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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Local couples travel around the world

By Ashley Mcknight-Taylor

A trip around the world.

It has inspired books and movies. It's something people dream about.

Precious few people truly get to see the world in one fell swoop, but two Suffolk couples can count themselves among such travelers.

David and Julie Holland, accompanied by George and Sue Birdsong, in February took a private jet to some of the world's most legendary and exotic locations.

It started with wishful thinking.
David Holland is a Washington & Lee University alumni, and he received brochures from his alma mater each year advertising tantalizing trips abroad to places such as the Serengeti and Tibet. David and his wife salivated over pictures of the Taj Mahal and pyramids of Egypt.

"It just sounded so absolutely fabulous," Julie said.

Their friends, the Birdsongs, were familiar with the brochures. George also graduated from Washington & Lee, but when the Hollands mentioned the idea to them, Sue said the pamphlets were tantalizing, but typically went straight to the trash. She and her husband, like most people, thought it would be impossible to leave work and other commitments for the length of time such a trip required - in this case, 24 days.

But David and Julie couldn't resist. And after the idea stewed with the Birdsongs for a while, they, too, realized it was an opportunity they could not pass up. The couples spent more than a year making reservations and filling out the necessary paperwork. On Feb. 14 they headed to Washington, D.C. for the first of many flights that would carry them around the world.

But they got snowed in.

With a jam-packed schedule of flights, train rides, sightseeing and more, the delay threw a real wrench in the plan. They made it out of the city the next day, and zipped off to their first destination: Lima, Peru. There they took a quick tour of a museum - their leisure time eaten up by the snow back in the States.

A train, outfitted with a glass ceiling, carried them through the mountains to Cusco and Machu Picchu, where they explored the spectacular ruins of the Inca Empire. The ruins are tucked away on a hilltop between two Andean peaks at 7,000 feet above sea level. The location kept them hidden even from the Spanish. They were discovered by Yale professor Hiram Bingham buried beneath dense undergrowth in 1911.

Julie said each person had a headset so they could continue listening to stories and explanations from the guides while still wandering around the site on their own.

From there, the travelers jetted across the South Pacific to the isolated Easter Island, home to giant stone monoliths, known as Moai, that dot the coastline. The tour group of about 100 people traveled by a specially outfitted Boeing 757 that was outfitted with a personal chef, physician and six professors who could speak expertly on a number of topics related to their travels. Lectures on the population, geography and more gave them a clearer picture of the places they would see, Julie said.

"The guides were very knowledgeable."

They continued on to Samoa, an island of natural beauty and friendly people. Then it was onward to Australia where they had the opportunity to snorkel over the Great Barrier Reef or to ride in a glass submarine. David and George braved the jellyfish and went snorkeling, while the ladies chose the more comfortable underwater journey.

The next stop: Angkor Wat, a temple in Angkor, Cambodia, built for a king in the 12th Century and known as the largest religious monument in the world. It is a huge pyramid temple surrounding by a moat 570 feet wide and about four miles long, along with a number of other temples.

Julie said she found this site most fascinating because archaeologists still were working to uncover the temples, which had been swallowed by jungle. While in Cambodia they also were able to take an elephant ride as a couple.

After leaving Cambodia, they spent one night in China where Julie, though tired, took time to visit the panda compound.

"I was exhausted, but I just could not pass up the pandas," she said.

They also were treated with a delightful surprise: their group became the first tourists to arrive in the country during the Chinese New Year, so journalists there wrote about them and provided translated copies for each person.

They had just a brief rest before the group moved on to Lhasa, the traditional capital of Tibet where the altitude, despite the fact that they took medication beforehand, still made many in the group ill. But the snow on the Himalayas was an amazing sight. They visited an orphanage, where children danced for them, and they saw where the Dali Lama lived.

Next on the list, one of the world's most famous structures: the Taj Mahal in India. Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan commissioned this mausoleum, located in Agra, for his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Construction began in 1632 and was completed about 20 years later.

Julie said the white marble and inlaid tile of the building were beautiful, as was the extravagant hotel where they stayed while in India. But once they left the gates of the Taj, streets were lined with improvershed people living in slums.

"You go in the gate and it's a whole other world," she said.

From the Taj they traveled to a place of equal, though different, granduer: the Serengeti Plain in Africa. They camped in a mobile tent on a mountain, from which they could watch rhinocerouses and other amazing creatures.

"You could hear animals all night long," Julie said.

The plains of Africa were followed by one of the Wonders of the World - the Great Pyramids of Giza in Cairo, Egypt and the Sphinx. Their last stop was Marrakech, a medieval city in Morroco. From there they flew back to Washington, D.C., arriving exhausted, but satisfied.

"It was a good tired though because it was a trip we'll never forget." .
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'Saddest thing is we lost her right here'Survivor of Cambodian horrors meets her bloody fate in S. Phila.

By Julie Shaw

ONE OF nine brothers and sisters, Nimol Tep, 40, survived the Khmer Rouge "killing fields" period in Cambodia in the late 1970s.
A decade later, she almost drowned when she tried to flee to Australia for a better future. She lived in Cambodia most of her life, then came to this country legally two years ago, living first in Connecticut before coming to Philly.

Then she, along with her 47-year-old roommate, were stabbed to death Wednesday in their South Philadelphia apartment, allegedly after an acquaintance of her roommate had an argument with the older woman over money.

Tep just happened to be in the apartment on 7th Street, near Jackson, at that time. She moved there just two months ago.

Yesterday, two of her brothers recalled a friendly, outgoing woman who liked Philadelphia because of its Cambodian community.

"The saddest thing," said brother Sunheang Tep, 52, as he stood at the doorway of his sister's second-floor apartment, atop a flight of gray-carpeted stairs, "was we went through the hard time together" of surviving the wrath of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.

"We didn't lose anyone," he said, speaking just a few feet from where stains of dry blood smeared the white tiles inside the apartment. "The saddest thing is we lost her right here."

"Pretty much everyone's sad about it, especially my parents back in Phnom Penh," the capital of Cambodia, where they live, said Sunheang, who flew into Philadelphia yesterday morning from his home in Rochester, N.Y. Since then, he has had to identify his sister's body and is now preparing for her funeral.

Sunheang and brother Sivhuot Tep, 49, who lives near Bristol, Conn., stopped inside Nimol's apartment yesterday "to collect memories of her," Sunheang said, as he showed a 2005 photo of his sister smiling at Niagara Falls.

The brothers said they did not know how their younger sister came to befriend her Philadelphia roommate, also a Cambodian immigrant. Police have not released the roommate's name because her next of kin has yet to be notified of her death.

In Connecticut, where Nimol lived with Sivhuot, his wife and children for nearly two years, she had worked in a factory assembling electrical supplies, her brothers said.

She then told them she was moving in with her friend in Philadelphia. She thought she could earn more money here, Sunheang said. Plus, Connecticut was too quiet.

"She said she liked it here because she had some friends," Sunheang said. "In the Connecticut suburbs, she had nobody to talk to. There were not a lot of Cambodians. Over here, everywhere you turn, there are Cambodian people" in this area of South Philadelphia, he said.

His sister spoke "very little English" and was learning the language.

Nimol wanted to earn more money so she could return to Cambodia in July to see their parents, Sunheang said. Then she planned to return to the States to move in with a younger sister near Los Angeles.

Police have said that Sambo Nou, 21, who lived a few blocks away from the women, has confessed to stabbing Nimol Tep and her roommate to death in their apartment about 5 to 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Nou, of Jackson Street near 4th, knew the older woman because she was a friend of his mother's. In the women's apartment, Nou argued with the older woman about a cell-phone bill and about borrowing some money, Homicide Sgt. Anthony McFadden has said. Then Nou allegedly stabbed the older woman, then allegedly stabbed Tep after she came out of the shower.

The two women worked at a clothing manufacturing company. Their bodies were discovered Thursday morning by a resident who lived above them after they failed to go outside to a van waiting to pick them up for work.

A middle child, Nimol Tep was born in an island village in the Koh Sotin district of Cambodia's Kampong Cham province. The family later moved to Phnom Penh, but didn't stay long.

In April 1975 the Communist Khmer Rouge captured the capital. Soon after, Khmer Rouge soldiers evacuated residents from cities, forcing people to live and work in the countryside.

From 1975 to 1979, a period termed the "killing fields," an estimated 1 to 2 million people died from starvation and disease or were brutally executed under Khmer Rouge dictator Pol Pot's rule.

There was "no school, no shop, no currency," Sunheang Tep said. "We live like prisoners, like third-class citizens." The Tep family was forced to leave Phnom Penh and lived in the countryside in Khampong Thom.

After Vietnam invaded Cambodia in late 1978, Sunheang Tep was able to flee the country by walking to the border and into Thailand, where he spent two years in a refugee camp. From there, he was the first in the family to come to the United States as a refugee.

As for Nimol and the rest of the family, they were able to move back to Phnom Penh around 1980, the brothers said.

Around the late 1980s, she and her younger sister, who now lives in California, tried to flee Cambodia for a better life in Australia.

"She wanted to get out of the country," said Sunheang. "It was still communist." They traveled in a "small boat. All I know was it was not a big commercial boat."

The boat sank in a storm. The sisters were rescued and taken to a refugee camp in Indonesia. After two years, they were sent back home to Phnom Penh.

Unmarried, Nimol "just stayed home in Phnom Penh and take care of our parents," Sunheang said. Then after 20 years of his having petitioned the U.S. government, it gave his sister permission to move here two years ago. *

Staff writer Christine Olley contributed to this article.
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Vietnam and Cambodia open international border gate

The Mekong delta province of Dong Thap and its Cambodian neighbouring province of Prey Veng jointly inaugurated the international border gate of Dinh Ba –Bon Tia Chak Cray on April 27.

According to Chairman of the Dong Thap People’s Committee Truong Ngoc Han, the Vietnamese and Cambodian governments at their joint committee’s 8th session in October last year agreed to upgrade several border gates between the two countries to the international level, including the Dinh Ba-Bon Tia Chak Cray.

The two countries have issued relevant legal documents and exchanged diplomatic notes related to the upgrading of the border gate, creating legal basis for its operation. (VNA). Read more!

Cambodia publishes first history of Khmer Rouge regime

The first textbook written by a Cambodian on the history of the Khmer Rouge has been published by the Documentation Center of Cambodia. Previous accounts of the Khmer Rouge era have all been written by foreign scholars and reporters. The book aims to educate Cambodians about the rise and fall of the genocidal regime that killed almost 2 million people in the late 1970s. Rory Byrne reports from Phnom Penh.

Very little is taught about the Khmer Rouge here, in large part because the subject is sensitive among political groups and other high-profile people once associated with the genocidal Maoist movement.

Even those Cambodians who lived through the regime don’t know the whole story, and more than 70 percent of the population has been born since the Khmer Rouge was ousted in 1979.

The new book is entitled A History of Democratic Kamphuchea, the name the Khmer Rouge gave the country after taking power in 1975.

The book is published by the Documentation Center of Cambodia, an independent group that documents Khmer Rouge crimes. It relies heavily on first-hand testimony of survivors and perpetrators of Cambodia’s genocide.

The book’s author, Khamboly Dy, says propaganda and differing interpretations of events have clouded people’s understanding of the regime itself, and of the Vietnamese-led action that drove it from power.

“That part of history is very political, and so far we don’t have the common agreement on the content of [that] history, because there are a lot of interpretations on the history of the Khmer Rouge, like the 1979 event - whether it is the invasion, or the liberation of Cambodia,” he explained. “So there are a lot of interpretations.”

The book was written for high school teachers and their students. It is part of a wider process being conducted by various private groups aimed at helping Cambodians to better understand the history of the “Killing Fields” era. The book was published as United Nations-backed trials of the surviving Khmer Rouge leaders are approaching.

Khamboly Dy says the aim is to present the plain facts, as opposed to trying to interpret them.

“We introduce the facts about the Khmer Rouge - we don’t use the interpretation, we don’t use propaganda, we use facts. And we try to balance, to make the book neutral, not to take sides,” he added. “That is very important, to know exactly what happened in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979, and the real events: not the propaganda, not the hatred, because from now on we need to focus on peace and reconciliation, and justice, not on hatred or any propaganda.”

Cambodia’s Education Ministry has approved the book as a “core reference” guide for history textbooks, but not yet as part of the official school curriculum. However, there are discussions about producing a condensed version of the book’s material, to be included in future textbooks.
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Cambodia bar association slashes fees for genocide trial lawyers

[JURIST] A spokesman for the Cambodian Bar Association (BAKC) said Saturday that the group would dramatically reduce the fees it proposed to levy on foreign lawyers taking part in the upcoming Khmer Rouge genocide trials [JURIST news archive] before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia [official website].

Foreign lawyers will now to be required to pay a one-time flat fee of $500, down from an earlier combined rate of over $2700 comprised of a membership fee, a fee of $2000 payable on case assignment, and a monthly fee of $200.

The initial fee structure had prompted concerns from rights NGOs [JURIST report] and foreign judges on the court that it would discourage volunteer lawyers from offering their services and would prompt complaints that defendants had not been given a free choice of counsel; some observers had feared that it would stymie the tribunal [JURIST report], which has already faced criticism for process delays.

Bar Association representative Nou Tharith told a news conference that "The decision to lower the fees reflects the true willingness of the Cambodian Bar Association to allow the process of the tribunal to move forward as quickly as possible." A tribunal spokesman quoted by AP said that the decision of the bar association was a "very positive development." AP has more.

Cambodia's 1975-79 Khmer Rouge [MIPT backgrounder] regime was responsible for the deaths of over 1.7 million people from genocide, disease and malnutrition. The ECCC was created to investigate and prosecute instances of human rights violations by a 2001 agreement between Cambodia and the UN.

Prosecutors are expected to indict about 10 defendants; trials which were initially expected to begin in mid-2007 have already been delayed for several months [JURIST report] due to disagreements over procedural rules..
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Americans living 'outside the box' through Peace Corps in Cambodia

By Ker Munith, the Associated press

KAMPONG CHAM, Cambodia - Munching on their first hamburgers in weeks, the Americans traded tales of mastering the Asian squat toilet and eating deep-fried tarantulas.
These were some of the rural realities that greeted 29 U.S. Peace Corps volunteers who left behind the comforts of home to teach English for two years in the Cambodian countryside.

It marks the 46-year-old Peace Corps' first program in the poor Southeast Asian country, which was bombed by American B-52 bombers during the Vietnam War, ravaged by the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s and further weakened by a civil war in the 1980s.

Political instability and security concerns kept the organization out of Cambodia until now, but both sides felt it was "the perfect time" to introduce the Peace Corps to the country as it strives to develop and expand its economy, said Van Nelson, the group's country director. The group's arrival makes Cambodia the 139th country where the service organization has worked.

The 13 men and 16 women, from New York, Wisconsin, Iowa and elsewhere, fanned out recently to villages in seven rural provinces after two months of training that introduced them to life in Cambodia - where the average civil servant earn about $25 dollars a month.

Roughly a third of Cambodia's 14 million people live below the national poverty line of 50 U.S. cents a day.

During an eight-week orientation period, each volunteer was lodged with a Cambodian family in Kampong Cham province, 50 miles east of the capital, Phnom Penh, where they eased into their new culture and downsized lifestyle.

Used to driving cars on American freeways, they became accustomed to maneuvering bicycles along bumpy country roads, where traffic rules don't apply.

They lived in shacklike wooden homes on stilts overlooking dry and empty rice fields and slept under mosquito nets to keep away the malaria-carrying mosquitoes that are a major killer in this country. They hand pumped well water into buckets and boiled it for drinking, and many said for the first time in their lives they showered three times a day - the only way to cool off from 100-degree heat in the absence of air conditioning.

They did have some luxuries, like dim lights at night powered by car batteries - a rarity in rural areas.

"We have different routines now. We go to bed earlier and get up earlier. We wake up when the dogs wake up," said Sam Snyder, 24, from Buffalo, N.Y. He came with his wife, 22-year-old Kara, who said the couple wanted "to experience life outside the box."

Dogs weren't the only early risers. Colin Doyle, 23, from Baltimore, said he was awakened regularly by insomniac roosters.

"They crow at 2 a.m., 3 a.m., 5 a.m. Very annoying," he said at his temporary home in Kampong Cham before the group got posted around the country.

Over the course of two years, the volunteers are expected to teach English to approximately 60,000 Cambodians as part of efforts to increase job opportunities, particularly in the booming tourism industry, organizers said.

Tourism is one of Cambodia's biggest moneymakers, bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars a year, mainly from the crowds of visitors who flock to the famed Angkor temples in the city of Siem Reap. The government is also developing some of the prime white-sand coastal areas in hopes of building Cambodia's image as a beach destination.

Peace Corps officials said they plan to increase the number of volunteers to Cambodia each year. The initial group ranged from young adults just out of college to a married couple in their 40s.

While the Peace Corps' image remains that of a youth service, the organization has been attracting more and more Americans like Mark Stilwell, a 46-year-old former computer network administrator from Denver. He and his 41-year-old wife Kristine, a high school teacher, joined the organization because they wanted to travel but "in a way that is more than just tourism," he said.

Nelson said the Peace Corps has been attracting older volunteers for years and has found they bring special skills like patience and "a different way of looking at the world than young volunteers."

"We find people coming to Peace Corps when they retire. They just realize that they're not getting any younger and that they should get out and see the world and expand their horizons," he said.

Many said the brief orientation made them realize all they took for granted back home - like washing machines and dryers. Doing the laundry involves squatting outside over a bucket of water and scrubbing each item with bare hands.

Going to the bathroom was another learning experience, as a group of three volunteers explained while on an outing at a riverside restaurant in Kampong Cham, which happened to be owned by an American from Philadelphia and, to the group's delight, served burgers and fries.

Mastering the Asian squat toilet, a porcelain covered hole in the ground, was the first challenge. One volunteer, who asked not to be quoted by name on the subject, said he had given up using toilet paper - which could only be bought at a distant town - and instead did as Cambodians do, which involves splashing oneself with water from a filled tub near the toilet.

Eating offered new and sometimes stomach-turning dishes, said Chris Rates, a 25-year-old from Oshkosh, Wis., who suffered diarrhea after sampling a delicacy of fried tarantulas.

He confessed to being "freaked out a bit" when he bumped into two of the creature's living, breathing cousins in the bathroom at his host family's home.

"I'm used to living with them now," he said, as he devoured his first hamburger in weeks.
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Vietnamese in Cambodia lauded for overcoming life’s hardships

PHNOM PENH — National Assembly Chairman Nguyen Phu Trong yesterday hailed Vietnamese living in Cambodia for their efforts to overcome difficulties while being abroad.

Trong made the comments while meeting with Viet kieu (Overseas Vietnamese) in Phnom Penh during an official trip to Cambodia.

The NA chairman said he sympathised with Viet kieu who faced difficulties while working to advance the homeland.

He affirmed the Party and State’s responsibility to the Vietnamese community living abroad, including Viet kieu in Cambodia.

Trong said he appreciated the Cambodian Viet kieu’s great attention to the country’s situation.

He also updated the meeting’s participants on the latest developments in Viet Nam, including preparations for the 12th National Assembly election and the assembly’s resolve to renew the organisation and its working methods.

The NA chairman said he expected the Vietnamese community in Cambodia to continue upholding their homeland’s tradition of mutual assistance.

On the occasion, Trong presented gifts from the NA to Vietnamese people in Cambodia partly aimed at helping them overcome their hardships.

Chairman of the Vietnamese association in Cambodia, Chau Van Chi said that while the Vietnamese community was far from their homeland, they always followed their country’s progress and felt happy with the major national achievements made during the period of renewal (doi moi).

Despite receiving care from the Party, State and NA, a majority of Vietnamese people living in Cambodia were poor and unskilled while also having to struggle with legal status issues.

Chi said he hoped to receive more aid, both material and spiritual, from Viet Nam, particularly in helping the children of Viet kieu to return to their homeland to study.

The Vietnamese group also pledged to work together to preserve Vietnamese cultural identity, obey local laws and contribute to boost ties between Cambodia and Viet Nam.

Chairman Trong also visited the Vietnamese Embassy in Cambodia and toured some historical relics and cultural sites in Phnom Penh.

City links

Economic co-operation across various fields between HCM City and Phnom Penh had seen increasing development, according to both Secretary of the Ho Chi Minh Municipal Party Committee Le Thanh Hai and Phnom Penh’s Mayor Kep Chuk Tema.

The two officials held talks in Phnom Penh on Sunday to discuss further co-operation.
Hai said authorities and businesses from both cities have spared no efforts in implementing co-operation agreements.

Several co-operation projects between the two cities had attained good results, especially a humanitarian programme on cataract surgery in Cambodia. A hospital, named after its sister hospital Cho Ray in HCM City, would be built with the city’s assistance in Phnom Penh.
Mayor Kep Chuk Tema reiterated the Phnom Penh municipal authorities’ incentives given to Vietnamese investors in the city.

Earlier, the HCM City delegation was received by King Norodom Sihamoni.

The King expressed his belief in the further development of relations between the two countries.

Hai said he believed Cambodia would gain achievements in national construction, also contributing to friendship and co-operation between the two countries and the two cities.

Hai invited King Norodom Sihamoni to visit HCM City in the near future. — VNS
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Vietnamese firms join giant trans-pacific cable project

three Vietnamese companies joined to connect cable under sea to the US.

The Asia-America Gateway (AAG) project will cost an estimated US$560 million.

The cable system will run from Malaysia to the US via Hong Kong, the Philippines, Guam and Hawaii. The cable will also run through parts of Singapore, Thailand, Brunei and Vietnam.

The Vietnamese firms include the Vietnam Post and Telecommunications Group (VNPT), Viettel, and Saigon Postal (SPT). VNPT will contribute the largest funding of the Vietnamese firms, $40 million, as a founding member.

The project’s other companies are from Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, the US, and Hong Kong.

The system is scheduled to begin operations in November 2008 after 19 months’ construction.

It will provide direct access and diverse routing between South East Asia and the USA and will have geographical advantages over the traditional trans-Pacific routes (via the North Pacific).

The new route will avoid some of the areas most prone to seismic activity, a serious hazard for undersea cables.

The cable system will span 20,000km and use the latest Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing (DWDM) technologies. The cable’s 1.92 terrabits per second capacity is six times more than the current international optical cable capacity of Vietnam.

The proposed cable system is designed to provide a high level inter-connectivity with high bandwidth systems. So, its capacity can be extended to other locations in northeast Asia, and southeast Asia, India, Australia, Africa and Europe.
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Friday, April 27, 2007

Chinese DM meets Cambodian deputy PM

China on Friday said it is willing to be a peaceful neighbor, trusty friend and sincere partner to Cambodia.

China will work with Cambodia to continuously strengthen the friendship and cooperation between the two nations and the two armed forces, said Chinese Defense Minister Cao Gangchuan in a meeting with visiting Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Tea Banh.

Cao, also vice chairman of the Central Military Commission and state councilor, said leaders of the two countries have maintained frequent mutual visits. Bilateral economic and trade cooperation has made progress. military exchanges have enhanced.

Tea Banh said Cambodia-China friendship has weathered the test of time and history and has taken root in the hearts of the two peoples, adding he believed the Cambodia-China friendly and cooperative relationship would achieve greater development in the 21st century.

Source: Xinhua
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Cambodia's cyclo drivers pedalling towards extinction

Phnom Penh's crowded streets have become the loneliest of places for the city's cyclo drivers as peddle-power is making way for a faster pace of life in the Cambodian capital.

Increasingly lost amid a sea of cars and scooters known as motor-taxies, these symbols of perhaps a more genteel era are struggling to remain relevant as Phnom Penh leaps towards modernity.

But that struggle appears to be a losing one, as cyclos -- pedal-driven rickshaws that were ubiquitous across what was once French Indochina -- fall out of favour and their drivers turn in greater numbers to more lucrative work.

"Modern things are coming, so out-of-date things like the cyclo will be gone," complains Khat Soeun, a wiry 43-year-old, as he squats next to his cyclo, bolting a leafspring to his broken vehicle.

On the best days Khat Soeun can make two US dollars -- half what he says he took home only a few years ago.

More often, though, he comes home with less after hours of grinding through the city's streets for just a few cents a ride.

"I cannot make as much money now as I did in the past because there are so many motorcycles and tuk-tuks," he says, referring to the large motor-driven carts that first appeared a few years ago and have begun to dominate public transport.

"We can't compete with them -- they are machines and go faster," he adds.

"Many drivers have changed from pedalling cyclos to driving motor-taxies instead."

Roughly 2,500 cyclos plied the streets of Phnom Penh in 2004, according to a survey conducted by the Cyclo Centre, which opened in 1999 to help drivers cope with their changing world by providing English lessons, healthcare information, free haircuts and laundry facilities.

That figure was down from 10,000 reported more than a decade ago.

"But nowadays there are only some 800 to 900 cyclo drivers pedalling the streets," says Im Sambath, the centre's project director.

"We are really worried about the future of cyclos," he tells AFP.

First introduced to Cambodia in 1936, the cyclo soon became a iconic part of Phnom Penh's city-scape. They still have a small, loyal following of mostly elderly customers who are put off by the sometimes hair-raising driving of motor-taxi drivers, known locally as "motodops".

Cyclos also remain popular with foreigners seeking a slow turn around the capital's tourist spots, but the drivers remain among the poorest city residents.

"It's my family's rice bowl, what I can make allows us to survive, but just day-to-day," Khat Soeun says.

In recent years the Cyclo Centre has tried to re-ignite the love affair with cyclos, advertising them to tourists as cheap, environmentally-friendly transport and organising fund-raising "rallies" from Phnom Penh to distant provincial capitals.

"Our main target is to help the poor drivers to make a better living -- give them better information about health, urge them to quit smoking or inform them about issues like domestic violence," Im Sambath says.

The centre also offers drivers a rent-to-own plan that allows them to acquire their own second-hand cyclo for roughly 50 dollars after leasing it for about six months.

Drivers are otherwise forced to pay 50 cents a day to rent their cyclos from other operators, or borrow the 120 dollars it costs to buy a new one.

Cyclos "help poor and illiterate people feed their families," Im Sambath says, adding: "The cyclo is very important to us -- it's part of our culture."

But the number of cyclos on the road is still "decreasing every day," says 41-year-old driver Va Thorn, a regular at the centre for three years who frequently uses his welding talents to fix broken cyclos for other drivers at discounted prices.

"The cyclo is really under threat, I'm afraid they'll disappear from Cambodia," he warns.

But better roads and a middle-class preference for motor vehicles has perhaps made their disappearance inevitable, says Chuch Phoeurn, a secretary of state with the Ministry of Culture.

"Cyclos are disappearing because society is changing," he says, adding: "When people have easier ways to get around, they'll abandon cyclos."
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DPRK supports Cambodia's request for further role in UN

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) has expressed support for Cambodia's request of non-permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council from 2013 to 2014, local media said on Friday.

Rin In Sok, DPRK Ambassador to Cambodia, told this to Hor Nam Hong, Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation here on Thursday, local newspaper the Rasmey Kampuchea reported.

The membership will be voted in 2012, the paper quoted Ros Simara, head of the Information Department of the foreign ministry, as saying.

Both countries have good relationship and close cooperation since long time ago, she said.

The Cambodian side always supports the six-party talks and the peaceful reconciliation of the Korean Peninsula, she added.

In recent months, a number of countries, including Luxembourg, have expressed support for this request of Cambodia.

Source: Xinhua
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Vietnam, Cambodia see need to tighten legislative rapport

VietNamNet Bridge - Vietnamese National Assembly Chairman Nguyen Phu Trong and his Cambodian counterpart Heng Samrin have called for a bolstering of ties between the two legislative bodies, the two countries and their people.

The two NA leaders held talks right after the Vietnamese leader’s arrival in Phnom Penh on April 26.

At the talks, the two sides expressed their satisfaction with the development steps of the traditional and comprehensive cooperation between the two countries and the two NAs.

They also agreed to further cooperate with each other at international and regional inter-parliamentary forums as well as other international ones.

After the talks, Chairman Trong and his Cambodian counterpart signed an agreement to boost cooperation between the two NAs. They agreed to further exchange delegations, information and experiences between Vietnam’s NA Official and Cambodia’s NA Secretariat.

Later, Chairman Trong met with Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni, who said he was delighted at the closer ties between the two NAs and the two countries.

The King pledged to follow his father to boost the two countries’ rapport.

Chairman Trong congratulated Cambodia’s achievements over the recent time and expressed thanks to the Cambodian people for their support and assistance to the Vietnamese people.

In the afternoon, the Vietnamese leader met with Cambodia Senate Speaker Chea Sim.

The Cambodian leader said the two peoples have been standing shoulder-to-shoulder in the past struggle for national liberation as well as the present national construction and defence. He stressed the Cambodian people are forever grateful for the support and assistance of the Vietnamese people and army.

Chairman Trong said the development of the rapport between Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia was originated from their long-standing friendship and the requisite need of neighbouring countries.

He said he wished the friendship and cooperation between the NA of Vietnam and the Senate of Cambodia would be further reinforced.

The same day, Chairman Trong and his entourage laid floral wreaths at the Independence Monument and the Vietnam-Cambodia Friendship Monument in Phnom Penh.

In the evening, Senate Speaker Chea Sim and NA Chairman Heng Somrin co-hosted a banquet in honour of Chairman Trong, his wife and other members of the Vietnamese delegation.
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Where Elephants Weep

By Andrea Shea

LOWELL, Mass. - April 27, 2007 - Two million Cambodians died during Pol Pot's genocide campaign in the 1970s, including 90 percent of the country's artists.

Since then, Cambodia's artistic culture has suffered. But this weekend the first known contemporary Cambodian opera previews in Lowell, home to the United States' second- largest Cambodian population.

The love story, which fuses traditional Cambodian music with rock and roll, will eventually head to Phnom Penh next year. WBUR's Andrea Shea dropped in on a rehearsal at Lowell High School and has this story.

The audio for this story will be available on WBUR's web site after 10 a.m. on Friday.


ANDREA SHEA: The new opera is called 'Where Elephants Weep.' It opens with the bleating of an ancient elephant horn. On stage right a raised platform supports 5 Cambodian musicians. They wield a variety of exotic, ancient-looking instruments: wood winds, gongs, drums, a long-necked lute. The show's Executive Producer John Burt says he jumped through hoops to get this ensemble into America for the performance. And, he says, it was tough to track them down in Cambodia.

JOHN BURT: Everything is on the grass roots level in Cambodia and there's extraordinary talent living right underneath the surface.

SHEA: Burt is also co-founder of the Lowell based preservation organization 'Cambodian Living Arts.' He says he started the group with Arn Chorn-Pond, a well-known human rights activist and flute player who survived Pol Pot's rampage.

BURT: One of the things that happens with the devastation of a genocide period when so many people perish who hold the history of those traditions is that it diminishes the possibility of new ideas to emerge.

SHEA: And what could be newer than a Cambodian opera hybrid that fuses traditional music with the most Western of music forms: rock and roll. A Cambodian rock band warms up stage left. At this recent rehearsal American Librettist Catherin Filloux goes over some changes to the script. Sam is the main character in the opera. He was raised in the United States after his family fled Pol Pot, but Burt says he goes back to Cambodia to seek his cultural identity, his roots, and his soul.

BURT: And in his return he is confronted not only with not only the ancient traditional world of Cambodia but the modern world that he is in conflict with.

SHEA: Once home Sam falls in love with a pop singer name Bopah. Burt says the Romeo and Juliet-style plot line represents the conflict between East and West. And the musical mashup does, too. For the opera's composer, Him Sophy, incorporating rock and roll works conceptually and artistically.

HIM SOPHY: Because Sam he grew up in US he got big influence from American culture, especially rock music, I think the best in the world is American rock music...important that you need to compose good music for rock for traditional, for classical, western whatever that's no problem.

SHEA: Him Sophy one of 3 classically trained composers in all of Cambodia. He usually writes for Western-style orchestras, not rock bands or traditional Cambodian musicians.

SOPHY: They play together with the rock band sometime separately sometimes soloists only rock sometimes only traditional, and then they come together and they have a different sound that you never heard before.

SHEA: But it's also risky to make something new by marrying musics from two very different cultures, according to Mark Rossi. Rossi is a professor at Berklee College of Music in Boston. He's a composer, Jazz pianist and world musician with an expertise in Indian-Jazz fusion.

MARK ROSSI: It's got to work on it's own terms and that it's got to say something new in a way that's never been said before. And it's very doable in the hands of a good composer with a good imagination and a good sense of balancing the musical forces and helping to find the differences and helping to find common ground to unify them.

SHEA: Composer Him Sophy is thrilled to have a chance to work on a synthesis such as 'Where Elephants Weep' because he says there are noopportunities to create something like this at home in Cambodia. The artistic environment there is grim and hasn't recovered since the time of the Killing Fields. Sophy himself almost died in a labor camp in the mid-1970's.

SOPHY: I was only a teenager but I worked so hard to survive myself my body looked as skeleton and no energy. After the genocidal regime I thought I was a person who lost very much, I lost my youth, I lost my time but I think my brain still worked very well so I needed to work very hard in my studies.

SHEA: He continued his musical studies in Russia. And now...years later...Sophy is working with electric guitars and Cambodian-American rap artists...such as Lowell-based Tony Real. Real plays a guard in the opera and says as a second-generation refugee he's deeply connected to his homeland.

TONY REAL: We want Cambodia to be known for its arts and culture, not just for the killing fields, and now its beginning.

SHEA: And with 'Where Elephants Weep' composer Sophy hopes to push Cambodian culture forward.

SOPHY: Because Rock and Roll is music right now, not long time ago, and traditional ensemble in Cambodia exists a very long time can say 100 years ago or 1000 years ago and now we combine with the Rock and roll because we live for the future.

SHEA: But, Him Sophy adds, we should never forget the past. For WBUR I'm Andrea Shea.
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Cambodian Rangers Trained to Help Bears

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) - Park rangers in Cambodia are being trained to survey wild bears to help protect them from being hunted for their bile which is used in traditional Chinese medicines, a conservationist said Thursday.

Wild bears, known as Asiatic black bears and Sun bears, continue to be hunted in Cambodia to meet a growing demand in China and Vietnam, said Matt Hunt, the Southeast Asia Program Manager for the Australian-based Free the Bears Fund.

The bitter, green bile extracted from the gallbladders of endangered bear species, has long been used by Chinese traditional medicine practitioners to treat eye, liver and other ailments.

In a statement, Hunt's group described the practice as "cruel and unnecessary."

The course for 24 Cambodian park rangers will teach them to identify the bears' feces, claw marks on trees and termite mounts that the animals have broken in to. The information gathered will give conservationists a greater understanding of the animals and determine their population status, which is threatened by hunting and trafficking, Hunt said.

Hunt said it was not known how many wild bears remain in the Cambodian wild as few studies have been done.

"For some reasons, bears don't attract the kind of attention that tigers, leopards and primates do," Hunt said.

The World Conservation Union says Asiatic black bears and Sun bears are considered "threatened to endangered."

Hunt's group said in a statement that more than 10,000 bears in China and 4,000 in Vietnam are kept in inhumane conditions at bear farms.

The rangers are being trained by two international experts _ Gabriella Fredriksson, who has spent years tracking and rehabilitating bears in the forests of East Kalimantan, Borneo, and Robert Steinmetz from the World Wildlife Fund in Thailand, Hunt said. Eight observers from Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia were also attending.

Hunt's group has sponsored a sanctuary at Phnom Tamao Zoo, about 28 miles south of the capital Phnom Penh, where 78 rescued bears live.

He said the group has rescued three cubs, aged nine and 14 weeks old, from traffickers this month.
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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Cambodia, Vietnam to sign parliamentary cooperation agreement

Cambodian and Vietnamese national assemblies will sign a bilateral cooperation agreement when President of the Vietnamese National Assembly Nguyen Phu Trong visits Cambodia from Wednesday to Saturday.

"The bilateral cooperation focuses on the exchange of visits for both sides' parliamentary members," Heng Samrin, president of the Cambodian National Assembly, told reporters on Wednesday.

Border issues and the dispute about the Khmer Krom people will not be touched during the visit, he added.

During the visit, Nguyen Phu Trong will receive an audience granted by King Norodom Sihamoni, according to a government press release.

He is also expected to meet with Senate President Chea Sim, Heng Samrin and Prime Minister Hun Sen.

He will later visit the National Museum in Phnom Penh and the Angkor Wat in Siem Reap.

Source: Xinhua
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Cambodia passes standard law

The Cambodian National Assembly Wednesday approved the Law of Standard of Cambodia, which is expected to standardize the quality of imported and exported goods of the kingdom.

"This law will urge our local enterprises and producers to produce commodities of unified standard," said Ith Prang, secretary of state at the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy.

It will also encourage all manufacturers to compete with each other on equal basis in market, he added.

Under the law, an Institute of Standard of Cambodia (ISC) will be established to help clarify quality standard of imported and exported products.

Meanwhile, anyone who uses illegally the mark of Standard of Cambodia on their products will be sentenced to jail from six days to one month together with a fine from 125 to 500 U.S. dollars.

The law was passed as a way to implement the conditions of the World Trade Organization (WTO), which Cambodia entered in 2004.

Source: Xinhua
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Cambodia to invest 2.5 bln USD to develop road system

The Cambodian government will invest 2.5 billion U.S. dollars to develop the kingdom's road system from now to 2025, an official said on Tuesday.

"Developing road system is a main factor for helping reduce poverty in this country, because people can transport their products to sell in markets. Roads will make them feel easy to travel and communicate between city and rural areas," said Sun Chan Thol, Minister of Public Works and Transportation.

The budget will also help improve transportation safety in the country, he said, while addressing his ministry's annual work review.

"We are considering to find aid and loan from the Asian Bank of Development, the World Bank and the Australian government of about 42 million U.S. dollars to facilitate the plan," he added.

During last week's Khmer New Year, some 50 people died and over 300 were injured in road accidents, which have become the third largest killer for the Cambodians after AIDS and mines, according to statistics released along the meeting.

Source: Xinhua
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Hun Sen downplays foreign concern over Cambodia's oil benefits

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen in Phnom Penh on Tuesday called on foreign countries not to be concerned too much about Cambodia's oil and gas benefits expected to come in 2009-2010.

"We Cambodians will use the benefits from oil and gas properly, " he said while addressing the annual work review of the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation.

Part of the benefits will be spent to expand rural roads into national roads across the country, he said.

Earlier this year, he said that the benefits will mainly go to the education and health sectors.

"For nearly 30 years, we have developed our country from zero level to the current prosperity with political stability. During that time, people have only small fish to eat. When have gold ( namely the benefits of oil and gas ), we still know how to develop this country," he said on Tuesday.

"we thank all of the foreigners who have expressed concern about the so-called 'oil curse' for Cambodia," he added.

"Oil curse" used to mean that countries rich in oil and gas can 't benefit from the resources but instead become trapped with corruption and injustice due to their poor management capability.

Currently, Chevron from the united states, LG from South Korea, and a Japanese company have invested and conducted exploration in the oil and gas fields in off-sea Cambodia.

The government declines to give exact figures about the oil reserves. The World Bank has put them at 2 billion barrels while the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) confirmed 700 million barrels.

A UNDP study implied that future oil revenues alone could provide over three times the kingdom's official development assistance received in 2005.

Source: Xinhua
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US takes Cambodia police chief to task over rights, corruption

Senior US officials confronted Cambodia's visiting police chief Tuesday over allegations of rights abuses and corruption by his forces after human rights groups protested the US decision to allow him into the country, the State Department said.

Hok Lundy, Cambodia's national police chief, met here Tuesday with the State Department's top Asia official, Assistant Secretary of State Chris Hill, top anti-narcotics diplomat Anne Patterson and an official from the bureau in charge of human rights, democracy and labor, the department said.

The trio "urged Lundy and the Cambodian police to strengthen significantly their efforts to combat trafficking in persons, which remains a serious problem in Cambodia," it said in a statement.

"They also urged that Cambodia make much greater efforts to prosecute and convict public officials, including police officers, who are involved in trafficking, and that Commissioner General Lundy make the police more responsive to trafficking issues," it said.

The State Department refused a visa to Hok Lundy in 2006 due to allegations he was involved in trafficking in prostitutes.

But it granted him permission to visit Washington this week for counter-terrorism talks with officials of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which has praised the Cambodian officer in the past for his help in the government's so-called "war on terrorism".

The decision to grant the visa drew angry protests from human rights activists who accuse Hok Lundy of involvement in multiple crimes, including a 1997 grenade attack against anti-government demonstrators that killed at least 19 people and wounded more than 120 others, including a US national.

The FBI classified the attack as an act of terrorism.

Hok Lundy has also been accused of involvement in other politically motivated killings and drug trafficking.

While acknowledging the seriousness of the charges against Hok Lundy, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack last week said there were "compelling reasons" to grant him a visa for this week's meetings at the FBI. He did not elaborate.

In its statement Tuesday, the department said there had been improved bilateral cooperation with Cambodia in counter-terrorism and counternarcotics efforts.

But it said the US officials pressed Hok Lundy to improve on Cambodia's "poor human rights record" and problems of corruption which were highlighted in the State Department's 2006 Human Rights Report.

Before leaving Cambodia, Hok Lundy said the allegations against him were cooked up by his political opponents.

"The report is not true ... they want to attack me because I am in the government," he told local media, adding that the FBI's invitation was a sign of the US government's confidence in his work.

"The US government thinks that I am a good law enforcement leader," he said.
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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

B.C. firm defuses remnants of war in Cambodia

GeoSpatial helps remove land mines and assists farming

Fiona Anderson, Vancouver Sun
Published: Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Fiona Anderson was in Cambodia with Seeing the World through New Eyes, a short-term fellowship program that sends new B.C. journalists to report from developing countries. It is funded by CIDA and administered by the Jack Webster Foundation.

Almost since its inception, the Kingdom of Cambodia has been a country of conflicts, fighting its neighbours -- Thailand and Vietnam -- gaining independence from France in 1953 and then being bombed by the Americans during the Vietnam War.

But it is the regime of the Khmer Rouge, led by the infamous Pot Pot, that has done the most damage, killing at least 1.5 million Cambodians in a purge of artists and intelligentsia between 1975 and 1979.

And, while the unabated killing ended when Vietnam invaded Cambodia, the fight went on.

To protect its geographical strongholds, the Khmer Rouge buried land mines in fields surrounding its locations. To protect themselves from the Khmer Rouge, the Cambodian government did likewise. When the remnants of the Khmer Rouge finally surrendered and gave up its land in the late 1990s, what was left was hectares of booby-trapped fields and hundreds of injuries and deaths every year.

Organizations from around the world, including Victoria-based GeoSpatial/SALASAN Consulting Inc., have been helping the country rid itself of the mines, but it's a slow process. Each mine has to be removed by hand, with the dirt being brushed off its top and then lifted out to safety. With millions of mines buried, it is expected take 100 years before the "all clear" can be sounded.

But once the land is cleared, the local populations still need to be taught how to make that land productive. And GeoSpatial, with funding from the Canadian International Development Agency and the cooperation of Cambodia's Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, has stepped up to the task, setting up a program that helps families and communities in the most-affected area of Cambodia turn formerly mined lands into successful farms.

GeoSpatial's project -- called "Agricultural Development in Mine-affected Areas of Cambodia" or ADMAC -- is targeting the municipality of Pailin and the provinces of Banteay Meanchey and Battambang, an area that is one of the last strongholds of the Khmer Rouge. The area pushes up against the Thai border and the Khmer Rouge were able to survive by nurturing ties with Thailand. The local market still quotes prices in Thai baht rather than Cambodian riel.

But as the last stronghold, the land is heavily mined and on the rough road to Pailin signs warning of mines dot the landscape, often incongruously placed in front of homes, evidence of the battle between surviving and staying safe.

Other than the mine-action groups, little foreign aid has come to the area, partly because of its remoteness, but partly also because of the danger. As recently as 2001, people were warned not to be outdoors after 4 p.m. because of rogue Khmer Rouge attacks.

So the help of GeoSpatial is very welcome, Pailin's Deputy Gov. Eang Vuth -- the son of one of the leaders or "brothers" of the Khmer Rouge -- said in an interview.

Now that the war is over, people are moving back because it is one of the few places in the country where land is available, Eang said. And many of the people who come are former soldiers who don't know how to farm, he said. So poverty is still prevalent.

GeoSpatial's program provides funding and training to the poorest families in the area, as chosen by the local communities called communes. Money is given to buy vegetable seeds or fruit seedlings, chickens and the occasional cow. Training -- like showing farmers how to raise animals or helping them to decide what crops to plant -- is also given to both the poor and more established farmers. Eventually the project would like to introduce a community savings component as well.

The program expects to help more than 13,000 families in 35 communes. Under the program's gender equality requirement, at least half will be women.

Khim Vann and his wife Pen Chan, along with their four children, are one of the families taking part. Their two-hectare farm is also the site of an ADMAC experimental farm that is used to teach area farmers what works and what doesn't.

Khim and Pen are both ex-Khmer Rouge soldiers who came to Pailin because land was available for free to those willing to clear and farm it. Not only did Khim have to clear the trees, he also had to clear the land of mines, something he said he was comfortable doing because he was an ex-soldier.

Khim admits he knew nothing about farming before coming to Pailin. Now, through ADMAC, he's learning how to plant fruit trees and how to properly water them, as well as what can grow and cannot on his land. (For example, he was thinking of trying to grow a special mango that matures early, so it can bring in more money. ADMAC's agriculture adviser Hong Samnang advised against it.)

At a village meeting to determine which families should be part of the program, many in attendance have been injured by land mines, many are widows.

One of the project's community workers asks the group how to determine whether a family is rich or poor. The difference is slim. The rich have a house with a tin roof and a car. The poor live in thatched-roof cottages and have a used motorcycle.

The worker then asks the group if they know what gender equality is? Everyone shakes their head "no."

Because of meetings like this that he attends, the deputy governor believes the project will go beyond just improving agriculture and alleviating poverty.

A third benefit is related to democracy through the participation of the people, Eang said.

- - -

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The Mobius Diaries: A postcard from Cambodia.

Templeton's emerging markets guru Dr Mark Mobius was suprised by the investment opportunities he found in Cambodia.

'Cambodia is a big surprise. And it’s not because of Angkor Wat but because of so much more that is happening in this country. It’s not a big country. Compared to its neighbours, its population is only 14 million, while Vietnam’s is 84 million and Thailand has 65 million. Of course, it has more people than Laos’ six million. Of those four adjoining nations, Cambodia has the smallest land area of about 177,000 square kilometers compared to Laos 231,000, Vietnam 325,000 and Thailand 512,000. I always look at these countries together since they share so many cultural and historical characteristics.

'We flew to the capital, Phnom Penh. There we could tell that Cambodia is enjoying an economic boom. Since 2003 the country has been growing at about 9% a year as a result of a spectacular construction boom, increased garment exports and tourism, which now results in almost two million visitors a year. Garment exports rose 17% to over $2.5 billion in 2006 with most of it going to the US. Tourism, mainly because of Angkor, earned the country about $1.4 billion in 2006. The optimism can be felt as we traveled around the country and particularly in Phnom Penh. Our visit to NagaCorp’s, NagaWorld hotel and casino complex in the heart of the city was an eye opener.

'Dr. Tan Sri Chen, who is Chairman of listed companies in Malaysia as well as an economic advisor to the Prime Minister of the Cambodian Government, has created an attractive complex drawing visitors from China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and other countries in the region. He graciously showed us the entire well run complex as well as his plans for extending the complex. Those plans call for the construction of a spectacular water fountain display in front of the complex as well as many other facilities.

'More and more countries are looking for investment opportunities in Cambodia. For example, Korean companies have already built up a strong market position in the IT sector while Chinese companies are also involved in some mega infrastructure projects.

'Despite the sad history with the Khmer Rouge and the “killing fields” atrocities, the people clearly are in a positive mood and look forward to a better life. Another hopeful sign: oil and gas reserves have been discovered off Cambodia’s coast in the Gulf of Thailand. Of course, a lot needs to be done if the country’s 14 million people are to rise out of a very low standard of living. Wages are low as I learned from the beautifully crafted handicrafts hawked at Angkor Wat at unbelievably low prices. The average wage for most Cambodians is less than $1 per day. This means that the country will continue to have an advantageous position in a number of high labour content industries.

'We left Cambodia knowing the country was moving rapidly towards a more dynamic and influential position in Southeast Asia. The prospects of investing in companies with exposure to Cambodia are good and we continue to look for such opportunities.'
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Monday, April 23, 2007

Malaysians urged to hire maids from Thailand, China, Cambodia

Kuala Lumpur - Malaysians have been encouraged to look to Thailand, China and Cambodia to hire maids due to a shortage of Indonesians keen to work in the neighbouring country, reports said Monday.

Deputy Home Minister Tan Chai Ho said that Indonesian women were now more keen to work as maids in the Middle East, Taiwan or Hong Kong, where wages are higher than in Malaysia.

'That's why employers must look for other alternatives such as employing non-Indonesian workers, as there are also many good workers in the other countries,' Tan was quoted as saying by the official Bernama news agency.

Indonesian women, along with maids from the Philippines, are the preferred choice of Malaysian employers due to similarities in culture and language in both countries.

'That's why employers must look for other alternatives such as employing non-Indonesian workers, as there are also many good workers in the other countries,' Tan was quoted as saying by the official Bernama news agency.

Indonesian women, along with maids from the Philippines, are the preferred choice of Malaysian employers due to similarities in culture and language in both countries.

'In our country, they are only paid between 450 ringgit (132 dollars) and 600 ringgit (176 dollars),' Tan said. 'I understand they can earn as much as 1,000 ringgit (294 dollars) in other countries. That's why they prefer to work there.'

By June 2006, official records showed 1.84 million registered foreign workers in Malaysia, of which 26.9 per cent - or 500,000 people - were foreign maids.

The largest nationality of maids in Malaysia are Indonesians, followed by Filipino maids who make up about 20,000 workers.
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WB, Australia to offer 36 mln dollars for Cambodia to maintain roads

The World Bank (WB) and the Australian government will respectively provide 30 million U.S. dollars and six million U.S. dollars in aid for regular road maintenance in Cambodia, local media said on Sunday.

"The Australian government will send experts to help us in road maintenance" at the cost of six million U.S. dollars, Cambodian newspaper the Rasmey Kampuchea Daily quoted Sun Chan Thol, Minister of Public Works and Transportation, as saying.

The World Bank will also provide Cambodia with six million U.S. dollars each year for five years for regular road maintenance, he added.

In 2007, Cambodia will maintain 2,337 km of roads, including national and rural roads, at the cost of about 23.8 million U.S. dollars, said official statistics.

Source: Xinhua
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Expert praises new book on Khmer Rouge

Associated Press Writer

"Cambodians are at last beginning to investigate and record their country's past," said Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, an independent group documenting the Khmer Rouge crimes.

Unlike Khamboly Dy's "A History of Democratic Kampuchea," to be released Wednesday, Youk Chhang said previous books about Cambodian history have been written almost exclusively by foreigners. Cambodia was named Democratic Kampuchea during the 1975-1979 Khmer Rouge rule that led to the deaths of some 1.7 million people.

Cambodian schools currently teach little about the Khmer Rouge, largely because the subject is sensitive among political groups and high-profile individuals once associated with the now-defunct communist movement.

The book, written for high school teachers and students, will also be available to the public for free, Youk Chhang said. No Cambodian historian had previously written about the Khmer Rouge because of fears of reprisal, he said.

The education ministry in January approved the book as a "core reference" material for history textbooks but not as part of the core curriculum, Youk Chhang said.

"A History of Democratic Kampuchea," Youk Chhang said, "is a major step showing that Cambodians are capable of telling their own history" despite the limited status imposed on the book by the government.

"By taking responsibility for teaching Cambodians through books such as this, the country can go forward and ensure that the seeds of genocide never again take root in our country," he said.

Cambodia and the United Nations have created a tribunal aimed at prosecuting the few surviving Khmer Rouge leaders for crimes against humanity. The tribunal, led by Cambodian and international judges, was expected to begin this year.

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Cambodia's co-ruling party to beef up membership for general election in 2008

The co-ruling Funcinpec Party has conducted a seminar to strengthen its membership at all levels across the country to secure its success in the general election to be held in July 2008.

"This seminar will help us find our weakness and strength our membership," said Keo Puth Rasmey, party president and son-in-law of retired King Norodom Sihanouk, while mentioning the party's waterloo in the commune councils election, which was held on April 1 to degrade Funcinpec from the second largest party of the kingdom to the fourth.

"(Through the seminar) we also find some good strategies to secure our success in the general election in 2008," he said in the party's headquarters in Phnom Penh.

"I strongly hope we will win in 2008," he added.

Meanwhile, he stressed Funcinpec's determination to continue its cooperation with the major ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP), even if Funcinpec was unsatisfied with its performance in the recent election.

"We did not get the majority of votes because we reformed our party too late in October 2006. So our supporters have hesitation for voting for us," he said.

"The matters of turmoil caused by the previous leader are also factors that led to our defeat," he added.

Funcinpec replaced Prince Norodom Ranariddh with Keo Puth Rasmey in October 2006 for the prince failed to live up to its duty and being unable to cooperate with Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The party was originally established by former king Sihanouk to win independence from France and lead the kingdom's first cabinet in 1993. It later switched to co-ruling party, as CPP gained more and more popularity.

Source: Xinhua
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Vietnam ecstasy ring on trial, 14 dealers may get death

A Ho Chi Minh City court is set to try 23 people this week, part of a ring smuggling a substantial amount of ecstasy, 14 of whom are liable to face the firing squad.
Investigators smashed the ring in March 2005, apprehending ringleader Le Van Tien and 22 gangsters.

They seized 4,354 tablets of ecstasy, dozens of packs of methamphetamine – an illegal stimulant, and other equipment meant for processing and producing ecstasy, commonly known on the street as ‘e’.

After being released from jail in July 2003, Tien imported 1,000 tablets from Cambodia from a ring led by associates Long and Son.

Since December 2003, Tien worked his clandestine ops with Nguyen Chuc Ly, also in Cambodia, buying from Ly around 10,000 ecstasy tablets of assorted types, 700gr of powdered methamphetamine, and 600gr of other drugs until March 2005, when Tien was arrested.

Long, Son, and Ly remain at large in Cambodia, the police said.

Tien also allegedly bought ecstasy powder, molds, and artificial coloring from Cambodia with intent to produce ecstasy in Vietnam.

Ecstasy is a non-addictive stimulant that can cause an artificial sense of euphoria, a distinct sensitivity to light and sound, and side effects that can include dehydration and paranoia.

The trial is set to get underway Tuesday and wrap up by Sunday.

Reported by Le Nga – Translated by An Dien
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S. Korea donates 100,000 USD to train taekwondo players for Cambodia

South Korea has donated some 100,000 U.S. dollars to train taekwondo players for Cambodia, a sports official told Xinhua here on Saturday.

The finance will be used for sending 10 Cambodian taekwondo players to be trained in South Korea for two months and hire a South Korean taekwondo coach to teach Cambodian players in Cambodia, said Lak Sam Ath, senior official at Ministry of Education and Sport.

"The fund will also be spent for accommodation of South Korean players who will come to Cambodia to exchange skills with Cambodian players," he said.

"We have tried to train our taekwondo players to join the Sea Game to be held late this year in Thailand. We expect that they will get good results," he added.

Source: Xinhua
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Vietnam, Cambodia join efforts to improve sports

VietNamNet Bridge - Vietnam and Cambodia will play on the same side in training sportspeople and hosting sports events, stated a Vietnamese sport senior official in Phnom Penh.

Minister cum Chairman of the Committee for Sports and Physical Training and the National Olympics Committee Nguyen Danh Thai made the statement with Cambodian Minister of Education, Youth and Sports Kol Pheng on April 22, and with Chairman of the Cambodia National Olympics Committee Thong Khon on April 21.

Discussions focused on developing a five-year cooperation programme between the Vietnamese Committee for Sports and Physical Training and the Cambodian Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports to be implemented this year.

Cambodian officials both expressed their hopes that the visit by Minister and Chairman Thai would clear the way for resumption of the two countries’ national-level sport cooperation after a period of stalemate.

(Source: VNA)
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Saturday, April 21, 2007

Mighty Mekong meanders through Indo-China real life portraits

Thomas Gross



THE mighty Mekong river runs nearly 5,000 kilometres through Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam and while it may not be the longest river in Asia, it is certainly the most beautiful.

The river flows into the South China Sea just south of Saigon, known today as Ho Chi Minh City, and its delta is the starting point for many cruises.

It is not possible to navigate the entire length of the Mekong since the Sambor rapids prevent further passage.

Luckily, the confluence with the Tonle Sap, the river's main tributary, is just above Phnom Penh and ships can use it to reach the celebrated temple complex of Angkor Wat.

Gliding along the lower reaches of the Mekong offers the visitor a broad tableaux of local everyday life.

Only two cruise vessels ply this section, the "Tonle Pandaw" and the "Mekong Pandaw" which can carry 66 or 64 passengers respectively. Those who have booked a trip upriver board their ship in My Tho in Vietnam, some 60km south of Saigon.

The journey unfolds past mangrove forests and green rice paddies, offering glimpses of many villages and cottage industries along the way.

Now and again the ships pass a bathing spot where children enjoy a dip while their mothers wash clothes and crockery in the water.

There are hardly any roads hereabouts the river is the main transport artery and that explains why it is so busy.

Motorboats dart past canoes being paddled from bank to bank while the traditional sampan wooden cargo boat is a common sight.

When it runs close to larger towns and cities the Mekong becomes even more lively.

Take the bustling town of Cai Be, where the big river cruisers tie up at the dockside. A maze of canals, it boasts many gardens, some temples and a church but no streets to speak of. The floating market is the main attraction here and it lures farmers from the outlying districts who trade their wares straight from the deck of a sampan.

Chau Doc is another hive of activity. The town on the border with Cambodia is dominated by a huge dockside market selling local produce and commodities. The fresh food booths offer anything from dried fish to peeled grapefruit or even frog's legs for the gourmet.

Seen from the water the crossing into Cambodia on the Mekong is not spectacular. Beyond the border there are fewer settlements and houses alongside the river compared with the stretch inside Vietnam.

The Cambodian riverside is altogether less busy until shortly before Phnom Penh. This energetic city is the largest settlement along the river. The waterside is dominated by relics of the past, pagodas and palaces attract the eye alongside handsome villas built in the French colonial style.

The best place to muse over artefacts of the Khmer culture is the National Museum, whose riches were fortunately not plundered during the murderous reign of the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979.

It is best to set aside a whole day to admire the many statues and bas-reliefs. The huge central market erected in the Art-deco style is also well worth a visit along with the Royal Palace.

The horrors of Cambodia's recent past can be seen at the Tuol- Sleng Genocide museum. After a tour of the former Pol Pot torture chambers, the proverbial gentleness and friendliness of the Cambodians seem all the more astonishing.

Beyond Phnom Penh the cruise ship leaves the Mekong to chug up the Tonle Sap. This river is unique since for half of the year, starting from the rainy season in June, it reverses its flow. From November onward the normal flow to the river mouth is resumed.

On the northern shore of Tonle Sap lake lies the booming provincial town of Siem Reap. The most compelling reason to come here is to visit Angkor Wat, one of the world's most spectacular ancient temples. The complex has been on Unesco's list of world cultural monuments since 1992. Around 1,000 relics lie strewn across this vast site stretching across some 200 sq km.

Those with only a few days to spare should concentrate on Angkor Wat, the world's largest religious structure, and plan trips to the overgrown city of Angkor Thom and the Ta Phrom temple district.

Both world culture and subculture are catered for in Siem Reap which offers a wide range of bars and clubs in the centre, one street is even called "Bar Street". One of the establishments is the "Red Piano Bar" where actress Angelina Jolie was a guest when she filmed the movie Tomb Raider in Angkor Wat in 2001. It comes as no surprise that the most popular drink here is "Tomb Raider Cocktail". DPA
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Cambodian civil rights activist comes to L.B.

Kem Sokha says he is returning to the political fold.
By Greg Mellen, Staff writer

LONG BEACH - Cambodian human rights activist Kem Sokha is back in the political game.
After spending five years as the ultimate political outsider, watch dog and critic of Prime Minister Hun Sen and the ruling Cambodian People's Party in his role as president of the Cambodia Center for Human Rights, Kem announced he is stepping down from the nongovernmental organization to launch a new political party.

The Human Rights Party has applied for status from the Cambodian Ministry of the Interior and could be officially recognized by next week.

In an effort to drum up international support, Kem has been touring the North American continent, with recent stops in Canada, Seattle and Northern California.

On Sunday, he will speak in Long Beach at the Holiday Inn, 1133 Atlantic Ave., at 3 p.m. Admission is free. With the largest concentration of Cambodians in the United States, Long Beach is a vital stop for native Cambodians seeking U.S. support. This is Kem's second visit to Long Beach in just over a year.

With national elections slated in 2008, Kem hopes to provide a legitimate opposition party to the ruling CPP, which has been consolidating power in Cambodia.

After walking away from the often unseemly world of Cambodian politics in 2002, Kem earned tremendous popularity in his country, particularly in rural areas, as an advocate for human rights.

Across the countryside, Kem's group organized forums in which residents aired grievances and discussed the issues of the day. The forums, which were often highly critical of the government, were broadcast on the "Voice of Democracy" radio program.

"For almost five years, I educated people about human rights and democracy," Kem said. "Now the people ask me to go into politics."

Asked to run

According to Kem, more than 200,000 Cambodians signed petitions recruiting him to create a party.

"I tell them, I don't want to establish a party. I want them to establish a party, and I will help them," Kem says.

Kem is no stranger to Cambodian politics. He was a member of the parliament established after the United Nations sanctioned elections in 1993 and served until 2002 as a representative and senator. He was also chairman of the National Assembly Human Rights Commission.

However, throughout his career, he has been a lightning rod, in part because of his liberal views about democracy.

In January 2006, he was jailed for 17 days on criminal defamation charges, which were later dropped. When news of Kem's jailing was released, there was immediate condemnation from the international community, which likely hastened his release.

Kem also fled the country in 1997 after a government coup, and in 1998, he sought protection in the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh.

Critics of Kem have questioned his motives since he created his human rights group, claiming it barely disguised his true goals of returning to politics.

A year ago, when Kem was declaring he was uninterested in politics, the Sam Rainsy Party said Kem had "aims at conquering the SRP electorate for his future political party."

Other critics say, at best, Kem will dilute the power of opposition parties and help Hun Sen and the CCP further consolidate their power.

"(Those) people don't understand what I do," Kem said. "My objective is real democracy in Cambodia. There are many parties in Cambodia, but no real democracy."

To underscore his claim that he is not seeking personal power, Kem says one of the main platforms in his party is a two-term term limit.

The effect

Michael Hayes, publisher and editor in chief of the English-language Phnom Penh Post, says it's too early to gauge Kem's electoral clout.

"It depends on how much money he can raise for his campaign. Obviously, the more `opposition parties' there are, the less likely the chance any one of them will gain a significant number of seats in Parliament. So this will be a problem for the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP), which is currently the strongest opposition party," Hayes said in an e-mailed response to questions.

The relationship between Kem and Sam Rainsy has been prickly in the past, which may make for rough going in attempts at coalition.

For now, the Sam Rainsy Party is taking a neutral stance.

"For SRP, we welcome all political parties which abide by democratic principles like us," Chrea Sochenda of Sam Rainsy Party told Radio Free Asia, "but in general, SRP has no concern about anybody forming a political party, or about any personality forming his party."

Hayes sees a wrinkle in the upcoming vote.

"The elections will be interesting, mostly because around 1 million Cambodians will have turned 18 since the 2003 elections and will thus be eligible to vote," Hayes wrote in an e-mail. "These young people have different aspirations and world views than their parents and no memories of the Khmer Rouge years. The opposition is hoping they will vote for change; the CPP is working on ways to get them to support the ruling party."

Kem says the recent commune-level elections in his country showed a lot of disaffection and apathy among voters. He is after the estimated 2.5 million voters who didn't exercise their rights to vote.

"I want to integrate those 2.5 million," Kem said. "If you give people hope and choice, that's real democracy."
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Friday, April 20, 2007

Buddhist monks clash during protest

Two opposing groups of Cambodian Buddhist monks engaged in a street fist fight today during a protest to demand religious freedom for their fellow monks living in southern Vietnam.

Lim Yuth, a 23-year-old Buddhist monk, suffered a cut on his left eyebrow during the brawl, but it was not immediately clear what caused the injury.

Lim Yuth was among some 50 monks who marched through Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh, to voice their grievances over alleged mistreatment by Hanoi authorities against Cambodian Buddhist monks in southern Vietnam.

A large part of southern Vietnam, known in Cambodia as Kampuchea Krom, used to be part of Cambodia's mighty Khmer empire centuries ago and is still populated by many ethnic Cambodians.

Hanoi permits only a handful of state-sponsored religious organisations to operate in Vietnam, which has led to clashes with some religious groups, including Buddhists.
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20,000 OAV ballots have not yet reached Italy, Cambodia

After a week, only 1% have cast ballots overseas

By Veronica Uy
Last updated 06:56pm (Mla time) 04/20/2007

MANILA, Philippines -- Seven days into the overseas absentee voting (OAV), no election is still happening in Italy and Cambodia.

This is because some 20,000 ballots for overseas absentee voters in Rome and Milan in Italy and Phnom Penh in Cambodia have still not reached these posts, the Department of Foreign Affairs’ OAV Secretariat (DFA-OAVS) said Friday.

In a press conference, Ambassador Generoso Calonge, vice chairman of the DFA-OAVS, said the week-long delay in the voting in these places has made them consider extending the OAV there.

“We’ll see if they’re able to receive the ballots and have sufficient time to conduct the elections. After all, the voting period is one month. We’ll look seriously into extending the voting period,” he said.

Calonge said after seven days, as of Friday morning, only a little more than one percent, or 5,944 voters, of the 504,122 registered overseas voters have cast their ballots.

He also said some problems with undelivered ballots have been reported in Indonesia. “It appears that the individuals have relocated to other places and the embassy has not been informed of the new addresses,” he said. He added that some cases may be the result of the wrong addresses being written on the envelopes.

Calonge said his office is doing everything to hasten the delivery of the ballots to Italy and Cambodia.

“We are calling [the posts] every hour,” he said of the efforts his office is exerting to solve this problem. “I don’t want to point fingers but I think this problem is beyond the control of the DFA.”

Calonge said the Philippine Postal Corp. sent the ballots to Italy April 13 and 14, while the ballots for Cambodia are already in Bangkok. The OAV began April 14 and will end at 3 p.m. on May 14, when the polls close here.

“The Philippine embassy in Bangkok is helping the postal services physically locate the ballots so that they may be immediately sent to Phnom Penh,” he said.

Calonge said the DFA-OAVS has allowed “tagging” in the United Arab Emirates and “on a limited basis” in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Tagging in UAE, he explained, is allowing OAV voters registered in Abu Dhabi to vote in Dubai and vice versa.

He said this was allowed because many overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), in their constant search for better job opportunities, have moved back and forth between these two emirates without accordingly changing their addresses with the embassy and the OAVS.

To ensure that no multiple voting occurs, he said the posts in Abu Dhabi and Dubai inform each other of who has cast their ballots.

To increase the participation rate of overseas voters, Calonge said his office has called on all Philippine embassies, consulates, and labor offices to intensify their information drives. He said field and mobile voting has been allowed in Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam and in a Stockholm facility for seafarers temporarily docking there.

If despite all these efforts the OAV turnout remains low, he said it doesn’t matter. “As they say, you can bring the horse to the river, but you cannot force it to drink,” he said.

“No matter what figures come out, the important thing is the right to vote [of OFWs] is there. It is our duty to provide them the opportunity to choose our national leaders,” he added.

Personal voting remained the biggest source of ballots cast, with 4,428 votes; voting by mail, 1,503; and modified voting by mail, solely from South Korea, 13.

Hong Kong remains the top spot for personal voting, with 1,172 ballots case; followed by Riyadh with 915; Al-Khobar with 409; Jeddah with 376; Kuwait with 305; Saipan with 196; Abu Dhabi with 186; Dubai with 176; Athens with 127; and Beirut with 115.

By region, personal voters came mostly from the Middle East and Africa, with 2,767; Asia Pacific with 1,338; the Americas with 196; and Europe with 127.

By region, the Americas yielded the biggest number of votes by mail, with 682; followed by Asia Pacific with 481; Europe with 294; and Middle East and Africa with 46.
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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Vietnam eyes on Cambodia land for more trouble for Cambodians

Vietnamese rubber manufacturers are bouncing into neighbouring countries due to a lack of suitable land at home.

State-run Daklak Rubber Company, or Dakruco, recently won a licence for its $10 million rubber plantation project in the north-eastern region of Cambodia, close to Vietnam’s Dak Nong and Dak Lak provinces.

It is the company’s second overseas plantation following one in Laos.

Dakruco director Huynh Van Khiet said the Cambodia-based project initially aimed to cultivate 1,000 hectares of rubber trees and build a small-scale rubber latex processing factory.

“We are quickly completing procedures to take over the land in Cambodia so that the plantation of the first 1,000ha will be finished by the end of this year,” Khiet said.

Capitalised at $32 million, Dakruco’s Laos investment project started in 2005, aiming to plant 10,000ha of rubber trees and 3,000ha of cashew and cacao trees. The construction of a 5,000 tonne capacity rubber factory is incorporated in the project and the factory will later be expanded to a 10,000 tonne capacity.

“Investment formalities differentiate from each country. The Cambodian Government would like to see our project’s effectiveness before allowing us further land,” he said.

Regarding Dakruco’s project in Laos, Khiet said by the end of this year 6,000ha of rubber trees would be planted and the bulk could be harvested in early 2010.

Laos’ more fertile land and favourable climate helped reduce the growth period of rubber trees from seven years if planted in Vietam to five years.

“We are also building the latex processing factory in Laos in 2009,” Khiet said, adding that the factory would help Dakruco raise its annual export value by 20 per cent from $28.1 million last year.

Similarly, state-run Vietnam Rubber Group (Geruco) which is Vietnam’s leading rubber producer with 50 per cent of the country’s rubber plantation area and 70 per cent of the country’s latex output, is also accelerating the group’s investment projects in Laos and Cambodia.

A Geruco source said that by the end of this year, the group would cultivate 8,000ha of a 10,000ha rubber plantation in the southern region of Laos. The $25 million project is 200 kilometres from Vietnam’s Quang Tri province.

The source also said the Cambodian Government had allowed Geruco to study 180,000ha for the possible cultivation of rubber trees in Cambodia, with the first 10,000ha lot expected to begin plantation by 2007.

Vietnam is the world’s sixth largest rubber producer and fourth largest rubber exporter, behind Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia. The country’s rubber plantation area has expanded to 450,000ha since rubber trees were brought to Vietnam more than 100 years ago.

The nation’s annual rubber latex output is estimated at 400,000 tonnes, 80 per cent of which is exported and 20 per cent was domestically used. China is the biggest importer of Vietnam’s rubber latex. A robust increase of 25 per cent in rubber latex price, from $1,800 per tonne last year, is making local rubber firms profitable.

By Hoang Mai
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Cambodia dismisses rights abuse claims against police chief

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: Cambodia on Thursday dismissed calls for the national police chief to be barred from the United States because of alleged human rights abuses, calling the claims against him "nonsense."

Gen. Hok Lundy is scheduled to leave for Washington on Friday to discuss counterterrorism and transnational crimes with FBI officials, said Lt. Gen. Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Interior Ministry.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch has urged the U.S. State Department to cancel Hok Lundy's visa, alleging in a statement Monday that he once ordered an extrajudicial killing and has been involved in drug smuggling and human trafficking.

"This is nonsense," said Khieu Sopheak.

The allegations are "unacceptable, groundless, baseless," and they "have tarnished the reputation of the national police chief" and the police force, he said.

U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Tuesday that Washington had "compelling reasons" to issue Hok Lundy a visa, which he declined to discuss.

Hok Lundy was denied a U.S. visa early last year for reasons never made public.

Neither McCormack nor the FBI would comment on Lundy's alleged misdeeds or on the planned counterterrorism discussions.

Brad Adams, the Human Rights Watch Asia director, said Monday that Hok Lundy "represents the absolute worst that Cambodia has to offer and should never have been given a U.S. visa."

He said the FBI should investigate, not host, the police chief for his "alleged involvement in political violence and organized crime in Cambodia."

Human Rights Watch said Hok Lundy has been implicated in a number of serious human rights abuses, including a conspiracy to carry out a grenade attack on a peaceful demonstration by opposition supporters in March 1997, in which a U.S. citizen was injured.
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Former U.N. ambassador who escaped Cambodia’s killing fields highlights Human Rights Day

By Arthur E. Foulkes
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Sichan Siv told an audience gathered Wednesday morning at Indiana State University about his harrowing escape from his native Cambodia in the 1970s.

Siv, a former U.S. representative to the United Nations, was the keynote speaker for the sixth annual Terre Haute Human Rights Day.

The event is organized by local human rights activists and supported by several academic departments at ISU as well as a number of local organizations.

Siv fled Cambodia in early 1976.

“It was hope that kept me alive for one year,” Siv said, speaking about the year he survived in Cambodia after the communist Khmer Rouge took control of the southeast Asian nation on April 17, 1975.

He told the audience of some 200 students, faculty and local citizens he never knew if he would be alive the following day when he went to sleep each night after a day of 18 hours of forced labor.

The Khmer Rouge ruled Cambodia until 1979 when they were toppled by a Vietnamese invasion. Under Khmer Rouge rule, an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians were killed by execution, starvation or forced labor.

In April 1975, Siv and about 3 million other residents of the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, were forced to evacuate the city by the newly installed Khmer Rouge leadership. Siv and his family eventually found themselves in a distant village where they were placed into forced labor, he said, adding he soon realized that, because he had worked previously for an American aid agency, CARE, he was a danger to the rest of his family. This knowledge led him to escape the forced labor camp, he said, riding a bicycle some 600 kilometers across country to near the border with Thailand, he said.

Once on his own, Siv told the audience, he was captured again by the Khmer Rouge and placed back into forced labor. All this time, Siv said he tried hard to conceal his education because the Khmer Rouge killed anyone suspected of being educated, a capitalist or political opponent.

“I threw away my glasses,” Siv said. Wearing glasses was taken as a sign of education, he said.

Siv escaped from the Khmer Rouge again by jumping from a moving lumber truck. He worked his way across country without food or water for three days until reaching Thailand, where he was arrested for illegally entering the country.

Eventually, Siv’s former colleagues with CARE helped him immigrate to the United States, where he started a new life shortly before July 4, 1976 – the U.S. bicentennial year. He picked apples, flipped hamburgers and drove a cab in New York City before being admitted to Columbia University on a scholarship. Taking an interest in politics, he eventually volunteered for the 1988 George H.W. Bush presidential campaign and was later asked by Bush’s transition team to work for the president, where his duties would eventually take him to the United Nations.

Sadly, he said, Siv learned his mother, sister, brother and their families were all murdered back in Cambodia by the Khmer Rouge.

“Adapt and be adopted,” Siv said is his advice to his fellow U.S. immigrants. “Adapt to America and America will adopt you.”

The audience asked questions of Siv after his approximately 30-minute talk. In response to a question about illegal immigration in America, Siv said that is a very emotional subject for him personally, adding that the key word is “illegal.”

Siv was critical of the United Nations Human Rights Commission for admitting countries such as Iran, North Korea and Cuba, which he characterized as “bad and ugly.” He said he often walked out of commission meetings in protest when such countries gained membership.

“That’s a sad situation,” he said.

Siv added, however, he believes the United Nations is the best option currently available for international cooperation.

“There is nothing better at the moment,” he said, adding that the UN presently does some things well, such as its handling of HIV, aid for children and assistance for refugees.

Arthur Foulkes can be contacted at (812) 231-4232 or
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