Friday, 6 August 2010

Police Blotter: 6 Aug 2010


via Khmer NZ

Friday, 06 August 2010 15:00 Sun Mesa

FRONT-ON CAR CRASH CLAIMS THREE LIVES
Three people died and five others were slightly or severely injured on Monday night in Battambang province’s Ratanak Mondul district after a head-on collision on National Road 57. According to eyewitnesses present at the scene, a drunk driver in a Toyota Tacoma crashed into a Toyota Camry. One of the victims died in hospital, and the other two died at the site of the accident. There is slight hope for four who were severely injured in the crash. Sarn Nimol, Rantanak Mondul deputy police chief, said the three dead men included a 48-year-old Khmer-American.
KOH SANTEPHEAP

PLANNED MUGGING GOES AWRY IN TUOL KORK
Two men were arrested after trying to rob a motorbike-taxi driver in front of a high school in the capital’s Tuol Kork district late Tuesday night. The suspects, who apparently live in Tuol Kork, hailed the moto-taxi driver from a restaurant near the national television antenna and drove with him to the site of the incident, where they pulled a knife on him. In the ensuing struggle with police who arrived at the scene, the suspects hit the victim under the right shoulder.
KOH SANTEPHEAP

SOUP LOVERS DIE WHEN MOTO SLIDES ON WET ROAD
Two adults died when their motorbike slid off the road in the rain on Sunday evening in Kampong Chhnang province’s Sammaki district. The two victims were friends. Before the accident, they drove a motorbike from Oudong district, where they had dined on soup together. While they were driving there was heavy rain, causing the motorbike to slide off the road. Police said the victims died immediately when their skulls cracked.
KAMPUCHEA THMEY

STREET SWEEPER TRIES TO POISON RUBBISH BOSS
Phnom Penh police have arrested a man who allegedly intended to poison Out Nov, the head of the Chba Ampov Market rubbish collectors. The suspect was a rubbish sweeper at Chba Ampov Market. He admitted to police that he obtained the poison after Out Nov dismissed him from his job.
KOH SANTEPHEAP

WOMAN SEEKS $952 SEXUAL HARRASSMENT
A 46-year-old farmer has been accused of sexually harassing a woman, 36, while she was sleeping in his cottage in Kampong Cham province on the night of July 31. The suspect, Chamkar Leu district resident Lim Sophal, has not confessed to the crime. The victim has filed a complaint against him requesting 4 million riels (US$952) in compensation. Police said the sexual harassment case had been sent to the provincial court.
KOH SANTEPHEAP

Officials to assess prison ‘land grab’


via Khmer NZ

Friday, 06 August 2010 15:02 May Titthara

PURSAT provincial officials yesterday began measuring property that allegedly belongs to 27 families from two villages in Phnom Kravanh district who say that a new correctional facility has eaten into their farmland.

Last month, villagers said that a new agricultural prison, Correctional Centre 4, had encroached on 78.5 hectares of their farmland.

Hin Sophal, the director of CC4, said yesterday that a sub-committee including the district governor had been tasked with measuring the land to determine how much villagers had lost, but that they did not yet know the results.

He said 190 hectares of land had already been provided as compensation to 60 families affected by the project.

“I really don’t understand why there are still 27 more families [affected],” he said. He said that the sub-committee was scheduled to finish its work by today.

CC4, which opened last year but is in the process of expanding, operates vocational agricultural training and rehabilitation programmes for inmates.

Toch Sambo, Phnom Kravanh district governor, said the villagers accused the prison of annexing their land, but that they had cleared the land and occupied it illegally.

Nonetheless, he said, the subcommittee visited the area to determine whether the families had the right to claim compensation. “The 27 families are newcomers, but we tried to find a resolution for them,” he said. “We have to find out if they have documents to show us or not.”

Nov Pheoun, a representative of the 27 families, said he had planted crops in the affected area since 1998, and that authorities had recognised him as a legal occupant of the land.

“I don’t understand why they accused me of being a newcomer. I have to ask the sub-committee to allow me to plant rice. I need to plant rice to support my family’s life,” he said.

Soeung Senkaruna, provincial monitor for the rights group Licadho, also said some of the villagers had been living on the site there since 1998, and that authorities needed to compensate them.

‘Trafficked’ woman returns home


via Khmer NZ

Friday, 06 August 2010 15:01 Tep Nimol

AN 18-year-old ethnic Tampuon woman from Ratanakkiri province returned home last week after neighbours allegedly took her to the capital for job training without her family’s permission.

However, the woman, Leith Dauth, said yesterday that she had volunteered to go to Phnom Penh, and only decided to return to Ratanakkiri after learning that her parents disapproved of her plan to go work in Malaysia.

In Phnom Penh, she said she “stayed in a house where I learned how to cook and speak English.... No one there used violence against me or tried to rape me.

Mour Plai, the woman’s mother, filed a complaint to Ratanakkiri provincial court on July 16, accusing Ta Keng, 50, and his daughter, Keng Bun, 18, of trafficking Leith Dauth to Phnom Penh in order to enroll her in a labour-training programme in Russey Keo district run by Champa Manpower Group.

Last month, the employment firm was the target of a raid in which officials discovered 232 women and girls living in squalid conditions.

Mour Plai, the woman’s mother, confirmed that her daughter had returned home, but said she would need to “discuss the situation” with the young woman before deciding whether to drop the legal complaint.

Sam Rainsy’s lawyer threatens to boycott Appeal Court hearing


via Khmer NZ

Friday, 06 August 2010 15:01 Meas Sokchea

A LAWYER for opposition leader Sam Rainsy said yesterday that he would boycott an appeal hearing scheduled for next week if two villagers involved in the case are not able to attend.

Sam Rainsy and the villagers, from Svay Rieng province’s Chantrea district, are due to appear in the Appeal Court on Monday, where they will seek to overturn convictions handed down by Svay Rieng provincial court in January.

The Sam Rainsy Party president, who is in self-imposed exile overseas, was sentenced to two years in jail after an incident in October last year in which he helped villagers uproot wooden demarcation poles near the Vietnamese border.

Two of the villagers, Prum Chea, 41, and Meas Srey, 39, were sentenced to a year in jail each for their role in the incident.

Choung Choungy, Sam Rainsy’s lawyer, said that the two villagers were important witnesses in Sam Rainsy’s appeal and should also be allowed to attend their own appeals.

“I must go to defend Excellency Sam Rainsy, and the two jailed villagers have to be taken to attend the hearing as well. But if they are not brought to attend the hearing, I also will not attend,” he said.

“The two villagers are landowners who are very important witnesses, so if they do not attend, the hearing would not be fair.”

The appeal hearing was postponed from June 6, when Choung Choungy and Sam Sokong, a lawyer for Meas Srey and Prum Chea, left in protest because the two villagers were not present.

After the walkout, Judge Kun Leang Meng said the court would order the prison chief in Svay Rieng to send the two jailed villagers to be held in Phnom Penh for the next hearing.

Appeal Court prosecutor Nget Sarath said yesterday that he had written to Heng Hak, director of the General Department of Prisons, but said that the villagers’ arrival from Svay Rieng was up to the prison manager there. He said that the Appeal Court hearing would continue regardless of whether Choung Choungy was present.

Heng Hak declined to comment on when the two jailed villagers would be taken to Phnom Penh, but said that they would be present for Monday’s hearing.

“I can’t say when the two prisoners will be sent to Phnom Penh, but I guarantee that on the hearing day they will be present,” he said.

Oil deal with Iran expected


Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addresses expatriate Iranians in a televised speech earlier this week. AFP

via Khmer NZ

Friday, 06 August 2010 15:01 Sam Rith

IRAN and Cambodia are set to sign a memorandum of understanding on “petroleum cooperation” next week, in a visit that will see the Kingdom’s Foreign Minister meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Foreign Minister Hor Namhong and Vice Chairman of the Cambodian National Petroleum Authority Ho Vichit will form part of a delegation invited to the Islamic state, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced yesterday.

A statement said the visit, to take place next Tuesday and Wednesday, was aimed at expanding relations between the two countries.

It added that the two sides were expected to sign a memorandum of understanding on “petroleum cooperation” and Hor Namhong would extend a “courtesy call” to Iran’s president.

Bilateral talks between Cambodia’s foreign minister and Iran’s foreign, commerce and petroleum ministers would also be held.

Koy Kuong, spokesman for the foreign minister, said yesterday that the visit would mark the first official delegation to the Islamic Republic since diplomatic relations were established in 1992.

“Iran is one of the biggest-producing petroleum countries of the world.

“An MoU would offer benefits to Cambodia. Our country has just started in the petroleum sector,” he said.

“We can learn skills, knowledge and experience of the petroleum sector from each other,” he said.

He said that Iran could provide technical assistance, training courses and other experience to the Kingdom.

Cambodia has attempted to build on its relationship with the Islamic state in recent months.

In May, two of Cambodia’s lawmakers – Try Chheang Huot and Chhith Kim Yath – attended an Asian Parliamentary Assembly in the Iranian capital of Tehran.

Afterwards, officials said, they tried to spread information about investment opportunities in Cambodia.

Hwang-DBS rejects licence for stock exchange as 'limited'


Photo by: SOVAN PHILONG
The Hwang-DBS bank branch on Norodom Boulevard, Phnom Penh, yesterday.

via Khmer NZ

Friday, 06 August 2010 15:01 Nguon Sovan

MALAYSIAN-listed bank Hwang-DBS Commercial Bank Plc has rejected a licence to become an investment advisory firm on the Cambodian stock exchange due to the “limited activities” such a role would permit.

The Securities and Exchange Commission of Cambodia granted in-principle approval for the bank’s subsidiary Hwang-DBS Securities (Cambodia) Plc to act as an investment advisory firm.

However, the bank rejected the offer this week, according to a statement released to the Malaysian stock exchange, as the role was more limited than the underwriting role it applied for.

“The application submitted by Hwang-DBS Securities (Cambodia) Plc to SECC was for a securities firm licence to undertake stock-broking, corporate finance, underwriting and investment advisory activities,” the company said.

“The Board ... has decided not to accept the approval-in-principle licence due to the limited activities permitted,” it stated.

An advisory licence would allow the company to advise on investing in securities for a fee and publish investment analysis. In comparison, an underwriting licence would have allowed the firm to manage public offerings and underwrite securities – acquiring the unsold portion of a public offer – as well as serving in the advisory role.

SECC Director General Ming Bankosal said yesterday that the decision was based on law.

“We did a thorough assessment in accordance with the criteria stated in the rules and regulations in effect,” he said.

According to an SECC prakas, or edict, a firm must meet certain human resources and professional experience requirements depending on the licence applied for.

It must also have minimum capital of 40 billion riels (US$9.5million) to operate as an underwriter and a minimum of 400 million riels ($96,000) to operate as an investment advisory firm.

The bank is now considering its next steps.

Han Peng Kwang, senior vice president of Hwang-DBS, wrote in an email yesterday: “For now, we intend to apply to SECC for a licence as a cash settlement agent. We will re-consider applying for an underwriter licence in the future.”

He declined to comment further on the SECC’s decision.

Four banks – ACLEDA, Canadia, OSK Indochina Bank, and Tong Yang Securities – have been granted licences for diverse roles on the exchange, set to launch by July 2011. Hwang-DBS launched in Phnom Penh in July last year.

Vietnamese company to provide fertiliser tech


via Khmer NZ

Friday, 06 August 2010 15:01 Soeun Say

VIETNAM’S Five Star International Group has signed a contract with Chinese firm Jiansu Right Machinery Group to provide technology to its new US$65 million chemical fertiliser factory, according to an embassy official.

The agreement will create “the first modern fertiliser plant in Cambodia”, Vietnam embassy commercial counselor Le Bien Cuong said yesterday.

The Five Star fertiliser plant is a joint venture between Vietnam’s Five Star International Group and a subsidiary of the Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam in Cambodia.

Two fertiliser-processing chains will be installed by Jiansu using Japanese technology, according to the contract. The agreement was signed at Phnom Penh’s InterContinental Hotel.

Construction of the fertiliser plant began in December last year in Samrong Thom commune, Kien Svey district in Kandal province, with work slated to wrap up next year, he said.

“The plant will start operation in 2011,” Le Bien Cuong said.

The $65 million project aims for an eventual output of 500,000 tonnes of fertiliser each year, he said, in some 40 different varieties.

Once completed, the fertiliser factory will provide an estimated 500 jobs in the Kingdom, as well as providing a domestic source for the product, according to Le Bien Cuong.

Some 20 companies now import chemical fertiliser into Cambodia, according to statistics of the Ministry of Agriculture.

Its statistics show Cambodia imported more than 170,000 tonnes of fertiliser last year.

Belgian loans: Two MFIs get $8m in funding


via Khmer NZ

Friday, 06 August 2010 15:00 Jimmy Ellingham

TWO Cambodian micro-finance institutions have received loans worth US$8 million from Belgian Investment Company for Developing Countries.

The MFIs, Prasac and Sathapana, were loaned $4 million each by BIO to hand on to clients, according to a press release.

Sathapana chairman Bun Mony expected all of the money to have been dispersed by the end of September.

Sathapana, which grew into an MFI in 2001 out of a nongovernmental organisation providing financial advice and health education to poor communities, had almost 40,000 clients and loans on its book, ranging from $50 to as much as $15,000, with an average loan size of $1,100, he said.

Prasac had not yet begun lending its $4 million, general manager Sim Senacheert said.

BIO’s money was still in the bank, as the lender had received $11 million of other overseas funds to allocate first.

Sim Senacheert said BIO set the conditions on which its money could be loaned out, but that they were “very lax”. “It’s not really heavy or strict,” he said.

Prasac had 96,000 clients and an average loan size of $1,100, he said.

Experts see positive signs for garments


via Khmer NZ

Friday, 06 August 2010 15:00 May Kunmakara

IMPROVEMENTS to labour productivity in the garment industry are making Cambodia competitive among developing countries, according to leading economists.

“Our productivity is improving more than other countries.So we have more competitive offers – even though our labour costs are also slightly higher,” Neou Seiha, senior researcher at the Economic Institute of Cambodia, said at a seminar yesterday.

The session was jointly organised by the EIC and the research body Institute of Developing Economies-Japan External Trade Organisation .

Tatsufumi Yamagata, director of IDE-JETRO, compared Cambodia to Bangladesh.

“Bangladesh has not succeeded in improving productivity as much as Cambodia – that is one point we have emphasised,” he said at the sidelines of the seminar at Phnom Penh’s Cambodiana Hotel.

He said the Cambodian garment sector was hit hard by the global financial crisis .

Demand dropped, he said, but noted that recovery was faster than in other countries, saying Bangladesh had been similarly affected but that its resurgence had been slower.

He partly attributed the quick recovery to Cambodia’s smaller size, saying that Cambodia only had a few more than 300 factories, compared with Bangladesh’s 4,000 or more plants.

“I am very optimistic that Cambodia will return to the level of garment exports it had in the last few years,” he said.

The Kingdom’s garment exports declined about 16 percent year on year from 2008 to 2009, but rose over 10 percent to $1.33 billion for the first half of 2010, from $1.21 billion for 2009, according to figures released by the Ministry of Commerce.

About 60 economists, representatives from garment manufacturing associations, NGOs and government institutions participated in the seminar yesterday.

Kaing Monika, business development manager for the Garment Manufactures Association of Cambodia, declined to comment when approached by the Post.

Our Charity Cup raises funds for homeless trip


Photo by: Sreng Meng Srun
Coach Jimmy Campbell (centre) instructs Homeless World Cup team members during a weekend training session at Boeng Keng Kang school.

via Khmer NZ

Friday, 06 August 2010 15:00 H S Manjunath

Ten teams are set to take part in the Phnom Penh Post Charity Cup mini soccer tournament at the Kidzcool Children & Family Fun Village Astroturf pitch Saturday to help raise money for the Cambodian team’s participation in the 2010 Homeless World Cup in Rio de Janeiro next month.

This fundraiser is being organised by Jimmy Campbell, head coach of the Happy Football Cambodia Australia, a registered charity organisation that is arranging the trip to Brazil.

“Organisation of the event is going smoothly,” said former Scottish professional footballer Campbell. “Kidzcool is fielding a team besides allowing us the use of their facilities for free. By taking the naming rights, the Phnom Penh Post has provided us a strong base to build and Paddy Rice is handling the catering.”

The registered teams will be split into two groups as follows: The Phnom Penh Post, Kidzcool, Asialife, Bayon and Me Mates in Group A; Dan’s Demons, Paddy Rice, SCA, Alex Allstars and Jim Oldstars in Group B.

After completing round-robin group rounds, teams will then face opponents from the opposite group according to their league placing, with the top teams vying for the coveted PPP Charity Cup.

“The key message is fair play, and we have mixed men’s and women’s teams,” said Campbell. “There will be lot of fun, but at the same time its serious business of helping a charitable cause.”

Each team have been asked to pay US$200 for admission to the tournament, which Campbell said will contribute towards the airfares of the team, while the total expense of the trip is expected to be around $25,000. “The organisers of the Homeless World Cup are taking care of a large sum of these expenses, but still we may need $8,000 after this event to get us there,” he said.

“We are looking for a sponsor who could benefit from worldwide coverage of the Homeless World Cup, in which 60 nations are taking part. It is also an attempt on our part to raise awareness of the plight of these young people, some of whom have been rescued from very unhealthy situations.”

Another fundraiser has been planned at Meta House on August 13, featuring a screening of a short documentary on the Homeless World Cup. The dance floor will then open up for a late-night after-party.

Matches at the Kidzcool Astroturf pitch on Chhroy Changvar peninsular start from 9am Saturday, building up to finals at 3pm, with drinks and food available throughout.

US girls finish tour de force


Snohomish United player Sarah Mueller vies with a Siem Reap defender during their match. Dale Goett

via Khmer NZ

Friday, 06 August 2010 15:00 Dan Riley

Visiting United States girls football team Snohomish United wrapped up their Cambodian tour Monday, which saw them complete eleven fixtures against provincial teams without the loss of a single goal. In fact, the American keeper was rarely called into action by the home teams’ attackers, as the visitors exerted their physical dominance and superior experience to record a perfect set of shutouts.

After kicking off their campaign the previous week with back-to-back 4-0 victories in Battambang against the local side and the team from Pursat, the girls headed to Kampong Chhnang. Despite needing to recruit six players from Battambang’s SALT Academy to replace those succumbing to sickness, the US side comfortably ran over the Cambodians for yet another 4-0 rout.

That evening, they made the short trip down to Phnom Penh to play a 4-team tournament the following day at the National Training Centre organised by the Football Federation of Cambodia.

In their first match, the Prey Veng side offered little challenge as Snohomish blitzed them 5-0. However, the second fixture saw Phnom Penh push them close, with the Washington state girls squandering numerous chances to emerge 1-0 victors.

A spirited performance by Kampong Speu then yielded a 2-0 win for the US team in their final game.

Back on the road once again Saturday, the team made their way up to Kampong Thom, where they notched another 2-0 triumph on a difficult pitch and without their best striker and defender. In Siem Reap the next day, they recorded a 2-0 victory over the host side, but were held to their first 0-0 draw against Preah Vihear, who had won the 2010 School Championships in Svay Rieng in April.

Banteay Meanchey then welcomed the team Monday, with the local side – who were School Champions last year – forcing another stalemate in wet conditions. The US girls finally sealed their epic tour with a 2-0 win over Poipet before looping back to Battambang to finish working with the girls there.

Snohomish United coaches and players were highly appreciative of the opportunity to participate in the various tournaments, giving praise to tour coordinator Sam Schweingruber and the FFC.

“To see the communal pride among each team was amazing,” said staff member Teresa Wirkkala. “It says a lot about how much the girls care about and enjoy the game of football.”

Team coach Sy Reeves was similarly impressed by the development of women’s football in the Kingdom. “The overall promotion and expansion of women’s football is, without question, on the rise in Cambodia,” she said. “Throughout the duration of our traveling, this was evident in the way the teams competed, the way they trained, and most of all, the way they enjoyed the game. This generation of women’s football will be remembered as ambassadors for not just football, but for girls and women overall.”

Directors of the US team are now interested in partnering with the FFC to organise an annual international tournament to be played in Phnom Penh.

One lost, though another gained


A Karl Grobl photograph from the exhibition Exploring Asia.

via Khmer NZ

Friday, 06 August 2010 15:00 Peter Olszewski

It was going to be a big one for Hotel de la Paix’s Arts Lounge.

The site was set to continue its journey of travelling to the edge of the art continuum with the opening of its new Sasha Constable-curated exhibition, Rebirths, on Sunday evening.

The invites had gone out. Preview photos had been distributed showing an intriguing mix of human hair sculptures, wedding photos and depictions of raging fires consuming entire buildings.

The official press release had also been circulated, describing this as another first in local art showings.

A “tripartite concept exhibition” by Cambodian artist Khvay Samnang, “exploring the many facets of change, renewal, destruction, beginnings and ends” it said.

The press release also promised that the show would be “transformative”, but that was not to be.

At the eleventh hour, 7Days received a phone call from La Paix’s sales and marketing director, Christian de Boer, who was at the airport about to catch a flight to the US, saying the plug had been pulled on the show. The artist was in Japan and the artwork was not ready.

It was a first for Hotel de la Paix. Never before has the venue cancelled an art show. It was unfortunate, too, in that it would have been the second show curated by Sasha Constable since she took over from Don Protasio.

De Boer said the late cancellation meant there would be no new exhibition at the hotel until September 23, when one of La Paix’s most spectacular planned shows is set to be launched.

This show will be called Fragments and it’s hoped that half a million dollars worth of sold paintings will be brought to Siem Reap for display and to publicise the exhibition theme – landmines, one of the hotel’s pet projects.

Meanwhile, a new photography exhibition, Exploring Asia, will launch tonight at the Angkor Hospital for Children Friends Centre at 6pm.

The exhibition features four photographers who each focus on a different Asian country: Karl Grobl’s photographs of Cambodia, Alexia Beckerling’s images of Tibet, Monica Denevan’s depictions of Myanmar and Richard Ehrlich’s shots from Vietnam.

On your bike: Back roads to the fore


A rider scoots around the back roads of Siem Reap.

via Khmer NZ

Friday, 06 August 2010 15:00 Nicky Hosford

How many times have friends, or relatives of a friend of a vaguely remembered work colleague who is mysteriously a Facebook friend, come to stay in Siem Reap and called on you to show them the sights?

You do your best to show them as much as possible: trudge through every temple, eat yucky spiders, get fleeced at a market, devour a delicious amok, and have way too many massages, not that this is actually quantifiable.

Finally they leave, thrilled with their experiences, but all too often they haven’t really seen the back and beyond of Cambodia, the villages and the beautiful countryside.

But now, with the application of a little “Vorsprung durch Technik”, this needn’t happen again thanks to new company, Khmer Ways. The business was started by German Benny Kremer and Swiss Jordan Kunder, who acquired a small fleet of 125cc Honda scooters to take people on guided tours to places they’d otherwise never see.

But the Hondas are not just any old motos. The back wheels have been tricked out with knobbly tires, and there are gorgeous little lunch baskets at the front. These features are very much part of the logic of Khmer Ways.

“We don’t want to sell only a tour,” says Alex, another member of the team. “People want authentic experiences. They want to feel like locals, and the motos are the way the locals move about. So, to integrate, to get to know the country, to go to the places where they go, this is the best way. We try to make customers comfortable, but a little bit adventurous as well.”

Jordan adds, “We never go on the main roads, we only cross them.”

Customers don’t need to know how to ride a moto before going on a Khmer Ways tour. Guests are collected, given a briefing, and then taught how to ride the bike if they don’t already know how.

Various tours are available, from half-day and full-day journeys to a three-day trip to Preah Vihear and a five-day Mekong Discovery Tour.

The routes have been planned based on the experiences of Kremer as he’s been racing along the back roads of Cambodia for years.

Every detail has been attended to as well.

“We spent a fortune on helmets until we got to the ones we liked,” says Kremer. And there’s even sunscreen and a branded scarf in each lunch basket.

The Countryside Adventure tour is a full-day, 75 kilometre trip that takes in Phnom Bok and ventures up to the highest viewpoint in the area. From there, it’s on to a remote, recently restored reservoir for a gourmet picnic by the water. Continuing on, guests then visit Chao Srei Vibol, a lovely forest-covered temple.

And as Alex stresses, “It’s astonishing what lies just a few kilometres outside of Siem Reap.”

Down-to-Earth jewels unveiled


A model displays an elaborate necklace and ring design from the Earth jewellery collection. PHOTO COURTESY OF EARTH

via Khmer NZ

Friday, 06 August 2010 15:00 Nicky Hosford

A thriving jewellery design scene is emerging in Siem Reap, with the latest player being former Sothea Hotel general manager Sarah Moya.

She’s launched a new range of jewellery called Earth and, fittingly, some of the items are made from rocks and stones from the banks of Siem Reap’s lake and the seashores of Kampot and Kep, and are bound in soft metals such as copper.

All of the items are handmade and proceeds from sales go to the Khmer Independent Life Team, an organisation made up of landmine victims. They are available to buy from Art Deli on Alley West.

The designs are as strong as the elements from which they are made and, says Moya, are “about going back to the basics of who we are and where we are and what inspires us as individuals”.

This derives in large part, she says, from the necessary creativity born out of the difficulties artists face in obtaining materials in Cambodia.

“I’ve been looking around a lot for inspiration” says Moya, who wanted to convey something unique, raw and elemental about Cambodia in her work. Subsequently, taking the very earth Cambodia is made from seemed a natural choice.

The jewellery on sale at Sao Mao follows a similar guiding principle to Earth. The pieces are also made by local craftspeople who have been trained by Marie Hill, a French designer based in Siem Reap. But Hill’s designs are very different to Moya’s. They are less punchy and more flowing, refined and intricate.

Hers is the sort of jewellery that can be worn every day whereas Earth items are definitely made to make an impression.

Most of Hill’s designs are crafted from silver, though a number of the pieces are made from reformed brass and copper that has been melted down from old military equipment like bullet casings.

Sao Mao, which operates on fair trading principles to ensure suitable incomes for the community, faces the Old Market, beside Aha restaurant.

But in seeking unusual jewellery, it is impossible to bypass the magic box that is the Poetry store on Alley West.

This shop is home to the works of Don Protasio and Loven Ramos, as well as many of their friends, and is just about the last word in must-have oddity. Here you can find a skull tiara as well as necklaces, bracelets and rings made from soft drink can tabs, razor blades, forks and spoons, dice, Champagne corks, scissors, safety pins, feathers and just about anything else the boys can lay their hands on.

Not all of the work is so off-the-wall though, and there are many pieces that won’t make grandmother wonder what the world is coming to.

Co-owner and designer Protasio says his work in Siem Reap is very different to what he produces in his home country of the Philippines because Cambodia brings out different aspects of his creative personality.

“Here I can embrace the colours in me,” he says.

“I guess because there is so much colour in Cambodia, so much intensity”.

And who could overlook Wanderlust, the creative home of New York style maven Elizabeth Kiester?

The shop is a cornucopia of the bright, the light and the enormously fun. Like Kiester, the jewellery has a sense of controlled flamboyancy. The pieces are vibrant and off-beat, but still practical and never veer off into the flippant. There are dozens of bracelets, boxy wooden bangles in blazing colours and items made from fabric that can be matched to the shop’s racks of dresses.

Kiester, a former US magazine fashion editor, knows all too well that long strings of beads – whether they’re round or square, silver or coloured – are akin to the Little Black Dress; they are never not fashionable, and so are in constant supply at Wanderlust.

Across the way in the Alley, the atmosphere changes entirely. Nestled within the bustling cluster of restaurants is a little oasis of calm and reflection.

Garden of Desire is the outlet for the designs of Ly Pisith, a Cambodian man who escaped to France after being one of the only members of his family to survive the reign of the Khmer Rouge. There, he trained as an architect, but then moved on to become a designer.

Returning to Cambodia in 2007, Ly Pisith set up his own workshop and retail outlet in 2008 and hasn’t looked back.

His philosophy is not about what’s pretty, which is not to say that it’s not about what’s beautiful. Ly Pisith’s works are exquisitely beautiful, not just on the basis of their aesthetics, but also because of their balance and integrity. They are a pure and honest reflection of him, sometimes intensely so, such as his earrings made from stitched up broken stars.

Ly Pisith comes from a Christian family, which taught him the motto: “Don’t worry. Pray and you will be saved”. For so many nights during the Khmer Rouge years, he lay under the stars and prayed and prayed that his family would be saved.

It didn’t work. After that, he couldn’t bring himself to look at the night sky for years.

The delicate pieces of jewellery, made by a man as fragile, yet as strong, as Khmer silk, are stitched together as part of his journey to metaphorically stitch his own self back together again.

“Because I felt something had broken,” he says, “I had to try and sew the stars back together again. This is part of why I had to come back here, to recover from the past, and I couldn’t do that in France.”

A quiet, deep intelligence informs every item in this jewellery shop, from the chunky silver necklace that is as light as a feather and a reflection on the weather, to a long necklace made of a series of delicate cages that discusses the consequences of man’s attempts to ensnare nature.

“Man tries to capture nature,” says Pisith, “but he cannot. In the end, nature will always evade man’s cage.”

This piece alone took one month to create.

Cambodia gives Ly Pisith the freedom, the air, he needs to explore his own creativity, but the artist continues to struggle with the idea of finding success after so many years of hardship.

“In a globalised world, it’s easy to function, to follow the trends. But there is no freedom to take risks.”

Ly Pisith has taken risks, though. And through his innovative work and that of all of the designers in town, Siem Reap and Cambodia in general have become a much richer place to be.

Apology to Daryl Dealehr


via Khmer NZ

Friday, 06 August 2010 15:00 Post Staff

The Phnom Penh Post published two articles headlined “Cambodia in bribe scandal: Australian MP” on May 27, 2010, and “OZ embassy responds to Securency”, on May 31, 2010. These articles were, among other things, in connection with allegations of impropriety made against certain persons purportedly acting as agents of Securency, a bank-note supplier half owned by the Reserve Bank of Australia.

We acknowledge that there is no evidence that Mr Daryl Dealehr was directly or indirectly involved in any of the allegations reflected in these articles and that there is no evidence that Mr Dealehr was directly or indirectly involved in any acts of impropriety referred to or implied by either the contents of the articles mentioned above.

To the extent of any hurt, embarrassment, loss of reputation and damage caused to Mr Daryl Dealehr arising directly or indirectly from the articles referred to above, we sincerely apologise.

Chan Sarun: Courts Bury the Cases of Forestry Crimes


via Khmer NZ

Posted on 6 August 2010
The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 676

“The Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Chan Sarun, accused courts of keeping cases of forestry, agricultural, and fishery crimes unsolved. He said that 70% of crimes nationwide were sent to courts.

“Speaking to forestry administration officials in Phnom Penh, Mr. Chan Sarun said that the problem results from a lack of cooperation. He said, ‘Forestry, agricultural, and fishery crimes were not brought for trials at courts due to a lack of cooperation between prosecutors and officials in investigations.’

“Early this year, the government launched a massive suppression campaign against illegal logging. This suppression after Prime Minister Hun Sen told military commanders in November that he would not spare any military commanders who are are involved in illegal logging. In April 2010, Prime Minister Hun Sen removed the Director General of the Forestry Administration, Mr. Ty Sokun, from his position on the grounds that he failed to intercept forestry crimes.

“But many conservationists criticized the suppression is ineffective, claiming that many officials involved in illegal logging are rarely brought to courts.

“The statement of Mr. Chan Sarun on Friday last week during a session to assess the enforcement of forestry administration criticized lower level forestry administration officials for negligence. He made many recommendations requesting lower level forestry administration officials to take restrictive action immediately to crack down on all images of forestry crimes and to prevent them from happening in Cambodia.

“Mr. Chan Sarun added, ‘We must gather all intercepted and seized grade quality wood and put it for public bidding. The money from the selling will be made national resources.

“Mr. Chan Sarun did not mention how many cases of forestry, agricultural, and fishery crimes that were sent to courts and he could not be reached for more comments early this week.

“The head of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, Mr. Chiv Keng, said on Monday that, believing that the figures mentioned is old ones, but he acknowledged that the provincial courts must make more efforts to speed up hearings on forestry crimes.

“Mr. Chiv Keng said, ‘Courts, including the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, heard almost all cases. I encouraged provincial courts to work on all forestry crimes.’

“A prosecutor of the Siem Reap Municipal Court, Mr. Ty Sovinthal, said on Monday that the Siem Reap court does not kept any forestry crimes unsolved. Anyway, he does not know how many cases of forestry crimes that had been heard by the court.

“In response to Mr. Chan Sarun’s statement, the head of the Department of Law Enforcement of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries, Mr. Tim Sipha, said on Monday that he had ordered officials to step up cooperation with prosecutors. He stressed, ‘We have already encouraged, but punishments are courts’ authority. At present, we are cooperating with prosecutors to investigate some cases in order to gather more evidence.”

Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.1, #229, 4.8.2010
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Professor Becomes Advocate, Inspiration to Students

http://www.madisoncountycourier.com/

via Khmer NZ

Helps Aspiring Entrepreneurs Obtain Degree through Venture Connects Program

By Franci Valenzano

(Morrisville, NY) Dr. Emad Rahim brings more to the classroom than rich knowledge about his subject matter.

The Morrisville State College professor adds elements students can relate to along with anecdotes from his personal life to teach them they can accomplish anything.

That inspiration has been a motivating factor in the classroom and in his life—now it’s branching out even farther.

Rahim, assistant professor of entrepreneurship and small business management, is a motivating force behind a new Morrisville State College program, Venture Connects, which is helping adult students find creative ways to return to the classroom to further their education.

Through Morrisville Venture Connects, students who have already earned an associate degree in multiple disciplines can go back to school to earn a bachelor of business administration degree in entrepreneurship and small business management from Morrisville State College, taking courses that fit into their daily schedules.

The successful equation behind the program is a hybrid format of online and flexible weekend classes that will be taught at two locations— the Syracuse Technology Garden, in downtown Syracuse, and at Cayuga Community College. Students also engage in workshops, internships and externships through the program. Future plans are to expand Morrisville Venture Connects to other locations too.

Rahim, a teacher in the Venture Connects program, knows firsthand it isn’t easy adding college to life’s juggles. His journey to the classroom was circuitous—much like his life.

A native of Cambodia, Rahim is a survivor of the Killing Fields, sites in Cambodia where large numbers of people were killed and buried by the Khmer Rouge regime during its rule of the country from 1975 to 1979.

An estimated two million people were killed, starved or worked to death, among them; his father and brother and aunts and uncles, leaving him the only lineage on his father’s side.

Born in a concentration camp, Rahim escaped to Thailand with his mother when he was four, eventually making his way to Brooklyn then Syracuse through a sponsorship by Catholic Charities.

Since he arrived in America, life has been about turning trials into opportunities. A poor student who struggled through high school, Rahim took college classes while working two jobs and supporting a family, eventually earning his doctorate degree.

Philanthropic acts and people who encouraged him along the way empowered him to help others. Teaching is just one of the many ways he has reached out.

“I wanted to bring my passion into the classroom, to inspire my students and create an environment that engages them,” he said.

That spirit is evident outside of the classroom too.

Rahim is also principal consultant with Global i365, formerly Innovative Development Inc., a consulting group that provides business services specializing in the areas of diversity management, project management, technology, programming, nonprofit development and marketing.

He’s also been an advocate for local human service agencies and has worked with at-risk families and children and adults with disabilities.

A firm believer in utilizing outside resources, Rahim has relied on many to get to where he is today.

“I could not have accomplished all I have in my life without the resources and support that surrounded me,” he said. “When you hit a roadblock, look for an alternate route to get to your destination.”

He hopes for some, that path is Venture Connects, which offers services and support, and coaching and mentoring that will open doors for students too.

Through classroom and hands-on experience, students gain technical and business expertise and learn to apply entrepreneurial skills to start their own business ventures.

Students who take the program through the Syracuse Technology Garden will learn from seasoned entrepreneurs and interact with start-up companies in a real business environment.

“Because of this centralized location and through our partnerships and networks, students will have an enormous pool of resources and experts to help bring their business idea to fruition,” Rahim said.

Students who complete the Venture Connects program will leave with more than a bachelor degree in entrepreneurship and small business management under their belts.

“They’ll also have a completed business plan and the opportunity to apply for seed money to start or expand their business,” Rahim said.

In addition to teaching, Rahim speaks openly at high schools, universities, community organizations, conferences, workshops and public forums about his life, diversity, immigration and cultural awareness.

Part of Rahim’s life was made into a play, “Tales From the Salt City,” written and directed by Tony Award Nominee and USA Playwrights Award Recipient, Ping Chong. The Syracuse Stage Theatre production shares the dramatic migration stories of Rahim and six other local residents from Syracuse, N.Y.

Venture Connects is made possible through a grant from the Kauffman Foundation.

For more information about Venture Connects, call 315-684-6225,

Franci Valenzano is public relations associate at Morrisville State College.

DirectRooms.com – Fundraisers Cycle Through Cambodia To Raise Money For Hospital From 15 to 25 September 2010

http://www.i-newswire.com/

via Khmer NZ

DirectRooms.com reports that people looking to do a good deed should climb into their lycra and head to Cambodia to help raise funds for Temple Street hospital.

(I-Newswire) August 5, 2010 - Temple Street Children’s University Hospital helps sick children by making their stay in hospital less distressing through the development of new treatment facilities and the purchase of new medical equipment.

To help raise money for the hospital, organizers are planning a ten day cycle ride through Cambodia.

The challenge will include approximately 30-50 km of cycling per day, which will take place around some of Cambodia’s best attractions including the 7th wonder of the world, the Angkor Wat in Siem Reap.

From the 15th-25th September 2010, cyclists will also get to visit the capital of Phnom Penh as well as taking in some of Cambodia’s breathtaking coastlines.

The challenge is open to both men and women aged over 18 years and although cycling experience is not essential, a certain level of fitness is required. There will also be some training cycles occurring in Dublin in the months before the challenge.

People staying in Siem Reap hotels may want to look out and cheer on the cyclists as they pass through the city during September.

Lek Boonlert, marketing head at DirectRooms.com, commented on the challenge: “Temple Street Children’s University Hospital helps hundreds of children every year. Due to the number of tourists already visiting the world famous temples in Siem Reap, travellers should make sure they book their accommodation during this exciting challenge.”

Killing Fields of Cambodia Explained: Rob Lemkin on “Enemies of the People”

http://www.indiewire.com/

via Khmer NZ

by indieWIRE
posted on August 5, 2010

A scene from Rob Lemkin and Thet Sambath's "Enemies of the People." Photo courtesy of INFC

Rob Lemkin and Thet Sambath’s searing doc “Enemies of the People,” premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and walked off with the World Documentary Special Jury Prize. Since the win, the film has continued its winning streak by collecting gongs and critical accolades at Full Frame, True/False, One World and Human Rights Watch New York. The film was released last week in New York and runs in Los Angeles from August 6-12 at the Laemmle’s Music Hall in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles.

The Khmer Rouge slaughtered nearly two million people in the late 1970s. Yet the Killing Fields of Cambodia remain unexplained. Until now. Enter Thet Sambath, an unassuming, yet cunning, investigative journalist who spends a decade of his life gaining the trust of the men and women who perpetrated the massacres. From the foot soldiers who slit throats to Pol Pot’s right-hand man, the notorious Brother Number Two, Sambath records shocking testimony never before seen or heard. Having neglected his own family for years, Sambath’s work comes at a price. But his is a personal mission. He lost his parents and his siblings in the Killing Fields. Amidst his journey to discover why his family died, we come to understand for the first time the real story of Cambodia’s tragedy. Co-directors Rob Lemkin and Sambath create a watershed account of Cambodian history and a heartfelt quest for closure on one of the world’s darkest episodes. [Synopsis courtesy of the Sundance Film Festival]

Co-director Rob Lemkin on what lead into filmmaking and how “Enemies of the People” came about…

I was a musician first. My first film was with Nina Simone and made for $750. Amazingly, you can still buy it on DVD 25 years later. I then made dozens of films with musicians I loved like Chet Baker and Curtis Mayfield. Then I moved into investigative journalism and spent 15 years doing TV reports and historical documentaries. Our current film is like coming full-circle as it’s very independent but with the investigative techniques I learned on the way.

When I was a producer at the BBC I made a film about a man who knew Pol Pot. He told me there was more to the Khmer Rouge than met the eye. Several years later I went to Cambodia with a plan to make a film about the Khmer Rouge on trial and met Sambath – he was my fixer – and found he was investigating the Khmer Rouge from a similar perspective but for him it was deeply personal. So we decided to join forces.

Sambath – my co-director – just wanted us to film his research, ie. the confessions of Brother Number Two (Pol Pot’s deputy) and various Khmer Rouge killers. I knew the film would only work for a general audience if he was both the main character and the prism through which we witnessed these extraordinary confessions. So we had two (at least) aspects to our production – one: his investigation that was underway and that we continued together and two: his story in which he became the subject of my camera.

Brother Number Two’s interviews last over 60 hours and they are extremely complex. Understanding this exclusive take on history took me months of reviewing transcripts in the library. Then the problem was working out how to use them in a film which was attempting to use history in a Shakespearean way - to let the history serve the story and the characters so that the audience could enjoy the film without knowing anything of the Killing Fields.

Director Rob Lemkin. Photo courtesy of TIFF

Lemkin on the message he hopes the film conveys…

The film is very personal and yet it deals with huge ideas of history, mass violence and justice. People who are open to critical thinking will love the film – and in fact do everywhere we show it. One problem is it seems a depressing subject, but everyone that comes out of the film feels inspired and energized. That’s because Sambath is an inspiring and uplifting man who keeps smiling in the face of horror and has a very upbeat message for the world. And because it’s a totally character-driven drama it’s a very compelling and exciting film to watch.

Lemkin on films that inspired him while making “Enemy of the People”...

“The Killing Fields” was always in the back of our minds – especially as the onscreen relationship between Sydney Schanberg and Dith Pran was not so dissimilar to mine and Sambath’s. It’s great for us that David Puttnam (“Killing Fields” producer) has been such a great supporter of our film.

Other films I was thinking of include “Shoah” (for obvious reasons; my camera pans across the landscape came from that film) and Ivy Meeropol’s “Heir to an Execution” which had a similar balance between rough footage, personal/public history and investigation. Also “Darwin’s Nightmare” for the way in which a small camera witnessing scenes of a quasi-theatrical quality can come to have an epic dimension if set in an imaginative narrative structure.

And what he has in store for the future…

There’s “Enemies of the People Part Two,” which Sambath and I are preparing and which is more of a political conspiracy thriller about the political conflict at the heart of the Khmer Rouge featuring some of the same characters but also new people like the men who tried to kill Pol Pot. It’s made from footage we’ve already shot and will be very relevant to the UN trial of Brother Number Two which will start next year. I’m also preparing a short film about soldiers blinded in war which is an Anglo-Polish production (shot in the US) and which is something quite unusual – it’s a remake of a documentary. In this case one made by Kieslowski in the 1970s. Finally, I’m writing a script for a film about a friend of mine who was an Englishwoman who married a man who would become Saddam Hussein’s oil minister, and was ultimately executed by him. Hopefully, it’s another triumph in the face of horror pic.

A painful past


Three memorials in Phnom Penh, Berlin, Johannesburg show us the meaning of remorse and mercy

via Khmer NZ

Thu, Aug 5 2010

As far as schools go, there was nothing remarkable about Tuol Sleng. The building stood unobtrusively along an avenue in Phnom Penh. But it was in its ordinariness, in the way it became part of Cambodia’s urban landscape, by not drawing any attention, that the school gave meaning to Hannah Arendt’s chilling phrase, the banality of evil.

Tuol Sleng had, at one time, been the torture chamber of the Khmer Rouge, whose murderous rule lasted from 1975 to 1979 in Cambodia. In July, an officer of the Khmer Rouge known as Duch was sentenced after the tribunal adjudicating war crimes committed in Cambodia found him guilty for his pitiless reign over that building. That sentencing won’t offer salve to the wounds of any of the thousands of victims who had been in the jail. But its intent was to offer a sense of closure, or completeness, to those who were jailed, beaten, tortured, and killed for crimes they didn’t commit.

The rooms inside were filled with ordinary objects—a bed made of iron, on which victims were tied and their arms and legs stretched to inflict maximum pain. The beds were rusted. There were dark blotches on the wall. I didn’t need a guide to tell me it was blood—and not one person’s blood, but of many, mingled together in pain, splattered on the wall, frozen in time. There were other tools—some used to dig, some used to cut, some used to sharpen, a few to drill walls, some to push nails through walls. But none had been used for those intended purposes; each had been used instead to savage human bodies, to cause wounds, to puncture skin, to let blood pour out.

To avoid that, people were willing to admit to anything. I read confessions, written in crooked, shaky handwriting, by young men, many of them foreigners, saying they had plotted to overthrow the government. The sheets on which the confessions were written had faded, as had the ink, but the desperation was apparent—the unsteady hand suggested how the people were willing to confess to whatever the man with the iron chain demanded, if only to stop the beatings. But the pain only ended with their death.

Haunted memories: Cambodia’s Tuol Sleng facility is a museum to the victims of Khmer Rouge’s brutalities . Bjørn Christian Tørrissen/Wikimedia

I recall stranded Indian sailors admitting to being spies; a backpacker owning up to being an agent of the US Central Intelligence Agency; another Thai national saying he was going to blow up an army truck; and an interminably convoluted account about the seizure of an American warship.

In the hall before I left the school, now turned into a museum commemorating the Khmer Rouge atrocities, was a large map of Cambodia on the wall, made entirely of skulls. I left speechless, which was the intended effect. Words were not necessary; silence—out of respect for those who died, and out of the sense of horror over those responsible—was the only response.

Many years later in Berlin, as I walked through another memorial built to mark another colossal atrocity—the Holocaust, at the Jewish Museum—I experienced something similar: the silence that cries out for some sound of love or hope. The museum in Berlin had stark lines and tilted walls. There were large pillars that rose and fell. As their height reduced, the ground beneath your feet seemed to rise, making you feel as though you were sinking in a tunnel that was getting narrower, squeezing you. But just as you adjusted to that level, it would change again, altering the topography, confusing you about where the ground lay, where the sky reached, and where you stood, within that space.

Disorientation is a complex idea—it is not easy to describe it; but most of us have felt it sometime. What that spatial experiment achieved was what no photograph, no testimony could: It disturbed your sense of certainty, of your moral universe. This was Germany, the land of philosophers such as Kant and Schopenhauer, and authors such as Goethe, Mann and Schiller, the home of abstract ideas. But also the land which, driven by an insane, messianic zeal, devoured millions of lives. That space symbolized the lives cut short, and how that destabilized the moral universe, as if you were alone aboard a ship tossing in waves.

What happens after such a ghastly experience? A tragedy on such a scale evokes mixed responses. Some seek justice, failing which they want revenge. Some find the adequacy of justice itself insufficient, and want to plunge back into violence. Forgiveness can heal, but before the survivors can forgive, those who committed those evil deeds have to express remorse. Many find it hard; they return to pointing fingers—you did it first.

There, the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg shines: It forces you, almost by design, to be what you are not, and experience history through the lives of others. The ticket assigns you an identity—you are white. Or non-white. You are suddenly separated from those who came with you. And you discover the world through eyes not your own.

Understanding the horrors of the past century is not easy. But reality is different when you look at those horrors not as a film on a giant screen, but through a different pair of eyes, of the person struggling to emerge out of the stamped boot. It explains why people seek justice. And it brings us closer to the meaning of remorse and forgiveness.

Write to Salil at detours@livemint.com

Vietnam becomes Cambodia’s third largest investor

via Khmer NZ

08/05/2010

Vietnam has initiated 63 projects in Cambodia, with a total investment of US$900 million, generating jobs for 30,000 local people and making Vietnam Cambodia’s third largest investor.

The figures were announced at a seminar on Vietnam-Cambodia trade relations held in Phnom Penh on August 5 with the participation of 150 businesses from the two countries.

Representatives of the Vietnamese Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Cambodian Trade Ministry introduced some new investment incentives that are aimed at boosting bilateral trade relations.

During the past ten years, the two-way trade turnover between Vietnam and Cambodia has increased steadily from US$146 million in 2001 to more than US$1 billion in 2009. Turnover reached US$862 million in the first half of this year, including US$728 million from Vietnamese exports, up 34.2 percent from the same period last year.

Cambodia is one of Vietnam’s key investment destinations. According to the Vietnam Ministry of Planning and Investment, since July 2009 seven Vietnamese-invested projects have been licensed in Cambodia, with a total capital of about US$400 million. These projects focus in such areas as finance, energy, aviation, agriculture and mining.

Farmers Watch as Tonle Sap Authority Crushes Reservoirs

Pich Samnang, VOA Khmer | Kampong Thom, Cambodia
Thursday, 05 August 2010

via Khmer NZ

Photo: AP
The machines had come to tear down more than 10 reservoirs local farmers had built to capture the receding waters of the swollen Tonel Sap lake.

“I was very disappointed with the destruction of my reservoir.”

One morning in early July, about a dozen bulldozers and excavators came to Msa Krong commune where Kong Heuv lives, about 50 kilometers outside Kampong Thom provincial town.

The machines had come to tear down more than 10 reservoirs local farmers had built to capture the receding waters of the swollen Tonel Sap lake.

“I was very disappointed with the destruction of my reservoir,” said the 67-year-old farmer, as he walked along the flattened dam one recent day.

“If I were rich, this would not be a problem,” he told VOA Khmer. “But I am still in debt due to the construction of the reservoir.”

The government has been tearing down these kinds of reservoirs since late June, under the new Tonle Sap Authority, which has a mandate to protect the flooded forests around the great lake.

There are about 1 million hectares of these forests around the lake; nearly 400,000 hectares have been destroyed already. Since 2002, villagers have been expanding their farmlands, while business owners have looked for other means to catch fish as the water recedes each year.

Kong Heuv said he spent about $5,500 two years ago to keep water for his rice paddies during the dry season.

“I don’t know how to deal with my debt now that I can’t work on the paddies I depend on,” he said.

Chan Yuttha, secretary general of the Tonle Sap Authority, said 35 of 239 reservoirs have now been destroyed across six provinces.

“And there will be no compensation for any loss of the reservoirs, because they were all built illegally,” he said.

Tri Horn, chief of Msa Krong commune, said the destruction of the reservoirs is good for the sustainability of the flooded forests. But, he acknowledged that the dismantling some of the small ones owned by poor farmers in his commune has caused problems for them.

“They borrowed the money from banks to build those reservoirs, so they are now in debt,” he said in an interview at this house. “Some almost want to commit suicide due to the debt.”

Most of the 9,000 people in his commune depend on farming, while a smaller number need the reservoirs for dry-season fishing, he said.

“In addition to keeping water for farming, the building of reservoirs is also meant to catch fish,” said Lim Kean Hor, Minister of Water Resources and head of the Tonle Sap Authority.

The reservoirs are especially problematic in Kampong Thom province, where they are built consecutively and impede the flow of the river, he said.

“So, all of the remaining reservoirs around the great lake will be dismantled to preserve the lake,” he said.