The land of heroes
Our heroes
Our land
Cambodia Kingdom

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Asian Tourists Love to Click and Go

When 29-year-old Sabrina Fu decided to spend a week exploring the ancient temple ruins of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, she turned to Chinese online travel site (CTRP). She long ago became sold on the convenience and ease of researching and booking her vacations online. "The first thing I do when I decide to go somewhere is to log onto the worldwide Web," says Fu, who works at a multinational company's Shanghai office.

With its emerging middle classes and rising disposable income, Asia has one of the fastest growing tourism sectors in the world. Still, the industry has endured some rough luck this decade, with the region's 2004 earthquake and resulting tsunami, sporadic terrorist incidents, and uncertainty about the direction of Avian flu.

Even so, plenty of destinations such as the Maldives, Bhutan, Thailand, and Cambodia saw their tourism businesses expand more than 10% last year, according to figures compiled by the Pacific Asia Travel Assn. Indeed, the tourism sector accounts for more than 10% of the economic output of Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia (see, 4/23/07, "Guiding Tourists to Asia").

One-Third the Size of the U.S. Market

Not surprisingly, a number of regional online sites and established international ones hope to prosper from the Asia travel boom. To be sure, the size of the region's online travel market is still small compared to mature markets such as the U.S. Online travel sales in Asia Pacific are estimated to reach $25.6 billion this year. That's only about one-third of the U.S. market forecast, according to New York Internet research firm eMarketer.

Yet online travel in the region is likely to experience explosive growth the rest of the decade. From 2006 to 2010, India is expected to grow at 271.6% annually, while Vietnam's online travel sector is forecast to expand 202% and China's and Indonesia's in the 70% to 83% range. (The biggest markets in revenue terms outside of Japan are India at $300 million and China at $200 million.) The U.S. online travel biz, by contrast, will grow 17% on an annual basis during the same time.

Another crucial difference in the U.S online travel market, where sites such as, and are big players, is that the growth in new customers is quite slow, given most Americans already have Net access and are familiar with online travel planning.

Planting Seeds for Growth

In Asia, the race is on to capture the interest of the first-time user and build up some brand loyalty to sites. "In the U.S., companies are fighting to take over consumers. But in Asia Pacific, there is opportunity to acquire new users who are using the Internet for the first time," says Jeffrey Grau, senior analyst at eMarketer. "You want to plant the seeds now because that's going to be the future growth engine."

That's why the big international online travel sites are now ramping up their marketing and online service efforts in the region. Paris-based Carlson Wagonlit Travel, a worldwide business travel management company, has big aspirations for Asia. "The big four markets in Asia Pacific, Australia, Japan, China, and India will see their online (managed business) travel adoption rate go up to 40% in three or four years," says Nicolas Pierret, director of global accounts for Asia Pacific.

Site Traffic is a Leading Indicator

IAC/InterActiveCorp (IACI), which owns Expedia and, invested $166.7 million in 2004 for a 52% stake in eLong (LONG), China's second-largest online travel booking site by market share. Though eLong reported a $2.1 million operating loss in 2006, Expedia is seeing Asia Pacific markets represent a bigger share in its worldwide sales. In the first quarter, Expedia's bookings from Australia, China, Japan, Europe, and other countries grew from 25% of worldwide bookings to 29%. In revenue terms, that's about $1.47 billion worth of business.

The Australian site, acquired in 2004 by Orbitz Worldwide (OWW), witnessed the fastest growth in Asia Pacific. "Traffic grew 70% and revenue grew 45% year to date in Asia Pacific," says Chloe Lim, managing director of HotelClub. "Some people focus on sales revenue, but traffic is actually the first sign of sales growth," says Lim.

China is estimated to overtake Germany and become the third biggest personal and business travel market by 2011, valued at about $300 billion a year, according to eMarketer. (Last year, the Chinese market was worth $134 billion.)

China's biggest online travel company is Nasdaq-listed, with a 54.2% market share. Last year, it pulled in $80 million in gross profit on $100 million in revenues. Chief Executive Officer Min Fan thinks online bookings will blow away the growth of the overall Chinese tourism industry. "The growth of online travel will be at least double the speed of travel spending growth," says Fan. "There is the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and the World Expo in Shanghai following [in 2010], which creates a beneficial environment for both international and domestic travel."

In China, right now at least, local players dominate. Ctrip and eLong enjoy a combined market share of 72%, and other, newer sites such as and are trying to get a piece of the action. The reason for the optimism is that the market penetration for online bookings is still quite small. "Only a very small percentage of travel transactions are done online in China," says Fritz Demopoulos, CEO of Beijing-based "The prospects for future growth are encouraging."

Read more!

Khmer genocide suspect questioned

A notorious Khmer Rouge prison chief is facing questioning at the Cambodian genocide tribunal headquarters today.

Kaing Khek Iev, who headed the former Khmer Rouge prison S-21 in Phnom Penh, will face judges investigating crimes committed during the regime's rule in the late 1970s, an official said.

He becomes the first suspect to be questioned by judges of the UN-backed tribunal in Phnom Penh, said a tribunal spokesman.

The prison was a virtual slaughterhouse where suspected enemies of the ultra-communists were brutally tortured before being taken out to killing fields near the city.

Kaing Khek Iev, also known as Duch, was driven in a car escorted by Cambodian government security forces and arrived at the tribunal headquarters this morning. He was taken from a military prison, where he has been detained since 1999.

Kaing Khek Iev (62), is among five ex-Khmer Rouge leaders the tribunal's prosecutors have submitted to the co-investigating judges for further investigation, the spokesman said. "They (the judges) need to do an initial interview with him, but he has not been formally charged yet," he said.

Some 16,000 people were imprisoned at S-21, now the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. Only about a dozen of them are thought to have survived when the Khmer Rouge regime was overthrown by a Vietnamese invasion in 1979.

Since his arrest by the government on May 10th, 1999, Kaing Khek Iev was detained on war crime charges. It is unclear what charges he will face before the tribunal, set up jointly by Cambodia and the United Nations to try to seek justice for crimes committed during the Khmer Rouge's 1975-79 rule.

Some 1.7 million people died from hunger, disease, overwork and execution as a result of the radical policies of the communists.
Read more!

Monday, July 30, 2007

US returns ancient artifact stolen from Cambodia

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP): The U.S. government returned to Cambodia on Monday the head of an Angkor-era sculpture that had been stolen and smuggled out of the Southeast Asian country.

The artifact, weighing about two kilograms (4.4 pounds), is a sandstone head of a celestial dancer, or apsara, from the 12th century, the U.S. Embassy said in a statement Monday.

It said the object was smuggled out of Cambodia into the U.S. in violation of a 2003 agreement between the two countries that aims to protect Cambodia's cultural heritage. The statement did not say when the item was stolen.

U.S. law enforcement agents seized the artifact early this year, Jeff Daigle, an embassy spokesman said.

"The U.S. government is very determined to assist the Cambodian government in protecting and preserving its heritage,'' Ambassador Joseph Mussomeli said after a ceremony in which the artifact was officially returned.

"We're very grateful and happy that our police and our other law enforcement agencies are really focused on this issue.'' he said.

Him Chhem, acting minister of culture, thanked the U.S. government for returning the artifact.

Cambodia's centuries-old stone monuments, especially those in the ancient capital of Angkor, suffered extensive destruction from both nature and looters especially during times of war over the past three decades.

Many priceless pieces have ended up in the hands of private collectors overseas.
Read more!

Cambodia leases tourist islands for $627 million

PHNOM PENH – Cambodia has agreed to lease five islands in the Gulf of Thailand for $627 million to local and foreign investors who plan to build tourist resorts, the state investment agency said on Monday.
'The projects will become a magnet for tourism. These projects will create natural resorts which are popular with foreign tourists,' Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh said in a statement.

Cham Prasidh, who is also deputy chairman of the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC), said the six Cambodian companies that signed the long-term leases will have one year to submit detailed plans for the resorts.

It named the six firms, but did not disclose their foreign investors.

Cambodia's fast-growing tourism industry is seen as another sign of the former French colony's recovery from the destruction wrought by the 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 the 800-year-old Angkor Wat temple complex. But it wants to lure beachgoers as well.

In September last year, a group of Russian investors received approval to build a $300 million tourist resort on Koh Pos (Snake Island) in the Gulf of Thailand.
Read more!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Cambodia-Vietnam friendship monument, horrific image

The disgrace image statue is showing Cambodian soldier and Vietnamese soldier escorted a woman and her baby off their land. It is a secrecy doctrine motivating vietnamese people to seize Cambodians's land.

By Jeyjomnou

Cambodia is a home of 14 millions Khmers who have been living in a chaotic society under pressure from the neighbouring countries. Cambodia is never at peace.

Before Khmer Rouge regime was the vicious war ripping through the whole country and then Khmer Rouge regime after 17 April 1975 had took 3 million lives of Cambodians and the country to the dinosaurs period that had killed dinosaurs million years ago.

After the horrific Khmer Rouge regime, Cambodian had replenished themselves and diversified adapting to the harsh environment of society because there is always somebody chasing them and trying to harm them in anyway to make them collapse, but they refuse to give up and everytime they fell down, they got up very quick and stronger than before.

Now aday Cambodian are struggling to survive for years to come while there are many predator neighbouring countries trying to move into their land and destroying them and culture. So Cambodia had no friendships or good neighbours in southeast Asia.

But so far Vietnam, one of the neighbouring countries, claiming friendship and a good neighbour to Cambodia. For many years Vietnam had tied the knot brotherhood with Cambodia, but in another way Vietnam had been trying to fool Khmers so that they can come in and stealing everything, politic, economic, land and natural resources.

Furthermore, Vietnam had built Cambodia-Vietnam friendship statue monument to persuade Cambodians to believe friendship is existed, while the reality this friendship had no at all. This statue is image causing confusions to Cambodian society and this image is steering a way an ideas that Khmers had known for many years of this friendship.

The Cambodia-Vietnam friendship monument is showing a Cambodian soldier and Vietnamese soldier standing guard a Cambodian woman and her baby according to the Communist Vietnam had claimed. But it is not what is mean. It is mean a Cambodian woman and her baby are the hostages. The image is showing a woman and her baby in a so sad and sorrow while the two soldiers are chasing them out of their land.

The Cambodia-Vietnam friendship monument is a political image with conspiracy that giving mixed signals to million Cambodians causing interest conflicts, especially to many high ranking government officials with duck heads getting Ph.D certificates without going to school.

The Cambodia-Vietnam friendship statue is the political stone file with secrecy teaching Vietnamese officials and Vietnamese people to drive Cambodian people off their land. And this doctrine is now in the practice everyday ( eviction, land grabbed, intimidations, threats and murders) to achieve the notorious doctrine of communist Vietnam.

Some people said this statue is a disgrace and brought the so many pain to Cambodian people, some said this statue is quite horrified to people, but whatever they thought must be quite right. And this statue must be brought down to rehabilitate horrified feeling of Cambodians and tourists around the world. As long as this image is existing, the growing pain of people around the world will be existed. It is a fake friendship causing confusion around the world.
Read more!

Southeast Asian countries fail to reach full agreement on human rights

MANILA, Philippines: Southeast Asian diplomats have failed to reach full agreement on creation of a human rights commission under a landmark charter they are drafting, a diplomat said Sunday.

Military-ruled Myanmar, which has been condemned for its dismal human rights record, has objected to any mention of a human rights commission in the charter being drafted by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Diplomats in an ASEAN task force writing the charter will submit a draft that includes formation of a rights commission to the bloc's foreign ministers at their annual meeting in Manila on Monday, a diplomat on the task force said. But the document will state that Myanmar did not accept the commission, leaving it to the ministers to resolve the issue, the diplomat told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of not being authorized to speak to the media.

Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam also suggested they are not ready for the immediate establishment of such a body, which could deal with human rights violations in the region, the diplomat said.

Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam — ASEAN's most recent members — all have authoritarian or single-party governments.

Separately, a Philippine proposal for a clause in the charter allowing ASEAN to vote on critical issues to hasten decisions instead of its normal reliance on consensus was struck down. It was also decided that there will be no mention of sanctions for member states for serious breaches of the charter, the diplomat said.

The ministers could decide to outline some kind of sanctions in a separate implementing document, the diplomat said.

ASEAN conference spokesman Claro Cristobal said he was not aware of details of recent deliberations on the charter but stressed that any draft produced by the task force could still be changed by the foreign ministers or ASEAN heads of state.

"This is a very important document," he said. "It has the potential of binding half a billion people's lives so every great deliberation is important."

Creation of an ASEAN rights body has been a high priority for the Philippines, the host of this year's meeting, with Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo saying it would give the group "more credibility in the international community."

ASEAN, formed 40 years ago, decided to draft a charter to become a more rules-based organization with better bargaining power in international negotiations. It hopes the charter can be formally signed at an annual ASEAN leaders' summit in November.

The debate on the proposed charter reflects how ASEAN's diverse membership, including fledgling democracies, communist countries and a military dictatorship, has hobbled decision-making and rapid progress on key issues.

Enshrining human rights protection in the charter has been a touchy issue because some ASEAN countries have spotty rights records, such as Myanmar.

Some ASEAN members fear such a commission could allow scrutiny of rights conditions in one country, possibly violating the group's cardinal policy of noninterference in each other's affairs.

Human rights groups complain that ASEAN's noninterference principle has fostered undemocratic regimes in the region.

Senior ASEAN diplomats were working separately in Manila to prepare a heavy agenda for the foreign ministers, who began arriving Sunday.

They are expected to tackle terrorism, better enforcement of a regional anti-nuclear treaty, disaster management and ways to help poorer members catch up with wealthier ones to foster faster economic integration.

A draft of a statement to be issued by the ministers on Monday calls on all member states to ratify an ASEAN convention on counterterrorism that was signed by heads of state early this year.

It also calls on ASEAN countries to intensify efforts to better enforce a 2002 accord that aims to prevent armed confrontations in disputed territories in the South China Sea.

ASEAN was founded as an anti-communist organization during the Cold War but has evolved into a trade and political bloc. It consists of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Read more!

Bomb hits Cambodia-Vietnam statue in Phnom Penh

Cambodia-Vietnam friendship monument is the image causing confusion to 14 million Cambodian and the Youngsters. This image is the source of problem that disturbing Cambodia Civilization and society. It is the image of a Cambodian soldier and a Vietnamese soldier in a siege of a Cambodian woman and a baby.

The statue, in reality showing the progress of those soldier hunting and robbing Cambodian women and children. It is a political stone file with the temptation last forever for Vietnamese to learn for decades to come. Land grabbing and eviction and home demolition are exactly like that Cambodia-Vietnam friendship monument. There is no friendship between Cambodia and Vietnam and that image is must be disappeared.

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - A bomb exploded at a Cambodia-Vietnam friendship monument in Phnom Penh on Sunday, forcing the evacuation of a public park where two other devices were found and defused, police said.

The 10-kg bomb detonated around dawn, causing no injuries and little damage to the stone statue erected after Vietnam's invasion of Cambodia and defeat of the Khmer Rouge in 1979.

"This site represents the friendship of Cambodia and Vietnam. This plot was meant to destroy that relationship," Phnom Penh police chief Touch Naroth told Reuters at the scene.

He said police had no suspects.

The statue, which portrays a Cambodian soldier and a Vietnamese comrade standing protectively over a Cambodian woman and her baby, is in a park near Prime Minister Hun Sen's residence.

Hun Sen and other top members of his Cambodian People's Party (CPP) were with Vietnam's army of invasion and were installed and supported as rulers of Cambodia during Vietnam's decade-long occupation.

In 1998, opposition protesters, who have accused Hun Sen of having too close a relationship with Hanoi, attacked the statue with hammers and set it alight with petrol.

The incident drew a formal protest from Vietnam.
Read more!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Undercover in SE Asia's brothels

Reporter Thembi Mutch spent seven weeks in Thailand and Cambodia, finding out what life is like for children trafficked into the region's thriving sex industry.

I arrived in Thailand on Friday morning, and by the evening my researcher and I were already scouring the bars of Bangkok, attempting to work out our game plan.

We were in the region to find children who had been trafficked into sex work - those who are hidden away, often by armed pimps and traffickers in suburban bars and houses.
Prostitution is illegal in Thailand, although women and men are allowed to do bar work over the age of 18.

But in both Thailand and Cambodia, sex work is so lucrative for everyone involved that it is more blatant than almost anywhere else in the world.

It is not just tolerated, but unofficially, according to many non-governmental organisations (NGOs), it is actively encouraged by both the police and the government.

Posing as tourists

A recent memorandum of understanding between the countries in the Mekong region - including Thailand and Cambodia - has done much to stem child prostitution.

So too has more 10 years of aid work and advocacy by NGOs such as Save the Children and World Vision.

But despite this, resorts like the Thai beach town of Pattaya seem to be more like industrialised brothels than functioning towns.

The sex industry has also expanded to Cambodia, with many children employed as domestic workers, bricklayers, in fish processing plants, while at the same time dipping in and out of the best paid option, sex work.

Most of these children are not there voluntarily - they are trafficked.
Trafficking is helped along by the economic boom in South East Asia. The frantic rate of construction springing up in the region has brought more staff with a desire for young sex workers.

It is not an easy task to pose as "interested tourists" in these areas. We hung out on the streets at night, and got information of where children were working from local sex workers.

We recorded in blacked-out vehicles, changed hotels regularly, and I could never let the recording equipment be seen, or check my recordings, until I was safely inside the hotel.

Once, in Cambodia, we recorded traffickers making deals of children over coffee in a cafe in broad daylight.

The atmosphere was hostile, and the men were clearly on hard drugs, and drinking.

"Who are these people," I muttered to Ang, the ex-prostitute who was my fixer.

"They're Vietnamese and Cambodian government officials," she replied, and my heart sank.

We left immediately, aware that it costs $50 (£25) to hire a hit man in Cambodia.

We were followed almost continuously that day, and also on several others. Men on mopeds and motorbikes would pull up beside us as we raced through the capital Phnom Penh - me clutching Ang's waist, sitting pillion on her moped.

They would take a good, thorough look at my face, and then fall back behind us.

Tales of trafficking

As for the trafficked children, their stories defy words.

A 15-year-old girl in Cambodia said her parents had sold her to a man for her virginity. The man had drugged and raped her whilst she was unconscious.

After a week in the hotel room with this man, she was sold onto a brothel. There, she was gang-raped by 10 men posing as clients.
She escaped, by hiding in a rubbish bin, but was then tricked into prostitution again, staying for three years. Eventually she escaped, and knocked on the door of some strangers, who cared for her.

She then made a two-day bus journey to Phnom Penh, where she arrived three months ago.

I also met a chatty, bright and wide-eyed nine-year-old, who, under a mango tree in the countryside, described how she had been kidnapped from the streets of the capital, locked in a house for a month, and made to watch pornography and drink water with human faeces in it.

The traffickers know what they are doing. She and the other girls were beaten regularly and never allowed out - all part of a systematic campaign to break down the children so they were too confused to do anything about it.

These children did not even know what sex or trafficking is, and whether they will ever "recover" from their ordeal is an ongoing debate.
Read more!

Cambodia's temple tranquillity

ALWAYS thought that visiting Cambodia's Angkor temples would be like exploring a lost city.

For many years I had heard tales of crumbling ruins hidden from time by steamy triple-canopy jungle that echoed with birdsong and the call of mysterious animals.

I imagined walking along jungle tracks, coming upon a faded ruin only after the last strike of a guide's machete cleared an overgrown patch of scrub. But the reality of Siem Reap's Angkor is this: hordes of tourists and well-worn paths leading to crowded temples.

Pick the wrong time of the day to visit Angkor Wat, the most famous of the region's temple complexes and the symbol on the Cambodian flag, and you'll be sharing the site with thousands.

The tour buses start arriving mid-morning and drop their passengers on the other side of the moat, with tourists flooding across the Naga Causeway to the dusty temple compound.

While Angkor is now firmly on the tourist track there are still ways to guarantee that you get to see the temples without being surrounded by hundreds of other people, and one is to pick the time of the day you visit.

Start early, and head into the temples while they are still quiet.

If your target is Angkor Wat, which was built by Suryavarmsan II between 1113 and 1150, start at the back gate and work forward past the teams of locals tending the grounds.

Your first view of the grand temple will rise from the path as you walk up the slight incline and you will get to see parts of the complex that many visitors don't come close to, like the detailed carvings on the long walls of the outer gallery.

Angkor Wat is a combination of corridors and courtyards, that are revealed like a Russian matryoshka doll, and it all surrounds the central towers which reach like blooming rose buds towards the sky.

When you're walking towards the front gate, with the temple behind you, make sure you leave the pedestal path and walk to one of the side ponds where you can see the structure perfectly reflected in the still water.

After visiting Angkor Wat make the short drive to Angkor Tom which was known as the Great Capital and considered to be a settlement under the protection of the gods when it was home to millions in the 14th century.

At the centre of this ancient city is Banyon which is a dilapidated structure made up of 16 towers that are clustered together and each one has four giant faces carved into the stone.

After the original inhabitants moved out of this complex around 1600 it was given back to the jungle and only rediscovered in the 19th century, by which time it had crumbled and only some of the faces remained.

This place is a maze of tiny rooms, steep staircases leading to open ledges, and dark corridors and every step will reveal a different perspective of a ruin that's built from ageing black and grey stone set against a moody humid sky.

Further along the same road is the monastery temple of Jayavarman VII, called Preah Khan, and while the secret with Angkor Wat is to start early the hint to visiting this peaceful complex is to come during lunch.

It's the hottest part of the day, when the daytrippers are hiding from the searing heat in the hotel pool, so the crowds all but disappear and the silence of the Cambodian bush that hugs this steamy site is disturbed only by the buzz of insects.

While Angkor Wat and Thom are impressive in their dilapidated beauty, it's hard to imagine anyone using those structures in the past. But Preah Khan is just as it was when it was a thriving community and while some walls have tumbled, and are now just a pile of stone blocks, it's still clear to see where one room finished and the other started.

Climbing through the dark corridor, which takes some effort because different levels have appeared as paving blocks and have moved over time, the door frames become smaller which was a design feature to thwart invading armies.

Just as with every building at Angkor there are sprays of intricate carvings on every wall and it's no different at Preah Khan with little Apsaras – Angkor's trademark celestial nymphs – or faceless buddhas on every surface.

Preah Khan was also given back to the jungle when the original community abandoned the town and now this is where you will see trees growing out of stone.

Right at the back of the complex, near the stage where dancers and musicians performed for the aristocracy, a seed dropped into a shelf in the stone wall hundreds of years ago and today the roots of a plump tree are draped over this ancient building.

There's one more temple that's worth a visit and while the first three sites are huddled together the fourth one, Banteay Srie, is a bit of a drive.

This is the Citadel of Women which was completed in 967 and today it's considered to be one of Siem Reap's treasures because of the intricate carvings, delicate structures and good repair.

This complex is also set inside a tall outer wall and protected by a moat, but while the other structures have been presented in a dull palette of black and grey this place is a rich ochre hue that glows in the Asian sun.

When a late shower falls on the area large drops plonk into the moat and make the lotus flowers dance as if they're being controlled by a puppeteer holding a string.

There are no grand structures here, just small chambers protected by false doors and connected by elevated walkways with high porches, and an old woman sits silently on a step with her back against a crumbling column to watch the tourists.

But it's the intricate carvings – more detailed and in better condition than at many other structures in the region – that make it a memorable place to visit.

It's not just the walls of carvings that tell historic tales but panels of stylised stone flowers that surround a false door and Apsaras beauties posing above a window.

Another rule is the further you get from Siem Reap the more quiet the attractions become and, with dozens of ancient sites to visit, it's not hard to find a place to enjoy without the crowds.

It's so easy to get to Siem Reap and Angkor these days and it's not considered to be a dangerous place any more, with the risks of getting into trouble no higher than in any other part of Asia that's on the tourist track.

But if you do plan to explore Angkor's ancient buildings consider engaging a local guide who will take you to the different attractions and pointing out things that make a visit more meaningful.

Our guide, Sarin, was a child of the Killing Fields who fled to a Thai refugee camp after his father was murdered. He waited out the Khmer Rouge regime and then had to live with monks when he returned to Siem Reap because his mother was too poor to care for him.

Sarin knew so much about every place we visited and would give us a commentary about carvings and pavilions with stories of kings and battles.
Read more!

Cambodia, long an Asian mouse, may be ready to roar

By Erika Kinetz
Published: July 27, 2007

PHNOM PENH: Most Cambodians live with two realities: rain and rice. The country that three decades ago abolished money has today embarked on the very long process of adding two new words to the national vocabulary: stocks and bonds.

The Cambodian government recently got its first sovereign debt ratings from the global ratings agencies Standard & Poor's and Moody's, and plans are afoot to open domestic stock and bond exchanges in 2009.

Take a ride into the countryside, where the vast majority of Cambodians live and work in conditions more than one observer has described as more African than Asian, and the very notion of an incipient derivatives market seems absurd.

But in the past few years, investors - not just donors, who still prop up the economy of this tiny, impoverished nation - have started to give Cambodia a good, hard second look. That is no small accomplishment for a nation still recovering from the murderous reign of the Khmer Rouge, a radical communist group that not only abolished money during its 1975 to 1979 rule, but also oversaw the deaths of about two million people - roughly one-quarter of the population at the time. After the Khmer Rouge was ousted by the Vietnamese, Cambodia sank into two more decades of civil war.

These days, the notoriously weak judiciary, lack of openness, deep and pervasive corruption, rampant smuggling, mediocre infrastructure (the postal service is barely functional and electricity costs are exorbitant), and the lack of a well-trained work force make Cambodia what has been politely called a challenging business environment.

But not, apparently, too challenging. Foreign direct investment, led by South Korea and China, rose from $121 million in 2004 to $475 million in 2006, according to data from the National Bank of Cambodia and the International Monetary Fund. Historically high levels of liquidity in global markets, as well as a regional boom and a growing perception that, after 30 years of domestic strife, stability has finally taken root, have all helped draw investment.

In January, the country got its first investment bank, Tong Yang Investment, part of the Tong Yang Group of companies in South Korea. Tong Yang plans to start a real estate investment fund of about $100 million focused on Cambodia and Vietnam and marketed to South Korean investors by the end of this year. Other private equity funds are apparently in the works.

Although Cambodia's meager population of 14 million people means that the country is a hard sell for big consumer companies, others have been drawn by the nation's soaring gross domestic product. In the past decade, GDP growth has ranged from a low of 5 percent in 1998, following the bloody factional fighting of 1997, to a high of 13.5 percent in 2005, according to the Finance Ministry.

Over the past three years, Cambodia has sustained average GDP growth of 11.4 percent a year, and the IMF predicts GDP growth will level off to around 9 percent for 2007. Inflation was at 4.7 percent in 2006, according to the ministry. The government has also been deepening its commercial law framework.

"You've got a story of macroeconomic stability," said John Nelmes, the IMF representative for Cambodia. "That's proving comfortable for businesses to invest."

The Australian mining giant BHP Billiton, and its partner, Mitsubishi, have begun a large bauxite exploration project in Cambodia, and Oxiana, the Australian company that runs the huge Sepon copper and gold mine in Laos, is digging for gold in the jungles of northeastern Cambodia.

The promise of oil off the coast of Cambodia has attracted a host of adventurous companies, including the U.S. oil giant Chevron and China's CNOOC and China Petrotech.

At the end of June, a delegation of French business leaders, including representatives of Total Exploration & Production, Société Générale, France Télécom, Lafarge Cement, and the hotel group Accor, came to Cambodia for a fact-finding tour. Japan sent a similar delegation this month, and Biwako Bio-Laboratory has said that it plans to invest up to $800 million in Cambodia for biodiesel production. On Monday, General Electric opened a branch office in Phnom Penh.

Bretton Sciaroni, a lawyer who has practiced in Cambodia since 1993, cited another factor in the country's appeal: the pro-business stance of the government.

Sciaroni, who also serves as a legal adviser to the government, said that when a client, the U.S. packaging company Crown Holdings, wanted to open a factory in Phnom Penh, getting the government to lower its 7 percent tariff on raw aluminum imports was as simple as asking. "The minister of economy and finance, Keat Chhon, asked my client what they wanted it to be," Sciaroni recalled. "My client said zero percent. He said, fine, and zero percent it is."

"People at the highest levels of government understand the necessity of getting stuff done," he added.

Officials describe the turn to capital markets as part of the nation's natural economic evolution. Last month, donors, including China, pledged to deliver $689 million in aid to Cambodia.

"We still need donor assistance," said Hang Chuon Naron, the secretary general of the Ministry of Economy and Finance. But he added that Cambodia would need more - and more kinds of - financing as its economy expands.

The nation's economic base is still quite narrow, dominated by tourism and the garment industry, which could suffer from Vietnam's recent accession to the World Trade Organization and the expiration of U.S. and European quotas on Chinese textiles, scheduled for the end of next year.

Cambodia also has a high level of public debt - most of it on favorable, concessional terms - and it does a poor job of collecting taxes.

On the upside, Cambodia's manufacturing base has been slowly broadening. Oil, natural gas and the mineral sector are promising, and real estate has been booming, some say too much.

Sciaroni said a number of his clients had been buying up property along Cambodia's southern beaches, hoping that the new airport in Sihanoukville would eventually draw tourists who intended to visit only the Angkor Wat temple, in the north, and then leave. "You don't see it yet, but in three to five years, you're going to see major development on the south coast of Cambodia," he said.

Look around Phnom Penh and the opportunities for growth are evident: no tall office buildings, no real golf course, few malls. But the question Han Kyung Tae, Tong Yang Investment's chief representative in Cambodia, has been asking himself lately is whether all the heady talk about surging investment and the rise of capital markets is premature.

"One day, I see the big potential," he said. "The next I'm skeptical."

Right now, Sciaroni said, few domestic companies outside the financial sector, where annual audits are required, would meet even minimal listing criteria. "Transparency doesn't exist for the majority of companies here today," he said.

That has not stopped the Korea Exchange, which operates the Korean Stock Exchange, from jumping in to help develop Cambodian securities markets.

Talk with Koreans of a certain age in Phnom Penh and they will tell you that Cambodia reminds them of their childhood home. The financial sector is no different: Fifty years ago, South Korea, like Cambodia today, depended heavily on foreign aid and was struggling to develop domestic sources of financing. Korea is now trying to share the miracle of its own growth, said Hong-Sik Choi, the executive director of Global Business Development at the Korea Exchange.

"Korea has experienced a miracle to transform itself from the poorest country to the 11th largest economy in the world during the last half century," he explained. "The securities market was at the center of Korea's economic growth."

Hang, the Finance Ministry official, knows that his country is not for the fainthearted. "Cambodia is high risk, but it's also high return," he said.

And while he concedes that Cambodia's road to economic maturity will be long, he maintains that the advent of publicly traded securities will demand new systems of accounting, openness and accountability, which could improve the quality of the business environment as a whole.

Jie Sun, the deputy director of the Research Center for International Finance at Beijing's Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that the major lesson - and perhaps the most instructive for Cambodia - that China learned in the 15 years since Deng Xiaoping opened the gates to Chinese-style capitalism, was that capital markets could help a country with the slow and challenging work of improving its business environment.

"The Chinese have realized that the main function of the stock market is to improve corporate governance," he said at a recent conference sponsored by the Economic Institute of Cambodia, an independent research institute and consultancy in Phnom Penh. "After 15 years, we have now come to the point."
Read more!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Finland Provides 2 M USD For Cambodia to Improve Its Land Registration

By Candy Chabada

Finland has donated about 2 million US dollars for Cambodia to improve its land registration, said officials to Xinhua on 21 July.
Mean Chanvanny, a chief of Cabinet of Ministers said that the fund will be used by Ministry of Urbanization and Construction to adopt modern information technology, to strengthen public awareness and to increase community participation in the sector of land registration.

Chhun Lim, a Minister of Urbanization and Construction said that Finland has been helping Cambodia handle the land registration. From the year 2002 up until the year 2007, it has been providing about 3.5 million US dollars for Cambodia to improve its land registration. Read more!

Cambodia: World Bank Approves $36.25 Million Grant for Commune/Sangkat Development and Improved Local Governance

In Bangkok: Pichaya Fitts
In Phnom Penh: Bou Saroeun
In Washington: Mohamad Al-Arief at
(202) 458-5964

Phnom Penh, July 26 — Today, the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors reaffirmed its support for Cambodia’s decentralization to the communes/sangkats and related local governance reforms, by approving a $36.25 million grant in additional financing for the Rural Investment and Local Governance Project (RILGP), as a supplement to the original RILGP which provided $22 million during 2003 - 2007.

The additional financing aims to expand the project support from the current 15 to 23 provinces, provide continuing financing for an additional three years from 2007 – 2009 to the intergovernmental fiscal transfer, the Commune/Sangkat Fund, and facilitate an accelerated increase in the amount of the overall intergovernmental fiscal transfer and related commune allocations.

The World Bank’s Country Assistance Strategy for Cambodia 2005 - 2008, endorsed by the Board in May 2005, recognizes governance issues as the primary obstacle to growth, poverty reduction, and aid effectiveness, and supports decentralization as a means to improve local governance and accountability. Through the RILGP – Additional Financing, the Bank will continue to support decentralized and participatory local governance systems and provision of priority public goods and infrastructure at the commune/sangkat level.

Mr. Ian Porter, World Bank Country Director, said, “While RILGP and RILGP-Additional Financing fund specific investments at the commune level, the institutional arrangements, procedures and funds flow are integrated as much as possible into the government’s own structures and systems. This has helped to build capacity directly within government institutions, strengthen government systems, and thus create a strong basis for sustainability and scaling-up of development impacts.”

H.E. Sar Kheng, Deputy Prime Minister and Mister of Interior said, “The Royal Government of Cambodia very much welcomes and appreciates the support of the World Bank to rural development and poverty reduction efforts through the provision of priority infrastructure and public goods at the commune level, and strengthening of the decentralized participatory local governance system, under the Royal Government’s Strategic Framework for Decentralization and Deconcentration Reforms. In particular, the Bank’s support of Commune/Sangkat Fund through RILGP Additional Financing is very important, since it provides ongoing support to the Royal Government’s own intergovernmental fiscal transfer system, and will allow an increase in allocations of development funding to the communes over the coming 3 years.”

Ms. Nisha Agrawal, Country Manager for Cambodia said that the RILGP-Additional Financing is also aiding in harmonization and alignment of development partner support. “The Royal Government will use part of the additional grant to support development of a National Decentralization and Deconcentration Program, which will elaborate the implementation details for the National Strategic Framework for Decentlization and Deconcentration Reforms and will help to provide a better foundation for coordinated donor support in future,” she said.

The Bank Board’s approval of the additional financing for RILG is the first for Cambodia under the Bank’s policy, adopted on May 19, 2005, which enables the Bank to provide additional financing in the context of ongoing, well-performing projects, such as RILGP, to scale up the project’s impact and development effectiveness. This approval follows the recent Board approval of a $15 million grant for the Poverty Reduction Growth Operation (PRGO).

For more information on the World Bank and its work in Cambodia, please visit:
Read more!

'They planned to kill me - but I survived'

Cambodia's Ray Charles lookalike endured serious hardships. Jon Lusk on the man who escaped the Khmer Rouge

Friday July 27, 2007

With his legs folded under him as he sits on the floor, Kong Nay seems a frail figure, dwarfed by the large banjo-like instrument he holds. There's a flash of gold fillings in his smile, and when he sings, the voice of a much stronger man jumps out, answering the call of his strings.
This 61-year-old Cambodian is a master of the chapei dong veng, an ancient long-necked guitar with two strings thought to have arrived in Cambodia with the Buddhist faith nearly two millennia ago. Kong's penetrating, nasal wail closely follows or spars with the simple and often melancholic tunes he plunks out on the nylon strings of the instrument. The dark glasses that mask his heavily pock-marked face and sightless eyes have earned him the nickname of "the Ray Charles of Cambodia", but the two artists have rather different stories.

"I'm so excited and honoured that they compare me to him. But at the same time I'm not very happy with myself because the American Ray Charles was so rich and I'm so poor," he chuckles.

meet Kong on his first day in the UK, where he is touring with his 21-year-old protege Ouch Savy to promote their joint debut album, Mekong Delta Blues. Kong admits he doesn't really know what the blues are - not the musical kind, anyway. But the superficial resemblance of his music to the African-American form, and the tough life he's lived do more than justify the title.

Born in the southern Cambodian province of Kampot, Kong was blinded by smallpox at the age of four, and as a boy fell in love with the sound of the chapei. "I felt it was something that I should learn, something that would give me a good life in the future," he recalls.

His family was too poor to afford one, though, and for five years he sang and mimicked the chapei vocally, until his father finally bought him an old one. At 13, he began to take lessons from an uncle, mastering the basic repertoire within only two years. He then began playing professionally, improvising on traditional folk songs by spontaneously spinning stories like a hip-hopper, tailoring them to each audience.

"At 18 I met my wife [Tat Chhan] and we started our life together, depending on chapei. We managed to earn a good living. Not too rich, not too poor, but just good enough to survive, like other people. But when the Khmer Rouge took over, that was a big turning point in my life," he says with characteristic understatement.

In 1975, like millions of other Cambodians, his entire family was deported to a forced labour camp by Pol Pot's genocidal regime. Despite the Khmer Rouge's dislike of artists in particular, they found a use for Kong. "I was forbidden from singing folk tales, or songs that touched on social issues. Instead they told me to sing something that served their propaganda. So during the lunch break, I would sing and play to entertain people."

While most prisoners were given three large spoons of rice per day, Kong and anyone else who was sick or disabled got only one, and starved more rapidly. After two years, they stopped Kong's music altogether and forced him to work. "They planned to kill me. I was on their list. But then the Vietnamese [army] invaded and so I survived." During the bombing that ended the Khmer Rouge's reign of terror, Kong and his wife each lost a brother. Another of Kong's brothers had been executed, but all seven of their children - three born in the camp - miraculously survived.

In 1979, the family returned to their village, where Kong resumed his life as a chapei artist, and they had three more children. In 1991, Kong won a national chapei singing contest in Phnom Penh, and the following year moved there at the invitation of the Cambodian ministry of culture. The salary was poor, but his family - and those of a few other artists who had survived the genocide - were allowed to build homes in the city's Tonle Bassac squatters' community.

Then in 1998, Kong received a young visitor called Arn Chorn-Pond, a former refugee who now lived in the US. He was another survivor of the killing fields, who had been forced take part in atrocities from the age of nine and had returned to Cambodia periodically over the previous decade, trying to make peace with his past. Cambodia had lost around 90% of its artists in the genocide, and Chorn-Pond's family, which had run an opera company, had been particularly hard hit.

"When I came back to Cambodia in 1989, I found nobody here, except one of my sisters," he explains from Phnom Penh, his voice still raw with anguish. "They were all starved to death or killed by the Khmer Rouge - my dad, my mum, my cousin, my nephew, my uncle ... 35 in my family had disappeared."

With Kong Nay and several others, Chorn-Pond founded the Cambodia Master Performers Programme, which soon became Cambodian Living Arts, a charity dedicated to reviving the country's performing arts by helping to lift surviving artists out of poverty and employing them to pass on their skills to the next generation. "It was for me an urgent thing to start this, because I knew that my culture was going down in the next 10, 20, 30 years, if no one did anything about it," he says.

In 2003, Kong began teaching four young students, including Ouch Savy. That same year both he and Chorn-Pond appeared in the harrowing Emmy-nominated film The Flute Player, now being shown before each of his UK performances. When Peter Gabriel saw it, he was so moved that he began donating equipment and expertise to CLA, which led to the recording of Mekong Delta Blues.

Chorn-Pond's vision is of a Cambodian artistic renaissance by 2020, but it won't be easy. The loss of so many artists created a cultural vacuum that has been filled by foreign music, leaving most Cambodian youth hooked on western rap and rock or Chinese pop, and scornful of their own traditions. Government arts funding has been very limited during Cambodia's slow economic recovery, but ironically, Kong and his neighbours are now under pressure to move 20km away as developers eye their inner-city land. He relates this in the song My Life - as close as he's prepared to get to singing about politics these days. Apart from wanting to stay put, what else does he wish for?

"I hope that peace will prevail. There should be no more fighting, no more civil wars, no more conflicts. I am sick and tired of it."

· Kong Nay is playing at Womad, Charlton Park (0845 1461735), until Sunday, then touring.
Read more!

Putting the Khmer Rouge on Trial

By Kevin Doyle/Phnom Penh

At 82, Nuon Chea's eyesight is failing and most days he sports large, dark sunglasses. What remains of his white hair is slicked back in strands and though his breath labors painfully at times, he can still sit upright and at full attention for hours when discussing his role in Cambodia's brutal Khmer Rouge regime. A former chief lieutenant to leader Pol Pot, Nuon Chea is the highest-ranking Khmer Rouge member still alive — and the key figure in a coming courtroom showdown which international and Cambodian prosecutors hope will hold the remnants of the regime accountable for the estimated 2 million deaths which occurred during their bloody reign in the late 1970s.

It's a trial that has long been coming. After Cambodia appealed for international assistance in setting up a genocide tribunal in 1997, it took another nine years of governmental foot-dragging and tortuous negotiations with the United Nations over the shape and structure of the court before prosecutors and judges were sworn in last July. Since then, the proceedings have encountered months of legal wrangling and administrative delays, leading to concerns that the few surviving Khmer Rouge leaders could die of old age before being brought to justice.

This month, however, seems to mark a point of no return. On July 18, prosecutors submitted the names of five possible suspects to the court's investigating judges. That list has not been released to the public, though it's widely assumed to consist of elderly regime leaders like Nuon Chea, who have lived in quiet retirement since abandoning their movement in the late-1990s after reaching a peace deal with the government.

For his part, Nuon Chea is sure his name is at the top of the list. With the death of Pol Pot in 1998, he admits that he is now "responsible for everything that happened."

"I consider this court a battlefield fight between patriots and invaders. I will not allow anyone defeat me," the former communist revolutionary says, speaking from his small wooden house in Pailin on the Thai border in northwest Cambodia. If called before the court, he plans to explain that the killings were "not a policy" of the regime, a line all former Khmer Rouge leaders have stuck to. Nuon Chea rejects the idea that the fanatical legions of young Maoist rebels he led during the 1970s executed thousands and dumped them in mass graves, or that hundreds of thousands more were worked to death, succumbing to starvation and disease in the countryside after being forced to labor day and night to build the Khmer Rouge's vision of an ideologically pure agrarian society. Publicly he will only say that "mistakes" were made under the Khmer Rouge, and still speaks proudly of his former boss, Pol Pot. He has hinted that the skulls and bones in Cambodia's thousands of mass graves could merely be those of Cambodians killed by U.S. bombing during the civil war of the 1970s or the Vietnamese incursion of 1979.

Nuon Chea is the most outspoken of the former Khmer Rouge leaders; other likely targets of the tribunal have taken a lower key approach. Khieu Samphan, 76, the former Khmer Rouge head of state, lives near Nuon Chea in Pailin but has had little to say on the speculation that he is one of the five defendants. Ieng Sary, 78, the regime's former foreign minister, and his wife Ieng Thirith, 75, the former minister of social affairs, have also avoided the media. A young man who answered the door at their large house in a quiet neighborhood in central Phnom Penh said the couple had recently gone to Bangkok, where they frequently travel for medical treatment. Kang Kek Iev, 63, known as Duch when he headed the S-21 torture center in Phnom Penh where thousands were imprisoned and executed, is the sole regime member in prison. Now a born-again Christian, Duch has been held in pre-trial detention since 1999 after being discovered working for a local humanitarian organization.

With the names of the five suspects now in the hands of the investigating judges, the evidence will be analyzed — prosecutors have submitted 14,000 pages of documentation, including interviews with 350 witnesses — and a decision taken on whom to charge. That could happen as early as January 2008, with the first trials soon after, officials at the tribunal said. All that's needed now is just a little more patience, according to Youk Chhang, Cambodia's foremost researcher on the Khmer Rouge and head of the Documentation Center of Cambodia. "This is a lesson we can learn from. Not just for Cambodia, but globally, as genocide seems to happen everywhere now," he says. "It's time for us to solve this and move on."
Read more!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Cambodia to hold school event for small arms education

The Japan Assistance Team for Small Arms Management in Cambodia (JSAC) and Working Group for Weapons Reduction (WGWR) are co-organizing an educational event on small arms in Phnom Penh on July 27 to 28, a press release said Thursday.

Six high schools will host this event, under the cooperation of the Cambodian Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, the JSAC press release said, adding that the students will participate and learn about the small arms problem in Cambodia.

WFWR, JSAC, Ministry of Interior officials and campaign volunteers will teach high school students about the risks and laws relating to weapons, it said.

The event is intended to raise students' awareness on the small arms problem, and contribute in building a culture of non-violence and peace among the youth, it added.

JSAC has implemented its weapons collection and other peace building activities in the northwest areas of Cambodia and is currently focused on Battambang province and Kompong Thom province, it said.

According to the press release, the number of small arms collected through JSAC activities since 2003 is now 28,375.

Source: Xinhua.
Read more!

World Bank head to visit Australia, Asia

The new World Bank President Robert Zoellick will next week visit Australia for talks with APEC finance ministers.

Zoellick, a former US chief trade negotiator and deputy secretary of state, indicated he would not shy away from discussing corruption and governance issues during a trip that will also take in Japan, Vietnam and Cambodia.

"I want to try to stress the overall rule of law, good governance, the openness of a society and how it can contribute to development and opportunity," he told reporters.

China and several other states reacted angrily earlier this month at published World Bank governance rankings that gave some authoritarian states low rankings in areas such as democratic accountability.

"It's unfortunate that it's become such a controversial item, in that if you look at most of the work in the development field, having sound institutions and having good governance is a core element," he said, without referring to a particular country.

Zoellick will first meet in Australia with finance ministers of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation grouping who begin a week of talks in Queensland on Sunday.

Talks with the 21-member APEC forum ministers, coinciding with the 10th anniversary of the Asian financial crisis cover "what's been achieved (and) where are the question marks in the system," he said.

In Cambodia and Vietnam, Zoellick will visit World Bank projects and hold meetings with government officials, business leaders and civic groups.

"One of the challenges here is that even though they've got pretty good growth, the capacity in the country is very thin," he said of Cambodia.

Cambodians remain heavily dependent on textile exports and Zoellick said he hopes the bank can help "broaden their overall economic possibilities."

Vietnam, he said, was "now starting to deal with the second stage of reforms" after an economic boom in its cities, and it needs to spread growth to poorer rural areas.

Japan, the World Bank's second-largest shareholder, is a leading player in international development aid with an annual aid budget of some $9 billion that will host next year's Group of Eight industrialised nations summit, Zoellick said.

"I'm interested in trying to get the sense of priorities that Japan sees in the development area," he said, adding that he would thank Tokyo while encouraging the Japanese to continue their support for international development.
Read more!

Cambodia: Peruvian Men, Thai Woman Sentenced For Drug Trafficking In Cambodia

PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA: A Cambodian judge sentenced two Peruvian men and a Thai woman to 20 years in jail Wednesday (July 25th) on charges of trafficking a kilogram (2.2 pounds) of cocaine, officials said.

Judge Chhay Kong, of Phnom Penh Municipal Court, said he sentenced Heder Martel Rojas, 23, Rodol Foniek Otero Farias, 27, and a 26-year-old Thai woman, whose name he was unable to give.

He said he had convicted them on July 12th on charges of transporting illicit drugs. He also ordered each of them to pay a 50 million riel (US$12,195) fine.

Rojas was arrested at Phnom Penh International Airport on October 6th when an X-ray machine showed he had swallowed 106 small packets of cocaine, Lt. Gen. Lour Ramin, secretary-general of Cambodia's National Authority for Combatting Drugs, said at the time.

Lour Ramin said Rojas led police to Farias and the Thai woman, the partner of Farias, in Siem Reap province. He said the three told police they had planned to take the drugs across the border to Thailand.

Saing Vannak, a Cambodian lawyer for the three defendants, said Rojas admitted wrongdoing in court, but Farias and the woman said they were not involved in trafficking and were merely Rojas' friends. They plan to appeal the verdict and sentences. (AP)
Read more!

Woman slain in vicious S.J. attack fought to save family from genocide in Cambodia

By Jessie Mangaliman
Mercury News
San Jose Mercury News
Article Launched:

Sany San survived a modern-day genocide in Cambodia, and after arriving in the United States four years ago, it seemed as if she had finally been delivered from harm's way.

But on a quiet Sunday morning, on her way to catch a bus to her job at a doughnut shop, San's life was cut short in an attack so violent that it has left police, her relatives and many in San Jose's tight-knit Cambodian-American community in shock and disbelief.

"She was supposed to be safe in this country," said Jennifer Chan, vice president of the Cambodian Women's Association in San Jose. "But we couldn't protect her."

Two men, described by police as transients, were arraigned Wednesday in Santa Clara County Superior Court in connection with the crime, charged with murder, robbery and sexual assault.

According to investigators, San's attackers approached her as she neared Knox Avenue on Story Road, shortly after 6 a.m. It was about a mile from where she was staying.

The two men first talked with San, 46, who is 5-feet-2-inches tall and weighed 110 pounds, apparently intending to rob her. They then began to beat her, dragging her behind bushes, where they took turns sexually assaulting her. Then they stabbed her repeatedly, leaving her to die.

Officer Enrique Garcia described it as the "most vicious, violent and monstrous crime" San Jose has witnessed in years.

Wednesday, during a tearful interview at her East San Jose home, San's aunt, Sokhim Sann, said one of the hardest things to accept was that her niece, on a normal day, never would have been walking on the stretch of road where she was killed.

"I usually give her a ride to the bus station near De La Cruz Boulevard" in Santa Clara, Sann said.

San usually caught the bus from that station to an unidentified doughnut shop near Palo Alto where she worked as a janitor.

But Sunday morning, Sann was not feeling well. Without complaint, San, who had only been in San Jose since April, said she would take the bus from Story Road.

"When you look at her, you wouldn't think she's been through all these hardships," said San's cousin, Ratana Kim. "But the lives of many Cambodians are about hardship and sacrifice. And she embodied that."

San was born in Phnom Penh, Cambodia's capital, the eldest of eight children in a middle-class family. Her father was a university professor who taught Khmer, the Cambodian language, and her mother was a homemaker.

In high school, she studied Khmer and English, said Sann, 52, and she had expressed interest in attending university.

During the genocidal campaign of the Khmer Rouge, the communist organization that ruled and terrorized Cambodia from 1975-79, San's father, Him Kao, was executed by soldiers. An estimated 3 million people died during the Khmer Rouge rule.

San, her mother, Muykeh, 64, and her siblings fled the city for Battambang, in northwest Cambodia. Soon, the family was captured and sent to forced labor camps, where three of her five brothers died. For a time San was with her two sisters at one of the Khmer Rouge's so-called re-education camps, where young people were indoctrinated and forced to dig ditches. Eventually they, too, were separated.

San - showing her quiet, steely will - escaped from her camp and walked for days in search of the camp where her sisters were being held, Sann said. San found one sister. During their flight from the Khmer Rouge camp, San walked across a neck-deep lake, with her sister on her shoulders.

The other sister was killed by the Khmer Rouge.

San was 18 when the Khmer Rouge regime ended. With her father dead, and as the oldest child, she became the head of her household - witness and survivor to one of the century's worst atrocities. As her family's sole breadwinner, she took up work as a market vendor and a seamstress. Once while she was working at the market, a burning gasoline hose struck her legs. She couldn't work for a year.

"She's someone who didn't like to trouble other people," Kim said. "She never thought of herself and she's very, very caring."

San continued to support her family, even after she moved to America, Sann said. She sent most of her wages to Battambang, where her mother, one brother and one sister still live in a small house.

Coming to the United States was a dream San had long nursed, even though she and her family had missed the opportunity to leave Cambodia as refugees during the Khmer Rouge years, Sann said.

"She spent everyday worrying about how to feed her family," Sann said, in tears. "She really wanted to come and she was willing to do anything because she thought she could find a better living."

Four years ago, San arrived in San Jose with a temporary tourist visa. She lived for several months with relatives, then moved to Modesto to join a friend who worked at a doughnut shop. She stayed in Modesto for three years, working to clean the shop.

In April, she returned to San Jose after her friend left the Modesto job. She stayed with her aunt and found another job cleaning a doughnut shop, this one near Palo Alto.

Her temporary visa had long expired, making her an undocumented immigrant.

Three days before she was slain, Sany San told her relatives, "It didn't matter I never married. The important thing was I got here and I'm helping my family."

In Khmer culture, the Cambodian culture, the virtue of Sany San's life was her sacrifice, her aunt said.

Her life, she said, was her family and not herself. That she was not married, was never in a relationship, "made her pure in Khmer tradition."

"Her violation is what disturbs so many of us in the Cambodian community," Kim said. "For her life to end like this is devastating."


Send memorial contributions, which will be used by San's family to pay for funeral services, to the San Jose Police Officers' Association, 1151 N. Fourth St., San Jose, Calif. 95112. For more information, call (408) 298-1133.

Contact Jessie Mangaliman at or (408) 920-5794.
Read more!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Unhappy anniversary for ASEAN, Myanmar

By Clive Parker

CHIANG MAI, Thailand - This week marks the 10th anniversary of Myanmar's accession to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), a controversial act of engagement that at the time ran counter to the investment sanctions the United States had leveled against the country's military regime.

A decade later, ASEAN's hope that diplomatic inclusion would nudge Myanmar's military leaders toward more democracy has gone unrealized, and the tortuous process of negotiating with the hardline regime has badly undermined the grouping's regional clout and global credibility.

Arguably, ASEAN's Myanmar dilemma has now reached a crucial diplomatic juncture. Myanmar's membership in the 10-nation grouping has frequently raised European Union hackles, and Brussels has refused to conduct free-trade negotiations at a regional level with ASEAN because it would entail de facto dealing with Myanmar.

Meanwhile, US President George W Bush recently canceled a meeting with ASEAN leaders in Singapore during a scheduled Asia trip. Soon after, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced that she too would skip the ASEAN Regional Forum, a strategic talk shop hosted by the grouping each year, scheduled for next month in Manila.

The Bush administration has been a strong critic of Myanmar's regime, with Rice publicly referring to the country as an "outpost of tyranny".

In 1997, many ASEAN members were cautiously optimistic the grouping could leverage its various government-to-government contacts with the reclusive regime to promote positive political change.

Former Thai foreign minister Surin Pitsuwan, who is now tipped to be ASEAN's next secretary general, in June 1998 advanced the notion that ASEAN should abandon its tenet of non-interference and adopt a policy of "constructive intervention" in dealing with Myanmar, which was later tweaked and became the blueprint for ASEAN's diplomacy toward the junta.

At the same time, there were geostrategic concerns that backing US sanctions would open the way for China to gain significant influence over a neighboring country. Although ASEAN was first formed as a five-member grouping in 1967 to guard against communist expansionism, particularly from Vietnam, the political reality since the end of the Vietnam War has been to enhance collectively member states' negotiating leverage and strategic deterrence with regard to China.

Critics - namely the US and anti-junta campaign groups in exile - have argued that the military government, which annulled the results of 1990 democratic elections it resoundingly lost, does not deserve the privilege or political legitimacy of ASEAN membership. However, ASEAN's outreach toward Myanmar was overshadowed at the time by the deteriorating political situation in Cambodia.

In July 1997, ASEAN took a moral stand and deferred Cambodia's joining after a bloody coup orchestrated by Prime Minster Hun Sen, which entailed the murder of several opposition politicians and a new wave of refugees into Thailand. ASEAN at the time declined to admit Cambodia until "free, fair and credible" elections were held. US rights group Human Rights Watch said at the time that ASEAN's role in Cambodia "has certainly been highly useful and constructive, and we hope that ASEAN will also become more active on [Myanmar]".

Trade reliance
ASEAN's moral sway over Myanmar has been negligible. Economically, however, ASEAN's pro-engagement policy has paved the way for more trade and investment. Myanmar's trade with ASEAN has risen dramatically since 1997, giving the military regime a desperately needed economic lifeline in the face of US-led trade and investment sanctions. Myanmar's trade with ASEAN, measured as a percentage of the country's total trade, increased from 44% in 2000 to 51.6% in 2005, official statistics show.

Of ASEAN's current 10 members - Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar - only Laos has failed to diversify its trade mix outside of the region less than Myanmar. While much is made of China's economic influence over Myanmar, its total bilateral trade of US$1.2 billion in 2005 amounted to only half the amount ASEAN conducted with the country.

As Myanmar's economy has become more reliant on ASEAN goods and markets, some political analysts suggest the grouping has more political leverage over the regime than it has exercised. That economic integration is expected to increase, as all ASEAN members have committed to reduce tariffs to below 5% by the end of 2010, as part of the new ASEAN Free Trade Area agreement.

Beijing's willingness to overlook Myanmar's poor rights record, which certain ASEAN members have occasionally criticized, is speeding the two authoritarian countries' economic integration. When ASEAN members expressed their frustration at the slow pace of change in Myanmar, "the regime had essentially dumped it in favor of China", said Debbie Stothard of the Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma.

One big indication that Myanmar is moving to hedge its ASEAN exposure: a new $1 billion gas pipeline linking Sittway, Myanmar, to Kunming in southwestern China, set for groundbreaking at the end of this year. Analysts note that the pipeline deal was sealed shortly after Beijing vetoed a US-led United Nations Security Council resolution against Myanmar's rights record in January.

ASEAN, on the other hand, sat on the fence during the resolution's vote - Indonesia, the only member of the bloc currently a member of the Security Council, symbolically abstained. Yet in 2006 ASEAN applied uncharacteristic diplomatic pressure on Myanmar to demonstrate progress on its so-called "roadmap toward democracy". In March, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono visited Yangon to follow up and was closely followed by Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar that month.

In his capacity as an ASEAN representative, Albar was charged with inspecting Myanmar's "democratization process", but his trip ended in frustration when he was barred from meeting with members of the opposition National League for Democracy, which won the annulled 1990 polls.

Albar flew out of Myanmar a day earlier than scheduled and, by some accounts, ASEAN's already strained relationship with Myanmar hit a new nadir. Past and current United Nations overtures, including the new round of outreach by the new UN secretary general's special representative on Myanmar, Ibrahim Gambari, meanwhile to date have wholly failed to produce any democratic progress.

Charter hopes
Now, ASEAN is finally upping the diplomatic ante in a move that will seemingly make or break its relations with Myanmar. In a significant departure from the grouping's erstwhile tenet of non-interference, by next year ASEAN is expected to adopt a framework that will legally bind its members to a charter that enshrines democratic values, good governance, and respect for human rights and freedoms.

Roshan Jason, spokesman for the ASEAN inter-parliamentary caucus on Myanmar, a group of regional parliamentary members aimed at pushing for political change in that country, said the new charter represents "one more opportunity to tackle Myanmar, once and for all". ASEAN "must show the political will to do so", he told Asia Times Online.

Speaking to reporters in Singapore on Tuesday, ASEAN secretary general Ong Keng Yong said the group charter was aimed at Myanmar, but he significantly ruled out the possibility of punitive measures for non-compliance. That would appear to give the junta yet another escape route - although non-compliance would no doubt open the regime to harsh criticism among ASEAN members.

Already it seems the junta is in denial about the new charter's actual commitments. In a May editorial run in the government mouthpiece New Light of Myanmar, Myat Thu, a member of the Myanmar delegation involved in charter discussions in Manila, was quoted saying, "The meeting chairman explained ... the charter would not feature human rights and the discussions would not focus on matters on termination of charter member countries."
The next meeting on the ASEAN charter is set for next week in Manila, and a draft is expected to be submitted for approval to the ASEAN summit in Singapore this November.

In 1997, ASEAN assured the West that it could cajole the junta on to a more democratic path. Ten years later, through the new charter initiative, the grouping appears to be finally following through on that pledge. How much longer Myanmar decides to remain in the regional club, however, is an open question.
Read more!

A question of genocide in Cambodia

BANGKOK - For nearly 30 years, the Khmer Rouge regime that unleashed a reign of terror during its rule of Cambodia from 1975-79 has been accused of committing genocide. But employing a strict legal definition, was that the case?

That and other troubling questions are slated for scrutiny as Cambodia's highly anticipated war-crimes tribunal is now finally under way. Last week marked a milestone in the long-delayed United Nations-sponsored tribunal when prosecutors submitted.

the names of five former Khmer Rouge leaders to stand trial.

Although widely reported as genocide, some legal experts say it's not an open and closed case against the Khmer Rouge.

"Describing the acts committed in Cambodia as genocide has always been controversial," Rupert Skilbeck, head of the Defense Support Section of the tribunal, said in a telephone interview from Phnom Penh. "It is not easily accepted by the legal community. The court will have to consider this question."

The globally accepted definition of genocide is an act of violence aimed to "destroy an ethnic group because of their nationality, race, religion", said Skilbeck, who also served as the adviser for the defense during the special war-crimes tribunal for Sierra Leone. "Killing a people for their political views, as happened in Cambodia, is different," he contended.

There are other hard questions that the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), as this tribunal is officially called, is expected to answer. Foremost among them is how many people the Khmer Rouge actually killed between April 17, 1975, and January 6, 1979, the precise period of their rule and the period that the tribunal is examining.

"The number of people who died in Rwanda was not challenged, but the number of deaths in Cambodia has not been confirmed; it could be challenged," Skilbeck said this month when he met with journalists in Bangkok. In Rwanda, by comparison, an estimated 800,000 people from the ethnic Tutsi group were slaughtered by Hutu extremists during that country's civil war in 1994. Legal experts agree that was a definite act of genocide.

The Khmer Rouge has been accused of killing as many as 1.7 million Cambodians, or a quarter of the Southeast Asian nation's population at the time. The victims were either executed or died as a result of forced labor or starvation from famine, as the Maoist group depopulated the cities and attempted to turn the country into an agrarian utopia.

The tribunal's proceedings on these mass deaths could also prove embarrassing to major powers involved before and after Cambodia was dragged into the US war in Vietnam, which raged through the 1960s and early 1970s. Washington's secret bombing raids over Cambodia in the early 1970s are now well documented, as too is the major role Beijing played in propping up the Khmer Rouge as they systematically killed their perceived enemies.

"America's illegal bombing raids will come up in figuring out how many died in Cambodia," said Skilbeck. "There will be lots of issues that will come up during the trial that will be embarrassing to many countries."

The quest for justice began 10 years ago, when talks about establishing the tribunal commenced between the UN and Phnom Penh. Since then, the process has been strewn with hurdles, including several placed by Prime Minister Hun Sen's government, which independently brokered a compromise with several high-level Khmer Rouge leaders, including some who serve in his government.

Hun Sen has backtracked on his initial financial commitments to the tribunal and has also heaped scorn on human-rights groups that have challenged Phnom Penh's choice of local judges for the trial. The ECCC, unlike other tribunals, such as the one that investigated crimes against humanity committed in the former Yugoslavia, is not completely international in nature, but rather combines local and foreign jurists.

The ECCC is also expected to question the credentials of some of the appointed Cambodian lawyers and judges, based on concerns leveled by rights groups and others about the local jurists' grasp and application of international law, the basis of the tribunal's proceedings.

Cambodia's legal community, as with other educated professionals and intellectuals, were singled out as enemies of the state and systematically brutalized by the Khmer Rouge. By some estimates, only nine lawyers and judges survived the Khmer Rouge's reign of terror.

For the Cambodians who survived the brutality and are among the millions who lost relatives to the radical Maoist regime, there are several other questions they hope the ECCC will help to answer.

"Many people want to know why the Khmer Rouge killed their own people and how they were killed," said Im Sophea, a ranking member of the Center for Social Development, a Phnom Penh-based non-governmental body. "We expect the court to reveal answers for this. Public expectation is very high."

The war-crimes trial of course will not hear from Pol Pot, the notorious leader of the Khmer Rouge, who died in his jungle redoubt in 1998. Nor will Ta Mok, widely known in Cambodia as "The Butcher", for the alleged atrocities he oversaw during the brutal regime's rule, take the stand; he died in June last year.

The five names submitted last week to stand trial at the ECCC were major figures in the Maoist group. According to reports in the Cambodian press, those on the prosecution's list include Nuon Chea, Pol Pot's deputy; Khieu Samphan, former Khmer Rouge head of state; Ieng Sary, the regime's former foreign minister; and Kang Kech Eav, also known as Duch, who was the head of the infamous Tuol Sleng Prison in Phnom Penh.
Read more!

Party General Secretary reiterates policy to boost ties with Cambodia

Cooperations and a good neighbour, what are Cooperations and a good neighbour?

A cooperation in order to defrock Cambodian Monks and killing Cambodian people are just the same games that Communist Yuon Hanoi had been playing and cooperation to let Yuon robbing land from Cambodia.

VietNamNet Bridge – Party General Secretary Nong Duc Manh has renewed the Vietnamese foreign policy of respecting the friendship and cooperative relations with Cambodia and is eager to improve on ties with its neighbour.

The Party leader made the remark while receiving a high-level delegation of the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), headed by Nay Pena, member of the CPP Standing Board, in Hanoi on July 24.

General Secretary Manh said the relations would be strengthened in order to follow the motto of “Good neighbours, traditional friendship, long-term, sustainable and comprehensive cooperation” for the benefit of people of each country and for peace, stability, cooperation and development in the region.

General Secretary Manh congratulated the achievements of the CPP and Cambodian people in the building of peace and national harmony, socio-economic development, expansion of international relations and improvement of their country’s position at regional and international arenas.

He expressed his wish that under the leadership of King Norodom Sihamoni, the Senate, the National Assembly and the Royal Government, the Cambodian people would continue to obtain greater achievements in the process of building Cambodia into a peaceful, neutral, non-aligned and prosperous nation.

He asked the Cambodian delegation to convey his best regards to former King Norodom Sihanouk, the Queen-Mother, King Norodom Sihamoni, President Chea Sim, Deputy President Hun Sen, Honorary President Heng Samrin and other leaders of the CPP.

Nay Pena expressed his gratitude for the assistance the Vietnamese Party, State and people had lent to the Cambodian people during their struggle for national freedom, their escape from genocide and the current national construction.

The CPP official expressed his wish to further boost ties between the two parties and people in the future.

Earlier, a delegation of the Communist Party of Viet Nam (CPV) headed by politburo member Truong Vinh Trong held talks with the Cambodian delegation.

During the visit, the Cambodian guests had a working session with Nguyen Van Son, member of the CPV Central Committee and Chairman of the CPV Commission for External Affairs.
Read more!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

England soccer great Bobby Charlton visits Cambodia on land mine mission

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: England soccer great Bobby Charlton arrived in Cambodia on Tuesday as part of a mission to raise awareness for the impoverished Southeast Asian nation's continuing land mine problem.

"We are going to try to teach young people how to recognize the dangerous mines that are still around," said Charlton, who is in Cambodia as a supporter of charity Spirit of Soccer, which helps children in land mine affected areas of the world through the development of soccer.

An estimated 4-6 million mines and other pieces of unexploded ordinance remain buried in Cambodia after more than three decades of armed conflict.

Charlton will to tour land mine areas in Battambang province, about 250 kilometers (155 miles) northwest of the capital Phnom Penh, said Khek Ravy, vice president of Football Federation of Cambodia.

Spirit of Soccer operates one of its two soccer coaching projects in Cambodia, the other is in Bosnia.

On Thursday, Charlton — who joined Manchester United when he was 17 — will meet with young Cambodian soccer players to discuss some techniques with them.

Charlton, 70, is one of soccer's best known identities. He was a member of England's 1966 World Cup winning team, the same year he was named European Footballer of the Year.

The Manchester United director said Cambodia should promote its soccer to as high a level as many of its regional neighbors.

"It's about time," he said. "Everyone's waiting for Cambodia. Vietnam, China, everywhere else is very happy playing football."

World governing body FIFA ranks Cambodia's national team at 169 out of 208.

Charlton visited Spirit of Soccer's Bosnian program in 2005.
Read more!

Bananas head for jungle in Cambodia

JETSETTING Jupiter Mines directors David Evans and Jeremy Snaith certainly get around.

The pair - dubbed "bananas in pyjamas" after inappropriate antics in first class on a flight to Abu Dhabi earlier this year - have turned their attention to the Cambodian jungle.

Through a private company called Indochine Resources - in which Jupiter is a shareholder - Mr Evans and Mr Snaith have gained rights to roam among elephants, tigers and leopards as they pick up rock chip samples in the ASEAN heritage-listed Virachey National Park.

One of their fellow Indochine directors is Robert Coghill, a fellow first-class passenger on the infamous Etihad Airways flight. He provided an affadavit in support of Mr Evans and Mr Snaith.
Last month their lawyer, Ross Hill, said he was "unaware of any connection" between Mr Coghill and his clients. But last night Mr Hill could not reach Mr Evans to confirm.

The fourth and final Indochine director is Chris Eddy, an Australian based in Dubai.

Mr Evans and Mr Snaith were on their way to Dubai when they were arrested at the Abu Dhabi airport. Mr Hill said the visit was in part to attract investors to Indochine. It is believed Mr Evans and Mr Snaith have both travelled to South-East Asia since receiving suspended sentences from an Abu Dhabi judge.

The Cambodia Daily recently reported Indochine - previously named Battle Mountain Minerals - had signed a memorandum of understanding to search for minerals in Ratanakkiri province.

A geologist at Perth's Great Australian Resources, which has exploration projects in Cambodia, said a MOU would allow a company to survey an area and take rock chip samples but the concession would have to be converted to an exploration lease before drilling could take place.

The World Bank has been pushing for the Virarchey National Park to be protected from mining, having provided $US1.91 million ($2.16 million) in loans and $US2.75 million in grants to an environment ministry program since 2000.

World Bank spokeswoman Pichaya Fitts said the Cambodian government was expected to pass a law imposing a strict ban on mining in core areas of the park later this year.

Because very little minerals exploration has been conducted in Cambodia it has been deemed a highly prospective region.

Oxiana hit 33 metres at 9.9 grams per tonne of gold at an exploration project there and its annual report said "field assessment of other areas and projects of interest is ongoing".

Acting Jupiter chief executive Rob Benussi said his company previously had a direct investment in some of the Indochine leases but had converted the holding to shares in the unlisted company. In its March quarterly report, Jupiter said it had invested $120,000 in seed capital.

Meanwhile, Mr Snaith has sold another $28,000 of Jupiter shares. Jupiter is holding a meeting to vote on ousting Mr Evans and Mr Snaith as directors next month.
Read more!

Monday, July 23, 2007

New party launched in Cambodia possibly to weaken opposition force

The Human Rights Party (HRP) of some 10,000 supporters was launched here on Sunday, possibly with an eye to weaken the kingdom's opposition force, local media said on Monday.

Kem Sokha, 54, who was unanimously appointed the president of the party, said that HRP was formed in response to the needs of both local and overseas nationalists and democrats who want a political party which prioritizes the interests of the nation, not individuals, reported major Cambodian-language daily newspaper the Koh Santepheap.

"It is time for Cambodia to have a real fully democratic political party which has emerged from the people," Sokha said, adding that HRP's door is still open for those who have real willingness to improve the nation under the umbrella of true democracy.

Sokha told the crowd that the HRP has also been established to upgrade the living standards of the people and turn Cambodia into a society which offers equal choices and opportunities for every citizen in seeking their future.

The party elected former Prime Minister Pen Sovann, who in 1980 headed the People's Republic of Kampuchea, as one of its deputy presidents, along with Keo Remy, a former Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) lawmaker and Keat Sokun, former financial officer of the now defunct Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party.

English-language newspaper the Cambodia Daily on Monday quoted National Assembly First Vice President Nguon Nhel as saying that HRP can benefit the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) by weakening the opposition vote.

After the latest local election held on April 1, the opposition SRP surpassed the co-ruling Funcinpec Party and became the second largest party of the kingdom. The augmentation of SRP is widely thought to constitute a kind of menace to CPP, although it is now dominant in the government and the legislative bodies.

Source: Xinhua.
Read more!

KDDI, Alvarion bridging digital divide in Cambodia, Vietnam

Alvarion has announced its collaborative work with KDDI to bridge the digital divide in Cambodia and Vietnam. KDDI promotes telecommunications and information and communications technology (ICT) services via its own specific activities, and also participates in the Asia-Pacific Telecommunity (APT) organisation.

APT’s main goal is to reduce digital divide and promote advanced services including internet access, e-learning, e-government and e-commerce as part of the pan-Asia initiative.

KDDI is using Alvarion’s solutions in Vietnam and Cambodia, to improve broadband data services to residents, schools and municipalities. Alvarion is supporting KDDI and working together to tailor solutions that are optimised for local requirements. KDDI is making use of Alvarion’s BreezeMAX in Vietnam, and BreezeACCESS VL in Cambodia. . Read more!

Cambodia reported to supply Tamil Tiger weapons

Cambodia is said to be a main source of weapons for Sri Lanka's Tamil Tigers.

The defence magazine Jane's Intelligence Review says Cambodia is one of the most significant single sources of weapons for the insurgent group.

Cambodia's interior ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak acknowledges some weapons may still be getting to the Tigers, but says it is small-scale.

He says his governnment would like information to lead it to the offenders because Cambodia's people are victims of weapons and do not want people in other countries to suffer the same crisis.

Weapons from Cambodia filled Tiger arsenals in the past, but officials in Cambodia have assured the Sri Lankan government that the arms trade has stopped.
Read more!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Khmer Rough' s Slaughter house of Cambodia

IF you have been to Cambodia in recent years, the chances are that you will have been to Tuol Sleng in Phnom Penh. There is a savage irony in the fact that this former secondary school that was used as a prison and torture centre by the Khmer Rouge regime is now on the tourist trail.

In the mid to late 1970s, men, women and children arrived at Tuol Sleng, or SS 21 as it was codenamed, in the middle of the night and left only to be executed in what came to be called the killing fields. Now, men, women and children arrive in coaches and depart for lunch in their nice hotels, many of them shocked and chastened by what they have seen.

Visiting Toul Sleng is a brutal experience. It has been left more or less as the liberating Vietnamese forces found it in 1979. School buildings that look pretty much like any others of the era were crudely converted into a high security prison. Iron bedsteads that were used to transmit electric shocks still sit in the downstairs rooms and there are dark stains on the floors.

Upstairs is a long iron bar to which prisoners were shackled lying down and elsewhere, on the wall, is a signboard that tells prisoners how they must behave. Point 6 advises, “Whilst getting lashes or electrification you must not cry at all.”

Of the 20,000 people who passed through Toul Sleng’s gates, just seven survived.

Yet, for all the horror of the physical environment of Toul Sleng, it is the photographs of some of these 20,000 that haunt the visitor most. The Khmer Rouge were fastidious about keeping records and every prisoner was photographed when they entered the prison.

These black and white portraits are chilling. The faces are often expressionless, the eyes blank. These are the faces of the condemned, of men, women and children who surely knew that they were about to suffer indescribably and then die at the end of it. And for what? For a confession that they had been CIA collaborators, or sympathised with the Vietnamese or ? whatever their torturers wanted to hear, for not until there was a signed confession could execution release them from their torment. The fact that the confessions were wildly improbable and wholly made up was not important; what was important was the signed document.

It was these pictures that haunted photographer Nic Dunlop and, in turn, he started to photograph them. But it was the discovery of a photograph of Comrade Duch that began his obsessive search for the director of SS 21.

Armed with this photograph, Dunlop set off to find the man who had presided over the madness that was Tuol Sleng and The Lost Executioner is his account of the history of Toul Sleng, of his interviews with people who worked there, with one of the seven who survived and finally of his success in meeting Comrade Duch. It is a gripping, horrifying and important story.

At the beginning of the book is a photograph of Duch as a boy. He has thick black hair, neatly parted, and is looking directly into the camera. He is neatly turned out for what is clearly a studio shot and he looks slightly solemn as befits such a serious occasion, with just the merest hint of a smile.

The next picture, chronologically, sees Duch in standard Khmer Rouge attire, seated behind a microphone addressing an invisible audience. It is this photograph that Dunlop carried around Cambodia in his back pocket until, eventually, he was able to identify Duch in 1999 and get him to confess to his deeds as director of SS 21.

The Lost Executioner is a grim read but it is a story that needs to be told and needs to be listened to. It is fraught with questions and moral dilemmas. How did this almost cherubic boy become the man who could scrawl with impunity, “Kill every last one of them” on prisoners’ files and become “one of the worst mass murderers of the 20th century”?

How valid is it to claim, as many Khmer Rouge have done, that they did what they did because they were “just obeying orders” and would have themselves been killed had they not done so?

After being identified, Duch is imprisoned, but in the preceding years he had converted to Christianity and was known as a talented and compassionate aid worker.

Would it have been better for him to have atoned for his sins by helping others rather than languishing pointlessly in a jail?

And on a bigger issue, why have there been no trials of the Khmer Rouge leaders? Why was the West so blind to what was happening in Cambodia that it actually recognised the Khmer Rouge as a legitimate regime?

The Lost Executioner is a fine book that puts flesh onto the horrifying statistics that tell the story of the Khmer Rouge genocide, five years in which approximately two million people – nearly a quarter of the population – died. At one point in the book, Dunlop refers to Stalin’s chilling quote that one death is a tragedy; a million is a statistic. Thoughtful, reflective and compelling, The Lost Executioner brings home forcefully that this particular set of statistics is almost unbearably tragic.
Read more!