Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Couple put WaterAid on wedding list


Jan 5 2010
by James McCarthy, South Wales Echo

A BIG-HEARTED couple moved by the lives of children in Cambodia are to tell guests planning on buying them wedding presents: “Please send the money to them instead.”

Julie McIlroy and Allan Donnelly were so touched after seeing the living conditions of children in Cambodia’s floating villages they decided they would like friends and family to donate to WaterAid when they tie the knot next year.

The organisation works to provide safe water, sanitation and hygiene education to the world’s poorest people.

Julie and Allan hit the headlines in 2008 after meeting over the internet – then discovering they lived seven doors apart on the same street – Pen y Dre, in Rhiwbina, Car-diff – and had done for 17 years.

Julie said: “We were in Cambodia and we went to the floating villages of Tonle Sap.

“They live on boats, the shops are boats, the school floats, everything floats.

“Small children row little boats to school.”

The Greenway Primary School teacher was horrified by the living conditions.

The 48-year-old said: “They all get on boats to go to school but the water is filthy and they use it for cooking and washing.”

There are freshwater wells but not everyone has access to them.

“We could not believe how these people were living.

“They were still happy and smiling and did all the normal things but in these floating villages.

“And we saw some horrible things like parents carrying babies to hospital and using a black bag and a stick as a drip, which was heartbreaking.”

Both Julie and Allan have been married before so have everything a home needs already.

Allan, 54, said: “We do not need wedding presents. The idea is rather than give us something we don’t need, give to WaterAid.”

Electrician and engineer Allan added: “People giving us ornaments and things, it’s a waste and I hate waste.”

WaterAid’s regional development manager for Wales, Vanessa Ashton, said she was “thrilled” by the couple’s plans.

She said: “Their generosity will transform the lives of some of the world’s poorest people by helping them to safe water, hygiene education and sanitation.

“So a big thank you and congratulations from everyone here at WaterAid.”

Cambodian village's strain of malaria portends new version of old disease


[Associated Press]
Malaria worker Phoun Sokha, 47, uses a medicine kit that looks like a tackle box to test people in the O’treng village for malaria. He checks on patients to make sure they are taking medicine, and can help patients get to a hospital in nearby Pailin.

http://www.tampabay.com/
Associated Press

(CAAI News Media)

PAILIN, Cambodia — O'treng village doesn't look like the epicenter of anything.

Just off a muddy, rutted-out road, it is nothing more than a handful of bamboo huts perched crookedly on stilts, tucked among a tangle of cornfields once littered with deadly land mines.

Yet this spot on the Thai-Cambodian border is home to a form of malaria that keeps rendering one powerful drug after another useless. This time, scientists have confirmed signs of resistance to the only affordable treatment left in the global medicine cabinet for malaria: artemisinin.

If this drug stops working, there's no good replacement to combat a disease that kills 1 million annually. Earlier this year, international medical leaders declared resistant malaria here a health emergency.

"This is not business as usual. It's something really special, and it needs a real concerted effort," said Dr. Nick White, a malaria expert at Mahidol University in Bangkok who has spent decades trying to eradicate the disease from Southeast Asia. "We know that children have been dying in Africa — millions of children have died over the past three decades — and a lot of those deaths have been attributed to drug resistance. And we know that the drug resistance came from the same place."


[Associated Press]
Chhay Meth, 9, suffers malaria at the family’s home in O’treng, Cambodia. The village is home to a resistant form of malaria that keeps rendering drugs useless.

Malaria is just one of the leading killer infectious diseases battling back in a new and more deadly form, the Associated Press found in a six-month look at the soaring rates of drug resistance worldwide. After decades of the overuse and misuse of antibiotics, diseases like malaria, tuberculosis and staph have started to mutate. The result: The drugs are slowly dying.

Already, the AP found, resistance to malaria has spread faster and wider than previously documented. White said virtually every case of malaria he sees in western Cambodia is now resistant to drugs. And in the Pailin area, patients given artemisinin take twice as long as those elsewhere to be clear of the parasite — 84 hours instead of the typical 48, and sometimes even 96.

Mosquitoes spread this resistant malaria quickly from shack to shack, village to village — and eventually, country to country.

And so O'treng, with its 45 poor families, naked kids, skinny dogs and boiling pots of rice, finds itself at the epicenter of an effort to stop a dangerous new version of an old disease.

• • •

Bundled in a threadbare batik sarong, 51-year-old Chhien Rern, one of O'treng's sick residents, sweats and shivers as a 103-degree fever rages against the malaria parasites in her bloodstream.

Three days ago, Chhien Rern started feeling ill while looking for work in a neighboring district. So she did what most rural Cambodians do: She walked to a little shop and asked for malaria medicine. With no prescription, she was handed a packet of pills — she's unsure what they were.

"After I took the drugs, I felt better for a while," she says. "Then I got sick again."

The headaches, chills and fever worsened. Chhien Rern's daughter persuaded her to take a motorbike taxi past washed out bridges and flooded culverts to the nearest hospital in Pailin, a dirty border town about 10 miles from O'treng.

Doctors say there's a good chance Chhien Rern was sold counterfeit drugs.

People generate drug-resistant malaria when they take too little medicine, substandard medicine or — as is all too often the case around O'treng — counterfeit medicine with a pinch of the real stuff. Once established, the drug-resistant malaria is spread by mosquitoes. So one person's counterfeit medicine can spawn widespread resistant disease.

The World Health Organization and Interpol formed a task force three years ago to try to stop counterfeiters, seizing millions of fake malaria, tuberculosis, HIV and other pills in Southeast Asia and Africa. But officials say the work is only as good as the countries' legal systems.

"One of the problems is that there's not really any enforcement, so what happens when they find a drug that's counterfeit or substandard?" asks David Sintasath, a regional epidemiologist at the nonprofit Malaria Consortium in Bangkok. "The policy is to take it away from them. That's good until the next month when they get their next shipment, right?"

Countless unlicensed shops in Cambodia sell artesunate, a single-drug therapy that has been banned in the country.

Artesunate, a modified version of artemisinin derived from a Chinese herb, has been hailed as miracle treatment worldwide because it works so well with so few side effects. But Cambodian surveys have shown that many patients take artesunate alone instead of mixing it with another antimalarial drug, making it easier for resistance to build.

"The drug has been around for a long time and misused for a long time and this is all encouraging the parasite to develop resistance," says Dr. Delia Bethell, of the U.S. Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Science, whose research has been at the forefront of identifying emerging resistance on the border.

• • •

Walk past O'treng's cluster of sagging huts, cross another cornfield and hike a twisted mile on a dirt track to a wooden shack where a string of smoke is curling through the wooden floor planks in a largely futile effort to keep mosquitoes away. It's here that skinny 13-year-old Hoeun Hong Da wakes up on the floor nauseous and burning with fever.

Hong Da recovered from malaria two months ago, but now the dizziness and headaches are back. He has been sickened by the disease six or seven times in his short life — too many to remember. He knows that if he doesn't get to a hospital soon, he could die.

With no new treatments in the pipeline, normally reserved scientists are quick to use words like "disaster" or "catastrophe" when asked what might happen if they don't contain the disease that's ravaging young Hong Da before it spreads to Africa. There, malaria already kills an estimated 2,000 children daily.

The concept of containing drug resistance has never been tried before. Scientists wonder: How do you control the spread of a resistant parasite transmitted by mosquitoes that bite people who live and work in infested jungle areas, then scatter in all directions, all the time?

This year, an army of aid agencies and experts from the WHO began racing to this impoverished corner on the Thai-Cambodian border to divvy up a $22.5 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, aimed at stopping the virulent new strain found in Cambodia.

But grants haven't stopped lines of Cambodians, sick or not, from queuing up every morning at Thailand's border, charging past the checkpoints in search of work or goods. Some may carry resistant strains in, others may bring them home.

And grants haven't stopped the parasite from spreading in the O'treng area, despite widespread distribution of bed nets, awareness campaigns and enhanced surveillance systems. Some scientists say the only sure way to fix the problem is to eradicate malaria entirely from western Cambodia.

"It's really dangerous," says Dr. Rupam Tripura, who's conducting a study in Pailin for the Wellcome Trust-Mahidol University-Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Program. "What will happen to the mosquitoes? Can you kill those living in the jungle? No, so you cannot kill the strain."

• • •

If O'treng is the epicenter of this emerging disease, Phoun Sokha is the point man aimed at controlling it.

At 47, Phoun Sokha is the village malaria worker who proudly displays an orange plastic kit that resembles a tackle box.

Phoun Sokha is serious about his packets of medicine and his rapid tests to prick blood from sick villagers' fingers to determine if they have malaria and if so, what type. He makes sure patients are taking their free medicines and checks to see if they're improving. If not, Phoun Sokha can arrange transportation to the hospital.

But treating O'treng's malaria patients can be frustrating.

"Some of the patients, when they went to the hospital, after one month, maybe they get malaria again," he says.

Today Hong Da, the village boy who has fought malaria so many times before, heads home from the hospital after a few days of treatment. He clutches a new mosquito net he hopes will prevent yet another infection. Together, the recovering boy and his weathered mom shuffle past sick neighbor Chhien Rern's shack before disappearing among the tassels of the cornfield toward their home.

But all is not well.

Under a tattered quilt, Hong Da's 9-year-old sister, Hoeun Chhay Meth, is curled on a thin mattress atop the wooden floor inside the family's open-air home.

She had malaria alongside her brother two months ago. They share a mosquito net that she burned a hole in when she stayed up one night reading by the light of a makeshift candle. Her brother thinks that's how the mosquitoes infected them.

"Very afraid of dying," says Chhay Meth, who has started taking medicine provided by the village malaria worker. "I feel worse than before. I cannot walk myself or stand up by myself and cannot eat well."

Like her big brother, this child doesn't know about counterfeit drugs or antimalarials.

She only knows she's sick. And the medicines don't seem to work as well any more.

The Son of a Four-Star-General Said Corruption Occurs at Present from Top to Bottom – Monday, 4.1.2010

http://cambodiamirror.wordpress.com/
Posted on 5 January 2010
The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 646

“A son of a high ranking military officer of the Cambodian government told a foreign newspaper that corruption in Cambodia occurs at present at every section of the society from top to bottom. An Australian newspaper, the Sydney Morning Herald, interviewed a youth whose name is Meas Sophearith, a son of Four-Star-General Meas Sophea, a deputy Commander-In-Chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, and the Commander of the Army of Cambodia, regarding his view about corruption in the Cambodian society.

“According to an article in this newspaper, written by Mr. Andrew Marshall, the young Meas Sophearith, who is studying political science at the University in Alabama in the United States, who has also a place for military studies at the École Spéciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr, the French military academy, a son of Mr. Meas Sophea, was quoted as criticizing the present corruption in Cambodian society, saying that corruption exists from top to bottom.

“According to the same source, Meas Sophearith described the situation of corruption in the Cambodian society nowadays, saying that most leaders are corrupt.

“Also, a nephew of a most powerful person in Cambodia was quoted, to have said for publication in the paper, that a nephew of a most powerful person in Cambodia owns a most expensive car priced at US$500,000 a Mercedes McLaren SLR.

“Besides the publication about the description of corruption by the young Meas Sophearith, another young man, Ouch Vichet, called Richard, 28, who used to study in New Zealand, spoke in the Australian newspaper about the present show-off culture among the children of the powerful and of the rich in Cambodia.

“The young Vichet was quoted by the Sydney Morning Herald as saying that if anybody want that the others pay respect, they have to own luxuries and expensive cars, big diamonds, and expensive mobile phones. This young man added that his parents provided him with a residence of US$500,000 and a rubber plantation of 400 hectares as his inheritance, while his parents-in-law gave him US$100,000 and another residence of US$200,000.

“The abundant wealth of high ranking officials, noticed by foreign observers as well as international journalists, where they compete with each other, showing off their luxury cars worth tens of thousands of dollars, helps to form the stereotypes of rich and high ranking officials of present day Cambodia.

“Mr. Andrew Marshall wrote in that Australian newspaper about Ouch Vichet, who said that people of his parents’ generation always kept money under their mattresses, but the children of the next generation keep money in safes in their houses.

“He said they usually keep a lot of money in safes at home, because they do not trust the banks, believing that if they keep their money in the banks, it will be known how much money their families have.

[...]

“The Tuol Kork area of Phnom Penh is compared to the Beverly Hills area of Hollywood in the United States, where there are, in Phnom Penh, many modern residences of high ranking officials, including of children of the prime minister, surrounded by high and sharp razor wire fencing.

“The same paper wrote that the residence of young Meas Sophearith, a son of General Meas Sophea, is carefully guarded by special forces soldiers.

“The young Meas Sophearith as well as Ouch Vichet, a businessman, who haves relations with the powerful and the rich of the country, are among the three sources that Mr. Andrew Marshall relied on for the article ‘Khmer Riche.’ The third person, Sophy, a child of a Deputy Prime Minister of the government of Mr. Hun Sen, is another source that Mr. Andrew Marshall depended upon to write about the showing off of luxury livelihood of children of high ranking officials and of the rich in Cambodia, while millions of Khmer common citizens live under the poverty line, though hundreds of millions of dollars of aid have been provided each year.

“The young Meas Sophearith told the Australian newspaper that he has a plan to create a foundation to help children of the poor to have a chance to study abroad, like the children of the powerful and of the rich. However, he stressed that they have to wait until their parents grow old.

[...]

“The young Meas Sophearith is not the only person who wants to see changes from what happens at present, but needs to wait until their parents grow old, or people from the old generation retire. Whether he can fulfill his intention to create a foundation to help the poor or not is another problem. [The original source is quoted here.]

[...]

“The account by a son of a high ranking official about corruption, which occurs from top to bottom, and by Mr. Ouch Vichet about how money is normally kept by high ranking officials and by the rich, is another source of information related to the question why the government is very late in adopting an anti-corruption law.

“Corruption is recognized, and the wealth of the high ranking officials and of the rich in Cambodia are kept in the safes at their houses, rather than at local and foreign banks. Therefore, can an anti-corruption law be adopted and can it be efficient to uncover the faces of corrupt officials, or expropriate wealth stolen from the nation, to become money to benefits the nation?”
[...]

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.4, #569-571, 1-4.1.2010
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Monday, 4 January 2010

Cambodia to Produce 7.286 Million Tonnes of Rice for 2009/2010


Tuesday, 05 January 2010 05:35 DAP-NEWS/

(CAAI News Media)

Ek Madra .PHNOM PENH, January 5, 2010 (DAP): Cambodia said on Tuesday that it expected to produce an estimated 7.17 million tonnes of rice for 2009/2010 of which the country saw another surplus of rice of 3.1 million tonnes for exports, said the agricultural report on Tuesday.

It said the rainy rice season produced 5.876 million tonnes of rice (May to November 2009) harvested from 2.828 hectares. Dry rice season (December/2009 to April 2010) produced an estimated 1.41 million tonnes which is harvested from 351,592 hectares.

The rainy rice yield production was 2.529 tonnes per hectare. Dry rice yield production was 4 tonnes per hectare, said the report seen by DAP.

“Although we faced some problems with bad weather of drought and Ketsana storm during the cultivation period of the rainy rice season, but the government’s supplies along with the farmers’ hard working enabled us to achieve a remarkable result,” said the report.

Cambodia’s National Committee for National Disaster Management said in October that the country suffered US$140 million in damages after Typhoon Ketsana swept through the country in September, a figure pegged well beyond previous tallies of the storm’s destruction.

At least 43 people died and 67 others were severely injured after Ketsana’s lashing winds and rain and resulted floods that swept through the country in late September last year.

Cambodia’s total population is 13.8 million consumes 1.979 million tonnes of rice, said the report.

“So, we expect to have 3.273 million of rice surplus for export,” it said.

Cambodia has been exporting most of its rice surplus to the neighboring countries of Vietnam and Thailand.

Cambodia produced 7.1 million tonnes 2008/09 from 6.7 million tonnes previous harvest, has surplus of more than 2 million tonnes of rice for exports during those years.

PM Warns Victory Day Critics


Tuesday, 05 January 2010 02:56 DAP-NEWS

(CAAI News Media)

With only three days left before celebrations of the 31st anniversary of the fall of the hated Democratic Kampuchea (Khmer Rouge) regime on January 7, 1979, on the morning of January 4, 2010, prime minister Hun Sen issued a warning to any who criticized January 7 as Victory Day, the date of the liberation from Pol Pot.

During the inauguration of the International Children’s village built by the SOS organization in Battambang, Hun Sen indicated that, without January 7, there would be no October 23, referring to the date of the Paris Peace Agree-ments.

“It a shame for these bad persons who refused to recognize historical reality that we are not able to teach them, as they neither wish to know nor listen,” the premier said.

“Do not tell lie yourselves,” the PM instructed, “for those who used to dig and carry the land during that time now do not recognize January 7.”

However, the premier confirmed that those who choose not to celebrate January 7 are not regarded as enemies. But no-one should protest the holiday, he cautioned.

Hun Sen noted that even the high ranking members of the Khmer Rouge regime were rapidly being killed off in a wave of paranoid persecution, in addition to the countless ordinary citizens who perished.

He estimated that in “just 3 years more, all the people would have been killed by Pol Pot.”

This is not the first time that Hun Sen issued such a warning to the opposition and others who refuse to recognize the holiday, shunning it as the anniversary of what they allege was a Vietnamese-backed invasion of Cambodia.

Hun Sen’s warning was not welcomed by Cambodia opposition party officials.

Kem Sokha, Human Rights Pary (HRP) president, told DAP News Cambodia on Monday that January 7 was a Victory Day, “but it was also a day the Yuon (Vietna- mese) invaded Cambodia.”

Fewer NGOs Register in 2009


Tuesday, 05 January 2010 02:48 DAP-NEWS

(CAAI News Media)

The Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) and local associations regisiering in 2009 was, at 212, a decrease of 44 compared with 2008, a Ministry of Interior official reported on Monday.

Director of the Department of Political Affairs Dy Sophan told DAP News Cambodia that all the NGOs and local associations “focus on rural development in their strategies as the similarly to the step of the Cambodian government.”

He added that, after the national elections in 1993 overseen by UNTAC, the number of NGOs increased, but at the end of 2009, a report said that were about 2,465 official NGOs, and about 1034 local associations.

PM Surprised by Fireworks, Population Movement


Tuesday, 05 January 2010 02:54 DAP-NEWS

(CAAI News Media)

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday expressed his surprise at the widespread fireworks industry, and its associated freely available explosive precursors.

Cambodian fireworks producers, working with explosive chemical substances like TNT, churn out fireworks for holidays like New Year, especially in Kampong Speu province and Takeo along Nation Roads 3 and 4, he told the opening ceremony of a US$1 million school built by the SOS humanitarian organization in Battambang province.

Hun Sen said that he had set off fireworks at Preah Sihanouk beach during the New Year but was surprised because Cambodia can produce all kinds of fireworks. “We found a lot of waste from fireworks at the beach in Preah Sihanouk beach because many local people went there during the New Year and launched fireworks,” he said. He urged local auth- orities to pay attention to safety of large scale transportation of the explosive chemical substances for producing the fireworks.

At the ceremony he also remarked that, according to report from provincial authorities, the population in Battambang province has increased rapidly, now at over one million residents from about 900,000, and the number in Preng Veng province decreased. He reasoned residents of Preng Veng must have moved to Battambang. He noted that Battam-bang province is still the main rice producer of the country, and contributes over 10 percent of the agricultural sector, producing everything from cassava to beans.

According to a report from the Natio- nal Committee of Population Development from the Office of the Council of Minist- ers, about 3.5 million people have migra- ted from their birth places to seek jobs and make businesses, of which about 1.7 million are women. Nearly half moved to Phnom Penh and Most of them seeks jobs, education and marriage.

Interior Ministry Rejects Khmer Machas Srok story


Tuesday, 05 January 2010 02:52 DAP-NEWS

(CAAI News Media)

The Cambodian Interior Ministry on Monday rejected a story published by the Khmer Machas Srok newspaper. The paper reported lawmakers plan to submit a letter asking Hun Sen to clarify the government’s recent decision to suspend all bonuses to civil servants, according a Monday press release from the Ministry.

“The Ministry rejected all remarks which the newspaper quoted Cambodia Opposition Party Leader’s saying,” the press release stated, referring to opposition leader Sam Rainsy.

Sam Rainsy could not be reached for comment on Monday.

Chum Sophal, Khmer Machas Srok’s editor, on Monday told DAP News Cam bodia that “I do not have any more comment on this topic as I only quoted Sam Rainsy.”

The ministry press release clarified that, “Firstly, to commit decentralize and centralize reform of the government limited bonus to capital, province, district and commune council members, motivating them to serve the people demands.”

“Secondly, the bonus to those officials which said in the sub-decree issued on December 14, 2009 do not include abuse on election law and not discriminate in political issue as the newspaper said. The sub-decree is to ensue and protect the citizens’ interests, especially to full demands and help the retired officials as they are not Cambodia People’s Party’s Supporters.”

Thirdly, the release said, “what Sam Rainsy told the newspaper does not depend on clear and legal grounds which are being implemented in the government’s three power institutions.”

Banteay Chhmar: The potential Community Based Tourism Site in Cambodia

http://www.prlog.org/
Located in the northwestern of Cambodia and in Banteay Meanchey Province, Banteay Chhmar consists a XII century Angkorean Temple Complex. It is now renovated by the Global Heritage Fund...

PR Log (Press Release) – Jan 04, 2010 – Located in the northwestern of Cambodia and in Banteay Meanchey Province(http://www.tourismindochina.com/banteay_meanchey-attractionsite.htm), Banteay Chhmar consists a XII century Angkorean Temple Complex. It is now renovated by the Global Heritage Fund. It is also contains the both Baray- rectangular water reservoirs- from the ancient times and from the Pol Pot era.

Indeed, supporting tourism means supporting economic. As tourism is considered to be a significant tool for poverty mitigation, the site is developed under the theme of Community Based Tourism. Banteay Chhmar is identified as the potential for community based tourism (CBT) in sustainable way that can help enhance local livelihood to a better condition while the three dimensions of social, economical and environmental aspects are taken into account.

Visitors can explore the historical site and enjoy a wide range of community based tourism activities. You can taste the food prepared by the local women, do picnic in the temple compound, spend a night in traditional wooden home stay and visit the Mekong Silk center to experience the process of gaining silk product and consequently be able to purchase the local product. To get deeply exploration, you can also visit the hidden satellite temples around Banteay Chhmar which is the unique experience that not many people have had. Generally, it is possible to access but only by walking. Those satellite temples are:

1. Chenh Choem Trey Temple (Raising Fish): a temple from the 12th century, located on a small hill with a small pond in the wet season.

2. Yeay Korm Temple: a small and much damaged temple where it is estimated that about 80 % is ruined.

3. West Samnang Ta Sok Temple: a temple that lies inside a forest on a mountain.

4. East Samnang Ta Sok Temple: a temple that resembles the main temple.

5. Ta Prum Temple and Balang Temple: Ta Prum temple is a beautifully restored temple that is surrounded by a mote. The ruins of the temple Balang is located nearby.

6. Me Bun Temple: a ruined temple with loose rocks but well visited by the local villagers.

7. Yeay Chour Temple: a much damaged temple that is not very clean and has many people living nearby.

8. Ta Em Temple (Sweet Man): a small temple where people live just besides.

The roads leading to the temples are small ancient roads which are in bad condition and some of the temples do not even have roads connected to them. Both CBT members and tourists wish to improve the access to the satellite temples. Your involvement and participation in the community based tourism will help economically contribute to the community physical infrastructure improvement.

Cambodia Travel, Cambodia Tours, Cambodia Attraction Sites:

Cambodia records more cases of malaria and dengue fever in 2009


2010-01-05

(CAAI News Media)

PHNOM PENH, Jan. 5 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia has seen a rise in reported cases of dengue fever and malaria in 2009, local media reported on Tuesday, citing health officials here.

Ngan Chantha, director of dengue control at the Ministry of Health, was quoted by the Cambodia Daily as saying that there were11,652 cases and 37 deaths reported in 2009 compared with 9,456 reported cases and 65 deaths in 2008.

While infections increased 30 percent, deaths were down by half, he said.

When asked if the number is expected to increase in 2010, Chantha said it would depend on how well individuals protect themselves and their families from the mosquito-born virus.

Figures for malaria cases in 2009 are still being tallied, said Ministry of Health and World Health Organization officials, but are already higher than in 2008, when there were 58,887 cases and 209 deaths.

In 2009, 60,157 recorded malaria cases led to 213 deaths from January through September.

"We don't have the full numbers, we're still collecting the totals from the provinces, but yes, in 2009 there were more cases than in 2008," said Duong Socheat, director of the National Center for Parisitology, Entomology and Malaria Control. He blamed more migrant movement and more mobility for more cases of malaria.

Editor: Lin Zhi

Christmas in Cambodia



Cambodians don Claus caps and greet Christian guests in a restaurant in Siem Reap. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/Stefan Sebastian

SIEM REAP, Cambodia—A Filipino spending Christmas in a predominantly Buddhist country is a curious cultural experience. Walking around town, I realize there is little here to indicate that the two billion-odd Christians throughout the world are celebrating what is probably their most important holiday.

“When I first got here, people had no idea what Christmas was,” said Ilonggo artist Loven Ramos, who moved to Siem Reap five years ago. “Once, I went to a dance club with my friends and we found ourselves dancing to ‘Jingle Bells’—in the middle of February.”

Shopping for Christmas decor, he added, was a nearly impossible feat. The Christmas tree now towering over his living room had to be shipped from Vietnam two years ago.

That the Khmer people aren’t agog over Christmas doesn’t come as a shock. Not only is Cambodia a Buddhist nation; the country’s pride, the Angkor temple complex, is said to be the world’s largest religious structure, built initially as a Hindu site and later converted to Buddhist use. It’s a long way from Bethlehem.

However, Ramos said, Christmas is making its way to Cambodia little by little.

While Cambodia probably wouldn’t get a papal visit anytime soon, there is no question that the Kingdom of Wonder is slowly getting into the Christmas spirit.

First ever

In a few unexpected places around town, Christmas trees have sprung up. Flickering lights of red and green illuminate areas within a few feet of Buddhist shrines.

On Pub Street, the center of nightlife in Siem Reap, every other restaurant offers a Christmas set menu. Not too far away, a band of landmine victims can be heard playing “Frosty the Snowman” and other Christmas classics, on top of its usual repertoire of Khmer traditional music.

Two weeks ago, a luxury hotel here held what its employees called “the first ever Christmas tree lighting in Cambodia,” with a choir of children from a local orphanage singing Yuletide carols.

It’s all inevitable, with the growing Western presence in the country. One million (mostly Western) tourists travel to Cambodia each year to see Angkor Wat, and they typically come in droves around the Christmas and New Year holidays.

Cambodia also hosts a large community of expatriates working at diplomatic missions and humanitarian groups. And then there are the missionaries serving in religious and charitable organizations throughout the country.

Cashing in on the holiday

For the Cambodians, of course, December 25 isn’t a day to celebrate the birth of Christ. It’s more like a spending season, when the most merriment is had by tourist businesses cashing in on the holiday.

But then, one could argue that it’s not all that different in the Philippines and the rest of the Christian world. Don Protasio, a Filipino fashion designer working as an art curator for the stylish Hotel de la Paix, recalled memories of holiday shopping in the Philippines with a tinge of exasperation.

“Back home, Christmas is so commercial,” said Protasio, who is spending his third Christmas in Siem Reap. “The act of gift-giving has little purity left about it. You’re compelled to give something just because it’s the holidays. Here, it’s still pretty easy to get away from all that.”

But Protasio is no Scrooge; he simply prefers to play Santa on his own terms. “When I go home, I bring gifts for the whole family. Then I get to feel like Christmas,” he said.

Always home for Christmas

For teacher Jessie-Marie Morcoso, nothing beats being with family on Christmas Day. Since moving here in 2005, she has gone home every year to spend the holidays.

She left for the Philippines on a Sunday, much to the regret of her band mates. Morcoso sings in a locally popular band with three European expats, and the band had to turn down gigs around the holidays because of Morcoso’s absence.

“I’ve already sent two (cardboard cargo) boxes home for gifts,” Morcoso said the day before she left. The gifts, she said, were for her “immediate family”—by which she meant her parents, siblings, nieces, nephews—and all other relatives living within her family’s five-house compound in Legazpi City.

Lucky are the ones like the artist lover Ramos who don’t have to choose between work and family every holiday season.

Two years after Ramos came to work as an in-house graphic designer for a hotel here, his wife Faith joined him. Today, Ramos runs an art gallery-cum-boutique and collaborates on a gamut of freelance fashion and interior design projects with Protasio. Faith works as a manager at Amansara, one of the most luxurious resorts in Siem Reap.

The couple’s son, Freedom, was born here. Although the four-year-old attends school in the Philippines, Cambodia is now pretty much home for the whole family.

However, the family Christmas traditions remain intact, except for a few tweaks. Being the only kid in the household, Freedom can expect to be at the center of the celebration. His first task for the holidays was to put the star on top of the Christmas tree. He didn’t need to worry about Santa skipping the out-of-the-way trip to Cambodia. In addition to his parents, his lola and two aunts are in town this year to make sure he gets his share of aguinaldo.

What makes Christmas

Noche Buena was a sort of open-house party, with friends of different nationalities dropping in for a home-cooked feast. Although the menu defied traditions (the hosts are pesco-vegetarians and some of the guests are on a gluten-free diet), Ramos said the essence of the gathering couldn’t be more Filipino: family togetherness.

“In the Philippines, you see, taste, even breathe Christmas,” Ramos said. “But I wouldn’t really feel that holiday spirit if I wasn’t with my family and friends. At the end of the day, it’s the people you’re with that makes Christmas, Christmas.”

Maybank expands in Cambodia


Written by Joy Lee
Tuesday, 05 January 2010

KUALA LUMPUR: MALAYAN BANKING BHD [] (Maybank) hopes to expand its network in Cambodia given the improving economic conditions in the country and optimism on its growth prospects. The bank recently opened its seventh branch in the Toul Kork district in Phnom Penh.

"This latest branch completes the four new branches we planned to open this year. We are pleased to be able to expand our network to provide to the growing community in the capital city, including the local as well as Malaysian and Singaporean companies with operations in Cambodia," Abdul Farid Alias, Maybank's head of international, said in a statement yesterday.

"We are planning to open one more branch by the end of this financial year ending June 30, 2010."

Maybank Cambodia's new branch would provide financial services to the Toul Kork district consisting of affluent residences, government ministries, universities and commercial businesses.

"We are targeting for Maybank Toul Kork to turn around in the second year of operation. The branch will meet the banking needs of the community in the vicinity, focusing on the commercial and retail sectors," Abdul Farid said.

The latest branch expands Maybank's international network to over 1,750 offices located in Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Cambodia, Brunei, Vietnam, China, Hong Kong, Bahrain, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea and Uzbekistan as well as financial centres in New York and London. Maybank opened its first branch in Cambodia in 1993.

Biomass Briquette Plant Opens in Cambodia




Simon Marks
A Cambodian woman makes use of “charbriquettes” made from coconut husks. The fuel is a cleaner substitute for the wood and charcoal that are traditionally used.

By SIMON MARKS

(CAAI News Media)

Cambodia opened its first biomass “charbriquette” factory in Phnom Penh last month, an enterprise that will produce fuel for stoves from waste biomass material.

The factory, a venture backed by Geres and For a Child’s Smile, two French organizations active in Cambodia’s development community, aims to reduce demand for wood and charcoal that 80 percent of Cambodians use every day to cook and boil water.

“Climate change and global warming are serious issues these days,” said Yohanes Iwan Baskoro, Cambodia country director for Geres. The factory, Mr. Baskoro said, “will save about 1,600 tons of greenhouse gas emissions from entering the atmosphere” every year.

The number of households projected to use charcoal as an energy source here will rise to more than one million in 2015 from about 500,000 now, according to a 2008 study conducted jointly by Cambodia’s Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy, the United Nations Development Program and Geres.

The projected increase has raised concerns among environmentalists, who say that charcoal production entails the removal of vast quantities of woodland, often in naturally growing forests.


According to Geres, Phnom Penh consumes 90,000 tons of charcoal every year, a market believed to be worth about $25 million.

At the new factory, called the Sustainable Green Fuel Enterprise, waste biomass like coconut husks and shells will be burned for an hour in brick kilns, or until the material is carbonized. The heat from the burning process is then recaptured in a funnel and used to dry the waste biomass so that the burning process becomes more energy efficient.

The end-product, known as char, is crushed and mixed with water and cassava residue to form individual briquettes of fuel.

Mr Baskoro said that the biomass used to make the briquettes would otherwise decompose on the capital’s streets, releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere in the form of methane and carbon dioxide.

Moreover, there will be less dependence on producing charcoal from wood, most of which comes from naturally growing forests.

The briquettes, Mr. Baskoro said, “will preserve Cambodia’s natural forests by having a cleaner and safer alternative to wood and charcoal. He added that the briquettes produce less smoke and pose less of a threat to human health and the environment.

And while the briquettes will cost nearly three times that of charcoal sold on the streets of Phnom Penh, they will burn for nearly twice as long, according to Ly Mathheat, the executive director of the Sustainable Green Fuel Enterprise.

Deported Uighurs Highlight China's Ties to Cambodia



Brendan Brady | 04 Jan 2010

(CAAI News Media)

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia -- Two days after Cambodia repatriated 20 Uighur asylum-seekers fleeing China, the two countries signed trade agreements worth more than $1 billion, bringing significant investment, loans and grants to the impoverished Southeast Asian nation. Both countries deny a deal was struck, but China's growing ability to leverage its economic power in the region combined with Cambodia's weak rule of law have observers believing otherwise.

China insisted the Uighurs were outlaws, saying they participated in deadly protests earlier this year, while Cambodia contended it was merely following its immigration laws by deporting them. Rights advocates, however, said the refugees fled China after witnessing police violence against other members of their ethnic group.

Uighurs are a Turkic, Sunni Muslim minority native to China's far-western Xinjiang province. Xinjiang has been buffeted by bombings, attacks and riots in recent years that Beijing has blamed on Uighur separatists demanding autonomy. Violent confrontations erupted in July between Uighurs and Han Chinese, the majority ethnic group in China, whose increased migration to the region has heightened ethnic tensions. Nearly 200 people were killed and another 1,600 wounded, according to media reports.

Rights groups anticipate that the Uighurs deported from Cambodia are unlikely to get a fair trial in China and face torture, lengthy prison sentences or even the death penalty. Seventeen Uighurs have already been condemned to death for their role in the protests.

The deportation coincided with a visit to Cambodia by Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, who signed 14 pacts worth $1.2 billion related to infrastructure, construction, grants and loans. China has become Cambodia's leading foreign investor and one of the country's leading donors, stepping up its presence with projects for roads, dams, mines, irrigation and telecommunications. Cambodia's recent offshore oil prospects have made it an even more enticing trade partner.

Amnesty International's Cambodia researcher, Brittis Edman, said the Uighurs were traded as a "commodity" and that the move was an ominous sign of Cambodia's attitude towards refugee protection. Joshua Kurlantzick, a Southeast Asia expert at the Council of Foreign Relations in Washington and author of "Charm Offensive: How China's Soft Power is Transforming the World," said that in exchange for its investment, China wants Cambodia to support its stance on its most sensitive diplomatic issues -- including Taiwan, Tibet and dissenting minorities like the Uighurs.

While analysts were interpreting the deportation as a sign of China's growing diplomatic audacity, the U.N. High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) was left picking up the pieces of Cambodia's failed refugee program. "It's a grave breach of Cambodia's obligations," said Kitty McKinsey, spokeswoman for the UNHCR in Asia. "As a signatory of the 1951 convention, Cambodia was obligated to commit to non-refoulement, which means no refugees should be returned to face persecution." McKinsey said the UNHCR took extraordinary efforts to intervene in Cambodia's decision, having its top official, Antonio Gutierrez, attempt to speak with Prime Minister Hun Sen directly and offering to evacuate the Uighurs to a third country.

But local observers wonder if the UNHCR lost the leverage it needed to manage such a politically laden case by divesting itself of authority in recent years. The Uighurs -- who had been in Cambodia a few weeks before news of their arrival surfaced through media reports -- had first sought asylum through the UNHCR. But the agency has phased down its role in handling asylum applications. Cambodia is one of just two Southeast Asian signatories of the 1951 international Refugee Convention, and for the past two years, it has been the focus of the UNHCR's effort to create a locally managed refugee office to serve as a model for the region.

In a press release from October 2008 titled "Cambodia on track to become refugee model for Southeast Asia," UNHCR's then-representative in Cambodia, Thamrongsak Meechubot, was quoted as praising Cambodia's progress. "Things are moving since the government agreed in June that it was prepared to take responsibility for refugee status determination itself," he said.

But there were signs that Cambodia wasn't ready, and diplomats in Phnom Penh privately expressed reservations to the UNHCR about its faith in a government that had in the past directly deported, or been implicated in the covert extradition of, Chinese and Vietnamese nationals fleeing persecution. According to a report from Human Rights Watch, the government has even aided and abetted the Vietnamese government in keeping tabs on political refugees who have fled to Cambodia.

After the deportation, the government highlighted its own compromised position by criticizing the UNHCR for not taking control of the case and evacuating the Uighurs to a third country. "We wanted to deal with it quietly without harming our relationship with China," said Information Minister Khieu Kanharith, who added that Western diplomats and rights workers put Cambodia in an impossible position with China by leaking news about the Uighurs presence to the press. Just a day after the Uighurs were rounded up by police, the government pushed through a bill giving it complete control over asylum applications in the future. The takeover had been in the pipeline, but the timing raised eyebrows.

"The whole system failed," said Sara Colm, Human Rights Watch's senior researcher on Cambodia. "UNHCR wanted to turn over the refugee process here to the government . . . and now, as a result, you have 20 people who risk losing their lives."

Brendan Brady is a journalist based in Cambodia, who writes for the Los Angeles Times, CBC, Global Post and IRIN, among other publications. His main subjects of interest in Cambodia are the Khmer Rouge tribunal, human rights abuses, diplomatic disputes and religious tensions.

Photo: Chinese President Hu Jintao (U.S. Navy Photo) and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen (Photo by the Office of the President of Indonesia).

From Cambodia to Geelong, with London 2012 in sight


Van Vun trains for the 2012 Paralympics. Leigh Henningham Picture Editor The Age 03 9601 2682 www.theage.com.au/photography 2 More pics of Van Vun, Liz van vun batch 4. cheers Rahman 2Mobile +60 16 2462 977 lizgooch@gmail.com SPECIAL

http://www.theage.com.au/

LIZ GOOCH
January 5, 2010

(CAAI News Media)

FOR much of his young life, Van Vun's view of the world has been obscured by people's kneecaps.

A bout of polio when he was 18 months old left him unable to use his legs, so he relied on his arms to heave himself across the fields where his parents grew rice and vegetables near the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh.

Now 23, Van Vun's carved biceps are propelling him far beyond his family's fields, and he has a clear vision of the future that awaits him.

Ranked No. 1 in Cambodia across all distances in wheelchair racing and with his sights set on the London 2012 Paralympic Games, Van Vun will arrive in Geelong on Friday for an eight-day training camp organised by Parallel Sports, a volunteer group affiliated with Athletics Victoria.

Van Vun , who is making his first trip overseas, will return home with a new wheelchair donated by Parallel Sports.

''I hope I can learn a lot in Australia and show that Cambodian athletes can compete with international athletes with pride,'' he said.

Van Vun, who only began attending school when he got his first wheelchair at the age of 15, is an example of how sport is helping change lives in a country that has one of the world's highest concentrations of disabled people.

In 2006, when he was studying electrical repairs at a rehabilitation centre in Phnom Penh, Van Vun heard about the wheelchair racing program organised by the Cambodian National Volleyball League (Disabled) and signed up immediately.

Before he started competing, Van Vun said, no one wanted to talk to him. ''People looked down on me,'' he said.

Now a national hero, police stop traffic for him when he is training on the streets of Phnom Penh. He says he feels as though people treat him like a ''normal person''.

Chris Minko, an Australian from Myrtleford, is secretary-general of the Cambodian National Volleyball League (Disabled), and was recently honoured for his services to Cambodians with disabilities with an award from the country's Prime Minister, Hun Sen.

He said Van Vun was an example of how sport could help Cambodia's most marginalised citizens regain their self-esteem and physical wellbeing to become active members of the community.

Kaye Colman, vice-president of Parallel Sports, said Van Vun would train alongside some of Victoria's best wheelchair athletes and several Japanese athletes at the camp, taking part in three training sessions a day - on the track, in the gym and the pool.

She said the group decided to give Van Vun a new wheelchair to help him in his bid to qualify for the London Paralympics.

Interior Ministry Rejects Khmer Machas Srok story


Tuesday, 05 January 2010 02:52 DAP-NEWS

(CAAI News Media)

The Cambodian Interior Ministry on Monday rejected a story published by the Khmer Machas Srok newspaper. The paper reported lawmakers plan to submit a letter asking Hun Sen to clarify the government’s recent decision to suspend all bonuses to civil servants, according a Monday press release from the Ministry.

“The Ministry rejected all remarks which the newspaper quoted Cambodia Opposition Party Leader’s saying,” the press release stated, referring to opposition leader Sam Rainsy.

Sam Rainsy could not be reached for comment on Monday.

Chum Sophal, Khmer Machas Srok’s editor, on Monday told DAP News Cam bodia that “I do not have any more comment on this topic as I only quoted Sam Rainsy.”

The ministry press release clarified that, “Firstly, to commit decentralize and centralize reform of the government limited bonus to capital, province, district and commune council members, motivating them to serve the people demands.”

“Secondly, the bonus to those officials which said in the sub-decree issued on December 14, 2009 do not include abuse on election law and not discriminate in political issue as the newspaper said. The sub-decree is to ensue and protect the citizens’ interests, especially to full demands and help the retired officials as they are not Cambodia People’s Party’s Supporters.”
Thirdly, the release said, “what Sam Rainsy told the newspaper does not depend on clear and legal grounds which are being implemented in the government’s three power institutions.”

SECC Approves Two Regulations


Tuesday, 05 January 2010 02:55 DAP-NEWS

(CAAI News Media)

The Security and Exchange Commis- sion (SECC) of Cambodia has approved two regulations to move a step closer to the Stock Exchange’s opening, a statement from the eighth meeting of SECC obtained on Saturday last week said.

The meeting was presided over by Deputy prime minister and Minister of Economy and Finance Keat Chhon. “The meeting has approved the statement of the publication of selling the public bond’s ownership on security claimed that the publication of selling public bond’s owner on security share will determine on the conditions of mechanism and procedures of publication of bonds or public bond’s share in the country. All the companies will be able to publish bonds to sell publicly unless they have total capital of at least US$1.25 million,” the statement explained.

“The companies that have least than US$5 million capital need to publish at least 20 percent of their shares and for the companies that have over US$5 million capital need to publish bonds to sell at least 15 percent,” the statement said.

“Companies must have US$250,000 profit for the last three years. In a separating case, for publication of bonds or share for private sector, the private companies must hand over involving reports of publishing bonds for sale to SECC and publication must do as persons who have at least 30 members and must not announce information publicly,” the statement added.

“For the second regulation that has approved from the SECC is that statement of governance of corporation for companies that publishes the bonds to sell publicly and that regulation determined that the defense rights of share owner, defense rights of relevant agencies for determination of power’s rights and duties of the director board in preparing the management structure of the companies in establishment of controlling system and providing the information to all members of companies, the statement said.

This regulation also requested all the companies to have at least one fifth members as independent members of director board and the council of the governors needs to have the separating committee of audition for companies that have the active asset of US$50 million. for the companies that has active asset of US$50 million, They need to have a committee of disaster management and the independent governors need to implement the role as president of the those committees and moreover the companies that has rights to publish bond to sell publicly need to change the audition companies in every three years,” the statement said. Cambodia plans to open the stock exchange next year after it was delayed after the global economic crisis.

Tipping the scales



Photo by: Pha Lina

(CAAI News Media)

Tuesday, 05 January 2010 15:03 Pha Lina

A market vendor weighs fish Monday at Kilometre 9 Market in Russey Keo district. Data by the Ministry of Commerce showed prices rose just under 1 percent on a basket of 36 common household foodstuffs during the fourth quarter, compared with the period before, a 3.25 percent increase overall for 2009.

PM blasts January 7 detractors



(CAAI News Media)

Tuesday, 05 January 2010 15:02 Cheang Sokha and Vong Sokheng

Defends CPP celebrations of fall of Khmer Rouge regime.

PRIME Minister Hun Sen on Monday branded as “animals” opposition politicians and other commentators set on painting January 7, the date on which the Khmer Rouge regime fell from power 31 years ago, as an anniversary not of liberation but rather of invasion and occupation.

“The day of January 7 is not an enemy for anyone. It is a victory for all Cambodian people and the nation,” Hun Sen said during a speech at the inauguration of a school in Battambang province. Like other senior government leaders, the premier was among the Khmer Rouge defectors who fought alongside the Vietnamese to overthrow the regime.

“The oppositionists who use the legacy of January 7 for their political campaigns are sinful, and they will end up 92 floors underground,” he said in an apparent reference to a Khmer proverb holding that the depth at which sinners are buried correlates directly with the gravity of their sins.

“You can lie about everything else, but don’t lie to yourself,” he continued. “Things will be difficult for the bad people who do not recognise the truth of history. We can say they are not human. They are animals. They know who gave birth to them.”

Opposition leaders regularly accuse the ruling Cambodian People’s Party of using the January 7 anniversary to stage shows of strength throughout the Kingdom. Senior CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said Monday that the party this year would organise a rally of 10,000 supporters at its central headquarters in Phnom Penh.

“The party will continue to support Prime Minister Hun Sen as the long-term leader, and we will promote the political platform of the protection of the monarchy of the Kingdom and the prevention of the return of the genocidal regime,” he said.

“Only the CPP has enough power to protect the monarchy and the throne, and to bring political stability to the nation.”

He added that government officials would use the anniversary to call for strong law enforcement and respect for the rule of law.

Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Yim Sovann defended opposition lawmakers’ attempts to highlight what he described as the malevolent presence of Vietnamese forces following the Khmer Rouge overthrow. Vietnamese soldiers withdrew from Cambodia in 1989.

“The SRP still considers January 7 as the day the Vietnamese soldiers invaded Cambodia, and I think that these anniversaries should not be used to promote any one party,” he said.

Pen Sovan, a senior member of the Human Rights Party who served as prime minister in the early 1980s and was later arrested for speaking out against Vietnamese influence, said he believed that the January 7 anniversary could be used to mark both the fall of the Khmer Rouge and the occupation of “Vietnamese colonisers”.

“I acknowledge that January 7 is the day that millions of Cambodian people were liberated from the genocide, but I oppose it because the Vietnamese used the fall of the genocidal regime to keep Cambodia under its control,” he said.

Leaflets found in Takeo
Hours before Hun Sen delivered his remarks, police in Takeo town reported finding about 600 anonymous anti-Vietnamese leaflets scattered outside a high school, said a senior police official at the Interior Ministry who asked not to be named because he was not authorised to discuss the incident.

“We are conducting an investigation to find out who distributed the leaflets and why,” the official said.

A copy of one of the leaflets obtained by the Post asserted that January 7, 1979, should be remembered as the day that Cambodia became a captive of Vietnam. The leaflet employed a racist epithet in reference to the Vietnamese throughout.

“January 7 is the day that Khmers fell into the iron grip of the communist [Vietnamese] who abused and occupied Cambodia,” the leaflet reads.

“The communist dictatorship regime of Hun Sen is a puppet of the communist [Vietnamese], since they were installed by the [Vietnamese] when they came to power on January 7, 1979.”

New Year’s Eve fireworks
On a lighter note, Hun Sen regaled his Battambang audience Monday with a description of how he spent New Year’s Eve at Preah Vihear temple shooting off fireworks with Deputy Prime Minister Sok An and Pol Saroeun, commander-in-chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces.

“There is no need to search in Iraq or Iran,” he said to laughter. “The weapons inspection teams should come to inspect the fireworks in Cambodia.”

Adhoc activist returns to Ratanakkiri



Photo by: Sovan Philong
Rights activist Pen Bonnar, who was forced to leave Ratanakkiri province last year to avoid arrest on charges of incitement, is pictured at his office in Phnom Penh in this file photo.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
WE HAVE ENOUGH EVIDENCE TO PROTECT BONNAR AGAINST THE INCITEMENT CHARGE.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

(CAAI News Media)

Tuesday, 05 January 2010 15:02 Chrann Chamroeun

A HUMAN rights activist from local rights group Adhoc has returned to his post in Ratanakkiri despite criminal charges pending against him, claiming he has enough evidence to prove his innocence.

Pen Bonnar was the Adhoc provincial coordinator until July, when he was removed from his position and sent to Phnom Penh to avoid incitement charges in connection with a November 2007 land dispute. He returned to his former post on Friday, however, remaining defiant about the case against him.

“I don’t feel worried or concerned at all about the legal charges because I am innocent,” he said, noting that the UN and other civic groups have already spoken out on his behalf.

“My lawyer and I will be present at the court for interrogation if the court issues another summons, and we would like to have Investigating Judge Thor Saron removed,” Pen Bonnar said, adding that the judge had been “biased from the start, without concrete evidence or reason to back up the charges”.

Thor Saron said Monday that the investigation against Pen Bonnar has faced delays in the past few months but remains ongoing.

“According to court procedure, Pen Bonnar must show up at the court for interrogation over the charges, and if the investigating judge determines that the suspect was involved in incitement or causing insecurity, we have the right to detain him,” Thor Saron said.

“If he is innocent, we will drop the charges against him – all of this is up to the investigating judge.”

Adhoc President Thun Saray said his organisation had sent Pen Bonnar back to Ratanakkiri on a temporary basis, pending the recovery of erstwhile provincial coordinator Sam Sarin, who is ill. Adhoc stands ready to support Pen Bonnar in court, Thun Saray added.

“We have enough evidence to protect Bonnar against the incitement charge, in our opinion,” the Adhoc president said, declining to elaborate on the nature of this evidence.

Thor Saron said in September that Pen Bonnar and Radio Free Asia journalist Ratha Visal could face disinformation charges for accusing him of corruption.

In October, Minister of Justice Ang Vong Vathana said Thor Saron could be investigated for ethics violations in connection with his use of a truck that had been confiscated as evidence in a murder trial.

Ratanakkiri provincial police Deputy Chief Phen Dina said Pen Bonnar must be careful not to run afoul of the law in his newest stint in the province.

“In my opinion, it is a positive sign that the human rights activist is coming back to do something legal that we support, but he mustn’t do any work that causes anarchy or disorder,” Phen Dina said.

Thun Saray said Adhoc hoped to resolve the issue without further controversy.

“We would like to settle this quietly. We don’t want to have this problem anymore,” Thun Saray said. “But if the judge would like to continue, we have to follow him.”

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JAMES O’TOOLE

Land fees pose delays for Group 34 relocation



(CAAI News Media)

Tuesday, 05 January 2010 15:02 May Titthara

FORMER residents of Chamkarmon’s Group 34 community said Monday that delays in a government-brokered deal to purchase subsidised land in Dangkor district has reached an impasse over delays in relocation.

An arson attack on April 15 last year destroyed 150 homes and killed a 4-year-old girl in the Group 34 community in Phnom Penh’s Chamkarmon district. Authorities brokered a deal whereby residents pay US$100 for land in Dangkor district.

Residents say they have struggled to raise the money for the land purchase and would prefer officials allow them to relocate first.

“Now I regret having paid already, because I still haven’t received a land title or been allowed to relocate,” said Horm Noeun, a former Group 34 resident.

Toch Sophan, a Group 34 community representative, said families have been contributing what money they can towards the price of land but fear authorities will not honour their commitment.

“We’ve collected money now from 80 families. Some gave us $10, others $40 and $80, whatever they could manage,” Toch Sophan said. “All of them said they would have preferred to get the land first and then provide the money later.”

Chor Pheng, chief of Chamkarmon’s Tomnup Toek commune, said the delay in resettling community residents was due to negotiations over the price of land in Dangkor district. “Now we are discussing the price with the landowner because the land used to sell for $28 per square metre, but now prices have come down and the owner is willing to sell for $20.86 per square metre,” he said.