Friday, 26 February 2010

The Phnom Penh Post News in Brief


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EU launches food support programme

Friday, 26 February 2010 15:00 Khouth Sophakchakrya

European Union officials on Thursday celebrated the launch of the US$25 million EU “Food Facility” in Cambodia, a fund to support agriculture and combat rising food prices in developing countries. During the meeting in Phnom Penh, Rafael Dochao Moreno, Charge d’ Affaires of the EU Delegation to Cambodia, said the fund will be made up of €11 million (about US$15.4 million) to assist existing projects within the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and a further package of €6.9 million (about $10 million) towards other projects in the agricultural sector.

EU's $10m for farming

Friday, 26 February 2010 15:00 Steve Finch

THE European Union (EU) announced Thursday it had awarded an additional €6.9 million (US$10 million) as part of a €17.9 million package to improve agricultural production among the poor in rural Cambodia. An EU statement said the money would go to three NGOs – Gret, ZOA and Helen Keller International – and Germany’s development agency GTZ on projects that include improving access to irrigation, rice banks and rice seed stores.

Call for Indonesia flights

Friday, 26 February 2010 15:00 Cheang Sokha and Chun Sophal

PRIME Minister Hun Sen Thursday called for direct flights between Cambodia and Indonesia to promote tourism. Prime Minister’s Spokesman Eang Sophalleth said after a Phnom Penh meeting between the premier and Indonesia’s House of Regional Representatives Deputy Director Laode Ida that Hun Sen called for flights “as soon as possible”. Tith Chantha, director general at the Ministry of Tourism, said technical teams from both countries are finalising the process, with flights between Siem Reap and Borobudur on Java expected from April.

OZ in $512m hole after big restructure

http://www.smh.com.au/
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BARRY FITZGERALD
February 26, 2010

OZ MINERALS has signed off on what was a miserable 2009, posting an annual loss of $512 million after being forced into a drastic restructuring by its bankers when the global financial crisis was at its worst.

The restructure reduced the group's portfolio of mines from five to one and led to the appointment in August of a new managing director, Terry Burgess.

According to an upbeat Mr Burgess yesterday, it was time to focus on OZ's future. He said the group's remaining operating asset, the new Prominent Hill copper and gold mine in South Australia, made an excellent start, and that the results of a study of underground mining there would be ready by June. The market should also look out for a maiden-resource estimate next month for the group's gold exploration project in Cambodia, he said.

OZ Mineral's declared loss of $512 million does not look bad when compared with the $2.5 billion loss recorded in 2008, when there were some massive asset-value write-downs following the creation of OZ through the merger of Zinifex and Oxiana. But it was the performance of Prominent Hill that was the main focus at yesterday's profit briefing to analysts.

Prominent Hill's maiden profit was $203 million. After taking in $91 million in charges on the refinancing of bank loans and foreign exchange losses of $113 million, the group's net profit for the year was $31 million.

Including the $607 million loss recorded on the $2 billion sale of the four mines last June (offset by $63 million in earnings before their sale) took OZ's bottom line to the loss of $512 million.

The upside from last year's drastic restructuring is that OZ has minimal debt and cash of $1.07 billion. Despite the cash bundle, it is not paying dividends, preferring to earmark the funds for regrowth.

OZ intends to expand through the acquisition of copper projects, either at the exploration, development or production stage.

Gold was not mentioned, but Mr Burgess said later that OZ had not gone cold on gold.

He pointed to the looming maiden-resource estimate for Cambodia as an indication of OZ's continuing interest in gold. The market believes a maiden resource of at least 2 million ounces will be required to maintain OZ's interest in the project.

UN: HANDBOOK ON HIV FOR PARLIAMENTARIANS DEVELOPED IN CAMBODIA

http://news.brunei.fm/

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NAM NEWS NETWORK Feb 25th, 2010

PHNOM PENH, Feb 25 (NNN-CIC) — HIV prevalence in Cambodia has fallen to an estimated 0.7% among the adult population in 2009, down from a high of 2% in 1998.

With this it is one of the few countries in the world which has achieved Millennium Development Goal 6 ? to halt and begin to reverse the spread of HIV by 2015.

Political commitment at the highest level is recognized as a critical factor in Cambodia?s success in creating a supportive legislative and policy environment, and building a strong multisectoral national response to HIV.

Cambodia is one of the first countries in the region to establish a Law on Prevention and Control of HIV/AIDS to eliminate stigma and discrimination and protect the rights of people living with HIV and those with risk behaviours for HIV.

It is against this backdrop that the Commission No. 8 with support from the National AIDS Authority, the UNDP Legislature Assistance Project of the National Assembly, and UNAIDS, developed the Parliamentary Handbook on HIV. It was launched at the National Assembly on Jan 29, 2010.

?The Parliamentary Handbook on HIV provides an opportunity to renew the commitment to scale up services for universal access. As leaders accountable to the people of Cambodia, Parliamentarians? understanding of the HIV epidemic and response is vital?, said Tony Lisle UNAIDS Country Coordinator for Cambodia.

In a mature HIV response, such as Cambodia?s, policies and legislation must be proactive, rather than reactive. Community involvement is key to address both the individual and societal factors that make people vulnerable to HIV infection, including men who have sex with sex workers, the wives of these men, sex and entertainment workers themselves, young people, men who have sex with men, and people who use drugs.

Also, through public forums and partnerships with civil society, parliamentarians can better monitor the effectiveness of the Law on Prevention and Control of HIV. Parliamentarians have a crucial role to examine how acts such as the Law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation and the draft Law on Drug Control affect the scaling up of universal access to prevention, treatment, and care and support.

As such, parliamentarians? active oversight of the HIV response is imperative. This includes meeting with communities, and reviewing progress, gaps and bottlenecks with respect to critical issues, such as eliminating HIV-related stigma and discrimination, ensuring access to quality treatment and health care, and intensifying prevention among most at risk populations, as well as working with the ministry of interior to ensure that laws are properly enforced.

The Parliamentary Handbook on HIV is a user-friendly resource, presenting brief and concise information about the epidemic, its causes, responses, as well as parliamentarians? roles and responsibilities. It is an enabling tool in Parliamentarians? work to ensure an effective HIV response across advocacy, leadership, policy and legislative areas.

At the same time, intensive work is underway to ensure Cambodia reaches its ambitious, yet attainable, universal access targets for HIV prevention, treatment, care and support by end of 2010.

Fugitive former PM still a hero in Thailand's poor north-east


He may be hunkered down in Dubai avoiding corruption harges, but Thaksin Shinawatra's populist appeal remains.

By Rachel O'Brien, in Udon Thani for AFP
Published:  25 Feb 2010

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A supporter of Thaksin Shinawatra is overcome by emotion when he hugs her during a visit to Chiang Mai province in northern Thailand. Photo: AFP/MADAREE TOHLALA

Down a bumpy rural track in Thailand's impoverished north-east, Pichit Peema is gathering produce for his thriving local business, set up seven years ago under a village loan scheme.

Previously a struggling rice farmer, he used the policy introduced by Thaksin Shinawatra, the ousted prime minister, to start a mushroom-growing operation, and can now collect up to 200 kilogrammes (440 pounds) a day to sell across Udon Thani province.

"My life is better - I can give the money to my children so they can graduate and have a better life," said Pichit, 47, adding proudly that his eldest son is a qualified electrical engineer in Bangkok.

Taking a break by his brightly painted new house topped with a huge satellite dish, he praised Thaksin, who was elected twice, for bettering his lot with the low-interest lending programme.

"Thaksin was a great social engineer because he helped poor people," he said of the telecoms tycoon, who was deposed in a coup in 2006 and now lives abroad, mainly in Dubai, to escape a two-year jail term for graft.

The controversial former PM continues to be a source of deep divisions in Thailand, where his numerous critics accuse him of corruption, widespread cronyism and grave human rights abuses during a notorious "war on drugs".

But Pichit is one of the "Red Shirts" - the brightly-dressed, pro-Thaksin group planning their next mass anti-government protests after a court ruling due Friday on whether to seize the billionaire's assets, which were frozen after the coup.

Here in Thaksin's stronghold - the neglected north-eastern region of Isaan, the poorest part of Thailand - his followers say he was the first prime minister to properly address the needs of the rural populace.

"In our era we have not seen a person like Thaksin before. He is a hero for us," said Tongsri Yothkeaw, 55, who works as a rice farmer and on her family's small flower-growing operation in the village of Huay Samhan, also in Udon Thani.

Pointing to her throat, she explained that a thyroid operation cost her less than one US dollar thanks to the so-called 30-baht health care scheme introduced by Thaksin after he came to power in 2001.

"He used to help us. I want him to come back," she said. "The government doesn't help us any more... We are very scared about the economy nowadays."

While agriculture is the main economic activity in Isaan, which is tucked away from Thailand's well-trodden tourist trail, farming has been hindered by the mainly arid, sandy land that allows for fewer rice harvests than in other areas.

Analysts say a dearth of quality education, technology and infrastructure has also been instrumental in the poverty of Isaan's people.

Thaksin appealed to these marginalised masses not only with his populist policies but also in his style of leadership, according to historian Chris Baker, who has written extensively on the former premier.

"Here was this man who appeared in his open-necked shirt, not very smart, coming to the village and saying, 'Tell me what you want me to do'," said Baker.

"This was a very empowering idea in a country where politicians have tended to be rather remote," he said.

While the current prime minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, has maintained some of Thaksin's policies, Baker said he has returned to the older, more detached style of governance - only serving to strengthen Thaksin's popularity.

"He was a little bit corrupt but he worked more for the people," said Bangkok food vendor Yoon Poodindan, 47, one of the capital's many economic migrants from the north-east.

The fugitive ex-PM's supporters have vowed to hold fresh protests in mid-March until they see the back of Abhisit's government, which took power in December 2008 after the fall of the previous, pro-Thaksin administration.

The Red Shirts say they are campaigning against the power of Thailand's elite - including army and palace officials - whom they accuse of ousting elected governments and defending entrenched social inequalities.

"I think the Red Shirt movement is not about Thaksin alone, it's for equality in society," said Samreng Mahakor, 40, a Bangkok motorcycle taxi driver also from Isaan.

"Red Shirts have been treated as second-class people. Even if Thaksin dies, we won't stop until we get fairness," he said.

Land Issues of Ethnic Minority People Were Raised during a Meeting of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination – Thursday, 25.2.2010

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Posted on 25 February 2010
The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 653

“Phnom Penh: The loss of forest land as ancentral burying areas and of farming land of ethnic minority people in Cambodia was presented to a committee in Geneva in Switzerland, at the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, meeting last week.

“Three ethnic minority representatives and two non-government organization representatives attended the meeting. They returned to Cambodia on 23 February 2010.

“During a press conference at the NGO Forum on Cambodia in the morning of 24 February 2010, the representatives of ethnic minority people in Cambodia and of non-government organizations shared their reports on the situation of ethnic people in Cambodia, which they had made to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination [based on the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD).

"The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination held its 76th meeting from 14 to 23 February 2010. Also, the Cambodian Ambassador to the United Nations, Mr. Sun Suon, attended the meeting, which is held every four years, to respond to questions of the UN committee in relation to the situation of ethnic minority people in Cambodia.

"In the report about the situation of ethnic minority people in Cambodia submitted to the UN committee, non-government officials and ethnic minority representatives stated that recently, there have been some improvements of the situation regarding education, infrastructure, and heath for ethnic minority people. But many serious issues related to natural resources, especially land violations against ethnic minority people in Cambodia, had happened.

"The report pointed to obvious forest violations, such as cases in Kangyu in Ratanakiri, in Bu Sra in Mondolkiri, in Snuol in Kratie, in Rovieng in Preah Vihear, in Oral in Kompong Speu, and at the Yeak Lom lake area in Ratanakiri.

"Forest and farming land, on which the life of ethnic minority people depends, was contracted by the government to private companies as economic concession land for rubber plantations or for mining.

"Ethnic minority people representatives stated during the press conference at the NGO Forum on Cambodia that frequently, their land was grabbed and resources from the forest, on which they rely, were seized. As for the sources of water near their places of living, they were changed by building dams across the river and the water is now contaminated.

"The Cambodian Ambassador to the United Nations was questioned by the UN committee over these serious human rights violations, especially the grabbing of land affecting 179,000 ethnic minority people living in 15 provinces of Cambodia.

"All questions and claims by representatives of the ethnic minority people above were rejected by Mr. Sun Suon, and he said that there are no such hot issues relating to the human rights situation and ethnic minority people's rights. Regarding the provision of economic concession land to private companies, the government made it based on the law, and he said that forest land belongs to the state, but not to ethnic minority people's communities.

"Nevertheless, the ethnic minority and non-government organization representatives, who listened to the responses of the Cambodian Ambassador to the UN during the meeting on Sunday, said that they cannot accept such answers that are irresponsible and contradict the real issues. Ethnic minority and non-government organization representatives want the Cambodian government to send a representative from Phnom Penh who knows the actual situation to argue and to respond to the questions of the United Nations at the next meetings."

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5135, 25.2.2010
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Thursday, 25 February 2010

EU To Help ‘Bridge Gap’ in Food Security

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By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
25 February 2010

The European Union announced Thursday it will provide $25 million for five projects to help Cambodia deal with climate change and rising food prices.

“The EU has decided to implement a very big program of food security that will help the poor people in rural areas of Cambodia to go to overcome this food price,” Ajay Markanday, Cambodia’s Food and Agricultural Organization representative, told reporters Thursday.

The projects are designed to “bridge the gap” between emergency food aid and longer-term development, by improving agricultural production, the EU said in a statement.

“This aid project is very important for Cambodia,” Srun Sakhum, deputy secretary-general of the Ministry of Agriculture, told reporters. “The project will provide rice seedlings and fertilizer and training to the poor farmers to promote agriculture products to avoid food insecurity as Cambodia faces high prices and climate change.”

He also said the projects will promote the growing of produce, the development of fish farms and irrigation improvement. This will improve overall nutrition, he said, and help the country prepare against possible adverse affects of climate change.

Separately on Thursday, the Ministry of Environment joined the EU, UNDP and the Swedish and Dutch development agencies in launching the Cambodian Climate Change Alliance, an effort to join developing countries together in mitigating the effects of climate change.

In Journalists Acquittal, Lessons All Around

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By Men Kimseng, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
25 February 2010

Last week’s acquittal of a Radio Free Asia reporter accused of disinformation has been welcomed by advocacy groups as well as the UN, but observers warn that a number of journalists remain in jail for doing their jobs.

Immediately following the decision of Takeo provincial court, which had tried radio journalist Sok Serey after a story on local corruption, the Cambodian Center for Human Rights touted the decision as “encouraging development for freedom of expression.”

Ou Virak, president of the organization, told VOA Khmer on Tuesday that all courts should consider the possibility of malicious intent when charges are brought against journalists.

In Sok Serey’s case, it was a local official accused of corruption who brought the suit, which carries a criminal charge under Cambodian law. Takeo court officials cited a lack of evidence and malicious intent as the reasons behind the acquittal.

“Judgments in past cases did not take into account that intent,” Ou Virak said. “Only the court in Takeo did.”

The UN’s office for human rights in Phnom Penh called the decision “a significant step towards the protection of the right of human rights defenders and journalists to freely and peacefully express themselves on matters of public interest, without fear of reprisals”.

Sok Serey, two members of the Cambodia-Muslim community and two local rights activists were charged with disinformation following their interviews alleging that the local Muslim imam, Riem Math, and two other members of the committee were involved in corruption.

Ny San, a community member, was subsequently jailed as a result of the case. He will serve five months in jail and was fined $250.

While the decision itself received praise, Reporters Without Borders called for the release of Hang Chakra, the editor of Khmer Machas Srok newspaper, who remains in jail after publishing a story alleging corruption within the powerful Council of Ministers, which is led by Cabinet Minister Sok An.

Reporters Without Borders also called on a re-investigation into the murder of journalist Khim Sambor, who was gunned down along with his son in Phnom Penh ahead of 2008’s July elections.

For Pen Samithy, president of the Club of Cambodian Journalists, Sok Serey’s case served as a reminder that journalists much maintain professionalism and care.

“Long-working journalists will know what to be cautious about,” he said. “This includes keeping their records and finding a balance [in reporting], and the only way to protect themselves is to increase their adherence to facts.”

Festival Hopes To Promote Dramatic Heritage

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By Nuch Sarita, VOA Khmer
Washington
25 February 2010

The Ministry of Culture has organized a large drama festival for the first time. The National Lakhaon Festival is running Feb. 18 through Feb. 28, and Ieng Sithul, a music professor at the University of Fine Arts, says the main purpose is to pit rival forms of Cambodian theater against each other.

“Our purpose is to revive Cambodian’s performing arts heritage in its highest form and to encourage the artists to create more stage performances for the sake of sustainability,” said Ieng Sithul, as a guest on “Hello VOA” Monday. “Due to the influence of modern cultures these forms of Cambodian theatre are on the brink of collapse.”

Traditional Cambodian performance is wide and varied, consisting of more than 20 different forms, said Ieng Sithul, who also works for Cambodian Living Arts. Their histories are known from depictions on the temple walls of Angkor Wat and others, he said, and they have passed on from generation to generation.

Khaol drama is among the oldest and most sacred and demonstrates social and religious links between dramatic art forms and Cambodia’s Theravada Buddhism.

Pleng Kar is performed in accompaniment of traditional wedding music and is believed to have appeared as early as the 1st Century, in ceremonies of royalty.

Yike was a popular form of musical theater that appeared in the late 8th Century, during the reign of King Jayavarman II.

Mahori is newer. This dramatic form emerged in the post-Angkorian period, with popular forms of music and themes apart from older forms.

One of the oldest is Sbeak Thom, shadow puppetry, used exclusively to perform epics of the Reamker, or Ramayana.

And there are others. Like Sbeak Por, created between 1859 and 1904.

Or Bassac, strongly influenced by Chinese and Vietnamese opera, from the former Bassac district in the Mekong Delta, an area once known as Kampuchea Krom, or Lower Cambodia. Bassac appeared at the beginning of the 20th Century and showcases stories from Buddha’s life.

Life West Faculty Member Leads Chiropractic Team to Cambodia


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By Editorial Staff

While the plight of Haiti has been on everyone's minds for the past few months as the earthquake-torn country and its people have fought for their very survival, it's important to remember that other countries are in dire need of our help, not just financially but in terms of chiropractic.

Enter Life Chiropractic College West faculty member (and alumn) Kim Khauv, DC, MPH, who led a team of 12 college interns who traveled to rural parts of Cambodia for two weeks in December 2009. The chiropractic team provided care to more than 1,500 Cambodians over the two-week period, the majority of whom were children, elderly and the very sick from local villages.

Arrangements for the trip were made with cooperation from government officials, village leaders and orphanage directors. The Life West team was joined by volunteer organizer Aireen Navarro and volunteer chiropractors Dr. Amy Vevoda, and Dr. Nathan Clem, both from Seattle, Wash. According to a press release from the college, the trip was the culmination of a long-held dream by Dr. Khauv to bring chiropractic back to his homeland. His family fled Cambodia in 1981 after the Khmer Rouge initiated agricultural reform leading to widespread famine and genocide.

Dr. Khauv is certainly no stranger to humanitarian efforts; in fact, after completing his education (doctor of chiropractic and master's of publica health), he launched the nonprofit organization Well-Balanced World, with every intention of returning to his native Cambodia to provide chiropractic to the people of his country. The December trip seems to be a great step in that direction, and a second trip is planned for this winter.

"I sincerely appreciate Life West for their support," said Dr. Khauv. "The devoted doctors and dedicated interns who came along allowed me to live out my dream of bringing chiropractic to Cambodia."

Cambodia court warns lawyers for KRouge leader

Former Khmer Rouge deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs Ieng Sary sits in the courtroom during a public hearing at the Extraodinary Chambers in the Court of Cambodia (ECCC) in Phnom Penh on February 11. Cambodia's UN-backed war crimes court on Thursday warned lawyers for Sary to follow court rules or face possible sanctions for misconduct.(AFP/POOL/File/Mak Remissa)

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PHNOM PENH (AFP) – Cambodia's UN-backed war crimes court on Thursday warned lawyers for the former foreign minister of the Khmer Rouge regime to follow court rules or face possible sanctions for misconduct.

Ieng Sary's defence team, which includes US lawyer Michael Karnavas and Cambodian lawyer Ang Udom, received the warning after they filed three documents on matters already addressed by the tribunal.

Ieng Sary, 84, is one of five top regime figures detained in connection with the Khmer Rouge's bloody rule over Cambodia from 1975 to 1979, when up to two million people died from starvation, overwork or execution.

His team has raised several issues concerning their request to conduct their own investigations, access to the entire trial dossier and their alleged "lack of confidence" in the co-investigating judges and their staff.

But court documents released Thursday said communications from them showed disregard for the rules for the filing of documents, for judicial investigations procedures and warned against "duplicitous filings".

It said that breaches of the court's warnings "will result in the application of sanctions against them."

The judges warned Ieng Sary's lawyers that "they are prohibited from submitting duplicitous filings or filing made against matters already addressed on appeal..."

They also warned the lawyers that "they are prohibited from conducting their own investigations."

Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot died in 1998. Final arguments in the court's first trial, of former prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, ended in November and a verdict is expected after April this year.

Besides Ieng Sary and his wife, former social affairs minister Ieng Thirith, the other ex-leaders in jail awaiting trial for genocide are "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea and former head of state Khieu Samphan.

Pure feeling


Damry Ouk is an award-winning writer of Inupiat, Inuit descent from Anchorage, Alaska. Courtesy photo

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Writers from Taos and Alaska featured in SOMOS series finale
By Tara Somerville
Thursday, February 25, 2010 8:04 AM MST

Two poets take to the podium this week for the finale of the SOMOS Winter Writer’s Series. One of the writers is named “Damry Ouk.” She is an award-winning writer of Inupiat-Inuit descent, originally from Anchorage, Alaska, now residing in Santa Fe. She will read from “For-the-Spirits-Who-Are-Coming-Around-The-Bend.” And, Catherine Strisik, a Taos writer for 27 years, will read from her book, “Thousand Cricket Song,” which was just published Feb. 8. The readings are planned Friday (Feb. 26), 7 p.m., at CaffĂ© Tazza, 122 Kit Carson Road.

Strisik’s book was inspired by a two-week visit she took to Cambodia five years ago. She and her daughter accompanied her husband to a reunion with Ouk Damry, a refugee he befriended while doing humanitarian work as a physician in Cambodia in 1980. From 1975-79, the country had suffered immeasurably under the genocidal regime of Pol Pot, who imposed an era of carnage from which the nation is still recovering.

Damry, who is now one of the vice presidents of the Cambodian Red Cross, gave Strisik’s family unusually rich and deep glimpses of the country in a short time.

“The stimulation was over the top — the food, the people, the sounds and smells ... Orphans were singing on every street corner, and in front of all the temples ... Everywhere there were roadside altars with flowers and talismans and incense burning,” Strisik says.

During her undergraduate studies at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, Damry Ouk received the Truman Capote Scholarship and a fellowship to the Centrum-Port Townsend Writer’s Conference. She earned a master’s degree in Creative Writing from Stonecoast College at University of Southern Maine in January 2010.

“The Inuit words and the English words are always seeking embodiment which is crucial to the journey as I free them to do their unique work,” Damry Ouk says.

Tickets to the readings are $8; $6 for SOMOS members and seniors. High school students are welcome free of charge. For more information call (575) 758-0081 or visit http://www.somostaos.org/.

Cambodia pushes out the poor

Evicted and out of luck
Jodi Hilton
February 25, 2010

In the rapidly developing Southeast Asian country, forcible evictions are an all-too-common way to make room for the new.

By Joel Elliott — Special to GlobalPost
Published: February 25, 2010

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Rumbling bulldozers at 2 a.m. sent residents of the Dey Krahorm community scrambling from their beds. The time for eviction had come — not of an individual, or of a family, but as the final stage in the demolition of a 1,400-family neighborhood.

Neighbors and family members tried to stop the bulldozers and excavators from tearing down their homes by linking arms and forming a human wall around their neighborhood. But they could not withstand the tear gas. They broke ranks, choking and coughing. Besides tear gas, police beat residents with electric batons and fired rubber bullets into crowds.

The January 2009 incident was caught on videotape and set the tone for a year that brought the largest number of mass evictions in Phnom Penh since 1975, when Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge evacuated the entire city in the process of killing more than 2 million Cambodians.

Over the past year, according to the Cambodia Housing Rights Task Force, a NGO dedicated to the issue, the Phnom Penh government has evicted and relocated an estimated 20,000 people, part of an increasing trend over the past decade in which poor people are being forcibly moved out of the city, and rich and powerful private companies take the land.

About 133,000 people have been evicted since 1990 from Phnom Penh alone, according to Licadho, a human rights organization, and an estimated 250,000 more have been displaced in the provinces since 2003.

“My neighbor, when he saw the truck breaking his house, he tried to jump in front of the truck and die, but another neighbor stopped him,” a 19-year-old former resident, who gave only her first name, Lina, said. “The people were crying. They did not have time to take their possessions out of their homes before the men broke them down.”

Lina told her story as we stood atop a nearby building, looking down on the site, now a dusty lot filled with rubble.

While those evicted in Phnom Penh are the most visible victims, land-grabbing and forced displacement is happening all over the country at an unprecedented rate, said David Pred, director of Bridges Across Borders Southeast Asia, an organization that promotes human rights in the region.

“This is the most serious human rights problem in Cambodia today,” Pred said of the land-grabbing. “It is not getting nearly the attention it deserves.”

Pred said that more than one quarter of Cambodia’s arable land has been granted to private corporations in the form of economic land concessions, displacing people from their farm lands and forests that they depend upon for their subsistence. If they have paperwork proving ownership, they might receive some sort of compensation, but most do not, according to Phearum Sia, director of the Housing Rights Task Force, another advocacy group in Phnom Penh. Renters are not compensated.

In Phnom Penh, the government usually loads those it evicts onto buses and transports them to a distant point and drops them off. The government sometimes ensures adequate housing; other times, the former residents find themselves in an empty field with nothing.

At some relocation sites, residents who worked in the city said they sometimes paid more per day in fuel costs traveling to Phnom Penh and back than they earned in a day.

Community members have occasionally protested, but these efforts sometimes backfire. A 2008 land dispute in Siem Reap between poor rice farmers and the government ended in multiple arrests and the police opening fire on a crowd of about 200 people, injuring four. Other protests fizzle before confrontation. Ghosts of the Khmer Rouge terror linger in the national psyche, Sia said.

“We work to empower the people, but the people are poor, and weak in their solidarity,” Sia said. “Our communities are still affected by the Pol Pot regime. He killed without law and without justice.”

Mann Chhoen, deputy governor of Phnom Penh, said he is responsible for land rights issues, but twice declined comment for this article.

Phnom Penh city police guard the sites of impending evictions and attempt to keep out NGO workers and journalists. At one site on Boeung Kak Lake, where a Cambodian development company known as Shukaku seized 3.6 hectares of land and began using the city’s police force to evict the occupants, police on three occasions barred our way and threatened us with arrest for even approaching the site where several evictions were in progress.

At Dey Krahorm, 200 former residents observed the one-year anniversary of their eviction, Jan. 24, with a procession to the edge of the wall surrounding their former neighborhood. Police officers in plain clothes, their walkie-talkies peeking from beneath their polo shirts, monitored the gathering and photographed the faces of those present, but didn’t try to break up the gathering.

CAMBODIA : Victims of acid attack

Keo Srey Vy, a 36 year-old victim of an acid attack, receives treatment at the Cambodia Acid Survivors Charity in Kandal province, west of Phnom Penh February 25, 2010. Cambodia's government is drafting a law to specifically target crimes involving acid attacks amidst a rise in such attacks this year. The government is reviewing similar laws in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh to draft tough sentences including life imprisonment for these crimes, police officials said. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Keo Srey Vy, a 36 year-old victim of an acid attack, receives treatment at the Cambodia Acid Survivors Charity in Kandal province, west of Phnom Penh February 25, 2010. Cambodia's government is drafting a law to specifically target crimes involving acid attacks amidst a rise in such attacks this year. The government is reviewing similar laws in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh to draft tough sentences including life imprisonment for these crimes, police officials said. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Oeng Sodine (L), a 18-year-old victim of an acid attack, rests near Som Bunnarith (R), a 39-year-old fellow victim, while receiving treatment at the Cambodia Acid Survivors Charity in Kandal province, west of Phnom Penh February 25, 2010. Cambodia's government is drafting a law to specifically target crimes involving acid attacks amidst a rise in such attacks this year. The government is reviewing similar laws in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh to draft tough sentences including life imprisonment for these crimes, police officials said. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Som Bunnarith (C), a 39-year-old victim of an acid attack, is assisted on a walk by fellow victims, 21-year-old Ith Mouy Neag (R) and 18-year-old Oeng Sodine (L), in the garden at the Cambodia Acid Survivors Charity in Kandal province, west of Phnom Penh February 25, 2010. Cambodia's government is drafting a law to specifically target crimes involving acid attacks amidst a rise in such attacks this year. The government is reviewing similar laws in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh to draft tough sentences including life imprisonment for these crimes, police officials said. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Cambodia Acid Survivors Charity's coordinator Ziad Samman (R), speaks to victims of acid attacks, 39-year-old Som Bunnarith (L), 36-year-old Keo Srey Vy (2nd R) and 18-year-old Oeng Sodine (2nd L) at the Charity in Kandal province, west of Phnom Penh February 25, 2010. Cambodia's government is drafting a law to specifically target crimes involving acid attacks amidst a rise in such attacks this year. The government is reviewing similar laws in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh to draft tough sentences including life imprisonment for these crimes, police officials said. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

A victim of an acid attack, 21-year-old Ith Mouy Neag (C), reacts while fellow victims, 36-year-old Keo Srey Vy (R) and 18-year-old Oeng Sodine (L) speak at the Cambodia Acid Survivors Charity in Kandal province, west of Phnom Penh February 25, 2010. Cambodia's government is drafting a law to specifically target crimes involving acid attacks amidst a rise in such attacks this year. The government is reviewing similar laws in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh to draft tough sentences including life imprisonment for these crimes, police officials said. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

A victim of an acid attack, 36-year-old Keo Srey Vy (R) looks on during lunch with fellow victims, 18-year-old Oeng Sodine (L) and 21-year-old Ith Mouy Neag (C) at the Cambodia Acid Survivors Charity in Kandal province, west of Phnom Penh February 25, 2010. Cambodia's government is drafting a law to specifically target crimes involving acid attacks amidst a rise in such attacks this year. The government is reviewing similar laws in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh to draft tough sentences including life imprisonment for these crimes, police officials said. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Judgment Day in Thailand

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By Simon Roughneen in Bangkok for ISN Security Watch
25 Feb 2010

Former Thai PM Thaksin Shinawatra

Politically troubled Thailand faces 'judgment day' tomorrow when the country's Supreme Court rules on what to do with $2.26 billion frozen in former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra's family bank accounts, Simon Roughneen comments for ISN Security Watch.

This appears to be the first judicial inquiry into abuse of power to enrich oneself - or ‘policy corruption’ in Thailand, so second guessing such a decision is difficult. But the expectation is that some or all of the one-time telecom entrepreneur's assets will be seized. Others think that some could remain frozen, with a final decision left pending, or that he will be left with whatever he earned prior to holding office as prime minister. We will know on 25 February.

Seizing assets could be the spark for demonstrations along the lines of those that forced the cancellation of an April 2009 summit of Asian leaders in Thailand. These could spark a violent counter-reaction, though the army might prefer to let things drag on rather than crack down too harshly.

The government is massing 20,000 police in the capital in the lead-up to the decision, with Thaksin supporters pledging to demonstrate en masse - even before the verdict is announced. Even without the verdict, the redshirts have vowed to topple the current government, which they view as an illegitimate usurper.

Thailand's Oxford-educated prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva hopes Friday's court ruling will calm the situation and enable Southeast Asia's second-largest economy to get back to normal after four years of violent clashes between Thaksin's supporters and opponents, punctuated by a coup in September 2006.

In recent weeks, the redshirts have been talking in ominous but vague terms about a "people's army," which opponents think is code for arming civilian militias in pro-Thaksin regions close to the Laos and Cambodia borders. The government, too, has been fear-mongering, hyping "10 days of danger" and deploying what jurists regards as Thailand's heavy handed security laws in response to the threats.

A month ago, military vehicles were seen on Bangkok streets, sparking rumors that the army - always influential in the background and perhaps impatient with the political stasis in Thailand - was about to launch a coup.

However, Thaksinites say they are fighting to rid Thailand of the behind-the-scenes power of its military and royalist elites, whom they blame for removing Thaksin from power and preventing his allies from staying in office. They see Abhisit as a puppet of these vested interests, who are now trying to seize Thaksin's money and prevent him and his movement from ever returning to power.

Thaksin-backed parties won elections and held power until just before Christmas 2008, even while he was in exile, and supporters feel aggrieved that his yellowshirt opponents used street power to help push the Thaksin government out, most notoriously blockading the country's international airports in November 2008.

Thaksin's term in office was marked by attempts to centralize power and by allegations that he used politics and bought rural votes to advance personal and business interests. Supporters say he sought to dismantle Thailand's elite-oriented political system and was the first leader to try engage with the country's less well-off. The gap between haves and have-nots is wider in Thailand and wealth more concentrated among a narrow elite than elsewhere in Southeast Asia.

His yellowshirt opponents believe that even if Thaksin's assets are seized, conflict will roll on, and this seems likely.

The political divides in Thailand are bigger than any one person. The political parties and movement, if that is the right word, spawned by Thaksin might outlast him, given that Thais from the north and northeast see themselves as marginalized and disadvantaged, with or without Thaksin. But whether or not Thaksin opponents come to see their grievances as legitimate, and worthy of addressing, remains to be seen.

SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA, February 25, 2010 /24-7PressRelease/ -- An annual sporting event is set to take place in the southern Cambodian province of Kep next month.

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Thursday, February 25, 2010




Protests by pro-Thaksin red shirts have become a frequent sight on the streets of Bangkok [EPA]

Since the 2006 ousting of Thaksin Shinawatra, Thailand's former prime minister, the country has been gripped by waves of political protest, some of it violent.

Here we take a look at a group that has emerged as one of the key players in the turbulent Thai political scene - the so-called "red shirts".

Who are the red shirts?

Formally known as the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), Thailand's red shirt protesters first emerged as a political force in 2008.

Most, though not all, are firm supporters of Thaksin Shinawatra, the former prime minister ousted in a 2006 bloodless military coup.

Thaksin himself, who has lived in exile since the coup, frequently addresses mass rallies of supporters via video link, statements on pro-red shirt websites, blogs and via Twitter.

To rally its cause and raise funds, the UDD operates dozens of community radio stations and a TV Channel, as well as a network of red-shirt merchandise shops.

It also claims to have around 400 regional organisations running "UDD politics schools".

Like Thaksin, the group draws the bulk of its support for the rural north and northeast of the country, although it also has backing from student groups and other activists.

Many of Thailand's rural poor benefitted from Thaksin's populist policies during his five years in power.

What do the red shirts want?

The red shirts say the current government of Abhisit Vejajiva, the Thai prime minister, is a puppet of the military and the Thai elite and came to power illegitimately.

The red shirts say the current government is undemocratic and illegitimate [EPA]

They want nothing less than for Abhisit to resign and call fresh elections, saying his government has deprived them of their democratic rights.

The red shirts say their campaign is a fight against the political dominance of the unelected Thai elite – including royalists, top businessmen, the judiciary and senior generals – who they say have conspired to corrupt democracy and overthrow elected governments.

Abhisit became prime minister in December 2008 after a Constitutional Court ruling removed the pro-Thaksin People Power Party from power, saying its leaders had committed electoral fraud.

The ruling cleared the way for parliamentary manoeuvrings that allowed Abhisit's Democrat Party to take power without holding an election.

The next general election is not due to be held until 2011.

What is the red shirts' relationship to the yellow shirts?

The anti-Thaksin yellow shirts, formally known as the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), are the firm opponents of the red shirts.

Although the PAD has no official ties to Abhisit's Democratshas it does have a vlose relationship to key elements within the ruling party and says it is the true defender of Thailand's constitutional monarchy.

Yellow is traditionally a colour associated with Thailand's revered monarch.

The PAD draws its support from Thai royalists, businessmen and the urban middle class and accuses Thaksin of corruption, greed and nepotism during his time in power.

A series of anti-Thaksin street protests by the PAD in 2006 set the stage for the military coup that removed him from power.

What action can the red shirts take?

Recent months have seen dozens of rallies, large and small, by red shirt supporters.

Most have been peaceful, but in April 2009 confrontation with the government came to a violent head when hundreds of protesters fought running street battles with troops on the streets of Bangkok.

At least two people died in a day of clashes, in what was the worst political violence seen in Thailand in almost two decades.

The clashes came after a period of escalating tensions which saw red shirt protesters blockade the prime minister's office, shut down key intersections in Bangkok and embarrass the government by forcing the cancellation of a regional summit in the resort town of Pattaya.

UDD leaders say last year's fighting was stirred up by thugs hired by the government and say they are committed to peaceful protests.

Red short organisers have said they can call on up to a million protesters to take to the streets of Bangkok for future demonstrations.

However critics have said many of these supporters are rural peasants paid to attend rallies.

Meanwhile, many business leaders complain that the string of protests and the disruption they cause is damaging Thailand's reputation, scaring off investors and tourists and stifling economic recovery.

What about Thaksin himself?

Aside from a brief return to Thailand in late 2007, the ousted prime minister has lived in exile since his ouster in the 2006 coup, rallying supporters by video links and other messages.

He has spent most time living in Dubai pursuing business deals and has also acquired passports from Montenegro and Nicaragua.

In 2009 he was appointed as a special economic advisor to the Cambodian government, further straining Thailand's already tense relations with Cambodia over a disputed border temple complex.

In 2008 Thaksin was sentenced in absentia to two years in jail after being found guilty of abuse of power in a land acquisition deal during his time in office.

Thaksin and his then wife, who had earlier returned to Thailand vowing to clear their names, had jumped bail two months previously saying they did not believe they would receive a fair trial.

Late last year red shirt leaders submitted a petition with 3.5 million signatures to the Thai king asking for Thaksin to be pardoned.

Siem Reap Visitors Can Enjoy Kep Trio Fundraiser

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The Kep Trio raises money for a remote community in the Phnom Voar area of southern Cambodia

SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA, February 25, 2010 /24-7PressRelease/ -- An annual sporting event is set to take place in the southern Cambodian province of Kep next month.

People staying in hotels in Siem Reap may like to participate in the fundraiser, which is organised to support a community project called Hand in Hand Cambodia in the village of Chamcar Bei.

The Kep Trio consists of a half marathon, a 10 km run and a 10 km cycle ride.

Taking place on Saturday March 6th and Sunday March 7th, the event will see participants run and cycle through the beautiful countryside of Kep's Phnom Voar mountain range.

Registration is priced at $50 for runners and $75 for bike riders, with this fee covering the cost of an airport transfer to Kep, an event T-shirt and a celebratory dinner.

Participants are also asked to contribute a minimum donation of $200 as part of the fundraising drive.

According to the organisers, fundraisers who complete the event will be greeted by the villagers of Chamcar Bei on March 7th, when they can "see first-hand what the money they raise is helping to achieve".

As a relatively isolated region, Phnom Voar became a notorious battleground during the Cambodian Civil War.

Organisations such as UNESCO have been working to improve living conditions in the area since the 1990s.

VN sets its sights on dominating Cambodia’s telecom market

via CAAI News Media

25/02/2010

VietNamNet Bridge – The big telecommunication and information technology groups in Vietnam like Viettel, FPT and VTC are looking to Cambodia with expansion in mind.

Cambodia has become an attractive destination for Vietnamese telecom investors

Viettel is now the largest Vietnamese telecom investor in Cambodia. It launched the Metfone mobile network one year ago. After six months, the Viettel Cambodia topped the network, accounting for 42 percent of the total number of base transceiver stations (BTS), 88 percent of the total optical cable and second for subscribers in Cambodia.

This year Viettel Cambodia aims to earn $250 million in revenue and have 3,000 second-generation (2G) BTS, 1,500 3-G BTS and 15,000-16,000km of optical cable.

FPT Telecom has been involved in telecom business in Cambodia for six months, mainly by selling frequency bands at Vietnam-Cambodia border gates. FPT’s general director Nguyen Thanh Nam said that it is the time for FPT Telecom to enter Cambodia to directly serve users. The company plans to cooperate with Mekong Net, one of the two biggest Cambodian IT firms.

Most recently, VTC group introduced the VTC Online Cambodia Company and its first products and services for the Cambodian market.

Nguyen Viet Hung, managing director of VTC Online Cambodia, said that the firm’s products are totally “Khmermizing” and would be put online in late February. The first products are entertainment, education programmes and cultural information.

Competition

Entering the Cambodian market, the most “dangerous” rivals for FPT are perhaps not local firms but Viettel.

“Viettel is expanding investment in Cambodia but as in Vietnam, Viettel’s top priority are mobile services so if FPT Telecom is agile, we can rule the Internet market, Nguyen Thanh Nam said.

However, FPT Telecom’s plans may not go smoothly because Viettel recently stated to strive for a holding of 46 percent of the fixed phone market, 90 percent of the mobile market and 90 percent of the broadband Internet market in Cambodia by 2011.

On June 1 2009, Viettel Cambodia became the first provider of multi-telecom services in Cambodia, including channel leasing, voice over Internet protocol (VoIP), broadband Internet, mobile and fixed phone services.

Content services are also promising for Vietnamese investors. Thanh Nam disclosed that FPT Telecom considers Internet facilities as a way of developing content services in the future.

However, FPT Telecom is not a big name in content services in Cambodia just as it is not a big supplier of content services in Vietnam.

The opportunity for VTC in the content service market in Cambodia seems to be bigger because VTC’s subsidiary, VTC Intercom has always obtained 300 percent of growth rate annually for content services in Vietnam since its establishment in late 2006. This year VTC plans to open four branches in Siem Reap, Battambang, Preah Sihanouk and Kampong Cham. It will offer electronic services related to trade, banking, sports, music and fashion.

The rivals of VTC in Cambodia in the content service market are local firms. Mike Gaertner, managing director of the CIDC, the distributor of the most popular online game in Cambodia – Justice X Wars II, spoke to the Phnom Penh Post Office: “They (VTC) will divide the market in two parts. CIDC will react and VTC will react too. It is an interesting moment for the online game industry in Cambodia”.

CIDS currently has more than 120,000 subscribers.

Potential market

Apart from the competitive mobile market with nine networks, including big firms from Malaysia, Thailand, Sweden, etc., other markets in Cambodia are very promising.

According to Nguyen Thanh Nam, the broadband Internet market is still in its infancy but some good signs have arisen. In the last six months, charge for 1Mb transmission have dropped from $1,000 to $300 and will continue falling. “The fall in charges will push demand up,” Nam said.

An official from Viettel said that only 0.12 percent of Cambodian people are Internet subscribers. Viettel aims to raise the rate to 3 percent over the next three years.

As to the content service market, the Phnom Penh Post Newspaper commented: “The local market is still broad for development in comparison with neighboring countries”.

The CIDC’s Gaertner was very optimistic, saying that his firm is not afraid to compete with new rivals from Vietnam because: “Vietnam has 18 million Internet users, 10 million of them are gamers. I hope the same thing will take place in Cambodia”.

Drug-resistant malaria 'growing' in Cambodia

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By Guy DeLauney
BBC News, Phnom Penh

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Some malaria patients are taking longer to respond to artimisinin

Parasites are developing resistance to one of the most important anti-malaria drugs, according to experts.

Artimisinin has been highly effective, particularly in places where resistance to other drugs has developed.

But now some patients along Cambodia's border with Thailand are taking longer to respond to the treatment.

Experts on the disease are meeting village health workers in Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh, to discuss ways to stop drug-resistant malaria spreading.

Malaria Consortium technical director Dr Sylvia Meek says it must be eliminated before it spreads.

"There is a lot of population movement - people coming for instance from Nigeria to Asia - and it's growing and growing," she said.

"It would only take a few people carrying the resistant parasites travelling one way or the other to actually get the parasites in.

"And once they're in they're likely to spread quite fast."

The United States of America Granted US$13.4 Million for AIDS Action Programs – Wednesday, 24.2.2010


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Posted on 25 February 2010
The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 653

“Phnom Penh: According to an announcement by the US Embassy on 23 February 2010, the United States of America officially started a program with a contribution of US$13.4 million to improve the heath and the quality of life of Cambodian citizens, reducing the impact from HIV and AIDS, especially among vulnerable groups.

“The five year sustainable program against HIV and AIDS at the community level will provide health care to citizens suffering from AIDS, those having HIV, and orphans, and in the meantime, it will also help to prevent new infections among vulnerable groups. This program will be implemented by the Khmer HIV/AIDS NGO Alliance [KHANA], a local non-government organization which has been funded by the United States of America since 1997.

“More than 700 people, including those having HIVS and children suffering from AIDS, government officials, civil society organizations, and development partners participated in the inauguration at Wat Ou Poath in Takeo. Wat Ou Poath will receive aid from the United States of America for this program in order to continue to run an orphanage for children suffering from the impact from AIDS, to offer living places for adults who have HIV, to create a place for HIV blood testing, and to provide other services.

“The US Ambassador to Cambodia, Ms. Carol A. Rodley, praised the working strategies of this community level program. She said, ‘Working with leaders such as monks at Wat Ou Poath and with our development partner KHANA contributes a lot to combating AIDS countrywide. The United States of America will continue to support these activities.’ The program also aims also to improve the capacity of civil society to provide health care services and HIV prevention with quality and sustainability. To reach this aim, KHANA has trained more than 60 local non-government organizations and supported those taking care of people having HIV at more than half of the communities countrywide by offering caring services to 60% of the communities in Cambodia.

“The aid granted by the United States of America for HIV/AIDS programs in Cambodia in this year amounts to US$18.5 million. The aid is concentrated on the protection, the care, and the treatment for people having HIV and people facing the danger of HIS infection.

“The HIV/AIDS program will also strengthen the national health system, fight maternal mortality, and address also other present priority health issues.”

Koh Santepheap, Vol.43, #6892, 24.2.2010
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Men detained for killing rare cattle in Cambodia

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PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – Two hunters have been detained for killing two banteng, an endangered wild cattle species, in a protected forest in northern Cambodia, an official said Thursday.

They were arrested Monday as they were butchering the animals they shot with AK-47 assault rifles near Anlong Veng, the former stronghold of deceased Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, said Tiv Sovantha, a provincial prosecutor.

He said that Bou Hoeurn and Chin Chuon could each face a five-year prison term if convicted. A third poacher is still being sought.

The banteng, which is native to Southeast Asia, is listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and is protected by law in Cambodia.

Cambodia jails Frenchman for paedophile offences

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PHNOM PENH, Feb 25 (AFP) - A Cambodian court on Thursday ordered a 63-year-old Frenchman to serve seven months in prison for soliciting sex with a child prostitute.

Michel Jean Raymond Charlot was arrested in August last year after police raided his guesthouse room and found him having sex with the 16-year-old girl in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted Charlot and sentenced him to three years' imprisonment, but ordered him to spend only seven months in prison from the date of his arrest with the rest of the sentence suspended.

The sentence was shortened due to his age and because he had admitted to having sex with the girl, whom he said he thought was aged 18 at the time, the court said.

The court also ordered Charlot to pay 250 dollars to the girl and to be deported after he completes his prison term next month.

The girl told the court that she had been working as a prostitute since she was 14.

Dozens of foreigners have been jailed for child sex crimes or deported to face trial in their home countries since Cambodia launched an anti-paedophilia push in 2003, to try to shake off its reputation as a haven for sex predators.