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Sunday, December 31, 2006

TWIN BANGKOK BOMBING WAVES KILL 2; New Year's Eve Countdown cancelled


Two people died and more than 30 were wounded including six foreigners as two waves of at least nine bombs and grenades exploded in Bangkok at nightfall and again at midnight. Authorities cancelled all public New Year's Eve parties in Bangkok. Outdoor parties were also cancelled in Chiang Mai, although no disturbance was reported in the northern city. After a first wave of six coordinated explosions, three other bombs went off at midnight - one at the famous Khao San Road area for budget travellers, and two near the site of what was to have been the nation's biggest New Year's Eve party, normally telecast live around Thailand and overseas.

Seven people, including six foreigners, were injured in the second bombings just before midnight, although the cancellation of the New Year's Eve celebrations kept the toll down, police said. After the midnight bombings, the Bangkok city administration cancelled the annual New Year's dawn ceremony to present alms to monks at Sanam Luang.Instead of half a million people at the second wave of bombing, there were only relatively few passers-by in the area in front of the shuttered Central World store, formerly known as the World Trade Centre.

The worst bomb was at a nearby seafood restaurant, where three foreigners were badly hurt, including one whose leg was torn off by the blast. Another bomb "exploded in a telephone booth opposite Central World Plaza," where the Bangkok Countdown 2007 was to have taken place, said Pol Col Vanlop Patummaung. "The injured have been sent to the police hospital," he said.

"Six foreigners and one Thai were injured. We don't know when the bomb was placed there, because we had carefully searched the area before the party. Another bomb exploded on a pier that sits on the klong (canal) beside the plaza at the same time, just before midnight, but no injuries were immediately reported, he said.

Bangkok authorities ordered all public New Year's Eve parties cancelled after the first six explosions. Bangkok Governor Apirak Kosayodhin appeared at the huge Bangkok Countdown 2006 venue and told the crowd to "go home and stay in peace."There had been confusion for an hour over whether New Year's parties would be permitted after the bombing. New Year's is the biggest public party in Thailand. The national government indicated celebrations might proceed including - especially - the massive and internationally famous New Year's Countdown outdoors party attended by upwards of half a million people outside CentralWorld near Siam Square in central Bangkok.

Police Commissioner Kowit Wattana, at a televised news conference, said, "Don't be afraid, but be careful," and urged Bangkokians not to cancel New Year's Eve plans.But the capital was extremely tense. All major department stores, due to stay open until late for holiday shopping, were all shut by 8 p.m. including the luxury Emporium and Paragon stores in the main tourist areas of Sukhumvit and Siam Square. Central, the biggest Thai department store operator, closed its stores. Many would-be party-goers headed for home, either because the party mood has faded, or because they were unwilling to risk a public party.

By the time Mr Apirak personally ordered the Countdown to halt, the mood was off anyhow. Earlier, government spokesman Yongyuth Malyalarp said the capital should remain calm and alert, and keep an eye out for unusual activity. He said police had been ordered on high alert. Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont said people hoping to celebrate the new year should avoid crowded areas. During a visit to a hospital where some of the victims were taken for treatment, the prime minster said the government will do all it can to prevent further trouble. The situation is under control, he said.

There were six explosions in various parts of the capital. Two were reported near the Klong Toey market, where a 61-year-old man was killed, and near a bus stop at the busy Victory Monument, where a man was killed and more than a dozen other people wounded.Graphic footage shown on television showed damaged vehicles and blood-stained streets and pavements. TV reports said a man was seen throwing a grenade off a pedestrian overpass near a police box in the Saphan Kwai area of Bangkok, injuring several people in the explosion.

At Seacon Square in eastern Bangkok, Asia's largest mall, an explosion in the outdoor parking lot sent hundreds of shoppers scrambling, but no injurites were reported.Shoppers who called BangkokPost. com said the mall was evacuated and shuttered for the night. Another explosion was reported from Sukhumvit Soi 62, a major intersection with the capital's main expressway system in southeast Bangkok, and another in suburban Nonthaburi province north of the city centre."There was no warning. It is quite shocking. We've got at least one child very seriously injured in my area and others are injured," said Police Maj-Gen Anand Srisiran, chief of Metropolitan Police District Five.

Witnesses told police in some places that they saw people throwing what looked to be grenades shortly before the explosions. The coordinated attacks are unprecedented in Bangkok. However, political feelings have run high for more than a year, and there have been reports of political violence aimed against the military junta which ousted ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra on Sept 19 - primarily the suspected burning of schools. In addition, some intelligence sources had suggested in the past two weeks that Islamist extremists leading the southern insurgency might try to spread their attacks to the capital. They have never operated out of the deep South.

The Bangkok bombings, however, bore little resemblance to bomb attacks in the South, which usually involve improvised explosive devices (IEDs) copied from the Iraq model, and set off by mobile phones, and vehicle bombs, especially in motorcycles. An intelligence source told the AFP news agency that the attacks were likely politically motivated. "The bombs are not involved with southern unrest," the source said, but did not elaborate. "It is a political issue, it is undercurrents" - the military regime's code word for pro-Thaksin elements.

The Voice of America reported a similar reaction. It quoted "Thai officials" as saying Muslim insurgents were probably not behind the New Year's Eve bombings. "Security sources said Sunday the bombings might have been politically-motivated," said the radio network.

Except for the insurgency in the four southernmost provinces, there has been no deadly political violence in Thailand for more than 14 years, when a popular protest overthrew the last military government. In that case, the violence and deaths were caused by the military government and armed forces. Martial law was lifted in Bangkok and surrounding provinces just a month ago, but the military is authorised to act when necessary.

The coup passed its 100-day anniversary on Dec 28.The junta leader and army commander, Gen Sonthi Boonyaratkalin, is currently out of Thailand, on the Haj in Saudi Arabia, and will not return until Thursday. Read more!

Famed Cambodian ruins face that sinking feeling

Created: 2006-12-31 21:16:32
Updated: 2007-1-1
Author: Ker Munthit

An influx of tourists to Cambodia's famed Angkor Wat ruins has resulted in a construction boom in the nearby town Siem Reap. With many of the new facilities illegally drawing ground water to facilitate the needs of their customers, experts fear that such a practice could ultimately threaten one of the region's greatest attractions, as Ker Munthit reports.

Ra Pheap is a garbage sweeper at Cambodia's world-famous Angkor Wat archaeological site, and is keenly grateful for the influx of tourists to the centuries-old ruins - it's because of them that the 19-year-old has her 205,000 Cambodian riel (US$50) a month job.

Suos Samnang, a 17-year-old souvenir vendor, also knows that her livelihood is closely linked to the busloads of camera-toting foreign visitors that arrive in Siem Reap every day.

But as they witness the frenzied construction of hotels and guest houses to tap the flow of visitors' dollars in this once-quiet town, even these two poor country girls realize that the blessings of tourism are mixed ones.

"I am worried that this will cause more pollution and migration to the town. The number of people living here just keeps growing. The streets are getting more crowded now," Suos Samnang said.

And some experts are even more concerned than that. They fear the unregulated development - specifically, unrestricted local pumping of underground water to meet rapidly rising demand - may literally be undermining Angkor's foundations, destabilizing the earth beneath the famous centuries-old temples so much that they might sink and collapse.

Tourism is a key moneymaker for cash-strapped Cambodia, about one-third of whose 14 million people earn less than 2,000 riels (56 US cents) a day.

Last year, about half of the 1.4 million visitors who came to Cambodia went to see the Angkor monuments, architectural masterpieces built at the height of the Khmer empire from the ninth to the 15th centuries. Total tourist arrivals for Cambodia in 2005 were an impressive 34.7 percent above 2004's figures.

The steady boom has already transformed Siem Reap into a bustling town filled with luxury hotels and vehicles. Its streets are adorned with billboards promoting the latest mobile phones, pizza and burger joints and shopping malls. Several notable old buildings have been razed to make way for visitors' lodgings, and honky-tonk strips have sprung up catering to low-budget travelers.

"The identity Siem Reap had for centuries is gradually disappearing, or maybe almost disappeared," said Teruo Jinnai, director in Cambodia of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, and a 10-year resident of the country. "You have restaurants, massage parlors, hotels, and it's very sad to see that."

Culture shock aside, the health and quality of life of many of its 120,000 residents is imperiled by the boom, as is plain to see when traffic snarls the roads and streets get flooded by rain because of clogged sewers.

"This tremendous growth added to population increase has been exacerbating pressure on infrastructure," said a World Bank report on Cambodia's tourism sector last year. "Energy, water, sewage and waste are all significant problems."

It noted that hotels are not legally required to have sewage treatment facilities, though larger ones do have their own plants.

"But most guesthouses reportedly dump used water directly into the river, causing noticeable river pollution," it said, adding that E. coli, the bacteria found in human feces, has reportedly begun seeping into local wells.

At least as threatening over the long run is the uptake of water, with unrestricted pumping from the water table underlying the area.

"Water is being drawn from 70-80 meters underground by hotels and treated for use," warned the World Bank, noting that no one was quite certain how this affects the aquifers, or underground layers of rocks and sand, from which it is pumped.

Already though, "one of Angkor's temples is reportedly falling into a sinkhole, suggesting that the underground aquifers may be rapidly disappearing," said the report.

Japanese Ambassador Fumiaki Takahashi, whose country has drawn up a development master plan for Siem Reap to deal with the tourism boom, said most of its hotels are pumping underground water for their own use, "and there is no control."

It is the Cambodian government's "urgent task" to control the practice, he said, because "if you take too much water, it might affect the Angkor site. In the long run, the underground water will go down and the site would sink."

The plan of the Japan International Cooperation Agency calls for tapping underground water from near Phnom Kraom, a hill near the edge of the Tonle Sap lake about 12 kilometers south of the town, to avoid depletion of Siem Reap's underground water and reduce the risk of endangering the fragile temples, he said.

Deputy Tourism Minister Thong Khon said the government is ready to accept the master plan to address existing problems and accommodate future growth.

He sees a bright future for Siem Reap, in which the province won't just be a destination for touring the temples but will also become a hub providing air links for tourists to enjoy the sandy beaches of southwestern Cambodia and eco-tourism in the jungles of the northeast.

He envisions that by promoting a diversity of destinations, the crowds will be distributed around the country, and the Angkor temples won't get "too jammed up."

Meanwhile, though, the tourist hordes continue to tramp through fabled Angkor Wat and its satellite temples of Angkor Thom, Bayon, Ta Prohm and Bakheng. Even at the lesser-known 10th-century Bakheng temple, an average of 3,000 tourists climb the 67 meters just in the two hours before dusk each day to view the spectacular sunset.

Ra Pheap, the 19-year-old sweeper, said she knows the onslaught could damage the delicate monuments.

She is employed by a Cambodian company that sells entry tickets to the temple site, and the visitors there are essentially paying her salary.

With her earnings, she has reduced her family's reliance on rice farming and been able to help pay for Japanese-language classes for her younger brother and sister.

"I want them to become tour guides because I am confident more tourists will visit here," she said.
Read more!

Fundraiser aims to help girl in Cambodia

Shriners agrees to provide free medical care for a severely burned girl

The Cambodian community in Hawaii will celebrate the new year with a fundraiser tonight to help a 14-year-old girl walk for the first time. Sythan Leam lives in Anglong Thor, a small village about 80 miles northwest of Phnom Penh in Kampong Thom province in Cambodia.

When she was 2 months old, she suffered severe burns on her left leg. There is no doctor or medical care in the village and, when her leg healed, her calf was fused to her thigh.
About two years ago, her case came to the attention of Western aid workers. Doctors determined her leg muscles work and that with surgery and physical therapy, Leam should be able to walk.

Shriners Hospital for Children in Hawaii has agreed to provide free medical care for Leam, according to Dr. Gunther Hintz, a Honolulu-based former plastic surgeon and the founder of the nonprofit group Medicorps, which provides Internet access, consultation and training for doctors in Cambodia.

The charity needs to raise $8,000 to $10,000 for airfare to bring Leam and for someone to accompany her to Hawaii, Hintz said.
When Leam arrives, local Cambodian families will take care of her until she is admitted to Shriners and while she is an outpatient.

Anthony Deth, who is organizing the event, said Cambodians, who are mostly Buddhist, believe in karma and that doing good for others comes back to the giver. "Cambodian people here are generally giving, very supportive of each other," Deth said.

Tonight's event is both a fundraiser for Leam and an opportunity for the community to get together, Deth said, noting that there are about 150 Cambodian-Americans living in Hawaii.
This is not the first time Medicorps has brought a Cambodian teenager to Hawaii.

In 2000, Hintz brought Sok Ouey, then 13, to Hawaii in 2000. Ouey's legs were severely injured by a land mine explosion.
After three operations in Cambodia, 10 surgeries in Hawaii and physical therapy, Ouey returned to Cambodia in 2001. He is now a student and part-time worker at the Angkor Hospital for Children in Siem Reap.


What: New Year's Eve fundraiser for Sythan Leam

Where: The Paradise Restaurant on the South King Street side of Puck's Alley

When: 5 p.m.-1 a.m.

More info: Food and beverages provided for a donation to the nonprofit group Medicorps. Everyone welcome. The event will feature Cambodian music and dancing.Donations to help Sythan Leam can also be sent to Medicorps, 758 Kapahulu Ave., #507, Honolulu, HI 96816.
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King Norodom Sihamoni returned from internaional visits

Cambodian king Norodom Sihamoni returned to Cambodia Sunday from a series of international visits in time to see in the International New Year from his palace in the capital. The king's return followed an international tour which took in Germany, France and China and also included time spent with his father, former king Norodom Sihanouk, who continues to undergo routine medical tests in Beijing.

Sihanouk, who turned 84 this year, abdicated in favour of his son, King Sihamoni, in October 2004 citing his age and a range of health complaints including colon cancer and diabetes. Sihamoni arrived at Phnom Penh International Airport late afternoon local time and was greeted by a number of dignitaries before proceeding straight to his palace, located in the heart of the capital.

Although International New Year is celebrated in Cambodia it is a relatively low-key event in the mainly Buddhist country, which celebrates its own Cambodian New Year in April. Sihamoni's latest international trip had seen him absent from Cambodia since November.

© 2006 DPA Read more!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Saddm Hussein hung by Justice for the Crime of killing Shiite and others related crime

Saturday 30, 2006, the day of Saddam Hussein's final battle with the justice and his life. The strongest man in the old regime had faced the justice for several months and today he was hung to dead execution style.

Saddam Hussein was born, in April 28, 1953, to the Suni family peasant who were living in Awja close to Tikrit. He had been in the power of his regime very very long time, the the tough guy, who totally dictated the whole country and killing innocent people, finally paying his life back to the dead. His final words was telling Iraqi people not to hate American and other countries who attacked Iraq( the words were put on his party' website).

But justice is not only serving Iraqi people, he is serving people in every countries on earth, the Question is when and where is next? And Cambodian and Cambodia hopefully will be next turn. And we all are praying to get all the strongest men and the tough guys in Cambodia to pay for what they did to our Cambodian people.

The strongest man regime, the killing of innocent people in 1997 in Grenade attack, the 1998 shooting, tortured, the land grabbing, the robbing of the poor lives, the threatening and intimidation are the crime against Humanity. And it is the War crime which is the world will never forgiven or let it on the loose forever.

The justice will come quit some time in the future to visit the strongest men in Cambodia. The culprits and the criminals will share fate and feeling horrified moment together. there is a proverb said " the eye doesn't see, the heart doesn't grave"; it meant that if you don't see a coffin, you won't drop the tear.
Read more!

Vietnam-Cambodia-Thailand tours to open

Phu Quoc Island

Land and sea tours linking Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand are expected to open in the first quarter of 2007, said Le Minh Hoang, director of Kien Giang Southern Province’s Tourism Department.

The land tour will begin from Rach Gia city of Kien Giang province through Xaphia border gate of Ha Tien to Sihanoukville city of Cambodia and end in Kathaburi province of Thailand.
The sea tour by high-speed cruise ships will start from Rach Gia city to Phu Quoc island of Vietnam and end in Kathaburi province. A recent survey says that travel firms of Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand have agreed on the land and sea routes.
A survey trip with the participation of travel officials, experts and firms will be made in the first quarter before officially opening the new tours. The Kien Giang provincial tourism sector will co-ordinate with Hoa Binh Travel Firm and Mai Linh Taxi to use caravans to take tourists by land.
These tours will be opened because “The Vietnam National Administration of Tourism has planned to turn Kien Giang province into a national tourism site due to its great tourism potential,” explained Mr Hoang.
He added that the Government has agreed to build Phu Quoc into a national and international eco-tourism site. Therefore, new tours are hoped to contribute to taking foreign tourists to the Phu Quoc Island in particular and Kien Giang in general. Besides, there are about 40% of Vietnamese people residing in Sihanoukville city and Kathaburi provinces, who have high demands of travelling to Vietnam, Mr Hoang said.
New tours to Thailand and Cambodia are expected to help Kien Giang attract more 22-25% of tourists to the province next year.The provincial tourism sector plans to draw 600,000 tourists in 2007, 22% higher than that of 2006.
Read more!

Saddam Hussein executed

30 December 2006 06:26

The former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has on Saturday been executed by hanging, at an unspecified location in Baghdad.United States-backed Iraqi television station al-Hurra and Saudi-owned satellite channel al-Arabiya said that the former Iraqi president was executed at 6am local time, following his conviction by an Iraqi court for crimes against humanity."Criminal Saddam was hanged to death," state-run Iraqiya television said in an announcement.

The station played patriotic music and showed images of national monuments and other landmarks.Speaking on condition of anonymity, a US official confirmed that the execution had taken place.The British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said that the former dictator had now been held to account. "I welcome the fact that Saddam Hussein has been tried by an Iraqi court for at least some of the appalling crimes he committed against the Iraqi people," she said in a statement.Al-Arabiya has also reported that Saddam Hussein's half-brother Barzan al-Tikriti and Iraq's former chief judge Awad Hamed al-Bander -- both of whom were also sentenced to death at the close of the same trial -- have also been executed by hanging.

Saddam's execution, which became imminent after his appeal was this week rejected, has brought to an end the life of one of the Middle East's most brutal dictators.Launching the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, campaigns against the Kurds and putting down the southern Shia revolt that followed the 1991 Gulf war -- triggered by his invasion of Kuwait -- put the casualties attributable to his rule into the hundreds of thousands.

But his conviction was for a relatively lower figure -- the deaths of 148 men and boys from the Shia Muslim town of Dujail, where members of an opposition group had made a botched attempt to assassinate him in 1982.

Many critics dismissed the trial as a form of victors' justice and Saddam Hussein's defence had accused the Iraqi government of interfering in the proceedings. The latter complaint was backed by the US-based Human Rights Watch.Ongoing was a trial for the deaths of thousands in the Anfal campaign against the Kurds, who were also the victims of one of Saddam's most notorious abuses -- the gassing of 5 000 people in Halabja. If Saddam had not been executed, he could have faced as many as 12 trials for crimes against humanity. Read more!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Parties' re-array marks Cambodia's political scenario in 2006

The re-array of Cambodia's major parties took the limelight of the Top 10 National Political Stories in 2006, which was charted by one of the kingdom's major Chinese newspapers Sin
Chew Daily on Thursday.

Story No. 1 went to the Cambodian People's Party's (CPP) harvest of more than two thirds of the 57 election seats at the Senate on Jan. 29.
Through polling, CPP gained 45 seats, the co-ruling Funcinpec Party 10 and the opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) two, which again beefed up CPP's muscle as the kingdom's largest and most powerful political party.

Story No. 2 outlined Prime Minister Hun Sen's acceptance on Jan. 24 of SRP top leader Sam Rainsy's apology for his previous allegation that the prime minister masterminded an explosion in 1997 in front of the National Assembly, which resulted in the death and injury of dozens of people. Their compromise led to an end of Sam Rainsy's exile to France. Later, he returned to Cambodia and built his party into the largest opposition force in the kingdom's political arena.

Story No. 3 highlighted Hun Sen's cancellation on March 3 of the positions of co-minister of defense and co-minister of interior in order to improve efficiency.
The decision was widely viewed as a cut-down of Funcinpec's power in the government and in another sense as a new augmentation of CPP's political influence.

Story No. 4 illustrated the swearing-in of the 27 judges and prosecutors of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Court of Cambodia (ECCC) on July 3.
The team is expected to hold trials of the former Democratic Kampuchea (DK) leaders, which will take three years and cost 56.3 million U.S. dollars.

Story No. 5 marked the death of Ta Mok, one of the top leaders of DK, on July 21 at the age of 83 due to multi ailments.

The establishment of the Anti-Corruption Authority (ACA) earlier this year stood as Top Story No. 6 on the chart. People pinned some hope on the authority to help reverse the negative image of the country. Cambodia was ranked 130 in the 2005 Corruption Perception Index published by Transparency International, where a list of 158 countries was outlined and the least corrupt one was placed first.

The National Election Committee's (NEC) inauguration of the commune councils election on Oct. 1 stood as Top Story No. 7 on the chart.
Village chiefs, deputy village chiefs and villagers will join this election. It will end up on May 23, 2007 and serves as prelude to the general election in 2008, which will produce a new government for the country.

Top Stories No. 8, 9 and 10 on the chart once again related to the re-array of the countries' political forces.
The Funcinpec party elected former King Norodom Sihanouk's son- in-law Keo Puth Rasmey as its new president on Oct. 18 to replace Prince Norodom Ranariddh, who formed another party named after himself on Nov. 17 to serve as an opposition power.
The chart recorded the bloodless but dazzling fighting within and in between the political parties here and then in 2006, as the Kingdom of Cambodia prepares to terminate its third government and expects its fourth one year later.

Source: Xinhua Read more!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Michael Costello: Sometimes all you can do is wait

Sometimes there is nothing that can be done to stop the horror unless outsiders are prepared to use force

AS the carnage in Somalia continues, matched by horrors in Sudan and elsewhere in the world, common humanity cries out for somebody, anybody, to do something to stop the starvation, the rape, the torture, murder and war and, especially, to spare the innocent, who seem to suffer the most, whatever side they're on.These calls reflect a natural human feeling that if we could just get people around the table, good conflict-resolution skills would work these things out to the reasonable satisfaction of all parties.

Unfortunately, human history shows that this is simply not so. Often for strategic reasons, but just as frequently because parties to a dispute would rather fight, kill and die than compromise, many conflicts will not be resolved in the short or medium term. Only when those strategic relationships change, or when one of those parties is prepared to surrender dearly held positions, can there be a solution.

An example in Australia's recent experience is the effort in the 1980s and '90s to solve the Cambodian issue.

Bob Hawke, soon after his election as prime minister in 1983, asked Bill Hayden, then the foreign minister, to take the lead in seeking a solution to the Cambodian dispute.
Hayden worked hard on this for several years, culminating in a meeting in Ho Chi Minh City with Hun Sen, then foreign minister of the Soviet and Vietnamese-backed regime in Phnom Penh. That meeting so incensed the countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations that it seriously jeopardised Australia's relationship with them, and Australia had no choice but to back off.

Gareth Evans, who succeeded Hayden as foreign minister, accepted a proposal in late 1989 to try again. By September 1990, the deal was effectively done.
What changed between 1987 and late 1989 that allowed the Australian initiative to succeed where it had earlier failed?

What happened was that in those two years, the whole global and regional strategic situation changed because of the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Remember what Hayden faced in 1983. The Soviet Union was Vietnam's close ally, supplying aid and weapons to it and to the regime in Phnom Penh. It did this to pressure its neighbour and antagonist, China.

China, in turn, pressured the Soviet Union and Vietnam by supporting the Khmer Rouge, which had undertaken armed incursions against Vietnam. Vietnam drove the Khmer Rouge out of Cambodia, into camps in Thailand on the Cambodian border. The Chinese also supported the deposed King Sihanouk and his forces.

The Americans, still burning with rage over Vietnam's victory over them and keen to support China as a balance to the Soviet Union, also recognised the Khmer Rouge as Cambodia's legitimate government and supported the Lon Nolists, who worked in a military alliance of convenience with their enemies, the Khmer Rouge and Sihanouk. In the region the issue was ASEAN solidarity with Thailand, which was terrified by the threat on its border from the fearsome Vietnamese army.

Australia supported ASEAN and the US. But with the Soviet Union's collapse and the withdrawal of its material support for Vietnam and the Cambodian regime, everything changed. China no longer feared the threat of Soviet encirclement, so the Khmer Rouge was no longer needed to pressure Vietnam.

The US no longer needed to support China against the Soviets and Vietnam, and without this the political stench of supporting the Khmer Rouge became too much. With the withdrawal of Vietnamese forces from Cambodia, the threat on Thailand's border was gone.
What had looked set in concrete suddenly became completely fluid. The timing was perfect for Australia, trusted by all sides, with good ideas and high energy.

The point, however, is that good ideas, high energy and high moral purpose will not solve a conflict if the strategic environment is hostile, or one or more of the parties to that conflict are not sufficiently exhausted by the fight.

As the foreign minister of Vietnam during that period, Nguyen Co Thach, used to say: "You do not win at the negotiating table what you have lost on the battlefield." So the next time you hear good people like George Clooney say "the world must do something" about Darfur, remember this. Often negotiation, mediation and goodwill won't work unless the facts on the ground are changed, as the US eventually did by its intervention in Bosnia and Kosovo.

Sometimes there is nothing that can be done by outsiders to stop the horror if antagonists would rather fight than settle, unless the outsiders are themselves prepared to use force.
China, usually supported by Russia, will prevent UN use of force. And the international mood - and the mood now in the US - is that it's better to allow all the horror in the world to go unchecked than to support intervention by an American-led coalition.

In the absence of this willingness to intervene by force, with all its attendant risks (including the risk of failure) and huge financial costs, we should recognise that in many, many situations, the most we can do is offer what humanitarian assistance we can, seek to prevent the contagion spreading, and wait until better times come.
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Cambodian NEC asks candidates to appoint agents to observe election

The National Election Committee (NEC) of Cambodia here on Thursday issued a notification to ask the candidates of the ongoing commune councils elections to appoint agents to observe the process.

"Political parties who register candidates for the commune councils election in any commune and wish to send agents as observers, have the right to send one accredited observer and selected one substitute observer, in order to monitor in polling stations and counting ballot in the stations where parties' candidates are running," the notification said.

Political parties who have above intention shall get ready by preparing their agents' lists and applications within seven days after the publication of the official candidates lists, it said.
"Political parties who have no candidates in given communes and wish to observe the election, can send their member(s) where they are eligible to vote. The procedures for accreditation are those of national observers," it added.

The notification was signed by NEC Chairperson Im Suosdey.
Village chiefs, deputy village chiefs and villagers will attend the 2007 commune councils election, whose process started on September 21, 2006 and will end up on May 23, 2007.

The registration of candidates will start from the beginning of January until the middle of February. The election campaign will take place from March 16 to 30, 2007. April 1, 2007 will be the polling day, ballot counting, and publishing of results at polling stations.

The commune councils election is prelude to the general election in 2008, which will elect a new government for the country.

Source: Xinhua Read more!

Cambodia's Angkor battles for new world wonder spot Wed Dec 27, 2:08 PM ET

Wed Dec 27, 2:08 PM ET

Cambodia called on its citizens to vote online to support the kingdom's bid to get the famed Angkor Wat temples named one of the new seven wonders of the world.
Officials hope the Angkor complex, capital of the powerful Khmer empire from the ninth to the 15th century, will win the "New 7 Wonders of the World" campaign, launched by Swiss adventurer Bernard Weber.

"Cambodian citizens inside and outside the country, please vote and help to have relatives and foreign friends... vote to select Angkor temples as one of the world wonders," said the government's Apsara Authority, which manages the ancient complex.
But Angkor will have to compete with other aspiring wonders such as the Acropolis in Athens, the Eiffel Tower in Paris and India's world-famous monument to love, the Taj Mahal.

The "New 7 Wonders" campaign was launched in 2000 by Weber, and aims to choose seven sites to replace the original wonders, which were selected more than two millennia ago.
Public voting and deliberation by the "New 7 Wonders" panel whittled about 200 nominations from around the world down to 21 short-listed candidates, including Angkor Wat.

The public now has until July 6 next year to vote by internet or phone. The new seven wonders of the world will be announced in the Portuguese capital Lisbon on July 7, 2007 -- 07.07.07.
"When our Angkor temple is selected... we hope more and more foreign tourists will be interested and come to visit the temple bringing more revenue for the country," Soeung Kong, deputy director general of the Apsara, told AFP.

Angkor Wat, located in Siem Reap, is Cambodia's most treasured landmark and biggest tourist draw, bringing much needed tourist dollars to the impoverished country.
Read more!

Plastics sector ready for international integration

With an annual growth rate of between 25-30%, the plastics sector of Vietnam is already ready for international economic integration, and is able to compete with its rivals in both regional and international markets, according to experts.

The plastics sector's turnover has rapidly increased over recent years. In 2006, its export revenue jumped to US $478 million from US $100 million five years ago. Particularly, the value of plastic package and wrapping products used for export products reaches hundreds of million of US dollars each year.

Made-in-Vietnam plastic products have made a foothold in many regional and international markets like Cambodia, Laos, the US, the European Union, and particularly Japan. Of the products, package and wrapping products alone, which are now available at 41 countries and territories around the world, account for 80% of the total export value of the sector.
Alongside the mentioned traditional markets, Vietnamese businesses are also aiming towards promising ones like China, India, Russia, Eastern Europe and Africa.

In the domestic market, Vietnamese plastic products are widely used by almost all sectors, including industry, agriculture, transport, seafood, construction, electricity and electronics. High-quality products like oil pipelines or those used for automobiles and computers are successfully produced by local businesses, including Tien Phong, Phuong Dong, Tan Tien and Binh Minh.

According to Nguyen Dang Cuong, Secretary General of the Vietnam Plastic Association, the abolishment of tariffs when Vietnam officially becomes a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) will generate a greater opportunity for the plastics sector in export and investment attraction.

The move, he added, would create favourable conditions for the sector to reach the target of fetching US $1.3 million from export by 2010.
Plastic ware production has become appealing to international investors, particularly Japanese businesses, Cuong said.

With the aim of seizing this opportunity and expanding the sector's export market, the association has worked out various measures, focusing on encouraging businesses to invest in plants specialising in producing materials, semi-products, chemicals and equipment, and to apply hi-tech and state-of-the-art equipment.

The association will also concentrate on speeding up the equitisation of state-owned enterprises in a bid to mobilise capitals from every economic sector.
Additionally, it points to the need for local businesses to coordinate to increase capital and technology, pay more attention to trademark and products advertising, and penetrate into retail networks of international markets by attending exhibitions, fairs and trade promotion activities.

Vietnam is currently home to 800 plastic ware producers, of whom 80% are operating in Ho Chi Minh City. Major products include wrapping, consumer products, construction products and hi-tech plastic products. (VNA) Read more!

Cambodian Court remanded Thai soldier for drug trafficking

A Cambodian court has remanded a Thai soldier in custody after he was allegedly caught attempting to smuggle more than 200 methamphetamine tablets into Thailand, officials said Thursday. Sok Nimol, provincial anti-drugs' police chief for the northwestern province, said the soldier was apprehended with 210 methamphetamine tablets concealed in the collar of his jacket on Christmas day as he attempted to cross the border into Thailand.

"He was making a living as a motorbike smuggler, bringing stolen bikes into Cambodia. He said he bought the drugs in Cambodia at the request of a businessman in Thailand and was carrying them back for him," she said. She said the 24-year-old soldier named Rattaphon had been posted to Thailand's Klong Hat commune in the border province of Sa Kaeo prior to his arrest.

Deputy chief of Battambang police, Chea Thong, confirmed the man was in custody and said the reaction from Thailand had been satisfactory. "In fact there was no reaction. He was in Cambodia and is accused of breaking Cambodian law, so he must face the consequences in Cambodia," he said. If convicted on drug trafficking charges, Rattaphon faces five to 10 years in prison. Read more!

Angelina Jolie & Brad Pitt Continue To Support Cambodia

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are stepping up efforts to aid people in need in their son's home country of Cambodia. The celebrity couple visited the homeland of their son Maddox, five, in November and are working to expand the scope of the Maddox Jolie-Pitt project (MJP), which Jolie launched more than four years ago as a conservation initiative.

The two have donated millions of dollars and teamed up with Dr. Jeffrey Sachs and his anti-poverty organization Millennium Promise on an economic-development program in northwestern Cambodia. Seventy MJP workers will work with Sach's group on activities including rice planting, distribution of beds to fight malaria, school meal programs and providing medicine for clinics.

Jolie tells People, "We have learned so much and I think we are on the right track. We hope people will travel to Cambodia. The people there have overcome so much." Pitt adds, "It was incredibly moving to visit my son's country." Read more!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Prime Minister Hun Sen silenced on Khmer Rouge trial

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday sidestepped the issue of the stalled trials of Khmer Rouge leaders, instead telling the nation that the country had successfully achieved national reconciliation and moved forward. Speaking in the former Khmer Rouge stronghold of Anlong Veng on the nation's northern border with Thailand, Hun Sen said the war was over and it was a positive sign for the future that former Khmer Rouge areas, such as Anlong Veng, had been integrated into peacetime Cambodia.

He said "the story had ended" when senior former Khmer Rouge leaders, including former head of state Khieu Samphan and Pol Pot's former deputy Nuon Chea, had come to his home and eaten with him in December 1998, marking the formal surrender of the Khmer Rouge. The term "story" is also a Cambodian euphemism for its 30-year civil war.

But despite his reference to Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea, who would be prime candidates to stand trial, Hun Sen avoided any direct reference to the 56.3-million-dollar UN-Cambodian-sponsored trial of former Khmer Rouge leaders, currently stalled yet again amid bitter wrangling over the court's internal rules.

The trials have not yet reached their indictment stage despite the prosecution phase getting under way in mid-2006, and it remained unclear which former leaders would stand trial. Former Kymer Rouge foreign minister Ieng Sary defected and was granted amnesty from genocide charges by then-king Norodom Sihanouk in 1996 although some remain keen to indict him on charges of crimes against humanity. Former military commander Ta Mok died in a military hospital this year and was cremated in Anlong Veng. The movement's former leader Pol Pot died in Anlong Veng in 1998.

However, on Wednesday in former Khmer Rouge heartland, Hun Sen preferred to focus on Cambodia's new era of peace and sidestep the growing storm over the pace of justice - a matter he has left in the hands of Deputy Prime Minister Sok An. "So many people died in the war," Hun Sen said in the speech, which was broadcast on national radio. "We achieved national reconciliation. Please don't let national reconciliation break down."

The lack of direct reference to the trials was unlikely to please critics, some of which have accused Hun Sen's government of deliberately delaying the long-awaited trials of a handful of surviving leaders of the 1975-1979 Khmer Rouge regime. Earlier this month, New York-based Human Rights Watch accused the government of meddling in the trial process, and this week, a coalition of human-rights organizations urged the court to resolve the conflict over procedural rules with haste.

The government - which contains a number of former Khmer Rouge cadre who fled the movement under the excesses of its leader Pol Pot and returned to Phnom Penh, backed by Vietnamese troops, to overthrow the regime - has maintained it is determined to try the former leaders to international standards. Up to 2 million Cambodians died under the Khmer Rouge regime.

However, most of its now mainly ageing and ailing former leaders continue to live freely and openly without ever having faced justice. Read more!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

VN, Cambodia border provinces agree on expanding co-operation


AN GIANG — Deputy prime ministers of Viet Nam and Cambodia yesterday underscored their countries’ effective border co-operation and promised to enhance it even further at a meeting held in the Mekong delta province of An Giang.

Speaking at the third meeting on co-operation and development among border provinces, Viet Nam Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Sinh Hung said: "We are pleased to review the progress achieved through this cooperation, especially the socio-economic development and strengthened security in the border provinces of the two countries in the past few years."

Hung and his Cambodian counterpart Sar Kheng agreed that these meetings helped expand their multi-faceted co-operation and friendship and strengthen security, defence and socio-economic development in the border areas. Sar Kheng, who is also Minister of Interior, said the co-operation between the border provinces in Cambodia and Viet Nam had enabled some significant achievements since the last meeting in Siem Reap in September 2005.
"[It] has helped to eradicate hunger and alleviate poverty, and improve living standards of residents in border areas."

The governments of Cambodia and Viet Nam had helped the provinces build markets and promote trade in border areas to create more jobs and fight hunger and poverty.The two countries issued a joint communique at the conclusion of the meeting in which they said the two sides had agreed to strengthen co-operation to foster trade and open more markets in the border areas.

They agreed to facilitate cross-border flow of goods and people and welcomed the implementation of the Greater Mekong Sub-region Agreement on Facilitation of Cross-border Movement of Goods and People in the GMS countries from next year.

They also agreed to encourage investment in agro-industry and compare notes in farming, animal husbandry, rural development and poverty reduction along the border.
Viet Nam agreed to provide electricity to some Cambodian border provinces and will consider building more power stations in Cambodia.

The two nations agreed to speed up construction of Se San Hydro-power Plant No. 1 and to jointly work on investment and construction of the Lower Se San Hydro-power Plant in Ratanakiri Province, Cambodia.

They also agreed to work together to implement an agreement on Border Health Quarantine signed in March 2006.
They will increase exchanges of cultural and artistic troupes and people-to-people visits to raise awareness of the glorious cultures of both countries and deepen the traditional friendship and understanding between their border provinces.

They will strengthen border control, thus preventing illegal migration, transnational terrorism and other crimes, and resolve any border incidents amicably and peacefully. The two sides welcomed the setting up of the border marker at Moc Bai-Ba Vet last September and expressed determination to complete their land border demarcation plan by the end of 2008.

Besides government officials from both sides, the meeting was also attended by representatives from the Cambodian border provinces of Ratanakiri, Mundukuri, Kongpong Cham, Kandal, Takeo, Kampot, Prey Veng and Kratic, and their Vietnamese counterparts. Read more!

French national sentenced to 6 years for prostituting women in Cambodia

The Associated Press

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia

A French bar owner has been sentenced to six years in prison for prostituting his waitresses to foreigners in the Cambodian capital, a court official said Tuesday.Bruno Fumat, 52, was convicted in a trial Monday of forcing seven Vietnamese women to have sex with his customers, according to Kry Sok Y, a court prosecutor. He had denied the allegation.

Thach Va, a 32 year-old Vietnamese woman who is Fumat's girlfriend, was sentenced to six years in prison on the same charge, the prosecutor said, adding that the woman was charged with recruiting the girls.

During the trial, Bruno said he had hired the women to work merely as waitresses, Kry Sok Y said. His lawyer, Ly Sovanna dismissed the verdict as unjust and said he will file an appeal.
Fumat was arrested in June during a raid on his bar in the capital, Phnom Penh. Read more!

Cambodia invites NGO to observe commune council's election

The National Election Committee of Cambodia here on Tuesday issued an invitation to both local and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and representatives of all countries to observe the 2007 commune councils election.

The National Election Committee would like to invite all representatives of local, international non-governmental organizations and representatives of countries who wish to observe the election process in the Kingdom of Cambodia to contact the Cambodian embassies accredited to their respective countries," it said.

"The participation of local, international non-governmental organizations and representatives of all countries is important to have free, fair, and just commune councils elections in 2007," it added. The 2007 commune councils election's process started on September 21, 2006 and will end on May 23, 2007.

The registration of candidates will start from the beginning of January until the middle of February. The election campaign will take place from March 16 to March 30, 2007. April 1, 2007 will be the polling day, ballot counting, and publishing of results at polling stations.
The commune council¡¯s election is prelude to the general election in 2008, which will elect a new government for the country. Read more!

Cambodia cancels position of first deputy governor for efficiency

The Cambodian government, on Tuesday,had canceled the position of "first deputy governor" for all provinces and cities, so as to remove the difficulty it constituted for administrative work, officials told Xinhua.

"From now on, we do not talk about quotas from parties in government positions," said government spokesman and Information Minister Khieu Kanharith.
Local government used to have governor and first deputy governor either from the Cambodian People's Party (CPP) or the co- ruling Funcinpec Party in order to keep political balance, which however made a consensus hard to be reached as both leaders usually had different views, he said.

Now, as first deputy governor no longer existed, governor would therefore become the most powerful person to make decisions, which was expected to streamline the local governments and improve their efficiency, he said.

"This sub-decree will help the governments handle their work smoothly and spend less time for administrative procedures," he added. After the kingdom's co-ruling government was established in 2004, CPP and Funcipec started to share power in provincial and municipal governments. The positions of governor and first deputy governor must be divided between the two parties. Documents could only become valid after both governors signed them.

Source: Xinhua Read more!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Cambodian NGOs urge ECCC to reach agreement on internal rules

Several NGOs on Monday urged the Extraordinary Chambers in the Court of Cambodia (ECCC) to hammer out a consensus of its internal rules soon in order to facilitate the start of trials of the former Democratic Kampuchea (DK) leaders.

In a press release, the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee (CHRAC), a Cambodian coalition of 23 NGO members, the Collective for DK Victims (CKRV) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) expressed their concern about the recent failure of the plenary session of the ECCC to adopt the internal rules of the tribunal, which are required to start investigating and prosecuting those who bear the greatest responsibility in the DK's alleged crimes.

"The credibility of both the Cambodian authorities and the U.N. is at stake: an acceptable agreement on the internal rules must be reached as soon as possible for the chambers to enter in the operational phase," said the release, noting that Cambodian and international judges and prosecutors have substantive disagreement about several key issues, including on already negotiated issues contained in the Agreement between the U.N. and Government of Cambodia.

In order to ensure respect of the highest standards in terms of independence and impartiality, all questions relating to the functioning of the ECCC should be solved by the chambers themselves and not be referred to other Cambodian authorities, it said.
"In particular, criteria of admissibility of defense and victims' lawyers must be objective and the list of lawyers should be maintained by the ECCC themselves, in conformity with international practice," it said, adding that victims' organizations should not be required to register with the Cambodian government prior to being able to file a complaint. Procedures relating to false testimony in the course of the ECCC proceedings should not be referred to ordinary Cambodian courts but remain with the exclusive jurisdiction of the ECCC, it said.

"The objective of the government of Cambodia and the U.N., in establishing the ECCC, aimed at guaranteeing the right to truth and justice for the Cambodian people. The accomplishment of such a historical task must prevail on any other private interest." it added.

The U.N. and Cambodia agreed in 2003 to jointly hold trials for the former DK leaders, after six years of talks. Formal trials are expected to begin in mid-2007 and the entire process will take three years and cost 56.3 million U.S. dollars.

The DK ruled Cambodia between 1975 and 1979 and was charged with genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Source: Xinhua Read more!

Vietnamese youth league begins Cambodia visit

A delegation of the Vietnam Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union will commence a four-day visit to Cambodia Tuesday, aiming to boost ties and interact with their Cambodian counterparts.
The Vietnamese entourage, led by Secretary of the Central Youth Union Bui Dang Dung, will meet with the Youth Association of Cambodia (YAC) in order to exchange experience in enlisting youth and discuss cooperation for the upcoming year.

They will focus mainly on fortifying cultural exchanges as well as reinforcing mutual support in the fields of economy and technology between the youth of the two countries.
Besides, the Vietnamese youth delegation is scheduled to visit Cambodian manufacturing plants, cultural sites, and the National Museum as well as have audience with several high-ranking Cambodian officials.

YAC is a non-profit organization that brings together youths and students both inside and outside of the country without discrimination as to race, nationality, social class and political affiliation. It operates in line with policies governed by the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) and has currently around 700,000 members.
Read more!

Vietnam, Cambodia work on border cooperation strategy

Vietnam and Cambodia would continue to reinforce and foster cooperation at the national level as well as among border provinces for common development, heard a conference on Monday. The conference on relations between border provinces was opened in Vietnam’s southern An Giang province Monday and presided over by Vietnamese Permanent Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Sinh Hung and Cambodian Deputy PM Sar Kheng.

The participants focused on measures to promote mutual understanding and trust between leaderships of the two countries and strengthen ties between provinces sharing the common border. Addressing the opening, Deputy PM Nguyen Sinh Hung said Vietnam and Cambodia would broaden and deepen bilateral cooperation in all fields, including politics, economics, society, defense and security to make their border areas stable in security and politics, and prosperous in economy and society, meeting aspirations of people in the areas.

He admitted that a number of difficulties and challenges still exist despite of recent great fruits gained by border provinces in bilateral cooperation. The two sides should continue promoting bilateral cooperation in all fields in an effort to turn their borders into an area of political stability, security, economic prosperity and social advancement, the Deputy PM concluded.
At the two-day meeting, government officials and leaders of sectors and border provinces of the two countries are scheduled to discuss orientations and measures to fully tap potential of border provinces for their socioeconomic development, especially in the fields of economy, trade, agriculture, rural development, energy, healthcare, culture and tourism.

They will also focus on solutions to ensure defense and security at border areas, including the completion of their border demarcation and landmark planting by the end of 2008.
The agenda will also include discussions on measures to crack down on smuggling goods and transferring counterfeit money via the borders, and to create more favorable conditions for transporting commodities and traveling for Vietnamese and Cambodian citizens at the border areas
Read more!

Extremists kill two, burn schools in South

(, Agencies)

A soldier and a Buddhist villager have been shot dead by suspected Islamic militants in separate drive-by shootings in the South, according to the police. A 32-year-old Muslim army sergeant was gunned down by two militants while driving a motorcycle in Pattani, one of three violence-torn southern provinces bordering Malaysia, they said.Also in Pattani, a 34-year-old Buddhist worker was shot dead by insurgents when he was driving a motorcycle.

The latest violence has killed more than 1,900 people since January 2004.Thailand's military-installed government, which came to power following a bloodless coup in September that ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra, has offered a number of olive branches in a bid to forge peace in the restive South. But deadly attacks have continued to rock the region.TNA reports:Suspected insurgents torched Banphabon School in Khok Pho district on Sunday night. Two buildings were damaged and the arson led to the school closure.

Banphabon School became the 16th school burned by suspected insurgents in the deep south during December. Meanwhile, Ban Takae school in Yaring district closed for the third consecutive day Monday after insurgents opened fire at a group of teachers, killing one educator and wounding another on Thursday.Teachers at the school remain worried about their safety. School director Anurak Waeni said the school will reopen after the New Year holidays. Read more!

New dam plan sparks warning

Bankok post

Vientiane _ Construction of yet another hydropower dam in China could have a big impact on downstream countries, the Mekong River Commission (MRC) has warned. MRC chief executive officer Olivier Cogels told the commission's meeting in Vientiane last week that China was building its third dam, Xiaowan dam, on the Mekong river.

Located in its southern province of Yunnan, the Xiaowan dam will be finished in 2010.
The MRC chief said he was concerned about the dam's ecological impact on the downstream nations _ Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam _ because it could intensify problems caused by two existing Chinese dams, Manwan and Dachaoshan. He said excessive retention of waters by the dams could cause a drought in countries further downstream.

Mr Cogels repeated his call for China to join the MRC for better management of the river.
''At present, the MRC can only exchange technical information on the possible impact of the Chinese dam on nations in the lower river basin. China is taking a bigger part in the negotiations but has not signed up as a member [of the commission],'' he said.
The MRC has installed 17 water detection stations along the Mekong river from China downstream to Vietnam.

These stations are designed to measure flows, water levels and water quality in the river and send online data to the four nations in the lower basin.
The information will help the countries better predict the water situation and come up with a plan to handle changes in water level and quality.
The Mekong river discharges 475 billion cubic metres of water annually and its basin covers 795,000sq km of land.

Pienporn Deetes, of the Southeast Asia River Network, said Thai villagers living along the Mekong river had been hurt by water fluctuations and losses in the fish population since the Manwan and Dachaoshan dams opened. Another dam could bring more trouble.
China, she said, stores and releases water from the dams without consulting downstream countries sharing this international river.

Chiang Rai's Chian Khong and Wiang Kaen districts were the worst-hit areas.
''Water fluctuations and degradation of the Mekong river ecology will be more severe once the Xiaowan dam is completed and starts storing water,'' she said.

She urged the Thai government to alert Beijing about the impact of its dams on downstream countries and negotiate with China about possible mitigation measures. Read more!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Cambodian King visits east China province

Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni on Sunday arrived in Hefei, capital of east China's Anhui Province, for a four-day visit.
In a meeting with Cambodian King Sunday, Anhui Provincial Governor Wang Jinshan said Sihamoni will get a better knowledge of the province through the visit and further build the friendship between Anhui and Cambodia. spoke highly of the achievements Anhui has achieved in recent years.

He said he hoped his visit would promote the friendly and mutually beneficial cooperation between Cambodia and Anhui. The king is expected to visit cities of Chizhou and Wuhu in the province. Sihamoni arrived in Beijing Thursday for an informal visit. This was his second visit to China in a month.

Source: Xinhua Read more!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Cambodia authorities urged to investigate traffic accident involving radio journalist

Source: Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA)
22 December 2006

The Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) is concerned that Cambodian authorities are not investigating an apparent traffic accident that has left a journalist of Radio Free Asia, Sok Serei, in critical condition.

Information from the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) and Alliance of Freedom of Expression in Cambodia (AFEC) suggests that the "accident" could be a premeditated hit-and-run over Sok's work in the past months as the maverick reporter had been highlighting civil society's criticisms of the government and exposing corruption. One case involved a high-ranking official in the Ministry of Rural Development.

On 14 December 2006, at around 4:45 p.m. (local time), Sok was riding his motorcycle after picking up his eight-year-old daughter from school when his motorcycle was knocked down by a car door opening. Sok sustained serious head injury from the fall, while his daughter suffered a lesser but still significant head injury.
According to witnesses, the two men in the car - a Toyota pick-up truck bearing a licence plate of Koh Kong Province - showed no concern for Sok or his daughter and drove off as soon as the crowd that had gathered cleared the way. No witness knew the two men.

The apparent accident left Sok in a coma for one day. His condition has improved but is still critical, while his daughter is now stabilised.
Witnesses noted down the number of the licence plate, which is known to AFEC.
A coalition of 28 non-governmental organisations, labour unions and other associations working to promote freedom of expression in Cambodia, AFEC has called on the government to investigate the suspicious accident.

However, police are reluctant to investigate the case, treating it as an accident.
AFEC said there were many ways such an accident could be staged. It also discounted as "almost zero" the probability of an accident involving a vehicle from Koh Kong - which borders Thailand in the southwest, far away from Phnom Penh, and has extremely poor road conditions at this time of the year - striking one of the "few brave independent radio reporters" of influence. Read more!

Cambodia dismisses Finland's appeal for fair trial for detained former police chief

The Associated Press
Friday, December 22, 2006

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia : Cambodia's government on Friday dismissed Finland's appeal for a full investigation and fair trial for an ex-police chief, jailed for orchestrating a murder after four months on the run.Heng Peo is currently serving his 18-year jail sentence for masterminding the murder of a judge in April 2003.He was deported from Malaysia on Thursday, despite his repeated claims that he was wrongly accused.

In a statement Thursday, Finland's Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja appealed "to the Cambodian authorities to carry out a full investigation into the charges against former police chief Heng Peo ... and to guarantee him a fair trial."

Khieu Thavika, a spokesman for Cambodia's Foreign Ministry, said at a news briefing Friday that Tuomioja's appeal was unnecessary. He said the Cambodian court had already conducted a complete investigation before convicting Heng Peo of orchestrating the murder.
"Finland ought not be too concerned about this," Khieu Thavika said. "Heng Peo is not a case for political asylum. He is a criminal."

Heng Peo first fled to Singapore in July before he was arrested for overstaying his visa. Singapore authorities later arrested him and handed him over to Malaysia, where he was detained for a similar offense.
Earlier this month, Finland granted him a visa to travel there due to fears that he might face rights violations if deported to Cambodia. The visa does not allow him to travel elsewhere in the European Union.But Heng Peo lost his bid for asylum in Finland Thursday, when Malaysia's Appeals Court overturned an earlier High Court ruling that ordered his deportation to Singapore. He had hoped to travel from Singapore to safety in Finland.

Heng Peo was flown to Cambodia just after the hearing, and was sent to prison to begin serving his sentence.Heng Peo was the police chief in Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh, until 2005, when he was promoted to become an adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen. He also served as an undersecretary in the Interior Ministry.

He is also accused of links to the killing of a Singaporean man in Cambodia, and to failed murder attempts against a newspaper publisher, an electricity authority official and the national military police chief. Read more!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Fugitive police chief deported to Cambodia from Malaysia

The Associated Press
Thursday, December 21, 2006

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia
A former police chief convicted of masterminding the murder of a judge began serving his prison term in Cambodia on Thursday after being deported from Malaysia where he lost a court ruling, police said.

Heng Peo "is now in Prey Sar prison starting the first day of his 18 years (in jail). His escape is over," said police Lt. Gen. Khieu Sopheak, a spokesman for Cambodia's Interior Ministry.
Cambodia had sought custody of Heng Peo, who was sentenced in absentia to 18 years in jail on charges of organizing the murder of a judge in April 2003. Heng Peo has said he was wrongly accused.

A Malaysian High Court on Dec. 15 ordered his deportation to Singapore, from where Heng Peo had hoped to fly to safety in Finland. But Malaysia's Appeals Court overturned that ruling on Thursday on the grounds that only the Immigration Department can decide where a foreigner should be deported.Heng Peo arrived in Cambodia on a special flight from Malaysia, said Lt. Gen. Sok Phal, a deputy national police chief.

Security was tight near the Phnom Penh Municipal Court where Heng Peo was taken for processing soon after he arrived. Outside the court, more than 100 police equipped with rifles stood guard.Heng Peo was later driven in a heavily guarded police convoy to a prison on the outskirts of the capital.

Before his deportation, Heng Peo pleaded with Malaysian immigration authorities not to send him to Cambodia."In Cambodia I can die because I have a political problem with the government," he told The Associated Press after the verdict."If you send me, I sure will die, 100 percent," Heng Peo said in his first public comments since his arrest in Malaysia in October for overstaying his visa.

Outside the court after the verdict, Heng Peo's wife held his hand and wailed as he was led to a van. Heng Peo, dressed in a T-shirt and gray pants, walked with a limp and was helped into the vehicle by immigration officials."Please tell the world. Don't send my husband to Cambodia," cried his wife, Ngin Sotheavy. "Let him go to Finland."

Earlier this month, Finland granted Heng Peo a visa to travel there because of fears that he might face violations of his rights if deported to Cambodia. The visa does not allow him to travel elsewhere in the European Union.

Heng Peo's lawyer, N. Sivananthan, accused Malaysian immigration authorities of "abusing their powers" by deporting him before an appeal could be filed against Thursday's verdict.
"This is a miscarriage of justice. The authorities seem to have been bending over backward to please the Cambodian government," Sivananthan said.

Finland's Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja appealed "to the Cambodian authorities to carry out a full investigation into the charges against former police chief Heng Peo ... and to guarantee him a fair trial," a statement from the Foreign Ministry said.
Heng Peo was Phnom Penh's police chief until 2005, when he was promoted to become an adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen. He also served as an undersecretary in the Interior Ministry.

Heng Peo is also accused of links to the killing of a Singaporean man in Cambodia, and failed murder attempts against a newspaper publisher, an electricity authority official and the national military police chief.
Read more!

Vietnam-Cambodia border gate upgraded to national level

The Khanh Binh-Chray Thum border gates, which lie in the border line between southern An Giang province of Vietnam and Kandal province of Cambodia, has been upgraded to national border gates of both countries.
A ceremony to announce this decision was held in Korthom distric, Kandal province on December 20 in the presence of representatives from the governments of Cambodia and Vietnam, and local people.

The Khanh Binh border gate area covers 74, 12 sq. km. Over the past five years, import-export turnover via the gate reached US $77 million.
In anticipation of the upgrade, the authorities of An Giang province have launched a project to build the Khanh Binh border gate economic zone, which comprise an industrial, commercial and service complex and residential areas.

The province plans to advise the government to build a bridge linking An Giang and Kandal provinces, facilitating smooth travel from An Giang to Phnom Penh.
On this occasion, Cambodia presented three former leaders of An Giang province with friendship medals. (VNA) Read more!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Cambodia Oil, blessing or curse?

Dec 20, 2006

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (UPI) -- The buzz about Cambodia`s petroleum potential has many energy firms chomping at the bit to begin drilling, though some predict that the blessing of black gold will be a curse in disguise for a nation that`s experienced its share of hardship.
Leading the charge toward full-scale extraction operations is U.S. oil company Chevron, which in the last year sunk many exploratory wells and is reportedly eager to begin offshore drilling in the Gulf of Thailand.

According to the World Bank, Cambodian reserves could contain as many as 2 billion barrels of oil and 10 trillion cubic feet of gas, which would make Cambodia the next untapped 'hot spot' for multinational oil players.
'Depending upon the world price of oil, Cambodian reserves may be contributing annual revenues of $2 billion per annum -- several times the current level of domestic revenue and ODA [overseas development aid] combined -- within perhaps five to 10 years,' read a recent World Bank report.
With that in mind, Chevron and other oil giants are beginning to turn their attention toward Cambodia.
Energy firms will be eager to capitalize on what could be the world`s next great petroleum resource,' Dorothea EL Mallakh, director of the International Research Center for Energy and Economic Development, told United Press International.
El Mallakh`s prediction of increased interest comes with a caveat, however, a warning that Cambodia ought to be 'wary of the pitfalls often associated with petroleum wealth.'
Event the World Bank has issued warnings.
International experience suggests that such petrochemical wealth may equally well result in a `resource curse` that actually retards development and poverty reduction.'
Before inviting the world oil companies, Cambodia might want to take a closer look at other nations that have done the same, such as Nigeria.
Nigeria, which has the highest oil production in Africa, is straining under the 'oil curse' amid a growing militancy, which has targeted oil installations, and environmental risks.
Cambodians could easily follow Nigeria`s footsteps.

Prime Minister Hun Sen has been accused of traditionally showing little interest in the rights of his people and earlier this month a leading human rights group accused the Cambodian government of interfering with ongoing preparations in the trial of former Khmer Rouge officials.
The Khmer Rouge regime (1975-1979) -- led by Pol Pot -- is accused of killing almost 2 million Cambodians during their short-lived reign.
International legal officials have expressed dismay with Cambodian authorities, with whom they are trying to draft legal parameters for the trial, saying the Cambodians appear unwilling to cooperate so the trials can commence.
Political interference has brought the whole process to a screeching halt,' said Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch Read more!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Norodom Marie Ranariddh, suing Norodom Ranariddh for adultery

PHNOM PENH: Cambodia's Princess Norodom Marie Ranariddh had filed a lawsuit against her estranged husband, Prince Norodom Ranariddh for adultery, a court official said Monday. The former leader Funcenpec Royal Party had an affair with Ms. Ouk Phalla, the Royal Ballet dancer.
Ranariddh could face up to one year in prison if found guilty under new monogamy laws.
Sok Kalyan, a deputy prosecutor at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, said they were probing a complaint filed two weeks ago accusing Ranariddh, often seen in public with his mistress, of adultery.
I am investigating the case to find evidence," Sok Kalyan said, adding that he would invite both Princess Marie and Ranariddh to court once he had completed his investigation.
The kingdom in September passed a monogamy law which punishes unfaithful spouses and banned polygamy and incest.

Prince Norodom Ranariddh could face between a month and a year in prison, plus a fine of up to $250. Prime Minister Hun Sen, Ranariddh's arch rival, proposed the law after publicly grumbling about government officials bringing their mistresses instead of their wives to official functions.
Ranariddh and Ouk Phalla have been in a long-term relationship. The pair have a three-year-old son. Read more!

International Migrants Day Celebration in Thailand December 18, 2006

Labor activists marked International Migrants Day on Monday in Bangkok, while representatives submitted a letter to the Thai government urging greater migrant labor rights protection.
The group urged the Thai government to change policies toward migrant workers Burma, Laos and Cambodia to allow open-ended worker registration.

It also urged the government to establish special migrant worker registration centers that would help find workers employment and coordinate more contact between migrant workers and employers.
Moe Swe of Young Chi Oo, a Mae Sot-based NGO, said about 50 labor activists gathered in front of government house in the morning until an official met with the group and promised to send the letter to Thai Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont on Monday afternoon.
More than 20 Thai-Burmese labor organizations recently organized a collective union between Thai workers and migrant workers, which consist of non-government organizations, labor associations and special interest groups.

Juthathawat Inthornsuksri, a permanent secretary of the Thai Ministry of Labour, said that if migrant workers in Thailand are here legally, they are protected under the same law as Thai laborers. Illegal migrant workers are arrested and deported to their home countries.
A poll recently conducted by Assumption University in Bangkok revealed that among 4,148 people, 58 percent believed that there is no need for Thailand to accept more migrant workers in the agricultural and industrial sectors, because they could have a negative impact on Thais who want jobs and depress their wages.

Although most respondents agreed that migrant workers are diligent, they said migrant workers are neither honest nor loyal to their employers.
The poll found that 67 percent of the respondents did not want migrant workers to be permitted to work in all fields, while 50 percent said foreign workers should not be able to work under the same conditions and receive the same wages as local workers. Forty percent said that migrant workers should receive the same wages as local workers.

Meanwhile, the latest statistics from Thailand's Ministry of Labour found that local businesses want to hire more migrant workers.
In 2006, Thai employers have sought 1.3 million unskilled workers from Burma, Laos and Cambodia, but the Thai government was able to supply only about 700,000 workers, according to the ministry. Read more!

Vietnam, Cambodia to discuss investment projects

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung arrived in Phenom Penh on Monday morning for a two-day official visit to discuss Vietnamese investment projects with Cambodian leaders, said Deputy Prime Minister Hor Nam Hong.
Both sides will meet to negotiate and decide on a number of requests like Vietnamese investment to explore mines in Cambodia, investment for building a hydro-electricity power plant along the Se San River in northeastern Cambodia, the project for rubber planting, and the study of four other projects for hydro- electricity development," said Hor, who is also Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

All the cooperation is expected to strengthening the relation and friendship between the two countries, he added.
Nguyen Tan Dung is scheduled to meet Acting Head of State and President of National Assembly Heng Samrin and his Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen on Monday afternoon.
Meanwhile, Nguyen Chien Thang, Vietnamese ambassador to Cambodia, told reporters that during the prime minister's first ever official visit to the kingdom since he was elected in June, he also aims to pay courtesy call to Cambodia's high ranking officials.
Nguyen Tan Dung will then visit Laos on Dec. 19-20 and Thailand on Dec. 20-21, he said.

Source: Xinhua Read more!

$7.8 Mln grant to suppor for Cambodia's New Tier of Loacal Government

$7.8 Million Grant to Support for Cambodia's New Tier of Local Government Press Release - Asian Development Bank Dec. 15 2006 A US$7.8 million grant from ADB’s Asian Development Fund will help improve governance in Cambodia by providing further support for the development of a local tier of government. The project will enable more commune councils – the lowest level of elected sub– national administration created as part of a decentralization process begun in 2001 - to operate more effectively. While this level of sub-national administration is expected to take on an increasing level of responsibility, serious capacity constraints persist for most of the country’s 1,621 commune councils.

The project will also develop the national civil registration system and aims to strengthen voter understanding of democratic rights and accountabilities. “The decentralization process is perhaps the single most important state-building development in the country since the 1993 Constitution, and the project will support this by helping to institutionalize more accountable local government and public service delivery,” says Joao Farinha-Fernandes, an ADB Economist. The project will provide 235 commune councils with local assembly premises that will provide adequate working facilities for elected councilors and their constituents, thus helping to establish the newly introduced institution of elected local government. It will help develop a modern and computerized civil registration system to assist the population’s access to justice administration, based on official birth, death, and marriage documents. More comprehensive and accurate information based on the system will also improve government public service delivery and general policy making. Last, it will provide a fund to support training for elected commune councilors, clerks, and government officials in concepts of local democracy and accountability, council tasks, roles, and services.

A mass media fund will also be established to disseminate key messages on local democracy, participation, and accountability through TV, radio, and village theaters over 24 months. The project follows the successful implementation of the pioneering Commune Councils Development Project, backed by a $10 million loan from ADB in 2002, that provided facilities and support required for 440 commune councils to function effectively. A $200,000 technical assistance grant, from ADB’s Gender and Development Cooperation Fund, accompanies the project to support the advancement of gender equity in local governance in six target provinces. The Government will contribute $1.98 million equivalent in the form of counterpart staff and equipment. The Ministry of Interior is the executing agency for the project, which is due for completion in December 2009. Read more!

Vietam Prime Mminister took off for the Neighbours

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung had left Hanoi for Cambodia,this morning. Nguyen Tan Dung is on his official visits to Cambodia, Laos and Thailand from December 18-21.
The visits, made at the invitations Dung’s neighboring counterparts Samdec Hunsen, Buasone Bouphavanh and Surayud Chulanont, aim to affirm Vietnam’s external relations policy of continuing to attach great importance to developing cooperation relations with the regional countries. These trips are the new concepts of political features to boost Hanoi stomach.

The State leaders will discuss measures to promote multi-lateral cooperation between Vietnam and Cambodia, Laos and Thailand, and exchange views on regional and international issues of mutual concern. Vietnam have been battling with several issues with political ties with the neighbours.

During the visits, the Vietnamese PM will attend the inauguration of Friendship Bridge No 2 over the Mekong River that links the Lao province of Savanakhet and the Thai province of Muk Dahan.
Dung is scheduled to visit Cambodia on Dec. 18-19, Laos Dec. 19-20 and Thailand Dec. 20-21. The visit will be discussed on a new stage of political tie and friendship with Thailand. Vietnam is in need political shelters and steel cable to pull itself up. This is a new game Thai-Viet playing.
Read more!

Heng Peo must pays legal cost before leaving on 18 December 2006

Sivanathan, accompanied by lawyer Abdul Shukor Ahmad and Heng Peo’s wife Ngin Sotheavy, 38, met immigration officers to discuss the deportation order.On Friday, the High Court decreed that Heng Peo be deported.Heng Peo, 51, fled Cambodia when court proceedings commenced in Phnom Penh against him and several others for the murder of a judge and other crimes.

He was arrested on Oct 3 here for overstaying but filed an application at the High Court to stop Malaysian authorities from deporting him to Cambodia. Last week, he was granted a visa to enter Finland.
Read more!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Festival with a heart for change

Sunday December 17, 2006

The little town of Siem Reap in Cambodia was abuzz recently with photographers from around the world who were there for the Angkor Photography Festival. CHIN MUI YOON attended with camera in hand and discovered the power for change that lies behind the lens.
THEIR faces were full of fear and misery. They were like scared little animals. They’ve been treated like s**t because they beg, and they felt like s**t. They had no self respect.”
Strong words from French photographer Christophe Loviny, about the street children of Cambodia. Just another white man who doesn’t know Asia mouthing off?

The smile says it all ... Boram’s happy face was captured on film by a friend. Boram and his pals are Cambodian street kids who took part in a lifechanging workshop at the Angkor Photography Festival that gave them their self-respect back. – Photos courtesy of the Angkor Photography FestivalNot quite. If anyone can make such observations, then it is lensmen like Loviny and his peers whose photos first told the world about the meltdown of Cambodian society under Khmer Rouge rule in the 1970s.

These men were first drawn to this part of the world by the Vietnam War in the 1960s. They stayed in the troubled region and fed the world’s media organisations with searing images of the slaughter of an entire generation of Cambodia’s teachers, artists and intellectuals during four years of Khmer Rouge rule from 1975 to 1979.
They recorded the struggle of the street children’s parents who grew up in a country that had practically returned to medieval times. And they’ve been recording the lives of those children, too.
But they grew tired of taking pictures of dead-end kids living in sad conditions. Stepping out of the detached, journalistic role they’ve had to play all these years, these photographers decided to do something for the children.
And so, last year, some of them came up with the idea for a photography festival that raises funds for a street children’s centre in Siem Reap, the town nearest Cambodia’s world heritage site, the Angkor Wat complex of temples.

The centre, run by charitable organisation Green Gecko, feeds, clothes and educates children who have been forced to live and beg on the streets because their parents are handicapped after coming into contact with landmines – Cambodia has the most landmines in the world – or are suffering from HIV/AIDS or drug addiction.
Thanks to the US$15,000 (RM57,000) raised last year and at the Angkor Photography Festival this year – which ran from Nov 25 to Dec 1 – some 40 children will have hot meals, baths, clean clothing and tuition in mathematics and the Khmer and English languages. Food and health assistance will be extended to their families, too.
But the festival wasn’t just about the money. The organisers invited 35 children to join photography and dance workshops, which were conducted by Indian choreographer Sangeeta Isvaran, English art therapist Isabelle Rodker and Filipina art therapist Paula Holmes.
“Photography is therapy,” explained Loviny. “Photography can transform lives if it’s used the right way.

Gary Knight wants to do more than just feature pretty pictures at the photography festival – he wants to change lives for the better.“We hope to develop the children, not just as photographers documenting their world, but also as human beings, through photography. Self-expression through arts has helped the children gain confidence where previously there was none.”
And then there were the dance workshops. Out of them came the Hip Hop for Hope dance troupe that has begun performing in hotels around the town.
“We cannot give the children hope and happiness for a week (during the festival) and then leave them to sink back into their dead-end lives,” said Loviny.
“Now they can present shows at the hotels and earn money. It gives them pride. We don’t want to assist them 100% because that creates a mentality of always asking for help, which is prevalent in Cambodia.
“We wanted to use photography, dance and art to change the children’s self-perception. These children had no self-esteem when we found them.”
They “felt like s**t”, as Loviny said, and it showed in the self-portraits each child was asked to create on the first day of the photography workshop. But just making those self-portraits was a step on the path towards better self-esteem.
“When the children’s pictures are projected during the slide shows, or when they dance on stage, people acknowledge their work and clap.
“They now know a different future is possible through their own efforts. We hope this is one way of changing this generation of Cambodia’s children,” Loviny said.

Not a party for Mat Sallehs
Outdoor slideshows were a strange sight in the touristy town of Siem Reap. There wasn’t even a cinema there.

These are some of the photographs taken by the street kids of Siem Reap – where, it seems, Barbie reigns just as she does among kids around the world!
Despite the humidity and the dust stirred up by traffic, shutterbugs attending the festival had gathered at the Royal Gardens to enjoy projections of photographs captured from around the world.
The images included haunting portraits of children affected by war and visual documentation of China’s growing pains, Cambodia’s landmine victims, rituals of monks, tsunami-ruined landscapes and Myanmar’s Rohinya people.
Workshops, discussions and exhibits were the other events during the fest, which had attracted hundreds of photographers, amateurs as well as professionals representing top news service agencies like Magnum and AFP.
The highlight was the works of 20 young Asian photographers and the 35 street children who had attended free workshops the week before.
Each night, as we gathered, I could sense growing excitement over this project that could be culturally and socially significant for the region.
Singapore is known for international performing arts and Ubud in Bali is gaining a reputation as the literary heart of Indonesia, thanks to the flourishing annual writers’ festival it hosts. Could Siem Reap be developed as a photographers’ hub?
It will be if the guys from the VII photo agency have anything to say about it. Several members of this prestigious Paris-based agency started the ball rolling by holding small workshops and slideshow events in Siem Reap last year. More photographers wanted in, and so the Angkor Photography Festival was formalised.
One of VII’s founding members, British photojournalist Gary Knight, said they wouldn’t want to hold the event anywhere else.
“We’ve all had a very long relationship with Cambodia,” he explained at an interview at Carnets d’Asie, a bookshop cum cafĂ© and gallery that was used as the festival headquarters.
“We met while working and living in this part of the world when it was so different.
“There was war and chaos. We shared an experience here together as young men through our visceral relationship with Cambodia’s culture, history and people.
“It is nostalgic for us to hold a photography festival here, as photography had brought us to Asia all those years ago.”
And in practical terms, he added, Siem Reap is affordable. If the event were to be held in Jakarta, Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur, “we would disappear!”
“This is the smallest photography festival in the world, and we have very limited financial resources,” he said.
“We want to create a cultural event and also have fun!”
From landscapes to portraiture, from fashion and fine art to hardcore photojournalism, the festival highlighted all types of photography. Tribute was given to Japanese photographer Taizo Ichinose, who was killed by the Khmer Rouge in 1973, and whose pictures of war and landmine victims remain some of the most haunting and defining images of the horrors of conflict.
Knight hastened to add that the festival is not a party for foreigners in Cambodia.
“The festival began with workshops and its primary focus remains training, teaching and nurturing young talent,” he said.
“I don’t want a festival for Asians or one for Caucasians. We mix the best work together. We hope to give exposure to more Asian photographers’ work, to encourage them to come here and meet photographers from other parts of the world, to engage in conversation and exchange ideas, to have a good time and go back home to motivate other young photographers.”
Loviny added that they “no longer have issues with ego, self-esteem or competition for jobs. We want to share the knowledge and experience we’ve been fortunate to have.
“That’s why we included a free workshop for 20 emerging regional photographers based on the professional model of VII’s workshops. We hope they can return to their countries to better document their societies and cultures.”
The Star’s Azhar Mahfof was the sole Malaysian representative picked from among 300 applicants. He shares his experiences and images on page 6.

More Asian involvement needed
The festival’s humanitarian aspect sets it apart, said organising committee president Roland Eng. The festival’s tagline is “Photography for Change”.
“The festival is non-profit. Our committee comprises volunteers, including well-known photojournalists who teach the workshops. We depend solely on sponsorship, goodwill and our own pockets,” said Eng, formerly Cambodia’s ambassador to the United States and Malaysia.
Siem Reap’s most stylish hotels sponsored spaces for the gatherings and outdoor projections; they include FCC Angkor, Sofitel, La Residence d’Angkor, Victoria Angkor, Amansara, Hotel De La Paix and Angkor Village Resort.
“We would like to move the programme into public spaces for more local interaction,” said Knight. “But we’d need the support of the Cambodian and local government to make it a more public event.”
Loviny said they would welcome Asian countries sponsoring their own photographers so that the limited funds the organisers have to work with could be channelled into programmes for children.
“Malaysia and the rest of Asia have progressed today while Cambodia is struggling to fit into a developing world that has left it behind,” he said.
“There is a strong culture of voluntary work in France; after all, that is the country where organisations such as Doctors Without Borders and Reporters Without Borders were formed. But the volunteering culture in Asia is also growing as the region devlops tremendously.
“So we would like to invite more Asian partners. And we hope to share the same spirit of sharing to make photography a catalyst of change.”
Read more!