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Saturday, March 31, 2007

Oil spills blacken Vietnam beaches

VIETNAM'S Prime Minister has ordered an international investigation into mysterious oil spills that have blackened some of the country's most popular beaches after ruling out the country's oil rigs.

“We have run thorough checks using vessels and aircrafts on our seas and found that our oil wells are safely operated and are not the culprit of the oil spills,” Nguyen Tan Dung told delegates at the National Assembly.

Dung was referring to two spills that occurred this year, one in January that hit beaches in the central part of the country and the second detected on March 11 along the southern coast.
State oil monopoly Petrovietnam president Dinh La Thang said tests showed the oil in the spill was crude oil from outside Vietnam.

Petrovietnam produces around 350,000 barrels of crude oil per day, most of it from rigs off the central coast and exported to refineries and power plants in Japan, South Korea, China, Australia and Singapore.

“The Foreign Affairs Ministry has been designated as the lead agency along with the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources and other agencies to work with other countries in the region and in the world to find out the solution and limit the damages to our country's environment,” Mr Dung said.

The National Committee for Search and Rescue said residents had so far collected nearly 1500 tonnes from the two mysterious spills. The oil had affected popular Danang beach and all 125km of Quang Nam province's coastline, including Hoi An, a UNESCO heritage site.

Officials from Danang said waters have been clear for several weeks now.

The second oil spill in the south has affected shrimp and mussel farms along coast. Read more!

Russia to start WTO talks with Vietnam April 1, Cambodia April 4

MOSCOW, March 29 (RIA Novosti) - Russia will start bilateral talks on joining the World Trade Organization with Vietnam April 1, and with Cambodia April 4, Russia's chief WTO negotiator said Thursday.

"We will start talks with Vietnam in Hanoi Sunday, and talks with Cambodia in Pnompenh will be held April 4-5," Maksim Medvedkov, the director of the Economic Development and Trade Ministry's trade talks department, told a Moscow press conference.

Russia had not planned to hold bilateral talks with Vietnam, but in late 2006 Vietnam became a full-fledged WTO member and voiced its intention to hold talks with Russia.

Medvedkov said Russia had proposed to Vietnam and Cambodia that talks only cover the export products these countries have an interest in, because, he said, this will speed up the negotiating process.

Medvedkov said Monday Russia could complete accession talks in the summer or in late 2007.
"There are two scenarios," he said. "Under the first, talks will be completed by the summer, under the other, by the end of the year. But in any event, talks will be completed in a matter of months."

Moscow has signed bilateral protocols with all but four WTO members and is yet to complete multilateral talks with its trade partners within the global trade body.

Vietnam joined the WTO last year and requested talks with Russia in March, an economics ministry official said Monday.

"Russia has already sent its proposals on mutual access to commodity and services markets," the ministry said.

Moscow is also to hold negotiations with Cambodia - a new WTO member that requested talks in January - to resolve a dispute with its former Soviet ally Georgia, which withdrew from the bilateral WTO agreement after Moscow banned key Georgian exports last March, and to sign a protocol with Guatemala.

Medvedkov, who held a regular round of accession talks in Geneva in early March, said the 58-member Working Party on Russia's accession would gather no earlier than April.

Medvedkov said about 20 issues were still to be resolved during the talks. The main sticking points include state agricultural subsidies, which Russia plans to raise from the current $3.5 billion to $9.5 billion, and efforts to bring national legislation in compliance with international standards.

In November, Russia secured a long-desired bilateral agreement with the United States, removing the largest obstacle to its WTO membership. Access for foreign companies to Russia's insurance and banking sectors, and wide-spread piracy were among the main stumbling blocks in bilateral WTO talks.

Russia agreed it would allow up to 100% foreign ownership of its banks and investment companies when it joins the WTO, and that it will let foreigners enter its insurance market after a transition period. Until then, foreign insurance companies will be able to operate in Russia through subsidiaries, with foreign investment in the sectors to be limited to 50%.

Medvedkov also said Russia has linked a strategic partnership agreement with the European Union to its accession to the WTO.

"This is one of the reasons why Russia does not want to delay joining the WTO," he told journalists.

A Russian official said March 2 that a new partnership agreement between the EU and Russia will only be signed in three to four years, when the EU defines its priorities in relation with Russia.

The talks on a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) to replace the current one, which expires in late 2007, were set to begin at the Russia-EU summit in Helsinki in November, but Poland vetoed the talks over Moscow's ban on meat imports from the EU newcomer.

The head of the Russian Foreign and Defense Policy Council presidium, Sergei Karaganov, told a news conference in Moscow that the delay in starting the talks came about not only because Poland vetoed them, but also because EU countries have not yet decided on the nature of their long-term cooperation with Russia. Read more!

Cambodia, Laos to take part in central Vietnam heritage festival


The third edition of the biennial festival will showcase cultural heritage sites and traditional cultures of the three Indochinese countries – Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam.

Cambodia will be represented by Siem Reap province, and Laos by Luang Prabang city and Champasak province.

The highlights will include the night festivals Wat Phou-My Son-Angkor and Hoi An-Luang Prabang, a show on Indochinese culture, a food festival featuring specialties from the region, and a seminar on the Indochina cultural heritage road.

Visitors will be taken on excursions to traditional craft villages in the historic town of Hoi An and Dien Ban and Duy Xuyen districts.

Themed Indochina Culture and Tourism Week, the four-day festival will open June 27 in Hoi An and conclude on Cham Island off the old town.

Vietnam boasts five UNESCO-listed world heritage sites, two of which – Hoi An town and the ancient Hindu sanctuary of My Son – are in Quang Nam province.

The others are the former imperial city of Hue, Phong Nha cave in Quang Binh province, and Ha Long Bay.

The Heritage Itinerary Festival has been held since 2003 to promote tourism in the central province.
Read more!

China's Ministry of Supervision delegation wraps up visit to Cambodia

The six-member delegation of Chinese Ministry of Supervision concluded Friday its five-day goodwill visit to Cambodia.

During the stay, the delegation paid a visit to Say Chhum, Secretary General of the Cambodian People's Party (CPP), on Friday and held a meeting with Men Sam On, Cambodian Minister of Relations with Parliament and Inspection, on Tuesday.

During the meetings, Xia Zanzhong, delegation head and deputy secretary to the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the Communist Party of China (CPC), said that China and Cambodia are good friends and partners of mutual trust.

The Chinese-Cambodian ties will enjoy a long-term development in the new century, he said.
The current visit will promote both sides' inspection agencies to deepen their mutual understanding, expand their cooperation and enhance their friendship, he added. .

Both Say Chhum and Men Sam On highly remarked the great achievements scored by CPC and the Chinese government in the course of reform, opening up, promoting harmonized development of the society and the economy.

They expressed the intention to further strengthen and deepen the exchange and cooperation between both sides, including those in the fields of anti-corruption and inspection, and pledged to push the bilateral ties up to a new height.

Source: Xinhua . Read more!

Thai PM: No State of Emergency Needed


By AMBIKA AHUJA


BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) - Imposing a state of emergency in Bangkok is unnecessary, Thailand's military-installed prime minister said Thursday, turning down a request by coup leaders who wanted to use the decree to silence opponents.

Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont also hinted for the first time at possible dates for a general election in December and a referendum on the new constitution currently being written.

Surayud told a news conference he expressed to coup leaders his opinion that the current situation in the Thai capital "does not correspond with the need to declare a state of emergency, and does not affect national security."

However, Surayud said authorities had not ruled out imposing emergency rule, but would continue "to evaluate the situation."

Anti-coup protesters, led by supporters of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, have been holding small but growing weekly rallies calling for the restoration of democracy. At a protest March 23 that drew about 1,000 people, some demonstrators threw rocks, plastic bottles and chairs at police.

Another rally was called for Friday, which coup leaders have said they feared could turn violent.
Emergency powers would have allowed authorities to ban public gatherings, impose curfews and censor local news reports. But the move could also have generated more resentment against the military-installed leaders that replaced Thaksin.

Surayud made the comments after a meeting with coup leader Gen. Sonthi Boonyaratglin, who had urged the prime minister to impose emergency rule to prevent Thaksin's supporters from staging protests.

Authorities were considering holding a general election on Dec. 16 and Dec. 23 - back-to-back Sundays - said government spokesman Yongyuth Maiyalarb, which would be in line with pledges to hold polls before the end of the year.

To thwart protesters, city authorities issued a temporary ban from Thursday to Monday on political demonstrations at the park where Thaksin supporters were planning to gather.

Bangkok city hall officials issued the ban after a meeting with police and army officials, said Bangkok Police Commissioner Lt. Gen. Adisorn Nontree.

But protest leaders promptly announced plans to change the rally site to in front of city hall, known as the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration.

"We have been clear from the start that our plan is to use transparent and nonviolent means to show that what (coup leaders) have done is illegitimate," said a protest leader, Natthawut Saikua.

The Sept. 19 coup that ousted Thaksin followed months of street demonstrations over allegations of corruption and abuse of power.

Many Thais are losing patience with the coup leaders, who have failed to prove corruption allegations against Thaksin and have had a run of embarrassing policy flops.

The coup leaders scrapped the previous constitution, arguing it allowed Thaksin to consolidate extraordinary powers in his hands. They have promised to hold a referendum on the new constitution, followed by elections by the end of the year.

Surayud said the referendum on the constitution is expected to be held no later than September.
Read more!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Film recalls Cambodia's Killing Fields

Socheata Poeuv once asked her father what was the worst part about living under the Khmer Rouge. He told her it was the silence.

Today, Ms. Poeuv is breaking that silence. Her film, New Year Baby , is giving a voice not only to her father's story, but to the estimated 1.7 million to 2 million people who died in Cambodia's Killing Fields.

Her film, which captures the heart-wrenching story of her family's survival, is being screened at 5:30 tonight and again at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Angelika Film Center as part of the AFI Dallas International Film Festival.

Ms. Poeuv and her parents are scheduled to be at the Saturday screening. It will be the first time her parents have seen the completed film.

"My parents didn't talk much about that period of their life in Cambodia," the filmmaker said from New York, where she now lives.

She said she had read only a few passing references about the Killing Fields.

"But I never heard my parents talk about it," she said. "I would ask questions once in a while, but they would always find ways to dodge answering. I think it was too painful for them to talk about it. I think they were desperately trying to forget the past."

In 1975, the Khmer Rouge communist group came to power in Cambodia. Its goal was to create an agrarian utopia. Instead, under the leadership of Pol Pot, between 1975 and 1979 an estimated 1.7 million to 2 million Cambodians were killed or died of starvation.

To this day, not a single member of the Khmer Rouge has been put on trial for crimes from that period. Of the hundreds of thousands who survived the Killing Fields, many left their homeland and escaped to makeshift refugee camps along the Thai border.

Many, like Ms. Poeuv and her family, would be relocated to the U.S. In 1982, Ms. Poeuv, her parents, two older sisters and a brother were resettled in Carrollton. Ms. Poeuv was just 2 years old.

Because she was born on the Cambodian New Year in the refugee camp, Ms. Poeuv said, her family always considered her the lucky one. But, she said, she had not fully realized how lucky she was.

Growing up in Carrollton, Ms. Poeuv became fully assimilated in the American lifestyle. Sometimes her parents, who tried to maintain some of their old Cambodian customs in their new homeland, embarrassed her.

"I thought they were 'old country,' " Ms. Poeuv said. "My parents would make us go to temple on Saturdays and Bible study on Sundays. My mother stored stinky fermented fish under the sink, and my father watched Cambodian videos."

"There were times when I felt like an outsider in my own family," she said. The R.L. Turner High School graduate used school to escape.

Ms. Poeuv graduated cum laude from Smith College in 2002 and studied for a year at Oxford University. She settled in New York, where she worked for NBC and ABC.

However, during a family reunion a few years ago, Ms. Poeuv's parents revealed a painful secret that would change her life.

"My mother said that my two older sisters, Mala and Leakhena, aren't actually my sisters but that they were my cousins," Ms. Poeuv said. "She said that they were the children of her sister and brother-in-law who had been killed by the Khmer Rouge. Then she said my brother, Scott, isn't my full brother, but that he is my half brother. She said Scott is from her marriage to another man. My mother's first husband and a daughter had died in the genocide."

According to Ms. Poeuv, Mala and Leakhena seemed to be relieved that the truth was now out in the open. Her half brother was just as surprised as Ms. Poeuv.

Her parents' revelation raised more questions than it answered. She was also haunted by the fact that there are many others like her who don't know the story of the Killing Fields.

"Everyone seemed determined to sweep it under the rug, as if they had done something wrong, or that they were to blame for what happened. So I became determined to document the full story," Ms. Poeuv said.

After the family secret was revealed, their parents invited Ms. Poeuv and her brother to go back to Cambodia for the first time.

Her film documents the trip, which traced her family members' journey from their homes to forced labor camps – and their escape on foot through the jungle to Thailand.

"Somewhere along the way, I discovered that the secrets they held in shame also proved their great heroism," she said.

Today, Ms. Poeuv is determined that the world not forget what happened in Cambodia.
Pol Pot died before he could be brought to trial, but Ms. Poeuv wants the Khmer Rouge brought to justice.

She is developing an archival project to document the testimonies of Cambodian Khmer Rouge survivors.

New Year Baby, which marks Ms. Poeuv's directing debut, has already won several awards, including Amnesty International's Movies That Matter Human Rights Award and the best documentary prize at the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival. The film has also been selected for inclusion in PBS' Independent Lens series.

Ms. Poeuv's documentary is one of 190 features and short films that will be shown during the AFI Dallas International Film Festival, which continues through Sunday. For a complete schedule, see www.afidallas.com or call 214-720-0555 . Read more!

Cambodia prohibited its workers from South of Thailand

Cambodia has banned its migrant laborers from working in insurgency-plagued southern Thailand due to safety concerns, an official said Thursday.

Thailand's southernmost provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat have been the scene of an Islamic insurgency that has led to more than 2,000 deaths in the past three years. The three provinces form the only Muslim-dominated area in the Buddhist-majority country.

In a letter to Cambodia's Labor Ministry, Foreign Minister Hor Namhong asked that all labor-exporting companies not send any workers to the Thai provinces that are currently "experiencing insecurity problems, including many killings."

A copy of the letter, dated March 19, was obtained Thursday by The Associated Press.
Um Mean, a deputy labor minister, said there are more 70,000 registered Cambodian workers in Thailand's provinces along its southeastern border with Cambodia.

Although there are no companies that export workers to Thailand's deep south, the ministry has instructed all 13 of Cambodia's licensed labor-exporting companies to comply with the ban, Um Mean said by telephone Thursday.

Um Mean described the ban as a "precaution we had better take" now rather than later.
"The main reason behind it is safety concerns for the lives of our workers. In addition, a dangerous incident could produce difficulties for both countries," he said.
Read more!

Cambodia still needs $36m for TB elimination project

PHNOM PENH, March 29 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia is negotiating with donors for 36 million U.S. dollars to support a five-year national project to eliminate tuberculosis, local media reported on Thursday.

Between 11 and 20 percent of the budget, not including financial assistance for food rations from the World Food Program (WFP) and spending for technical experts and community tuberculosis project expansion, is needed for the provision of medicines and salaries respectively, said Mao Tan Eng, Director of the National Center for Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control (NCTLC).

"The need of budget for food and other supplementary is very important for the national tuberculosis elimination project," he said, noting that the project is being funded by the Global Fund, the World Bank, and the Japanese government, the Japan International Cooperation Agency, the World Health Organization and other NGOs.

As TB patients are generally poor in Cambodia, the supply of food under WFP sponsorship is a vital factor for the project's success, he was quoted by Cambodian daily newspaper the Rasmei Kampuchea as saying.

According to NCTLC, the rate of lung tuberculosis incidence in Cambodia has experienced a slight decrease from 241 out of 100,000 in 1979 to 226 at current times. Read more!

Human rights group urges FBI to re-investigate Cambodia grenade attack

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: A New York-based human rights group urged the FBI to reopen a probe into a grenade attack that killed more than a dozen Cambodians and wounded an American a decade ago.

Human Rights Watch made the appeal Thursday, a day ahead of the 10th anniversary of the grenade attack on a peaceful demonstration led by opposition leader Sam Rainsy on March 30, 1997.

"This brazen attack carried out in broad daylight ingrained impunity in Cambodia more than any other single act in the country's recent history," Brad Adams, Human Rights Watch's Asia director, said in a statement.

The statement also "urged the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation to reopen its investigation of the attack."

No one has been arrested over the assault that killed at least 16 people and wounded 114 others, when four grenades were tossed into a crowd of anti-government demonstrators outside the Cambodian National Assembly in the capital, Phnom Penh.

No official death toll was ever released.

Sam Rainsy, who led the demonstration, escaped unharmed.

U.S. citizen Ron Abney was among the wounded, prompting an FBI probe. However, the FBI has never released the final version of its report on the case.

In the Human Rights Watch statement, Adams said "the FBI launched the only investigation into the attack, but the U.S. has inexplicably dropped it.".

"The U.S. government should insist that the FBI return to complete its investigation. Family members of the victims are still waiting for justice," he said.

Sam Rainsy had previously accused Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen of being behind the attack, but later recanted the allegation.

The Human Rights Watch statement said that on the day of the attack the Cambodian police force — which had routinely kept a high profile at opposition demonstrations to discourage public participation — had been unusually absent, and that officers had grouped around the corner from the park where the rally was held.

However, Hun Sen's personal bodyguards had been "for the first time" deployed at a demonstration, the statement said, implying they were there to help the attackers escape.

Hun Sen has repeatedly denied any involvement in the attack. Read more!

Cambodia to join regional exercise against human influenza pandemic

Cambodia will join an exercise designed to test the response of regional organizations against preliminary signs of human influenza pandemic from April 2 to 3, a statement said on Wednesday.

The exercise, known as PanStop 2007, will test the procedures necessary to dispatch the ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) stockpile of Oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and personnel protective equipment (PPE) from the storage site in Singapore to a country experiencing early warning signs of human influenza pandemic, said the joint statement by the Cambodian government and the World Health Organization (WHO).

The deployment of the stockpile is a strategy known as "rapid containment," which intends to stop or at least slow down human influenza pandemic before it has the opportunity to spread, said the statement.

Cambodia has been chosen as the country facing a mock outbreak and it will work closely with ASEAN and WHO to test risk assessment capabilities, communication procedures and decision making among all the partners, it said.

This will be a simulated exercise scenario and no drug or other materials will actually be moved, it added.

"PanStop is rare opportunity for Cambodia to rehearse the rapid containment strategy with international organizations," said Eng Huot, secretary of state at Ministry of Health of Cambodia.

The exercise also offers Cambodia a way to test its capabilities while gaining important experience that can only be achieved through practice, he added.

WHO's regional office in Manila, Philippines, will facilitate the two-day exercise, said the statement, adding that ASEAN, WHO and Japan will arrange the participants for it.

Source: Xinhua . Read more!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

From Cochrane to Cambodia, Kids helping kids

Noelle Hjelte
Wednesday March 28, 2007

From Cochrane to Cambodia, local kids are raising money to help orphan children in Phnom-Penh. The Kids for Christ are putting on a musical drama called ‘On the Trail of Billy Baxter’. While the production is free to attend, they will be asking for donations after the performance. All funds raised will go to A Place of Rescue, an orphanage for families of AIDS victims.

Kerry Johnsen is the director of ‘On the Trail of Billy Baxter’ and she thinks it is important to encourage community involvement“We want the community to realize this is not just a church event, it’s a community event, “said Johnsen. “...these kids have worked hard all year (putting the performance together).”The money raised will go specifically to buying bicycles for the children for their eleventh birthday.

A Place of Rescue currently houses over 100 orphans and when a child turns 11 they must go to a school farther away, two to three miles from the orphanage. Without the bicycles, which cost $80 each, they have no way to get an education.

“There’s little kids who don’t have any way to get to school,” said Chris Johnsen, one of the Kids for Christ who plays a detective in the performance. “This is one way we can help.”‘On the Trail of Billy Baxter’ is about school bullying and the challenges young people face today. Although there are religious elements to the performance, Kerry Johnsen says there will be no sermon and the play deals with a variety of issues.

“It’s basically about how this little boy changes, “Johnsen said. “It’s about a lot of issues; when kids are worried or scared.”Organizers are hoping to raise $1,000 dollars from Cochrane for the charity. People who are not able to attend can still make a donation and get a tax-deductible receipt.‘On the Trail of Billy Baxter’ opens for a one-night only performance on Saturday, March 31 at 7p.m. at the Cochrane Alliance Church, 902 Glenbow Drive.

For more information on the performance contact Lydia Parrott at 932-6100.For details on A Place of Rescue go to www.placeofrescue.com. Read more!

Springboard Research Report Forecasts Increased Market Opportunities for IT Vendors in Cambodia

Report finds that increasing government and large enterprise demand for automation is driving PC market growth in Cambodia

[ClickPress, Wed Mar 28 2007] Springboard Research, a leading innovator in the IT Market Research industry, today announced that according to its Asia Emerging Countries (AEC) Quarterly Tracker, PC/Server shipments in Cambodia grew a healthy 29.4% in 2006. Driving this growth has been the government’s recent push for automation in developing e-governance in the country. Large enterprise demand for automation has also surged, mainly to support industry growth in banking and finance, telecom and tourism. In addition, governmental efforts to promote both private and foreign participation in Cambodia’s IT infrastructure development is expected to fuel IT market growth and yield greater hardware and software business opportunities for vendors in 2007.

“In spite of economic difficulties and low IT penetration, IT demand in Cambodia will be maintained by the government and large enterprise’s increasing IT awareness and appreciation of the value of computing in growing the economy,” explained Springboard’s Manager of AEC Research, Manish Bahl.

The Cambodian government continues to lead the market for the procurement of IT-related products with the largest share (25.6%) of total PC shipments in 2006, followed by large and medium enterprises. However in its report, Springboard Research also observed increased IT usage by small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) during the last quarter of 2006. This trend is expected to gain momentum in 2007 and beyond.

“There is much potential for IT market expansion in Cambodia,” said Bahl. “But to sustain this growth, the Cambodian government will need to develop proactive IT policies and initiatives to support the country’s technological development.”

Springboard’s AEC report also noted that the Cambodian PC market continues to be dominated by the whitebox/assembler segment, although in the last few quarters of 2006, demand for branded computers has increased. Among branded players, HP continued to dominate the PC market with 9.2% share of the total shipments in 2006, followed by Dell and Lenovo. The desktop market led growth among product sectors in 2006 with 29.7% expansion over the previous year, followed by the portable and X86 server segments.

About the Asia Emerging Countries Tracker

The Asia Emerging Countries Tracker is a Springboard Research service that tracks PC/Server market developments in Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Sri Lanka and Pakistan on a quarterly basis. The methodology employed for this service leverages interviews with IT resellers, vendors, component suppliers and end-users at the local and regional level.

About Springboard Research

Springboard Research’s core values are value, integrity and insight. Led by a team of dynamic industry experts, Springboard Research provides its customers with high value IT market research that helps them identify new market opportunities, growth engines and innovative ways to go to market. As a result, Springboard’s clients lead rather than follow market trends. Not bound by legacy, Springboard’s cutting-edge research model leverages its offshore research centers, the Internet, and an increased use of technology as engines of innovation to deliver unique research value. Provided as an alternative to traditional IT market research, Springboard’s reports deliver data and knowledge in a more usable and interactive format for our clients. Springboard Research works with the largest IT companies in the world in the software, services, hardware, and telecommunications sectors.

Founded in 2004, Springboard Research serves the needs of its clients globally through offices in the United States, Singapore and Japan as well as global research centers in India and Pakistan.

For more information regarding Springboard Research, please visit www.springboardresearch.com. Read more!

Federal Court adjourns application by Cambodia's ex-police chief


PUTRAJAYA: The Federal Court has adjourned an application by Cambodia’s deported ex-police chief Heng Pov to cite three senior Government officers for contempt, to allow them time to reply to an application served to them on Monday.

Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Justice Richard Malanjum, and Federal Court judges Justices Hashim Yusoff and Azmel Ma’amor allowed Deputy Public Prosecutor Tun Majid Tun Hamzah’s request for the case to be postponed to a date yet to be determined.

Heng Pov’s lawyer N. Sivananthan did not have any objections.

“I feel the cited parties should be allowed time to reply to the affidavit which contains serious allegations against them,” he said.

Heng Pov, 52, is seeking to cite Immigration director-general Datuk Wahid Mohd Don, the department’s enforcement director Datuk Ishak Mohamed and the Attorney-General’s Chambers’ deputy head of prosecution Mohd Hanafiah Zakaria for contempt, for deporting him before he had exhausted all his avenues of appeal here.

Heng Pov, who filed the action in January, had also accused them of orchestrating his premature deportation to Cambodia to serve an 18-year jail sentence for conspiring in the murder of a municipal court judge there.

He was sent home last year on Dec 21, and an urgent convening of the Federal Court here was too late to stop his deportation as he had already been despatched.

The action is supported by the affidavit of his wife Ngin Sotheavy.
Read more!

Cambodia, Vietnam to cooperate again on archives

PHNOM PENH, March 28 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia and Vietnam have endorsed a memorandum of understanding on cooperation in archives, initially established more than two decades ago, local media reported on Wednesday.

Chea Sophorn, secretary of state for the Cambodian Council of Misters, signed the agreement with Vietnamese State Record and Archives Department (VSRAD) General Director Tran Hoang during a ceremony at the council on Tuesday, reported Rasmei Kampuchea daily.

Under the three-point agreement, the VSRAD will annually welcome two officials from the National Archives of Cambodia (NAC)to be trained in document recording for a month in Vietnam, and provide nine Cambodians with archive management scholarships at secondary schools, tertiary institutions and senior level, the KohSantepheap daily reported.

VSRAD and NAC will also exchange technical documents on leadership principles, archives management and publications.

VSRAD will also assist the NAC in building an archives warehouse under a grant from the Vietnamese government.

"This is the second time that NAC has had a chance to cooperate with (Vietnam) on archives to share experiences and learn from each other," said Deputy Prime Minister Sok An while presiding the ceremony.

Vietnamese experts once helped train Cambodian officials in archives management and record taking between 1985 and 1986.

The NAC, which has been open to the public since 1993, is a member of the International Council of Archives, the Southeast Asian Regional Branch of the International Council of Archives (SARBICA), and the South East Asian Pacific Audio Visual Archives Association (SEAPAVAA).

The NAC will host the 11th meeting of SEAPAVAA in Phnom Penh at the end of August. Read more!

Building Phnom Penh: An Angkorian heritage


PHNOM PENH: Many Asian cities have laid claim to the title of "Paris of the East." During the 1930s, Phnom Penh's candidature was supported by no less a luminary than Charlie Chaplin, who described its orderly, tree-lined avenues as "little sisters" to the Champs-Elysées.
But today's visitors to Cambodia are surprised to discover that the true architectural legacy of this former French protectorate is not colonial at all, but a unique synthesis of postwar European modernism and what might be called "Angkorian vernacular."

"New Khmer Architecture" emerged from Cambodia's 15 years of prosperity following the end of French rule in 1953. The euphoria of independence spawned an entire school of designers and architects who, rather than replicate international styles, chose to reinterpret them according to a set of local conditions, foremost among them flooding and hot temperatures.

It was a kind of Asian Bauhaus in that its members worked concurrently and in a similar style.
The movement's influence was short-lived: few of its architects survived the Khmer Rouge. However, Vann Molyvann, the leader and most prolific member of the group, remains, at 80, an enterprising and respected figure, even if his work has yet to acquire the protection it so patently deserves.

The first Cambodian architect to be trained in Europe - at Paris's Ecole nationale supérieure des beaux-arts - Vann returned to Cambodia in 1956. Introduced to the left-leaning King Norodom Sihanouk, the two spearheaded a campaign of urban development and construction that transformed Phnom Penh from a sleepy colonial backwater to a vibrant, ambitious capital.

From universities to sports facilities, the architect and his royal mentor created more than a hundred public projects throughout Cambodia, using funds from the Chinese, Russian and French governments as well as "nonaligned" states during the decade and a half before Cambodia was dragged into a regional war with the United States. The engineer Vladimir Bodiansky and the urbanist Gerald Hanning provided technical assistance.

Vann's imposing Independence Monument at the intersection of Sihanouk and Norodom boulevards symbolizes the era. Paying direct homage to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, the chocolate-hued Phnom Penh structure built in 1960 is adorned, appropriately enough, with a profusion of nagas, the protective serpents of Hindu mythology.

Vann's 1964 National Sports Center, constructed before Kenzo Tange's Olympic Stadium in Tokyo, is as clear a statement of civic pride and for Sihanouk an attempt to proclaim the country's neutrality in the face of growing Cold War hostilities. Cambodia's rejection by the pro-Western International Olympic Committee prompted Sihanouk to join Ganefo (Games of the Nonaligned and Emerging Forces), a sporting event created by China, Russia and others. Cambodia's turn to host the Games came in 1966.

Though Vann shared Sihanouk's utopian vision, his inspiration is drawn from his own architectural heritage. The Sports Center's large ornamental pools directly imitate the barays, or reservoirs, surrounding Angkorian temples, while the elevated walkways at both his Cham Car Mon palace and the School of Foreign Languages pay homage to Angkor Wat's kilometer-long causeway.

Vann's signature suspended "zigzag" roof lines created artificial space to enable air to flow in what he describes as "a reworking of the concave shape of the temple roofs."

The other major influence was Le Corbusier and his complex theories of communal living. Vann's use of the Frenchman's "modular"' as a tool for establishing proportions is best emulated in the "White" and "Gray" buildings of the Front du Bassac, a development begun in 1964 to house foreign advisers and Ganefo's athletes.

"His buildings are like sculptures in the way they celebrate depth and space as well as light and darkness," said the architect today.

Assessing Phnom Penh at that time as "an active sedimentation zone with poor ventilation and prone to flooding," Vann found traditional solutions to mass housing in a rapidly expanding city.

A new book, "Building Cambodia: 'New Khmer Architecture' (1953-1970)" by Darryl Leon Collins and Helen Grant Ross (The Key Publishers, Bangkok 2006) applauds the movement's aims and philosophy while establishing Vann as a seminal figure in postwar Asian architecture.

But while steadily collecting admirers abroad and celebrated by the more enlightened sections of Phnom Penh society, this architectural patrimony has not been protected by the authorities. Rather than celebrate the achievements of Sihanouk's "golden age," the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen seems to go to considerable lengths to undermine them.

To the dismay of international groups attempting to stimulate cultural continuity, Vann has been largely shunned by the political establishment in Cambodia. When Unesco organized a conference on how to protect this legacy and designated Vann as its head, it had to disinvite him after complaints by the government. Rarely consulted on the fate of his buildings, Vann has been forced to watch from the sidelines while his work has been ripped out or ineptly renovated.

The refurbishment of Vann's fan-shaped Chaktomuk Conference Hall met with the architect's general approval. However, the Taiwanese Yuanta Group's cosmetic makeover of the National Sports Center in 2000 robbed this voluminous site of a good deal of its land to make way for commercial development. "Economic tradeoffs with foreign developers result in short-term quick-fix solutions that ignore longterm planning," Collins said.

The latest building to attract scrutiny is a theater commissioned by Sihanouk in 1966 to promote Cambodia's performing arts. A masterpiece of concrete plasticity with staircases suspended over shallow pools of water, the Preah Suramarit was gutted by fire in 1994, devastating the auditorium and stage area. It has remained in its ruined state for more than a decade.

Only days after Cambodia's new King Norodom Sihamoni declared a desire to see the theater rebuilt, the government pre-emptively announced its sale to a local telecommunications company, which is expected to replace it with a conference hall and TV tower.

Given the minimal architectural merit, much less public interest to be found in the latest rash of government offices, casino and private villas, this is especially depressing. Read more!

Global Challenges | HIV Prevalence in Cambodia Decreases Since 1997

HIV prevalence in Cambodia has decreased from 3.2% in 1997 to 1.6% currently, according to figures from UNAIDS, VOA News reports. In addition, UNAIDS data indicate that HIV prevalence among commercial sex workers in the country has decreased from 40% in 1997 to 20% currently.

According to Mean Chhi Vun -- director of Cambodia's National Center for HIV, AIDS, Dermatology and Sexually Transmitted Infections -- the decrease in HIV prevalence in part is because of a plan that combines government efforts with the efforts of international finance agencies, academic institutions, and nongovernmental and community-based organizations. UNAIDS co-coordinator in Cambodia Tony Lisle said a main component of the plan is the 100% condom use program, which encourages condom use among sex workers.

Dan Borapich -- spokesperson for Population Services International, which distributes subsidized condoms in the country -- said that PSI makes condoms available at supermarkets, pharmacies and other venues.

The government also is sponsoring safer-sex advertisements on billboards, radio and television, according to VOA News. In addition, about 25,000 HIV-positive people in the country, or 80% of those who need treatment access, have access to antiretroviral drugs, according to Lisle.

Grants from the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria purchase most antiretrovirals in the country, according to VOA News. Some experts have said that despite progress, HIV prevalence could increase among groups participating in high-risk sex, as well as injection drug users. In addition, stigma and discrimination against HIV-positive people continues to be an issue in Cambodia, VOA News reports (Byrne, VOA News, 3/22). Read more!

Club helps people discover Cambodia


A TRAVEL club has just returned from its latest adventure - a three-week trip to south east Asia.

It was organised by Sharon and Ian Dixon who run Dixon Tours - formally known as Chiseldon Travel Club.

Sharon, 60, of Draycott Road, Chiseldon, had to miss the trip for the first time in 28 years after breaking her shoulder days before the group was due to leave.

But she said the tour party of 20, aged between 25 and 75, had a brilliant time exploring during their adventure holiday.

The group visited the Royal Palace in Bangkok and took a rice barge cruise and a speedboat trip along the Chaophraya River.

They also flew to Siam Reap, Cambodia, to see the world heritage site of Ankor Wat, one of the Seven Wonders of the World.Sharon said: "Although I missed out on going they all had an absolutely wonderful time out there. It always seems worthwhile when you spend ages planning a trip to hear how much people enjoyed it.

"We have well and truly been bitten by the travel bug and to think so many other people have too because of the trips we organise, then that can only be a good thing.

"It's a hobby and a great pleasure for us to show people different cultures and the beautiful world in which we live."

Dixon Tours is a non-profit organisation that began in 1981. It is run with no membership fee and aims to bring people together to explore the world.

Hundreds have benefited from the Dixons' willingness to organise these exotic holidays.

She added: "To be able to pass some of our knowledge and experience back to those in the community for whom these things are generally dreams rather than a reality is a great personal satisfaction for us and gives us tremendous pleasure."

The highlight of the trip for many was seeing the sunrise and sunset riding on the back of elephants at Siam Reap.

They also spent a week travelling on the luxury Pandaw Ship travelling along the Mekong Delta before ending up in Saigon, Vietnam, for two nights.

Monica Thompson, 58, of West Swindon said: "The trip was fantastic. It was interesting to see how the people out there live and work. I have to say my favourite part of the three weeks was visiting the temples in Siam Reap's National Park. To think they were discovered under so much jungle is amazing."

Dixon Tours has previously visited many far-flung locations including New Zealand an astonishing eight times - with another visit planned for January.

Plans are already in place for trips later this year to the United States to visit New England and, closer to home, Normandy and Versailles in France.

If you would like to find out information on future trips, call Sharon or Ian on 01793 741210 or email sharian@clara.co.uk.
Read more!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Cambodian thieves poison elephant

The associated press
3, 26, 2007

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia- Thieves in Cambodia poisoned a 62-year-old domesticated elephant and sawed off its tusks to sell on the black market, officials said Tuesday.

The male elephant was found dead Saturday, where its owner had left the animal chained to a tree near his home in Rattanakiri province, said Lee Sam Ol, a district police chief.

Police found several empty packs of poison commonly used to kill rats near the dead elephant. They believe the thieves had doused jack fruit, a tropical fruit eaten by elephants, with the poison, Lee Sam Ol said.

The elephant's tusks, measuring nearly 3 feet long each, had been removed, he said.

Hor Ang, the province's deputy police chief, said the tusks could fetch up to $3,000 each in the illegal ivory trade.

Elephants are the main means of transport for hilltribes people in northeastern Cambodia.

Conservationists have said that the end of years of armed conflict in Cambodia has allowed the elephant population and other wildlife to make a comeback in Cambodian jungles. Read more!

Talks focus against Internet kiddie sex

(TNA) - Child protection advocates from nine Asian countries are meeting in Bangkok for training on combatting child sex abuse in cyberspace.

Fifty-four child protection advocates including police officers, lawyers, judges and NGO workers from Bangladesh, Cambodia, Laos, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam areattending an international workshop jointly organised by the British embassies in Cambodia and Thailand and software giant Microsoft Corporation.

The regional workshop is part of an ongoing commitment by the British Government to work with a wide range of partners to combat child sex abuse throughout the world, in connection with cyber paedophiles,according to the UK embassy in Bangkok.

The workshop is aimed to instruct participants about techniques used by paedophiles to target victims through the internet, and offer practical advice on how to combat this. In addition, the training also broadens international co-operation, and aid capacity building and information sharing within and between the countries of the region, said embassy officials.

Although children in some countries like Cambodia can't get access to the Internet, they are still vulnerable to be sexually abused. Paedophiles use the Internet to find locations to get easy access to children, according to Microsoft Asia Pacific executive Katherine Bostick.

They post photos of children abused by relatives and friends on the Internet and profit from selling them, she said.

Quoting a report from NBC's Dateline TV, Ms. Bostick said there are 50,000 child pornography predators online at present. "The internet connects children and paedophiles. There is no border, but it's a global problem," she said.

The training, held March 26-April 6 at the International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) in Bangkok, was designed and delivered by experts from the UK's Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) in partnership with associate members from the Virtual Global Task Force (VGT).

VGT is an international alliance of law enforcement agencies from Australia, Canada, the UK and the US, working to protect children from sexual exploitation. Read more!

Cambodian Bar Association accuses foreign judges of hindering Khmer Rouge tribunal

2007/3/26
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP)

The Cambodian Bar Association said Monday foreign judges for the Khmer Rouge genocide trials were behaving like children and finding excuses to delay the long-awaited tribunal.

"This is a childish game the international judges with international reputations should not be playing," said bar association president Ky Tech.

The tribunal's four international judges have threatened to boycott preparations for the tribunal over the bar association's decision to impose fees on foreign lawyers wishing to participate in the trials.

Many fear that internal disputes could delay efforts to bring the Khmer Rouge's few surviving leaders to trial for crimes against humanity for the deaths of about 1.7 million people during the group's 1975-79 rule. The U.N.-backed tribunal, led by Cambodian and international judges, was expected to begin this year.

The bar association wants foreign lawyers to pay a US$500 (€375) membership application fee. If chosen to work with a client, they must pay an additional US$2,000 (€1,500) and a US$200 (€150) monthly fee, Ky Tech said.

The international judges have said the fees severely limit the rights of the accused and of victims to select counsel of their choice. They said they will boycott a meeting next month on internal rules governing the proceedings if the fee issue is not resolved.

"This is evidence that they are the ones who are hindering the tribunal, not the bar association, not the Cambodian government," Ky Tech told reporters.

The Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission said in a statement Friday the bar association "must be condemned for their action in imposition (of) exorbitant fees, which has no doubt brought more delays and may even be the reason why the trial proceedings collapse altogether."

The move "is immoral and reprehensible" and "must be looked at as an inhuman act," the commission said. Read more!

Regional exercise to test Asia bird flu preparedness

Cambodia, Singapore and the World Health Organisation are to conduct a two-day exercise next week to test Asia's ability to stem a bird flu pandemic, the UN agency said here Tuesday.

The exercise, Panstop 2007, involves a mock scenario in which a strain of bird flu with the potential for a human pandemic is discovered in Cambodia.

Tamiflu and protective equipment such as goggles and masks have to be swiftly dispatched from a stockpile in Singapore to Cambodia.

The exercise will be run from the WHO Western Pacific office in Manila on April 2 and 3 and would be the first ever test of the region's capability to "respond rapidly to signs of a pandemic and to snuff it out," the WHO said in a statement.

Panstop 2007 will be a test of rapid containment, involving risk assessment, communications, and decision-making. No supplies will actually be moved, it added.

The WHO says there have been 281 cases of bird flu infection among humans and 169 deaths worldwide, mostly in Southeast Asia.

Scientists fear the H5N1 bird flu strain could mutate into a form easily spread among humans, leading to a global pandemic with the potential to kill millions.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and Japan would also take part in the WHO-led exercise.

Tokyo has provided ASEAN -- which groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam -- with half a million courses of the drug Oseltamivir, also known as Tamiflu, plus a large quantity of personal protective equipment, all of it stockpiled in Singapore.

During the exercise, WHO regional director Shigeru Omi would place a call to ASEAN to recommend the release of some of the Tamiflu supplies and protective equipment to the outbreak zone.

The exercise is expected to yield practical information for all parties about the efficiency of procedures, to discover gaps in planning and identify opportunities for efficient rapid containment of a human influenza outbreak, the WHO said. Read more!

Ven. Maha Ghosananda: Walking for Peace in Cambodia


Written by Rene Wadlow
Monday, 26 March 2007


The Venerable Maha Ghosananda, a learned Cambodian monk, died in early March 2007 near the temple where he was living in Leverett, Massachusetts. Maha Ghosananda, who had a Ph.D. in Buddhist studies from India, was a key person in the revival of the Buddhist Sangha in Cambodia after the Pol Pot years (1975-1979). In 1992, Maha Ghosananda revived the tradition of the Dhammayietra — a country-wide pilgrimage as a symbol of peace and reconciliation among a still-divided population.

In 1989, I had been asked to organize in Geneva, Switzerland a week- long seminar of training in social development skills for Cambodian monks. One of the purposes of the seminar — not highlighted at the time— was to allow Maha Ghosananda and other monks in exile in the USA and France to meet with the Venerable Tep Vong, the leader of the Buddhist order in Cambodia, largely put into place by the Vietnamese. Switzerland, being a neutral country, was one of the few places where such a training seminar could be held. Many states did not recognize the Vietnamese-installed government of Cambodia and would not give visas to its citizens. Maha Ghosananda was the most learned of the group of monks and had a modest but real power of leadership.

In 1991, just after the Paris Peace Accords on Cambodia, I went to Cambodia to help set up child-welfare programs in schools, both state-run and Buddhist schools, and so I saw some of the rebuilding challenges facing the Buddhist order.

Pol Pot, largely influenced by the French Revolution from the years he had spent as a worker in France, with revolutionary goals also colored by the Russian and Chinese revolutions, wanted to create a new society and a "new person" by destroying the foundations of the old. There were three sources to the contemporary Cambodian culture that Pol Pot wanted to destroy. First, was the Western, largely French-influenced modern culture. Anyone speaking French or English was thought to be part of the modern elite which had to be destroyed. The second source of culture was the Buddhist monks who controlled the religious ceremonies but also a large segment of the education system. The third source was the folk culture, mostly passed on by the elderly — a folk culture filled with interaction with the spirit world as well as the history of each village. The people who were the carriers of the three cultural sources died, were killed, or went into exile.

When the Vietnamese forces drove the Khmer Rouge from power, the Vietnamese were faced with a totally disorganized society with few persons able to pass on the former culture. Since the Vietnamese had their own rebuilding to do, they had few people available other than soldiers to revive Cambodia. The Vietnamese contribution was to provide relative security, the Khmer Rouge troops having withdrawn to forest and hill areas. The Medical School with French aid started to revive modern culture. There was a small number of Buddhist monks who had survived the Pol Pot years within Cambodia by putting on civilian clothes. This handful of monks the Vietnamese put into positions of leadership. Monks in exile in Thailand, Europe or the USA were not trusted by the Vietnamese. The monks in exile only started to return in 1992-93 when the United Nations basically took over the administration of the country — United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia – UNTAC 1991 -1993.

When Maha Ghosananda returned to Cambodia from Thailand in 1992, he created the Dhammayietra. This is a walk based on the practice of the Buddha who divided a year into segments of retreats (usually during the rainy season during which he would teach his assembled followers) and other periods of the year when the monks would walk from village to village teaching and caring for the sick. The practice is made clear in words attributed to the Buddha "Go forth, and walk for the welfare of the many, for the happiness of many, out of compassion for the world, for the profit, for the welfare, for the happiness of gods and mankind. Expound the Dhamma (teachings). Live it in its spirit and its letter."

Maha Ghosananda had spent the years 1965 to 1978 in a forest monastery in southern Thailand. Such monasteries, totally isolated from village life where a monk could devote his time to meditation in silence, did not exist in Cambodia where monasteries are in the middle of the village and where there is a great deal of daily interaction with villagers. In Cambodia, villagers come to give food to the monks, sit around to talk, come and go – not an atmosphere for sustained meditation. In Thailand, after the Second World War, there arose around a few monks forest retreats. These were monasteries far from villages where a small number of monks would live together to study and meditate.

In 1978, Maha Ghosananda was told about the large number of Cambodian refugees who were fleeing Cambodia for Thailand as the Vietnamese troops were ending the Pol Pot government. He left his forest monastery to go to help the Cambodian refugees in the camps on the Thai-Cambodian frontier. From 1978 to 1992, he worked with refugees on the frontier, helping meet their physical, moral and spiritual needs.

In 1992 he returned to Cambodia with a small number of monks who had been living in refugee camps in Thailand. In Cambodia, he confronted three major problems : 1) a country still very divided along political lines with the Khmer Rouge active in hill and forest settings; 2) a country disorganized economically and socially where those who could wanted to make money to "make up for lost time;" 3) a Buddhist order where many young men were becoming monks, in part because they were sure to be fed each day and to receive education, but where there were few educated elder monks to teach them.

He organized the walks of monks and lay people – usually a yearly 45-day walk of some 650 kilometers – to areas still violently divided and in areas where landmines were still common. During these walks, there was teaching, ritual expression of compassion and reconciliation. There was also active listening to the experiences and fears of the people. As he would say "Each step is a prayer, each step is a meditation, each step will build a bridge." The walks would be efforts to build links between people divided by the years of conflict. As Maha Ghosananda said "We must find the courage to leave out temples and enter the temples of human experience, temples that are filled with suffering. If we listen to the Buddha, Christ or Gandhi, we can do nothing else. The refugee camps, the prisons, the ghettos and the battlefields will then become our temples."

There are still important challenges facing Cambodia — poverty, corruption, a narrow political base concerned with making money rather than providing service. Yet thanks to people of compassion such as Maha Ghosananda, as he would say, "Listen carefully, peace is growing in Cambodia, slowly, step by step."

Rene Wadlow is the editor of http://www.transnational-perspectives.org/t_blank. and an NGO representative to the United Nations, Geneva.

A book of meditations and observations by Maha Ghosananda 'Step by Step' is available from Parallax Press, PO Box 7355, Berkeley CA 94707.
Read more!

Cambodian girl adjusts to Hawaii

Leam's leg injury poses dilemma for her doctor

By Craig Gima

In a world that is still completely new to her, Sithan Leam prefers what is familiar. But there is one exception: a growing habit of watching Korean soap operas.

Leam, 14, arrived in Honolulu last month from Anglong Thor, a small rural village in Cambodia, for surgery that could help her walk for the first time.

Yesterday, a potluck lunch was held in Leam's honor at the University Avenue Baptist Church with members of the local Cambodian community and some of the people who helped raise more than $10,000 to bring her to Honolulu.

The food included sushi, muffins and tossed salad, but Leam made a simple plate of rice and roasted chicken.

Anthony Deth, whose family is hosting Leam, said they bought her new clothes at Kmart. But Leam prefers to wear the same clothes she brought from Cambodia. Most things "are just too strange for her," Deth said.

Even calling home was a new experience, and Leam and her family did not really know how to use a phone, Deth said.

In the last couple of weeks, Leam has been adjusting and smiling more, he said. She especially likes playing with Deth's two children. Leam took care of her younger brothers and sisters in Cambodia..

Her village consists of five families with no running water, electricity or paved roads.

Her family uses an oxcart for transportation, so even cars are new to Leam.

There are no doctors in the village, and when she was an infant, Leam suffered a severe burn on her left leg. When the wound healed, the scar tissue fused her ankle to her thigh.

Dr. Gunther Hintz, founder and president of the charity Medicorps, brought Leam to the attention of Shriners Hospital, which agreed to treat her.

Next month, Leam and Hintz, who is now her legal guardian, will meet with Dr. Ellen Raney at Shriners to decide Leam's treatment.

Hintz said there are two main options. Doctors could amputate -- most likely above the knee -- and fit her with a prosthesis. Or she can undergo a series of surgeries, skin grafts and physical therapy to try and save the leg.

There are potential complications, Hintz said. Leam's joints and muscles are functional but not fully developed and have not supported any weight.

Still, Hintz said he favors trying to save the leg.

"If she goes back to Cambodia on her own legs, it's going to be a tremendous inspiration," Hintz said.

Leam will also be able to learn some English while she is here, a valuable skill back in Cambodia, Hintz said.

Deth said they are starting to teach Leam her ABCs. During yesterday's potluck a retired teacher volunteered to help tutor her after the surgery.

In an interview through a translator, Leam said she is still homesick. She prefers Cambodian food and has not yet been to a McDonald's or the beach.

Leam is shy around strangers and gave mostly one-word answers, but smiled and laughed occasionally as translator Patrick Keo spoke with her in the Khmer language.

Deth said she has not really wanted to venture out much from the apartment near Shriners where she is staying.

But Leam can watch Korean dramas for hours, even if she does not understand Korean and cannot read the English subtitles, Deth said.

Asked what she likes about them, Leam said she doesn't know. Sometimes it's funny, she said.

She is learning more Korean than English, Deth joked. "It may not be a bad idea because there are a lot of Korean tourists now in Cambodia."
Read more!

Monday, March 26, 2007

A fishy pleasure

THE CURIOUS COOK Ed Charles
March 24, 2007

I AM at the new central market in Siem Reap, Cambodia, enduring the smell that pervades every market here, from Battambang and Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville on the coast. The odour comes from a red washing-up bowl filled with grey sludge in which float pieces of silver fish. The smell is outdone only by an equally pungent pile of grey paste with bits of rotting fish poking out.
The wet grey stuff is fish sauce, while the other is fish paste, although both seem to be called prahoc; they smell and look awful to the unaccustomed nose and eye.

Prahoc is a vital flavouring in almost everything savoury in Cambodia. So common is it that the national flag, which features the ubiquitous emblem of Angkor Wat, should be soaked in the stuff.

Despite the appalling smell, the sauce doesn't put me off my food. At a market cafe, I find Angkor beer perfectly complements a green mango salad. Inevitably, the salad is made with prahoc, sugar and tomatoes, plus crispy caramelised chips of, yes, dried fish. Not since kipper have I thought dried fish could be this good.

After this entree, I order a main course of amoc, the soup that is Cambodia's national dish. Every local chef has a twist on the traditional recipe but there are only two ways of serving it: in a coconut shell or in a container fashioned from banana leaves. Today we are eating it from the former.

Helpfully, the menu lists the ingredients in picture-book form. It seems we are trying snakehead fish with green vegetables, something referred to as "a kind of gourd", lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves and whole piles of other stuff. Most important, the dish contains palm sugar and krachai (or kachai), a sort of rhizome. Oh, and piles of sticky rice. It's absolutely delicious.

The next day at dawn I travel to the village of Chong Kneas. As we arrive, the rising sun peeks through stilt houses and reflects off the surface of Tonle Sap (literally: the freshwater lake). Sprawling across a shallow 3000sqkm in the middle of the country, the lake feeds the river of the same name that joins the Mekong at Phnom Penh. Long narrowboats are weighed down with large catches of tiny fish that are shovelled into wicker baskets numbered in red. We cross the lake to the river, where we see the floating and stilt villages of the fishermen at Prek Tuol.

Everybody is fishing. Teenage boys crouch on the bows of ancient canoes, throwing nets. Fish traps bubble with frenzied occupants. Fishermen operate large traps that look like stick-thin trebuchets. There's no sign of the rare, 3m, 300kg Mekong giant catfish today, one of the hundreds of species that live in this lake. But I can't escape the fact that fish, together with rice, is the national dish.

Indeed, fish represents 80 per cent of the protein eaten here. If a family doesn't have an earthenware jar of teuk trei -- a small anchovy-like freshwater fish -- fermenting away somewhere, the chances are they are out fishing, farming or selling the 400,000 tonnes of it caught annually.

Come September each year, the Mekong bursts its banks here, reverses its flow and sprawls across up to 18,000sqkm. For the Khmer fishing is an ancient practice and the result is those never-ending piles of prahoc. Read more!

Dancing out of the shadows of death


Cambodia’s rich dance heritage was almost destroyed in Pol Pot’s killing fields, but the survivors have staged a remarkable recovery, as audiences at the Barbican can see this weekend, reports Jane Wheatley

Pok Saran was 23 and a talented young dance student at the Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh when, on April 17, 1975, revolutionary soldiers of the Khmer Rouge marched into the streets of Cambodia’s capital and changed his life for ever. Along with millions of his fellow citizens, Saran was taken to a prison camp in the Cambodian countryside and put to work in the forests and rice fields. The interns were cruelly treated, given very little to eat and many were taken out to be shot. Large numbers died from disease and malnutrition.

The murderous Khmer Rouge leader, Pol Pot, had little regard for life — “To keep you is no gain; to kill you no loss,” he famously said — and in keeping with his so-called Communist ideals ordered that all professional and educated people — particularly those with royal connections — should be eliminated. The Cambodian Royal Family had been enthusiastic patrons of the arts and 80 per cent of performing artists died during Pol Pot’s reign of terror.

Saran knew that at any moment he could become one of them: he lied about his past, claiming that he was a humble amateur, but it was his skill as a flute player that probably saved his life.

“The commander of our camp was a Buddhist and had been the head man of a pagoda,” Saran says. “He was brainwashed by the Khmer and forced to be in charge of the killing fields. When he came back from supervising a killing expedition, he would ask me to play the flute to ease the stress he felt. I think this definitely gave me some protection.” Saran never dared to dance. “I danced only in my head,” he says.

This week he will travel to London as a choreographer for a season of Cambodian dance drama at the Barbican. This is something of a miracle: before 1975, heads of state from all over the world came to watch the famous national dancers of Cambodia, but Pol Pot destroyed his country’s vibrant culture and it has taken a quarter of a century to recover.

In 1997 Fred Frumberg quit his job as an opera director in California and travelled to Cambodia as a UN volunteer to help to rebuild the devastated arts scene in Phnom Penh. Three years ago he formed a production company to put on revivals of traditional dance repertory. “Classical court dance is performed by women,” he explains. “The male form of classical masked dance — Lakhaon Kaol — was not considered sacred in the same way and was not receiving so much attention, so some of the dancers came to me and asked me to find a way they could perform too.”

Frumberg managed to get a grant from the American Embassy — only $15,000 (£7,600), but in Cambodia a dollar goes a long way. “There was nothing documented,” he says. “So many people were dead. We had to go to the provinces and find the elder dance masters, bring them to Phnom Penh to help us with their memories.”

The grant money subsidised the building of the troupe and paid for costumes and sets. Two years ago they gave their first performance and were immediately invited to Bangkok to perform there. It caused a sensation.

A tour to the Melbourne Arts Festival followed and then the invitation to the Barbican. The presenters in each country pay for the dancers to come because there is no government funding. “The Government won’t even pay for passports,” Frumberg says. “A passport costs $100 — a lot of money for a dancer who earns $22 a month.”

Lakhoun Kaol is a dance drama based on tales from the Indian epic of Ramayana , in which gods and monkeys battle demons and ogres. Saran is responsible for the choreography of the giants: “The dancers do not have any extra height,” he explains. “They must represent their superhuman power, strength and arrogance just with their movements.”

His colleague Proeng Chhieng is the artistic director and a monkey specialist. “When I was a small boy I loved the monkey’s crazy antics,” he smiles. “It was all I wanted to do, so I became an expert in the role.”

Chhieng’s grandmother had been a celebrated dancer at the royal palace. “My sister and I lived with her and she would take us to the palace to watch while she trained the young dancers,” Chhieng says. By then the Queen had decreed that the monkey roles should be played by men as they required special acrobatic strengths. The boy Chhieng was entranced. “When I was eight years old I donated myself to the palace to be trained as a classical dancer.”

From the age of 9 he was travelling abroad to perform with the company, and in 1975, when the Khmer Rouge marched on Phnom Penh, Chhieng was studying new dance techniques in Korea. When he returned to his native country, he found that his family had fled the city and soldiers were in charge. “I stayed in Phnom Penh with other students,” he says. “We grew vegetables to stay alive and kept our heads down.”

When the Cambodian Army came to liberate the city in early 1979, Chhieng and his fellow students were taken by the Khmer soldiers to hide out in the forests; by the summer he had managed to escape and trekked to Kampong Thom province, where he had heard that there was a small community of dancers, survivors of the killing fields. They were led by the

charismatic Chhang Phon, an elder master and respected dance teacher who was determined to rescue the traditional repertory that had once been his country’s pride and joy. By the mid1980s Saran, Chhieng and others had returned to Phnom Penh to the revived Royal University of Fine Arts to form a fledgeling dance company. There was no money for culture from a crippled national economy — the dancers were paid in kind — but they were back in business.

Twenty years on they have built up a company of 47 and a stunning repertory that is placing Cambodia firmly back on the international stage. The full piece lasts eight hours but Barbican audiences will be treated to an 80-minute episode called Weyreap’s Battle, in which the monkey king Hanuman and his forces rescue King Rama from the evil tyrant Ravena. “It is powerful, action-packed stuff,” says Frumberg, “full of acrobatic flair, often comic with translated narration.”

Frumberg was speaking from Greece, where he is directing the opera Nixon in China. He is gradually weaning himself away from his role as a fundraiser and impresario for Cambodian dance. “They’re on the international radar,” he says. “It was all about capacity building; they can fly by themselves now.”

Weyreap’s Battle is at the Barbican, EC2 ( 020-7638 8891; http://www.barbican.org.uk/), from Friday to Sunday.

Artists who fought the system

Maya Plisetskaya Her father was killed in Stalinist purges and her mother imprisoned, but that didn’t stop the Bolshoi Ballet’s prima ballerina from defying the Soviet authorities, particularly when she refused to let them ban her sensuous performance in Carmen Suite.

Bertolt Brecht Fled Nazi Germany for the USA, only to find himself up before the House Committee on UnAmerican Activities after the Second World War. He ridiculed his interrogators and left for Communist East Germany.

Arturo Toscanini The conductor resisted Mussolini and refused to let Il Duce’s portrait hang in La Scala. He absconded from the Wagner festival at Bayreuth after Hitler had come to power and eventually left for the USA in 1937.

The Plastic People of the Universe Jailed for the combined sins of having long hair, liking the music of Frank Zappa and using an English name, the Czech rock band became a symbol of freedom.

Yungchen Lhamo The “Tibetan Madonna” fled her native country from Chinese repression and crossed the Himalayas barefoot. Blessed by the Dalai Lama, she has now performed with Sheryl Crow, Peter Gabriel and Annie Lennox.
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Cambodia mulls over restricting access to Angkor Wat Temple

By Yusof Sulaiman l eTN Asia

Cambodian officials are reportedly mulling over measures to restrict tourist access to Angkor Wat Temple, in an effort to prevent its further deterioration. The ravages of nature over time and the water table have taken a toll on the UNESCO listed World Heritage site, putting some at risk and further weakening their “structural integrity,” said experts from UNESCO.

Once a sleepy village, Siem Reap, where the site is located, is now a town booming with hotels, restaurants and continues to attract new investments in tourism.

Officials estimate that up to a million tourists visited the Angkor Wat temple complex in 2006, an increase of about 40 percent over the previous year.Every day up to 5,000 people climb the steps, putting the site under the strain of wear and tear. Tourist numbers to the ancient Khmer ruins have grown faster than the town can keep pace, according to published reports. "Large tour groups often do a quick stop to see the temples, but do little else," remarked a tourism official. "They hope to see everything within the one and a half day in their itinerary."

"The large number of people wandering around by themselves has caused a lot of problems," said Khin Po-Thai, spokesperson for the World Monuments Fund in Siem Reap.

According to UNESCO’s Dr. Sheldon Schaeffer, building and construction works have added to the risk of damage to the actual monuments. “Water supply to the golf courses and hotels may affect the water table at the temple sites, further weakening the structural integrity,” he said.

Temple officials are thinking about limiting access to the temple compound on a daily basis using a reservation system. "If the tourist numbers go unchecked, Angkor Wat will be gone just because we want to please the tourists," added Po-Thai.. Read more!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Running for their lives - talking about Khmer Rouge

By JILL WING, The Saratogian
03/24/2007


BALLSTON SPA - We do not know terrorism. We think we do. Not to diminish the tragedy of terror at the World Trade Center, but most of us were only peripherally impacted. Now, we are implored to "never forget." We are reminded every year on the anniversary of that day - Sept. 11, 2001. We are in fear of terrorism, but we don't live it. Sien and Sopphan Sam of Ballston Spa did. And they will never forget. They are survivors of the Cambodian Holocaust perpetuated by the Khmer Rouge and the communist regime in the 1970s that resulted in the mass murder of more than 2 million of their countrymen.

They lived in fear, in refugee camps, in work camps in the mosquito and leech-infested jungles and marshes of Cambodia for years, not knowing from day to day if they'd live to see another.

Tuesday, March 27, marks the 25th anniversary of Sien's and Sopphan's escape from the horror, the death, the brutality of their tormentors and the overwhelming sadness of what was lost. At the hands of the maniacal communist dictator Pol Pot, their middle class families were torn apart - mothers, daughters, brothers and sisters sent away to different labor camps.

Sien, a law student in Cambodia at the time of the communist takeover, survived by acting dumb. In the beginning, all the young men and women, some still children like Sopphan, were grouped by age. Sien said that if you wore glasses, or even had indentations across the bridge of your nose or on the side of your head indicating that you did, you would be executed by the new regime. The goal of Khmer Rouge was to evacuate all citizens from Cambodia's major cities and from villages and put them in labor camps, where they toiled in inhumane, squalid conditions for the good of the regime.

They were left with only the clothes on their backs and what little money wasn't stolen from them when they were forced from their homes. Sien's clothes literally rotted from his body in the stifling heat and humidity of the jungle. He said he wore the same pair of pants for three years, washing them nightly after spending a long, hot day working in the fields or building infrastructure for the communists. He was shot twice and suffered unspeakable torture as he fought to survive.

The humiliation he suffered, having to cow-tow to the communists for his survival, forced a formerly peaceful, academic young man to become a hardened, arrogant leader of a rebel militia. Sopphan, a shy and quiet woman, finds it hard to talk about her experiences. She lived through years of unimaginable terror with her mother and three sisters. Women had little value.

The strong ones were worked to the bone; the young ones were at the mercy of Khmer Rouge. Many were killed or suffered such severe injuries or sickness in their attempts to escape or even to survive oppression that they died unknown and unnamed in the thick jungles or marshes - the killing fields of Cambodia.

Sopphan recalls happy days of working the rice fields with the family's oxen and enjoying the refreshing pond and lilies at her ancestral home. It was a bucolic, peaceful existence until the day the soldiers came. There was no hope of the cavalry coming to save them. The United States had broken all ties with Cambodia. The communists, supported by China, had no boundaries. Even the Cambodians' beloved king became complicit in the slaughter and oppression.

Sien and Sopphan, and millions of their countrymen, were on there own to survive and to reach their goal to escape a refugee camp on the Thai/Cambodian border. It was a trek that cost money, which few had. Many more died before reaching what they thought was safe shelter. And even when they reached the so-called refugee camp of nearly 50,000 on the border, they weren't safe. The Thai army took advantage of the refugees' vulnerability, robbing them of what few values they still possessed, and often killing them in the process. Things got so violent in the camp, called 007, that the Red Cross and U.N. support diminished, leaving the Cambodians to fend for themselves. Many trying to escape the teeming, criminal camp were killed.

Sien and Sopphan and their families swapped one horror for another.Both were single when they arrived at 007, though they had met very briefly before. While on the run in Cambodia, Sien was sheltered by Sopphan's family. It was a favor for which the family would have been killed if caught. Having risen to a high rank as leader of a rebel militia in camp 007, protecting his people from brutal Thai soldiers, a formerly gentle Sien became a hardened soldier, willing to kill to protect his own. Marriage was far from his mind, until one of his militia men suggested he wedd. Surprisingly, given his stature as a soldier, Sien thought seriously of his friend's suggestion.

He recalled the family who sheltered him - there were four sisters. Sopphan stood out in his mind."She was the prettiest," he said, smiling. "I didn't even like him," Sopphan responded. "He was arrogant."Cambodian marriages are traditionally arranged. But life in the refugee camp was hardly traditional. So, they married, more out of convenience at the time, Sien said. But their marriage and bond has survived unfathomable tragedy and horror and, finally, love and happiness. It was not easy going, even after they married. Right up to the day they boarded a plane for freedom to the Philippines, the couple was fearful they'd be caught and killed.

Sien had earned a reputation as a strong combatant against the communists. He wouldn't stand next to his wife as they waited on the tarmac for the plane. He feared for Sopphan's life and wouldn't jeopardize his wife and their baby son, Dara, by making them a target. Even when seated on the plane, their fears did not go away until they were in the air.

After living nearly a decade of horror, they could breathe without repercussion. Sien still cannot travel freely in Cambodia. He has paid for protection the few times he's returned. He documented his ordeal in a book, "The land of the Red Prince." It is the story of his life, in sometimes gruesome detail, from 1972 to 1982, when he and Sopphan came to the United States. Sopphan, who has had difficulty telling her story, is working through her experiences at Literacy Volunteers at the Saratoga Springs Public Library. Her goal is to write a narrative, like her husband's, but more about what life in a peaceful Cambodia was like before Pol Pot's obscene genocide. She wants her children, both raised and schooled in the United States, to understand their ancestral country.

So far, Sopphan, has penned a beautifully descriptive and painfully sad memoir. Literacy volunteer Martha Wilson helped Sopphan write a draft of her story; now volunteer Nancy Holzman is helping Sopphan fill in the blanks.

"I am very proud of my wife," Sien said, understanding how hard it is for Sopphan to tell her story in her own language, much less one that is foreign to her."I'm her teacher, she's my teacher," Holzman said of her relationship with Sopphan. Sien is a retired engineer. Their children, and an orphan taken in at the refugee camp, are successful businessmen. Their daughter attends college.

Tuesday marks a 25-year milestone in their lives - escape and freedom. They will never return permanently to their homeland, where they each still have family. It is not safe. For more information about Literacy Volunteers, or to become a tutor, call Director Sue Hensley-Cushing, 583-1232. Read more!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Band Aid heiress bemoans failed Jolie-like Cambodian adoption attempt

New York, Mar 24: It seems that everyone is not as lucky as Hollywood beauty Angelina Jolie, whether it is about being the sexiest woman in Hollywood or having Brad Pitt as a lover, or even adopting kids.

Band-Aid heiress Casey Johnson, who claims to be in the process of adopting a baby girl from Kazakhstan, is still sad she wasn't able to adopt a baby from Cambodia, as Angelina Jolie did. "I went to Cambodia almost two years ago [and] fell in love with this little girl, a 21/2-year-old named Lavissa," Johnson, was quoted by the New York Post, as saying.

But then she got the bad news that an adoption wasn't possible because of tight new adoption laws."I was devastated because I had bonded for three weeks with this child. I was buying her clothes in Cambodia. I was videoing her. I was doing everything," she added .

In 2001, Jolie adopted her first child, Maddox, from Cambodia with then-husband Billy Bob Thornton, but the Third World nation later cut off adoptions by foreigners amid accusations by child-welfare advocates of corrupt, babies-for-cash scams.


Johnson says she finally cheered up when her godmother, Diandra Douglas, the ex-wife of Michael Douglas, adopted a baby girl from Kazakhstan. "She's the most beautiful baby I've ever seen. She's blond-haired, blue-eyed, looks just like Diandra, and I thought, 'Oh, my gosh! This is what I'm going to do.' " Johnson says that when her own adoption goes through, she plans to name her baby Ava Monroe after her idol Marilyn Monroe.
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Japan to help Cambodia develop power project with 22 mln USD loan

PHNOM PENH, March 24 (Xinhua) -- Japan will provide some 22 million U.S. dollars of low-interest loan for Cambodia to implement the Greater Mekong Power Network Development Project, local media said on Saturday.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Hor Namhong and Japanese Ambassador Fumiaki Takahashi signed the exchange of notes here on Friday in presence of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

According to the notes, the Japan Bank of International Cooperation (JBIC) will offer the loan at an annual interest rate of 0.01 percent with a payment period of 40 years.

The loan will serve the construction of two power transmission cables between Sihanoukville and Kampot, improvement of the kingdom's electricity equipment, construction of power transmission network among Phnom Penh and its neighboring provinces and some other projects. .

So far, the Japanese government has provided some 132,519,000 U.S. dollars of loans for the Cambodian government, according to a press release from the Japanese Embassy. .

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