust, leading the Asian region at nearly 10 percent GDP growth per year over the past decade. Foreign investment was driving record property price gains, leading to a generation of nouveau riche Cambodians eager to exchange the security of land for SUVs and new villas in the city.

Annual garment sector growth was in the vicinity of 28 percent per year, while stability and security helped swell annual tourism arrivals from around 200,000 in the 1990s to more than 2 million by 2007.

Douglas Clayton, the head of Cambodia's largest diversified investment fund, Leopard Capital, said Cambodia's lack of integration into the global economy helped it escape the worst effects of the crisis. "I think Cambodia has been hit less than other countries like Singapore and Thailand," he said. "These countries are more a play on the US economy. Cambodia was largely shielded from the financial system, so it was bypassed."

With massive development projects being announced around the country and a new oil discovery off its shores, Cambodia's days as the "sick man" of Asia seemed to be over.

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Many foreign companies and investors hit the panic button, and that had a serious impact on emerging markets like Cambodia.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

But players like Clayton knew that escaping the financial crisis did not mean Cambodia was out of the danger zone. "The second wave was the economic downturn, and Cambodia was affected by that."

Seven months after Lehman's collapse, the impact of the economic downturn is becoming more evident by the day. Some international institutions say Cambodia will show the sharpest reversal of economic growth of any country in the region.

Analysts say growth could fall to minus 2 percent in 2009. The problem, they say, is that the majority of Cambodia's growth boom hinged on four sectors: garments, tourism, construction and agriculture; and all but the last of those is in free fall.

Even there, plummeting food prices have cut farmers' incomes. Oil and metal prices are also tumbling, hurting Cambodia's prospects of becoming a major resource exporter.

Cambodia's openness, and its lack of diversification, have exposed it to the worst effects of the global slowdown, said the World Bank's chief economist in Cambodia, Stephane Guimbert. "Cambodia is highly dependent on external factors, including its export articles of clothing and apparel, its strong performance on tourism, and the significant volume of foreign direct investment."

The garment sector has been one of the hardest-hit, dependent as it is on the voracious appetite of American consumers, who wear 70 percent of Cambodia's exports. Garments also dominate Cambodia's merchandise exports, accounting for 88 percent of the total, compared with around 26 percent of Vietnam's and only 8.4 percent of China's.

"There has been a serious downturn and loss of jobs in the garment sector - especially for high-end products," said Sorasak Pan, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Commerce.

While falling foreign demand has hit exports, lower foreign investment has led to a seismic shift in the property and construction sector. The country's first major real estate boom has virtually dried up as Korea, China and Hong Kong have been slammed by the global recession.

"Last fall, many foreign companies and investors hit the panic button, and that had a serious impact on emerging markets like Cambodia. There might be a bit of a recovery there, but I don't see a big flush of investment in the short term," said Vanessa Rossi of Chatham House in the UK.

Clayton said a land bubble had formed as a result of people flipping properties to make a profit but that falling land prices had decimated the speculative land market and cut foreign investment. The most visible impact has been on Korean investment, he said. "There seem to be fewer strategic investors from Korea and other places coming here, but there are still a lot of entrepreneurs, so there are some green shoots."

Tourism is also in decline, with arrivals from Korea - the main source of tourists in recent years - falling particularly rapidly. The strong US dollar has also raised the cost of travel to Cambodia, while continuing political turmoil in Thailand has severely affected the sector.

The government has responded by boosting regulations in the sector and spending on international advertising campaigns, but recovery will depend largely on a global recovery.

But even with growth far below its early 2008 levels, many of Cambodia's business leaders say international institutions have been too hard on Cambodia.

They point to agriculture as a bright spot and stress that the crisis has impacted only the narrow slice of the economy that is linked to globalisation. Agriculture, which employs 58 percent of the workforce, has been largely sheltered.

"Cambodia has a nice buffer of agriculture.... Only 500,000 are employed in industries that are exposed to the crisis," Clayton said.

Pundits also point out that some of the country's major property projects seem to be inching ahead, the country's stock exchange is still set for launch at the end of the year, and investment is coming from unexpected places.

John Brinsden, vice chairman at ACLEDA Bank, said Cambodia appeared to be escaping the worst effects of the crisis. "Generally, we are not seeing that much of a slowdown. The general economy seems to be relatively unaffected," he said.

"If the global economy starts to change, Cambodia will escape the worst. [But] if it doesn't turn around globally, it will have a major effect [on Cambodia]."

Clayton agreed that agriculture was helping keep Cambodia afloat. "Agriculture is Cambodia's cushion that insulates it from the worst effects of the crisis," he said. "The strongest economies right now are the ones with a strong domestic economy like India and China, and Cambodia has that domestic component with agriculture.

"The recovery may be two years off, but we may be near the bottom.
__________________________________________________
Cambodia’s financial institutions may have escaped the initial impact of the global financial crisis, but with the general economic slowdown now taking hold in the country, it is facing fresh challenges. The second part of this series next Friday will look at the prognosis for Cambodia’s financial sector.

The power of photography goes beyond the visual


Photo Supplied
Original photo of a teenager used by the KR regime as a messenger (left) and Ly Daravuth’s composite image of a present-day Cambodian teenager on an image of a teenager used by KR regime as a messenger (right).

Written by Maria Stott
Friday, 01 May 2009

Initially a part of the Khmer Rouge regime identification system, S-21 photos are being circulated globally as ‘art’ – a fact that raises controversial questions

Opinion

By Maria Stott

On the occasion of the 150th anniversary of photography 20 years ago, Andy Grundberg, critic for The New York Times, wrote that images are "no longer innocent.... They construct the world for us, helping to construct comforting illusion by which we live".

Such observations of how photography represents the world and that with which we are least familiar, may be as old as the medium itself but are still as valid today in Cambodia as elsewhere.

The internationally recognised black-and-white identification portraits of the prisoners from S-21 are a case in point.

The extraordinary power of photography lies in its capacity to be both straightforward - just a picture - and complex in its representation within a particular context, which often goes beyond the visual.

Initially a part of an identification system, today the S-21 ID photographs are being exhibited internationally and have become collector's items.

This now-infamous collection of 100 images was originally selected from 6,000 negatives by photojournalists Douglas Niven and Christopher Riley (of the Photo Archive Group), who helped to restore the archive in 1993. As co-copyright owners of the 100 selected photos, the Group controls the way the images are being circulated globally in the press, in galleries and in museums.

The fact that some of these images are now in the public domain, mainly as "art" and as visual references for Cambodia, has led to some controversial questions.

Who are the people in the photographs? Who and where are their families? Have the ways the images are presented around the world brought us any closer to understanding Cambodian history and the tragedy that occurred here? How appropriate is it to republish and re-exhibit them in different contexts? Is their wide reproduction possible only because it is Cambodia - a so-called "developing" country?

The use of the images in such contexts has left a bad taste for some.

As one reviewer of the controversial exhibition of the "Photographs from S-21", which took place at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1997, stated "...As a child of Holocaust survivors, I feel that this kind of behaviour is at best indicative of smugness and intellectual laziness. At, worst, it is inhumane."

This is not to say that historical images should not be used in contemporary culture and society; it's however a matter of understanding their original context, respecting the subject as well recognising that a photograph is a two-dimensional object and does not include enough information to tell us who, what, where and why.

Ly Daravuth's "The Messengers", a photographic installation that was exhibited at Reyum in 2000, emphasises this. He draws upon the imagery of the S-21 ID photographs by comparing original photos of children used by the Khmer Rouge regime to pass messages (DC-Cam collection) with present-day images of children.

While at first glance the photographs appear to be of young prisoners of S-21, they actually represent young teenagers who were used by angkar (the organisation) during the Pol Pot regime as messengers.

While Ly Daravuth's installation does not judge, it poses the question of whether the photograph can tell us anything else other than the fact that there was a child once standing in front of the camera.

His work reminds us that every judgement the viewer makes about the place or person from a particular image is based on pre-existing stereotypes.

"The Messengers" is an excellent example of how the photograph is possibly not always worth a 1,000 words. In fact, without additional information, usually in the form of text, the photograph itself offers us very little.

Photography in the context of documentary usually functions as merely an introduction to the story.

Khvay Samnang's 800 high school ID portraits of young Cambodians, currently showcased at Phnom Penh's Sa-Sa gallery, also draws upon the imagery of the S-21 photos as the subjects are positioned in similar poses to the Tuol Sleng prisoners.

The collection allows us to see contemporary Cambodia through images of the past. The project on display reminds us that contemporary young Cambodia exists and wants to create, have a voice and to be part of its interpretation.
___________________________________________________
Maria Stott is a Polish-born photographic artist and researcher with an MA in photographic studies. She has worked in the area of photography both in Europe and Asia since 1998. She is the founder of On Photography Cambodia and currently lectures at Limkokwing University.

Police Blotter: 01 May 2009

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

Written by Lim Phalla
Friday, 01 May 2009

ROBBERS ESCAPE AFTER GUNBATTLE
Armed thieves evaded authorities after a lengthy gunfight with police at Trapaing Ropov market, Tuek Chhou district, Kampot province. Neth Boen, 45, and his wife Sun Eng, 43, lost an estimated 13 million reils (US$3,250) and 10 damlung (26.67 to a kilogram) of gold during the heist on Tuesday. No one was injured during the shootout.
KAMPUCHEA THMEY

STUDENTS NABBED FOR ILLEGAL GUN
Phnom Penh police have arrested two Tuol Tumpong High School students accused of using an illegal handgun to solve a conflict with a rival group on Wednesday. Keo Gudlak, 20, and Phal Sophea,17, are being held by Phnom Penh Municipal Court awaiting trial on charges of using an illegal weapon.
KAMPUCHEA THMEY

SAMURAI SWORD MURDERERS CAUGHT
Police have arrested two suspects in connection with the killing of Aom Samnang, 22, on April 15. Police suspect Sin Ratha and Nheb Chheng, 24, to be part of a group of 12 people suspected of slaying the victim with samurai swords in Andaung Rinh village, Ou Char district, Battambang province.
KAMPUCHEA THMEY

SUSPECT PLUCKED FROM WATER JAR
Meas Chamnan, 23, accused of using a samurai sword to severely injure Thon Visal, 20, has been arrested by Kien Svay police. The accused was found hiding in a water jar at the back of his property in Popeal Khael village, Kien Svay district, Kandal province. Villagers say the two men had argued previously and that they were "pleased with the arrest" on Monday.
KOH SANTEPHEAP

SUSPECTED WITCH BEATEN BY MOB
A man suspected by villagers of being a witch has been seriously beaten with sticks and an ax while walking home alone in Por Russey village, Bateay district, Kampong Cham province on Tuesday. The alleged witch has "no idea" who would want to harm him.
KOH SANTEPHEAP

FOUR MEN ARRESTED IN KARAOKE BRAWL
A karaoke dispute led to the arrest of four men by Sen Sok commune police in Phnom Penh on Wednesday. All four men were wounded in the fight.
KOH SANTEPHEAP

The Phnom Penh Post News In Briefs

In Brief: Hor Namhong not sick, govt says

Written by Sam Rith
Friday, 01 May 2009

Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said Thursday that Foreign Minister Hor Namhong went to France on an official mission, not to seek medical treatment. The minister is expected to return to Cambodia on May 7,” he added. “[Hor Namhong] is not staying in a hospital in France. He is fine,” he said, adding that on Wednesday Hor Namhong called him and sounded well. Hor Namhong had suffered from dizziness during the launch of an honorary consulate in Lowell, Massachusetts, on Sunday, Koy Kuong said, adding that he was tired from the long flight to the US.


In Brief: Ministry says stop printing porn

Written by Khouth Sophakchakrya
Friday, 01 May 2009

The Ministry of Information on Thursday alerted publishers of magazines and tourism guidebooks to stop printing pornographic pictures and obscene articles. Khieu Kanharith, the minister of information, said that pornography increases sexual harassment and degrades the morals of Cambodians.


In Brief: PM files complaint against SRP lawyer

Written by Meas Sokchea
Friday, 01 May 2009

Hun Sen's lawyer confirmed Thursday that the prime minister filed a complaint with the Cambodian Bar Association over Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Mu Sochua's lawyer, Kong Sam Onn, adding that if Kong Sam Onn is debarred, then he will also be sued. Kong Sam Onn could not be reached for comment on Thursday, but he told the Post Wednesday that the prime minister should not sue him just because he is Mu Sochua's lawyer. "I don't understand why he [Hun Sen] sues me because I am just following my position as a lawyer. Everyone has a right to have a lawyer defend them.... If I defend a robber or murderer, does it mean that I am an accomplice?" he asked.

Cambodian hip-hop dance troupe started by ex-gang member plans local fundraiser

KK (Tuy Sobil) keeps an eye on breakdancers at Korsang, a center for returnees, in Phonm Penh, Cambodia, on February 13, 2008. (Jeff Gritchen / Staff Photographer)

Press-Telegram Long Beach
http://www.presstelegram.com

By Greg Mellen, Staff Writer
04/30/2009

LONG BEACH - When Tuy Sobil, better known as KK, started teaching children and teens in the slums of Cambodia how to break dance, he couldn't have foreseen all this.

A former Crips gang member from Long Beach, who was deported to Cambodia in 2004 after serving time for armed robbery, KK was still coming to grips with his own travails when word spread in Phnom Penh that he was a talented breaker.

After turning down initial pleas by kids to teach his technique, KK relented and Tiny Toones was born.

The goal was to "provide a safe, positive environment for at-risk youth to channel their energy and creativity into the arts and education" and away from the rampant drugs, gangs and criminal activity that infect the streets.

From meager beginnings, Tiny Toones has enjoyed rapid growth and become something of a media phenomenon.

The group has a drop-in center in Phnom Penh and offers educational and social services to needy kids.

Now Tiny Toones has gone global.

And a half-dozen dancers and a rapper are getting a chance of a lifetime.

On Sunday, the Tiny Toones crew concludes a U.S. tour as headliners at a hip-hop community fund-raiser in Inglewood. The event will also feature a live video conference from Cambodia with KK, who is barred from returning to the United States.

However, his dancers were granted visas and have spent the last two weeks traveling the United States, competing in hip-hop battles and packing in a lifetime of experiences that were once unimaginable.
Organizers had hoped to stage the event in Long Beach but ran into complications.

Those who can't make it to Inglewood can meet Tiny Toones at noon Sunday at Cesar Chavez Park, 401 Golden Ave. where a hip-hop/reggae community picnic will be staged with DJs, graffiti artists, b-boys, drum circles, fire dancers, and other artists.

The members of Tiny Toones may wear sideways ball caps, baggy clothes and strike American urban poses, but "Suicide," "T-Boy," "Diamond," "Fresh," "Honey, "Sokha" and "K-Dep" are pure Cambodian.

Dara Chan, a grad student and child of Cambodian immigrants, spearheaded the effort to get Tiny Toones to the U.S.

He said he was "blown away," when he saw the Cambodian crew perform.

Although the dancers, who range in age from 16 to 23, have only been at it for a couple of years, Chan says "they really pushed themselves. They created a really original show."

The routine begins as a traditional Cambodian "Monkey Dance," before transforming into a modern and urban interpretation of the classic tale.

Chan says he has been amazed at the love and welcome the Cambodian crew has received.

The idea of bringing Tiny Toones began with an invitation to an annual international dance battle called "Breakin' the Law," sponsored by the University of Wisconsin as part of its Hip Hop as a Movement week.

After strings were pulled and letters of support from numerous charities and law firms written, the Tiny Toones kids were granted visas.

Chan said efforts to get a temporary waiver for KK were unsuccessful.

After the show in Wisconsin, Tiny Toones traveled to New York, Philadelphia and Seattle. They return home after Sunday's performance.

In addition to Tiny Toones, the event will include art demonstrations and workshops, live graffiti and silk screening and performances by dancers, rappers, spoken word artists and DJs.

June Kaeswith, a student at Cal State Long Beach, organized the event.

"We want to bring back what hip-hop was originally about, which is peace, love, unity, having fun and knowledge," Kaeswith says. "This event is to revive that."

Information about the events is available by e-mail at jumakae@gmail.com. Information about Tiny Toones can be found online at www.tinytoonescambodia.com.

greg.mellen@presstelegram.com, 562-499-1291

Cambodia Tribunal Monitor

http://www.cambodiatribunal.org/

29 April 2009: Trial of Kaing Guek Eav (alias "Duch")

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4
Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8

28 April 2009: Trial of Kaing Guek Eav (alias "Duch")

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4
Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8

Japan helps Cambodia pay for Khmer Rouge trial

Australia Network News
http://australianetworknews.com

The Japanese government says it will contribute more than 4-million US dollars in assistance to help Cambodia cover a shortfall of funds for the trial of former Khmer Rouge leaders.

The Japanese Embassy said the money was requested by Cambodia to help finance its share of the budget for the tribunal.

In a statement the embassy says it believes the legal process will promote peace, democracy, the rule of law and good governance in Cambodia.

Japan has so far contributed more than 20-million for the trials.

The court is currently hearing the case against former prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, the first of five Khmer Rouge figures detained by the tribunal to be tried.

Gaining valuable real-world work experience through volunteering

Photo by: MARK ROY
Chhay Chansopheaktra.

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

Written by Chhay Chansopheaktra
Thursday, 30 April 2009

Student Voices

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By Chhay Chansopheaktra

With many people competing for the same jobs, institutions in the public and private sectors pay a great deal of attention to the previous work experience of their recruits.

Volunteering is a great way for young people to develop skills beyond their classroom studies. Because volunteering does not offer any monetary reward, the emphasis is on ensuring you get valuable work experience.

That is why I volunteer in many different fields, to supplement my study and add to my skill set.

Volunteering helps me apply what I have learnt in the classroom to the real world. Over the last year I have sat on the Youth Council of Cambodia, a youth advisory panel which the United Nations Country Team in Cambodia uses to better understand the challenges facing young Cambodians.

The panel is also a mechanism by which Cambodian youth can be involved in some of their planning processes. There is hope that this will inspire Cambodian youth to work directly with the United Nation Country Team in Cambodia when raising youth concerns.

I am proud to be one of the 10 members sitting on this panel where I can work to include the voice of Cambodian youth in the development of our country.

The opportunity has also helped me learn a great deal about international governance and development.

To develop business and leadership skills, I am currently a vice-president of communications in AIESEC, the world's largest youth leadership development organisation.

I am learning a lot about developing leaders and working with companies, as the organisation runs an international traineeship program that requires my team to deliver results efficiently.

Finally, I also contribute to Outstanding Youth Group of Cambodia, a dynamic youth group who share my desire to provide youth development opportunities through social activities.

Of course, volunteering and studying simultaneously presents challenges and time conflicts. However, with a sensible approach to time management these challenges can be overcome by prioritising tasks depending on competing deadlines. Sometimes the stress is difficult to deal with, but creating and capitalising on opportunities now is the best way to work towards my future goals.

I have touched on the way that volunteering can provide a great way to excel outside of the classroom, by building one's competencies and qualifications. However, I do not want to neglect an equally important part of the discussion, which is the spirit of volunteerism. This is the personal growth one can gain from involvement volunteering with regards to demonstrating a strong commitment to an ideal, passion and hard work.

These are just some of the attributes that bring people together and make you stand out as an individual. These are the qualities that will shine either in front of an employer or to your peers in the rest of society.
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Chhay Chansopheaktra, 20, is a junior in law at Royal University of Law and Economics, and sophomore in international relations at Pannasastra University of Cambodia, member of UN Youth Advisory Panel in Cambodia, and vice-president of communications, AIESEC Local Committee at Pannasastra University of Cambodia.

NM awaits H1N1 'swine' flu test kits



KRQE

It's taking the state longer to test possible cases of H1N1 flu, also known as swine flu, because state officials don't yet have the equipment to positively identify the strain.