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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Sokha Helicopter Airline opens in Cambodia

New Cambodian helicopter airline Sokha has begun daily helicopter services for the wealthy between several destinations in Cambodia, local media said on Thursday.

The new airline was officially launched here on Wednesday, during a ceremony presided over by Deputy Prime Minister Sok An at the site of a newly-built 500-square-meter heliport, said Chinese- language newspaper the Sin Chew Daily.

Sokha Airline is a branch of Sokimex Company Ltd, said Airline Manager Dy Vichea, adding that the airline's purpose is to offer national and international tourists flight services.

It has six helicopters, including two Ecureuil 550 A2 helicopters which can carry five passengers, and one Robison R44 helicopter which can carry three passengers, he added.

Sokha will cover six routes daily, including Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville, Phnom Penh to Siem Reap town, Phnom Penh to Battambang town, Phnom Penh to Poipet, Phnom Penh to Bavet and Phnom Penh to Bokor.

One way flights from Phnom Penh to Poipet cost 1,100 U.S. dollars per passenger, while to Bokor Mountain it costs 2,536 U.S. dollars, and Sihanoukville 700 U.S. dollars.

The rates may seem quite high, said Sok Kong, the airline's chairman who is also president of Sokimex Company Ltd. But he said that he believes that wealthy people will be willing to pay for the convenience and pleasure of flying in a helicopter.

Sokha Airline offers high-efficiency and high-speed services while also providing a humanitarian service, for example in remote areas in times of flooding and other natural disasters, said Deputy Prime Minster Sok An.

He stressed that the airline service can contribute to economic growth and benefit the tourism industry and it is a reflection of investors' confidence in the country.

Source: Xinhua
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Cambodia launches a competition to promote value of garment workers

PHNOM PENH, Aug. 30 (Xinhua) -- A nationwide competition titled "I am precious" was launched in Phnom Penh Thursday in order to honor Cambodian garment workers, value the work they do, and enable them for the first time to show their talents and expression through a dress design and song lyrics competition.

The competition is a joint campaign under a collaboration of Cambodian Ministry of Women's Affairs and some NGOs, including ILO Better Factories Cambodia and Garment Manufacturers' Association in Cambodia (GMAC).

All workers from garment factories are eligible to submit their dress design and song lyrics until Oct. 15, a press release said.

The final event of the competition will be held in December this year, it said, adding that during the closing event, best dress designs and song lyrics will be presented in a show and the champions will be selected by representatives of the Cambodia's garment industry stakeholders.
This national competition is aimed to highlight the importance and contributions of the garment work and workers to Cambodia, and provide the workers an opportunity to release their self-worth and potential skills through a friendly competition, it said.

There are over 330,000 workers employed by the Cambodian garment industry, the press release said, adding that most of them are young women with limited education from rural areas.

Source: Xinhua
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Malaysia's QSR to open KFC outlet in Cambodia


KUALA LUMPUR: QSR Brands Bhd is expanding its restaurant business under the KFC brand into Cambodia.

The first outlet was expected to be operational in Phnom Penh by year's end, chairman Tan Sri Muhammad Ali Hashim told a press conference yesterday.

The group initially plans to open four outlets in the capital city as well as other major towns, and thereafter open two new restaurants each year.

The expansion into Cambodia involves the setting up of a joint-venture company with two local partners, Royal Group of Companies Ltd and Rightlink Corp Ltd. QSR will hold 55% while Royal Group and Rightlink will have 35% and 10% respectively.

QSR's initial investment is about US$3mil, which will be funded internally.

The group is hopeful the Cambodia operations would contribute to profits in the first year. “Many people prefer to eat white meat,” Ali said, adding that the country had a population of more than 14 million.

At present, the group's overseas operations, namely in Singapore and Brunei, contribute about 15% of revenue.

If the latest venture proved to be successful, the group would consider expanding the Pizza Hut and Ayamas brands to Cambodia as well, Ali said, adding that KFC had yet to have a presence in Myanmar and Laos.

Meanwhile, for the first half ended June 30, QSR reported an 8.1% growth in pre-tax profit to RM31.9mil owing to new product offerings, increase in the number of outlets and better performance at associate KFC Holdings (M) Bhd (KFCH).

The group opened 10 new Pizza Hut outlets in the first six months. Its Singapore business saw a 61.7% jump in pre-tax profit to RM3.5mil in the first half from RM2.2mil a year earlier.

Revenue rose 5.1% to RM213.4mil compared with RM203.1mil in the previous corresponding period while earnings per share (EPS) improved to 11.55 sen from 10.22 sen.

QSR declared an interim gross dividend of four sen per share for the second quarter.

KFCH, meanwhile, posted a 10.4% surge in pre-tax profit for the six months ended June 30 to RM67.1mil from RM60.8mil a year earlier. Revenue grew 11.7% to RM808.4mil against RM723.8mil previously while EPS improved to 23.37 sen from 21 sen.

Revenue at KFC restaurants expanded 12.2% to RM620.3mil while that at its integrated poultry division increased 9.7% to RM149.4mil.

“In Malaysia, 24 new restaurants were opened in the first half and 13 existing restaurants were remodelled during the second quarter,” said Ali, who is also chairman of KFCH.

Revenue from the KFC chain in Singapore grew 92% to RM5mil during the first six months from RM2.6mil previously while its Brunei business turned around with a pre-tax profit of RM368,000 from a loss of RM68,000.

Nonetheless, the profits were partially affected by higher costs of commodities like corn, soybean meal and palm oil, which led to higher costs of poultry products.

KFCH proposed an interim gross dividend of eight sen per share for the second quarter.

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For Navy care providers, Cambodia mission is sobering, rewarding

Story by: Computed Name: Sgt. Ethan E. Rocke

KAMPONG SOM PROVINCE, Cambodia(Aug. 31, 2007) -- It’s 9 a.m. and the daily crowd of patients is lined up outside the makeshift medical clinic at the Ma’Ahad El-Muhajirin Islamic Center in southern Cambodia. They peer inside the building, watching a Navy medical team at work.

As medical officer, Lt. Jonathan Endres sees his fifth patient of the day, his face is bright and his spirits high. He knows exactly how to help 9-year-old Mutiah Zaynuttin. The rash on her scalp is textbook, and she has a mild cold. Endres writes her prescription, smiles and sends her next door to another dim, shabby room that serves as the team’s pharmacy.

Zaynuttin is one of the approximately 500 residents of the center, located in the midst of Kampong Som Province’s remote farmland. She is the 98th patient Endres and his team of corpsmen from the Okinawa-based Marine Wing Support Squadron 172 have seen since they began a medical civil assistance project here two and a half days earlier. She is one of the 96 whose ailments the “docs” have been able to effectively treat, and she is one of the patients that leaves Endres smiling.

But as Endres and his docs measure their worth with the care and comfort they can provide the sick, and the other patients – those few whose serious illnesses they can’t treat in this environment – weigh on their minds.

Their humanitarian mission is a familiar one that Okinawa service members carry out in countries all over the Pacific.

“It’s very challenging,” said Endres, who is deployed on his first medical civil assistance project. “You do what you can and want to help as many people as you can, and we are able to treat the majority. There are only a few that we got stuck on, and that’s frustrating.”

By the project’s third day, there were two patients Endres could not help. One, he suspects has hepatitis and another appears to be in the beginning stages of tuberculosis.

Many patients U.S. teams see on humanitarian assistance missions have never seen a doctor. And while they are the minority, cases that exceed a deployed team’s capabilities are a disheartening reality for American doctors accustomed to Western health care standards.

The team’s enlisted leader Chief Petty Officer Joe Palmares, a 20-year Navy veteran who planned and coordinated the Cambodia medical project, has been faced with that reality several times; the Cambodia mission marks the ninth medical civil assistance project he has been involved with while stationed on Okinawa.

“There are times that you really wish you could provide more,” he said. “Every time we do this, you can only do so much, so we do the best we can and hope.”

Their best means treating patients every day from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and also providing preventive medicine training that covers topics such as hygiene and preventing heat casualties.

Most patients have several diagnoses many of which are the result of poor living conditions. Infections and parasites are among the most common problems in the small Cambodian community.
The medical team hopes to lengthen its impact beyond the two weeks they are on the ground by showing the residents how to better protect against disease and infection, a responsibility that falls to preventive medicine technician Petty Officer 1st Class Kelly R. Wallen, who is also deployed on his first civil assistance mission.

“This can be an emotionally draining experience,” he said. “It’s backbreaking work at times, but I actually look forward to getting up in the morning, knowing it’s going to be hard, because I know I’m going to help people.”
Wallen and his colleagues share a driving sense of compassion and commitment that is a constant reminder to them that, while they cannot help everyone, there is something very special about helping those they can.

“We come out here and we care,” said Palmares. “That’s our mission, and we do it well. As Americans, we are very blessed. We’re such a strong country, and that’s why we provide this humanitarian relief, because we can and because we should. You can’t provide everything, but to touch somebody’s life, that’s special. They will cherish this; they will remember this.”
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First person charged by UN-backed Cambodia court appeals against detention

29 August 2007 – The first person to be charged by the United Nations-backed tribunal in Cambodia trying Khmer Rouge leaders accused of mass killings and other crimes three decades ago has appealed against an order for his provisional detention.

Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, was charged last month with crimes against humanity over his role as chief at the S21 prison in the capital, Phnom Penh, during the Khmer Rouge's rule in the 1970s, when hundreds of thousands of people were killed or died from starvation, forced labour and ill treatment.

The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) said in a statement that Mr. Kaing's lawyers had lodged notice of appeal against the provisional detention order and the case file had been sent to the Pre-Trial Chamber to “deal with the matter expeditiously.”

Mr. Kaing was placed in provisional detention on 31 July after the charges were issued.

Under an agreement signed by the UN and Cambodia, the trial court and a Supreme Court within the Cambodian legal system will investigate those most responsible for crimes and serious violations of Cambodian and international law under Khmer Rouge rule between 17 April 1975 and 6 January 1979.
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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Cambodia: The Kampong Kdei Bypass on National Road No. 6

Ancient Ankorbridge at acheological site to be preserved and used for pedestrians and bicycle only.

Siem Reap, August 2007 - Following a route along an ancient Angkor highway dating from the 12th - 13th Century, National Road No. 6 (NR6) connects Siem Reap and Kompong Thom provinces.
Recent rehabilitation activities drew special attention to the need for Cambodia to protect these unique cultural assets from increasing vehicle and heavy traffic.

With a view to preserve the authenticity and historical value of the ancient bridges, the APSARA Authority for the Protection ad Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap permitted the Ministry of Public Works and Transport to build 10 bypasses with new bridges around minor ancient bridges and a 1.3 km Kampong Kdei bypass and new bridge to divert traffic off the ancient bridges and onto the new bypasses, in conformity with UNESCO’s ad hoc expert group recommendations of December 2004.

The Kampong Kdei Bridge, one of the dry-jointed laterite block construction engineering wonders along NR6, is located about 45 km southeast of Siem Reap and is the highest and longest of the 800 year old ancient bridges, spanning approximately 85m and 14 m high.

Though it was originally agreed by competent authority that the ancient bridge was to be rehabilitated without any bypasses, cultural heritage considerations soon took precedence.

Prior to the opening up of newly constructed bypass, this ancient bridge carried all traffic without signs of distress or fatigue.

Under the Road Rehabilitation Project, the NR6 civil works contract constituted the rehabilitation of a total of 72 km of road. The contract included replacement of existing bridges and culverts. To comply with modern standards, the road alignment was designed such that appropriate speeds are maintained through each bypass. This required a significant amount of design and drafting of new structures.
Outcomes of the NR6 road rehabilitation work resulted in a major upgrading that allows for improved travel between Phnom Penh and the main tourist attraction of the country, Angkor Wat.

The road safety improvements -- including proper pavement markings, speed breaking humps, rumble strips, guide posts, and signage -- were a first for Cambodia, and have set the standard for good road safety practices in the country. Similar safety improvements have been incorporated since to other major road rehabilitation works.

No less significant has been the capacity development for managing cultural heritage, resettlement activities, budgeting and implementation in several Government agencies.

The 3-year contract started on 7 January, 2002, the construction of the 10 bypasses including the 3 by 20 meter span bridge for the new 1.3 km bypass began the second half of 2005, after settling the safeguards related issues and was officially completed on 31 March, 2006.
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Ethical Traveler Takes On Child Sex Trafficking in Cambodia

Ethical Traveler and partnering organizations recently announced a campaign against child sex trafficking in Cambodia, urging supporters to sign a letter to the nation’s tourism minister. “As many as 100,000 women and children may be at risk,” the organization states.

“Cambodia’s efforts to eliminate this slave trade have been hindered by corruption, poor law enforcement, and a weak judiciary system.” To learn more, I traded e-mails with travel writer and Ethical Traveler Executive Director Jeff Greenwald.

World Hum: How optimistic are you that the Cambodian government will take appropriate action?

As with Ethical Traveler’s previous campaigns, we’re focusing on a sector of government that’s usually removed from human rights or environmental issues: the Ministry of Tourism. Tourism is very important in Cambodia; the nation relies increasingly on revenue from travelers, most of who have come to visit the ancient Khmer ruins at Angkor and elsewhere. We believe that the arrival of hundreds of letters from travelers around the world, all focused on this specific issue, will convince the Minister of Tourism that this problem is a real threat to Cambodia’s economic health.

Cambodia’s actual mechanism for action is a bit mysterious—but If the Minister takes these letters to his colleagues in the Home and Justice sectors, the government will certainly be compelled, at the least, to enforce their existing laws. We’re hoping they will do more, like actually close down hotels that support the child sex trade. I frankly think that the ministers will be quite rattled by the fact that this problem has such a high profile.

That said, Cambodia has significant issues with corruption and cronyism. It may be some time before we see concrete results. Meanwhile, we’ll work with the global media to make sure that this remains a high profile issue until the government does take action. And our partner in Cambodia, ECPAT, will continue to monitor the government’s progress.

You suggest concerned travelers sign a letter to Cambodia’s tourism ministry noting that they’ll be watching for progress. If not enough is done, will Ethical Traveler and your partner organizations call for a traveler boycott of Cambodia?

We certainly hope it doesn’t come to that. Boycotts are always a last resort. But if the Cambodian government continues to look the other way on this issue, or fails to enforce the laws that they themselves put on the books, Ethical Traveler will discuss the possibility with our partners.

What’s next? Any other major issues you’re considering spotlighting in the near future?

Our next big project will be completing, and announcing, the 2007 list of “Top Ethical Travel Destinations.” It’s a huge effort—narrowing down all the countries in the developing world into a list of 10 places we encourage travelers to visit and support. But it’s a lot of fun, and very positive: a way to reward and acknowledge which governments have best managed to combine sustainable tourism with cultural integrity and great social programs.

Thanks, Jeff. Good luck with the campaign.


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Child mortality from dengue fever on the rise in Cambodia

Phnom Penh - The death toll from an epidemic of dengue fever in Cambodia reached 365 with the monsoon season still in full swing, sparking fears it could yet top 400, authorities said Tuesday. The vast majority of victims are children under 15 who have yet to develop immunity to the mosquito-borne virus which is endemic to the region.

The government's director for dengue-fever control, Duong Socheat, said although the crisis had eased in some provinces, 365 confirmed deaths had already been recorded and there had been 34,542 confirmed cases. Around 116 Cambodians died of dengue in 2006.

An urban construction boom combined with climatic changes which have caused heavy monsoon rains to be broken up by unusually warm spells have created ideal breeding conditions for the day-biting Aedes mosquito which spreads the disease, according to experts.

"In coming months we will continue to increasingly focus attention on prevention and education. We will be putting larvacide in the water and spraying to try to reduce mosquito populations," he said.

He said the most seriously affected areas continued to be the northern tourist town of Siem Reap, the capital Phnom Penh, Kandal province, which surrounds the capital, and the heavily populated agricultural province of Kampong Cham in the country's east.

Dr Beat Richner, who runs the Kantha Bopha children's hospitals which treat thousands of Cambodian children free of charge, said the infection rates may be even higher.

Richner, a Swiss national, has placed advertisments in local newspapers saying that poor initial treatment by under-qualified local doctors is driving up the death toll, as well as a reluctance by impoverished parents to seek immediate medical care.

The seasonal monsoon, which is the traditional peak time for dengue fever, is not scheduled to end until October.

Dengue symptoms include high fever, headache and chronic muscle and bone pain. In severe cases, patients may develop haemorrhagic Fever, bleeding spontaneously from the nose, gums, skin or intestinal tract as their white blood-cell counts plummet.

Dengue Shock Syndrome is another potentially deadly complication of the virus. Patients with dengue also have a reduced immunity, leaving them vulnerable to other illnesses.
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Cambodia asks Germany to continue its aid

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has called for Germany to continue its aid for new development projects and push for greater German involvement in commerce and investment, local media said on Tuesday.

The appeal was made during the Monday meeting at Cambodia's National Assembly between Hun Sen and Hellmut Konigshaus, a member of a German delegation which arrived in the kingdom on Aug. 20 for a one-week visit, reported Cambodian-language newspaper the Kampuchea Thmey.

Hun Sen said that German aid has successfully addressed the needs of both the Cambodian government and the people, and asked Germany to expand its commerce and investment sectors in Cambodia and to open bigger markets for Cambodian products.

Hellmut Konigshaus expressed admiration for the Cambodian government's efforts to bring rapid development to a nation which suffered three decades of civil war, adding that he hopes cooperation between Cambodia and Germany will continue to flourish.

Konigshaus also said that Cambodia has successfully implemented the projects supported by the German government in Siem Reap and Kompong Thom provinces.

Source: Xinhua
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Cleghorn family claim Cambodia bribery

Foreign affairs officials are planning to meet the family of a former Wellington man jailed in Cambodia for raping five girls to discuss allegations of corruption in the case.

Graham Cleghorn, 60, was sentenced to 20 years in prison after being convicted in February 2004 of raping five young women, all of whom had worked at his home in the tourist town of Siem Reap.

The former Angkor temple tour guide maintains he was framed by the Cambodian Women's Crisis Centre - an activist group involved in helping to prosecute sex crime cases - in a bid to garner aid funding.

However, last month Cambodia's appeal court rejected his appeal.

Now Cleghorn's daughter, Heidi Madeley, has raised allegations of requests for bribes in the case.

A spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister Mr Peters today said family members of Cleghorn had written to him about the allegation and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade officials planned to meet with them and hear their case.

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Police nail tyre repairmen

Phnom Penh - A pair of enterprising Cambodian tyre repairmen were in jail on Monday on charges that they spiced up business by lacing roads around their roadside repair stalls with nails.

Chamcarmon district police in the capital of Phnom Penh said they detained Khy Pros, 21, and So Mom, 26, both of whom made a living from fixing flat tyres on the roadside, on August 17.

This was after a senior government officials' car was stopped in its tracks by a suspicious quantity of nails on the road..
Police allege that Pros was found to be carrying half a kilogram of nails and Mom 3,5 kilograms of nails.

Both men were remanded in custody to face charges of vandalism and disrupting public order by Phnom Penh Municipal Court and are now serving up to six months in Prey Sar jail awaiting trial, court officials said on Monday.

If convicted, the hapless entrepreneurs face up to five years each in prison. - Sapa-dpa.
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Mekong River exploration

Book>> Mad About The Mekong • by John Keay, Exploration and Empire in Southeast Asia • Harper Collins • London • 2005 arika Surti

The Americas, the African Continent, West and South Asia have been playgrounds of explorers. Explorations along the Amazon and the Nile have been well-documented. Southeast Asia is, however, much neglected. French colonists maintained their sway over the region for long. In the second half of the 19th century, these colonists were charged with the idea of exploring the Mekong. One of the largest rivers in the world, it originates in Tibetan Plateau, and traverses China’s Yunnan province, modern day Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.

In 1867, a group of 25 odd sailors left the French colony of Saigon (in modern day Vietnam).

The expedition intended to investigate the back door into China by outflanking the British and American conduits of commerce at Hong Kong and Shanghai. Francois Garnier, probably the most articulate of the explorers, wrote, “The Mekong... came to possess me like a monomania…I was mad about the Mekong.” The French naval officer’s sentiment have found modern day echo in the title of John Keay’s immensely well-researched book. To understand, first hand, the obsession of the French explorers, Keay and wife Julia navigated the river for about 600 km upstream of Saigon, using modern boats.

Keay’s subjects, however, had a much more turbulent journey, lasting two years. But by the time they staggered to the Yangtze in China, they had completed a trip that even the rival Royal Geographical Society hailed as “the most remarkable..exploring expeditions” of the 19th century. Keay introduces us to a memorable cast: the exasperatingly stoic commandant Ernest Doudard de Lagree, the talented Delaporte, whose sketches adorned the walls of many a Hong Kong hotel in later days, and the volatile Garnier, who was to answer later day critics with the lament, “Had I been an Englishman”.

The lament is also a comment on the oblivion suffered by the Mekong expedition. Yet, as Keay shows, modern borders in Southeast Asia, the drug trade in the region and Thailand’s colonial neutrality, all bore imprints of the Mekong expedition. Keay also has a lot to say on the river’s ecology, gleaned largely from Garnier’s writings about the Khon falls.

The book is riveting reading, rounded of by Delaporte’s drawings, other colour photographs and several maps.
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Cambodia eyed as new source of water supply

Diversion scheme to feed industrial estates

APINYA WIPATAYOTIN



Water diversion from the Stung Num watershed in Cambodia has been listed as a potential solution to water shortage problems faced by industrial estates in Thailand's eastern provinces, according to the Department of Water Resources. According to the project's feasibility study, recently revealed by the department, some 200 kilometres of pipeline will be constructed at a cost of 30 billion baht linking the proposed Stung Num dam in Cambodia to Prasae reservoir in the Thai eastern province of Rayong.

However, department chief Siripong Hungspreug said that because of its large scale and high investment cost, it would take a long time and more study before the project would materialise.

In the meantime, relevant agencies have come up with plans to supply water to the water-starved industrial estates, which would be safe from water crisis for at least four years, Mr Siripong said.

These include plans to divert water from the Bang Pakong and Pasak rivers to reservoirs in Rayong and Chon Buri provinces.

''Moreover, as far as I know, no new factories will be built in the area as the government is looking for another place to accommodate new factories, so water shortages may not pose a big problem [for the industrial estates in the eastern provinces],'' he said.

The Stung Num water diversion project was dusted off in 2005 when the eastern provinces, which are home to several petrochemical factories, faced a severe water crisis. Officials had to divert water from many rivers and reservoirs to feed the industry, causing serious conflict among water users in the area.

In 1992, Thailand and Cambodia agreed in principle to develop a hydropower plant at Stung Num, which will see around 546 million cubic metres of water diverted from the Stung Num watershed yearly to generate electricity at a power plant, to be set up in Thailand's Trat province.

The water divered to the power plant then will be piped to Prasae reservoir to feed industrial and farming activities.

According to the feasibility study report, water consumption by the industrial sector in the eastern region will increase from 295 million cubic metres this year to almost 600 million cubic metres in three decades.

Mr Siripong, however, said the proposed transboundary water diversion plan will be the last option to provide water to the industrial sector. It will be adopted only after the government is certain the project will be worth the investment cost, he added.

Praphant Asava-aree, managing director of Eastern Water Resources Development & Management, a major supplier for industrial operators in the eastern region, said diverting water from the neighbouring country must be carefully considered since the cost would be high.

''Moreover, we can say there are still sufficient water resources for both the agricultural and industrial sectors. We even have enough water for the third phase of petrochemical industry in Rayong, if approved, which requires an additional 40 million cubic metres of water per year,'' Mr Praphant said.
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Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam develop joint tourism

Tourism officials from Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam met in Cambodia’s Sihanoukvile last week to engineer ways to boost the development of tourism in the three countries’ common coastal areas.
Cambodia’s Secretary of State for Tourism Thong Khon said after the meeting that participants have agreed upon measures to strengthen cooperation among the three countries in order to turn their common sea area into an attractive tourism destination.

The meeting was held on August 24 under the sponsorship of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) at the initiation of Cambodian authorities.

High on the agenda of the meeting were discussions on the training of human resources for sea tourism, linkage tours between tourism destinations in the three countries as well as the exchange of experiences and tour operation management in the tourism sector.

The second meeting of its kind is scheduled to take place in Thailand in 2008.

Source: VNA
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Cambodian fans go on rampage

PHNOM PENH: About 200 Cambodian football fans rioted after their youth team failed to score in the second half of an Asean championship match, smashing cars and throwing bottles, officials said yesterday.

The riot broke out late Saturday at the stadium in Phnom Penh, but ended quickly after police fired a warning shot into the air, said Sao Sokha, president of the Football Federation of Cambodia.

While Cambodia beat Brunei 2-0, local fans got angry when their players were shut out in the second half, said Sao Sokha.

“Fans accused Cambodian players of not trying hard enough in the second half,” he said, adding no one was either arrested or injured.

Cambodia are hosting the Asean Football Federation's (AFF) Under-17 championship featuring teams from Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Laos, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. – AFP
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Shawcross Speaks [Jamie]

Yesterday, Hilary cited that strange portion of Bush's speech where it's not really clear what analogy he's trying to make in regards to Graham Greene's The Quiet American. Yet' there was another portion of the speech that, while not good fodder for snarky commentary, does open up an important discussion about the consequences of our withdrawal from Iraq and the appropriateness of the Vietnam analogy.

In the speech, Bush said that, "two men who were on the opposite sides of the debate over the Vietnam War came together to write an article. One was a member of President Nixon's foreign policy team, and the other was a fierce critic of the Nixon administration's policies." The men in question are Peter Rodman, a former aide to Henry Kissinger, and William Shawcross, the veteran British foreign correspondent. Their June article, "Defeat's Killing Fields," is well worth a read.

Also worth reading is Shawcross' piece from yesterday's Sunday Times, in which he reacts to the Bush speech. Keep in mind that he has not changed his views about American involvement in Cambodia, which he believed paved the way for the Khmer Rouge. What Shawcross believed then, in spite of his opposition to the American bombing of Cambodia, and still believes now, is that American withdrawal from the region was disastrous and that the same mistake cannot be repeated. Key graphs:

Today, as in the 1970s, the press has a special responsibility. In Indochina the majority of American and European journalists (including myself) believed the war could not or should not be won. At the end one New York Times headline read: “Indochina without Americans: for most, a better life”.

Such naivety was horribly wrong, and I have always thought that those of us who opposed the American war in Indochina should be extremely humble in the face of the appalling aftermath. Similarly today I think that too many pundits’ hatred (and it really is that) of Bush (and till recently Blair) dominates perceptions...

Why do the horrors inflicted by Islamic extremists in Darfur seem to appal us, more than those in Iraq? Because, I suppose, in an orgy of self-deluding hypocrisy, we prefer to blame the United States. We should grow up.
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Kiwi's appeal judges 'wanted bribe'

Supporters of a former Wellington man jailed in Cambodia for raping five girls say their refusal to bribe the appeal judges with more than $16,000 may have cost him his chance at freedom.


The allegations of corruption stirred up by the case may have also instigated the downfall of Cambodia's Appeals Court president.

Graham Cleghorn, 60, was sentenced in 2004 to 20 years in prison for raping five of his employees, aged 14 to 19, in Siem Reap, 314 kilometres northwest of Phnom Penh.

The former Angkor temple tour guide maintains he was framed by the Cambodian Women's Crisis Centre, which he says fabricated the charges to get foreign aid money.

The group and complainants vehemently deny his claims.

Last month the Cambodian Court of Appeal threw out Cleghorn's second appeal. His New Zealand lawyer, Greg King, said Cleghorn's daughter, Heidi Madeley, was shocked to be asked for US$12,000 (NZ$16,530) cash by Cambodian defence counsel Ry Ouk just days before the appeal date.

The request, which came after "informal discussions" with the judge, was ostensibly to cover the cost of a reinvestigation of the case.

"We had no way of knowing whether that was a legitimate request."

Despite being warned to keep the request secret, they contacted New Zealand Embassy staff in Bangkok, who were informed by the Cambodian Court of Appeal that the expense was legitimate.

However, Mr Ouk was furious that "client confidentiality" had been breached and threatened to resign just three days before the hearing.

Cleghorn's supporters managed to raise US$6000 and sent it to him on July 9.

But there was no "reinvestigation" - the next day the conviction was upheld without a single witness being called.

It was possible the other side had come up with a bigger bribe - or that inquiries by New Zealand officials had "stirred things up", Mr King said.

On August 13, Appeals Court president Ly Vuochleng - who was expected to approve the reinvestigation - was arrested over bribery and corruption allegations relating to other cases.

"It's quite possible the appeal failed because the whole corruption thing was exposed after inquiries by New Zealand officials."

Mr King said Cleghorn was adamant he would not buy his way out of prison. "He wants to get out by being proved innocent, not by paying bribes."

The legal team had filed an appeal with the supreme court - but Mr King said they were "fast running out of options".

"You risk throwing good money after bad to get the same result."

Ms Madeley said she was anxious not to say anything that could jeopardise her father's chances.
"It's fantastic that Cambodia is trying to tidy up its judicial system, but where do you start?"

The fight for her father's freedom had so far cost her tens of thousands of dollars in court costs, lawyers' fees, and travel for witnesses and herself. She also paid for her father's daily keep.

"Hope is the only thing he has ... but it's been four years and his witnesses still haven't been heard."

The Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry said it could not intervene in the judicial processes of another country if it was in accordance with their law.

A spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters said the minister was aware of the bribery allegations, though had not yet seen details.

"We will be having further discussions with the family about the matter, but it is too early at this point to speculate on what action, if any, might be taken."
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Saturday, August 25, 2007

Cambodia demands return of its brides

Cambodia's former king is demanding that brides from the country be returned from Taiwan, where many have been abandoned by local men and led into prostitution or harsh labour deals to keep their visas.

The demand casts new light on the darker side of a preference by many Taiwanese men for brides from less developed Asian countries, including China and some Southeast Asian nations.

"Taiwanese 'gentlemen' have brought Cambodian women to be their 'spouses'," former King Norodom Sihanouk said in his country's newspapers. "Today, these Khmer women have been thrown into the streets by these very arrogant and contemptuous false husbands."

Sihanouk, though he has held no government title, is one of the most respected figures in Cambodia. Sihanouk's son Norodom Sihamoni is now king of the impoverished nation.

About 4,500 Cambodians live in Taiwan on spouse visas, according to government statistics. Taiwan men, unable to find brides at home, often look to Southeast Asia, where many women want to live in modern societies such as Taiwan's.

But some marriages go bad and some are fake, leading women to prostitution or other forms of illegal labour to keep their Taiwan residence permits.

This week Taiwan rebuffed the former king's request, arguing that the Cambodian brides came to the island legally and can leave whenever they like.

"We're a free country. We're not going to say 'you've got to come,'" said Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman David Wang. "From Taiwan's point of view, the issue is whether they cleared immigration legally."

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Syrians Outclass Cambodia

Syria humble Cambodia as they pumped 5 goals though the latter managed to get one back.

The Syrians had already cemented their place in the finals and so the Coach Fajer Ibraahem made 5 changes to the team that played against India including captain marvel Maher Al Sayed and regular goalkeeper Mowssab Blahowss.

This was in no way though weakening a very impressive Syrian squad whose bench strength had the likes of Khaled Albaba.The Syrians were all set to take maximum points out of their 4 games.

It was the pairing of Zyad Chaabo and Mohammed Alzeno, which rattled a lackluster Cambodian defense. The first goal came in the 25th minute after a Zyad Chaabo’s front pass was caught on by Alzeno’s run, which beat the defenders to score. The score read 1-0.

The Cambodians were unable to hold the ball and looked absolutely outclassed by their opponents. The scorer Alzeno now turned provider for Zyad Chaabo who scored from a yard out after the number 7’s shot in the box got deflected. The first half ended at 2-0 to the Syrians who have undoubtedly been the team of the tournament.

The second half saw a double change by the Syrian Coach. Captain Maher Al Sayed came on to score twice. It took him just 6 mins to break the Cambodian offside trap and increase the Syrians lead to 3 in the 51st minute.

The Cambodians pulled one back after Sam El Nasa’s shot got deflected by a defender and was put in by Vathanak from a yard out. 3-1 to the Syrians in the 70th minute.

10 minutes later the Syrians replied in style with Aatef Jenayat’s shot from the outside of the box hit the underside of the cross bar and fell into the Cambodian net. The Cambodians were no match and as hard as they tried were beaten by a better side.

To rub salt to their wound Maher Al Sayed broke the offside trap again as he latched onto a Mahmoud Al Amena goal to finish the game on two goals in the 86th minute. 5-1 it remained after 90 and 5 minutes of added time The Cambodians were outclassed, outranked and outplayed by the Syrians.


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Friday, August 24, 2007

On wrong side of history: Bush's Vietnam analogy incorrect

By ROBERT BUZZANCO

However, U.S. is making the same errors in Iraq

In his continuing attempts to justify escalation of the war in Iraq, President Bush has resorted to historical analogy, warning that a hasty retreat from the Middle East would trigger a bloodbath as it did in Cambodia and Vietnam in the 1970s. Not only is the comparison faulty, it is historically inaccurate.

"In Cambodia," Bush said, "the Khmer Rouge began a murderous rule in which hundreds of thousands of Cambodians died by starvation and torture and execution" and "in Vietnam, former allies of the United States, and government workers and intellectuals and businessmen were sent off to prison camps, where tens of thousands perished. Hundreds of thousands more fled the country on rickety boats, many of them going to their graves in the South China Sea."

Bush and defenders of the current war and Vietnam ignore crucial aspects of history, however. Vietnam by 1975 had been wracked by a brutal fratricidal war for over a quarter-century, and recriminations were unavoidable, and made inevitable by the nature of the U.S. intervention and occupation of the southern half of Vietnam.

His analogy of Cambodia is more off-track. The Khmer Rouge slaughter was not caused by the U.S. withdrawal from Indochina in 1973, but by the U.S. escalation of the war and intervention into Cambodia in the years prior to that time. The United States had been conducting a "secret war" kept secret from the American people but not from the Cambodians on the receiving end of B-52 strikes since the later 1960s. In April 1970, then, Richard Nixon authorized what he called an "incursion" of Cambodia on the pretext of destroying the headquarters for Vietnamese Communist military operations there, the so-called COSVN, or Central Office for South Vietnam.

A month earlier, however, in March 1970, the United States had facilitated the ouster of the Cambodian head-of-state, Prince Norodom Sihanouk, and replaced him with a weak but pliable politician named Lon Nol. At this time, the Khmer Rouge was a small splinter group of the far left, without much popular support or military power. But the U.S.-sponsored coup, and the subsequent invasion in April, proved to be a great blessing to the Khmer Rouge. With Sihanouk, who had tried to remain neutral in the larger Indochinese conflict and thus was not preventing either the Vietnamese Communists or the U.S. from operating in Cambodia, out of the way and Lon Nol, perceived as a "puppet" of Nixon, in office, there was no middle ground in Cambodia. As a result, the Khmer Rouge soared in influence and popularity by exploiting the heavy-handed American political and military intervention.

By the mid-1970s, as the U.S. air war against Cambodia continued, killing hundreds of thousands of Cambodians, the Khmer Rouge was well-positioned as the anti-American and anti-Lon Nol alternative, and so was able to swarm into Phnom Penh and establish a regime in April 1975, and then unleashing a genocidal wave of killings that lasted until the Vietnamese intervened and ousted the Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot in January 1979. Even after that ouster, however, the United States continued to work with the Khmer Rouge, supporting covert operations against the Vietnamese-supported new government in Phnom Penh and even, in the Ronald Reagan years, supporting the Khmer Rouge claim to Cambodia's seat at the United Nations.

Now, as in the Vietnam era, the United States finds itself in a similarly intractable position. By intervening in a country that was not stable to begin with, putting a government into power that is derided as a U.S. client regime, heightening internal struggles, this time between Shiite and Sunni, taking sides in a civil war, causing massive destruction, and continuing to fight amid escalating bloodshed abroad and popular protest at home, the Bush administration is making many of the same errors that the Johnson and Nixon administrations did during the Vietnam War. While there does not appear to be a genocidal Khmer Rouge-type group lurking in the background and ready to cause incalculable terror, there is no question that the various armed groups that have emerged in Iraq since March 2003 are certain to persist and cause greater mayhem and death, perhaps throughout the entire Middle East.

So Bush's analogy is not only incorrect, but exposes the perhaps unavoidable fate facing the United States in Iraq. Continuing this war amid the daily deterioration will only prolong the time it will take to rebuild Iraq and try to heal the hatred and fear that now engulfs it. The sooner the United States begins a timely withdrawal from Iraq, the sooner the Iraqis themselves can begin to sort out their problems, and hopefully prevent a repeat of the killing fields of Cambodia.

Buzzanco is professor and chair of the Department of History at the University of Houston. He is also author of "Masters of War: Military Dissent and Politics in the Vietnam Era and Vietnam and the Transformation of American Life." Readers may e-mail him at buzz@uh.edu.

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UN envoys slam Cambodia over genocide judge's transfer

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: Two U.N. envoys accused the Cambodian government on Thursday of interfering with the judiciary by transferring a top judge from the Khmer Rouge genocide tribunal, which they said was a violation of the Constitution.

Yash Ghai, the U.N. secretary general's special representative for human rights in Cambodia, and Leandro Despouy, special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, made their criticism in a joint statement.

They said the government's move to appoint You Bun Leng, one of two investigating judges at the U.N.-backed genocide tribunal, to head the Appeals Court is casting doubt on judicial independence in Cambodia.

Their criticism came amid mounting concern that You Bun Leng's transfer could also further delay efforts to convene the genocide trial. You Bun Leng has said he will not take up his new post right away to allow for a smooth transition.

The government has said that the new appointment is part of its agenda to reform the judiciary, and is separate from the tribunal.

The U.N. envoys agreed that reform is crucial for Cambodia.

"But it should not be undertaken at the expense of the essential protections ... that enable judges to administer, and be seen to administer, justice efficiently, impartially and fairly, free of political interference," they said.

They charged that the appointment violated the Cambodian Constitution, which states that all judicial appointments, transfers, promotions, suspensions or disciplinary actions are decided by the Supreme Council of Magistracy, the body that oversees conduct of judges.

But the council never met to decide on the appointment, which was approved instead by a royal decree. King Norodom Sihamoni signed the royal decree at the request of Prime Minister Hun Sen, the envoys said.

According to the U.N. officials, that meant that You Bun Leng's appointment "was done at the request of the executive branch of government in contravention of the separation of executive and judicial powers specified in the Constitution."

Chief government spokesman Khieu Kanharith could not be reached for comment.

The envoys' statement followed a recent appeal from the U.N. to the government to reconsider the judge's transfer, saying it could disrupt efforts to convene the long-awaited genocide trials.

After numerous delays, You Bun Leng and Marcel Lemonde, a U.N.-appointed judge, only recently began investigations of former Khmer Rouge leaders accused of crimes against humanity, genocide and other atrocities that resulted in the deaths of some 1.7 million people in the late 1970s.

The judges have so far indicted one of five suspects. Duch, whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav, headed the former Khmer Rouge S-21 prison. The other four have not been publicly named and remain free in Cambodia.
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SMC to expand Vietnam venture; eyes brewery in Cambodia

MANILA, Philippines -- San Miguel Corp., Southeast Asia's largest publicly-listed food, beverage and packaging group, said Friday it was looking to expand its beer operations in Vietnam and is also studying the feasibility of putting up a brewery in Cambodia.

"The company confirms that it intends to expand its presence in the Vietnam market and that it is studying the feasibility of putting up a brewery in Cambodia," San Miguel said in a brief statement to Manila's stock exchange.

The company was asked to comment on local media reports Friday saying it would allot up to $8 million to expand the capacity of its Vietnam plant.

San Miguel beer division assistant vice president Benjamin Aton Jr. was also quoted as saying that a brewery in Cambodia might cost $16 million.

San Miguel did not give any financial details in its disclosure to the exchange.

The company will spin off its domestic beer business under San Miguel Brewery Inc. for an initial public offering possibly before the year ends.

San Miguel, which is 20 percent owned by Kirin Holdings of Japan, also plans to venture into other businesses such as power generation and transmission, water and other utilities, mining and infrastructure.

At 10:09 a.m., San Miguel's A-shares were down 50 centavos or 0.8 percent at P61.50. Its B-shares also fell 50 centavos or 0.8 percent to P63.00. -- Enrico dela Cruz

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Southeast Asian nations eye 11 new cross-border power connections

SINGAPORE: Southeast Asian nations will consider 11 new power grid projects as a step to increase the region's cross-border electricity connections, an ASEAN group official said Wednesday.

The proposals will be made Thursday by the Centre for Energy of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, said Khoo Chin Hean, chief executive of Singapore's Energy Market Authority.

"I understand a draft (memorandum of understanding) is being considered," he said at a task force meeting ahead of Thursday's 25th ASEAN Ministers on Energy Meeting in Singapore. Many of the connections would be for links within the Indochina region.

ASEAN comprises the 10 countries of Southeast Asia: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

The bloc currently has just two cross-border power connections: between Thailand and Malaysia and between Malaysia and Singapore.

The ASEAN Centre for Energy has been eyeing a regional power grid as well as a "trans-ASEAN" gas pipeline for several years.

Khoo said the Jakarta-based Centre for Energy has also identified seven new natural-gas pipeline projects for possible development — part of a long-held blueprint to strengthen the region's energy security.

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Returning to Cambodia

By Peter W. Rodman

For a long time, when it talked about Iraq, the Bush administration avoided Vietnam references like the plague. This was perhaps a reasonable judgment that, even if useful debating points could be made, any mention of the “V-word” would be a psychological and political disaster.

The administration has now dropped the taboo, as we see in the president’s speech Wednesday to the Veterans of Foreign Wars. One reason may be that in today’s Iraq debate, the analogies that work in its favor are too strong to pass up. I agree with that. The analogies relate to the situation on the ground and the likely consequences of congressional action.

Military historians seem to be converging on a consensus that by the end of 1972, the balance of forces in Vietnam had improved considerably, increasing the prospects for South Vietnam’s survival. That balance of forces was reflected in the Paris Agreement of January 1973, and the (Democratic) Congress then proceeded to pull the props out from under that balance of forces over the next 2 ½ years — abandoning all of Indochina to a bloodbath. This is now a widely accepted narrative of the endgame in Vietnam, and it has haunted the Democrats for a generation.

Will tomorrow’s narrative be that the strategic situation in Iraq was starting to improve in 2007 but the Congress tied the president’s hands anyway — tipping events toward an American defeat, dooming Iraq to chaos, emboldening Islamist extremists throughout the Middle East, and demoralizing all our friends in the region who are on the front line against this scourge? How can the president refrain from making this point? Why on earth should he?

The president is absolutely right to include the Khmer Rouge genocide in his recitation of the Vietnam endgame. When Congress, in the summer of 1973, legislated an end to U.S. military action in, over, or off the shores of Indochina, the only U.S. military activity then going on was air support of a friendly Cambodian government and army desperately defending their country against a North Vietnamese and Khmer Rouge onslaught. “Cambodia is not worth the life of one American flier,” Tip O’Neill declared. By 1975, administration pleas to help Cambodia were answered by New York Times articles suggesting the Khmer Rouge would probably be moderate once they came into power and the Cambodian people had a better life to look forward to once we left.

Trying to debunk the president’s VFW speech, the Times has lately resuscitated the hoary claim that it was U.S. military activity that destabilized Cambodia in the first place. This claim, alas, is not supportable. What destabilized Cambodia was North Vietnam’s occupation of chunks of Cambodian territory from 1965 onwards for use as military bases from which to launch attacks on U.S. and South Vietnamese forces in South Vietnam. Cambodia’s ruler Prince Sihanouk complained bitterly to us about these North Vietnamese bases in his country and invited us to attack them (which we did from the air in 1969-70). Next came a North Vietnamese attempt to overrun the entire country in March-April 1970, to which U.S. and South Vietnamese forces responded by a limited ground incursion at the end of April.

So the president has his history right. The outcome in Indochina was not foreordained. Congress had the last word, however, between 1973 and 1975.

The strategic consequences of defeat in Indochina were also serious. Leonid Brezhnev crowed that the global “correlation of forces” had shifted in favor of “socialism,” and the Soviets went on a geopolitical offensive in the third world for a decade. Demoralized allied leaders in Europe as well as Asia feared the new Soviet aggressiveness and lamented the paralysis of American will. When Saddam invaded Kuwait in 1990, he and his colleagues invoked Vietnam as evidence that U.S. warnings did not need to be taken seriously. That’s what it means to lose credibility. Once lost, it has to be re-earned the hard way.

No analogies are ever complete, but — given our global leadership and the number of allies and friends that rely on us for their security — the consequences of an American defeat can be counted on to be terrible. How can anyone seriously think otherwise?
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Student has lessons to share from Cambodia

KIRSTEN VALLE

Steele Creek --For a week in Cambodia, Tremone Jackson bathed with baby wipes because his tub was full of rainwater, mosquitoes and lizards.

He saw homes made of corn husks, families crowded into tiny shelters. He taught English to children who only knew how to ask American tourists for money.

And after nearly a month in the country, Jackson, a 17-year-old senior at Olympic High's School of International Studies & Global Economics, is back in Steele Creek with some lessons to share.

"It was a breathtaking experience for me," he said. "I was shocked, and I still am shocked."

The trip was organized by the East-West Center, an education and research organization established by Congress in 1960 to strengthen relations between the United States and Asia.

Jackson has always been interested in community service, leading an AIDS relief fundraiser last school year, for instance, but he'd never been involved in such efforts abroad.

He applied for the trip earlier this year after his principal, Matthew Hayes, suggested it. Olympic had worked with the East-West Center before, and Hayes thought the experience would be good for Jackson.

"I knew he'd be a good figure for us to send as a representation of what young American men should be," Hayes said.

Olympic paid $2,500 for the trip, using grant money. And Jackson and 20 other high schoolers from across the country set off July 1.

The group spent a week in Hawaii learning the basics of the language and culture.

And then it was off to the Third World country, where students visited villages, taught English to local kids and collected footage for a documentary, which is in the editing process.

Jackson said his weeklong stay with a Cambodian family was the most memorable part of the trip.

When he arrived at the family's home, he found that no one knew English. His bath was full of rainwater and bugs, and he awoke to chickens at 4 a.m.

"That night, I was just laying in my bed hoping that this week would be over with," Jackson said.

Eventually, a family friend who knew English came to help, and Jackson bonded with his hosts.

"The family was so nice," he said. "Once they got to know me, they were very nice."

Jackson formed similar friendships with the children he taught and people he met, he said.

"It was a simple life," he said. "The conditions were really poor. But I felt so bad the day I left. I just wanted to be there."

In early October, Jackson will make a presentation about the trip to his classmates and teachers. He also hopes to launch a fundraiser for the villages he visited.

When the documentary is finished, Jackson and other East-West Center students will show it to their communities.

And someday, Jackson will go back to Cambodia, he said.

For now, he just wants his classmates to know there's more to life than what many of them see.

"Why are we complaining about simple stuff here in America?" Jackson said. "We're worried about gas prices, and people have no idea what's going on in Cambodia. We're worrying about the wrong things."

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UN donates 50,000 dollars to fight dengue fever in Cambodia

It is very surprised to hear for the first time in this year from the UN. The grant of $50,000USD, is it enough for the whole country? They should have acted quicker to help thousands of children who had suffered and more than 300 children already died because lack of funding and medical supplies.

Isn't it too late already? Should the Killing Field children continue to sufer?

The United Nations (UN) will provide a grant of 50,000 U.S. dollars to Cambodia as part of an effort to curb the spread of dengue fever throughout the country, a press release said Thursday.
The grant from the Government of Italy will be channeled through the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs ( OCHA) to the World Health Organization (WHO) in Cambodia, the UN press release said, adding that it will be used to buy IV fluids, blood transfusion sets and other essential medical supplies.

According to a recent situation analysis and assessment made by WHO and Cambodia's Ministry of Health, there has been a shortage of essential medical supplies in several state hospitals.

The hospitals that are most affected are in the provinces of Kampong Cham, Kampong Speu, Kampong Thom, Prey Veng and Takeo, it added.

"These hospitals are in need of medical supplies to meet the demands of an increasing number of patients. Most of the patients are children under 12," said Dr. Michael O'Leary, WHO Representative in Cambodia.

The supplies will be distributed to the target hospitals in the above provinces through the government Central Medical Store, the press release said.

So far, a total of 33,700 hospitalized cases and 355 deaths have been reported in Cambodia this year due to dengue fever, most of them children, according to official statistics.

Source: Xinhua
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Cambodia judge transfer 'politically motivated': UN

A joint statement from two United Nations' envoys in Phnom Penh says the transfer of a key judge from Cambodia's genocide tribunal is politically motivated.

You Bunleng, one of the court's co-investigating judges, was appointed head of Cambodia's Appeal Court, forcing him to quit the UN-backed tribunal intended to prosecute those behind one of the 20th century's worst atrocities.

He had been seen as crucial to determining which suspects would go on trial.

The UN officials, rights envoy Yash Ghai and legal expert Leandro Despouy, says the replacement ... was done at the request of the executive branch of government in contravention of the separation of executive and judicial powers specified in the constitution.

Their comments come a day after the UN officially asked Cambodia to re-think the move.

It has also questioned Cambodia's judicial independence, saying international standards will be impossible to meet given the evidence of meddling in the country's courts.

You Bunleng's departure comes at a crucial time during which he and his international counterpart, Marcel Lemonde of France, were investigating the first cases filed by prosecutors over crimes committed by the 1975-1979 regime.
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Cambodia's `AIDS and tears' on film

Documentary shown at St. Mary details nation's struggle with HIV.

By Greg Mellen, Staff writer

LONG BEACH - The room of doctors and staffers at St. Mary Medical Center was hushed as the images of despair flickered on the screen.
There was the stick-thin woman so ravaged by her disease that she couldn't remember when she contracted it.

And the factory girl, applying make-up before heading out into the Phnom Penh night to work at her second job - prostitution.

The two women from the countryside both buried husbands who left them penniless and HIV-positive.

"All I have in my life is AIDS and tears," one said.

These were among the scenes seen Wednesday by health workers from the Comprehensive AIDS Resource Education, or CARE, at a screening of a documentary on HIV/AIDS in Cambodia by an Emmy-award winning Cambodian-American producer.

Peter Chhun, a producer and editor for NBC Network News, spent three months in his homeland listening to the tales of people suffering from the deadly virus to create "Life Under Red Light."

Chhun is trying to arrange showings for the film in Long Beach, possibly at the Mark Twain Library or Cal State Long Beach.

His stark, hour-long show consists of question and answer sessions with infected and at-risk Cambodians accompanied by a haunting backdrop of tragic Cambodian songs. The film is in Khmer with English subtitles.
The subjects range from young seemingly carefree girls in the prostitution trade who are in denial about the dangers they face, to haggard women in the end stages of the disease.

"I was almost ashamed to be holding the camera," Chhun said as he introduced the film. "It can be unsettling - the scavenger effect - even knowing you are there to help."

However, Chhun didn't make the film so much to shed light on his homeland's well-documented struggles with the disease, but to provide a cautionary tale for the Cambodian-American community.

Long Beach, which has the largest Cambodian population in the United States, also has the second highest overall rate of HIV infection in the state. There is fear the disease is taking hold in the Asian community.

"I thought this would be a good way to communicate with the people in Long Beach," Chhun said. "Because the (Cambodian) community here is so reserved, I thought maybe it's not a bad idea to have their brothers and sisters tell their stories."

Cambodia, despite impressive gains in recent years, still has an alarmingly high HIV infection rate. And, as the film shows, despite a supposed 100 percent condom use program by the government, protection in the sex trade is clearly optional.

Originally, Chhun said he had hoped to do a story on HIV in the Long Beach area, but was unable to make any inroads.

"The stigma of HIV-AIDS provides an extraordinary obstacle," Chhun said.

Filming in Cambodia was the next best thing, because Chhun reasoned Cambodian-Americans might be "willing to learn from their own people rather than a health professional who seems like a stranger."

Marcia Alcouloumre, the medical director of CARE, found the film touching and unique in its perspective.

"It's eye opening to see how HIV affects another culture," Alcouloumre said.

But she also noted that regardless of the culture, the emotional devastation of AIDS is the same.

Ron Yolo, a research nurse, found it depressing to see the lack of care available in Cambodia.

Chhun is a veteran producer and editor at NBC News who broke into the business as a cameraman in 1970 during the Cambodian civil war between the U.S.-backed Lon Nol government and the Communist guerrilla Khmer Rouge.

Chhun worked in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam before leaving the country just weeks before the Phnom Penh fell to the Khmer Rouge.

When he left the country in 1975, Chhun said he believed it was only to be temporary.

"I said, `Goodbye' to my mom. I said `I'll see you in two weeks.' That was the last thing I said to her."

In 1984, Chhun's search for his mother in the Thai refugee camps became the subject of a documentary called "Endless War."

Chhun later learned his mother died in 1981. It is estimated that about 1.7 million Cambodians died during the Khmer Rouge's bloody reign between 1975 and 1979.

Since moving to the United States, Chhun, 59, has earned a master's degree in communication from UCLA. He won Emmys for coverage of the Olympic Games in Australia and another for breaking news with "Dateline" in 1997. Chhun also produced possibly the first live television show from the Angkor Wat temple complex in 2002 with a "Where in the World is Matt Lauer" segment on the "Today" show.

However, Chhun says he is always looking to give back to his community. Chhun is the president of Hearts Without Boundaries, a nonprofit group that will be sending 20 doctors to Cambodia in October to offer health care at a children's hospital in Siem Reap. Although he lives in Burbank, Chhun is something of an honorary Long Beach resident having worked with a number of local organizations. He also helped with free HIV/AIDS screenings that were conducted in MacArthur Park earlier this year by the Cambodian Civilization Association in conjunction with the annual Cambodian New Year's Parade.

Although NBC gave Chhun use of its equipment for the project, the filmmaker said he had to use vacation time and his own money to stay abroad.

MSNBC has shown interest in airing the film, although no dates have been set. Chhun was prescreening the movie at St. Mary to get feedback from health care professionals before he makes the show available to the general public.

Greg Mellen can be reached at greg.mellen@presstelegram.com or (562) 499-1291.
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Nehru Cup: Bangladesh Held By Cambodia

A late strike by Keo Kosal helped Cambodia come from behind and secure a 1-1 draw against Bangladesh in the seventh match of the Nehru Cup international football tournament here Wednesday.

Bangladesh opened scoring in the 30th minute after a fine header from Mohammed Abul Hossain from a corner kick by Mohammed Alfaz Ahmed, but the sure win slipped out of their hand in the dying minutes as Kosal cleared in a good pass in the box to split the points.

After taking the lead, Bangladesh looked like a winning lot and came very close to score on quite a few occasions but failed to convert them, which ultimately proved crucial in the end.

Cambodia, who went down fighting 3-4 to higher-ranked Kyrgyzstan in their last match, failed to repeat the same performance, which if executed well, could have earned them a win. They got a chance in the 70th minute of the game but Om Tharak's long ranger from 30 yards was brilliantly saved by Bangladesh goalie Biplab Bhattacharjee.

With 10 minutes from time, Bangladesh got an easy chance but Mohammed Jahid Hasan Ameli's header struck the upright. Mohammed Ariful Islam's floater from the right side of the box found Ameli's head but unfortunately hit the post and the chance went begging.

But the lady luck smiled for Cambodia in the final moments of the game with Kosal firing in the equaliser. Sam El Nasa, who came in as a substitute in the 67th minute, dribbled past three defenders and from thee back-line gave an acute angle pass to unmarked Kosal, who slotted in to bring parity.

Teams:

Bangladesh: Biplab Bhattacharjee (goalkeeper), Firoj Mahmud Hossain, Mohammed Waly Faisal, Rajani Kanta Barman, Kazi Nazrul Islam, Mohammed Ariful Islam, Arman Aziz, Mohammed Jahid Hasan Ameli, Mohammed Alfaz Ahmed (Mohammed Robin, 57, {Mehdi Hasan, 82}), Mohammed Zahid Hossain

Cambodia: Pich Rovenyothin (goalkeeper), Chan Dara, Kim Chan Bonrith, Om Thavrak, Chan Rithy, Teab Vathanak, Sun Sovannariyth (Sam El Nasa, 67), Sam Minar (Keo Kosal, 81), Hok Sottiya (Chan Chaya, 58), Pok Chan Than, Tieng Tiny

Referee: A. Arjunan (India)
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Bush: Pullout would tilt Iraq toward Vietnam's fate

Addressing veterans, president raises specter of higher death tolls in a U.S. withdrawal

The Washington Post

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- President Bush defended his ongoing military commitment in Iraq by linking the conflict there to the Vietnam War, arguing Wednesday that withdrawing U.S. troops would lead to widespread death and suffering as it did in Southeast Asia three decades ago.

"One unmistakable legacy of Vietnam is that the price of America's withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens whose agonies would add to our vocabulary new terms like boat people, re-education camps and killing fields," Bush told the audience at the Veterans of Foreign Wars national convention.

The president's decision to draw an explicit link between Iraq and Vietnam comes as he seeks to marshal support for his war policy among Republicans and blunt calls from Democratic members of Congress for a drawdown of U.S. forces in the coming months.
His comments played well among the veterans in Kansas City, Mo. -- the speech was interrupted with repeated cheers and applause -- but the references to Vietnam, which remains a divisive, emotional issue for many Americans, prompted harsh criticism from Democrats.

"The president is drawing the wrong lesson from history," said Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.
Bush also offered fresh support for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, calling him a "good man with a difficult job." Speaking Tuesday to reporters at a North American summit in Quebec, Bush expressed his disappointment at the lack of political progress in Iraq and said that widespread frustration could lead Iraqis to replace al-Maliki.

Al-Maliki fired back in comments early Wednesday, saying the U.S. should not impose conditions on his government.

"No one has the right to place timetables on the Iraq government," he told reporters at the end of a three-day trip to Damascus, according to The Associated Press. "Those who make such statements are bothered by our visit to Syria. . . . We care for our people and our constitution and can find friends elsewhere."

In his speech to the veterans, Bush said that to abandon Iraq now would be "devastating" and argued that the troop surge is contributing to military progress there. He said U.S. and Iraqi forces have killed or captured more than 1,500 al-Qaida operatives every month since January.

Citing not just the Vietnam War, but the aftermath of past conflicts in Asia, Bush said U.S. action helped foster democracies in Japan and South Korea. By contrast, he said, the pullout from Vietnam led to even more deaths, with hundreds of thousands dying at the hands of the Khmer Rouge, in Vietnamese re-education camps or at sea as they attempted to flee Communist rule in rickety boats.

"Like our enemies in the past, the terrorists who wage war in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places seek to spread a political vision of their own, a harsh plan for life that crushes all freedom, tolerance and dissent."

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Protests Continue in Burma Following Arrests of Activists


Min Ko Naing , the democracy actiivist, was arrested
by Burm's military regime and also 13 activists were arrested

By Luis Ramirez
Bangkok
22 August 2007

Witnesses in Burma say there have been new protests in the main city, Rangoon, despite a crackdown by the military government. Authorities this week arrested at least 13 activists following demonstrations that have been going on in Rangoon since Sunday over rising fuel prices. VOA's Luis Ramirez reports from our Southeast Asia bureau in Bangkok.

State-run media in Burma say the government arrested the activists, who are members of a student group. Newspapers quote authorities as calling the activists agitators, accusing them of using fuel price increases last week as an excuse to incite unrest.

Chaiyachoke Chulasiriwongs is a professor of international relations at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University and an expert on Burma. He calls it unusual that students, or anyone, would protest under the military leadership. He says the military is showing signs it is ready to suppress any further uprisings, as it has in the past.

"It's so used to controlling the people, suppressing the people," said Chaiyachoke. "I think the military mentality is it cannot allow any protest or violent demonstration in the country because that would affect the security of the country. I think they are afraid that it would destabilize its position as ruler."

The protests began on Sunday, and witnesses say as many as 300 demonstrators marched again in the outskirts of Rangoon Wednesday in anger over fuel price increases. Reports say the protesters clashed with government supporters.

Government-mandated fuel price hikes have in some cases caused transportation costs to double, making life harder for people who are already struggling with double-digit inflation in the impoverished country.

Prices over the past week doubled for diesel. Residents say the price of cooking gas increased in some cases by 500 percent.

Burma's government has a monopoly on the energy sector. Critics say the military junta is looking after its own financial interests as world demand for oil rises and prices continue to climb. Professor Chaiyachoke says the Burmese leadership in this case is, in his view, showing little regard for its people.

"I believe that with the demand of fuel around the world, the Burmese junta would like to increase its fuel price so that it can gain more money," he said. "You can see that it's not just China that are running after fuel in Burma but India also … therefore those who benefit would [be] the junta. In that sense they don't care about the people."

Burma's military has a long history of suppressing uprisings since it took control of the country in 1962. The government has come under strong international criticism for jailing dissidents and its suppression of the media.

International human rights groups quickly condemned the arrests of the activists following this week's protests.

Demonstrations are rare in Burma. The last major protests were in 1988, when the army staged a massive crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators. The violence killed an estimated 3,000 people.
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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

UN expresses concern at transfer of Khmer Rouge tribunal judge

Phnom Penh - The United Nations has officially expressed concern at the proposed transfer of a key Cambodian judge in the upcoming Khmer Rouge tribunal and requested the Cambodian government to reconsider, a spokesman said Wednesday. Co-investigating judge for the 56-million dollar joint UN-Cambodia hearings, You Bunleng, was abruptly named as the new president of the Cambodian Court of Appeal earlier this month after its former head, Ly Vuoch Leng, was removed amidst a bribery scandal.

His transfer out of the Khmer Rouge tribunal sparked immediate protests from advocates of a swift progression of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) who said they feared the move would cause further delays to an already drawn-out process.

UN-appointed spokesman for the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) Peter Foster confirmed by telephone Wednesday that the official letter had been passed to the Cambodian permanent representative in New York last Thursday and said the UN was now awaiting a reply.

In the missive, the UN "officially expresses concern at the transfer of Judge You Bunleng to the Cambodian Court of Appeals" and "invites the government to consider keeping him in his current position," Foster said.

Attempts to bring to trial a handful of aging and often ailing Khmer Rouge leaders held responsible for the deaths of up to 2 million Cambodians during the movement's 1975-79 Democratic Kampuchea regime have constantly stalled since the UN agreed to participate in 2003.

Former leader Pol Pot died at his home in 1998. Former military commander Ta Mok died in hospital last year.

Judge Bunleng had just begun work in earnest with his UN-appointed colleague Marcel Lemonde. The ECCC has been budgeted to last just three years.

Cambodian ECCC media spokesman Reach Sambath also confirmed that he was aware of the UN request.

"Both sides are working on the issue to ensure justice keeps moving forward," Sambath said by telephone.

Kang Kech leu, alias Duch, former commandant of the S-21 secret prison where up to 14,000 people are alleged to have been tortured or killed, is the only person to be indicted so far. However, prosecutors have said five possible names have already been put forward and critics have called for still more prosecutions.

In a statement issued last Thursday, Judge Bunleng said it was an honour to be appointed to the Appeal Court but that "as long as the ECCC considers my presence to be essential it is my duty to continue, ensuring there is no interruption or delay in the process."

"I will continue my mission at the ECCC until such time as an appropriate and smooth transition can be made, and I have already begun consultation with my staff and my international counterpart to reach a mutually acceptable and constructive solution that does not disrupt our work," he added.
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Cambodia defy Bangladesh

Substitute Keo Kosal's 90th minute equaliser denied Bangladesh from a certain win in the Nehru Cup as they drew 1-1 with Cambodia at the Ambedkar Stadium in New Delhi yesterday.

The Cambodian striker, who almost scored level in the 82nd minute but saw his drive from 20 yards curl just out of the sidebar, stabbed the ball home from eight yards after the tired Bangladesh backline failed to stop a darting low cross by another substitute Sam Al Nesa from the right flank.

Abul Hossain had given Bangladesh a deserved lead on the half hour when his glancing header on a corner by Alfaz Ahmed gave Cambodian goalkeeper Oum Veasna no chance.

Bangladesh's Indian coach Syed Nayeemuddin made one change in the line-up from the sides that lost 2-0 to Syria and 1-0 to India by bringing in veteran Alfaz for Robin.

The striking duo, Alfaz and Emily, generated enough attacks but Bangladesh failed to capitalise on their superior ball possession.

Their first real chance came after 15 minutes when Emily played superb overhead pass for Alfaz who miskicked under pressure from a defender as Veasnapicke dup the ball comfortably.

Abul, adjudged man-of-the-match, then released Emily with a through from the midfield seven minutes later but the striker's first touch took the ball out of his control and allowed Veasna to clear for a corner.

Ariful, whose defensive errors cost Bangladesh three goals in the tournament in the first two games, then forced a superb save when his 40-yard lob was palmed over for a corner by Veasna.

The resulting corner put Bangladesh ahead as Abul, unmarked by the rival defence, put a free header into the far corner.

Veasna fumbled on two occasions in the last five minutes before the break but Bangladeshi forwards failed to take the rebounds.

Playing their third match inside five days, Bangladeshi booters showed tired legs immediately after the interval but Cambodia, who lost 4-3 to Kyrgyzstan in their opener, hardly threatened to score despite good runs on the break.

Bangladesh again picked up the tempo and Ariful's another long-range effort was spectacularly punched out by Veasna in the 71st minute.

Sam El Nasa took the first shot on the rival goal but Biplab was not disturbed at all but he had little to do when Kosal put a right-footer into the far corner on the brink of the final whistle.

Nayeemuddin admitted after the match that he was disappointed not to win the game.

"We made one mistake and paid for it. The defenders should have covered after going up but they failed. Anyway, I am proud of my players because they have played tremendously well," said Nayeem, whose boys take on Kyrgyzstan in their last match tomorrow.

"The players came ere just after a long league and here also, they are playing with the shortest possible gap," he added.

Syria and hosts India, who meet today, lead the round-robin league with six points after two outings each.

Kyrgyzstan have three points while Bangladesh, the only team to have played three games, and Cambodia are bottom of the table with one point each.

The top two teams will meet in the August 29 final.

BANGLADESH TEAM: Biplab, Ariful, Rajani, Nazrul, Waly, Zahid, Arman Aziz, Abul, Titu, Emily, Alfaz (Robin, 56 and Ujjal, 82).

SYRIA-KYRGYZSTAN
AFP adds: Favourites Syria brushed aside Kyrgyzstan 4-1 on Tuesday to record their second successive win in the five-nation meet.

Maher El Sayed put Syria ahead in the seventh minute, but Kyrgyzstan were lucky to draw level six minutes later when Syrian defender Ali Dyeb lobbed the ball into his own goal while trying to clear.

Zyad Chaabo shot Syria ahead again a minute before halftime and the emphatic victory was sealed by two second-half goals from Mohammed Alzeno in the 70th minute and Abraheim Al-Hasan in the 82nd.
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Indonesia draws with Cambodia

JAKARTA: Indonesia tied in a scoreless draw against host Cambodia in their Group A match of the Under-17 ASEAN Football Federation Championship in Phnom Penh on Tuesday.

"We will face tougher challenges with Malaysia and Thailand, who are stronger than Brunei Darussalam and Cambodia," coach Urias Rahantoknam said in a statement.

Indonesia, who still tops Group A with 4 points, will face Malaysia on Thursday and Thailand next Monday.

On Monday, the team beat Brunei Darussalam 3-0.

Vietnam is still in the Group B top position with three points after winning 2-0 over Singapore on Monday. -- JP

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Vietnamese company builds cement factory in Cambodia

Nhan Dan – In these days, workers of the Machinery Installation JSC No 18, a subsidiary of the Vietnam Machinery Installation Corporation (LILAMA) are urgently completing and running on trial basis a clinker production line for the Kampot Cement Factory in Cambodia.

The factory has a capacity of 2,500 tonnes of clinker a year, equivalent to 900,000 tonnes of cement a year.

This is the first cement factory abroad the company has won in bidding for construction. Of the total 7,000 tonnes of machinery equipment manufactured and installed for the factory, 1,200 tonnes have been manufactured in Vietnam.

Domestically, the Machinery Installation JSC No 18 is manufacturing and installing over 4,200 tonnes of equipment for the two cement factories in Binh Phuoc and Tay Ninh.
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Global Worker News Roundup

Just some union-based news that crossed my desktop. In Southeast Asia, Cambodian workers have been crossing the Thai border for years. They are seeking the sub-subsistence level wages that work in the urban Thai economy provides - largely as construction workers - to migrant workers with no social power and few legal protections. Newsmekong reports last week that the eight-month old “Provincial Decree on Migrant Workers” has started to be enforced by the current junta in power. Raids on worker dormitories have been stepped up:

Under the decree, migrant workers from the three countries are not allowed to own mobile phones, may not use motorised transport and must remain confined to their dormitories from 8 pm to 6 am.

Chattel slavery, anyone? [via]

General Federation of Iraqi Workers (GFIW)

Meanwhile, The General Federation of Iraqi Workers have issued statements protesting the illegalization of collective organization in the Iraqi Oil Industry. Apparently oil workers pose a terrorist-level threat to Iraq’s stability when they have the gall to speak up for their health, safety, respect, and livelihoods. Unionists in the United States are protesting as well, in solidarity. Here’s an excellent interview by David Bacon from 2005 with Ghasib Hassan, member of the executive committee of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions, and general secretary of the Union for Aviation and Railway Workers.

Finally, in Venezuela, a political bifurcation seems to be in the offing. The lefty government, so ruthlessly attacked and undermined by the US, has been defending its bolivarian policies for years now, and is vastly popular. The few criticisms which have held some water have revolved around Hugo Chavez’s tendency to authoritarianism, though most of us have blown these off as relatively unimportant compared to the vast advantages and the popular support involved. However, the government is now refusing to support worker control at an occupied factory abandoned by the owners. This is a disturbing turn of events that bears closer analysis.
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Cambodia and Vietnam share resort golf course

Golfers will soon be able to tee off in Cambodia and finish their round in Vietnam following the start of construction on a cross border resort, that officials say will be the first of its kind in Asia.

The US$100 million dollar project will include a resort that will be built between Cambodia's Svay Rieng province and Vietnam's border province of Tay Ninh.

Tran Van Hoa, Professorial fellow at Centre for Strategic Economic Studies at Victoria University, has told Radio Australia's Girish Sawlani that he believes that this kind of development will help to improve on the past 200 years of hostilities that has existed between the two countries.

"Cambodia and Vietnam are very anxious to develop their economy and one aspect of this development is to resume development and I think this development golf course across the border between Vietnam and Cambodia will help to fit in with this national development program," he says.

Concerns have emerged however that the project will progress at the expense of displaced Cambodians.

The Svay Rieng province has long been an area where local Cambodians have been forced to sell their land in the name of national development.

Executive director of the Centre for Social Development, Theary Seng says that Svay Rieng has always been a tumultuous province for Cambodia in light of Vietnamese encroachment and out that one reason why Cambodians continue to be displaced from their land in the border districts is due to the imbalance of power that exists between the two goverments.

"This current Cambodian regime and Cambodian government came to power because it had escaped to Vietnam and then came back with the power of the Vietnamese soldiers when it ended the Khmer Rouge years in 1979. And since then their close ties and indebtedness between this current Cambodian regime and the Vietnamese government have not been severed," she says.
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Deputy Prime Minister visits Cambodia


VietNamNet Bridge - Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Gia Khiem arrived in Cambodia for official visit and promptly held talks with his counterpart Hor Namhong on August 20, where they discussed Cambodia’s marked political and economic development.

Deputy PM Khiem singled out the ward and communal elections that were held in April 2007 as evidence that the Cambodian National Assembly elections for 2008 would be a roaring success.

Both Foreign Ministry leaders said that trade and investment between the two neighbours continued to be a positive driving force in their greater diplomatic relationship and that celebrations of the 40 th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Vietnam and Cambodia underscored the motto of “fine neighbours, traditional friendship, comprehensive cooperation and long-term stability.”

A consensus was also reached on the need to continue to work together in the forums of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Cambodia-Laos-Vietnam Development Triangle, the Ayeyawady – Chao Phraya –Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS), the Cambodia-Laos-Myanmar-Vietnam cooperation, the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) and the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM).

Also on August 20, the Deputy PM paid a courtesy visit to Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen who expressed his gratitude for the provision of human resources training, healthcare and infrastructure construction programmes to the impoverished nation.


(Source: VNA)
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Monday, August 20, 2007

Invasion of Angkor Wat


Cambodia's jewel has survived a lot, but popularity may be its biggest challenge, Kerry van der Jagt writes.

ANGELINA Jolie has a lot to answer for. Ta Prohm, with its ancient stonework and massive tree roots, is now sadly known as the Tomb Raider temple. And the tour groups love it. I watch on as entire groups re-enact Lara Croft running out from the temple.

One at a time they sprint, leap and hurl themselves towards their tour guide - and his video camera.

More like a stampede of clearance-sale shoppers than responsible travellers.

Angkor Wat and the surrounding Angkor temple complex in Cambodia are without doubt one of the seven man-made wonders of the world.

Stretching over 400 square kilometres, Angkor Archaeological Park contains the magnificent remains of the different capitals of the Khmer empire, from the 9th to the 15thcentury.

In December 1992, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation declared Angkor a World Heritage Site.

In 1993, 7600 intrepid travellers visited Angkor, but by 2006 the number had skyrocketed to 1.6million. By 2010, 3 million people are expected to visit Cambodia.

Dr Dougald O'Reilly, one of South-East Asia's foremost archaeologists and lecturer at the University of Sydney, founded the non-governmental organisation Heritage Watch in 2003.

The group has implemented a number of projects to help protect Cambodia's heritage by raising awareness of looting and its consequences. With full support from the Ministry of Tourism and the Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap, Heritage Watch declared 2007 "heritage friendly".

Its aim is to bring together locally-based private, public and non-governmental sectors in a nationwide collaboration to promote responsible tourism, while encouraging businesses to promote the arts, culture, heritage and development projects in Cambodia.

An additional component of the Heritage Watch project, the Heritage Friendly Tourism Campaign, was launched in January.

"The idea behind the campaign is to raise awareness of the fragility of heritage and the need for travellers to be responsible when they visit archaeological ruins," O'Reilly says.

"We also hope to discourage people from purchasing antiquities and to broaden their travel experience outside of just Angkor."

O'Reilly would like to see visitors venturing further afield.

"Cambodia is an amazing and diverse country with much to offer, yet too few people leave Siem Reap where the temples of Angkor are located," he says. "Rural communities are in desperate need of tourist dollars and encouraging people to lengthen their stays and visit other places is one of the goals of the campaign."

A major component of the Heritage Friendly Tourism Campaign has been to involve the business and corporate community in promoting arts, culture and heritage in Cambodia.

More than 100 businesses have been certified as heritage friendly. Heritage friendly businesses are promoted through banners, street signs and stickers to help travellers identify and support those companies that give something back to Cambodia.

Heritage Watch offers some simple and undemanding guidelines for visitors: do not purchase ancient artefacts; respect the temples as they are religious monuments; refrain from touching bas-reliefs as the lanolin on hands imparts oil into the stone; use environmentally friendly transport such as bicycles in the park (vibrations from buses affect the monuments); conserve water in Siem Reap - the water table is dropping, which may cause the monuments to subside; purchase Cambodian-made products; dispose of rubbish appropriately; support businesses certified as heritage friendly.

Dr Tim Winter, of the University of Sydney, has worked in Cambodia for many years on the challenges that emerge around heritage and tourism. Winter acknowledges that though there has been significant damage to some of the temples, including erosion to steps, entrance ways and fragile carvings, this is only part of the problem.

Winter says there are other important things to consider when visiting the area: the local economy and major inequalities arising in Cambodia because of tourism and Siem Reap as an island of hyper-growth, surrounded by some of the poorest communities in the whole of Asia.

Associate professor Roland Fletcher of the University of Sydney, who is also the director of the Greater Angkor Project and the Living with Heritage Project, encourages visitors to prolong their stay in the area. "Basically, the key thing that tourists need to do is to stay longer than the average two-day stay," he says.

It sounds so simple, but makes good sense. By increasing your stay to four days, you will significantly contribute to the local economy. Even the pollution problem caused by washing your sheets and towels will be reduced.

Yes, parts of Angkor can feel like a circus. But if you venture further a field to the quieter temples of Preah Khan, Ta Som, Banteay Srei or Beng Mealea or spend a few extra days away from the madding crowds, you will be rewarded with the moments that every traveller craves.

Perhaps it will come while you're sitting under a centuries-old silk-cotton tree that is slowly devouring a temple, or when you talk with a saffron-robbed monk.

Or maybe when a shy local child plays peek-a-boo with you from behind a temple or during that spine-tingling moment when the sun first climbs through the sky over Angkor Wat.

TRIP NOTES

* Getting there: Regular flights are available to Siem Reap from Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Singapore, Vientiane and Shanghai. There are also a number of border crossings.

* Staying there: There is no accommodation within the park. Visitors must stay in Siem Reap, about six kilometres from the main temples. Accommodation is plentiful and ranges from luxury five-star hotels to budget guesthouses.

* For more information: See http://www.heritagewatch.org and http://www.angkor.usyd.edu.au.

* Packages: Peregrine Adventures has a 14-day Saigon to Angkor cycle trip from $2420, excluding international air fares. See www.peregrineadventures.com.

Source: The Sun-Herald
"Cambodia is an amazing and diverse country with much to offer, yet too few people leave Siem Reap where the temples of Angkor are located," he says. "Rural communities are in desperate need of tourist dollars and encouraging people to lengthen their stays and visit other places is one of the goals of the campaign."

A major component of the Heritage Friendly Tourism Campaign has been to involve the business and corporate community in promoting arts, culture and heritage in Cambodia.

More than 100 businesses have been certified as heritage friendly. Heritage friendly businesses are promoted through banners, street signs and stickers to help travellers identify and support those companies that give something back to Cambodia.

Heritage Watch offers some simple and undemanding guidelines for visitors: do not purchase ancient artefacts; respect the temples as they are religious monuments; refrain from touching bas-reliefs as the lanolin on hands imparts oil into the stone; use environmentally friendly transport such as bicycles in the park (vibrations from buses affect the monuments); conserve water in Siem Reap - the water table is dropping, which may cause the monuments to subside; purchase Cambodian-made products; dispose of rubbish appropriately; support businesses certified as heritage friendly.

Dr Tim Winter, of the University of Sydney, has worked in Cambodia for many years on the challenges that emerge around heritage and tourism. Winter acknowledges that though there has been significant damage to some of the temples, including erosion to steps, entrance ways and fragile carvings, this is only part of the problem.

Winter says there are other important things to consider when visiting the area: the local economy and major inequalities arising in Cambodia because of tourism and Siem Reap as an island of hyper-growth, surrounded by some of the poorest communities in the whole of Asia.

Associate professor Roland Fletcher of the University of Sydney, who is also the director of the Greater Angkor Project and the Living with Heritage Project, encourages visitors to prolong their stay in the area. "Basically, the key thing that tourists need to do is to stay longer than the average two-day stay," he says.

It sounds so simple, but makes good sense. By increasing your stay to four days, you will significantly contribute to the local economy. Even the pollution problem caused by washing your sheets and towels will be reduced.

Yes, parts of Angkor can feel like a circus. But if you venture further a field to the quieter temples of Preah Khan, Ta Som, Banteay Srei or Beng Mealea or spend a few extra days away from the madding crowds, you will be rewarded with the moments that every traveller craves.

Perhaps it will come while you're sitting under a centuries-old silk-cotton tree that is slowly devouring a temple, or when you talk with a saffron-robbed monk.

Or maybe when a shy local child plays peek-a-boo with you from behind a temple or during that spine-tingling moment when the sun first climbs through the sky over Angkor Wat.

TRIP NOTES

* Getting there: Regular flights are available to Siem Reap from Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Singapore, Vientiane and Shanghai. There are also a number of border crossings.

* Staying there: There is no accommodation within the park. Visitors must stay in Siem Reap, about six kilometres from the main temples. Accommodation is plentiful and ranges from luxury five-star hotels to budget guesthouses.

* For more information: See http://www.heritagewatch.org and http://www.angkor.usyd.edu.au.

* Packages: Peregrine Adventures has a 14-day Saigon to Angkor cycle trip from $2420, excluding international air fares. See www.peregrineadventures.com.

Source: The Sun-Herald
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