Monday, 18 May 2009

Protesters in red shirts rally in front of the parliament Monday morning

An anti-government demonstrator wearing a mask of Thailand's Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva holds a poster during a protest outside the Parliament House in Bangkok May 18, 2009. Protesters in red shirts rally in front of the parliament Monday morning, demanding that their version of charter draft be taken up for deliberation, local newspaper reported.REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom (THAILAND POLITICS CONFLICT IMAGES OF THE DAY)

Anti-government protesters and supporters of exiled Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra shout slogans during a protest outside parliament in Bangkok, Thailand Monday, May 18, 2009. About 300 protesters took part in a protest aimed at opposing the government's issuance of an executive decree seeking funds worth Bt400 billion ($11.4 million) to revive the ailing economy.(AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)

A Thai police office yawns while providing security for anti-government protesters and supporters of exiled Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra during a protest outside parliament in Bangkok, Thailand Monday, May 18, 2009. About 300 protesters took part in a protest aimed at opposing the government's issuance of an executive decree seeking funds worth Bt400 billion ($11.4 million) to revive the ailing economy.(AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)

An anti-government demonstrator holds a sign during a protest outside the Parliament House in Bangkok May 18, 2009. Protesters in red shirt rally in front of Parliament Monday morning, demanding that their version of charter draft be taken up for deliberation, local newspaper reported.REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom (THAILAND POLITICS CONFLICT)

An anti-Myanmar government activist holds a protest outside the Myanmar embassy in Bangkok, Thailand

An anti-Myanmar government activist holds a poster showing Aung San Suu Kyi, as he and others gather for a demonstration Monday, May 18, 2009, outside the Myanmar embassy in Bangkok, Thailand. The demonstrators were calling on Myanmar's military junta to free Aung San Suu Kyi from detention.(AP Photo/David Longstreath)

Anti-Myanmar government activists, dressed as Myanmar soldiers, gather for a demonstration Monday, May 18, 2009, outside the Myanmar embassy in Bangkok, Thailand, as Aung San Suu Kyi look alike Jeon Soojin, 22, of South Korea portrays the jailed democracy leader. The demonstrators were calling on Myanmar's military junta to free Aung San Suu Kyi from detention.(AP Photo/David Longstreath)

Myanmar nationals living in Thailand, one of them wearing a mask of pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi and others dressed as Myanmar soldiers holding toy rifles, take part in a rally calling for Suu Kyi's release, outside the Myanmar embassy in Bangkok May 17, 2009. Suu Kyi is in good health and ready to defend herself against new charges that have triggered international condemnation of the military regime, her lawyer said.REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom

Myanmar anti-government demonstrators looks on during a demonstration Sunday, May 17, 2009, outside the Myanmar embassy in Bangkok, Thailand. Detained Pro-Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is expected to be tried Monday in a incident involving American who entered her home illegally.(AP Photo/David Longstreath)

A Myanmar anti-government demonstrator looks on during a demonstration Sunday, May 17, 2009, outside the Myanmar embassy in Bangkok, Thailand. Detained Pro-Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is expected to be tried Monday in a incident involving American who entered her home illegally.(AP Photo/David Longstreath)

Thailand: SHE is a MAN ....!

Sorrawee Nattee, 20, of Thailand, reacts to winning the Miss Tiffany's Universe competition in Pattaya, Thailand, Friday, May 15, 2009. Nattee edged out 29 other transvestites to win the annual event. All contestants in the competition were born male.(AP Photo/David Longstreath)

Sorrawee Nattee, 20, of Thailand, weeps as she is crowned Miss Tiffany's Universe 2009 in Pattaya, Thailand, Friday, May 15, 2009, by last year's winner Kangsadarn Wongkurusakul. Nattee edged out 29 other transvestites to win the annual event. All contestants in the competition were born male.(AP Photo/David Longstreath)

Sorawee Nattee clasps her hands as she wins Miss Tifffany's Universe in Pattaya. Resplendent in a figure-hugging grey and black dress, Sorrawee wept tears of joy after being crowned Thailand's most beautiful transsexual(AFP/Nicolas Asfouri)

Khmer Rouge photographer wants to sell Pol Pot's sandals, toilet


Mon, 18 May 2009 09:11:43 GMT
Author : DPA

Phnom Penh - A former Khmer Rouge official photographer has put on sale for 1.5 million dollars what he claims to be Pol Pot's clothes, sandals and toilet, along with thousands of photographs and other artifacts he collected during the genocidal regime's 1975-79 rule. "I will sell Pol Pot's sandals, toilet, his uniform and cap, thousands of photographs and the two cameras I used during the Khmer Rouge period," said Nhem En, who was recruited to take photographs of detainees when they arrived at Tuol Sleng torture prison in Phnom Penh.

"I am asking for 1.5 million dollars, but the price is negotiable," he added.

Nhem En said he would use the money to establish a Khmer Rouge museum in Anlong Veng, a small town near the Thai border where the Maoist group hid in a jungle fortress until it disbanded in 1998.

"I am selling these items, but I have others that will be housed in the museum," he said. "I have already asked for donations for this museum from the US, France, Germany, Canada, Australia, Vietnam, South Korea and Thailand, but none have provided funding."

His appeal came as the trial of the former head of Tuol Sleng prison resumed before Cambodia's UN-backed war crimes tribunal.

Kaing Guek Euv, known by his revolutionary alias Duch, faces charges of crimes against humanity, torture, premeditated murder and breaches of the Geneva Conventions, allegedly committed at the school-turned-prison, where at least 15,000 men, women and children were imprisoned and tortured before being murdered in the "killing fields" on the outskirts of the capital.

Nhem En said the millions of dollars in international donor funding spent on bringing Duch and four other Khmer Rouge leaders to trial would be better invested in his museum.

"Nobody in the Cambodian government supports my museum plan, so it will need a great deal of international funding to be established," he said.

In April, Nhem En offered to sell Pol Pot's shoes and toilet for 500,000 dollars and said he would keep the other items to be housed in the museum.

Up to 2 million people died during through execution, starvation or overwork during the Khmer Rouge's rule.

VimpelCom Launches Operations in Cambodia

PR Newswire via Yahoo! Finance

Monday May 18, 2009

MOSCOW and NEW YORK, May 18 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Open Joint Stock Company "Vimpel-Communications" ("VimpelCom" or the "Company") (NYSE: VIP - News), the leading provider of telecommunications services in Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), today officially announced the commercial launch of mobile operations in the Kingdom of Cambodia. Mobile services were launched under VimpelCom's "Beeline" brand via its subsidiary Sotelco LTD.

The commercial launch in Cambodia is the first launch by a Russian mobile operator under its own brand outside of Russia and the CIS. The Cambodian launch is an important stage in VimpelCom's international development," - said Vladimir Riabokon, Executive Vice President of VimpelCom.

During the first stage Beeline services will be available in the 11 largest provinces of the Kingdom of Cambodia with 37% of the country's population. By the end of 2009, the company plans to provide coverage to an area with more than two thirds of the country's population.

***

The VimpelCom Group consists of telecommunications operators providing voice and data services through a range of mobile, fixed and broadband technologies. The Group includes companies operating in Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Georgia, Armenia, as well as Vietnam and Cambodia, in territories with a total population of about 340 million. VimpelCom was the first Russian company to list its shares on the New York Stock Exchange ("NYSE"). VimpelCom's ADSs are listed on the NYSE under the symbol "VIP".

***

Sotelco LTD is a subsidiary of the VimpelCom Group. In July 2008 VimpelCom announced that it has acquired a 90% stake in the Cambodian company Sotelco, which holds a GSM 900/1800 license and related frequencies for the territory of Cambodia. The transaction was consummated through the purchase of 90% of Sotelco's parent company, Atlas Trade Limited, for US$28 million. The remaining 10% of Atlas will stay with a local partner, a Cambodian entrepreneur. VimpelCom has also acquired a call option to purchase the 10% interest of the local partner for market value at the date of exercise of the option.

This press release contains "forward-looking statements", as the phrase is defined in Section 27A of the Securities Act and Section 21E of the Exchange Act. These statements relate to the anticipated schedule for developing our network in Cambodia. Actual timing may differ materially from that described in such forward-looking statements as a result of various factors, including continued volatility in the economies in the markets in which the Company operates and unforeseen developments in competition, or current or future changes in the political, economic and social environment or current or future regulation of the Cambodian telecommunications industries. Additional information concerning factors that could cause results to differ materially from those in the forward-looking statements is contained in VimpelCom's public filings with the SEC, including VimpelCom's annual report on Form 20-F for the year ended December 31, 2008 and other public filings made by the Company with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, which risk factors are incorporated herein by reference. VimpelCom disclaims any obligation to update developments of these risk factors or to announce publicly any revision to any of the forward-looking statements contained in this press release, or to make corrections to reflect future events or developments.

Cambodia's ruling party dominates local elections


Mon, 18 May 2009
Author : DPA

Phnom Penh - Cambodia's ruling party won a resounding majority of votes in the country's inaugural provincial, municipal and district council elections held Sunday, according to preliminary results announced Monday. Figures released by the National Election Committee (NEC) revealed Prime Minister Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party (CPP) won just over 75 per cent of votes in the provincial and municipal elections, while the opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) received about 20 per cent of votes.

Voting in the elections was restricted to the country's 11,353 commune councilors and is part of an UN-sponsored effort to decentralize governance in the developing South-East Asian country.
Commune councilors were elected in a general election held in April last year.

The royalist Fucinpec Party won about 2 per cent of votes and the Norodom Ranariddh Party, the party formerly headed by King Norodom Sihanouk's brother, won just under 2 per cent.
The CPP won about 74 per cent of the smaller district elections and the SRP won just over 20 per cent of the vote.

The NEC said only four commune councilors failed to vote in the elections.

CPP coasts to victory in council elections

Photo by: HENG CHIVOAN
Voters line up Sunday at a polling station in Phnom Penh's Chamkarmon district to cast their votes in the council elections.

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

Written by Sokheng and Sebastian Strangio
Monday, 18 May 2009

Despite the expected ruling party win, the opposition Sam Rainsy Party hails early poll results as a ‘victory' and a chance to usher in local change.

THE ruling Cambodian People's Party scored an expected victory in Sunday's inaugural provincial, district and municipal council elections, winning a clear majority of seats on the new administrative bodies, according to early provisional poll results.

Voting tallies released by the National Election Committee (NEC) Sunday showed the CPP winning 7,156 out of 9,376 votes counted so far at the provincial level, or 76.3 percent of the vote, with the Sam Rainsy Party coming in a distant second with 1,817 votes (19.4 percent).

The Norodom Ranariddh Party and Funcinpec - the only other two parties to contest the election - had 231 and 153 votes respectively.

NEC Secretary General Tep Nytha said the general atmosphere on election day was "peaceful" and that no political parties had lodged any complaints about irregularities.

He added that the day also saw 100 percent turnout, except for four voters from Kampong Thom, Mondulkiri, Takeo and Phnom Penh, who missed out because of death, sickness, absence in the US and - in the case of one - a conscious boycott of the poll.

With the vote restricted to the country's 11,353 commune councilors, the elections threw up few surprises.

But preliminary figures show the CPP could be set to win a larger proportion than that suggested by its presence at the communes, where it holds 70.4 percent of the seats.

Tep Nytha added that ballots for Phnom Penh's municipal council and other councils in the capital had yet to be counted, but that updated results were to be released today.
Photo by: HENG CHIVOAN
NEC officials count ballots at a polling station in Phnom Penh's Chamkarmon district during Sunday's council elections.


A ‘victory' for all
Senior CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said the ruling party expected to win two-thirds of the seats on the municipal, provincial and district councils, describing it as a "great victory".

He added: "This victory is due to our efforts to construct the country under our great leaders, especially Samdech Prime Minister Hun Sen," he told the Post Sunday, citing NRP Deputy Secretary General Suth Dina's request that his party's council members vote for the CPP as a sign of the party's strength.

SRP spokesman Yim Sovann said that on the basis of preliminary calculations, the party was expecting to win a maximum of 550 out of 2,861 district council seats and 65 out of 353 provincial posts.

But the SRP's estimates are below pre-election predictions conducted by local election monitor Comfrel in February, which saw the party winning 613 district seats and 69 on the provincial councils.

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THIS VICTORY IS DUE TO OUR EFFORTS TO CONSTRUCT THE COUNTRY.
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When asked about the discrepancy, Yim Sovann said he was "not surprised", reiterating the party's allegations about vote-buying by CPP officials.

"The CPP has a lot of money and power, and will use it to buy votes and intimidate the voters. They know almost all the names of the voters," he said.

"This is why we don't want indirect elections. We want direct elections because more people are involved."

Comfrel also estimated the CPP would win 2,130 district seats and 273 in the provinces.

But both Comfrel and Nicfec, another local poll monitor, boycotted the election Sunday, citing the waste of money in an election that could just as easily be determined by extrapolating results from the parties' representation at the commune council level.

But despite the lower-than-expected returns, Yim Sovann said the election results were a "big victory" for the opposition, which has up until now lacked any presence in the district and provincial administrations.

"In terms of human rights violations, illegal land evictions and corruption, we can raise issues at the monthly meeting of the district and provincial councils," he said.

He added that SRP councilors would request inventories from the new bodies and force them to account for all their expenditures and sources of revenue.

Koul Panha, executive director of Comfrel, said Thursday that the new councils could have positive effects on governance, but that it could take a while to reform the system, since the attitude of lower authorities has traditionally been "to answer to the top".

But he said Comfrel would try to educate people about the role of local councils and build awareness ahead of the 2012 commune council elections.

You Hockry, secretary general of the NRP and Funcinpec secretary Nhek Bun Chhay could not be reached for comment Sunday.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY NETH PHEAKTRA

Suu Kyi to protest innocence

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

Written by AFP
Monday, 18 May 2009

Democracy icon faces 5 years' prison if found guilty of violating detention.

YANGON - Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi will protest her innocence when she goes on trial starting today, her party said as the ruling military junta freed her personal doctor from detention.

The 63-year-old met her lawyer on Saturday at the notorious Insein prison where she has been held since last week on charges of violating house arrest by sheltering an American man who swam across a lake to her residence.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner faces up to five years in prison if convicted on the charges, which would keep her behind bars during controversial elections planned by Myanmar's generals for next year.

A spokesman for her National League for Democracy party said she had discussed the case when lawyer Kyi Win visited Insein prison near Yangon. The behind-closed-doors trial is expected to take place inside the prison.

"They discussed the charges and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said that she didn't commit any crimes and she is ready to talk about it in court," the spokesman, Nyan Win, said Sunday.

"She asked him to tell friends and colleagues that she is in good health," he said.

Aung Thein, another lawyer who applied to represent her at the trial, said on Saturday that he had been disbarred by the authorities a day earlier.

Myanmar has faced global pressure to free Aung San Suu Kyi and drop the charges, which were filed less than two weeks before the latest period of her detention was due to expire. She has spent 13 of the last 19 years in jail or under house arrest.

However, the regime on Saturday released her doctor, Tin Myo Win, nearly two weeks after he was held while trying to get access to her.

"According to him his health situation is good," said one of Tin Myo Win's relatives.

Bar panel to begin review of SRP lawyer


Written by Cheang Sokha
Monday, 18 May 2009

THE Cambodian Bar Association will decide this week whether to suspend or disbar Sam Rainsy Party lawyer Kong Sam Onn, accused of violating the organisation's professional code of ethics, the Bar's president said Sunday.

Kong Sam Onn, who is representing opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua in her defamation lawsuit against Prime Minister Hun Sen, was himself accused of defamation by one of Hun Sen's lawyers after making comments about the case at a press conference April 23.

Bar Association President Chiv Song Hak said a special inspection team would convene today to investigate the allegations against Kong Sam Onn.

At that point, the panel would send its report to the Bar and then the organisation would call its 19 council members to meet before making a decision on the case, which has been criticised by legal experts who say it is an example of government interference in the courts.

When contacted Sunday, Kong Sam Onn said that the inspection team has not yet contacted him for questioning. But he argued that the complaint against him is groundless.

"In general, the inspection team is independent, but I am concerned about the individuals involved in the case," he said.

"According to the law, I committed no misconduct with the code of ethics and there is no specific accusation."

Hun Sen's lawyer Ky Tech, a former president of the Bar who brought the complaint against Kong Sam Onn, said he was interested in the outcome of the investigation, adding that he expected the inspection panel to report its findings to the Bar council by Thursday.

Duch testimonies to resume amid concerns of meddling

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Tuol Sleng survivor Chum Mey stands outside the Khmer Rouge tribunal in this file photo.


Written by Neth Pheaktra and Georgia Wilkins
Monday, 18 May 2009

The trial of S-21 chief Kaing Guek Eav continues this week, as government says it is keeping tabs on foreign court staff.

WITNESS and expert testimonies will continue to be heard at Cambodia's war crimes court this week, as the trial of former S-21 chief Kaing Guek Eav resumes today.

The trial is restarting after a two-week recess amid concern over recent government claims it is verifying complaints of wrongdoing by foreign staff at the court.

Genocide specialist Craig Etcheson is scheduled to appear in court over the next week, with Bou Meng and Chum Mey - two of the only 14 people known to have survived the prison - expected to follow.

"I will testify to the court, face-to-face with Duch, after other witnesses talk to the judges. But I don't know when exactly I will confront Duch," 78-year-old Chum Mey told the Post, referring to the accused by his revolutionary name.

"Since the trial started, I have listened to and noted what Duch and other witnesses have told the court. I believe that some of the confessions given by Duch are true. Duch recognises his fault for some things, but for others ... Duch is transferring responsibility onto colleagues who have already died."

Court still on shaky ground
Last week, Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said he was "verifying" complaints of wrongdoing by foreign court personnel, the source of which he declined to name, sending a shockwave of concern through the legal and diplomatic community.

The UN responded that it hoped any complaints against UN staff would be handed to the world body to process.

A diplomatic source who declined to be named told the Post last week that there was concern about recent claims that the government was taking its own measures against alleged acts of wrongdoing by international court staff.

"We are concerned about the statements because we are generally concerned about allegations of corruption at the court," the diplomat said.

"It remains to be seen whether there is a credible basis for the comments, and we expect to pursue that privately with the government."

S-21 photographer ditches KR museum


Written by Sam Rith
Monday, 18 May 2009

$1m to buy all of the exhibits, says Nhem En.

FORMER Tuol Sleng photographer Nhem En is putting all of his Khmer Rouge-era possessions - once destined for a museum in Anlong Veng - up for sale for US$1 million, saying that the global economic crisis is to blame for scuppering his monument to the regime whose most brutal moments he helped to document.

"I am calling on all interested individuals and companies, both inside and outside the country, to bid on more than 10 varieties of Khmer Rouge materials. The starting price is US$1 million," said Nhem En, who is deputy governor of Anlong Veng district in Oddar Meanchey province.

The items on offer include two cameras purportedly used to photograph prisoners at Tuol Sleng; 2,000 photographs of Pol Pot and other Khmer Rouge leaders; what he claims are Pol Pot's sandals, toilet, clothes and hat; a piece of car tyre that was used in Pol Pot's 1998 cremation; videos of military commander Ta Mok and other top regime cadre; and 1,000 songs on original tapes and pirated CDs.

"I spent all my spare cash trying to build the museum and I can't borrow from the bank because they are suffering from the global economic crisis," he said.

Nhem En said he had spent more than US$200,000 buying and clearing 50 hectares of land in Anlong Veng, but had garnered no support. He said the museum would cost $1 million to complete.

The announcement follows his April offer to sell what he said were Pol Pot's sandals and his cameras for US$500,000. But early interest faded after provincial officials reacted negatively.

Oddar Meanchey provincial Governor Pich Sokhin declined Sunday to comment on the revised offer, but added that he also had no objection to the museum being built.

But S-21 survivor Chhum Mey said people who might consider buying the items should instead give that money to the cash-strapped Khmer Rouge tribunal.

Three 'lost' villagers return to Pailin


Written by Mom Kunthear
Monday, 18 May 2009

THREE of the more than 30 villagers who were suspected by the Cambodian rights group Adhoc of having been forced into joining the army in Preah Vihear have returned home to Pailin, saying they had volunteered for military service. But some, including one of the young soldiers' mothers, suspects the three men are not telling the whole truth.

"When we arrived in Preah Vihear, I and the other villagers were told to register for the army, but we were not forced. We volunteered to join the army," said Yoeut Vet, 17, who said he changed his name to Yoeut Rattana while he was in Preah Vihear.

But Sok Chea, 36, Yoeut Vet's mother, said that she remains sceptical of her son's claims.

"I don't believe my son 100 percent, because if he was forced to be in the army why would he change his name. I think that he was told to say this," she said.

Vanna Long, an army commander in Pailin, said that it was unlikely that the villagers were coerced into joining the military, as there are already many soldiers posted along Cambodia's border areas.

"Today, no one is forced to join the army," he said. "There is no war."

Meanwhile, Nun Boren, 45, a mother of two villagers who have yet to return, demanded help from the government locating her missing son and daughter.

Govt vows expansion of malaria fight


Written by Sam Rith and Christopher Shay
Monday, 18 May 2009

Says so far, 400,000 bed nets distributed in target provinces.

The National Centre for Parasitology, Entomology and Malaria control said Sunday that it has distributed as many as 400,000 mosquito nets in 10 target provinces as part of a strategy to eliminate malaria within Cambodia's borders.

"By 2015, no one in Cambodia will die of malaria," said Duong Socheat, director of the centre.

With contributions from the Global Fund and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the centre has been able to expand its reach, distributing nets to rural areas and sending health officials to hard-to-reach communities, Duong Socheat said.

An early rainy season has led to an increased malaria rate when compared with the same period last year, said Siv Sovannaroth, head of the centre's bed net department, making the program's timing particularly good.

Cambodia has seen its malaria deaths plummet from more than 1,000 a decade ago, to about 200 in 2008, according to the centre's data. But Siv Sovannaroth says in order for Cambodia to succeed in reaching its ambitious malaria elimination goals, it will need more resources.

The centre has identified more than 3,000 villages in Cambodia at risk for malaria, totaling about 2.3 million people, Siv Sovannaroth said, adding that to protect a population of this size, Cambodia would need 1 million nets, which would need replacing about every two years.

"We still don't have enough for everyone," he said.

The only way to control drug-resistant strains along the Thai-Cambodian border is to eliminate malaria, according to a February study by a team of international researchers published in the Malaria Journal.

Municipal Court to rule on Group 78 injunction request

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
A coconut vendor prepares for business in Phnom Penh's Group 78 neighbourhood.




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

Written by Chrann Chamroeun
Monday, 18 May 2009

Phnom Penh Municipal Court is expected to rule today on an injunction request filed by residents of Group 78 in response to a City Hall eviction order that gave residents until May 5 to vacate their strip of land along the Tonle Bassac river.

Yin Savath, one of three lawyers representing the community, said that approving the injunction would have little negative impact but could provide extra time to find a satisfactory solution to the dispute.

"I hope the court will decide to issue an order temporarily maintaining the area as it is," he said.

But Yin Savath added that if the court ruled against the community, lawyers would consider taking their appeal to a higher court.

"If the court rejects the people's complaint, we have the legal right to appeal because we have credible evidence."

Group 78 community representative Lim Sambo said he hoped the court would approve the residents' call for an injunction and halt work at the site.

"If the court is just and independent, it will issue its ruling to intervene and pause the activity," he said.

"But if the court is partial to the other party and rejects our complaint, we will appeal to the Supreme Court to take action and find a good resolution for us."

In an eviction letter dated April 20, Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema told residents they were living on land belonging to the state and to a local developer, giving them 15 days to accept a government compensation package and vacate their properties.

Security a priority for ASEAN-EU meeting


Written by Sam Rith
Monday, 18 May 2009

NATIONAL Police spokesman Kirt Chantharith said Sunday that thousands of additional officers are to be deployed ahead of the arrival of leaders from 40 ASEAN and European nations for the 17th ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting in Phnom Penh on May 27-28.

"We have already prepared our forces [and] thousands of police and military police officers will work together," Kirt Chantharith said.

"We will start working three days in advance in order to safeguard the delegates who attend the meeting as well as to ensure the meeting goes smoothly."

The meeting, which rotates between ASEAN and EU countries every two years, is to address transnational strategies for fighting terrorism, human trafficking, drug smuggling and arms proliferation.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Hor Namhong is to co-chair the meeting with Vaclav Klaus, president of the Czech Republic, which is the current holder of the EU Council of Ministers' rotating presidency.

The 16th ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting was held in Germany in March 2007.

Doubts cast over veracity of ECCC personnel audits, observers say

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
A visitor looks at photos at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum earlier this year.
US ENVOY to arrive in Cambodia for tribunal talks

ATOP US war crimes representative will meet with government and Khmer Rouge tribunal officials this week to discuss the UN-backed court, an embassy spokesperson confirmed Sunday. Clint Williamson, the US ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues, is to arrive in Cambodia today, however a schedule for meetings with senior government officials, including Cabinet Minister Sok An, could not be confirmed. "We don't have a schedule confirmed yet," US embassy spokesperson John Johnson told the Post, adding that he could not specify what would be on the agenda for the talks. This week's visit will mark Williamson's second since he took office in 2006, and he is expected to also hold talks with NGO representatives and embassy personnel amid growing concern over allegations of graft at the court that have resulted in a UN review and the freezing of donor funding. Negotiations between the UN and Cambodia over an anti-corruption mechanism at the hybrid court were abandoned last month, with the UN saying Thursday it had "no more meetings scheduled".

GEORGIA WILKINS


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

Written by Robbie Corey Boulet
Monday, 18 May 2009

Lawyers and court monitors maintain that reviews of UN-backed tribunal's human resources practices ‘not designed' to unearth evidence of kickback scheme at the centre of graft row.

ON FEBRUARY 4, Andrew Ianuzzi, a legal consultant for the defence team of former Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea, visited Phnom Penh Municipal Court for his third meeting in less than three weeks with Deputy Prosecutor Sok Kaliyan.

The topic of the meeting was a criminal complaint - filed in January by Ianuzzi and two other international lawyers for Nuon Chea - accusing officials, including then-director of administration Sean Visoth, of "perpetrating, facilitating, aiding and/or abetting" a kickback scheme in which Cambodian employees were forced to hand over portions of their salaries to top tribunal officials.

Government officials have repeatedly claimed that no evidence of such a scheme has ever surfaced, citing a series of international audits assessing, among other things, the court's human resources and management practices.

But lawyers and tribunal observers have dismissed this argument as disingenuous, saying that the audits were not designed to assess kickback allegations in the first place.

During the February 4 meeting, Ianuzzi recalled in an interview last week, Sok Kaliyan indicated - not for the first time - that the complaint would be thoroughly investigated.

But one week later, while at Phnom Penh International Airport to catch a flight to Bangkok, Ianuzzi saw a front page newspaper article reporting that the Municipal Court had abruptly ended the investigation on February 5.

When Ianuzzi returned to Phnom Penh and reviewed the case file, he noticed documents that weren't there when he checked the file on February 4: reports on the audits, which he and others insist don't actually clear the accused officials of anything.

"The audits ... were never intended to detect the type of corruption that has been alleged," John Hall, an associate professor at Chapman University School of Law in California who has written extensively about the tribunal, said via email.

"It is misleading to claim otherwise."

Court spokeswoman Helen Jarvis declined to answer questions for this article.

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All reports indicate that staff were paid their full salaries on the books and that it was only after ... that they made a kickback payment.
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"I think we have canvassed this issue extensively, and there are reports on our website about all this, so I would refer you to that," she said.

Clean review
The website includes the 25-page Human Resources Management Review, an independent review released in April 2008.

"Robust [human resources] systems have been developed and implemented to address previous shortcomings, to give effective support to the judicial process and to minimize the risk of questionable HR practices occurring in the future," the review said in its conclusion.

"Zero tolerance for non-compliance with HR systems and the Code of Conduct will also support ongoing improvement in the performance of the ECCC."

Sean Visoth said during the press conference announcing the review's release that it was designed "to recap all the separate audits and reviews carried out during the past year, and to assess whether HR management policies and practices of the Cambodian side of the ECCC are transparent, accountable, meet international standards and provide consistent and effective measures against any mismanagement".

At the same press conference, Jo Scheuer, then the country director for the UN Development Program, said, "Based on audits conducted from 2006 to present, there have been no questionable financial transactions, no misallocated resources and no incomplete or missing documentation in support of disbursements made by [the tribunal]. All of their financial transactions have passed audit scrutiny."

But Scheuer said in an interview last month that any kickback scheme would have been "off the books", meaning "there are no figures" that would surface in an audit.

"All the audits are clean because the books are clean," Scheuer said.

Heather Ryan, who has been monitoring the tribunal for the Open Society Justice Initiative, also said it would be impossible to assess kickback allegations with an audit of financial records.

"All reports indicate that staff were paid their full salaries on the books and that it was only after they received them that they made a kickback payment," she said in a May 10 email.

"If this is in fact the case, an audit of the books would not reveal anything about the practice."

Scheuer argued that the only way to investigate the alleged kickbacks would be to interview those making the allegations.

Ianuzzi also said investigators looking to effectively assess the kickback allegations would need to "interview witnesses and try to obtain" all relevant documents.

Several lawyers and observers said the nature of the audits - which they described as inadequate - underscored the need for the government to release the results of a UN review of the most recent kickback allegations, which surfaced last June.

The review was given to government officials last September but has not been made public.

Civil party lawyer Alain Werner said the government's refusal thus far to release the review results was fuelling "the constant speculation, the allegations and the rumours that are going on".

"Let's just disclose this report," he said.

Phay Siphan said in an interview Tuesday that he did not know which government officials had seen the UN review, but argued that its release could sour relations between UN and Cambodian officials.

"We respect each other, as a husband a wife, to create a new baby: the ECCC," he said.

He also reiterated the government's position that there is no need for further investigations into the kickback allegations.

"There have already been audits," he said, "and the findings showed that not a penny has been lost."

End of the line

Photo by: RICK VALENZUELA


Written by Rick Valenzuela
Monday, 18 May 2009

A 22-year resident of Phnom Penh's train station eats breakfast in front of the abandoned train carriage she calls home. A railway upgrade deal with Australia's Toll Holdings is expected to be finalised by the end of the month that will see Cambodia's neglected railway tracks refurbished for the first time since the 1960s.

Rice industry group eyes $600,000 dryer

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
A farmer dries rice on National Highway 2 in Takeo province in this file photo.

Written by Chun Sophal
Monday, 18 May 2009

Cambodian Rice Millers Association says it will import the Kingdom's third drying machine to help boost rice industry.

THE Cambodian Rice Millers Association (CRMA) plans to bring a US$600,000 paddy-drying machine to Takeo province early next year in order to boost rice exports, the president of the association said.

Phou Puy, CRMA president, told the Post Sunday that the drying machine, which is able to dry 300 tonnes of unmilled rice per day, would be imported from Thailand.

"We hope that Cambodia will have greater potential to export quality rice to international markets in 2010 because we are going to have these drying machines," Phou Puy said.

According to Phou Puy, there are currently two paddy-drying machines in Cambodia.

The CRMA owns one in Battambang, which began operations earlier this year and services Pursat, Banteay Meanchey, Siem Reap and Kampong Thom provinces. The other, located in Prey Veng province, does not belong the organisation.

"At present we have a rice-drying machine worth nearly $7 million which is able to dry 30 tonnes of rice per hour in Battambang province," said Phou Puy.

"We will be able to produce 20,000 tonnes of rice to export per month with the operation of these two rice-drying machines," he added.

Phou Puy said that the 318 members of the association would share the cost to import the second machine, and that it would be used to dry paddy in five provinces in the southern part of the Kingdom.

New rice mill also planned
He added that the association also planned to look for additional funds for a rice mill costing more than $1 million in Takeo province to complement the drying machine.

Ith Sarun, head of Takeo's provincial Department of Agriculture, said Sunday he welcomed plans to build the machine and rice mills in the province, but said that the association should choose a location that produces large quantities of rice, such as Angkor Borei or Borei Chulsa districts.

"Currently, people dry their rice in the sun. That's why, when we mill rice, 15 to 25 percent of the rice is broken. So, if we have drying machines and rice mills which can limit broken rice to only 5 percent, we will be able to export rice to other countries for a higher price," Ith Sarun said.

"Farmers sell paddy at only 850 riels (21 US cents) per kilogram because their paddy is not dried properly," he added.

Chan Tong Yves, secretary of state at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said on Sunday that he believed the investment would also boost rice production.

"I believe that paddy and rice production will increase if we can find more good rice markets," Chan Tong Yves said.

Last year Cambodia produced over 7 million tonnes of rice on approximately 2.4 million hectares of land throughout the country.

Microfinance NPL rate rises again as lenders suffer high-risk status


Written by Kay Kimsong
Monday, 18 May 2009

Cambodia's high-risk rating means that international lenders have increased interest rates to the Kingdom's MFIs, which are in turn being passed on to the borrower, fuelling bad loans.

THE rate of microfinance nonperforming loans (NPLs) has increased to 2.5 percent in the first four months of 2009, compared with less than 1 percent for the same period last year, Huot Ieng Thong, president of the Cambodia Microfinance Institution, told the Post Sunday.

The sector said that the NPL rate went above 1 percent in the first quarter, but that level of bad loans has since increased.

"Things are still in good shape ... it is a yellow light as a sign of serious risk," said Huot Ieng Thong, referring to the possibility that things could worsen.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
We won't give up until markets are in place and interest rates are lowered.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

He added that since the financial crisis, MFIs had charged farmers interest rates of 2 to 3 percent per month, an increase since the liquidity crisis hit global markets.

International lenders have charged Cambodian MFIs 10.5 to 12 percent interest per year since risk increased in the Kingdom following the crisis, up from 8 to 9 percent per year beforehand. The London-based Economist Intelligence Unit increased Cambodia's credit-risk rating from 68 to 69 out of 100 in January then to 70 out of 100 last month - the higher the score, the greater the risk.

"I think [a] 3 percent [interest rate] is the lowest rate for farmers [per month]. As you're aware, microfinance incurs a high rate of interest from international lenders," said Huot Ieng Thong. "The recovery of MFI businesses likely depends on measures by the Cambodian government, and the world economy growing as a whole.

"MFIs have made no progress, while also not suffering from the recession.

"If our government proves to be good at preventing risk, microfinance institutions will face a short high-risk period. If not, MFIs will experience a longer period of zero development," he said, adding that repayment depended on the performance of the agricultural sector.

Kuch Setha, general manager of Micro Finance Institution Seilanithih, a well-known MFI that offers loans mainly to farmers on the Thai border, said Sunday that his institution lends at between a 2.5-percent to 3-percent interest. He confirmed that a rise in NPL rates had been caused by the rise in interest rates offered by foreign lenders to MFIs.

"Lenders from outside [offered interest rates] that were very low before, but now ... they have increased interest rates - if we can borrow more cheaply ... we will lower rates as well," he said. "We can't lose business, so we want lenders and borrowers to be profitable.

"Our country is considered high risk, so that is why they [international lenders] charge rates that are that bit higher," he added.

He said that MFIs understood that farmers were earning less profit this year compared with 2007 or early 2008. That is why the sector had been reluctant to over-lend to borrowers that would be unable to make repayments.

"Our borrowers are likely earning only half the level of profits compard with previous years, so they are paying later," he said, adding that cassava farmers had expected to sell their produce for 3 baht (9 US cents) a kilogram, but due to falling demand, prices after harvest had fallen to just 1 baht per kilogram.

"I saw the pile up of cassava and hundreds of containers [of the crop] on the border which were selling for a low price," he said.

Call for lower interest
Tep Kunnal, governor of Malai district in Battambang province, called on lenders to reduce interest rates by 2 percent. Otherwise, farmers would be unable to make repayments, he added.

"We won't give up until markets are in place and interest rates are lowered," said Tep Kunnal. "If our farmers return a good yield and market demand is strong, then a 9percent rate of interest would not be a problem, but if farmers face a crisis then this rate seems high." Son Koun Thor, CEO and chairman of Rural Development Bank (RDB), predicted that Malai checkpoint would become the most active border in trading agricultural produce.

He encouraged farmers to borrow and said that in the future RDB would lower rates to 2 percent per month.

"It's step by step - RDB is lending at only 7 to 8 percent per year as a wholesaler," he said.

The bank typically borrows from international organisations via the National Bank of Cambodia, and in turn lends to MFIs.

"It [the interest rate] was 5 percent per month a few years a go, but now it's 2.5 percent ... if things go well then RDB will lower the rate again down to 2 percent," he said.

RDB plans to lend $20 million this year, it said, a small percentage of which will go to border-area agriculture.

Reading: a novel obsession among Cambodian youth

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
International Book Centre bookshop on Sihanouk Boulevard.



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

Written by Lim Seang Heng
Monday, 18 May 2009

A growing market for works by local writers has seen a rise in the number of new authors, though high print costs and piracy remain a problem.

On the second floor of the International Book Centre in Phnom Penh, 21-year-old Dy Vutheara is working out which book to buy from the hundreds of Khmer-language novels on offer. While she enjoys a variety of genres from detective stories to comics, she eventually settles on a romance.

"Most of them are good, so I have to weigh them up and decide which one would be best," said Dy Vutheara, an environmental science student at the Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP).

Dy Vutheara has bought more than 100 novels in the last three years since her teacher suggested she read more. She is not alone. About 40 of her friends also like to read, and she says between them they keep track of newly published novels.

"We never miss any new releases even though we don't have much money to buy them," she said. "So we take it in turns to buy the books and read them."

Kim Sophat, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Culture, says the growing market in Khmer novels is leading to an increase in the number of writers.

"A lot of young people from the provinces and from urban centres are starting to write more and more. They can now make a decent living out of it," Kim Sophat said.

Steady increase
One of the country's best-known novelists, Mao Samnang, who writes under the pen name Rabbit, has noticed that the number of books published in each print run has increased steadily over the past decade - reinforcing the notion that more people are reading. But she says print costs remain an obstacle to increasing readership.

Mao Samnang earns about US$500 for each of her novels, which take one month on average to complete. She says that if readers knew how difficult it is to write a book, they would complain less about the price.

Despite the relatively high cost of books, she says many fans keep up with her new works by renting them from bookstores.

Keo Somaly is a bookworm who has decided to spend her two dollars of food money to buy her favourite book - Neang Macha, or Lady Fish.
She says many youngsters share her taste, which helps to offset the cost.

"Today is my turn to buy the book, and this one costs 7,000 riels [US$1.69)," she said. "My friends and I take turns [buying books] since we don't have much money, but we love to read."

Obstacles
The emergence of soap operas and foreign movies has some local writers worried. But Mao Samnang says her main concern is piracy.

"Illegal copies can kill writers. Soon after a novel is printed, there are many photocopies available on the market," she said. "The copy is much cheaper, but it is really harmful for novelists and for the printing houses."

The Culture Ministry's Kim Sophat said authors should sue those who produce illegal copies of their works.

Seong Phos, a Royal University professor, agrees and says that counterfeiters should be treated as thieves under the law and should be punished - although he has never seen that happen.

The future
Dy Vutheara says that most themes currently explored in Khmer novels lack deep meaning.

"Readers just scan the cover and the first few pages, and they can tell how the story will end," she said.

Looking to the future, Mao Samnang said she wants to make some changes to her novels. She believes that with greater exposure to foreign books, and a desire to see greater liveliness and creativity in local books, young readers are ready for a new approach.

"Even though we novelists can barely survive, we try to keep our literature alive and maintain the long-lasting tradition of the Khmer novel for the next generation," she said.

Police Blotter 18 May 2009

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

Written by Nguon Sovan
Monday, 18 May 2009

COUPLE SAYS CASH, GOODS NICKED
A couple staying overnight at Beoung Tonle Sap Guesthouse in Pursat town woke Saturday morning to find they had been robbed of US$1,400 worth of personal effects. Seng Thy, 45, from Banteay Meanchey province, and his girlfriend Chhin Chak Riya, 23, from Phnom Penh, said they had left a watch, two diamond rings, a necklace, a pair of earrings and a mobile phone at the foot of their bed but were unable to locate the possessions in the room the next morning. Police say a number of guesthouse workers are under investigation.
RASMEY KAMPUCHEA

STOLEN MOTO SOLD FOR DRUGS, CLOTHES
Police in Tonle Bassac commune, Phnom Penh, arrested two men Friday for the theft of a motorbike belonging to Thou Phary, 26, of Steung Meanchey commune, Phnom Penh. Sok Chea, 18, and Sim Vannak, 21, confessed to the theft but told officers the bike had already been sold for US$120 and the funds spent on illegal drugs and clothing.
RASMEY KAMPUCHEA

Man arrested after more than a year
A Phnom Penh man who fled charges of attempted murder for more than a year ago was arrested by Tuol Kork police Saturday under a warrant issued by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court. Police said Sar Samnang, of Beoung Kak 2 commune had broken into the victim's house last August and brutally assaulted the man with a knife.
RASMEY KAMPUCHEA

POLICE SAY US MAN OVERDOSED
An American man found dead in his room at the Royal Hiness Hotel in Daun Penh district, Phnom Penh, on Wednesday is said to have died of a drug overdose after police found substances and drug paraphernalia among the man's belongings. Steven Tomas Black, 47, entered Cambodia as a tourist and checked into the hotel the previous day before taking fatal quantities of an unnamed drug and suffering a cardiac arrest.
KOH SANTEPHEAP

GUN-TOTING BULLY ARRESTED
Chhay Sopheak, 16, of Chamkarmon district, Phnom Penh, was arrested by police in Tonle Bassac commune Wednesday for possession of a firearm that he had been carrying in his waistband. Although police discovered the gun was broken, the man was sent to court for a prior record of bullying residents of the Tonle Bassac apartments and harassing local authorities.
RASMEY KAMPUCHEA

Popularity conquest

Drawcard ... Angkor Wat's popularity continues to grow.
Photo: Reuters


Sydney Morning Herald
May 17, 2009

Intent on defying the odds at overrun Angkor, Sian Powell seeks the perfect moment of solitude.

The legendary temples of Angkor had been tempting me for years. Friends had told me about the glories of the Khmer monuments in northern Cambodia, the alien beauty of the stone carvings of smiling gods, nymphs and rampant lions and the detailed and intricate reliefs. Colleagues had written lyrically about the history of the extraordinary ruins, saved from the jungle.

But I was pretty sure it was too late for me and Angkor.

The vicious Khmer Rouge regime and the battling remnants of its followers had pretty much prevented travel to Angkor through the 1970s and '80s. But by the early '90s, the battles were over (except for one last convulsive coup in 1997) and the popularity of the famed ancient city of Angkor began to grow and grow. And grow.

The airport at the nearby town of Siem Reap now welcomes flights from Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and, of course, Phnom Penh. More than a million tourists visit the famous temples every year, spawning mini-industries for souvenir-sellers and touts.

I knew that during most of the daylight hours the ancient stones of the dozen or so most important temples would be reverberating with the sound of talking, cameras whirring and guides running through their time-worn spiels.

It's hard to concentrate on the atmosphere of centuries past when a girl standing within a metre of you exclaims, loudly, "oh (expletive), my battery has run out."

Tourists from all over the world have the right to visit some of the most spectacular monuments in Asia and the people of Cambodia have a right to make the most of every tourist dollar. But the simple truth is that the more tourists there are and the more satellite industries there are clustered around them, the more difficult it is to actually enjoy a place of beauty and wonder.

Still, finally I was persuaded Angkor was worth a try. Determined to experience the perfect Angkor moment (which I knew was possibly a moment lost forever), I spent a week on a quest for solitude in one of the world's more popular tourist spots.

The Bayon temple, with its dozens of massive smiling carved stone faces, has a particular charm especially for Westerners who have come to expect religious icons to wear expressions of awe, guilt, desperation and agony. But the mostly Buddhist Bayon is comparatively small and exceedingly popular a lethal combination and it seemed always filled to the brim with exclaiming tourists. On one occasion some young British men were doing some kind of complicated lateral chin-ups on the stone door-frames. It was all too much.

Still, as with most Angkor temples, the tat sellers were not permitted to spruik their wares inside the temple. Armed with postcards, guidebooks, scarves, caps and T-shirts, they loiter outside and all tourists are followed by ever-persistent cries of "one dollar, one dollaaaarrr".

Come to think of it, the tat-sellers' ancestors must have been just as industrious and enterprising. At its height between the ninth and 12th centuries, the Khmer empire stretched across Cambodia, as well as much of Vietnam, Thailand and Laos.

The capital at Angkor was huge, home to more than 1 million people, dotted with hundreds of imposing temples built during periods of both Hindu and Buddhist dominance and criss-crossed with vast irrigation systems and reservoirs.

Banteay Srey, a slightly out of the way Hindu temple, was tiny but enormously popular with Western tourists as well as a tour group of orange-robed Buddhist monks from Phnom Penh, most carrying tiny digital cameras and mobile phones and just as chatty and over-powering as any determined crocodile of Japanese sightseers.

It's easy to spend days, even a week, pottering around these magnificent temples, picking out the details in the reliefs and getting a grip on the biggest city of the pre-industrial world. It's fun to sit majestically in the back of a tuk-tuk or moto-rickshaw, watch the jungle rushing past and then stop, silent, as a majestic tower, or gate, or terrace appears on the horizon.

At Ta Phrom, which was originally built as a Buddhist monastery, the jungle has been deliberately left intact in many places and the massive roots of strangler fig and silk-cotton trees wind through the ancient stone blocks. But Ta Phrom, too, is smallish and a visitors' favourite thronged by romantically minded tourists at all hours, all hoping for their own Lara Croft: Tomb Raider experience.

There was also a restoration crew at work and the worrying noise of drills echoed through the temple. Restoration of the ruined temples has been under way since 1860, with protracted delays caused by the long civil war in Cambodia and its horrible legacy of minefields and crippled villagers. Some temples have been completely torn down, block by block, and rebuilt with stronger foundations.

There are still crews busy at work at many of the temples, dancing the fine line between saving them from damp, erosion and the encroaching jungle, while ensuring their essential integrity remains uncompromised.

The largest and most popular of the Angkor temples, Angkor Wat, was the least damaged by the depredations of man and nature, perhaps because it was protected by its massive moat. The imposing towers appear almost untouched by time. Hundreds of delicately carved apsaras, or nymphs, are still very clear and the long, pictorial reliefs of soldiers in rows and chieftains on elephants are miraculous in their complexity and detail.

In the search for the perfect moment, Angkor Wat seemed an unlikely candidate. But because of its sheer size, it can absorb a lot of visitors. And by 6.30am or so the early-bird tourists who want the atmosphere of the rising sun are mostly gone, back to their hotels for breakfast, and the temple's corridors and parapets briefly return to the slumber of the ages.

So it was there, in the tourist trough of Cambodia's hot season (which features searing temperatures between March and May), in the midst of an international economic downturn, in the short, cool space between the dawn rush and the post-breakfast surge, I found a perfect Angkor moment.

I sat alone on the edge of the ancient colonnade of grey Cambodian stone. A gentle morning breeze stirred the leaves of the surrounding trees. Outside, cicadas chirrupped and, somewhere far away, bells were ringing.

TRIP NOTES

GETTING THERE

There are no direct flights from Sydney to Siem Reap, so Australians have to fly via Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur or Singapore.

Return fares from Sydney can be as low as $782, for a promotional fare, including taxes, but it's advisable to look around for the best combination of price and convenience - for instance, the quickest connection or the best overnight stopover.

STAYING THERE

Siem Reap now has a huge range of hotels and guest houses, from five-star palaces like Hotel de la Paix, Raffles Grand Hotel d'Angkor and Le Meridien Angkor, to back-alley cheapies. The interestingly named Golden Banana has a pool (almost essential in the hot season) and a number of price levels down to a low-season $US20 ($26) a night in an air-conditioned room in the "bed and breakfast" option (golden-banana.com). The economic downturn is taking its toll, so some of the newer hotels along the road to the airport appear to be shuttered and most places are willing to bargain.

FURTHER INFORMATION

For basic facts in slightly odd English, try angkorwhat.net. For lots more information, including history, travel and hotel information and many links to other sites, try a site that styles itself as the Angkor portal, angkor.com.

Source: The Sun-Herald

GUEST VIEWPOINT: Help girls change the world

http://www.registerguard.com

By Bhavia Wagner

Posted to Web: Sunday, May 17, 2009

Greg Mortenson, author of “Three Cups of Tea,” drew an audience of 7,000 people to McArthur Court on May 7. His message was inspiring: Education of girls can change the world.

The quote he emphasized was, “If you educate a boy, you educate an individual. If you educate a girl, you educate a community.” Statistics show that when girls are educated: 1) infant mortality decreases, 2) population growth diminishes and 3) basic health and quality of life improve for everyone.

Friendship With Cambodia is a small-scale version of Mortenson’s work — only instead of educating girls in Pakistan and Afghanistan, we are educating girls in Cambodia,where half the girls and a quarter of the boys never go to school. Poverty is the main reason, but when girls are not valued their disadvantage is doubled.

Cambodia is still recovering from 30 years of violence. Nearly 2 million people were killed during the genocide (1975-79) that targeted educated people. Seventy-five percent of the country’s teachers died. Today, most people in Cambodia live in poverty.

Friendship With Cambodia sponsors 110 poor rural students in secondary school and college. Three out of four are girls. In Cambodia only 12 percent of the students graduate from high school. Poverty forces most of the students to drop out between 3rd and 6th grade. Their parents, who earn $1 a day, can’t afford fees, books and clothes.

Friendship With Cambodia’s students are motivated and work hard, getting up at 4 a.m. to do chores before going to school. Some walk for two hours to get to school.

What stops people in this country from supporting the education of girls in developing countries? Often people feel their money goes into an organizational quagmire and never reaches the student, which is sometimes true. Friendship With Cambodia gives at least two-thirds of every sponsor’s donation directly to the student, and the rest is used to make the program possible, including paying social workers in Cambodia who work with the families and students.

We keep our program personal and real — we facilitate an annual letter and photo exchange between the student and her or his U.S. sponsor. Some of our sponsors have traveled with us to Cambodia to meet their student. Friendship With Cambodia’s next trip is in January, and you are invited.

It takes time to see the impact of educating girls. However, we see almost immediate results through our micro-credit loans for women in Cambodia. We teach them to set small goals, borrow money for income generation projects such as raising pigs, and then we encourage them to save money until they reach their goal. Often their first goal is to send their children to school. Later they might build a house or a well.

Once they gain self-confidence, these women start improving their community. They educate other women about vaccinating their children and family planning. They address the problems of domestic violence. They organize the community to solve problems, such as illegal land grabbing.

Poverty in developing countries seems overwhelming. Morteson’s solution is simple and effective: Educate the girls. Mortenson has put enormous effort into education in this country, speaking at 220 schools last year with the message that you can make the world a better place. American schoolchildren responded and raised funds for Mortenson to build schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In Eugene, Karen Dukes’ literature class at Spencer Butte Middle School read “The Clay Marble,” a story about a Cambodian child, and then raised funds to sponsor a youth to go to school in Cambodia. It costs $30 a month to sponsor one student for a year through Friendship with Cambodia.

Mortenson is a remarkable humanitarian who is changing the world, one girl at a time. It wasn’t through training, skill or personal fortune that he succeeded, but through sheer determination and dedication to his mission to help others. He’s a great inspiration to all of us who want to make the world a better place.

Bhavia Wagner is executive director of Friendship With Cambodia (www.friendshipwithcambodia.org)

Cambodia sets for first gold jewellery exhibition

2009-05-18

Gold items will be on display at the first jewellery exhibition in Cambodia next week. The kingdom is looking at ways of attracting foreign buyers to the show and security at the event will be tight, the Phnom Penh Post reports.

Seun Sotha, director of the ministry of commerce's trade promotion department, told the news source that between 30 and 50 large local jewellery manufacturing and export businesses will be at the event.

"We want our people to make jewellery for the international market, not just the local market," he explained, adding that organisers are encouraging "high-class people and businesspeople" to visit the show.

Taking place at the Hotel InterContinental in Phnom Penh between May 18th and 20th, Cambodian minister of commerce Cham Prasidh is due to open the exhibition.

In related news, this year's Coutts London Jewellery Week will be held from June 8th to 14th this year, showcasing fine gold items from leading designers.

This news feed is independently provided by Adfero Limited © and do not represent the views or opinions of the World Gold Council.

Cambodian ruling party wins majority in local election

www.chinaview.cn
2009-05-18

PHNOM PENH, May 17 (Xinhua) -- The ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) won majority in local election held on Sunday to select the members of the new provincial, municipal and district councils, according to preliminary result announced by the National Committee of Election (NEC) on Monday.

CPP won over 75 percent of members of councils of provinces and municipality, and has also won over 74 percent of members of councils of district and cities, Im Suosdey, chairman of NEC, announced at the press conference.

The largest opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) won over 20.49 percent of members of councils for provinces and municipality, while over 20.58 percent in districts and cities, he said.

Meanwhile, co-ruling Funcinpec party won over 2 percent in provinces and municipality, and over 2.36 percent in districts and cities, while Norodom Ranaridhh Party (NRP) won over 1.85 percent and 2.33 percent respectively for the members of the new provincial, municipal and district councils.

The local election, lasted only one day, were carried out smoothly and peacefully, Tep Nytha, secretary general of NEC, told news conference Sunday. Final official results could be made public on May 29, according to the NEC.

There are only 11,353 members of commune councils have rights to vote for, while most of them from the CPP. Altogether four parties participated in the election, namely the major ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP), the major opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP), the co-ruling Funcinpec Party and the opposition Norodom Ranariddh Party (NRP).

Tep Nytha said that the election was very important because the new provincial, district and municipal councils would govern within their territory according to the government's policy of promoting democratic development.

The Interior Ministry has arranged more than 13,000 police and military police force to ensure peaceful balloting.

Editor: Zhang Xiang

Fighting Corruption – Seriously and Legally – Sunday, 17.5.2009

Posted on 18 May 2009
The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 612
http://cambodiamirror.wordpress.com/

The long standing controversy about corruption allegations at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal – the allegation that some Cambodian citizens, working at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, paid kickbacks from their salaries to get such employment – did not yet find a solution.

The U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, who is in charge of UN relations with the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, Mr. Peter Taks√łe-Jensen, left Cambodia in April again in frustration – not for the first time – leaving the following note:

“The United Nations continues to believe that for the ethics monitoring system to be credible, the staff should have the freedom to approach the ethics monitor of their own choice and put forward complaints without fear of retaliation. Such freedom of choice is an important element of a trustworthy ethics-monitoring system.”

There is probably full mutual agreement that “ trustworthy ethics-monitoring systems” are important to prevent corruption at the court. No agreement exists obviously about the question how to implement procedures to do such monitoring, and how to deal with the information – if any – which such monitoring may produce.

The antagonism reached, however, a new stage with an allegation reported by the Phnom Penh Post on 14 May 2009:

“Apparently… the Cambodian government claims it is keeping files on international staffers to prevent corruption at the court.

Lawyers and court observers told the Post the Cambodian government’s behavior amounted to interference and intimidation. A couple of the most compelling reactions:

Defense consultant Andrew Ianuzzi: ‘This is childish, thuggish behavior we have come to expect from the government. But it is not something to be taken lightly.’

Court Monitor Michelle Staggs-Kelsall: ‘Without sounding alarmist, this is alarming. … There is obviously a complete breakdown of trust between the two sides of the court.’”

While there is no clarity about the corruption allegation at the Cambodian side of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, the Cambodian government is now reported to have started to monitor the international staff in order to prevent corruption.

At the time of this writing, I am neither aware what kind of corruption is suspected, nor, in which way such information is collected.

Does Article 40 of the Constitution apply, which says among other things:

The rights to privacy of residence, and to the secrecy of correspondence by mail, telegram, fax, telex and telephone shall be guaranteed.

In 1993, when the Constitution was created, the Internet had not yet arrived in Cambodia – therefore it may be a question for experts on constitutional law to clarify whether the term “correspondence by mail” covers also correspondence by e-mail.

When we deal in the Mirror with reports about corruption in Cambodia, this is a good reminder that corruption is a phenomenon in many other countries also. And it is an opportunity to consider how corruption is dealt with there.

In the United Kingdom, there is at present almost every day a new media revelation about some members of parliament, or some members of government, who have generously used, or misused, financial arrangements, turning them into a self-service mechanism: collecting public funds for private expenses: having their private garden fertilized with manure, claiming public support for living in two different places, collecting money for having the house cleaned or equipped with expensive furniture – and many more.

All these problems started with a foreign journalist, living and working in London, trying to get information on expenses paid by public funds to be made known to the public. She had requested such information in October 2008, but instead of acting in a similar way as the “Freedom of Information Act” would operate in the USA, such information was denied. “The continued exclusion of the public has made the public very, very interested in this material” – says one commentator. Finally, the Daily Telegraph published details of dubious expenses over the period of one week – starting with the prime minister who had provided payments from public resources to a family member – involving every day some more persons.

By now, also the High Court stated: “We are not here dealing with idle gossip… the expenditure of public money is a matter of direct and reasonable interest to taxpayers.”

Most criticism is now focused on the Speaker of Parliament (who is also alleged to have benefited financially) because he seems to be more interested to start a police investigation about who leaked the information to the media, instead of punishing those who have done wrong.

Several people – including the prime minister – have paid back public funds received; some others have resigned.

In Germany, a different clean-up is going on during these days. German Railways is, with almost 250,000 employees, the biggest single employer in the country. And in a big company there is also the danger that big irregularities may happen; therefore the management started – it sounds similar to the recent report from the Khmer Rouge Tribunal – to collect data on employees and save them in special files: in order to prevent corruption.

But in actual fact, the system which was created to prevent corruption was turned into an elaborate network to spy on employees: not only e-mail of hundreds of staff members was searched, violating their right to the secrecy of correspondence, hard-disks were were removed to be searched without informing the staff, and there is now the allegation that such secret violation of the confidentiality of communication was also used to identify staff members who did not agree with the long range goal of the top management to privatize this public enterprise.

The director general of German Railways has to leave his position, and also a number of other members of the board of directors: they are being dismissed in spite of the fact that some of them can claim not to have know what kind of illegalities went on. They are dismissed, because they were negligent and did not care enough to be sufficiently informed and to take responsibility for their neglect of oversight. Some of them will probably also face criminal charges.

What is remarkable – and this is lifted up in the media – is the fact that not only persons in subordinate positions are called to order, but that a considerable number of the top management is fired. Only this is considered to make a new start possible.

Two former top managers of German Telekom are also facing criminal investigation: they arranged to secretly monitor the mobile phone communication of another member of the board of directors: they suspected that he shared internal information with the press.

Fighting corruption is important. But doing it by violating the law obviously is not acceptable.

Please recommend us also to your colleagues and friends.

Flu fears, rains buoy Cambodia rat exports to Vietnam

Mon May 18, 2009

By Ek Madra

CHREY THOM, Cambodia (Reuters Life!) - Stir-fried or grilled, Vietnamese can't seem to get enough of Cambodian rat meat, and the global influenza outbreak as well as recent heavy rains have proven a boon for both consumers and exporters.

In Chrey Thom, a Cambodian town on the border with Vietnam, motorbike after motorbike carries wooden cages full of hundreds of the plump, furry, brown rats.

The rains in the Mekong Delta area have helped boost the Cambodian trappers' catch, as more rats rush out from their flooded holes and into waiting cages.

"There were so many rodents we just can't eat them all, so we need to export lots more to Vietnam," Cambodian rat trader Kang Chanthan told Reuters. "It's good business."

"If you prepare them well and fry the meat with garlic and put some mint on it, they're tastier than chickens," he added.

Worries about swine flu, as the H1N1 influenza virus was first called, may have also spurred demand. The spread of H1N1 flu was not caused by pigs and pork, but many people and governments have reacted to the name.

"Rat meat substitutes well for pork these days," said Khe Le, adding that her family exported up to a ton of live rats across the border on good days.

Rat meat was eaten in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s and for some time afterwards when little else was available. The poor took to rat meat last year when the price of other meat soared, but younger Cambodians tend to avoid it.

In Vietnam, rat meat is something of a delicacy.

Online Vietnamese newspaper, VietNamNet Bridge, said more than 35 metric tons of rat meat a day was imported from Cambodia.

Cambodian officials said they did not keep records of this aspect of bilateral trade but reckoned the figure was realistic.

"The high season for catching rats has returned for the farmers in my district, where I see several thousand kilos of live rats transported every day to Vietnam," said Ly Marong, an agriculture official in Koh Thom district on the border.

Live rats sold for $1 per kilo and dead ones -- used for feeding crocodiles in Vietnam -- went for $0.37, officials said.

"Some rats are as big as piglets, 2 kilos, and that has intrigued the Vietnamese. They see them as wild animals and they find them tasty," Marong said.

Bun Tuon Simona, a Cambodian official in the southern province of Kandal, said the Vietnamese appetite for rat meat has helped a government campaign to get rid of the rodents that were destroying rice fields.

"Before, we rewarded farmers with milled rice in exchange for a rat's tail after they killed one. Now it's not a problem. They catch the rat and can sell it to make some money on top of what they get from farming," he said.

Cambodian farmer Chan Pakdeiratha, whose family has rather taken to the meat, said the rats gave birth three times a month and had about 15 babies each time.

"If we don't catch them this year, they'll destroy our crops next harvest," he said.

(Additional reporting by Lach Chantha and Chor Sokunthea; Editing by Alan Raybould and Miral Fahmy)

To Mr. Tharit Jarungwat, a Siam FM spokesman

Cambodian Action Committee for Justice & Equity (CACJE)
No: 3 Fountain Ave. Cranston RI, 02920 Web: www.cacje.net, Email: cacjepress9@gmail.com
"CACJE is an Alliance for People Power, Promote Social Justice & Support Human Equity"


No: 0049 / CACJE
14th May 2009

DECLARATION

Cambodian Action Committee for Justice and Equity (CACJE) opposes categorically the declaration of Thai Foreign Ministry's spokesman Mr. Tharit Jarungwat who claims shamelessly that Cambodia could not ask for compensation from Thailand for border clash in April 3, 2009 because the clash site is on the Thai territory.

The baseless claim of Thai Foreign Ministry’s spokesman shows not only the volition of Thai government to ignore his own history but also to look down the Cambodians victims of the Thai Army aggression who lost their lives and their entire livelihood.

Cambodia Foreign Ministry should protest and urge Foreign Ministry of Thailand to condemn and categorically reject the claim of Thai Foreign Ministry's spokesman Tharit Jarungwat relative to Preah Vihear aggression.

CACJE would like to remind the public and the world, in order to solve the borders conflicts of Cambodia versus Thailand, Vietnam and Laos the best way to fix it is to bring this affair under the auspice of the Security Council of the United Nations (UNSC). Only the international treaties and universal treaties might provide the best protection to Cambodia.

Signed
SOURN SEREY RATHA
Chief Mission

Burmese opposition leader says she did not violate house arrest

Mrs Suu Kyi has spent 13 of the last 19 years under house arrest Photo: AFP/GETTY
Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese opposition leader, will deny any wrongdoing when she goes on trial on Monday for allegedly breaking the terms of her house arrest.

By Thomas Bell
South East Asia Correspondent
17 May 2009

Mrs Suu Kyi, 63, faces up to five years in jail after an American man swam across a lake to reach the house where she has spent 13 of the last 19 years under house arrest.

"She asked me to tell her friends and everyone that she is quite well," her lawyer, Kyi Win, after meeting her on Saturday. "She is ready to tell the truth that she never broke the law."

According to the lawyer, Mrs Suu Kyi demanded that John Yettaw, 53, leave her home when he appeared there uninvited earlier this month but eventually took pity on him and allowed him to rest. He was detected and arrested as he swam away again two days later.

Last week Mrs Suu Kyi was transferred from her home to Rangoon's Insein prison.

Mr Yettaw appears to be an eccentric acting at his own initiative but his actions handed Burma's ruling junta a pretext to prosecute Mrs Suu Kyi.

Mrs Suu Kyi's current term of detention was due to expire later this month but analysts say the military regime, which has ruled since 1962, is determined to keep her in detention ahead of elections planned for next year.

Mrs Suu Kyi won a sweeping election victory in 1990 but the generals ignored the result and jailed her. Next year's polls have been widely dismissed as a sham.