Friday, 8 October 2010

Volunteering with a Difference: Teach in Floating School, Cambodia

via CAAI

Friday, 8 October 2010

There’s volunteering. There’s volunteer teaching. Then there’s volunteer teaching afloat. Real Gap is calling for volunteers who like their travel with a twist, with a new project teaching Cambodian kids in a school that floats on Ton Le Sap Lake, moving according to the seasons.

With land in short supply, Cambodians have established floating villages on the lake: collections of houses that move as the lake fills and drains with the monsoon rains. With no available or affordable land on the foreshore, the school buildings were constructed atop three separate barges, which are tethered to the homes of the local fishermen and their families. Most of the students attending the school arrive daily by boat.

Until five years ago, the village children had no access to education. The school is still under-resourced and volunteers are needed to help the six full-time teachers teach basic English, computer skills and sport to the 86 students. No previous experience is required, and volunteers have the option of undertaking a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course before leaving home.

For diversity, while half of each day will be spent at the floating school, the other half will be spent with a different group of students at a nearby school, housed in a Buddhist pagoda.

Traditionally – prior to French colonisation - temples were centres of education. With lack of government funding to build new schools, communities are reverting to the old ways. The pagoda school is attended by around 20 children between six and 12 years of age, and volunteers are needed in a similar capacity to the floating school.

The daily routine will see volunteers working from around 08:00 until 11:00 at the pagoda school and 14:00 to 16:30 at the floating school. Weekends are free to explore the local Siem Reap area, which is close to the temple complex at Angkor Wat. Further afield, volunteers can visit Phnom Penh or relax on the beaches of Sihanoukville. There is also excellent walking n the Kirirom National Park.

The Cambodia Floating School near Angkor Wat project can be undertaken for between two and 12 weeks. Two weeks costs $1529 per person, while 12 weeks costs $4829. The price covers airport transfer; air-conditioned, shared-room hotel accommodation; access to swimming pool; 24-hour emergency support and back-up; orientation, and breakfast daily. The project commences on the first Saturday of each month, meeting at Siem Reap airport.

Real Gap Experience is the UK’s largest provider of ‘gap year’ experiences, offering over 500 learning, volunteer and working holiday placements in more than 40 countries.. For more information visit or call 1300 844 270.

Aviv Palti reports from Cambodia

08 Oct 2010

"News from Cambodia"

You know, sometimes we get so caught-up in life that we lose perspective... We spend time on so many issues that are in reality trivial and unimportant - things that with the passage of time will be forgotten, or scoffed at as irrelevant...

Making tye died T-Shirts with the kids

A year ago we travelled to Cambodia to volunteer at a rural school and orphanage. Those 2 weeks changed our perspective on life - of what life is all about, how much we take for-granted and how blessed we all are!! Isn't life strange...

We went to Cambodia to bring change to those kids' lives, but they changed our lives so profoundly that we feel so so blessed...

We're back in Cambodia for the 3rd time. You may say we are addicted. Here is some of what we've been doing...

If you would like to discuss ways you can assist the Palti family contact Aviv at

You can read more and follow us on our blog at

Making photo cards with the children.

Ice making machines supplied by UR1 were a huge hit

Cambodians hold buffalo race to honour the dead

A Cambodian villager rides a buffalo during the Pchum Ben festival or Ancestors' Day

via CAAI

VIHEAR SOUR, Cambodia — Thousands of Cambodians descended on a small village northeast of the capital Friday to cheer on the annual water buffalo race that marks the end of the 15-day festival for the ancestors.

"We hold the race to ask the Neakta Preah Srok (pagoda spirit) to protect us and to keep the people and animals in the village from illnesses," said farmer Sam Sen, who was also a judge in the race.

Around 20 villagers rode their buffaloes up and down a short stretch of road leading to the pagoda, to huge cheers from the crowd.

The buffaloes were adorned with colourful masks, their horns carefully bandaged to keep them from injuring anyone.

"I am happy, it was fun," said 23-year-old contestant Chan Ny after the race, still sitting on his buffalo. "I will be back next year."

The number of buffaloes taking part in the race has steadily declined over the last few years.

Sam Sen said this was because "many big buffaloes have been sold off" by families struggling to make ends meet.

Some of the village's buffaloes had also been struck by disease, organisers said.

Cambodians believe their dead ancestors emerge to walk the earth during the Pchum Ben festival, and they honour and remember them with prayers and food offerings at Buddhist pagodas.

Vihear Sour village, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) northeast of Phnom Penh, began holding the race more than 70 years ago. It is followed by a traditional wrestling match.

Co-firing of bio-oil and biogas for power generation in Cambodia

Seeds of Jatropha curcas

via CAAI

Oct. 08, 2010

TOKYO --The Chugoku Electric Power Co., Inc. has started the testing of co-firing power generation using bio-oil and biogas at the campus of the Institute of Technology of Cambodia. The test uses refined bio-oil extracted from Jatropha curcas seeds and biogas produced from residues generated after oil is extracted from the seeds.

The test is being conducted by Chugoku Electric Power jointly with a Japanese research institute. The utility began a power generation test using bio-oil fuel in December last year, and recently started the testing of co-firing of biogas with bio-oil after pieces of new equipment have been added to process seed residues after oil extraction and produce biogas from the residues. It plans to continue trial operation until February next year and examine methods to achieve stable operation.

Cambodian efforts to promote silk weavers

via CAAI

October 08, 2010 (Cambodia)

Cambodian handmade silk remained the centre of attraction at a conference organized by the National Silk Centre on the outskirts of Siem Reap at Pouk District, with funding from the European Union.

The main aim behind organizing the Silk Day was to foster the quality of handmade silk items, while giving an idea about the industry and the issues confronting it. The occasion also commemorated conclusion of a project for establishment and promotion of silk sector in Siem Reap and Bantey Meanchey districts.

The project that came along with the EU funding was executed by the Khmer Silk Villages and Chantiers-Ecoles de Formation Professionelle.

Experts at the conference informed that, Khmer silk all in all produces 19 different items for exports.
Also that, the US $25 million worth Cambodian silk industry, provided employment to around 20,500 weavers, this year.

Experts even said that, visitors get drawn towards the Cambodian silk items as it is handwoven.

The silk industry in the country is a vital source of employment for women in Cambodia, and even helps to scale down poverty in rural provinces. Customarily, the silk production task is being carried out by women weavers, who constitute 99.54 percent of the workforce.

The country uses around 400 tons of imported industrial white silk yarn, each year to churn out three tons of superior quality handmade golden silk.

Burma, Cambodia & Laos: Juggling trade and diplomacy

via CAAI

Nirmal Ghosh
The Straits Times
Publication Date : 08-10-2010

Heavy Chinese investment in its southern neighbours has been a boon as well as a diplomatic challenge for Burma, Cambodia, Laos and Viet Nam.

Even as these governments welcome Chinese investments in everything from dams to bauxite mines and rubber plantations, they have also made an effort to roll out the red carpet for other investors.

Laos, for instance, has made a move towards strategic diversification. Earlier this year, it scrapped a plan to let Chinese investors convert farmland and wetlands outside Vientiane into a new city.

The Chinese investors were said to have baulked at the cost of compensation and relocation, but there were other factors at play. Kham Ouane Boupha, the Laotian minister for land management, was quoted as saying the marshland had been designated a protected area.

As senior officials began a two-day meeting yesterday (October 7) in Vientiane to discuss land policies, it was clear that while China was the country's largest foreign investor - having put in US$340 million in the first half of this year alone - other players, such as Viet Nam and Thailand, had entered the field.

Likewise, in Cambodia, a huge investment in water infrastructure has drawn interest not just from China but also from India, Kuwait, Qatar and South Korea.

Governments need to decide whether they want to broker stronger alliances with Japan, Europe and the United States, noted a Laos-based analyst specialising in natural resources who asked not to be named. He pointed out that America's Lower Mekong Initiative - announced last year and aimed at Laos, Cambodia and Viet Nam - was clearly meant to counterbalance China.

Burma balances China's influence against that of India, which also has ventures there. Moreover, Burman nationalism provides a natural damper. Nevertheless, the regime is limited by its fraught relations with many Western powers.

Says historian Thant Myint U: "Western sanctions have been China's best friend. Though intended to promote democratic change, the net effect of the embargoes and boycotts has been far greater Chinese economic domination."

China is the country's largest investor, pumping in US$8 billion this fiscal year, according to official Burma data released in August. Still, Myanmar has no problem welcoming Thai, Japanese, Indian, Malaysian and Korean investment. Since 1988, Thailand has invested US$9.6 billion there.

Sierra Leone and Cambodia establish diplomatic relations

via CAAI

Published on October 8, 2010
by Cocorioko News

By Leeroy Wilfred Kabs-Kanu

Sierra Leone’s international stature and outreach under the progressive leadership of President Ernest Bai Koroma continue to broaden. Yesterday, at a colourful ceremony held at the Permanent Mission of Cambodia to the United Nations in New York, Sierra Leone established diplomatic relations with the Kingdom of Cambodia , about two weeks after the country entered into similar relations with the South American nation of Uruguay.

The Permanent Representatives of the two countries, Ambassador Shekou Momodu Touray of Sierra Leone and Ambassador Kosal Sea of Cambodia signed the joint communique on behalf of their respective nations.

In his remarks, the Cambodian Permanent Representative hailed the new diplomatic relations between the two countries. “We are glad to establish diplomatic ties with Sierra Leone”, he said and expressed optimism that the two nations will establish areas of cooperation that will be fruitful to both countries. He said that he will do everything within his power to ensure that the two countries achieved the highest level of cooperation to the benefit of both countries.

The Permanent Representatives of the two countries, Ambassador Shekou Momodu Touray of Sierra Leone and Ambassador Kosal Sea of Cambodia toasting  the new relations .

The delegations of the two countries pose for this photgraph : From left Minister Kabs-Kanu, DG Soulay Daramy , Counselor Sulimani and Ambassador Touray (Sierra Leone ) and their  Cambodian counterparts.


In response, Ambassador Touray of Sierra Leone also said that he was also happy with the decision by Sierra Leone and Cambodia to establish bilateral and multilateral relations at the diplomatic level .He stated that both countries share a similar history (Apparent reference to the Khmer Rouge crisis in Cambodia and the Civil War in Sierra Leone ) but he was optimistic that the two countries have many areas where they can cooperate fruitfully. He mentioned some of these areas as the socio-economic sphere, agriculture and ameliorating the adverse effects of Climate Change which is affecting the two countries. He said that both Sierra Leone and Cambodia have a lot to offer each other and he expressed the hope that the two countries will make maximum use of their diplomatic relations.

Among essential areas that Cambodia will be very useful to Sierra Leone are in the Agricultural Sector, having built a strong economy after the Khmer Rouge crisis , based primarily on agriculture,with over 59% of the population engaged in farming ; construction and the marketing of her natural resources while Cambodia will benefit from investments and business as Sierra Leone progressively opens up to trade and commerce..

Also representing Cambodia at the ceremony were Mr. Seyla Eat. Ambassador, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of Cambodia to the United Nations; Mr. Sokveng Ngoun, First Secretary; Lt.Col. Dara Him, Military Attaché; Mr. Sambo Has, Second Secretary; and Mr. Saravann Ung, Third Secretary.

Apart from Ambassador Touray, Sierra Leone was also represented by the Director -General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs , Mr. Soulay Basiru Daramy ; the Minister Plenipotentiary to the UN, Mr . Leeroy Wilfred Kabs-Kanu; and Counselor Victoria Sulimani, also of the Sierra Leone Mission to the UN .

Rhode Island businessman sentenced for fraud, tax evasion

via CAAI

Friday, October 8, 2010

By Michael P. McKinney
Journal Staff Writer


PROVIDENCE — A man who says he endured more than five years in a forced labor camp in Khmer Rouge-ruled Cambodia in the 1970s was sentenced Thursday in U.S. District Court to two years in prison and ordered to pay $14.3 million in workers’ taxes for the temporary employees his company supplied to businesses.

Cheang Chea, 73, owner of S&P Temporary Help Service Inc. of Providence, which provided hundreds of temporary workers to about 30 Rhode Island companies, pleaded guilty in June to tax evasion, theft from a health-care benefit program and mail fraud over a period that began in 2003.

And as he awaited sentencing, he continued business as usual, the U.S. Attorney’s office said Thursday.

Prosecutors say that Chea has the means to pay the $14.3 million.

Chief Judge Mary M. Lisi said she understood that he experienced “unspeakable horrors” in Cambodia and that he should be commended for having built a business after arriving as a refugee in the country with so little. But, she said, “I have before me a paradox”: a man who became a successful professional but cheated employees and the government on taxes. She said he and his family have done well, noting he has a Mercedes Benz.

As Lisi imposed sentence, which includes a year of supervised release when Chea leaves prison, a woman began to cry uncontrollably. A man seated next to her in the federal courthouse on Kennedy Plaza picked her up and carried her from the courtroom.

Chea, through a translator, expressed regrets, but recounted being surrounded by killing in Cambodia and constant fear for his life.

Prosecutors said in court documents that Chea, based on a report submitted by the defense, has recently been diagnosed with posttraumatic stress syndrome and depression, and a prison sentence would afford him the opportunity to get treatment.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Dulce Donovan asked the judge to impose a 46-month sentence, at the low end of the pre-sentencing guidelines of 46 to 57 months. Along with ordering payment of the $14.3 million in withholding, Social Security and Medicare taxes, the prosecution wanted a $75,000 fine imposed. Donovan said the company under-reported to the government a substantial amount of the wages paid to the temporary workers.

Donovan said the prosecution believes the businesses Chea sent workers to paid people off the books and below minimum wage. Court documents said that Chea paid workers $200 in cash for a 40-hour work week or $5 an hour. The U.S. Attorney’s office said that the people Chea placed in temporary jobs were mostly East Asian and non-English speaking workers.

Defense lawyer Geoffrey Nathan said in court Thursday that Chea paid his workers the federal minimum wage. Court documents say the minimum was $7.40 for the period of Chea’s tax evasion.

S&P Temporary Help Service, in supplying workers to the companies, said it would be responsible for all payroll withholding. The companies would send S&P a check to cover what it charged for the workers. Chea would pay the workers.

While the prosecution acknowledged Chea’s trauma in Cambodia, Donovan said, he “is not someone who stands before this court claiming to not understand what his obligations are.” Rather, he decided “to pick and choose” how much money to report to the federal government and has “reaped the benefits” for his family.

Chea was reportedly known in the Asian immigrant community as a generous man who donated money to local Buddhist temples and to help build a hospital in Cambodia.

“He was helping rebuild Cambodia in what he’s doing, and helping people get jobs,” Molly Soum, former president of the Cambodian Society of Rhode Island, said in June after Chea’s plea agreement with federal prosecutors. The agreement rules out any appeal of Thursday’s sentence.

Court documents said, between 2003 and 2007, Chea deposited more than $996,000 into the bank accounts of relatives from his business and personal accounts.

Nathan said he has received countless letters in support of his client, and that Chea has said he wants to pay the money owed to the government.

Cambodia - Abysmal Lawlessness and The Powerlessness of The Citizens

via CAAI

Published: October 07, 2010

The first election in post Pol Pot Cambodia was held in May 1993. The new constitution promised a liberal democracy and a system of governance based on the rule of law. However, the country is still in a state of abysmal lawlessness and ordinary Cambodians are powerless. There are no institutions in the country which can offer them any kind of protection.

The Cambodian police is in a rudimentary stage of development, is known to be corrupt and completely under the political control of the regime and those who are rich and powerful. Cambodian courts are also known to be corrupt and are used as instruments of political control by way of jailing opposition politicians; people resisting land grabbing; those who express independent opinions and civil society activists who express solidarity with victims of abuse of power. There are no institutions that people can turn to make any complaints or to turn to any kind of help when faced with injustice. And the injustices that the people face are many.

The major complaint everywhere is that of "Land Grabbing". Having a title to a plot of land is normally the ultimate guarantee of some security in this poor country. However, having a title to land is of little use when the same land can be allotted to some company by a government authority, who does not even inform the original title holder when such allocations are made. It is only when the company begins the operation to redevelop the land that the original owners get to know that the land they rightfully own has been given away.

Naturally they protest and at that stage security forces enter the scene and harassment is the result. As the people literally have nowhere to go, they fight back. Then they are brought to courts on all kinds of charges and many are detained. There are thousands of reports of such happenings from around the country. "In the capital, Phnom Penh, 133,000 people - more than 10% of its population - are believed to have been evicted since 1990." (This is according to a report of reliable civil society organization).

The result of such land evictions is that those who are displaced are excluded from any benefits, and lose their source of income, they are exposed to poor health and their young face lack of education. In a country, with so little opportunities, eviction from land implies a transformation which ends in destitution. Hopes for stability and a future ends for many. Naturally the women and young and the elderly suffer the most. Naturally, prostitution and other similar problems are on the increase in today's Cambodia.

"The Cambodian courts continue to act on behalf of rich and powerful interests, ignoring the evidence, the Land Law and other relevant legislation, enforcing eviction where ownership remains undecided and imprisoning those who dare to protest", states a report from well known LICAHDO, a human rights organization. This view is confirmed by many other organizations and almost everyone.

Cambodian courts are not able to protect land titles. Their function is not the protection of the individual but the interests of those who are in power. The idea of the balancing of interests is an alien concept in Cambodia. The role of the authorities is to protect the state, not the people.

About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

101 East - Cambodia: Fight for justice

October 07, 2010

101 East looks at one of the most enduring legacies of Khmer Rouge rule in Cambodia -- the absence of the rule of law.

Happy Pchum Ben Festival

Local residents throw food on the ground at a Buddhist pagoda in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, early Thursday morning, Oct. 7, 2010, as part of a ritual to honor the spirits of those who died without relatives. The 15-day traditional festival, known as the Pchum Ben festival, which commemorates the spirits of the dead, began on Sept. 24. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

AmeriCares and AstraZeneca Expand Breast Cancer Treatment for Impoverished Women in Cambodia

via CAAI

AmeriCares and AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals have made a three-year commitment to expand early breast cancer detection and treatment in Cambodia in hopes of increasing survival rates.

The renewed commitment expands a program launched in 2008 in conjunction with the Sihanouk Hospital Center of HOPE in Phnom Penh that provides free cancer screenings, medications, patient education and medical staff training at the charity hospital.

"By expanding the program, we will provide the Sihanouk Hospital Center of HOPE with the vital resources necessary to treat women diagnosed with breast cancer who would not otherwise be able to afford treatment. We will also broaden our efforts to reach thousands more with breast cancer education, as studies have shown the importance of education and early detection in increasing survival rates," said Dr. Frank Bia, medical director for AmeriCares.

The hospital treated 90 women for breast cancer last year – more than three times as many as before the program was launched two years ago thanks to the donated medicines and financial support from AmeriCares and AstraZeneca. The program goal is to treat 600 women annually by 2014.

"This collaboration with AmeriCares makes it possible for AstraZeneca to get critical medications to the women who need them in Cambodia and helps ensure cancers are detected and treated earlier," said Jennifer McGovern, director, patient assistance programs, AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals LP.

An alarming number of Cambodian women die every year due to a lack of public awareness, limited cancer screening opportunities and the high cost of treatment. Offering the rural poor population of Cambodia free services is critical because the exorbitant cost of cancer care often prevents cancer patients from seeking treatment. At Sihanouk Hospital Center of HOPE, cancer patients are provided with anti-hormonal treatment, lab testing and surgery at no cost.

About AmeriCares

AmeriCares is a nonprofit global health and disaster relief organization which delivers medicines, medical supplies and aid to people in need around the world and across the United States. Since it was established in 1982, AmeriCares has distributed more than $9 billion in humanitarian aid to 147 countries. For more information, log onto

About AstraZeneca

AstraZeneca is a global, innovation-driven biopharmaceutical business with a primary focus on the discovery, development and commercialization of prescription medicines. As a leader in gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, neuroscience, respiratory and inflammation, oncology and infectious disease medicines, AstraZeneca generated global revenues of $32.8 billion in 2009. In the United States, AstraZeneca is a $14.8 billion healthcare business.

India may export nuke-reactors to Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam

via CAAI

Oct 06,2010

Kolkata, Oct 6 (PTI) The Nuclear Power Development Corporation of India is in talks with some countries of the Asia-Pacific region for the sale of its mainstay 220 MWe and 540 MWe reactors, its chairman S K Jain said today."We are having detailed discussions (about sale of the reactors) with Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam," Jain told newsmen on the sidelines of a technical session at Variable Energy Cyclotron Centre auditorium here.NPCIL, which has two models of Pressurised Heavy Water Reactor (PWHR) on sale, has signed an MOU with a company in Kazakhstan on the export of the reactors and it was in its "final phase", Jain said.India had moved a resolution in 2007 at the IAEA General Conference of Member States in Vienna to enable export of small reactors.The country had been targeting exports of indigenous PHWRs to developing nations that wanted nuclear power, but were constrained by small grids.The 220 MWe reactors, according to sources, were particularly useful for countries with small grids and it involved relatively low investments.Major developers of nuclear reactors in the European Union and North America have moved on to reactor size of 700 MWe or 1,000 MWe and above.

Long Beach will get rare chance to see Cambodian choreographer's work

via CAAI

By Greg Mellen, Staff Writer

Posted: 10/06/2010
Sophiline Cheam Shapiro, left, helps dancer Mot Pahran with her hand movements during practice at the Khmer Arts Academy in February 2008 in Takmao, Cambodia. (Jeff Gritchen/Press-Telegram)

LONG BEACH - Area residents will get a rare opportunity to see work by internationally renowned Cambodian choreographer Sophiline Cheam Shapiro this weekend at a special show.

Shapiro, who co-founded the Khmer Arts Academy here in Long Beach in 2002 and has earned acclaim for her classical choreography, now splits time between Long Beach and Cambodia and touring with her dance troupe, the Khmer Arts Ensemble.

Although the local audience won't get a chance to see a full production of Shapiro's latest composition, "The Lives of Giants," which premiered in September on a tour of the East Coast, its creator will present a short video of the full stage production and three of the show's dancers will perform portions of the classical concert-length dance. The group will also be accompanied by costume designer Merrily Murray-Walsh.

"The Lives of Giants" is an adaptation of a Hindu-Cambodian legend that talks about the cycle of abuse, violence and power, that has many parallels to modern Cambodian history.

Shapiro said she hopes to bring the full production to Southern California next year. The last show of Shapiro's to play in Long Beach was "Seasons of Migration" at the Carpenter Center.

The show will cap the second year of the Khmer Arts Salon Series, which has presented monthly talks and performances that have spotlighted South and Southeast Asian performing arts.

"I'm looking forward to seeing my students and their parents," Shapiro said by phone from Philadelphia, where the show is now.
The choreographer will only be in Long Beach for a few days before returning to Pennsylvania to rejoin the troupe.

Saturday's performance is being moved from the Khmer Arts Academy's home space on Obispo Avenue to Renaissance High School theater.

As a child, Shapiro survived the Cambodian genocide. After the downfall of the Khmer Rouge and the restoration of arts and dance programs in her home country, Shapiro was one of the first classical dancers to graduate from the Phnom Penh School of Fine Arts. Under the Pol Pot regime, arts and artists were systematically purged. Among the 1.7 million or more Cambodians who died were about 90 percent of the nation's dancers.

Shapiro and her husband, John, whom she married in 1991 founded the Khmer Arts Academy in 2002. In addition to the dance troupe, the academy features traditional music and singing. They are working on creating a media center to produce films and documentaries about classical dance and an archive center.

Shapiro began training Cambodian dancers in her home country in 2006 and has built them into a world class touring troupe.

It's been quite a journey for a woman who began teaching inner-city youth in Long Beach in a cramped space at the United Cambodian Community building as well as in her living room.

Shapiro's professional Cambodian troupe has performed on major stages throughout the world, from Amsterdam to Venice to Vienna to New York to Los Angeles.

Among a long list of honors, she has been awarded a National Heritage Fellowship, the nation's highest honor for a traditional artist.

In addition to sharing Shapiro's latest creation with the community, this Salon event celebrates her receipt of a USA Knight Fellowship. A representative from United States Artists will be on hand to talk about the $50,000 unrestricted cash grant.

Part of the money was used for the Khmer Arts Salon.

Shapiro said she was happy for the chance "to share the opportunity my foundation gave me (with the grant)."

She said she hopes to continue the series next year.

Light refreshments will be served following a Q&A discussion moderated by Salon Series curator Prumsodun Ok.

If you go

WHAT: Khmer Arts Salon Series: The Lives of Giants

WHEN: Sat. Oct. 9, 7 p.m.

WHERE: Renaissance High School for the Arts Theater, 235 E. 8th Street, Long Beach


Rights Commission Lambasts Ongoing Land Problem

Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer

Phnom Penh Thursday, 07 October 2010

via CAAI
Photo: VOA Khmer
Phay Siphan is a Cambodian government spokesman.

“The Cambodian courts continue to act on behalf of rich and powerful interests, ignoring the evidence, the Land Law and other relevant legislation, enforcing eviction where ownership remains undecided and imprisoning those who dare to protest.”

The Asian Human Rights Commission on Thursday issued sharp criticism of the continued problem of land grabs, including the jailing of those who demonstrate against it.

The rights commission estimated that 133,000, more than 10 percent of Phnom Penh's residents, have been evicted in the capital since 1990.

“The Cambodian courts continue to act on behalf of rich and powerful interests, ignoring the evidence, the Land Law and other relevant legislation, enforcing eviction where ownership remains undecided and imprisoning those who dare to protest,” the commission said, citing the rights group Licadho.

“Cambodian courts are not able to protect land titles,” the commission said. “Their function is not the protection of the individual but the interests of those who are in power. The idea of the balancing of interests is an alien concept in Cambodia. The role of the authorities is to protect the state, not the people.”

Land titles are no protection either, the commission said. “It is only when the company begins the operation to redevelop the land that the original owners get to know that the land they rightfully own has been given away.”

Government spokesman Phay Siphan dismissed the criticism, which he said “aims only at degrading the Cambodian government and the courts.”

Hard Work Means Success for Dragon Fruit Farmer

Nuch Sarita, VOA Khmer

Siem Reap, Cambodia Thursday, 07 October 2010
via CAAI
Photo: Nuch Sarita, VOA Khmer
Kim Chheng, 31, is the owner of a dragon fruit farm in Banteay Srey district, Siem Reap province.

Hard work and business acumen has meant dragon fruit success for an entrepreneur, even in the midst of a global downturn.

Kim Chheng, 31, started his dragon fruit farm 10 years ago on 10 hectares of land in Banteay Srey district, Siem Reap province.

“It is very easy to plant the dragon fruit tree,” he said. “If you get the plant when it is freshly cut, you need to leave it in a dry location for a couple of days for the wound to heal, then you just put it in the soil and you need to put the pole for the plant to climb, then water it and add fertilizer. In eight months to 11 months, you’ll have fruit.”

Some of his dragon fruits are a Taiwanese species that have red flesh, which customers like because they believe it contains a natural antioxidant known to fight diabetes and lower blood pressure.

Others have white, red or yellow flesh. He uses organic fertilizer from cow compost and blended grasses.

Cambodian Expo in US Hopes to Boost Trade

Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer

Washington, D.C Thursday, 07 October 2010

via CAAI
Rice is among the pruducts that will be displayed at the 2010 Business and Culture Expo which will be held Oct. 17 in Long Beach, CA.

“The main purpose is that we are Khmer children, so we think of our brothers and sisters who are laborers and farmers in our homeland.”

Cambodia will bring a business and culture expo to the US for the first time later this month, in an effort to promote its products to the US market.

The 2010 Business and Culture Expo will be held Oct. 17 in Long Beach and will include 20 kiosks to promote rice, palm wine, wooden sculptures and other products. Admittance is free.

“The main purpose is that we are Khmer children, so we think of our brothers and sisters who are laborers and farmers in our homeland,” said Dany Wong, a spokesman for the Cambodian American Business Association.

An improved marketplace can help Cambodia's economy, he said.

“It's an opportunity and the hope that it an be partly solved if we can link the economy and import products from our country, Cambodia, to the US,” he said.

Cambodian Ambassador Hem Heng said he will attend the event.

“I hope this expo will help promote trade between the countries,” he said.

Deforestation Threatens Growing Rattan Industry

Men Kimseng, VOA Khmer

Washington, D.C Thursday, 07 October 2010

via CAAI
Photo: VOA Khmer
Ou Ratanak is a project manager for the World Wildlife Fund (left) and Lip Cheang is the president of the Rattan Association of Cambodia were the guests on "Hello VOA" on Monday October 04, 2010.

“Within the next few years we will ensure our supply to the European market.”

Even as Cambodian rattan producers have been looking for an international market, they warn that a lack of forest protection could end their livelihood.

Last month rattan producers brought their baskets, bags and other household items to a trade fair in Cologne, Germany.

Lip Cheang, president of the Rattan Association of Cambodia, said on “Hello VOA” Monday the exhibition had given him an opportunity to understand the preferences of international consumers, their needs and the designs that work for them.

Such a market requires small items for kitchens and bathrooms, he said, which are easy to supply.

“Within the next few years we will ensure our supply to the European market,” Lip Cheang said.

However, callers to “Hello VOA” said they were worried forest degradation and land concessions were threatening the industry.

“This is also a concern shared by conservationists,” said Ou Ratanak, a project manager for the World Wildlife Fund, said as a guest on the show.

The WWF and the rattan association are working with 20 forest communities in the provinces of Kampot, Kampong Thom, Preah Vihear, Preah Sihanouk and Koh Kong, training people to grow the vine and create products from it.

“Rattan products depend totally on the forest,” Ou Ratanak said. “If the forest is lost this means the rattan will be gone.”

Gopnik's Daily Pic: Cambodian Bronze

via CAAI

By Blake Gopnik

October 7, 2010

A feed from my morning musings about art and objects at  .

Daily Pic: The "Kandal Urn," a bronze vessel from the National Museum of Cambodia, and now in the Sackler Gallery's "Gods of Angkor" show. It's about 2,200 years old. The little lug on its left side is made to look like basketwork, which makes me think the shape of the whole vessel might imitate a wicker or maybe leather container. Whenever a new medium appears, it usually starts out immitating old ones. Greek temples show traces of their wooden ancestors, and early acrylics were used to get oil-paint effects.

Backstory: The urn was discovered in 1948 in the hands of some farmers, who were using it to carry water on long trips by ox cart. Had they unearthed it, or had it been in use for two millennia?

Cambodian information minister to visit Thailand

via CAAI

October 07, 2010

The Cambodian minister of information will pay a visit to Thailand later this month as part of the plan to boost Thai-Cambodia ties, said an senior official.

Thanom Onketpol, secretary to the Prime Minister's Office minister, said on Wednesday the Cambodian information minister was visit Thailand along with a group of Cambodian reporters during October 18-22.

The visit was a result of an agreement made with Cambodia during Prime Minister's Office Minister Ong-art Klampaiboon's recent visit to the neighboring country, he said.

According to the agreement, the two countries will exchange information and arrange mutual-visit of news reporters, and will carry out a cultural exchange program after the ties between two countries have been approved after the resignation of Thailand's ex-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinnawatra as economic advisor to Cambodian prime minister late August.


Hard turn for Khmer Rouge trial

via CAAI

By James O'Toole

PAILIN - Despite an awkwardly attached prosthetic leg, deputy governor Mey Meakk cut an authoritative figure as he strode into a recent community meeting in the former Khmer Rouge stronghold of Pailin along the Thai-Cambodian border.

The radical Maoist movement's former members have maintained political influence here in the transition from war to peace, despite atrocities committed during their rule that resulted in the deaths of perhaps 2.2 million people.

Provincial governor Y Chhean was formerly the head of Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot's bodyguards; another deputy governor, Ieng Vuth, is the son of former Khmer Rouge foreign minister Ieng Sary and his wife, social action minister Ieng Thirith. Mey Meakk spoke admiringly of the elder Iengs at the forum, rejecting claims that their hands were "soiled with blood" as leaders of the former regime, which governed from 1975-79.

The two were indicted last month at Cambodia's United Nations-backed war crimes tribunal, along with former Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan and chief ideologue Nuon Chea, for genocide and crimes against humanity. Mey Meakk, himself a former secretary to Pol Pot, was joined at the meeting by tribunal staff, including British co-prosecutor Andrew Cayley, who were there as part of a community outreach effort to answer questions about the indictments and the work of the court.

While Mey Meakk's view that the four Khmer Rouge defendants are "victims" is a minority one, his broader concern points to the challenge the tribunal faces as it attempts to move forward with its work and build trust with the Cambodian government. "Continued, prolonged investigations of other people may not meet the goal of national reconciliation," Mey Meakk said.

In July, the tribunal sentenced former Khmer Rouge prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, to 30 years in prison for crimes against humanity and breaches of the Geneva Conventions. While praise for the tribunal's first verdict came in immediately from the diplomatic community, outspoken Prime Minister Hun Sen's voice was conspicuously absent.

The 58-year-old strongman was not in the country on the day of the judgment and he offered no public comment on the landmark verdict in the days that followed. The silence was indicative of his government's often tense relationship with the court. It was over a week later that Hun Sen finally addressed the judgment, and only as part of a wide-ranging address at a graduation ceremony in Phnom Penh.

"I respect the verdict handed down by the court. The government has no right to interfere or put any pressure on the court," he said.
His comments offered an implicit rebuttal to critics who have charged that the prime minister and other officials have sought to influence the tribunal's work. Such charges have been levied by international civil society groups, with the New York-based Open Society Justice Initiative alleging in July that "the ability of individual Cambodian actors to resist interference by senior political figures and still maintain a position within the Cambodian legal system is limited".

The tribunal's hybrid setup has helped to drive those concerns. Unlike internationally administered war crimes tribunals created for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, the Khmer Rouge tribunal - or the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), as it is formally known - prosecutes crimes under both domestic and international law and has international and Cambodian jurists working alongside one another.

Judicial chambers house Cambodian majorities, though super-majorities are required to secure judgments, meaning that at least one international judge must sign on for a decision issued by domestic judges to come into force. The task of applying international standards of justice to a Cambodian legal system still struggling to recover from the Khmer Rouge period has been considerable.

Yet over the course of the Duch case, the ECCC appeared to succeed in conducting a fair, procedurally sound trial, according to legal experts. Case 001, as the Duch proceedings were known, was seen in part as a dry run for the looming larger second trial.

Hard-core case
Hearings in Case 002, referred to by court officials as the ECCC's "core case", are expected to begin early next year and last at least two years. They will see the elderly Iengs, Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea - the most senior surviving members of the Khmer Rouge - all brought together before the court's trial chamber.

Because the suspects will strongly contest the proceedings and the documentary evidence linking them to atrocities committed by low-level cadres is fragmented, their prosecution is expected to be significantly more difficult than that of Duch, who essentially pleaded guilty after leaving a voluminous paper trail from his time as a prison administrator.

"Case 002 is the most political, the most important, and the most difficult," said Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Centre of Cambodia, which helped to compile much of the evidence used by the court. Chhang called the second case "a test of trust between the UN and the government in seeking justice for the Cambodian survivors".

The government already tussled with the UN over the handling of the next case. Last year, court investigators attempted to summon as witnesses six senior officials from Hun Sen's ruling political party. The summonses - signed by French investigating judge Marcel Lemonde, though not his Cambodian counterpart - were subsequently ignored, with the government supporting the officials' decision not to offer testimony.

Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said at the time that the tribunal's foreign staff could "pack their clothes and return home" if they were upset with the decision. Lemonde ultimately concluded that it would be impractical to try and compel the officials' testimony, and declined to pursue the matter further.

The two foreign judges in the court's pre-trial chamber last month recommended an internal investigation of alleged political interference in relation to the incident, though such an investigation was deemed unnecessary by their three Cambodian colleagues.

Court staff have also been divided on foreign versus local lines over the question of whether to pursue suspects beyond Case 002. Hun Sen has come out strongly against further prosecutions, claiming that they could stoke unrest and compromise the hard-won peace he achieved in the late 1990s when the Khmer Rouge movement finally collapsed.

"I prefer the failure of the tribunal than to let the country fall into war," the premier said last year.

His statement followed on the announcement that foreign prosecutor William Smith had made submissions for the investigations of five additional suspects - whose identities remain confidential - in two new cases. His Cambodian counterpart, Chea Leang, opposed the submissions, echoing the arguments by Hun Sen in claiming such prosecutions could threaten Cambodia's national security.

Nevertheless, Lemonde announced in June that he was moving forward with preliminary investigations into Cases 003 and 004, despite a last-second loss of backing from his Cambodian counterpart, You Bunleng, who initially signed off on the investigations before retracting his support. His sudden change of heart stoked further suspicions of government interference.

The prime minister's claims of a reignited civil war may be exaggerated. But it is certainly the case that former senior Khmer Rouge members continue to wield political influence in Cambodia. That's particularly true along the Thai border, where figures like Y Chhean preside over patronage networks established directly from their former status within the movement.

While court officials have said prosecutions will end following the third and fourth cases, Hun Sen, himself a former low-ranking Khmer Rouge soldier, may feel there is little to be gained by disturbing relations with ex-cadres who have been peacefully integrated into government.

Whether Cases 003 and 004 actually proceed, there is hope that the court has laid a foundation for the smooth completion of Case 002, where the defendants are already in their late 70s and 80s. Youk Chhang claimed that the Cambodian government had "begun to see the credibility of the court" following Duch's conviction, an important element for the tribunal's success.

"The court has to obtain trust, not only from the people of Cambodia, but also from the government," Chhang said.

Back in Pailin, the assembled audience of ex-Khmer Rouge members still harbored suspicions. The visiting tribunal staffers assured them, however, that the court's mandate is limited, and that rank-and-file members of the movement such as themselves had nothing to fear.

"I was so worried when I heard about the ECCC because I was afraid I would be arrested," said Pailin resident Meas Chea, 59, a former Khmer Rouge foot soldier. He professed remorse for his role in the conflict and said he had been following the progress of the court. 0 "I felt better after the court announced the Duch verdict," Chea said. "The court is finding justice not only for survivors, but for all those that died."

James O'Toole is a Phnom Penh-based journalist.