Tuesday, 20 July 2010

REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea : Cambodian police and social workers have beat, extorted and raped sex workers

Cambodian sex workers wait for customers at a public park in Phnom Penh July 20, 2010. Cambodian police and social workers have beat, extorted and raped sex workers after taking them into their custody, Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday, adding foreign governments could do more to stop such abuse. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Cambodian sex worker Srey Pich, 22, waits for customers at a public park in Phnom Penh July 20, 2010. Cambodian police and social workers have beat, extorted and raped sex workers after taking them into their custody, Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday, adding foreign governments could do more to stop such abuse. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Cambodian sex workers wait for customers at a public park in Phnom Penh July 20, 2010. Cambodian police and social workers have beat, extorted and raped sex workers after taking them into their custody, Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday, adding foreign governments could do more to stop such abuse. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Cambodian sex workers wait for customers at a public park in Phnom Penh July 20, 2010. Cambodian police and social workers have beat, extorted and raped sex workers after taking them into their custody, Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday, adding foreign governments could do more to stop such abuse. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

The 43rd ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in Hanoi July 20, 2010

ASEAN Foreign Ministers George Yeo of Singapore, Pham Gia Khiem of Vietnam, Hor Namhong of Cambodia, Thongloun Sisoulith of Laos, Marty Natalegawa of Indonesia, Prince Mohamed Bolkiah of Brunei and Sri Anifah Aman of Malaysia (L-R) pose for a photo while attending a photo exhibition during the 43rd ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in Hanoi July 20, 2010. The meeting takes place in Hanoi from July 19 to 23. REUTERS/Kham

Foreign Ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) pose for a group picture with Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung (6th L) at the opening of their 43rd annual meeting in Hanoi July 20, 2010. The ministers are Laos' Foreign Minister Thongloun Sisoulith, Malaysia's Foreign Minister Sri Anifah Aman, Philippines' Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Policy Erlinda Basilio, Singapore's Foreign Minister George Yeo, Thailand's Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, Vietnam's Foreign Minister Pham Gia Khiem, Indonesia's Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, Myanmar's Foreign Minister Nyan Win, Brunei's Foreign Minister Mohamed Bolkiah, Cambodia's Foreign Minister Hor Namhong and ASEAN Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan (L-R). The 43rd ASEAN Foreign Ministerial meeting takes place in Hanoi from July 19 to July 23. REUTERS/Hoang Dinh Nam/Pool

Myanmar's Foreign Minister U Nyan Win (L), Cambodia's Foreign Minister Hor Namhong (2nd L), Singapore's Foreign Minister George Yeo (2nd R) and Laos' Foreign Minister Thongloun Sisoulith chat prior to the opening of the 43rd ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in Hanoi July 20, 2010. The meeting takes place in Hanoi from July 19 to July 23. REUTERS/Hoang Dinh Nam/Pool

Cambodia's Foreign Minister Hor Namhong (L), Laos' Foreign Minister Thongloun Sisoulith (2nd L), Singapore's Foreign Minister George Yeo (2nd R) and Malaysia's Foreign Minister Sri Anifah Aman chat prior to the opening of the 43rd ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in Hanoi July 20, 2010. The meeting takes place in Hanoi from July 19 to July 23. REUTERS/Hoang Dinh Nam/Pool

Cambodia's Foreign Minister Hor Namhong (L) chats with Laos' Foreign Minister Thongloun Sisoulith prior to the opening of the 43rd ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in Hanoi July 20, 2010. The meeting takes place in Hanoi from July 19 to July 23. REUTERS/Hoang Dinh Nam/Pool

Your chance to help


via Khmer NZ

Jul 20, 2010
By Lauren Grimson

As the Men at Work boys so aptly put it, Australians come from the “land of plenty”.

All too often, we take basic survival items like food, shelter and fresh water for granted because they are so readily available to us.

Even the most fiscally strained Australians have access to the public health, education, housing and Government assistance.

On the other side of the world in Cambodia, people are not so blessed. Poverty-stricken families are forced to fend for themselves with no government assistance and are faced with a public health system that has limited capacity to deal with primary health concerns.

More than 40 per cent of Cambodian children are malnourished and problems such as acute respitory infection, Dengue, diarrhoea, Typhoid and dehydration are almost constant issues in rural areas. Over 10,000 children in Cambodia live on the streets and over 100,000 children do not participate in education or play activities because they have been prematurely sent to the workforce.

Following a trip to the slums of Cambodia, Penrith-based psychologist, Margarita Parrish, decided to fill the void, launching a charity designed to provide food, shelter and education for poverty-stricken adults and children in the slums of the Asian country.

Ms Parrish’s charity, Food For Everyone (F4E) aims to not only provide food for poverty-stricken Cambodian families, but to teach them how to become self-sufficient and feed themselves.

“This is the key to breaking the seemingly eternal poverty cycle that engulfs the people of Cambodia,” said Ms Parrish.

“Children who live in filth and eat dirt are stripped of dignity. They don’t even think they deserve basic human rights such as food and shelter.”

F4E has launched its Basic Shelter Appeal to raise funds to build much needed shelter for families who live in “Freedom Village”, a township home to 72 desperate families who were previously tagged as slum-dwellers.

To make a difference to the lives of people living in “Freedom Village” F4E needs 47 house sponsors at $100 each, 19 walls and roof sponsors at $50 each, seven walls sponsors at $30 each, and 72 mosquito net sponsors at $5 each.

For the price of a coat, you could provide a family in need with a roof for their new home. But if that’s out of your price range, for as little as $5 you can make a difference in someone’s life by providing them with a mosquito net to protect against fatal Malaria.

Be a part of something bigger than you! Every donation, no matter how small, has the power to make a difference.

For more information on F4E, visit the website http://www.food4everyone.net/ .

Informal Sex Trade Threatens to Undercut Gains in HIV

via Khmer NZ

By Irwin Loy

PHNOM PENH, Jul 20, 2010 (IPS) - On a muggy evening, a handful of men in suits were quickly getting drunk in a beer garden here in the Cambodian capital. One man rested his hand on the thigh of a slender woman sitting uncomfortably in a short skirt.

A sign above the table read: "Be responsible. Use a condom."

"The customers play around with us all the time," said Neang, glancing at the scene unfolding at the next table. "They touch my breasts, or put their hands on my thigh while I’m sitting down. I don’t like it, but I have no other choice."

Beer promoters like Neang and others who work in places where Cambodia’s informal sex industry can be found are a growing concern for health experts in this South-east Asian country, as sex work shifts from traditional settings like brothels to informal ones in the entertainment sector.

Women who work in karaoke bars or beer gardens like this one may not identify as sex workers, but some occasionally sell sex to top up their meager earnings.

Neang, who asked that her full name not be used, said she recently decided not to have sex with her customers after she got married. In the past, though, many of the men who propositioned her would refuse to use a condom.

"The NGOs tell us to wear condoms properly to prevent HIV infection," she said. "But in the past, when I slept with customers, some insisted it was not necessary. It is hard to refuse."

Cambodia is seen as a success story in HIV prevention. It has managed to reduce its HIV prevalence rate among adults from a high of two percent in 1998 to an estimated 0.7 percent last year. If this trend continues, Cambodia will be on track to meet its Millennium Development Goals (MDG) for cutting HIV prevalence rates by 2015.

But critics say the government’s drive to stamp out human trafficking has actually exacerbated HIV risks for sex workers because it is forcing many to go underground. Without a renewed emphasis to reach those in the informal sex trade, Cambodia could face a stumbling block in meeting its MDG target on HIV.

Authorities have targeted suspected brothels as part of their crackdown on human trafficking. But advocates say the raids have resulted mainly in the arrest of sex workers, many of whom were driven to the trade by poverty, not trafficking.

The end result has been to push sex workers into hiding – and away from the reach of HIV prevention programmes.

"The more crackdowns, the more people will be pushed underground and disappear," said Tea Phauly, the most at- risk populations adviser with the Joint U.N. Programme on AIDS (UNAIDS) in Cambodia. "And it is very difficult to structure a response to reach these people."

Government studies here have shown that brothel-based sex workers are more likely to use condoms than women who sometimes sell sex in entertainment establishments.

But advocates say they now have difficulty reaching sex workers, many of whom have ended up in beer gardens and karaoke bars. "We can approach them, but not like before. They remain hidden," said Ly Pisey, a technical assistant with the advocacy group Women’s Network for Unity.

Ly says outreach workers used to be able to easily access brothels and talk to sex workers about HIV prevention and health care. "But now if you go … and ask, ‘Are you a sex worker?’ they say no," she said.

In March, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen delivered a speech that was interpreted by police officials as an order to intensify a crackdown on human trafficking. Within two weeks, raids on suspected brothels sent more than 280 sex workers into hiding, according to a local non-government group that tracked the enforcement.

Police actions have eased up in recent weeks, but the raids are a cyclical part of a longer-term trend that has helped change the nature of Cambodia’s sex industry.

Bith Kimhong, director of the Ministry of Interior’s anti- trafficking bureau, said: "We shut down clubs that are related to sex trafficking. We want to eliminate such sayings that Cambodia is a place for sex tourism."

Sex workers, he says, are not the targets of such enforcement. "We know when closing such establishments, there are more people losing their jobs," he said. "We cannot avoid this. The benefit is that we want to guarantee safety and security for our country."

UNAIDS and Cambodian authorities are developing a plan to ensure that sex workers – especially those in entertainment venues like the beer garden Neang works in – are able to access HIV education and health care. Officials hope such a plan will include broad community partnerships, particularly with police officers.

"What we don’t want to see is a second (HIV) epidemic," said Tony Lisle, the UNAIDS country coordinator in Cambodia.

In 1996, the HIV prevalence rate for female sex workers was well above 40 percent. Ten years later, this rate had dropped to around 14 percent, according to the last countrywide survey.

"There’s been an enormous amount of work done in reducing both incidence and prevalence of HIV," Lisle said. "But we have to be mindful that if we don’t continue to roll out innovative, effective, scaled programmes in prevention and continue to normalise condom use, if we don’t keep the pace up and the intensity up with populations at risk for HIV, we could well see a reemergence of an epidemic - which we don’t want."

UN praises Vietnam for plan to give citizenship to 2,357 Cambodian refugees

via Khmer NZ

By The Associated Press (CP)

GENEVA — The U.N. refugee agency has praised Vietnam for its plan to grant citizenship to 2,357 people who fled Cambodia's genocide under Pol Pot over three decades ago.

UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards said Tuesday that many of the Cambodian refugees have lived in Vietnam since 1975.

He says Vietnam gave citizenship to 287 of the refugees during a ceremony last week in Ho Chi Minh City. The remaining 2,070 should get their ID cards and full rights by the end of the year.

Edwards called Vietnam a leader in ending statelessness.

About 1.7 million Cambodians died of torture, execution, disease and starvation under the rule of Pot's Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979.

Cambodia Plugs Khmer Rouge Bastion as Vacation Spot

via Khmer NZ

By Brendan Brady
Anlong Veng Tuesday, Jul. 20, 2010

A Cambodian soldier leans against a sign pointing to the cremation spot of Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot in Anlong Veng
Brendan Brady

via Khmer Nz

"In those days we didn't have to worry about food or supplies — Ta Mok took care of that," says 56-year-old Sam Roeun, a former Khmer Rouge soldier with a prosthetic left leg who now sells entrance tickets to tourists in front of his former boss's home. Ta (grandfather) Mok, as his revolutionary alias went, was the ultra-Maoist regime's top military commander. In Anlong Veng, an isolated district of mostly wooden homes and crop fields north of Siem Reap, the name still conjures a mixture of worship and fear.

It's the latter sentiment that the Cambodian government is now trying to cultivate. Hoping to convince visitors to branch out from the more trodden Cambodian-tourism trails of ancient temples and backpacker bars, the government is trying to add a new stop on the foreign tourist's to-do list: a foray into the last stronghold of the mass-murdering Khmer Rouge. Anlong Veng, where the ultra-Maoist regime held out in its final years, may not be as enticing as the Cambodian hinterland's majestic Angkor temples nor as easygoing as its coastal hippie dens. But tourism officials are betting that travelers visiting for these two more common attractions can also be enticed by the dark history of this undeveloped pocket hugging the Thai border.

More than a million foreign tourists each year pay homage to Angkor Wat. But while it is just an hour and a half drive away, Anlong Veng receives only a tiny fraction of this horde, and its visitors are a trickle compared to the modest flow who visit Phnom Penh's infamous killing fields and Tuol Sleng torture center for a glimpse of the Khmer Rouge's goriest operations. Tourism officials' plans, dating back to 2000, to transform Anlong Veng into a showcase of the regime's final days suggest that they believe a bit of polish could turn those numbers around. In March, the government approved a comprehensive plan to formalize the area's development in order to allow "national and international guests to visit to understand the last political leadership of the genocidal regime," but they have yet to begin any significant construction.

Anlong Veng today is mostly populated by former Khmer Rouge cadres, as well as those who had been their most die-hard supporters or those who were forced by threat of death to join them in retreat. The fanatical regime's surviving leaders, depleted militia and dwindling supporters decamped here in 1979, after Vietnam toppled the Khmer Rouge and installed a new government. When it fell in 1998, Anlong Veng was the last territory under the Khmer Rouge rule and, to this day, the regime remains a presence in the area — in local residents' memories, former leaders' homes and grave sites and the facilities that served their deadly cause.

For some Cambodians, bizarrely enough, nostalgia lingers for the final years of Khmer Rouge rule. From 1975 to '79, the Khmer Rouge sought to turn Cambodia into an agrarian utopia and rid itself of traditional elites. In the process, an estimated 2 million people died from overwork, starvation and execution. Ta Mok, who earned the nickname "the Butcher," had accumulated a small fortune by pillaging this area's forests for timber he sold to Thailand, and he extended benefits to his followers to ensure their loyalty. Hence the former Khmer Rouge soldier Sam Rouen's admiration.

The remnants of these selective slices of Khmer Rouge history concerns Youk Chhang, the head of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, a nonprofit group that researches the regime's history. Chhang is skeptical that a "sufficient effort will be made to accurately explain the [tragic] historical context" behind the new attractions, and says the project is at risk of becoming more of a gimmick than sincere historical showcase. (Similar efforts have gone very wrong before, though it's hard to imagine anything stooping as low as Phnom Penh's Khmer Rouge Experience Café, which offered dishes styled after Khmer Rouge–era rations served by waitresses dressed as cadres. The café closed shortly after it opened in 2005.)

Today, most of the 14 scattered sites in Anlong Veng that the Tourism Ministry have chosen for its new "genocide-tour" itinerary leave a meager impression. The best-preserved attraction, Ta Mok's hideout, nestled in a floodplain to limit access points, includes three rickety structures and a decaying Chinese-made radio car used to disseminate propaganda. Otherwise, Pol Pot's old home has degenerated into a small shell of a building, akin to a concrete hut; the old school house for indoctrination is now simply part of a larger school for today's state education; and the medical ward that used to serve wounded militia is, after renovations and additions, a hospital serving the area.

It is, rather, the life stories of local residents that offer the starkest insight into the area's dark history. The hospital's director, 50-year-old Bich Sokha, for one, has worked in the same building for two decades, though he now only treats victims of traffic accidents and domestic abuse instead of militia with blown-off limbs. As part of the reconciliation plan that allowed former Khmer Rouge to integrate into new state institutions, Bich was able to trade in his black threads for a lab coat. He recalls having treated Ta Mok himself. "He had lost part of his leg from fighting and didn't like the first cut so we cut it again, above the knee, and he liked that."

Ta Mok's daughter Preak Lin, a deadpan 56-year-old woman who owns a sizeable peanut farm in the area, says the elegant stupa housing her father's remains (also one of the itinerary stops) nourishes fond family memories. Ta Mok died in 2006, just months after he was placed in pretrial detention for the U.N.-backed war crimes court that is ongoing. "Many people came to his funeral to pay tribute to him," she says. "When they open the tourist project, the villagers will be happy because they can earn more money, but I won't be happy because it will make me think about my father more and miss him."

Grappling with the loss of the Butcher or not, Anlong Veng's residents, whose living conditions are no exception to the poverty afflicting most Cambodians, are excited at the prospect of a steadier stream of customers for their vending stalls, restaurants and guesthouses. At the moment, only about a dozen people visit the main sites each day. Perhaps none has his entrepreneurial ambitions set higher than Nhem En. The former portrait photographer of prisoners who passed through Tuol Sleng prison, an anteroom to death where an estimated 15,000 people were viciously tortured, Nhem has for years tried to capitalize on his morbidly intimate connection with the regime and its inner workings. Now, he is uncasing his own attraction, a private museum located a half hour's commute outside of Anlong Veng, that will include, among other things, a walking stick, toilet seat and sandals he claims belonged to Pol Pot. (His offer to sell them last year for a million dollars didn't attract any suitors). Nhem says he wants to help illuminate Khmer Rouge history to foreigners and young Cambodians alike, but he's also happy to let someone else carry the torch: "I am offering my museum for 2 million dollars to anyone interested in buying it."

Police abuse sex workers

via Khmer NZ

Jul 20, 2010

PHNOM PENH - CAMBODIAN police and social workers have beat, extorted and raped sex workers after taking them into their custody, Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday, adding foreign governments could do more to stop such abuse.

'From beginning to end, those people who should really be protecting sex workers from violence and other abuses are in fact the ones who are harming them,' Elaine Pearson, acting director of Asia Human Rights Watch, told a news conference.

Quoting victims, the rights group said in a report that police often abused sex workers arrested during regular sweeps of the streets and parks in the capital, Phnom Penh, following the enactment of an anti-human-trafficking law in 2008.

It called on the government to close down certain detention centres where drug users, beggars, street children, homeless people and sex workers had all been illegally detained.

And it urged foreign donors to review funding to the police and Social Affairs Ministry.

'Donors should not spend their money on abusive officials but instead take steps that will promote accountability from the Cambodian government,' Ms Pearson said. -- REUTERS

Rights group urge Cambodia to end sex worker abuse

Cambodian sex workers are seen on a pavement in Phnom Penh

via Khmer NZ

PHNOM PENH — Sex workers in Cambodia are routinely unlawfully arrested and taken by police to government detention centres where they face beatings, rape and extortion, a rights group said Tuesday.

New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that interviews with more than 90 female and transgender sex workers in capital Phnom Penh and three Cambodian provinces found they faced regular abuse by authorities.

"For far too long, police and other authorities have unlawfully locked up sex workers, beaten and sexually abused them, and looted their money and other possessions," said Elaine Pearson, acting Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

"The Cambodian government should order a prompt and thorough independent investigation into these systematic violations of sex workers' human rights and shut down the centres where these people have been abused."

The group's 76-page report said police beat the prostitutes with their fists, sticks, wooden handles and electric shock batons and, in several instances, raped them while they were in detention.

All reported paying bribes or having money stolen by police officers, the report added, while they were held in dismal conditions.

The Cambodian government began prosecuting a new "Law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation" in 2008 after years of pressure from the United States to clamp down on sex trafficking.

Since then authorities have conducted brothel raids and street sweeps, but rights groups complain the new law has in many ways worsened exploitation and HRW said police at times use the law to justify harrassment of sex workers.

"The government should go back to the drawing board -- starting first by consulting extensively with sex workers and other groups -- before continuing to implement the provisions which have been abused by police," Pearson said.

Cambodia: Sex Workers Face Unlawful Arrests and Detention

via khmer NZ

20 Jul 2010 

Source: Human Rights Watch

Reuters and AlertNet are not responsible for the content of this article or for any external internet sites. The views expressed are the author's alone.

(Phnom Penh) - The Cambodian government should act quickly to end violence against sex workers and permanently close the government centers where these workers have been unlawfully detained and abused, Human Rights Watch said in a new report released today. Human Rights Watch also urged the Cambodian government to suspend provisions in the 2008 Law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation that facilitate police harassment and abuses.

Human Rights Watch's 76-page report, "Off the Streets: Arbitrary Detention and Other Abuses against Sex Workers in Cambodia," is based on more than 90 interviews and group discussions with female and transgender sex workers in Phnom Penh, Battambang, Banteay Meanchey, and Siem Reap. It describes how sex workers face a wide range of abuses, including beatings, extortion, and rape at the hands of authorities, particularly in Phnom Penh.

"For far too long, police and other authorities have unlawfully locked up sex workers, beaten and sexually abused them, and looted their money and other possessions," said Elaine Pearson, acting Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "The Cambodian government should order a prompt and thorough independent investigation into these systematic violations of sex workers' human rights and shut down the centers where these people have been abused."

Police arrest sex workers in regular sweeps on the streets and parks of Phnom Penh. Some of the violence is opportunistic, while other abuses commonly occur in periodic crackdowns and raids by police and district authorities, at times targeting sex workers specifically and other times picking up sex workers along with other groups of marginalized people on the streets.

Police abuse sex workers with impunity. Sex workers told Human Rights Watch that police officers beat them with their fists, sticks, wooden handles, and electric shock batons. In several instances, police officers raped sex workers while they were in police detention. Every sex worker that Human Rights Watch spoke to had to pay bribes or had money stolen from them by police officers.

A 2008 Cambodian law on trafficking and sexual exploitation criminalized all forms of trafficking, including forced labor. Human Rights Watch found that police officers at times can use those sections of the law that criminalize "solicitation" and "procurement" of commercial sex to justify harassment of sex workers. The provisions are also broad enough that they can be used to criminalize advocacy and outreach activities by sex worker groups and those who support them.

Human Rights Watch urged the Cambodian government to consult with sex worker groups, United Nations agencies, and organizations working on human rights, trafficking, and health to review and address the impact on the human rights of those engaged in sex work of provisions in the 2008 law on trafficking and sexual exploitation, before implementing those provisions.

"In an environment where police already act with impunity, the Cambodian government needs to recognize that criminalizing soliciting is a recipe for continuing human rights abuse," said Pearson. "The government should go back to the drawing board - starting first by consulting extensively with sex workers and other groups - before continuing to implement the provisions which have been abused by police."

In Phnom Penh, police refer sex workers to the municipal Office of Social Affairs and from there to NGOs or the government Social Affairs center, Prey Speu. Conditions in Prey Speu are abysmal. Sex workers, beggars, drug users, street children, and homeless people held at Prey Speu have reported how staff members at the center have beaten, raped, and mistreated detainees, including children. Local human rights workers, citing eyewitness accounts, allege that at least three people, and possibly more, were beaten to death by guards at Prey Speu between 2006 and 2008.

Following advocacy by Cambodian and international organizations, in 2009 and 2010 the municipal Social Affairs office began sending most sex workers picked up in sweeps to the custody of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) rather than Prey Speu. However, since May 2010, at least eight sex workers have been detained there. Sex workers detained in Prey Speu in June 2010 were locked in their rooms, only allowed to leave their rooms to bathe twice a day in dirty pond water, or, accompanied by a guard, to go to the toilet.

Human Rights Watch called on the Cambodian government to permanently close Social Affairs centers such as Prey Speu where people are being unlawfully detained. In a January 2010 report, "Skin on the Cable," Human Rights Watch also documented horrific abuses at drug detention facilities in Cambodia against people who use drugs. The Cambodian government should also establish a special commission to investigate abuses thoroughly and independently, and hold the perpetrators accountable. So far, police and other authorities have evaded accountability for these abuses.

"The Cambodian government should immediately and permanently close down detention centers such as Prey Speu where people are being unlawfully detained, beaten up, and abused," said Pearson. "Prosecuting those who commit these crimes will send a strong message that abuses against sex workers are not tolerated."

Donors supporting anti-trafficking efforts and police training, especially the US, Australia, Japan, the European Union, and the UN, should review funding to the police and Ministry of Social Affairs until there is a full independent investigation into allegations of abuses and prosecutions of those found responsible and the Social Affairs centers such as Prey Speu are permanently closed. Despite years of training for police, police abuses continue, even by units that have been trained with international donor support, such as specialized anti-trafficking police units.

"Donors should not spend their money on training abusive officials, but instead take steps that will promote accountability from the Cambodian government," said Pearson.

Testimony from sex workers in "Off the Streets"

Neary, a male-to-female transgender sex worker described being tortured by police:
"Three police officers beat me up seriously at Wat Phnom commune police station after I was taken from the park. One of the police officers pointed his gun at my head and pulled the trigger, but the bullet did not fire. They kicked my neck, my waist, and hit my head and my body with a broom stick. It lasted about half an hour. I begged them not to beat me. The police officers were cruel and they did not tell me any reason why they did this to me. "

Twenty-year-old Tola described how police extort money from sex workers:
"At the [Daun Penh district] police station, police asked us if I have a "me-ka" [manager]. Police allowed me and other sex workers to call our me-kas to come pay the lous [bribe] in exchange for our release. Fifteen out of 20 [sex workers] were released after their managers came to pay the police. The rest of us were kept at the police station for three days before being sent to the Social Affairs office and then an NGO shelter."

Srey Pha, age 27, described her experience at Prey Speu:
"[Prey Speu] was like hell. I was among 30 people in one locked room of men, women, and children. No toilet in the room, but two buckets served as toilet for all of us to share. There were blood stains all over the walls. I could not sleep at night as I was so scared and worried. I received little food to eat in two meals per day - rice with Prahok (fermented fish paste) and some tamarind. No plate or spoon, I had to eat from a plastic bag. At night, the guard seriously beat up a man who tried to escape."

Nika, age 28, describes a beating by municipal park security guards:
"First one guard came and kicked me and said, "Why?" Then three other guards came. Two guards held my arms while the other two beat me. They slapped me in the face. They seemed a bit drunk. They beat me with bamboo sticks and their radio on my head and all over. They ripped my clothes. The police came by, but they didn't do anything. The guards continued to beat me for almost half an hour. Many people saw, but everyone was too scared to intervene. The head of the security told the other guard if they see me there again, they should beat me to death."

Vietnam, Cambodia provinces to boost cooperation

via Khmer NZ

07/20/2010

Officials from the Mekong Delta province of An Giang and the Cambodian provinces of Ta Keo and Kandal met in Chau Doc town on July 19 to review the results of co-operation in the first half of 2010 and discuss ways to strengthen ties in the second half of the year.

Both sides noted with pleasure the positive results achieved in a wide range of fields, including border security, the economy, commerce, agriculture, culture, tourism, health care, transport, border demarcation and marker planting, and in the search and repatriation of the remains of volunteer Vietnamese soldiers who laid down their lives in Cambodia.

Concerned agencies from the three provinces have regularly maintained the exchange of information, conducted joint patrols to protect the shared border, and worked to prevent and combat crime.

The officials discussed measures to further boost cooperation in the remaining months of 2010, focusing on maintaining social order and security along the common border, completing the construction of the remaining border markers and fostering economic development at border gates.

An Giang and Ta Keo provinces agreed to ask the two governments for the application of “one-door” procedures for goods, people and vehicles at the Tinh Bien-Phnom Den international border gate. They also agreed to open the Vinh Gia-Ta O auxiliary border gate and will consider the possibility of opening the Vinh Nguon auxiliary border gate to strengthen border economic development and facilitate two-way trade.

VOVNews/VNA

Dire rights report: Sex workers face rape and beatings


Photo by: Sovan Philong
A sex worker pulls up her stocking in a massage parlour in Tuol Kork district yesterday.

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They kicked my neck, my waist and hit my head and my body with a broomstick. It lasted about half an hour.
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via Khmer NZ

Tuesday, 20 July 2010 15:03 Daniel Pordes and Chhay Channyda

HUMAN Rights Watch has accused the Cambodian government of subjecting sex workers to rape and severe beatings at the hands of law-enforcement officials at controversial detention centres.

In a report scheduled for release today, the United States-based watchdog claims to chronicle abuses faced by sex workers rounded up by police and sent to the facilities, which have previously drawn its criticism.

The facilities, administered by the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation, are Prey Speu, located in Dangkor district’s Choam Chao commune, and Koh Kor, located on an island in the Bassac River.

The report, titled Off the Streets: Arbitrary Detention and Other Abuses against Sex Workers in Cambodia, draws from more than 90 interviews during the course of the past year. The physical abuse it describes allegedly took place between 2007 and 2009.

In several instances, sex workers accused police officers of rape.

Others said police punched them or beat them with sticks, wooden handles and electric batons.

“One of the police officers pointed his gun at my head and pulled the trigger, but the bullet did not fire,” says Neary, a transgendered sex worker quoted in the report.

Describing an incident that allegedly took place in April 2009 in Daun Penh district, Neary says: “They kicked my neck, my waist and hit my head and my body with a broomstick. It lasted about half an hour.”

Other interviewees said conditions at the centres were decrepit, describing “gross overcrowding and lack of adequate food, clean drinking water, and medical care”.

The report calls for the centres to be closed and for arbitrary arrest and detention to end. It says past abuse allegations should be investigated.

Cambodia has long faced criticism for its use of detention centres, where marginalised groups like sex workers, beggars and drug users are sent after police street sweeps.

Elaine Pearson, acting Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said yesterday that long-standing problems had not been addressed, and that police and other officials responsible for them were not being held to account.

“This report is an attempt to push the government to investigate the accounts of abuse,” she said.

Naly Pilorge, executive director of the rights group Licadho, said her group had conducted similar inquiries. She also believes the mistreatment of sex workers is ongoing.

“These social affairs centres should be closed. The conditions are terrible, and the violence and levels of abuse suffered by some of the most vulnerable members of society is high,” she said Officials, however, questioned the report’s findings.

Chou Bun Eng, secretary of state at the Ministry of Interior, said the government was quick to respond after abuse allegations at Prey Speu and Koh Kor surfaced in 2008.

I am wondering if the new report just repeated old issues,” she said.

“We do not want Human Rights Watch to write the same things again and again.”

The Koh Kor centre is believed to have been closed. But the report says at least eight sex workers have been sent to Prey Speu since May.

A woman identified by HRW as Srey Thea, 22, said she was held there in June. She described overcrowded, unclean rooms, and said she was allowed to leave only to go to the toilet or bathe in dirty pond water.

Angkor Air set for big take-off


via khmer NZ

Tuesday, 20 July 2010 15:03 Nguon Sovan

THE Kingdom’s national airline, Cambodia Angkor Air is set to buy two new planes in order to expand its flight network to South Korea, China and Japan.

The carrier, set up last July in a joint venture between the Cambodian government and Vietnam Airlines, plans to purchase two 168-seat Airbus 321s – which according to a price list compiled by the French maker cost about US$95.5 million each.

Soy Sokhan, undersecretary of state at the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation, the organisation in charge of the Cambodian side of CAA, said yesterday that the purchases were planned for “late 2010 or early 2011”.

“The first destinations to fly to are South Korea, China and Japan, as soon as the new aircraft come,” he said.

The new aircraft will expand CAA’s fleet from three aircraft to five.

The company, set up with an initial investment of US$100 million under a 30-year agreement, now operates two ATR-72 aircraft and an Airbus 321 in 16 daily flights serving Siem Reap, Phnom Penh and Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City.

Soy Sokhan said the planes would be brought to Cambodia from Europe. He declined to reveal financing details, saying this was confidential.

Officials and analysts alike said the move could provide a boost to Cambodia’s economy and tourism sector.

Minister of Tourism Thong Khon said: “We are really eager to see our national carrier fly to those countries.” He added that there were no direct flights operating between the Kingdom and Japan, and that South Korea and China are the leading countries in terms of both visitor arrivals and investment in the Kingdom.

“It’s very good if the direct flight with Japan comes online,” Thong Khon said.

However, both the minister and the private sector had words of advice for CAA as it expands. Thong Khon said the company should consider launching regular flights to Sihanoukville as soon as possible in a bid to attract tourists to Cambodia’s coast.

President of World Express Tours and Travel Ho Vandy, who is also co-chairman of the government-private sector forum on tourism, emphasised that CAA must be competitive.

“On behalf of the tourism private sector, we’d like to suggest that the CAA should set competitive prices to encourage more passengers to use it,” he said. “We also see that service and hospitality on board is still limited. There should be an improvement, and flight attendants’ uniforms should reflect Khmer national identification.”

But CAA remains confident of its market appeal, despite modest initial profits.

Soy Sokhan said: “CAA’s popularity is increasing day by day. For high season, which starts in October, we expect that more tourists will fly with CAA.”

He said CAA had turned a profit since it began operations last year, but that it remained “little”.

Government: Jail crowding a tough issue


via Khmer NZ

Tuesday, 20 July 2010 15:03 James O’Toole and May Titthara

THE Interior Ministry’s General Department of Prisons said in a report this week that “significant progress” has been made in the Kingdom’s prison reform effort, though it acknowledged the daunting challenged posed by overcrowding.

The ministry’s report comes as rights group Licadho this week published its own document detailing the problem of overcrowding in the Kingdom’s jails and warning that Cambodia could have the most overcrowded prison system in the world within a decade if inmate population growth continues near current levels.

Released at a conference with government officials and development organisations on Sunday and Monday, the report from the prisons department cites improvements in areas including healthcare, rehabilitation and infrastructure. Such gains are threatened, however, by “severe overcrowding” nationwide, the report adds.

“Overcrowding has impacted upon the capacity to maintain the physical facilities, provide adequate healthcare and other services such as water supply, the sewage system, staff roster and routine,” the report states.

The prison department pegs Cambodia’s inmate population as of June at 13,944, a 4 percent increase from December and well beyond the system’s official capacity of 8,000. Prisoners held prior to sentencing formed almost a third of this group.

Heng Hak, director of the prisons department, said Monday that his ministry had seen “a lot of improvements” since it began working on prison reform in 2008, placing special emphasis on the introduction of rehabilitation and vocational training programmes.

“These reforms can reduce crime, and they give prisoners the chance to go outside of their cells rather than staying in their cells all day like in the past,” Heng Hak said. A total of 5,544 prisoners participated in farming and construction projects in 2009, the prison department says, while 5,490 prisoners participated in education and vocational training programmes.

Christophe Peschoux, country representative for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, praised the prison department for being “very open to reform, very open to new ideas”, but emphasised the need for broad policy changes to address overcrowding.

Echoing recommendations from Licadho’s report on overcrowding, Peschoux said justice officials needed to consider “alternative modes of imprisonment”, such as community service and work-release programmes, and rely less on pretrial detention, particularly for petty offences.

The prison department report said 428 prisoners in 2009 had been identified as serving “excessive” pretrial detention. Heng Hak said his department was aware of the issue, but that it had proved difficult to address because of a lack of lawyers and judicial resources.

Jeff Vize, a consultant for Licadho, agreed with Heng Hak’s assessment, saying that responsibility for overcrowding went well beyond the prison department.

“It’s not really in their hands, who goes to jail,” Vize said, and emphasised the need for an “entire criminal justice system solution”.

Court re-hears case of Thai in Daun Penh guesthouse killing


Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Sarisi Boon Sry, 37, is led from Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday following a hearing probing allegations that he killed his girlfriend in a guesthouse last year.

via Khmer NZ

Tuesday, 20 July 2010 15:03 Chrann Chamroeun

PHNOM Penh Municipal Court yesterday reheard a case against a Thai man accused of killing his Cambodian girlfriend last year, following a February hearing in which judges ordered further examinations of the victim’s body.

Sarisi Boon Sry, 37, was arrested October 12 from a construction site after being accused of strangling a Cambodian woman, Voeun Srey Mao, 22, a day earlier at the Ly Hour Guesthouse in Daun Penh district.

A police report notes that the victim’s father, Ho Voeu, requested that the accused be prosecuted, and that he had asked for US$25,000 in compensation for the victim’s daughter.

Sarisi yesterday denied killing his girlfriend, but acknowledged that he had sex with her on October 10.

“I walked her to rent a room at the guesthouse around 8pm on October 10, and I had sex with her just once until I left the guesthouse at 6am,” he told the court.

According to a medical report issued to the court by referral doctor Iv Kiri in April and read to the court yesterday, the victim was killed between the hours of 2am and 3am on October 11.

Deputy prosecutor Koeur Bunnara said this report was enough to prove Sarisi’s guilt.

“It has proved that you killed the woman between the time of 2am and 3am,” he said. “You and the victim were together, and it has been proved by Phnom Penh Municipal Court’s referral examination that the victim was killed before you left the guesthouse.”

But defence lawyer Touch Chhay said the evidence produced against his client was insufficient.

“The doctor’s examination of the body was unclear, as there were no markings on the victim’s hands that would suggest the victim struggled, and the examination was unclear,” he said.

Koeur Bunnara said the accused faced a sentence of 10 to 15 years in prison under the Law on Aggravating Circumstances for Felonies.

Judge Ker Sakhorn said a verdict would be read out on August 5.

Sok An set for UNESCO panel


via Khmer NZ

Tuesday, 20 July 2010 15:03 Cheang Sokha

DEPUTY Prime Minister Sok An is scheduled to lead a delegation to Brazil tomorrow for the annual meeting of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, officials said yesterday, one day after Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva reiterated his country’s intention to block Cambodia’s conservation management plan for Preah Vihear temple.

Tith Sothea, spokesman for the Council of Ministers’ Press and Quick Reaction Unit, said yesterday that the government is obligated to preserve the temple, which was accepted as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2008.

“We will tell the committee what we have achieved, and also our plans to preserve and develop the temple and its surrounding areas,” Tith Sothea said.

The meeting is scheduled to run from July 25 to August 3.

The approval of Cambodia’s bid to have Preah Vihear temple registered with UNESCO triggered protests in Thailand and a sustained military buildup along the border by both countries.

In his weekly address on Sunday, Abhisit said Thai officials would oppose the conservation plan. “Thai people should not worry that the country would lose some of its territory to Phnom Penh,” he was quoted by media reports as saying.

PM moves to quell rumours on health


via Khmer NZ

Tuesday, 20 July 2010 15:02 Meas Sokchea

PRIME Minister Hun Sen yesterday warned opposition politicians not to speculate about the state of his health, and declared he is fit enough to remain in office until 2028.

Speaking at a graduation ceremony in Svay Rieng province, Hun Sen lambasted “ignorant” Sam Rainsy Party officials, accusing them of concocting baseless explanations for his failure to appear at several recent public events.

He said that despite a bout of A(H1N1) influenza last month, as well as reports of complaints relating to the eye he lost in combat in 1975, he had only missed four public appearances due to health matters.

“Have you noted that the prime minister has done his daily work?” he said. “There have been no documents on my desk for more than 12 hours. Please, opposition leaders, do not be so ignorant. If they are being ignorant like this, how would they get power?”
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Who is so insolent, with a hard iron patch on his head, to dare to arrest Hun Sen?
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In his speech yesterday, Hun Sen also alleged that at an SRP meeting at 1pm on July 6, party officials spent “20 minutes and 58 seconds” discussing his health.

“When all of you were talking, I was listening to you,” he said. “I would like to inform clearly. I would like to warn you not to discuss about this.”

During the meeting, the premier said, one unnamed “lok chumteav” questioned whether Hun Sen lost his eye to a bird rather than a bullet, and another explained his absence at public events by saying he had been arrested or detained by a foreign government.

The prime minister added that his supposed detention would amount to a coup attempt, and accused the SRP of not taking action to alert the government in line with the Constitution.

“If I was arrested or detained, it means that Cambodia is having a coup,” he said, and added: “Who is so insolent, with a hard iron patch on his head, to dare to arrest Hun Sen? I want to ask – only I arrest them, but them arresting me? No way.”

Observers have speculated about the premier’s health since he was diagnosed with A(H1N1) – also known as swine flu – last month.

Hun Sen, however, said he was still fit, and that he planned to lead the government well into the next decade.

“I will not die easily,” he added. “When [the SRP’s] leader dies, I will still be alive. I have decided to serve until 2023 or 2028.... I will not stop; the party also does not allow me to stop.”

Hun Sen also predicted that a crisis within the SRP would “explode in March 2011”.

SRP spokesman Yim Sovann dismissed Hun Sen’s warnings yesterday, and denied that the party had discussed his health.

“This is his right. What he wants to say it is up to him,” he said. “But we are not interested in his health; it is his internal issue because the opposition party does not want to talk about any individual’s internal issue.”

He added: “Who is sick, who is better – it is his business, and we wish that he gets better fast.”

Hang Chhaya, executive director of the Khmer Institute for Democracy, said politicians should not allude to arrests in public speeches, saying this could intimidate and frighten the people.

“It is better that we understand each other ... and leaders should not use the words of arrest. It makes people fearful,” he said.

Investigation begins into a second labour agency


Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Leng Sokleap, who tried to flee a recruitment firm on Sunday, is comforted by her mother at Preah Kossamak Hospital.

via Khmer NZ

Tuesday, 20 July 2010 15:02 Mom Kunthear

OFFICIALS have launched an investigation into a labour firm after one of its clients leaped from the second floor of a training centre in Sen Sok district and said she had been held there against her will.

The incident made VC Manpower Co the second firm registered with the Ministry of Labour to face scrutiny in a week.

Leng Sokleap said yesterday that she had tried to escape from the training centre on Sunday because staff members had refused to allow her to visit her family.

“The company owner does not allow anyone in the company to leave because he is afraid the workers won’t come back,” she said.

The 24-year-old suffered injuries to her back and was recovering at Preah Kossamak Hospital yesterday.

She said she had been staying at the training centre for three months in order to complete a preparation programme for maids looking to work in Malaysia. The company coralled the workers into cramped 7-by-10-metre rooms, she said.

“They always locked us in the room as prisoners,” she said.

Keo Thea, director of the municipal Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Bureau, said yesterday that police were in the early stages of investigating the company.

Oum Mean, secretary of state at the Labour Ministry, said the company was registered with the ministry, and that officials planned to invite company representatives for a meeting to explain the situation.

“It is wrong if a company detains a lot of workers to stay in a small room, but we cannot say that company is illegal. It has made a mistake by not preparing a suitable place for workers,” Oum Mean said.

Company representatives weren’t available for comment.

On July 12, the Champa Manpower Group was accused of forcing more than 200 prospective migrant workers to live in squalid conditions while they underwent training.

After visiting the firm’s three Russey Keo district villas two days later, officials said it would be permitted to expand in order to better accommodate clients.

The company acknowledged that a few women had been prohibited from leaving because they had threatened to break their contracts. Keo Thea said they would be allowed to go after they reimbursed the company for various expenses.

Sex-worker scandal widens


Photo by: Sovan Philong
Prostitutes wait for customers near Wat Phnom in March of last year.

via Khmer NZ

Tuesday, 20 July 2010 15:02 Daniel Pordes and Chhay Channyda

NEW allegations from Human Rights Watch of abuses at controversial detention centres echo similar claims made by rights groups two years ago, sparking debate about whether authorities have done enough in recent years to address the issue.

In 2008, rights groups said abuse was rampant at the same two rehabilitation centres criticised in a report set to be released today.

At the Koh Kor centre, Licadho monitors documented conditions akin to those at a “prison” camp during visits in June 2008. They also reported witnessing at least two deaths.

Similar conditions were reported at Prey Speu, where detainees were illegally confined and subjected to a range of abuses by staffers, including extortion, beatings and rape, Licadho said.

Representatives of the United Nations human rights agency visited both centres and called the conditions “appalling”.

Since then, authorities have reportedly shut down the Koh Kor facility and reduced the number of people held at Prey Speu.

‘A long-term problem’
Christophe Peschoux, country representative for the UN human rights agency, said that while working in conjunction with the Ministry of Social Affairs for the last two years he had seen some improvements.

“Following our repeated intervention, we have ensured people are only voluntarily at these centres, and that staff from the Ministry of Social Affairs are no longer participating in street sweeps,” he said.

But Peschoux said authorities have refused to investigate past abuse allegations.

“The ministry is ignoring and rejecting our recommendations into investigating the allegations of abuse,” he said.

“This is a long-term problem that will not go away by ignoring it.”

Within the next 10 days, a proposal written by various NGOs and UN agencies will be given to the Ministry of Social Affairs as part of an effort to promote discussion of the problem, Peschoux said.

In the meantime, however, law enforcement bodies appear to be continuing with street sweeps in an attempt to displace sex workers and beautify tourist sites.

Sok Penhvuth, deputy governor of Daun Penh district, said more than 100 people in the last month had been sent to Social Affairs centres. Half of them, he said, were sex workers collected from sites including Wat Phnom.

“Their jobs affect society and sacred sites, and we do not want them to work as sex workers, so we send them to the vocational centres,” he said, and pledged to continue the crackdowns.

But Chan Dina, head of the Cambodian Prostitutes’ Union, which represents about 300 sex workers, said the Social Affairs centres do far more harm than good.

“Not only do we not receive vocational training like the authorities say, but the detention centres affect those sex workers who suffer from HIV/AIDS and are prevented from receiving their medicine,” she said.

The HRW report also takes aim at the Law on the Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation, which the government approved in 2008.

Advocates for sex workers say the law has given authorities an excuse to crack down.

“The law means that sex workers have no choice in the way they live,” Chan Dina said. “She is doing her job for financial reasons, and she is often shouldering the burden of her entire family.”

The HRW report recommends that parts of the law be repealed, saying it effectively criminalises sex work and causes “police harassment, violence and extortion of bribes from sex workers, trafficked persons and children in sex work”.

Displaced Vendors: Evictions at market spur criticism


via Khmer NZ

Tuesday, 20 July 2010 15:02 Tep Nimol

Displaced Vendors

Ratanakkiri provincial officials yesterday deployed police to demolish stalls outside a newly renovated market, in a move that drew criticism from affected vendors and rights groups.

Em Vun, the police chief in Banlung town, said yesterday’s eviction deadline had been announced last month, and that the operation had unfolded without violence. “We just take apart the stalls and umbrellas to inform them that we will not allow them to do business along the sidewalk anymore,” he said.

The Heng Dara Company renovated the market and reopened it on May 7. Vendor representative Heng Vin said none of the vendors previously operating just outside the market had been offered new stalls. Sa Leang, a representative of the company, said the area would likely be paved.

Chhay Thy, a provincial investigator for the rights group Adhoc, said the affected vendors had been stationed outside the market for “many years”, and that officials should not have dismantled the stalls without marking off a relocation site. “The authorities did dismantle the stalls in an orderly manner, but there is no solution for the vendors,” he said.

Kingdom awaits Thai wasps


Photo by: Photo Supplied
Apoanagyrus iopezi wasps have been approved for importation to combat mealybugs threatening cassava crops
.

via Khmer NZ

Tuesday, 20 July 2010 15:02 Christy Choi and Thet Sambath

AS HUNDREDS of thousands of parasitic wasps – Apoanagyrus lopezi – spread throughout the Thai countryside, officials said yesterday that they were unsure when Cambodia would receive its own shipment, which would be used to combat a mealybug infestation that is threatening cassava crops.

The government approved the use of the wasp last month after receiving a request in April from an NGO that works with cassava farmers in the northwest. Hean Vanhan, the deputy director of the Agriculture Department at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said on June 28 that the wasps were expected to arrive early this month.

Yesterday, however, he said he was not sure when the wasps would arrive, and that funding for them had not been allocated by his ministry. He added that the Ministry of Economy and Finance would need to sign off on the transaction after that. He could not say when these steps might be taken.

He said there had been no response to a funding proposal submitted to the Ministry of Economy and Finance.

“We made a proposal of funds, but we don’t have the funds yet,” he said. Finance officials could not be reached yesterday.

A total of 250,000 wasps were released into the northeastern Thai province of Khon Kaen over the weekend, according to the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture. The presence of mealybugs in Thailand is one factor expected to reduce cassava yields for 2009-10 to 23 million tonnes, down from an earlier projection of 29 million tonnes.

The Bangkok Post reported in February that private-sector analysts had predicted that the yield could drop to as low as 20 million tonnes, a decline that could translate into the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars.

“Sending in the wasps is a proven way to kill the cassava mealybugs quickly and effectively,” said Tony Bellotti, an ICTA entomologist. “Think of them as a kind of eco-friendly SWAT team.”

The wasp is said to have already shown itself to be a formidable natural enemy of the cassava mealybug in South America and sub-Saharan Africa, helping protect the industry by killing its unsuspecting host from the inside out. The wasps inject their eggs into the mealybugs, and when the eggs hatch, the larvae kill the host. Adult female wasps also feed on the mealybugs.

Hean Vanhan said implementation of the wasp scheme would likely require help from Thailand. “We need technical support from Thailand,” he said. “Biological control is not a procedure that we’ve tried before. We need to know the method to breed.”

John Macgregor, communications director for the NGO Cambodian War Amputees Rehabilitation Society, which sought government approval to import the wasps, said yesterday that Thailand had agreed to supply the wasps, but that recent attempts to contact officials there had been unsuccessful.

“We are awaiting the Thais’ response to our request to visit and pick up some wasps for here,” he said. “But I gather they have been busy with their own release, so no response yet.” Dr Amporn Winotai, the Thai entomologist said to be supplying the wasps, could not be reached for comment.

Heng Bunhor, director of the Banteay Meanchey provincial Agriculture Department, estimated that 8,000 of 35,000 hectares of cassava in the province had been destroyed by mealybugs.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AFP

Royalist poll merger begins at provincial level


via Khmer NZ

Tuesday, 20 July 2010 15:02 Kim Yuthana

THE Kingdom’s two royalist parties have moved to integrate their sub-national organisations in Prey Veng province, the first step in a plan to merge fully prior to elections scheduled for 2012 and 2013, party officials said.

The Nationalist Party and Funcinpec, which split in acrimony in 2006, agreed last month to reunite under the banner of the Funcinpec-Nationalist Alliance in order to bolster their returns in future polls.

Nhek Bun Chhay, secretary general of the alliance, said that at a meeting in Prey Veng on Sunday, the party marked the formation of a merged provincial election working group and provincial committee, which will field a single set of candidates in the 2012 commune council elections.

“The alliance’s organisation of its basic structure also aims to re-enlist supporters and votes after being separated for a period of time,” he said yesterday.

He added that the alliance would soon merge its operations in other provinces across the country, though he did not say which province would be targeted next.

Pen Sangha, spokesman for the Nationalist Party, predicted that the move would pave the way for success at the 2012 commune council elections, which will be followed by national elections in 2013.

“From now on, the management and members of the alliance at the basic level will have enough time to get ready to work together in order to reach our common goals in the upcoming elections,” he said.

The fortunes of the royalists have declined sharply since Funcinpec won the 1993 election under the leadership of Prince Norodom Ranariddh, and the party has lost seats in every election since.

In 2006, Norodom Ranariddh was expelled from the party after being convicted of embezzling party funds, and he formed his own party.

In the 2008 national elections, Funcinpec and the new Norodom Ranariddh Party – later rebranded the Nationalist Party – won just five National Assembly seats between them.

Koul Panha, executive director of local election monitor Comfrel, said the alliance would likely lead to better election results.