Friday, 15 October 2010

The Phnom Penh Post News in Brief


via CAAI

32 Futsal teams head to battle in Cup tourney

Friday, 15 October 2010 15:00 Dan Riley

The 2010 Futsal Cup kicks off tomorrow at the National Sports Complex. 32 participating teams will be divided into eight groups in the Football Federation of Cambodia sanctioned tournament that concludes on December 25. Reigning champions Khmer Eysann, now called Pyramide Restaurant, will attempt to retain their title and collect the 6 million riels (US$1,423) cash prize for first place.

Francophonie summit

Friday, 15 October 2010 15:01 Vong Sokheng

CAMBODIA’S Foreign Minister Hor Namhong will lead a delegation to attend the 13th annual Francophonie Summit in Montreux, Switzerland, beginning October 23, according to a statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday. During the two-day summit, officials will discuss international issues including food security and climate change, as well as cooperation among member states of the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, according to the press statement. The OIF consisted of 55 member states and governments and 13 observer states as of 2008, according to its website.

Chinese company in Koh Kong land dispute


Friday, 15 October 2010 15:01 Vong Sokheng

A REPRESENTATIVE of around 20 families in Koh Kong province said yesterday that they planned to protest against the actions of the Union Development Group, a Chinese-owned company he accused of failing to honour an agreement to properly compensate residents affected by a large-scale development project. Mok Visetha, 38, said the company had originally agreed to provide residents with US$8,000 per hectare of land lost to the project, which included a new commercial centre complete with hotels, retail stores and restaurants. He said the company had changed its offer to as little as $300 per hectare. UDG officials could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Reaction office at the ready


Photo by: Pha Lina
Deputy Prime Minister Sok An fixes a scout’s beret at a June ceremony at Olympic Stadium during which he presented civic medals.

via CAAI

Thursday, 14 October 2010 21:32 David Boyle

As controversy broke out once more this week between Thailand and Cambodia, the government deployed what has become a familiar weapon in its public relations battle with its western neighbour.

“The Spokesperson of the Press and Quick Reaction Unit (PRU) of the Office of the Council of Ministers (OCM) of the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) wishes to bring to attention of the national and international public … the notorious reputation of Thailand [department of special investigation] in concocting evidence and inventing false news to accuse others,” said a statement released on Wednesday.

The PRU was responding to explosive allegations from a Thai DSI officer who reportedly said Monday that anti-government Red Shirts trained in Cambodia in preparation for an assassination attempt on Thai premier Abhisit Vejjajiva. Cambodian officials have vigorously denied these allegations, with the PRU employing the vitriol that, over the course of just a few months, has emerged as its stock-in-trade.

“The Spokesperson of the PRU of the Office of the Council of Ministers strongly demands that Thailand DSI put an end to the dirty games of concocting evidences to deflect Thailand public opinion from Thailand’s own internal political and social problems,” the unit said.

Founded in June of last year, the PRU was created “to respond to accusations and news that’s opposite to the truth”, PRU spokesman Tith Sothea said. He declined to disclose how many people were employed by the unit – a report in March from DAP News said there were 82 – and dismissed the possible overlap of responsibilities with the Ministry of Information.

“This unit focuses only on the news,” he said.

A request last month for a tour of the unit was declined.

In addition to producing press releases, Council of Ministers secretary of state Svay Sitha told DAP that the unit prepares news clippings for senior officials and publicises the work of Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, the minister in charge of the Council of Ministers. Past PRU statements have attacked institutions including the United Nations and software giant Google, though the bulk of the unit’s invective has been directed at Thailand.

“The Thai intoxication campaign’s spending of 10 million baht (US$335,230) with the dispatch of 50 delegates in order to oppose the management plans at the site of the Cambodian Temple of Preah Vihear was a total debacle,” the PRU said in August, following a UNESCO World Heritage Committee meeting in which the Kingdom presented management plans for Preah Vihear temple over Thai objections.

“If the Thai media is correct, it proves by this fact that Mr Abhisit is a liar, a rogue with a very sophisticated manipulative mind,” the unit said later that month following reports, later denied by the Thai government, that quoted Abhisit floating the possibility of military action at the Thai-Cambodian border.

The PRU compared Thailand’s territorial claims, based on a unilaterally drawn map, to those used by “the Nazis under Hitler and the Fascists under Mussolini … when they wanted to invade and occupy foreign lands”.

Observers acknowledged the government’s right to respond to criticism and false information, but said the PRU could be too acerbic for its own good.

“If, as I assume, the main intention is to influence the international community, then I am afraid the language used will be quite counterproductive,” a diplomat with experience in the region said by email.

“The same message could be sent without being quite so crude.”

Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore, said in an email that actions by both sides had fuelled their ongoing war of words, noting the 2008 incident in which Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya was caught on tape calling Prime Minister Hun Sen a “gangster”.

More recently, Pavin said, the Thai government had erred in needlessly publicising the DSI allegations rather than handling them through diplomatic channels.

“The reason for the creation of this unit is to respond to accusations and news that’s opposite to the truth,” Tith Sothea said.

“We just interpret the accusations and pass the information to prevent confusion.”

A frequent target of the PRU is Sondhi Limthongkul, a leader of Thailand’s ultranationalist Yellow Shirt movement and a frequent critic of Cambodia and Hun Sen.

“The Office of the spokesperson of the Press and Quick Reaction Unit (PRU) of the Office of the Council of Ministers of the Royal Government of Cambodia has found out that Mr Sondhi Limthongkun is becoming a raving lunatic, expert at disseminating innuendo, suggestion and speculation with his dark intention to distort the facts,” the PRU said in July.

More recently, a few unlikely organisations have followed the PRU’s lead in attacking Sondhi.

After an appearance last month by Sok An before the National Association of Cambodian Scouts, the scouts issued a press release denouncing Sondhi as an “immoral person”.

“Among the 10-article law of the scouts, there is one article stipulating that scouts are friends and brothers with other scouts,” the scouts said.

“But Sondhi Limthongkul, leader of the People Alliance for Democracy (Yellow Shirt) inspires hatred, discrimination, racism through publicly insulting a leader of a country who is popular among people in the Kingdom of Cambodia.”

Two days later, Supreme Patriarch Tep Vong, Cambodia’s highest-ranking monk, accused Sondhi of “going astray in history and ... behaving like a juvenile delinquent”.

“Thai authorities must immediately bring him to justice in order to educate him on Buddha’s doctrines as well as to rehabilitate him from a bias to a wise man,” Tep Vong said.

Pavin said the level of anger in the government’s public statements towards Thailand was unique among contemporary conflicts in the region.

“In other bilateral disputes, like between Malaysia and Singapore, or Malaysia and Indonesia, while the state secretly allowed local media to insult its opponents, the state itself was hardly engaging in the war of words,” Pavin said.

“The Thai-Cambodian case is totally different. Once leaders broke diplomatic rules, the other side would be willing to do the same.”

Tith Sothea said, however, that the PRU statements were consistent with its objective to defend the government.

“We need to answer, we need to react to any accusations and any incitement that affects the government’s reputation,” Tith Sothea said.

“Our reaction is to those accusations and incitements.”

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY THET SAMBATH

Police accused of torturing serial kisser


via CAAI

Thursday, 14 October 2010 20:27 May Titthara

THE mother of a 21-year-old man has filed a complaint with the rights group Adhoc accusing police in Kampong Cham province of beating her son at a Pchum Ben dance ceremony because he was kissing too many girls.

Mey Ravy, 21, a resident of Kang Meas district’s Angkor commune, said yesterday that he was handcuffed by a group of up to seven police officers at the dance, which was held last Friday.

“I asked them why, but no one responded, and I was handcuffed and thrown against a bed,” he said. “When I fell on the ground, one of them used his feet to press on my neck, and they rubbed a lit cigarette into my back.”

He said he was then sent to the police station, where his mother came and offered police officials 100,000 riels (US$23) for his immediate release, saying that her son suffers from a bladder condition and that police had exacerbated the symptoms.

“Those police officers later told me that according to a complaint from the event organisers, I was accused of kissing and looking at many girls during the dance, as well as beating my friends,” he said. “But I did not do that. If I did, I would’ve been killed by those people and the police wouldn’t have had to beat me.”

Mey Ravy’s mother, Din Soeun, said she filed her complaint to Adhoc because the police had tortured her son to within an inch of his life. “They came to me and asked for a compromise, but I did not agree to it,” she said. “I will not withdraw my complaint. They use their authority to torture innocents.”

Thuont Sophea, a provincial investigator for the rights group Adhoc, yesterday said he had concluded that the police officers had been drunk.

“They torture people to show others that they are a force in the region, and that they can do anything they wish,” he said. “Their activities fully violated the rule of law.”

Khiev Bunthet, chief of the Angkor commune administrative office, which organised the dance and filed the complaint against Mey Ravy, said the victim was being overly disruptive at the dance and had misbehaved by kissing many female attendees.

“We told him not to do it, but he didn’t listen,” he said. “Furthermore, he fought back against us, so we had to arrest him. We did not use violence against him.”

Local police officials could not be reached yesterday.

Illegal migrant workers await decision in Malaysia


via CAAI

Thursday, 14 October 2010 22:11 Mom Kunthear and Brooke Lewis

CAMBODIAN officials said yesterday that four women caught working illegally in Malaysia might be allowed to stay in the country, a decision that a Malaysian official said would contravene immigration laws.

Unt Vantha, second secretary at the Cambodian embassy in Kuala Lumpur, said embassy officials interviewed four women on Monday after they were caught working as domestic aids while staying in the country on a social visit visa.

He said the case – which was originally investigated by the Cambodian Interior Ministry’s Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Department following a complaint filed by the parents of the four women – was not being treated as one of human trafficking because the women reported that they had willingly gone to Malaysia.

“They told us that they are OK,” he said. “They said they work with a kind employer.”

He said it was possible the four women would be allowed to continue working in Malaysia.

“We reported the case to our government, and now we are waiting for instructions from our government [regarding] whether we should send them back or not,” he said.

In the meantime, he said, the four women and their employers would apply for work visas.

Kim Sovanna, deputy director of the Legal Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said yesterday that Cambodian officials needed more information before deciding whether the workers should be sent home or not.

“We always help [migrant workers] through the law when they have a problem, but we don’t know detailed information about [these four women] yet,” he said.

He said officials were investigating and would prosecute the Cambodian broker who allegedly arranged the illegal work placement if she was found to have cheated or trafficked the four women against their will.

Raja Saifful Ridzuwan, minister counsellor at the Malaysian embassy in Phnom Penh, said yesterday that he had not yet received information about the case, but that illegal workers would not normally be allowed to stay in Malaysia.

He said Cambodians could stay in Malaysia for 30 days on a social visit visa, but would be detained and sent to court if caught working without a permit during this time.

“If they were found guilty, they would be deported,” he said. “Some might also be fined, and some might be imprisoned.”

He said that, typically, workers caught overstaying their visas or working on a social visit visa need to leave the country before applying for work permits.

Unt Vantha said he did not have exact figures at hand, but estimated that around 30 Cambodians had been caught working illegally in Malaysia so far this year.

He said the biggest problem with black-market migrant labour was that it put the workers themselves at risk.

“I think it is not good for them that they come to work illegally because they can have many problems. They should come through the government agencies,” he said. “If they come illegally, they can be arrested, and some go to jail. It is also dangerous for them because some employers are bad and they won’t pay illegal employees.”

An Bunhak, chairman of the Association of Cambodian Recruitment Agencies, said it was “easy” for Cambodians to enter Malaysia on a social visit visa and to work illegally.

He added, though, that it was unwise to do so because it was often “really difficult” for Cambodian officials to help undocumented migrant workers who run into trouble.

Cambodian Open heats up this weekend


Photo by: Sreng Meng Srun
Top Cambodian seed Bun Kenny warms up ahead of this weekend's showdown at the National Training Centre.

via CAAI

Thursday, 14 October 2010 18:25 H S Manjunath

THE Kingdom’s second national ranking tennis tournament, the Cambodian Open, is scheduled to get underway tomorrow at the National Training Centre, creating an ideal platform for top seed Bun Kenny to get some serious match play ahead of next month’s Asian Games in Guangzhou.

The tennis community is gradually warming up to the twice rescheduled Cambodian Open with a field of around 60 expected to take part in the week-long championship, which carries a total prize of about US$2,500. The competition – involving men’s singles and doubles, U14 and U18 boys singles, and Over 45s singles events – is being held under the aegis of the Tennis Federation of Cambodia.

A notable feature this year is the supportive role being played by TFC’s newest sponsor Pepsi, alongside main sponsor Ezecom.

“Entries are trickling in,” said TFC Technical Director and national team coach Braen Aneiros. “We are keeping it open till 11am [Friday] morning, and the draw will be made half an hour later at the TFC office.”

To encourage elderly tennis player participation, the Over 45s singles event has been introduced this year. Aneiros also noted an extra set of matches offered to those who make an early exit.

“Like the Cham Prasidh Cup, we will have a back draw in the men’s singles event where winners get to a circle of their own and first round losers get down to a second tier competition,” he said. “This way the competitive flavour lingers much longer for those who are beaten in the early rounds.”

Two promising players from Estonia, who are currently playing in the Vietnam International Junior Tournament at Bac Lieu, are likely to attend the Cambodian Open if their schedules permit them to be here in time. The European duo had already planned a visit next week for a training session at the NTC, but their participation in the Open depends on whether they could confirm their travel plans before the draw is made.

“We are not sure whether these boys can make it. We are waiting for their call,” said Aneiros. “It would be good if they are here. One of them has a junior ranking of around 800, and he probably would be seeded second behind [Bun] Kenny, who is an obvious choice, being the country’s No 1 player.”

First round matches of the men’s singles competition are slated for a 9am start on Saturday at the NTC next to the Cambodian Country Club.

Meanwhile, the recently filmed documentary on the TFC will be repeatedly shown on news channel CNN’s Open Court programme this weekend. Viewing times in Cambodia are 1:30pm tomorrow, 10:30am, 2:30pm and 10pm on Sunday and 8:30am on Monday.

Rusty rifles resurrected


via CAAI

Written by Thet Sambath
Thursday, 14 October 2010 21:57

Residents of Battambang province’s Sampov Loun district have discovered a former Khmer Rouge weapons storehouse containing 67 Chinese-made CKC rifles, officials have said.

Chum Sib, the district governor, said the stash was discovered while villagers were trying to plant cabbage. “We believe there are more ammunitions and weapons here because it is a former warehouse belonging to the Khmer Rouge in the 1980s,” Chum Sib said.

Kieng Sothy, deputy district police chief, seconded this assessment, but noted that weapons were “difficult to find because the persons who buried them died”.

He said that the weapons were too old to be functional.

Khem Sophoan, chairman of the Governing Council of the Cambodian Mine Action Centre, said the area where the weapons were discovered could potentially be contaminated with land mines.

Eviction victims hit again


via CAAI

Thursday, 14 October 2010 19:07 May Titthara

LESS than two years after they were forcibly evicted from the central Phnom Penh community of Dey Krahorm, and just nine months after they were moved from Dangkor district to Kandal province, some 180 families could be in danger of losing their land yet again. This time, however, they have placed themselves in this position voluntarily.

Since April, people living in Phnom Bat commune, in Kandal province’s Ponhea Leu district, have been willingly pawning documents that form the basis of their claims to 4-by-6-metre plots of land at the Tang Khiev relocation site, a ramshackle collection of palm wood, bamboo and blue tarpaulin structures that house 222 former Dey Krahorm families.

Commune officials told the families in January – when the community was established – that possession of the documents would make them eligible for land titles in five years’ time.

Var Savoeun, chief of the community, said this week that he doubted most families would last that long. He said the Dey Krahorm evictees, many of them former vendors, never learned how to thrive outside the city centre, and had taken to subsisting on frogs and crabs caught from nearby rice fields.

About five months ago, 10 families pawned their land documents to supplement their meagre incomes, Var Savoeun said. By the end of last month, that number had skyrocketed.

“Now, the number of families that pawned their land is 180,” he said.

“All of my villagers are going to pawn their land. I dare not raise my face when I am walking through the village because I am ashamed that I cannot help them.”

Most families have entered into arrangements in which they put their documents down as collateral in exchange for loans of US$100. They are charged about $10 every two to three months until they are in a position to pay the initial lump sum back in full.

If they cannot make repayments, they stand to lose their claims for good.

Nai Chhornneang, a 52-year-old former egg vendor, said she agreed to pawn her land documents to support herself and her 14-year-old son. “I have nothing besides my land title, so I had to pawn it to get food,” she said.

Neither she nor any other Tang Khiev residents would identify the brokers who gave them their loans, though most were said to live in Phnom Penh and in Kandal and Kampong Speu provinces.

With the deadline for the first $10 payment approaching, Nai Chhornneang said yesterday she had no idea how she would pay it. “I am worried I will lose my land because the person who gave me the money has ordered me to pay it back,” she said. “In the case that I have no money to pay it back, they will take my land.”

The eviction of the Dey Krahorm community – a violent, pre-dawn affair carried out by police and construction workers in January 2009 – was intended to allow for development of the site by 7NG Group, a private firm. Since then, the bulk of what little development work has been done has gone towards the building of an exclusive fitness centre for company employees and their families.

7NG managing director Srey Chanthou said yesterday he did not know how the rest of the site would be developed. “We have not had a meeting with our board yet. Recently we just built a fitness centre for our staff,” he said.

Sia Phearum, secretariat director of the Housing Rights Task Force, said the eviction and its aftermath had been deeply troubling. “We hoped that when there was a development project that the villagers would be compensated so they could benefit from it,” he said. “But this development has caused them to have no food, so now they are pawning their land titles to get food.”

Mann Chhoeun, the former Phnom Penh deputy governor who oversaw the Dey Krahorm eviction, said the government would not intervene in the community’s plight.

“It is the villagers’ right to sell the land if they think they cannot live in that area,” he said. “But they cannot live in Phnom Penh in another anarchic community like before.”

សេវា​ប៉ះ​កង់​រថយន្ត​ចល័ត , Mobile Tire Repair Service In Phnom Penh

U.S. Secretary of State Clinton to visit Cambodia in late Oct.+


via CAAI

Oct 14, 2010

PHNOM PENH, Oct. 14 (AP) - (Kyodo)—U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is to visit Cambodia in late October, the first visit in nearly 15 years by a top U.S. official, Cambodian officials told Kyodo News on Thursday.

Several senior officials said Clinton plans a two-day trip from Oct. 30, coming to Phnom Penh after Hanoi where she is to attend the East Asia Summit.

The summit brings together the 10 leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and dialogue partners Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.

The foreign minister of Russia and the United States will attend as quests of the chair, Vietnam.

During the Cambodia trip, Clinton is to hold talks with her counterpart Hor Namhong, meet Prime Minister Hun Sen and pay a courtesy call on King Norodom Sihamoni.

If the visit materializes, it will be the first by a U.S. secretary of state since Warren Christopher in 1996.

Diplomatic sources said the trip would mark a turning point of President Barak Obama's administration in engaging with Southeast Asia.

"Cambodia is considered a small and less powerful country for the United States, but geopolitically, the U.S. cannot over look this country because it is a fact that Cambodia is being pursued by Asia's superpower China as one of the gateways in dealing with regional issues," one source said.

In April, the United States suspended military aid to Cambodia after Cambodia deported last December 20 Uyghur refugees to China at China's request and in violation of Cambodia's international obligation to protect asylum seekers.

The U.S. suspension covered about 200 vehicles and trailers that had been identified for shipment to Cambodia, but less than two months later China gave Cambodia 257 military trucks and other equipment worth $14 million.

End Of Pchum Ben Comes With Flu Shots At Buddhist Temple In Maryland

In Wake of Complaints, City Agents Charge Correct Tax

Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer

Phnom Penh Thursday, 14 October 2010
 
via CAAI
 
Photo: by Taing Sarada
A watchdog organization says the Ministry of Economy and Finance's tax collectors are bilking the country out of at least a million dollars a year by overcharging for annual vehicle stickers.

“I want the government and the Anti-Corruption Unit to take strong action against corruption.”

As the deadline for annual vehicle taxes approaches, tax agents in Phnom Penh appear to be avoiding the kind of overcharges that led to a flurry of complaints last month.

In a bundle of 90 complaints sent to the newfound Anti-Corruption Unit, 2,700 people complained they were being overcharged at tax collection sites across the country.

But at 15 sites around Phnom Penh this week, tax agents were charging the standard amount set by the Ministry of Finance, while avoiding unofficial surcharges.

“I paid for tags for two motorcycles according to the price on the invoice,” said Chea Bora, a 30-year-old resident of Phnom Penh's Prampi Makara district. His Chaly cost 3,500 riel, about $0.80, for a vehicle tag, and his more expensive Fino cost 4,500 riel, about $1.07.

“The tax agents didn't overcharge me,” he said.

Ly Vanny, a tax agent in the capital's Chamkar Mon district, said accusations of overcharging did not apply to her.

“We respect the price table of the Ministry of Economy and Finance's general tax department,” she said. “We want the process of vehicle tax collection to have transparency and effectiveness for both tax agents and tax payers.”

Nevertheless, in complaints filed with the ACU by the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability in East Asia and the Pacific, Cambodians said they were being overcharged for their annual tags. The ACU has said it is considering the complaints for possible investigation.

Om John, deputy chief of the Finance Ministry's tax department, said agents have been counseled not to over charge, though they do not always comply. Still, he said, overcharging has been reduced.

The deadline for vehicle tax is Oct. 20, and as the deadline approaches, people outside of Phnom Penh say they are being forced to overpay. Sometimes they are asked to pay extra for the forms, or for pens, they said.

“I almost lost my temper, because the government staff are supposed to work to serve the interests of the people,” said Thon Saroeun, 38, who lives in Siem Reap province. The set fee for tax on his CRV car is 100,000 riel, or $25, he said. But agents charged him an extra 5,000 riel.

“It affects my own feelings, when tax agents illegally take money,” he said. “Five thousand riel is not so much, but many people pay the overcharge. I feel bad paying the overcharge because the money comes from my own labor.”

“The agents look down on the law,” said Keo Soeun, a 65-year-old farmer from Svay Rieng province. He said he was overcharged 1,500 riel, around $0.40, for his vehicle tax. “I earn less than $1 per day, and I can spend 1,500 riel to buy salt, prahok [fish paste] and fish sauce to eat for three days.”

Pang Sameth, a 47-year-old motorcycle taxi driver in Preah Sihanouk province, said overcharging for government services has worsened his living conditions. He earns about $2 a day and supports a family of three children.

“I want the government and the Anti-Corruption Unit to take strong action against corruption,” he said. “If the tax agents continue to overcharge, it affects the legal system, the state regime and the system of government and administration,” he said. “The overcharging hurts my feelings, my spirit and my daily living.”


Parliamentary Group Seeks Solution to Sam Rainsy Cases

Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer

Washington, DC Thursday, 14 October 2010

via CAAI
 
Photo: AP
Cambodian opposition party leader Sam Rainsy, stands in front of the municipal court in Phnom Penh.

“What they have raised as a resolution of the IPU, I cannot accept it as a parliamentarian of Cambodia.”

A group of European parliamentarians says charges brought in Cambodia against opposition leader Sam Rainsy are more political than criminal.

The Inter-Parliamentarian Union issued a resolution this month calling on Cambodian authorities to “explore ways and means of resolving the issues at hand through political dialogue.”

Sam Rainsy, who is in exile abroad, is facing a 12-year jail sentence in two cases, for uprooting markers along the Vietnamese border and for posting a map on his party's website the government says falsely alleges Vietnamese border encroachment.

The Appeals Court this week upheld a guilty verdict in Sam Rainsy's border marker case, which carries a two-year sentence for destruction of property and incitement.

The IPU called on the government to “enable Mr. Sam Rainsy to resume his parliamentary activities as rapidly as possible.”

Government officials, including Prime Minister Hun Sen, have said the cases belong to the courts and will not be discussed beyond them.

The IPU said in its Oct. 6 resolution the cases “never should have been brought before the courts, but resolved at the political level.”

As a result of the charges, Sam Rainsy has been stripped of his parliamentary immunity. Meanwhile, his party and others must now prepare for commune elections in 2012 and national elections the following year.

The IPU said it was “particularly alarmed that, if upheld, this verdict would bar Mr. Sam Rainsy from standing in the 2013 parliamentary elections.”

The verdict would also have “consequences far beyond Mr. Sam Rainsy's case, as it is bound to affect the opposition,” the IPU said, calling recent prosecutions of other opposition supporters a narrowing of the political space and detrimental to the democratic process.

Cheam Yiep, a senior Cambodian People's Party lawmaker, said Sam Rainsy had broken the law and should face the legal ramifications.

“What they have raised as a resolution of the IPU, I cannot accept it as a parliamentarian of Cambodia,” he said, and he accused the IPU of “listening to the minority.”

The Sam Rainsy Party holds 26 of 123 National Assembly seats, compared to the CPP's 90.

“So they are paying attention only to 26 seats,” he said.

The IPU resolution calls for close monitoring of the developments of Sam Rainsy's legal cases.

Immigration Reform Bill Could Lessen Deportations: Group

Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer

Washington, DC Thursday, 14 October 2010

via CAAI
 
Photo: AP
The US has expelled more than 200 Cambodians under the law since 2001, when Cambodia signed an agreement to take back deportees.

“We should push congressmen from the Republicans to help sponsor it.”

A new immigration bill already drafted in Congress could reduce the number of Cambodians deported from the US, supporters say.

The Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill, which has the backing of a number of groups, including Cambodian, still needs more support, Sinuon Hem, director of the Asian Pacific Islanders Youth Program, told VOA Khmer.

“We should push congressmen from the Republicans to help sponsor it,” she said from Seattle, Wash.

Passage of the bill would reduce Cambodians on a deportation list under immigration laws, she said. Currently, the list is 1,400 Cambodians long, many of whom have already served jail time and have the potential of becoming good US citizens, she said.

Deportation of some US-Cambodians under the law have met with opposition from the Cambodian-American communities. So far 230 people have been deported. Five of them were sent in September.

Daravuth Huot, the Cambodian consular in Seattle, said he has received requests for more information about deportation procedures, but he encouraged people who are concerned to seek legal counsel.

Cambodian Network Warned Over Mobile Money Service


via CAAI

­The National Bank of Cambodia has warned that it will take action after local mobile network, Mobitel launched a mobile banking service without applying for permission from the Central Bank. The Central Bank issued a ruling in August that it must oversee credit remittances - which it says includes the money transfer services provided by mobile networks.

Mobitel's Cellcard Cash service was launched on September 20 without the filing of an application, reports the Phnom Penh Post. The money transfer service is backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Central Bank director general Tal Nay Im declined to comment on what action the central bank was considering, she did not rule out legal action against the mobile network operator.

"I cannot tell you yet [what action we will take], but we have to do something," she said.

Mobitel Chief Executive Officer David Spriggs declined to comment on the issue, but operations manager Kay Lot has said that the company did not consider mobile-money transfers to be banking.

Article published on 14th October 2010

Mindanao lady solon joins liberal and democrats workshop in Cambodia


via CAAI

Davao City (14 October) -- Rep. Maria Carmen Zamora-Apsay attended the recently concluded gathering of the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats (CALD) in Cambodia from October 1-6, 2010. She was joined by Valenzuela City Councilor Shalani Soledad.

The meeting was a back-to-back workshop on party management and grassroots organizing and was staged in cooperation with the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) with the support of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF).

Rep. Zamora-Apsay lauded the successful event, and vowed to impart the valuable lessons from it to "strengthen not only the Liberal Party, but also other democratic institutions and processes."

"From its vast membership, I feel honored and privileged to have been chosen by the Liberal Party as one of its two representatives to this important assembly," the young solon added.

"This is made more meaningful by the fact that I was tasked to present the Party's agenda on women-one of my core advocacies-and how to strengthen their empowerment through legislation for true equality and genuine respect."

CALD, founded in 1993, is a regional alliance of political parties in Asia which aims to advance the values of liberalism, democracy, human rights, rule of law, private property, and good governance.

Through the years, it has maintained its relevance by addressing issues and concerns that its member parties consider as vital in their operations and political survival.

The workshops saw the attendance of representatives from political parties and organizations across Asia.

These include CALD full members like the Democrat Party of Thailand (DP), the Democratic Progressive Party of Taiwan (DPT), Liberal Party of the Philippines (LP), the Liberal Party of Sri Lanka (LPSL), the Sam Rainsy Party of Cambodia (SRP), the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), the Malaysian People's Movement Party (PGRM), and the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P). CALD associate member Liberal Forum Pakistan (LFP) and observer member Nation Awakening Party of Indonesia (PKB) were also present.

According to Rep. Zamora-Apsay, echoing the workshops' findings on empowerment, transparency and accountability and grassroots organization, and translating them into goals will create greater representation of not just women, but even for those who need access to their political leaders the most. (Office of Cong. Maria Carmen Zamora-

Ivanhoe Grammar past and present students confront poverty in Cambodia

via CAAI

14 Oct 2010
by Hannah Donnellan

A GROUP of past and present students from Ivanhoe Grammar School are travelling thousands of kilometres to see the world through the eyes of the poor.

The band of young volunteers will head to Cambodia in January to help build homes for impoverished families, and run community projects.

Past student Erika Hazi said the team hoped to raise $35,000 to build 12 houses, support two orphanages and refurbish a number of schools.

“We are trying to raise funds that will enable us to help the Cambodian people as well as raise awareness of social justice issues that many face in their daily lives,” Ms Hazi said. “We are all very passionate about making a difference and bringing a little hope.”

When the chance came up to visit Cambodia, Ms Hazi said it seemed like a dream come true.

“I’ve wanted to volunteer in Cambodia for years and to know that I’ll be going is so exciting,” Ms Hazi said. “I think it’s really important that the people of our community are aware of the projects that the youth in our area are engaging in.”

To donate to the project, email erikahazi uf @hotmail.com   

Cambodia: Portrait of Hunger

http://cchronicle.com/

via CAAI


Today is my second day exploring world hunger as part of Conducive Chronicle’s 21 Days for Hunger. Last May, when I did my first world hunger series, I mimicked the diet of the world’s hungriest people for the entire seven days of my journey. I tried, in my own small way, to get a glimpse into chronic hunger. While I found that 1,000 calories a day left me weak and exhausted and overwhelmingly hungry, it soon became abundantly clear that my experiment would never give me the insight that I was hoping for. With the unavoidable knowledge that I could quit, walk into my overstuffed kitchen, and eat at anytime, I could never even come close to understanding the true horrors of chronic hunger. For most of us, chronic hunger is a distant thing that happens to distant people. I know in my life it isn’t something I’m confronted with on a daily basis, except through books, articles, and news reports. And yet, nearly 1 billion people live with hunger every single day. 1 out of 6 human beings on our planet does not have enough to eat, even while there is more than enough food for everyone. Nearly 1 billion people…So many people who know hunger, who understand its depths, its terrors, its many faces, and yet, I don’t know if I’ve ever heard anyone tell their story. I knew I could continue going over the facts and statistics and mind-numbing numbers day after day, but I felt that I would never be able to do more than gloss the surface. No report I could quote or paper I could cite would ever be able to give us more than a glimpse into real hunger. I wanted more than that; I wanted to hear directly from a person who had suffered from chronic hunger. I wanted to hear their story. Today I will share my interview with Ms. Pry Phally Phuong, the director of Building Community Voices, a capacity building and community networking NGO in Cambodia, as well as a survivor of chronic hunger under the Pol Pot Khmer Rouge Regime.

Asia and the Pacific are home to over half of the world’s population and nearly 2/3 of the world’s hungry people. There are 642 million people in Asia and the Pacific struggling with chronic hunger, and Cambodia’s malnutrition rates are among the highest in South East Asia. After the violence of the Vietnam War displaced millions of Cambodians and left the country in turmoil and conflict created famine, the brutal Khmer Rouge took power in 1975. The new regime emptied the cities and sent the people to work in the fields, determined to cast aside all modern progress and Western influence, and create an agrarian utopia emulating the 11th century. Nearly 1 million Cambodians, 1 out of 8 people, died under the Khmer Rouge through executions, overwork, starvation, or disease.

In 1991, the United Nations was given the power to enforce a ceasefire after a comprehensive peace settlement was reached. However, the violence and tragedy of the Khmer Rouge years fractured Cambodian society, killed entire generations of people, and set the nation’s progress back decades. The International Food Policy Research Institute has named Cambodia one of the world’s 12 hunger hotspots to highlight the massive rate of food insecurity the country faces. The average life expectancy in Cambodia is only 56 years, with people dying from easily preventable and treatable diseases that have been virtually wiped out in much of the rest of the world. The Cambodian government estimates that only 29 percent of their citizens have access to safe drinking water. Only 57 percent of Cambodian women can read and write, and more than half of all children are not attending school in order to work. This kind of poverty is difficult to overcome. It creates a legacy of hunger and impoverishment, passed down from generation to generation like an unwanted inheritance. To further understand chronic hunger, and the lingering, devastating aftereffects such devastation can have for a country and its people, I turned to Ms. Pry Phally Phuong.

Burge: Could you provide a biography of yourself, your background, where you are from, where you work, what your work’s focus is?

Pry Phally Phuong: I am Ms. Pry Phally Phuong. I have a big family with five brothers and four sisters, I am the forth child in the family, and I was born in Seim Reap Province, Cambodia. I holds Master’s Degree of Business Administration in the field of General Management at Institute of Business Education. Since 1979, I worked as a teacher in Primary school, but after that in 1992 I had worked as a part –time job with one Organization known as Australian People for Health Education and Development Abroad (APHEDA) on the program of Hospitality. It was the program for youth girls who could not get get a chance to learn in the University, and the other part time job was with the Government (teacher). From 1995- 2000 I started to work full time with APHEDA by teaching accountant to the youth girls and built the capacity of the teachers in NGOs or Women Association in Provinces who got funding from APHEDA. In 2000- 2005, I moved to work for Oxfam Hong Kong and after that this NGO had changed the name to be Womyn’ s Agenda for Change (WAC), and I was responsible for the speak out project with grass root people. I organized and established the Sex Workers Association which called Women’ s Network for Unity (WNU) to focus on Sex Worker Empowerment Project with success, and in 2005-2007 I was in charge of the project of Violence Against Women. And in 2008 up to now I moved to work with a new NGO called Building Community Voices (BCV) as the Director of BCV. BCV is a local NGO that works for providing networking, capacity building and community media to support Cambodia communities and community mobilizing so that they can speak to each other and with outside stakeholders in order to have a vibrant and proud Cambodian civil society.

Burge: What circumstances led to you facing chronic hunger?

Pry Phally Phuong: On 17th April, 1975, all the Cambodian were evacuated from their house to live in rural areas or outside the city by saying that they need to rearrange the city again, and we can come back after one week, but, of course, they dismissed people from cities (24 provinces and cities) to stay in the countryside. On that time they divided Cambodian into 3 categories :

1- Old people (people who used to stay in the liberated zone forever before or from 1970-1975.)

2- Middle people (people who in that zone for some time and moved to live in the city and came back to that place before 1975.)

3- New people (people who were dismissed from city to stay in that places after 1975.)

I am and other who were evicted from cities in April 1975 were considered as the New People which the Old People had blame us that we were the people who did not do nothing, just bring the empty stomach to eat and destroy their properties or they said that we were the capitalists who could not do anything besides eating.

During that time, they had separated all members of New People families to live in different places by dividing into several groups such as mobile child groups (from 6 – 15 years old), mobile youth groups (from 16 years old up), villagers ( people who married already). The two first groups lived in the camps or centers while the last groups lived in their house.

The mobile youth group had to stay far away from the villages and worked very hard with the mobile areas for building dams or plantation rice in the new farms in the forest or in the areas near the mountains.

The villagers need to work in the villages, but they could not stay with their children who were six years old or up, because this children need to stay in the shelter for the mobile children group and they had to get up from 3 or 4 am and walked to the work places (the work places and their shelter were far away).

During that time we were working hard by working from early morning (3 or 4 am) up to 11pm and had around one hour for lunch and two hours for dinner and if we talk about these meals we never had enough food and rice, we had only one small bowl of porridge and sometimes we could have some rice mixed with potatoes or corn. And the most common meals were a little rice with leaves of plant.

For me, during that time I was very skinny and never have a chance to stay with my family, and my mom told me to try to work and say nothing about my living in the city. Furthermore, I stayed at the mobile youth group, which was located in the forest near the mountain that was very far away from my family place, and I never went to visit them. My mom had a chance to come and visit me once a year with permission from her authority. Whenever she came to visit me, she brought some potatoes, coconuts, and ripe tamarinds, and sometimes my young sisters who stayed with the children’s group tried their best to steal potatoes and catch some fishes for me. I had tried to work hard but I never have enough meals to eat, I had only porridge all the time. And I needed to find something to add to my meals.

Burge: When you were going hungry, what were your best options for finding food? How did you survive? What was a typical day of food, or a meal like?

Pry Phally Phuong: In Pol Pot Regime (1975-1979), when I was hungry, I tried to make some hats from palm leaves for my supervisors (old people) or made pillow clothes from cotton thread to exchange with some people who work in kitchen for getting some salt, tamarind, and rice crusts (these things I could share with friends nearby me) or I went to catch crabs or pick up some leaves of plants to fill up my empty stomach. I tried to work hard every day, so my supervisor liked me, and I could keep some private food in my shelter. And my teammates always asked me to keep adding food in my place.

For food or soups was the same as water no tasty. Every month, there were a real rice with simple soup, a soup cooked with a fish or pork in a big pan but its meats were never seen, for the outstanding active group. I was very lucky to be in that group. I could eat the pure rice with salt. I felt I was still alive and my strength came back.

Burge: Many of our readers have never experienced chronic hunger. Can you tell us how it is to live with that every day? How does it change the way you view the world?

Pry Phally Phuong: From 1975-1979 in Pol Pot Regime, I had worked as a mobile youth group to build the Dam, plantation rice, carry human’s excrement from the toilet to make fertilizer by mixing up with green grass for the plantation rice and never had soap for cleaning my hands and body, I just cleaned my hands with the leaves of trees. During that time I were working hard by working from early morning (3 or 4 am) up to 11pm and had around one hour for lunch and two hours for dinner, I were very hungry, but I eat some leaves of plants and tamarind which I got from the kitchen. I were very tied but I could not sit down for a rest, so I went to toilet even I could not make an excrement, I just went to sit and get the bad smell from the toilet, it is better than carry the soil on my solders to build the dam and the other way I pretend to drink the hot water. These kinds of ways could make me have a little rest. During the raining season worked in the rice farm near the dam, which the mobile youth group build it. Sometimes when it was raining like cats and dogs, it made the dam broken, the water flooded over the rice field, so we could have a rest for a while, and if we talked about the meals we never had enough food and rice, we had only porridge for one small bowl with a little food and some time we could have some rice which cook rice mixed with potatoes or corn if we have the rice mixed up with potatoes or corn, it is lucky for me. So it means that I need to get up early morning to work until midnight, I slept only four or five hours per day. I was living in the hell for 3 years 8 months and 20 days. It was a nightmare.

After the liberation day from 1979 – 1985, I have changed my live,.I worked as a primary teacher at the morning and work in the rice field at afternoon. I did not get salary but I got the rice or corn one kilogram, one liter of gasoline, two bars of soaps a month. Because the rice, which we produced were in the forest or were destroyed by the war. Not only my family, all the Cambodian people were poor, the families that had male members were better, because they had the strong people to carry some rice for keeping in their house, but for me, I have only the four girls, two little boys, and my mom, we could not carry heavy things, just only me and my older sister, but unfortunately we were very skinny, so I could carry five times equal with a man or boy did once. My family was poor but it is better than in Pol Pot Regime. We could have a good rest as we wished. My mom tried to make vegetable or cucumbers pickle or bean sprouts to sell or exchange with some rice. I still was trying to make some hats from palm leaves to exchange for rice also. Furthermore, in 1982 there was a tailor near my house, her name is Ms. Sokhom. There was no sewing machine at the time. So when I was free, I always went to help her for sewing something then she explained me on how to cut and how to sew and then I started to be a tailor apart from my teaching (at that time teachers just worked half day every day). So I was the teacher at the morning, worked in the farm at the afternoon, and worked as a tailor at evening. Even if I worked hard, I could sew a skirt or blouse in exchange for just only one kilogram of rice per each item. I could not see the outside world; it seemed that the world was very small. We were afraid of return of Pol Pot Regime because the Pol Pot soldiers continued their activities to rob our rice or property. So we decided to send our two siblings (a brother and a sister) to live with the Governor of Kramoun Sar province (Khmer Kampuchea Krom) in Viet Nam. If we all would die, we have two brother and sister left.

Burge: How did you emotionally and mentally endure this time in your life? How did those experiences shape who you are today and what you are doing with your life?

Pry Phally Phuong: When I was young, I always dreamed to be a girl with good education and good job unfortunately through the three regimes went by, I felt very disappointed and despaired because my family was very poor. We could not make ends meet, and we ate from hand to mouth. However; as a daughter of government official in the previous regime (Sihanouk Regime), an idea of struggle came into my mind, I accepted the painful situation, and I had tried my best to work both as full time and part-time job. I pursued my study at night school program until I obtained secondary education certificate. At free time, I studied English with my friends. It was just a peer education. We lighted candles at night time to study and receiving oppression from the government at the time because foreign languages were not allowed to study in any forms. If we were caught while studying foreign languages except Vietnamese and Russian, we would be subject to both fine and penalty or go to prison.

At the present, everything is still fresh in my mind; these living conditions have led me to make an untiring effort to continue my study until I obtain Master’s Degree and achieve what I have today. Now I am the Director of Organization, BCV, I have my present status thanks to my enduring all hardships. As I experienced through the poverty, I am willing to assist poor people by building net workings, organizing and mobilizing through community media in order that they receive the real information and share with their groups and have an opportunity to discuss and speak to each other both inside and outside Cambodia. Therefore, they can stand up together to protect both their own interests and national forest, national resources, and their lands.

Burge: Cambodia’s malnutrition rates are among the highest in South East Asia, with 26% of the population undernourished. What do you see as the main causes of hunger in Cambodia?

Pry Phally Phuong: I personally think that main causes of hunger in Cambodia are privatization, micro finance institutions, land, forest, mining, tourism, and Hydro-dam concession.

The Cambodia government had privatized all main sectors such as health, education, electricity, banking, forest, fishery and water. As can be seen in the health care system, under the pretext of just paying to recover cost, it requires people to pay health care service fee which is inaccessible for the most people. This system can function only for rich people, but not for the poor. At the same time people living in the cities or downtown are encountered with a rise in electricity and water prices too.

In addition, at the early of 1996, many microfinance institutions always have charged at least four percent of interest rate per month, now after some microfinance institution have transferred into the bank, they charge at least three percent per month which is equal to 36 percent per year from borrowers. Many poor people who have borrowed money from these institutions such as ACLEDA bank, AMRETH become indebted. In order to pay back the interest at the end of the month, people sell cows, pigs, and then their land, bit by bit until they have nothing left.

Moreover, due to the government policy to provide economic land concessions, many land concessions are made on people lands without consultations and resulting in the eviction of people or their replacement without due process or proper compensations, and the evicted people have to live in the place where there is not basic social infrastructures such as water, electricity, market, school and hospital. Some land concessions over leaped on people land which cause social conflict, and while other concessions are on the forest which people depend on its non-timber products for their livelihood.

Burge: 35% of Cambodians live below the poverty line, with 15%-20% living in extreme poverty. Can you explain how this poverty becomes an inherited condition that is extremely hard to escape from?

Pry Phally Phuong: This poverty has become an inherited condition from one generation to another. It is extremely hard to escape because their parents are in debts, and they could not pay back. These debts are the burden for their children to settle. Many people send their children especially their daughters to work as garment workers who loose weight and live in an unhealthy conditions. This situation causes their health problems and leads to borrow money from the moneylenders with high interest rate. This fall into the cycle in debt. At the present, poor people are faced with the land issues and forest concessions. Many people lose their agriculture lands and could not do farming. Some people sell out their lands to settle debts, while other people have to migrate to find other employment. Moreover, government policy is likely to pay lip service and turn blind eyes on the poor. It focuses on the capitalism, which stays far away from the poor.

Burge: Can you please talk about sweatshops and how and why they thrive in impoverished areas? Many Westerners think sweatshops are good alternatives to other kinds of work, and that the people working in sweatshops want the job. Can you tell us about the truth behind the myth? What is it really like? How can we create better alternatives?

Pry Phally Phuong: Because of debt, the young girls migrated to find the job in the cities, some can work in garment factories, and some worked as the construction workers, and others worked as the beggars. They need to pay for getting the job in the factories, and when they got the job, they need to stay together (roommates) for 4-5 people in one room, that room is about 3 x 4m or 4 x 5m and every worker need to pay $7 a month and for meals at least is around $0.70 or 0.80 USD a day, pay for utility around $5 per month, and they need to pay for extra cost if they have problem with their health. Sometimes the employers force them to work overtime. They cannot reject overtime even they feel not good health. If they reject one time, next time they cannot have a chance to work overtime or managers will find the other way to accuse them and dismiss them from the factory. Moreover, in the factories they did not have the hospital staff, if the factories have the hospital staff, they just have only the medicine for headache and diarrhea. All the workers got problems with their health worse and worse, because of working condition and eat a little bit for earning some money to send back to their parents, sometimes they earned nothing because of their health. In Cambodia the labor law is good, but it is good in the book. The people or the employers never respect the law and human rights. They just respect the money. For some girls who could not find the job and have a low education, it easy for the bad people (Peem) persuade them to work in the brothels or karaoke which easy to be the indirect sex workers and after that they got HIV/AIDS easily.

Many people in Western always think that working in the factories is good alternative because in the Western countries, the workers get salary that they can spend enough for their live (standard salary), their working condition is good standard, and the employers respect the law and human rights.

For making this alternative better, the government should enforce the law and thinking about human being before profit. Punishing employers who forced the workers to work overtime without respect the workers’ right. The factories need to have the real hospital staff to cure the workers. The government needs to allow the union to do the events or demonstration to demand their rights and stop cheating workers. And furthermore when the government make agreement with the employers, the government need to demand the employers to respect the Cambodia law and transfer all technology to Cambodian people.

Burge: What projects have you worked on or seen that have successfully lessened poverty and the chronic hunger that plagues Cambodia? Could you describe why they worked so well?

Pry Phally Phuong: For my idea the project that can reduce poverty is the organizing and mobilizing project because this project can work with grassroot people (community people) to have ownership (community ownership) and they can analyze their issues or donors strategies by themselves through community media for discussing and sharing the real information and after that they can stand up together for demanding the government to re-form the inappropriate development project for stopping or delay the land, forest, mining, hydro-Dam, and tourist concessions and solve the problems of what I mentioned above.

Now some of communities people have strong commitment and solidarity because they are facing with the same problems on land and forest conflict and eviction without paying compensation, so they developed the strategic to demand or submit the complaint files to the government or relevant ministries for suggesting to solve their problems before continuing to provide the land, forest, mining, Hydro-dam, and tourist concession. And if the government would like to continue to provide land and forest concession , the government need to conduct the real consultation with the community people who are staying in those areas, and the companies need to research on impact first. Moreover, if the government want to solve the problems, the government have to stop providing land and forest concession, it means that they can reduce poverty.

So, I think that if the community people have the real ownership and an opportunity to share and discuss each other, support each other, so they can develop the strategic for running people movement to push or educate the government for change its policy.

Burge: What do you wish more people knew about poverty and chronic hunger?
Pry Phally Phuong: I would like to share these issues with other people inside and outside Cambodia, because here all the national TV channels never provide coverage of the negative impacts of inappropriate development projects and real situations of the community people who were evicted by force or violence without pay any compensation due to land and forest concession on lands and forests of indigenous people and non indigenous people, they are always selective or pro-government, if they are brave and dare to show the real information, they will loss the benefits or cannot run the TV channels. So, if I have the network outside the country I can send the community media (media that produce by community people themselves) or arrange the exposure trip to outside world by sending a few community to share these experiences with people around the world to learn more about situation in Cambodia.

I would also like to more people to know about poverty in Cambodia due to government policy and about the reasons of chronic hunger to make Cambodians poorer and poorer. Many people cannot make a living by seeking local job and migrate illegally to neighboring countries and were shot to death. Some people live from hand to mouth. Other people cannot have enough rice to eat. They just can find manioc to eat for survive. While another people fall in debt cycle from their parents to children and have nothing left to live as a decent life. They have no land to do farming. Their children can go to school while a number of children who have an opportunity to study, they must drop school in order to help their family. Their life are miserable. In this country there are a big gap between the rich and the poor. The rich become richer and richer while the poor become poorer and poorer. The rich people have everything they need. They have many big houses, cars, air conditioners and luxury items. They go to good restaurants and have healthy, delicious and expensive food while the poor people live in small house or shelters and sometimes in the tents. They cannot afford to have enough rice to eat for survive. They eat rice with salt, or they share an egg with a whole family.

***

Thank you very much to Ms. Pry Phally Phuong for sharing her story with us.

***

Sustainable giving programs dedicated to providing solutions that help eliminate poverty and world hunger.

Cambodia to show hand-made accessories at Hong Kong Expo

via CAAI

October 14, 2010

Cambodia will introduce its handmade fashion accessories at an expo in China's Hong Kong later this month.

A press statement, released Thursday by the Export Service Center Cambodia, said Cambodia's products will be showed at the China Sourcing Fair: Fashion Accessories at Hong Kong's Asia World-Expo from Oct. 27 to 30, 2010.

According to the statement, the products on display will include 100 percent silk scarves and recycled paper jewelry, including necklaces, bracelets, and earrings, all produced by suppliers who embrace fair trade principles.

"Every piece in our fall collection is great quality, very creative and handmade with passion," said Heng Kunthy, export manager of the Export Service Center Cambodia.

"We've included a new line of eco-friendly fashion jewelry made of recycled paper that has generated a lot of interest on our website," he said.

Heng Kunty said since last April's show, Cambodia has received orders from buyers in Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and Spain, and there has also been significant interest from Hong Kong and Australia.

Heng said he is "confident with quality and flexible terms and will again appeal to discerning buyers."

According Heng, the offers of the products will be unique saying the minimum orders is accepted as low as just 500 U.S. dollars which allows buyers the chance to quickly test their markets at minimal investment.

In addition to that, buyers can offer customers more variety and not incur the extra expense of large numbers of each SKU, and international standards and each item is handcrafted and not mass- produced.

"Having our goods selected at this international event clearly shows that Cambodia products can compete with the best in the world," Heng said.

"We are delighted that so many of our products will be among the handful featured at these high-traffic areas," Heng added.

The Export Service Center Cambodia is a member of the non- profit Kearny Alliance, whose mission is "Aid through Trade."

Source: Xinhua

Strained relations over ancient ruins wrecking lives


via CAAI
Published: 14/10/2010

The battles have been waged on international platforms and behind closed cabinet doors, but this is more than just politics - this is playing with people's lives.

 
Most religious sites invite quiet contemplation, but this border temple of Preah Vihear excites only intemperate passion.

The Thai-Cambodia border dispute over the Preah Vihear temple is over a century long and for many of the locals, conflict is all they have ever known.

Resting atop a cliff over 1,500 feet above sea level, the ancient place of worship presents a stunning view of extraordinary ruins and endless jungle.

However, its natural beauty and spiritual resonance has been stripped in the ensuing violence undertaken in the name of sovereignty.

Its engimatic beauty is irrelevant. Preah Vihear is a war zone.

Preah Vihear was awarded to Cambodia by the International Court of Justice in 1962, but the clash didn't stop there. When the temple was declared a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2008, the tension between Thailand and its neighbour came to a head - and is arguably now worse than ever.

For many Thais, the Preah Vihear issue is one of security and nationalism. In a recent poll by the National Institute of Development Administration (Nida), nearly 70% of Thai citizens agreed that the government should push Cambodians out of the overlapping area.

But for locals living in the 13 villages across the Thai-Cambodia border, the temple is much more than a symbol of patriotism - it is a constant reminder of economic hardship.

Despite history, "the relationship between Thais and Cambodians used to be like brothers and sisters", said Visit Duangkeaw, a life-long resident of Si Sa Ket province.

"It was very convenient before. We were able to do business on the other side of the border. We could walk freely, that's how easy it was."

When the temple was declared a World Heritage Site, everything changed.

PAD protests against Unesco's decision, border skirmishes and the resulting military presence threw locals for a loop. They expected the temple to become a popular tourist destination, not target practice.

"People used to be able to exchange information with each other, instead of the military standing on either side of the border," said Mr Visit. "Now, I can see the other person, but we can't even contact each other."

In June, access to the temple from Thailand was blocked off completely. The temple is still reachable through a packed laterite road from Siem Reap, passing directly through a Cambodian military base.

For many tourists, Preah Vihear is not worth the travel or the risk.

"I invested a lot of money in my business [when it became a World Heritage Site] and my business has failed," said merchant Chit Pranpop from Pomsarol village in Si Sa Ket.

Ms Chit borrowed money to expand her small restaurant along the Thai gate to Preah Vihear, which has since closed. She is deeply in debt, working at a temporary work agency as a server.

"[My business failed] only because I can no longer contact the other side where people used to buy my stuff," said Ms Chit. "I would like for that old channel to still exist. That was the only way that I could find money for as long as I can remember."

The situation is the same for many locals, who have been forced to leave their villages and seek employment in urban centres.

"I don't have money to feed my children or send them to school," said Pranom Baoton, who left Si Sa Ket province to work in Bangkok. "It used to be convenient to cross the border but I can't do that anymore. That was my business, and now there's no means of income in that area."

The razor wire along the Thai-Cambodian border might as well be laced with bureaucratic red tape. Negative public opinion and the long history of turmoil makes progress slow. For Saing Yon, the damage is done. Last September, the farmer from Oddar Meancheay province in Cambodia found his son in the jungle, shot dead.

"I want to find justice for my child," said Saing. "I want the government to investigate the case and take legal action for my son and other casualties of the conflict. But it's hard to reach those levels.

"I want the Thais to go to Cambodia and the Cambodians to come to Thailand. I want to see committed, strong action legally to understand each other."

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen have met multiple times - most recently at the Asean-US summit in New York - and vowed cooperation to build checkpoints and end the movement of forces at the border.

While their governments are only beginning to work together amicably, the locals of the Thai-Cambodia border have been strongly unified in their request for a long time.

"Whenever I'm over there, this side or that side, military is all I can see," said Pranom. "I want to see Cambodian and Thai leaders turn face-to-face and talk based on the needs of the people, to find an end to the problems so that people don't suffer like they do today."