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Friday, June 29, 2007

Australian cop to face drug charge and other crimes

A RUNAWAY former Victorian detective accused of armed robbery and drug trafficking while working for the National Crime Authority was extradited from Cambodia yesterday.

James Anthony McCabe was flown back to Australia under guard despite the absence of a formal extradition treaty between the two countries.

Mr McCabe, 38, faces charges in New South Wales, but has also been linked to drug trafficking allegations in Victoria.

He was accused of selling heroin to a police informer during the trial last year of Ian Ferguson, a jailed former member of the Victoria Police drug squad.

The first allegations against Mr McCabe emerged in 2004 while he was in Cambodia and about to be presented with a medal for helping to fight that country's drug war.

But by this month Cambodia decided to order him to leave the country after considering information provided to Cambodia's Prime Minister by the NSW Police Integrity Commission.

He was arrested in Phnom Penh a week ago.

Mr McCabe is believed to have a wife and child in Cambodia, where he has been working in the security industry.

Two PIC investigators went to Phnom Penh this week to escort Mr McCabe to Australia.

He was remanded in custody in Sydney yesterday and is due to apply for bail next week.

Mr McCabe resigned from the Victoria Police as a senior detective in 2004 after 15 years' service.

He was seconded to the NCA and the Australian Crime Commission between 1999 and 2003.

Mr McCabe was implicated during PIC hearings by a NSW detective who admitted stealing ecstasy, amphetamines and cannabis during phony arrests of drug dealers.

Det-Sgt Samuel John Foster, who since pleaded guilty to criminal charges and is awaiting sentencing, told the commission that NCA and ACC cars were used in the rip-offs, and on one occasion an NCA firearm was used.

Mr McCabe admitted during one PIC hearing he had been involved in a $36,000 drug rip-off while working for the NCA.

But he denied holding a gun to a drug dealer's head while pretending to arrest him in another rip-off where 1kg of amphetamines worth $120,000 was stolen.
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ADB helps wire Northwest Cambodia

Manila, Philippines - A major electricity shortage in northwest Cambodia, including around the tourism hub of Siem Reap, is being fixed with the help of an $8 million loan from the Asian Development Bank to build power lines that will import electricity from neighboring Thailand.

The development will be a boost for the regional economy, not just in tourism but also in agriculture, mining and manufacturing. As demand for power grows, it will also reduce emissions as businesses will not have to invest in new diesel-powered electrical generators.

“This will give the region access to cheaper electricity and a reliable supply,” said Tomas A. Norton de Matos, a Senior Structured Finance Specialist with ADB. “It is also promoting regional cooperation because the electricity will be supplied by Thailand. We worked closely with ThaiExim Bank to enable this project, which also includes trade in Thai equipment and services, to proceed.”

ADB’s Board of Directors agreed on June 27 2007 to loan the money to the (Cambodia) Power Transmission Lines Co. Ltd, a private Cambodian company. The high-voltage grid lines will be the first to be privately owned in the Greater Mekong Subregion. It is the first ADB private sector infrastructure project in Cambodia.

“We are pleased to be investing in Cambodia’s critical transmission infrastructure and to have worked closely with Cambodian and Thailand authorities, and all our partners, in this respect,” said Ly Say Khieng, Chairman and CEO of the company.

Northwest Cambodia, like the rest of the country, suffers from insufficient and unreliable power. There is no national grid and electricity is generated almost exclusively by small diesel plants that generate emissions. This hinders Cambodia’s ability to attract investment and promote sustainable economic activities, which are critical to reducing poverty.

Electricity in Cambodia is among the most expensive in the region because of the disaggregated and isolated small-scale systems.

Siem Reap is home to the famed Angkor Wat temples and is an important and growing tourism center. Many hotels in the area rely on their own power generators. There are similar power shortages in neighboring Battambang, an important agricultural center, and Banteay Meanchey, which supports manufacturing and trading activities.

The 115kV power lines will connect with Thailand’s national grid at the border. They will then run about 221 kilometers mainly alongside National Road 5 and National Road 6 to Siem Reap and Battambang. In addition to connecting the major towns, the new lines will provide opportunities to wire rural communities along the route for electricity.

Work on the project has already started and the first section to Siem Reap is expected to be completed this month or next. The second section to Battambang is scheduled to be completed a couple of months later.

ADB’s $8 million loan will go toward the estimated $32 million total project cost. The balance of funding is being provided through equity, as well as loans from the Export-Import Bank of Thailand and local Cambodian banks.
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Briton cleared of child sex abuse in Cambodia

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - A Cambodian court cleared a 42-year-old Briton on Friday of sexually abusing two boys aged 12 and 14 after they withdrew their allegations against him.

Paul Ian Bower, who was working as an English teacher in the impoverished southeast Asian nation, was cleared of all charges after the two boys told the court Bower "did not do anything".

Child sex in Cambodia, which is trying hard to rid itself of its reputation as a haven for paedophiles and perverts, carries a jail term of between 10 and 20 years.

Bower was arrested in January at his rented Phnom Penh home and had to spend six months in detention while investigating judges probed the charges. At Friday's hearing, he appeared to be shivering and in poor health.

On being cleared, he said: "Justice is done".
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Unesco delays Preah Vihear heritage listing

The UN cultural watchdog has delayed a decision on whether to add the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple to the World Heritage list for another year, a Thai official said yesterday. The decision was made at a meeting of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) World Heritage Committee in Christchurch, New Zealand.

The Cambodian government had applied for the second time to have the temple, located on the Thai-Cambodian border, classified as a World Heritage Site. The first application was made three years ago.

The heritage committee prefered that Thailand and Cambodia apply together to register the site next year, Foreign Ministry spokesman Tharit Charungvat said.

Unesco simply wanted Thailand and Cambodia to settle certain issues and together table the registration to its meeting next year.

''Thailand does not oppose the registration of Preah Vihear on Unesco's list, Mr Tharit said.

''We agree in principle that the temple be named a World Heritage Site.''

The two countries did differ on how it should be made a heritage site.

Previously, the National Committee on the Convention for the Protection of World Culture and Natural Heritage expressed concern over Cambodia's lobbying of Unesco without Thailand's participation.

The committee said consideration should be given to the whole site, not just the part of it on Cambodian soil. The entrance to Preah Vihear is in Si Sa Ket province, right on the border with Cambodia.

The location was the cause of a long-standing dispute over the site's ownership until 1962, when the International Court of Justice ruled that the temple belonged to Cambodia.

Mr Tharit dismissed reports of a move to stir up nationalistic sentiment in Cambodia that might end in a new round of anti-Thai riots.

Both sides ''have learned a lesson'' from the 2003 riots in which Thai interests in Phnom Penh were looted and burned down.
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Vietnam to build rail to Cambodia, Laos

Vietnam is planning to invest US$527.5 million in building two railways that will link the country with Cambodia and Laos, an industry official said Wednesday.

The projects are part of a scheme to construct trans-Asia railway networks connecting Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) member countries, reported the Vietnam Railway Department.

No details on when the railways would be constructed were given.

An official with Vietnam Railways Corp. said the first railway will link Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh, and the second railway will link Quang Binh province in central Vietnam to Savanakhet city in central Laos.

The 130 km, VND3.91 trillion ($280.5 million) Sai Gon-Loc Ninh route to Cambodia will be built by the Vietnam Railway Department, the China Mechanical Equipment Import Export Corporation and the China Railway Construction Corporation.

The other 120 km line linking Vung Ang with Mu Gia in the central Ha Tinh province to Laos requires investment of over VND4.52 trillion ($247 million).

The railways are expected to promote trade and transport cooperation among Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos as well as between the whole Indochina region and the rest of Asean and China.
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Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia join forces to develop tourism

VietNamNet Bridge – Cambodia's Siem Reap and the Lao provinces of Luang Prabang and Champasak will sign an agreement on tourism cooperation with central Vietnam's Quang Nam Province.

Dinh Hai, director of Quang Nam's Department of Tourism, told the Daily that the tourism authorities of Siem Reap, Luang Prabang, Champasak and Quang Nam would sign the deal on the sidelines of a tourism festival.

The four-day Quang Nam - Heritage Road Festival 2007 kicked off on Wednesday in the World Heritage-listed town of Hoi An.

The four provinces, Hai said, will jointly market tourism products and promote their World Heritage sites. "We have special tourist attractions - World Heritage sites, so we want to join hands to introduce them to attract tourists," he said.

The UNESCO-recognized World Heritage sites are Hoi An and My Son in Quang Nam, Luang Prabang and Wat Phou in Luang Prabang, and Angkor Wat in Siem Reap.

These provinces will create favorable conditions for travel firms to meet together, arrange familiarization trips and carry out other activities, Hai said.

Earlier, his department had signed a similar deal with the tourism authority of Champasak.

Hai said tens of thousands of tourists, mostly locals, were expected to visit the Quang Nam - Heritage Road Festival.

"June is the low season for the province's tourism sector with an average room occupancy rate of 40% but hotels in the province have just reported occupancy of 70-80%," he said.
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AIDS-infected people in Cambodia decreases half in 2006: official

Cambodia gained 70,000 AIDS- infected people in 2006, which decreased by half from the figure in 2003, a senior health official said on Thursday.

Cambodia is very proud of this result, said Mom Bun Heng, secretary of State of the Cambodian Ministry of Health, while addressing an AIDS seminar in Phnom Penh.

The Cambodian government could now provide the delaying-life medicine for 20,000 AIDS-infected people, including 2,000 children, he said.


The government's budget for AIDS prevention in 2007 stands two times higher than 2006, while the disease is spreading from urban areas to rural areas.

Cambodia is one of the worst-hit countries in the region in the field of AIDS spread. In 1997, its infection rate ran at 3.3 percent of its population.

Source: Xinhua
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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Dengue deaths sweeping Cambodia highlight healthcare failures


KROUCH CHHMAR VILLAGE - Saing Ratha lies semi-conscious, her thin body shaking with fever as her mother tries desperately to cool her by placing blocks of ice under her arms.

Her 10-year-old bother Saing Sokun lies curled around a block of ice next to her in this spartan rural clinic.

Both have been struck down by dengue fever that has killed almost as many children in the first six months of this year as during the whole of 2006 in an outbreak that is expected to worsen with an early monsoon.

"In my village every house has been afflicted by dengue -- in some homes all the children are sick," says the children's mother, Chhiv Thy, as she wipes down the 13-year-old girl's body with wet towels.

For five days they have lain on crude wooden beds in a small alcove off one of the clinic's wings. Saline drips are tied to metal posts and the windowsill next to their cots is piled high with cooking pots and dirty plates.

Chhiv Thy says she has not worked since bringing her children to hospital. The medical care is free, and good, but the beds cost 30,000 riels (7.50 US dollars) each.

Since January some 7,655 Cambodian children under the age of 15 have been hospitalised with dengue, with 109 of them succumbing to the mosquito-borne illness, which punishes its victims with fever, vomiting and crippling muscle pain.

The most serious cases result in heavy bleeding as blood vessels disintegrate, and can quickly kill children.

Compared to last year's total of 6,149 cases and 158 deaths, "this year is much worse," said Ngan Chantha, director in the health ministry's dengue programme.

Doctor Un Sam Ath gestures up and down the bare hallways of the Krouch Chhmar clinic, saying that only a few days before they had been crowded end-to-end with beds and sick children.

Since May Krouch Chhmar referral hospital has received 20 dengue cases.

"Much more than 2006, when we had five cases total for the whole year," he says.

Two children have died. Un Sam Ath says he wanted to send them to the provincial hospital in Kompong Cham city, about three hours down a dirt road pitted with deep muddy holes.

"But their families were too poor to afford the trip. We have no ambulance and transport is a problem," he explains.

"We are so worried about the coming months -- parents are always waiting too long to bring their children to our hospital. By the time they arrive they have already fallen in a coma," Un Sam Ath says.

Those who can afford transportation to Kompong Cham will be okay, "but what about the poor?" he says.

The outbreak, which has stretched several hospitals in the capital Phnom Penh to capacity, highlights the many failures of Cambodia's health system, which like all of its public institutions is struggling after years of civil war and neglect.

"The total level of public financing for health is simply too low," the World Bank said in its 2007 equality and development report, which found that rural Cambodians still lacked significant access to healthcare.

The government spent only four dollars per person on health expenditures in 2006, the World Bank said, while Cambodian health officials admit that paediatric care is especially thin.

"We have not enough health care services for children -- it is still at a limited level," says Mam Bun Heng, a secretary of state with the health ministry.

A lack of basic health knowledge is also particularly deadly for uneducated rural Cambodians like many of those seeking help in Krouch Chhmar.

This combination has left Cambodia woefully unprepared for the current dengue outbreak.

"People's understanding of sanitation is still very low," Mam Bun Heng says. "We are educating them," but about three million dollars will be needed to fight yearly outbreaks of dengue.

Despite massive public education campaigns already warning people of dengue fever, Un Sam Ath said most people simply tune out the radio and television spots offering advice on how to combat the illnesses.

"People just want to watch the other programmes," he says.

"They need to understand more about this problem. Dengue fever outbreaks spread very quickly, and many people don't know how it spreads." - AFP/ra
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S. Korean bank to operate in Cambodia next month

The first commercial bank funded by South Korean investors will begin operations in Phnom Penh next month, with unusual banking services on offer, local newspaper the Rasmei Kampuchea said on Thursday.

Camko Bank, which is in the family of Camko City, a 2 billion U. S. dollar South Korean housing project to construct a satellite city on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, will become operational late July, the report quoted a Camko City official as saying.

With capital from its parent bank in South Korea, Busan Bank, Camko Bank will provide a variety of "unprecedented" banking services such as loans, VIP services and savings, according to the official.

Different from commercial banks currently operating in Cambodia, Camko Bank will provide among other things a lending service that borrowers don't have to repay the principal, but only the interest, said the official, who declined to elaborate on the issue.

According to the official, Camko Bank will play a main role in the future stock market in Cambodia.

The Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) has been assisting the Cambodian government to set up a stock exchange market in Cambodia, which is expected to start in 2009.

Source: Xinhua
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"Cambodia: land, people and cultural tradition" exhibition

VietNamNet Bridge – An exhibition themed "Cambodia: land, people and cultural tradition" was launched on Tuesday at the HCMC Exhibition House, 92 Le Thanh Ton Street, District 1.

The exhibition features 70 pictures and items representing images of the beautiful country of Cambodia, the friendly relationship between Vietnam and Cambodia, and the art of Cambodian sculptures and handicrafts.

Guests can see pictures of famous landscapes and temples of Cambodia, as well as view other sculptural objects made from wood, copper, silver and granite.

In addition, there are traditional paintings of the royal palace and ancient temples which are still well preserved thanks to special materials from tree roots, leaves and grains found by the Cambodian ancients.

Some of the traditional costumes of the Cambodian, such as wedding costumes and the handicraft works are also displayed in the exhibition.

The exhibition is a part of the Cambodian Culture Week that was jointly organized by the Cambodian Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts and the Vietnamese Ministry of Culture and Information in HCMC and the southern provinces of Binh Duong and Soc Trang from June 25 to June 30.

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Cambodia approves anti-terror laws

PHNOM PENH: Cambodian lawmakers have approved phone tapping and computer hacking as part of a broader anti-terrorism package, reports said Wednesday.

Parliament unanimously passed the new 111-article anti-terror law on Tuesday in a bid to better protect the country’s ports and combat militant funding.

The legislation, which was written with assistance from Australia and funding from Britain, allows prosecutors and investigating judges to monitor telephone calls and access computer systems. Secretary of State for the Justice Ministry Hy Sophea was quoted in local media as saying the law “shows to all that Cambodia is not a refuge for terrorists.”

Others warned, however, that the law could be used to further political agendas. The anti-terror legislation follows a similar law passed in April to fight money laundering amid fears that Cambodia’s nascent banking sector could be used to fund terror groups.

Cambodia has emerged as an enthusiastic ally in the US’ “war on terror,” and has been praised by Washington for its efforts, most notably the 2004 prosecution of several people accused of being members of the Islamic militant group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI).
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Plane Crash Prompts Concerns on Dodgy Travel Packages

Questions about the safety of discount package tours to Southeast Asia and China are on the rise following Monday's fatal plane crash in Cambodia.
According to the Ministry of Culture & Tourism, the number of Koreans who traveled to Southeast Asian countries more than doubled from 3.32 million in 2000 to 7.32 million in 2005. The number of travelers to Cambodia, famous for its Angkor Wat historical ruins, increased 15-fold during that period, from 2,046 to 33,072.

With tourism booming in Southeast Asia, some travel agencies are offering discount package tours in a bid to attract customers. While the victims of the accident each paid W599,000 (US$1=W938) for what was intended to be a six-day, four-night Cambodia trip, similar packages can be had for around W270,000 in some places.

In order to offer those bargain-basement prices the agencies sometimes contract with transportation companies that use older buses or planes, and that is becoming a threat to the safety of tourists.
Still, the accident seems to have persuaded few Korean tourists from traveling to Southeast Asia. Three hundred people on Tuesday canceled trips to Cambodia with Hanatour Service, the agency that put the tourists on the plane that crashed. But many tourists booked with other travel agencies left according to schedule.

In order to fill plane seats that they have already booked, travel agencies offer cut-rate tours during the low-demand season, up to one third the price of tours in the high season. Depending on the season, the price of a five-day, three-night tour to Cambodia can vary from around W300,000 to W1.1 million.

Some travel agencies offer tours including food, accommodation and local travel for less than the cost of the plane ticket, but travelers often end up complaining of hidden fees and disappointing tours.

"Choi" paid a local travel agency W500,000 for a five-day, three-night golf trip to Thailand in July of last year, but later filed a case with the Korea Consumer Protection Board requesting for compensation.

"I couldn't get to sleep at the hotel I stayed in the first night because of the noise, and a 'shrimp and pork barbecue' that was supposed to be provided as a special meal was not there. I had a car accident on the way to the airport on the last day and arrived late. The guide didn't direct me through the departure procedures, and I barely got on plane," Choi complained.

Tourism insiders warn that more fatal accidents could happen as agencies are booking cheap airlines to lower their costs.

"Many of the cheap packages to Southeast Asia that are currently on sale are on airplanes that are in poor condition," an official in the tourism industry said. "Because there's a lack of substitute planes, only one or two planes transport all the passengers, and in some cases small airlines with just a few years of domestic flying experience are operating on international routes."
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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

All 22 people killed in Cambodia crash

PHNOM DAMREY, Cambodia — Search teams reached the site of a plane crash on a remote Cambodian mountain Wednesday and said all 22 people on board were killed.

A helicopter spotted the wreckage about 1,640 feet up Phnom Damrey — Elephant Mountain — in southern Cambodia, ending a two-day search through treacherous jungle and monsoon weather by 1,000 soldiers and police.

The Russian-made An-24 plane crashed during a storm Monday while flying to the southern coastal town of Sihanoukville. It had taken off from Siem Reap, the country's main tourist hub and site of the famed Angkor Wat temple complex.

Thirteen South Korean and three Czech tourists were on board, along with five Cambodian airline employees and the Uzbek crew chief, officials said.

"This is a tragedy no one should have to experience," Prime Minister Hun Sen said at a news conference in Kampot province, where the plane went down.

More than a dozen family members of the South Korean passengers had traveled to the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, late Tuesday to await news of their relatives.

The bodies were being flown to Phnom Penh for identification, said Nhim Vanda, a vice chairman of the National Committee for Disaster Management.

Sith Sakal, head of security at Cambodia's Secretariat of Civil Aviation, said the plane's flight data recorder had been retrieved and would be sent to Russia for analysis.

At the crash site, a woman's purse and some shoes lay strewn amid the blue and white plane parts.

"I just felt greatly heartbroken to see the bodies," said Horn Ratha, a Cambodian army helicopter pilot involved in the search effort.

The plane was operated by PMT Air, a small Cambodia airline that began flights in January from Siem Reap to Sihanoukville, a new route launched to spur the country's burgeoning tourism industry.

Sar Sareth, the airline's director, said Tuesday that he did not know what year the crashed plane was built, but that it was in "good condition" before taking off from Siem Reap.

Tourism Minister Thong Khon said the storm was likely to blame for the crash, rather than technical problems.

South Korean aviation authorities will hold safety inspections on PMT Air and six other foreign airlines in the coming days, said an official with the South Korean Civil Aviation Safety Authority. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

PMT Air has six roundtrip flights a week between Siem Reap and the South Korean cities of Incheon and Busan, according to the airline's Web site.

The last major air accident in Cambodia was in 1997, when a Vietnam Airlines TU-134B crashed while trying to land during a rainstorm at Phnom Penh International Airport, killing more than 60 people.
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Official: No Survivors in Cambodia Crash

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen, left, shakes hands with Shin Hyun-suk, South Korean Ambassador to Cambodia before a meeting at Kampot province's headquarters, some 130 kilometers (80 miles) southwest of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, June 26, 2007. Cambodia's prime minister said Tuesday a passenger plane likely crashed into a mountain and expressed little hope for survivors, just a day after the flight between two of the country's most popular tourist destinations went missing. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith) (Heng Sinith - AP)

The Associated Press
Tuesday, June 26, 2007; 10:36 PM


KAMPOT, Cambodia -- Search teams confirmed Wednesday there were no survivors from a plane that crashed in southern Cambodia with 22 people aboard, including South Korean and Czech tourists, officials said.

The Russian-made An-24 aircraft operated by PMT Air crashed Monday during a storm while flying between Siem Reap _ site of the famed Angkor Wat temple complex _ and Sihanoukville on the southern coast.

"All have died. It is confirmed," Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said.

Sixteen South Korean and three Czech tourists were on board, as well as five Cambodian airline employees and a Russian co-pilot, officials said.

A helicopter spotted the crash site for the first time early Wednesday morning after some 1,000 soldiers and police mounted an urgent two-day search by land and air through treacherous jungle in rainy monsoon weather.

The plane's wreckage was high on a forested mountain northeast of Bokor Mountain in Kampot province, according to provincial Deputy Governor Khoy Khun Huor, who said he saw the crash site from a helicopter. He said the wreckage did not appear to have been on fire.

"The immediate step to be taken is to clear some forest for access," he said. "Helicopters now cannot land close to it."

All rescue teams have now been ordered to rush to the crash site, said Nhim Vanda, first vice president of the National Committee for Disaster Management.

More than a dozen family members of some of the South Korean passengers arrived in Phnom Penh from Seoul late Tuesday to await news of the fate of their relatives.

Ly Thuch, a disaster management official, said the Cambodian government will pay for their accommodation while they are in the country.

PMT Air is a small Cambodia airline that began flights in January from Siem Reap to Sihanoukville, a new domestic route launched by the government to spur the country's burgeoning tourism industry.

Sar Sareth, the airline's director, said Tuesday that he did not know what year the crashed plane was built, but added that it was in "good condition" before taking off from Siem Reap on Monday.

"It was always in compliance with flight technical and safety procedures. But we cannot say anything yet (about the cause) because information is on the flight recorder," he said.
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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Thailand donates medical equipment to Cambodia for bird flu control

The Thai government has provided the Cambodian government with medicines and medical equipment for the prevention and control of bird flu, local newspapers reported Tuesday.

The aid, approved at a signing ceremony at the Cambodian Ministry of Health, is in the framework of a joint project to fight avian influenza signed by Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand, Chea Moneth, Deputy Director of the Communicable Disease Control Department in the Health Ministry, was quoted by the Koh Santepheap as saying.

The donation consists of 53 bird flu testing kits, four cases of masks, nine cases of N95 masks, 17 cases of Latex gloves, four cases of hand-washing gel, and seven bags of Surveillance and Rapid Response Team (SRRT) equipment, the newspaper said.

The Thai government has spent 2.5 million U.S. dollars on the aid from a fund it set up in 2005 to help the Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS) fight outbreaks of the virus, reported the Kampuchea Thmey newspaper.

The aid aims to strengthen the capacity of hospitals in the border provinces of Thailand, Cambodia and Laos, it added.

Source: Xinhua
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Landmine victims put Cambodia on map

Sporting success is an impossible dream for most people in Cambodia, where poverty and the scars of civil war are part of daily life.

But one group of athletes from the cash-strapped country are on their way to becoming world beaters.

They are not celebrities or highly-paid professionals, but former fighters in a brutal conflict who lost limbs to landmines and unexploded bombs.

Cambodia's disabled men's volleyball team are the champions of the Asia-Pacific region and have risen to number five in the world rankings.

"These guys are seriously fit, they really know how to work hard, and they work with their prosthesis," said Australian Christopher Minko, who has been involved in disabled volleyball in Cambodia for more than a decade.

"In this country, disabled people have to stand up on their own. Hopefully, we can push this team to be number one in the world," he told Reuters.

Since Minko started a national volleyball league for amputees, his teams have won gold at the 2002 FESPIC Games - Asia's equivalent of the Paralympics - and climbed up the world rankings.

Slowly emerging from decades of civil war including the 1970s Khmer Rouge "killing fields" genocide, Cambodia is littered with an estimated 6 million landmines, leaving it with one of the world's highest disability rates.

The league's 160 players are among some 40,000 "chonpika", or amputees, in Cambodia where one in every 290 people have been permanently disabled by landmines.

Although they fought on opposing sides during three decades of civil war, San Mao and Som Chak are team mates who have put their grim past behind them.

"We are the victims of the war, but we are friends now," said San Mao, a former Khmer Rouge guerilla who has a prosthetic leg after stepping on a mine while transporting munitions.

"When we chat, we chat for fun. We skip all the bad things."

Som Chak, 43, lost his right leg fighting the Khmer Rouge along the Thai-Cambodia border. He turned to sport to become part of a community.

"My friends in the hospital told me 'look around you, many people lost legs too, so move on,'" he said.

"I didn't want people to laugh at me because I couldn't do anything. I don't want anyone to insult us."

Som Chak said he hoped their success could raise awareness about landmines to prevent more of his people from becoming victims.

"My message to mine-producing countries is stop this," said Som Chak.

"I don't want more people to lose their legs like us."

In November, Cambodia will stage the World Organisation for Volleyball Disabled's (WOVD) Phnom Penh World Cup, which will be the first time the country has hosted a global sports event.

The tournament will be presided over by the kingdom's long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge soldier who lost an eye in the final assault on Phnom Penh in 1975.

The Cambodian strongman is a keen golfer and volleyball player, and regards himself as a disabled athlete.

Volleyball for amputees is catching on in Cambodia, with 17 clubs taking part in the national league.

There is even a team comprised entirely of ex-Khmer Rouge rebels in Anlong Veng, the final resting place of "Brother Number One" Pol Pot, the architect of the 1970s "Year Zero" revolution, which claimed an estimated 1.7 million lives in four years.

Chim Phan, 39, said sport is his passion and he will not let his disability get in the way of his success.

"I love sport, it makes my body strong," said Chim Phan, who competes in a number of sports events, including marathons.

"If I don't play, it's like I'm sick."
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Plane Carrying Koreans, Czechs Crashes In Cambodia

An aircraft carrying 13 South Koreans, three Czechs and four crew from Cambodia's famed Angkor Wat temples crashed on Monday.

An aircraft carrying 13 South Koreans, three Czechs and four crew from Cambodia's famed Angkor Wat temples crashed on Monday in jungle-clad mountains in the coastal province of Kampot, officials said.

There was no word on survivors.

"The plane has crashed in the Kom Chhay mountain range. I've already sent four ambulances to the crash site," Kampot governor Thach Khorn told Reuters.

Officials had found the wreckage of the plane in a remote stretch of dense forest 130 km (80 miles) southwest of the Southeast Asian nation's capital, Phnom Penh.

Rescuers at the site, which is outside mobile phone network coverage, had no word on possible survivors, he added.

The AN-24, operated by Phnom Penh-based carrier PMT Air, was on a flight from the central town of Siem Reap to the seaside resort of Sihanoukville when it disappeared in the late morning, airport officials said.

Air services between Siem Reap, home to the 800-year-old Angkor Wat temple complex, and Sihanoukville reopened in January 2007 after a prolonged hiatus during Cambodia's civil war.

The resumption of the internal route was touted as another sign of the former French colony's accelerating recovery from the destruction wrought by Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge during their four years in power from 1975 to 1979.

Cambodia attracted more than 1.7 million tourists last year, most of them drawn to Angkor Wat.

South Korea's Foreign Ministry confirmed 13 South Koreans were on the flight, but did not release any names.
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Monday, June 25, 2007

Cambodia Loses an Independent Press Voice

A staple of Cambodia's post-Khmer Rouge press may well have died this month after it carried a story on corruption and environmental destruction that veered too close to the country’s leaders, cutting seriously into the remaining independent journalistic voices in the country.

The already-ailing 12-year-old French and Khmer-language Cambodge Soir, which claimed to be the only independent daily paper for political and general news published in French in all of Asia, failed to appear on newsstands on Tuesday, June 12 and has not reappeared.

The day after the paper’s failure to appear, the 14-member Cambodian and French editorial staff said a political squabble with management had led to the summary dismissal of reporter Soren Seelow for publishing the article on an environmental report damning the government for corruption. After Seelow’s firing, the staff walked out in protest.

In a statement, the staff said that publisher Philippe Monnin had told them that their holding company, which technically employed the paper's 30-member staff, was bankrupt and would be shuttered for good. Internet access was discontinued and the paper's fledgling Web site www.cambodgesoir.info was taken offline.

The offending article, written by Seelow on June 1, described a report by the London-based forestry NGO Global Witness. "It started with the article on the Global Witness report with a theme judged too critical toward the government," said Stéphanie Gée, Soir’s editor-in-chief. Gee says, however, that the staff do not believe Cambodian authorities placed any pressure on management to fire the reporter. Two Cambodian officials have also denied attempting to bring any pressure.

The Paris-based press freedom group Reporters Without Borders alleged that Monnin was employed by France's overseas development agency as an advisor to Cambodia's Agriculture Ministry. In a statement, Reporters Without Borders said Monnin had told Seelow his article "would upset the authorities."

The journalistic watchdog protested the closure, calling on Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, a multilateral development organization created to promote the French language and one of Soir's principal financial backers, to intervene. OIF provides slightly less than half of Soir's operating budget and was committed to fund the paper until 2009, making bankruptcy seem improbable.

"Although your organization had just released new funds to support this newspaper, its management has decided to terminate this 12-year-old venture on the grounds of financial difficulties," Reporters Without Borders said. "We ask you to help prevent the disappearance of this exemplary French-language daily."

On Thursday, the International Federation of Journalists also issued a statement in Brussels saying that “the IFJ gives our full support to the staff of Cambodge Soir and urges management to halt liquidation to ensure Cambodia does not lose a vital voice in the French Language media,” said Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park.

A request for comment from OIF Secretary-General Abdou Diouf has not been answered.

Monnin, who has declined all comment, was asked when the strike began why the staff was angry. "They don't have the same way of perceiving the development of the country."

The Global Witness report, Cambodia’s Family Trees, was scathing its indictment of how “a syndicate comprising relatives of Prime Minister Hun Sen and other senior officials has looted the country’s forests.” The report accused a "kleptocratic elite" within Cambodia of wholesale environmental plunder and venality. Cambodian authorities responded by banning the report and confiscating copies. Following the banning, information minister Khieu Kanharith ordered a probe into the report’s findings, because, he said, the report had destroyed Cambodia's international reputation.

The announced confiscation of the edition appears to have been symbolic since it is on the Internet as well. The Information Ministry has ordered newspaper not to reprint or serialize the report, with Sralanh Khmer, a pro-Sam Rainsy paper, did for a week straight.

Prime Minister Hun Sen's elder brother, Kompong Cham Province Governor Hun Neng, whose son and wife are both accused of various crimes by Global Witness, issued a warning: "If [Global Witness] come to Cambodia, I will hit them until their heads are broken," he said.

A Cambodian journalist following up allegations in the report for Radio Free Asia received death threats and has fled Cambodia for Thailand, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. Lim Pisith received the threats on his mobile phone, and late last week crossed into Thailand seeking refuge.

An anonymous caller told Lem "to beware," and warned that he "could be killed" for his radio reports on alleged illegal logging activities, Lim Pisith CPJ. "I didn't want to leave my country and stop my reporting, but my life was in danger."

Gée said Soir decided to give the government more column inches by devoting subsequent articles to official responses. On June 4 the paper printed lengthy denials from Agriculture Minister Chan Sarun, whom the report accuses of auctioning off posts in his ministry posts to the tune of $2.5 million in bribes.

Six days later, Monnin nevertheless told Seelow, who had planned to leave Cambodia in September, that he was fired, according to the paper's staff. Contacted by telephone, Seelow declined to comment.

Meanwhile many of the 3,500 French residents in Cambodia appear to have lost hope that Soir will ever live again and have resigned themselves to struggling bleary-eyed through the English print media every morning.

"The decision to shut the newspaper Cambodge Soir is infused with a certain brutality and was definitely a mistake," a Franco-Cambodian reader wrote in a group email protesting the closure. "And as always the decision was taken without the least consideration for the Cambodian journalists and readers."

Despite France’s former prominence in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam as the colonial occupier, Asia has the smallest share of French speakers of any continent. In part due to the murderous ways of the Khmer Rouge, who outlawed the language, French is even less prevalent in Cambodia than in Vietnam, where the prestigious Paris daily Le Monde lamented last year that the language "is collapsing."

But Soir's language is not the immediate concern. In a country where nearly all Khmer-language media are aligned with either Prime Minister Hun Sen or other powerful individuals, a newspaper willing to face facts is particularly conspicuous for its absence. The two English-language papers in Phnom Penh, the Cambodia Daily and the bi-weekly Phnom Penh Post, are now virtually the only independent print media in the country.

Soir’s staff have continued to gather every day in the newsroom, according to Gee, who said in her statement that a “climate of trust” needs to be rebuilt if Soir is to have any hope of gaining the support of its former staff. She and the staff have called for a dialogue with management and the reinstatement of their fired colleague plus written rules on employment and termination.

"We're left waiting again," she said. "The ball is in their court."
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Tourist plane crashes in Cambodia; 22 feared dead

By SOPHENG CHEANG
The Associated Press

PREY PEAY, Cambodia — A chartered plane carrying 22 people between two popular tourist destinations in Cambodia crashed today in a remote, mountainous jungle, aviation officials said.

The plane, a Russian-made An-24, was flying from Siem Reap — home to the popular Angkor Wat temple complex — to the coastal city of Sihanoukville, said Him Sarun, Cabinet chief for the Secretariat of Civil Aviation.

In Chiva, a provincial police chief, said conservation workers on a nearby mountain reported seeing a plane crash in thick forest in the distance.

Rescue teams of soldiers and police searched the area, but Him Sarun said they had not reached the crash site nine hours after the plane disappeared — hampered by nightfall, the remoteness of the area and slippery soil from recent rains that made trails impassable for vehicles. Five ambulances were sent to the general area of the crash.

"If we located the plane three or four hours after the crash, there might have been some hope of survivors who could have been taken to the hospital," Him Sarun said late Monday. "But since it is going to be a whole night passing without finding it, even if there had been any survivors, they could die from loss of blood."

Him Sarun said the flight is thought to have crashed between Kamchay and Bokor mountains, about 80 miles southwest of the capital, Phnom Penh. The plane belonged to PMT Air, a small Cambodian airline that began flying the route in January.

Thirteen South Koreans and three Czechs were aboard, with a crew of five Cambodians and a Russian co-pilot, an official at the Siem Reap airport said. The plane lost contact five minutes before it was to land, said the official, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Nhim Vanda, vice president of the National Committee for Disaster Management, said the search was suspended for the night. Speaking briefly by phone from the area, he said he feared that the chance of finding survivors was low.

Kim Young-chae, an official at the consular division in Seoul of the South Korean Foreign Ministry, confirmed that 13 South Koreans were on board.

South Korea had the highest number of tourists to visit Cambodia last year — some 221,000 South Koreans were among last year's total of 1.7 million foreign visitors, according to Cambodia's Tourism Ministry.
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Bond with Cambodia still strong NA chair


HA NOI — Relations between Viet Nam and Cambodia have continuously strengthened in all areas over the past half-century, National Assembly Chairman Nguyen Phu Trong told a rally in Ha Noi on Saturday to mark today’s 40th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the two countries.

Trong said the two countries have continuously exchanged experience and mutual assistance in national development through visits by high-level officials from ministries, agencies and local governments in border areas, helping promote solidarity and friendship between the two countries.

Trade and commercial ties continue to flourish, matching the two countries’ political relations and potential, Trong said, noting that two-way trade turnover has grown annually by 25-35 per cent, reaching US$940 million in 2006, a figure expected to increase to $2 billion by 2010.

Trong urged the people of Viet Nam and Cambodia, particularly the younger generation, to uphold and consolidate the tradition of friendship between the two countries in an effort to lift it to a new height.

Addressing the rally, Cambodian Ambassador to Viet Nam Vann Phal spoke highly of the comprehensive co-operation between Cambodia and Viet Nam which he hoped would be further strengthened in the future.

A meeting was also held in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta province of An Giang on Saturday to mark the anniversary of diplomatic relations with participation of provincial authorities and representatives from the neighbouring Cambodian provinces of Kandal and Takeo.

A three-day exchange programme between youth of An Giang and Cambodia was initiated to mark the occasion.

A meeting to mark the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Cambodia and Viet Nam was held in Phnom Penh on Saturday.

In his speech, Heng Samrin, chairman of the National Assembly and president of the Cambodian United Development Front (CUDF), stressed that friendship and co-operation between the countries were not born 40 years ago but have been in effect over hundreds of years.

Heng Samrin, who is also the Honourable President of the Cambodian People’s Party, said bilateral relations have recorded massive achievements through co-operation programmes in various fields from the central to grassroots levels.

Heng Samrin, on behalf of the CUDF and Cambodian people, expressed profound gratitude to the whole hearted, valuable assistance of the Vietnamese people in keeping peace, maintaining political stability and aiding socio-economic development from the ashes of genocide.

Addressing the meeting, Vietnamese Ambassador to Cambodia Nguyen Chien Thang thanked the people of Cambodia for their assistance to Viet Nam’s struggle for national development.

Thang said that though Viet Nam and Cambodia have undergone ups and downs in their respective histories, the solidarity and friendship between the countries have been fostered and developed.

On the same day, a seminar on Viet Nam-Cambodia relations was held in Phnom Penh, drawing representatives from both countries.

To mark the anniversary, a ha ben held Cambodian Cultural Week in four Vietnamese cities and provinces from June 25-30. The aim is to introduce the people, land and customs of Cambodia. — VNS
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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Cambodia supports Pakistan as full dialogue partner for ASEAN

The Cambodian government fully supports Pakistan as full dialogue partner for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), local media reported Saturday.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Nam Hong has told newly appointed Pakistan Ambassador Mohammad Younis Khan that Cambodia supported Pakistan which was proposed to be full dialogue partner with ASEAN, Sin Bun Thoeurn, head of press department of the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, was quoted by the Raksmey Kampuchea Daily as saying.

Meanwhile, Cambodia and Pakistan will improve bilateral ties and cooperation through the embassy in Phnom Penh, which was opened in 2005, Sin Bun Thoeurn said.

Hor Nam Hong also urged the Pakistan side to help implement the project with 10 million U.S. dollars of loan for an irrigation system in Kampong Speu province, which was pledged by Pakistan while its premier Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali visited Cambodia in 2004, Sin Bun Thoeurn added.

Source: Xinhua
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Holidays with a conscience

By LIM CHEE WAH

Don’t just travel. Travel responsibly. Here are a couple of hotels that offer the tourist with a conscience the opportunity to help the disadvantaged in Cambodia while enjoying a holiday there.

I GUESS I was like most people who hadn’t been to Cambodia: I had this image in my head fabricated from postcards and media visuals of beautiful, surreal Angkor Wat ruins.

Last year, in search of validation of that image, I finally went to Cambodia; specifically, to Siem Reap, the town closest to the temple complex – and I was taken completely by surprise.

Siem Reap – the whole of Cambodia, for that matter – is a place of uneasy contrasts. On the one hand, because of Angkor Wat, Siem Reap has an active tourist industry, which means pricey restaurants (like the Blue Pumpkin, which “wouldn’t look out of place in London or Paris,” says lonelyplanet.com) and luxury hotels (even one of the very exclusive Amanresorts places). On the other hand, you have very obvious, grinding poverty.

You might have heard friends who have visited describe this country’s poverty or seen TV documentaries about it but you can’t really grasp just how hard life is there until you’ve been there and seen it for yourself.

Pol Pot’s horrifying regime might have ended in the 1970s, but the country is still struggling to come back from the Khmer Rouge leader’s attempt to send it back into the dark ages by killing teachers, artists and intellectuals, thousands of people that didn’t conform to his twisted idea of what was “politically correct”. His bloody rule left a sense of chaos that still lingers and stripped Cambodia of its ability to progress and become self-sufficient.

You see children hawking postcards, bamboo flutes, books and other trinkets within the temple compounds when they ought to be in school. Or children who are obviously too young to look after themselves, carrying a baby sibling, begging for change on the streets.

Everywhere you turn, you will be confronted by the disheartening difficulties of this land’s people. If you are a traveller with a conscience, it would be hard to leave the children out on the street and enter your nice hotel to tuck into a hearty meal....

This is where the growing area of socially responsible tourism can help. This is tourism that is “good for you and good for me”, as one website put it; the “me” in this case being the country (usually a Third World one) the tourist is visiting. The idea is to enjoy the country while contributing to its development rather simply exploiting its heritage, environment and people.

Tourism that touches lives

In Siem Reap, two sister hotels are championing this cause wholeheartedly: Hotel de la Paix and Shinta Mani. They both sit firmly in the higher end of the market, yet they refuse to sugar-coat the place and its troubles with the gloss of luxury. Rather, they encourage travellers to connect with the locals and the land in all their bare honesty.

Earlier this year, I went back to Siem Reap but this time I made a point of visiting these two hotels.

One drizzly morning, over breakfast coffee, Chitra Vincent, general manager of boutique hotel Shinta Mani, tells me an inspiring story of how a simple connection had changed a local family’s life for the better:

Eight-year-old Kim Lay was no different from any other child vendor in Angkor – except for her ear for foreign languages. Her command of English so impressed a Californian couple that were guests at Shinta Mani that they took her back to the hotel, determined to help her attend school and stop peddling postcards to tourists.

With the hotel’s help, the couple channel US$100 (RM340) a month to Kim and her brother to support their schooling. Kim happily walks into Shinta Mani every day now to pick up her boxed lunch before going on to school. She writes to the couple, which she refers to as her godparents, every month.

That is what you get when you stay at Shinta Mani: the opportunity to contribute to the local community.

In fact, just by staying there, even without making any direct donations, a guest would already be helping young people in Siem Reap because Shinta Mani was actually created to fund its highly acclaimed Institute of Hospitality. The institute provides underprivileged Khmer youth with free, full-time training in restaurant and hotel work. These students, once they graduate, are highly sought after by employers in Cambodia’s burgeoning hospitality industry.

As with most hospitality schools, students here get to choose what field they want to specialise in, be it the culinary field, housekeeping, front office operations, maintenance or even spa management (Hotel de la Paix has the well-known Spa Indochine and Shinta Mani also has a spa).

But this is Cambodia, so this is not your ordinary school; to get students into the school, you have to take care of the whole family. So, students are given rice to take back home with them, together with a monthly allowance of US$10 (RM34) to make up for the family’s loss of income now that they are no longer working.

Vincent confesses that picking candidates for the institute has been among the most difficult moments in her working life “because everybody’s story is so sad”. The school can accommodate only 28 students; for this year’s intake, 225 eager young people turned up for the interviews. It’s heartbreaking to turn students away when you know this school could be their one chance to lift not only themselves but also their whole family out of poverty.

Menu of good deeds

Noelene Henderson, sales and marketing director of Hotel de la Paix, is confident that Shinta Mani’s community service model has the potential to grow. There are plans to make Shinta Mani into a brand and take it into other provinces within Cambodia, as well as Luang Prabang in Laos and also into Vietnam.

Shinta Mani’s luxurious sister property, Hotel de la Paix, however, has a different set of community outreach programmes. Things like visits to orphanages and rural villages can be arranged for interested guests, for instance.

Guests can also choose how they want to contribute through the hotel’s Connections “menu”. For as little as US$25 (RM85), you can support a family for a month with a food package that includes 50kg of rice, five cans of dried fish, five bottles of soy sauce and oil and salt.

You can also donate a pair of piglets for a family to raise, which they can resell six months later to generate income. This “Piggy Bank” option costs US$70 (RM238).

There are many more “menu” items to choose from, from donating school supplies and sponsoring rice to building a house for a family.

But the best part of the Connections menu is not the comfort you can purchase for people. It’s giving them hope and presenting them with the opportunity to change their lives for the better, a contribution that is far more precious than any material sustenance.

In Cambodia, less than 11% of the population have access to fresh water. A mere US$90 (RM306) is enough to provide a family with a much needed well. This doesn’t just mean a clean water supply but also the opportunity for the family to take up agriculture and generate an income for themselves. It is, ultimately, so much more than just a well: it is a way out of poverty.

Currently, Hotel de la Paix and Shinta Mani have put in 360 wells in Siem Reap and the surrounding region. They have also helped improve the lives of over 2,000 villagers by teaching them farming and providing material assistance. Families who make outstanding progress are rewarded with a brick house complete with toilet and septic tank. To date, the hotels have built 17 such houses.

Hotel de la Paix’s philosophy is explained eloquently by its executive chef, Joannes Riviere: “Supporting the local community is also about putting money into the system, which I think is far more important that the one-time donation sort of ‘community service’ that we are so accustomed to.”

Sewing up the future

The hotel’s latest joint venture with a Cambodian NGO, Life and Hope Association (LHA), is a fine example of how tourist dollars are being invested in supporting the local community.

The community sewing school caters to disadvantaged women, especially the “brick-laying girls” who work long hours in brick-making factories for less than a dollar a day.

LHA director Hoeurn Somnieng, who also oversees the school, explains that, “the school provides the girls with life skills so that they and those under their care won’t remain victims of poverty or domestic violence for the rest of their lives”.

Students, who range in age from 14 to 34, are also taught English language skills and, at the end of their training, will each take home a sewing machine to start their own business.

Sustainability is a major driving force of Hotel de la Paix and Shinta Mani’s community projects. The sewing school is currently making school uniforms requested by the guests of Hotel de la Paix for donation to villages and orphanages. There are also plans to produce commissioned items for other hotels.

However, the most remarkable thing about these two hotel’s community projects is the ripple effect of positive changes that has ensued. It’s like they have put into motion a system of “pay it forward” that might just be the catalyst of change in Siem Reap.

Srey Mom’s story is a good example. After graduating from Shinta Mani’s Institute of Hospitality two years back, she is now working in Hotel de la Piax’s bakery, earning a respectable wage that is more than double the income that her entire family put together earns.

What’s even more vital is the fact that her training at the institute has made her realise the importance of education and she is now putting her brothers and sisters through school. This is what it means to break the cycle of poverty. As that proverb says, “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day; teach him how to fish and he will eat for a lifetime”.

There’s another aspect to these two hotels’ tourism-based community programmes that sets them apart from your usual aid efforts: accountability.

Remember the rash of relief organisations that seemed to pop up after the Asian tsunami in 2004 and how we all scrambled to donate to them? Do you know what, exactly, has happened to your money? With Hotel de la Paix and Shinta Mani’s programmes, you can see just how your money is used – you can go and meet the orphans who got the books bought with your money. You could meet Srey in the bakery.

This is why even the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (www.world-tourism.org) has recognised that tourism has great potential to alleviate poverty. So the next time you plan a trip, consider socially conscious tourism.


For more information on Hotel de la Paix go to hoteldelapaixangkor. com, call +855-63-966 000, fax +855-63-966 001 or e-mail info@hoteldelapaixangkor.com.
To contact Shinta Mani, go to shintamani.com, call +855-63-761 998, fax +855-63-761 999 or e-mail cba@shintamani.com.

The Business Enterprises for SustainableTravel (BEST) website, sustainabletravel.org, offers tips on How To Be a Civic Traveler.
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Cambodia, Vietnam commemorate 40 years anniversary of diplomatic ties

Cambodia and Vietnam celebrated the 40 year anniversary of diplomatic relations at a ceremony here on Saturday, while both countries determined to have more cooperation and help each other for development, a joint statement said.

Cambodia and Vietnam determined to cooperate to work harder than before and maintain their relationship as good forever because they are neighbors which used to help each other, the statement said.

It added that the diplomatic relations have made the two countries help each other in liberating from new and old colonies and made they have independence, national unity, peace and development subsequently.

The ceremony was attended by about 50 senior governmental officials from both countries, including Cambodian senior minister Men Sam On.

The Kingdom of Cambodia and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam established diplomatic relations on June 24, 1967.

Source: Xinhua
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Saturday, June 23, 2007

Russia may enter WTO before end of this year

Russia's accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) will be completed by the end of this year, a senior Russian trade official said at an Internet conference on Friday.

The multilateral negotiations will resume in Geneva this July and may lead to the completion of the negotiations, Maxim Medvedkov, trade negotiations department chief at the Economic Development and Trade Ministry, was quoted by the Itar-Tass news agency as saying.

"A round of negotiations with Vietnam will take place in Moscow next week. We hope to complete the negotiations, as we have good prerequisites for doing that," Medvedkov said.

Negotiations with Cambodia have also entered the final stage, he said. "We will need to meet a number of domestic formalities and then, I hope, we will sign a protocol on the completion of negotiations with Cambodia," he said.

According to Medvedkov, Georgia may not block the Russian accession. "Firstly, that would not meet the Georgian interests. Secondly, the legal architecture of the WTO makes it impossible to block anyone's entry. There had been countries at war with WTO member states but they joined the organization just the same," he said.

A final estimate of possible consequences of the Russian entry into the WTO for the domestic industries will be released in August, he said.

Russia is the largest economy still outside the Geneva-based world trade body. It signed a bilateral WTO agreement with the United States last year, clearing the last major hurdle to its accession.

Source: Xinhua
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Eight Cambodians detained for possible repatriation

By Leslie Berestein
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER

June 23, 2007

The apprehension of several Cambodian immigrants by federal agents in recent weeks has members of San Diego County's small but tightly knit Cambodian-American communityfearful.
According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, eight Cambodian immigrants from the San Diego area with prior criminal convictions have been detained in anticipation of a repatriation flight that would take them, along other Cambodian deportees from around the United States, back to their home country.

The recent apprehensions caught several local families off guard. Until five years ago, the Cambodian government refused to accept deported refugees, many of them individuals who had been convicted of a crime in the United States.

With nowhere to send them, the U.S. government released many of them on what are known as supervised orders of removal. They were required to check in periodically with immigration officials, but years went by and many went on with their lives.

One of them is Thoeung Sun,, 34, a City Heights man who was convicted in 1995 for his involvement in a drive-by shooting. According to his wife, he had long since put his past behind him.

“After he was released, he completely changed his life,” said Anne Panhwanh, who is Laotian. “He made $80,000 a year. He changed his life. He had a family. And in just one day I am stuck with three kids. He was the primary caretaker of our family.”

Panhwanhsaid her husband was ordered to report to immigration authorities on June 8 and was detained. His brother, who also had a prior conviction, was detained the same day.

“Both grew up here for the majority of their lives and have no connection to Cambodia,” said Tony Lasavath, a family friend.

Sinyen Ling, a staff attorney with the Asian Law Caucus in San Francisco, said the process of repatriating Cambodians marked for deportation has been very slow, even after March 2002, when the U.S. and Cambodian governments signed a repatriation agreement.

At first, she said, the flights to Cambodia were fairly frequent, but they dropped off around 2005. Of those to be deported, only about 163 have been sent to Cambodia since the flights began, she said; as many as 2,100 more are still on the list for repatriation.

“I've heard no news that these flights were taking place for almost two years now,” Ling said. “I am curious as to why they have decided to pick up their pace.”

One reason why flights are infrequent is that to be issued travel documents, the deportees must be interviewed by government officials who travel to the United States from Cambodia, Ling said.

Interviews had been scheduled to take place in the next few weeks in San Diego, hence the recent apprehensions, Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Lauren Mack said.

However, she said yesterday that there has been a delay on the part of the Cambodian government, meaning those detained may not be sent back right away. Their cases will be reviewed, she said, and some may be released, at least temporarily.
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Ambassador: Cambodia-Vietnam cooperation grows

Cambodian Ambassador to Vietnam Vann Phal has highlighted developments in cooperative ties between Vietnam and Cambodia during an interview granted to the Vietnamese press to mark the 40th anniversary of the two countries' diplomatic ties. The interview runs as follows:

Q: What is your assessment of the relations between Vietnam and Cambodia in the fields of politics, economy and culture in recent years?

A: Cambodia and Vietnam’s traditional ties were built on a firm foundation that was fostered and preserved by senior leaders. The ties were based on the two nations' aspirations for solidarity, friendship and mutual assistance in the course of national liberation to gain independence, peace, freedom and development. Our leaders have made regular visits to each other and held frequent working sessions to seek ways to turn the people's aspirations for solidarity, friendship and comprehensive cooperation into reality.

In the context of great upheavals in the region, it is significant that the ties between Cambodia and Vietnam are growing day by day, despite difficulties at time.

In particular, the two countries' cooperation has recently recorded remarkable developments. First of all, their political ties have been constantly strengthened and solidified through a series of visits by the two countries' high-ranking leaders. Vietnamese Party General Secretary Nong Duc Manh visited Cambodia in March 2005; State President Nguyen Minh Triet, in March 2007; former Prime Minister Phan Van Khai, in March 2006; Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, in December 2006. Chairman of the National Assembly Nguyen Phu Trong has also visited Cambodia, while King Sihamoni and Prime Minister Hun Sen visited Vietnam in March 2006 and October 2005, respectively.

Alongside the exchange of visits by Party, State, Government and National Assembly leaders, the two sides have made concerted efforts to bolster the ties between their agencies, sectors, mass organisations, and localities, especially those along the borders. These formal and informal visits demonstrated high resolve of the two countries' leaders in building and fortifying the two countries' relationships under the motto of "good neighbourliness, traditional friendship, and long-term, durable and comprehensive cooperation".

The Cambodian Royal Government and the Vietnamese Government have made a sound decision to sign the supplementary agreement on the 1985 treaty to settle the long-standing border issues in order to build a peaceful borderline, which will be significant to the future of the two countries. In this spirit, the inauguration of the border marker at the Ba Vat-Moc Bai international border gate was held on Sept. 27, 2006 in the witness of the two countries’ Prime Ministers. The two countries plan to finalise the installation of landmarks in 2008.

Agreements reached during high-level visits have created important legal and political ground for the two countries’ cooperative ties to expand and become more practical and effective in all the fields of economics, culture, education, health care and transport and communications. In parallel with the fine development of the two countries’ political relations, the two governments have paid due attention to the development of multi-faceted bilateral cooperation based on the principle of equality and mutual benefits. The two countries have devised a number of mechanisms for bilateral cooperation in economics, culture, science and technology. The two governments also paid special attention to exchange activities to boost the understanding between the two people, especially the youth.

In addition to bilateral relationship, as members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the two countries have accelerated cooperation and mutual assistance within the framework of international and regional cooperation mechanisms such as the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS), the Non-Aligned Movement, the United Nations, the Francophone, the Cambodia-Vietnam-Laos Development Triangle, the West-East Corridor (WEC), the Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS), and the Cambodia-Laos-Myanmar-Vietnam cooperation (CLMV). The two nations have regularly exchanged views and coordinated their activities at international and regional forums. Furthermore, the two countries have fulfilled their international tasks in protecting the environment and combating terrorism as well as seeking peaceful solutions to all issues and realising the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

I firmly believe that the two countries’ future relationship that is based on mutual respect, equality and mutual interests will enjoy fine results in all domains, meeting the two peoples’ desire to live in peace, stability, development and prosperity in the region and the world at large.

First of all, I highly appreciate the fine development of the Cambodia-Vietnam relationship and comprehensive bilateral cooperation. I hope that the two countries’ comprehensive cooperation will continue to be promoted in the coming years with the aim of ensuring stability, peace and economic development for the two countries in the new regional and international context.

Q: In your opinion, which sectors should the two countries give priorities to in order to improve the efficiency of bilateral cooperation and successfully tap their respective strengths?

A: To expand bilateral cooperation in an effective way, the two countries should continue to consolidate and develop their relations along the direction agreed by leaders of the both countries during their visits. Furthermore, they should build appropriate mechanisms and policies to facilitate investment by both Vietnamese and Cambodian businesses in industry, agriculture, tourism and construction. The two governments should pour more capital into economic cooperation between bordering provinces and prioritise sectors which the two countries have strengths in such as tourism, education, health care and transportation.

Vietnam-Cambodia friendship and solidarity should be consolidated and strengthened to serve each country's cause of national defence and construction and facilitate their international integration processes.

Cooperation in security and defence should also receive due attention in order to create concerted actions in the fight against transnational crimes for the sake of peace, stability, cooperation and development in the region and the world at large.

The two countries should strive to settle pending issues, including land border marker planting and immigrants in a cordial spirit so as not to let them affect bilateral relations.

Q: In recent years, fairs of high-quality Vietnamese goods are annually organised in Cambodia. What do you think about these annual fairs and their role in the development of the two countries’ trade, investment and tourism relations?

A: The organisation of annual fairs of high-quality Vietnamese goods and the development of bilateral trade, investment and tourism relations over recent years are very useful in helping the two countries improve their products’ competitiveness, attract foreign investment and revise legal procedures, after Cambodia and Vietnam entered the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

In addition, favourable natural conditions and potentials in tourism of the two countries have brought numerous opportunities for cooperation. The two countries should maintain their multifaceted cooperation in line with the current trend of integration and economic development, and actively carry out the Vietnam-Laos-Cambodia triangle development roadmap and the cooperation programme in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS).

Over recent years, bilateral relations have made progresses in all fields and obtained encouraging achievements. The first conference of the Cambodia-Laos-Vietnam Development Triangle Joint-Coordination Committee held in Pleiku town, Central Highlands Gia Lai province of Vietnam in May 17-18 this year helped facilitate the movement of people, vehicles and products, encourage investment, trade and tourism, in a bid to boost development in the triangle region, fully tap potentials of agro-industrial areas in ten provinces of the three countries. The Co-chairmen of the Joint-Coordination Committee decided to levy preferential tariffs and simplify procedures for cross-border trade in the region.

In 2006 alone, Cambodia-Vietnam trade surged by 30% year-on-year. Vietnam exported US $780 million worth of goods to Cambodia and imported US $170 million. The two countries aim to obtain US $2 billion in trade by 2010.

I hope that bilateral trade, investment and tourism relations in coming years would be developed further in order to contribute to economic development in the region, particularly in transportation and tourism.

Q: You have just taken up your assignment in Vietnam, so what are your impressions of the land, people and development of the country?

A: I have been here just 23 days. However, I worked at the Cambodian Embassy in Vietnam from 1994-1998. Coming back to Vietnam after nine years, I was very surprised at the rapid development of your country. It can be said that Vietnam is running towards the future.

Since Vietnam began its renewal process in 1986, the country has seen big changes. With its accession to international organisations such as the WTO and APEC, Vietnam’s position on the international arena has increasingly improved. I believed that under the leadership of the Communist Party of Vietnam, your country will soon reach the goal of becoming an industrial nation by 2010. (VNA)
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MTV and Fulbright join forces overseas

By NATASHA T. METZLER, Associated Press Writer Fri Jun 22, 4:03 AM ET

WASHINGTON - At Georgetown University, Aaron Shneyer put together a Jewish-Arab band and falafel dinners to help students from both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian divide find common ground. Now he‘s heading to Jerusalem where he‘ll use pop and hip-hop music to promote peace.

The other scholars include a Harvard University grad who will travel to South Africa to create a documentary film on marching bands comprised of underprivileged youth, and two students whose musical studies are tied to their different heritages — Jamaican and Cambodian.

For his fellowship project, Shneyer plans to select five Israeli and five Palestinian students in Jerusalem to compose and study music together and possibly perform.

MtvU will help Shneyer and the other fellows communicate with American students by posting videos, blogs or podcasts online. Shneyer says he hopes it can educate his peers about a region that "all of the news we hear about is very negative."

Although Bowen, 22, is not a musician, she has sung in both gospel and classical choirs for years. A recent graduate of New York University‘s Gallatin School of Individualized Study, Bowen plans to research Panamanian contributions to reggae music as a path to understanding the dual identities of West Indians living in Spanish-speaking countries.

She also plans to create a compact disc or Web site with audio clips of Panamanian musicians narrating the history of their culture, which could be used in Panamanian schools.

Similarly, Phally Chroy, a graduate film student at Temple University, received a fellowship to study music from his Cambodian heritage.

"One thing that really helped me a lot was the music. It helped me make a lot of sense about how my mom and dad act toward me and the community," the 25-year-old said in a phone interview from the airport before leaving for a pre-fellowship trip to Cambodia — his first visit back to his native country.

"This music is part of a community of people who almost lost their identity," Chroy said.

His film will likely follow foundation bands around the country preparing to face each other in an annual competition, with a focus on four groups outside Johannesburg, Collins said.

He learned about the foundation during his tenure as president of the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra, in which he played percussion for four years. He wanted the orchestra to travel to South Africa, but was unable to raise the funds. Nevertheless, Collins stayed in touch with the foundation and planned to work with them after graduating from Harvard this spring.

"I just saw the way that we, the orchestra, used music to make people happy," Collins said in a phone interview from his family‘s apartment in New York City. "I wanted to be able to do that on an even larger scale."

Representatives from both the State Department and mtvU said they plan to continue the program.

The first four recipients will begin their fellowships in the fall. Applications for the next round are now open and will be accepted until Oct. 19.
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Creative Student Web Sites Win Doors to Diplomacy Contest

Students from Minnesota, Taiwan take top honors in annual competition

By Louise Fenner
USINFO Staff Writer


Washington – Early in 2007, a group of American students traveled to Cambodia to learn about “citizen diplomacy” and undertake projects to help rural schools and orphanages. That trip inspired three of them to create an innovative Web site called Doors 2 Cambodia.

The three students are the American winners in the sixth annual Doors to Diplomacy Web site contest. They share the top honors with four Taiwanese students who created a Web site exploring Taiwan’s international medical assistance programs.

Doors to Diplomacy challenges students ages 11 to 18 around the world to create Web sites that teach the importance of international affairs and diplomacy. This year, 190 teams from 38 countries submitted entries.

The winning Web sites are Doors 2 Cambodia, created by students from Triton High School in Rochester, Minnesota, and International Medical Aid, developed by four students from Ming-Dao High School in Taichung County, Taiwan.

“Others can learn from the research they did,” said Yvonne Marie Andres, founder of Global SchoolNet (GSN), which coordinates Doors to Diplomacy for its sponsor, the U.S. Department of State.

“They did an excellent job of presenting their position on issues of global importance and documenting what their research was,” she said, “and including multimedia and making it interesting.”

Global SchoolNet has pioneered global project-based learning, which brings students together online to collaborate on projects. The 2006 Doors to Diplomacy winners included three American students at an Internet-based “virtual school” who created their Web site entirely online through e-mail and conference calls. (See related article.)

“It’s all becoming multimedia, digital media, and the students love it,” Andres told USINFO. “The students love to be able to create and then have an audience for their creation.”

The Minnesota students’ site incorporates more than 40 video clips about their trip to Cambodia for a service-learning class. The clips can be seen on YouTube.com, and the students also have a page on MySpace.com.

The videos include interviews with Cambodian scholars – some in the Khmer language – and a record of the students’ visit to the garbage dump at Stung Meanchey, a district of Phnom Penh where some 70 families live. In one video entitled Tanh Na Rouk (Hell), a Cambodian man describes the killing of his father by the Khmer Rouge and the circumstances that forced him to move his family to the dump.

“Witnessing the tragic conditions [at the dump] was one of the worst feelings we experienced during the entire trip,” said the students on their Web site.

“One of the things that impressed the judges most about the Doors 2 Cambodia team was their work as 'ambassadors' for their project,” said Janice Clark, a public affairs specialist with the State Department. “Not only did they educate others, but [they] actually accomplished some tangible work.” The students helped dig wells in Cambodia, and in preparation for the trip they raised money for bathrooms and chalkboards for some schools and orphanages.

The Taiwanese students faced the challenge of producing their Web site in English (a contest rule) as well as Chinese, and they had to use instant translating software for their research, since much of the material was in languages other than Chinese.

The students raised money for AIDS projects and recruited classmates to sponsor impoverished children through World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization. On their Web site, they said they discovered that even a small financial contribution could make a difference to those less fortunate.

Clark said she and the other judges were struck by the students’ extensive research and their advocacy for Taiwan’s international assistance programs. “Their theme was ‘Taiwan used to need help, and now we’re modern and we the Taiwanese need to give back,’” she said.

Each winning student receives a $2,000 scholarship and the adult mentors receive a $500 cash award for their schools.

In addition to the top two prizes, Doors to Diplomacy honored entries from Bulgaria, India, Indonesia, Kuwait, Malaysia, The Philippines, Romania, Singapore, Turkey, Turkmenistan and the state of California.

Student peers and educational professionals did the preliminary judging, and final selections were made by the State Department’s Bureau of Public Affairs.

The winning sites can be viewed at Doors 2 Cambodia – including the video Tanh Na Rouk -- and The Role of Taiwan in World Health - International Medical Aid.

More information about Doors to Diplomacy is available from the Global SchoolNet.

The full text of the announcement of the winners is available on the State Department Web site. More information also is available on Future State, the State Department's youth site.

(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov )
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CAMBODIA: Journalist flees country after receiving death threat

New York, June 22, 2007 --The Committee to Protect Journalists is gravely concerned about an anonymous death threat made Saturday against Radio Free Asia (RFA) reporter Lem Pichpisey. Fearing for his safety, Lem fled across the Thai-Cambodian border the next day and is now in exile in the Thai capital, Bangkok.

Lem told CPJ that he received the threat on his mobile telephone while driving in the outskirts of the capital, Phnom Penh. The anonymous caller told the reporter "to beware" and warned that he "could be killed" for his radio reports on alleged illegal logging activities, he said in recounting the incident.

"I didn't want to leave my country and stop my reporting," Lem told CPJ in an interview on Thursday, "but my life was in danger."

The threat followed a series of RFA reports in which Lem followed up on allegations of official complicity in illegal logging activities. The charges were first made in a research report issued by Britain-based environmental watchdog group Global Witness.

Lem's broadcasts included undercover reporting in the Prey Long forest of central Kompong Thom province. Lem told CPJ that he had been followed by people he believed were plainclothes military police while in the Prey Long forest and later in the capital.

"We call on Cambodian authorities to launch an independent investigation into the death threat made against Lem Pichpisey," said Joel Simon, CPJ's executive director. "Democratic governments must ensure the security of working journalists, even when they report critically on official policies and actions."

A handful of Khmer-language daily newspapers had serialized RFA's reports on the Global Witness report. The local language Sralanh Khmer newspaper was forced to stop publication of the reports after government officials threatened to close it down, according to media reports.

The management of the French-language Cambodge Soir newspaper sacked the news editor who oversaw publication of the Global Witness report's allegations, according to news reports. The newspaper has now halted operations after the news staff went on strike over the dismissal.

Committee to Protect Journalists. www.cpj.org

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Vietnamese war veterans go to Cambodia to enhance ties

PHNOM PENH — A delegation from the Viet Nam War Veterans Association began a four-day working visit to Cambodia on Tuesday at the invitation of Cambodian Minister of Social Affairs, War Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation Ith Sam Heng.

At a working session the same day, Lieutenant General Dang Quan Thuî, head of the Vietnamese delegation, and Heng agreed to accelerate exchanges and co-ordination between the two countries’ war veterans associations with a view to boosting Viet Nam-Cambodia ties.

Heng said the Cambodian people will never forget Viet Nam’s assistance, particularly the help of voluntary soldiers during the struggle to liberate the country from the genocidal Khmer Rouge.

Heng said the Vietnamese veterans association was a good example for the Cambodian War Veterans Association, especially in terms of improving the lives of Cambodian veterans and their families.

The Vietnamese delegation was scheduled to visit Prime Minister Hun Sen, Deputy PM and Defence Minister Tea Banh, and Deputy PM and Interior Minister Sar Kheng.

They will also attend the first congress of the Cambodian War Veterans Association and visit its establishments. — VNA
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Cambodian culture week to be held in Viet Nam

All in the wrist: Cambodian dancers performing Apsara, an art form recognised by UNESCO as an intangible world heritage. — VNS Photo Doan Tung

A Cambodian Culture Week will be held in HCM City, Binh Duong and Soc Trang provinces from next Monday to Saturday to celebrate 40 years of formal diplomatic relations between Viet Nam and Cambodia.

Some 35 representatives from Cambodia are participating in the event, which is being jointly organised by Viet Nam’s Ministry of Culture and Information and Cambodia’s Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts. Among activities planned for the celebration will be a performance of Apsara dancing, recognised by UNESCO as intangible cultural heritage of the world. The four dances that make up Apsara have earned world wide recognition.

In HCM City, there will be an exhibition entitled Cambodia – Land, People and Traditional Culture. On display will be various images of the country - its landscape and people, in addition to examples of traditional Cambodian wedding dress, antiques, handicrafts and unique sculptures in bronze, brass, silver and stone.

In HCM and Can Tho cities, there will be free screenings of four Cambodian films, including the classic Virtuous Mother, which is standard teaching materials in Cambodian secondary schools and won second prize in Cambodia’s National Film Festival in 2005.

"This cultural week is the product of the two countries’ co-operation. It aims to boost the traditional friendly ties between the Vietnamese and the Khmer people," said Le Tien Tho, Vietnamese Deputy Minister of Culture and Information.

Cambodian Culture Week in Viet Nam will also provide an opportunity for artists and actors from the two countries exchange experiences and preserve and develop the cultural identities of the two countries. — VNS
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Cambodia Keeps Taking, Gives Little

A Cambodian beggar with her sister walks in a market in search of alms in the capital city Phnom Penh.

By Hannah Beech


Why do the rich nations keep funneling millions of dollars every year to a corrupt country like Cambodia? Each summer, at around this time, for more than a decade, international donors have pledged huge sums to prop up the impoverished Southeast Asian nation. The donors unveil a goody bag of financial aid contingent on the country tackling endemic problems like corruption, human-rights violations and environmental degradation. And each year, like ritual, longtime Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen dutifully pledges to clean up the government's act. Alas, also like ritual, little or nothing happens. Yet somehow the entire ceremony repeats itself year after year.

On Wednesday, June 20, foreign donors — a collection of foreign governments, multinational banks and various U.N. agencies — promised to funnel $689 million of aid to Cambodia, a 15% increase from last year and an amount roughly equivalent to half the nation's annual budget. This year, they did issue statements chastising the Hun Sen government for failing to adequately battle widespread graft. Cambodia ranks No. 151 out of 163 nations surveyed in Transparency International's 2006 government corruption index. Addressing donor representatives gathered in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh this month, Hun Sen promised that long-delayed anti-corruption legislation would be passed "as soon as possible." The statement was a virtual carbon copy of what he had pledged last year.

Foreign aid has long been employed as a political tool, with varying levels of success. Rich economies get to feel good about sharing their wealth with the less fortunate. At the same time, Western nations dole out cash to poorer economies in hopes of encouraging budding democratization efforts. But if anything, Cambodia has continued to backslide. A Hun Sen-backed coup in 1997 removed Co-Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh. Opposition party members are regularly harassed. And a July 2006 deadline imposed by Hun Sen himself for introducing a draft of anti-corruption legislation passed with no evidence of any such document.

The country's economy has grown (more than 10% last year, due in part to tourism and the textile industry). But wealth appears to be concentrated in the hands of the few. Earlier this month, the international watchdog organization Global Witness released the findings of a three-year investigation that accuses a network of Hun Sen's relatives and friends of having made tens of millions of dollars from illegal logging. (Several of those implicated by Global Witness have denied the allegations, and the watchdog's report itself has been banned from domestic distribution by the Cambodian government.) In the report, Global Witness castigates the international donor community for facilitating what it labels a deeply corrupt Cambodian ruling class: "Donor support has failed to produce reforms that would make the government more accountable to its citizens. Instead, the government is successfully exploiting international aid as a source of political legitimacy."

The trouble is that Cambodia does not have to depend only on Western donors to help it patch together its economy and government. There is China. Unlike other foreign governments, China puts few strings on its aid, and its generosity in doling out funds for the Cambodian government now rivals Western munificence. Last year, Hun Sen publicly praised Cambodia's "most trustworthy friend" China for its pledge of $600 million in aid and loans; this month, the Cambodian Prime Minister went on to thank the Communist giant for giving money without "order[ing] us to do this or that" — presumably in contrast to pesky requests for reform from other international benefactors. "China has changed the game," says Sok Hach, director of the independent Economic Institute of Cambodia. "Their attitude toward aid has decreased the leverage of the rest of the world."

Further diluting international influence is the potential of oil and gas revenues to transform Cambodia's still largely agrarian economy. Two years ago, Chevron announced the discovery of offshore oil reserves in Cambodia. If natural-resources dollars do start flowing in 2010, as some expect, the country may for the first time enjoy a major revenue source that could help it stand on its own feet. Yet, in countries like Nigeria, oil money has only served to enrich a tiny minority while leaving the rest of the country impoverished. And the alternate source of income may only make it more difficult for Western efforts to tie aid to improved Cambodian governance.

Nevertheless, some human-rights groups blame the donor community for their consistent unwillingness to pull aid when their pleas for reform aren't met. "The donors' list of conditions hardly changes over time, and the government simply ignores them year after year," says Brad Adams, Asia director of New York-based Human Rights Watch. "Hun Sen continues to run circles around the donors, making the same empty promises every year and laughing all the way to the bank."
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