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Monday, March 12, 2007

U.S. Embassy honors 2 Cambodians with Women of Courage Award

The U.S. Embassy in Cambodia honored two women as the Cambodian winner and runner-up of International Women of Courage Award on Monday.

"Presenting this award to women of courage is an opportunity to celebrate acts of bravery by the extraordinary women in Cambodian who, in transforming their own society, create a more peaceful and prosperous nation for all," U.S. Ambassador Joseph A. Mussomeli said in a ceremony joined by Cambodian Minister of Women's and Veteran's Affairs H.E. Dr. Ing Kantha Phavi.

The winner for Cambodia is Ms. Oung Chanthol, Executive Director and Founder of the Cambodian Women's Crisis Center (CWCC), a press release said, adding that the runner-up is Ms. Ith Mathoura, a trained lawyer currently working for the Community Legal Education Center (CLEC).

These two women have demonstrated outstanding courage and leadership in promoting the political, economic and social advancement of women in Cambodia, it said.

Ms. Oung Chanthol is a lawyer who has been a leader in the fight against violence against women, particularly trafficking, rape and domestic violence, Mussomeli said, adding that Ms. Oung Chanthol founded the CWCC in 1997 which has helped several thousand victims of gender-based violence.

"This award is not just a proud moment for CWCC and for me, but for all, our whole nation, all women in Cambodia, and our government, which sees women as crucial partners in the development of our nation," Ms. Oung Chanthol said after receiving the award from Mussomeli.

The first annual "International Women of Courage" awards program was inaugurated by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in honor of International Women's Day 2007, the press release said, adding that the award is the State Department's only continuing awards program exclusively for emerging women leaders.

Source: Xinhua

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Dubai Donation Begins Rescue Of WFP Food Aid Operation In Cambodia

The United Nations World Food Programme today welcomed an urgently needed contribution of US$1 million from the Government of Dubai in response to its appeal to end drastic food aid cuts affecting 700,000 poor Cambodians, including HIV/AIDS and TB patients. But at the same time WFP warned that more donations were desperately needed to ensure the full resumption of operations in the country.

In January, key WFP activities in Cambodia were suspended due to lack of funding. Now, thanks to this generous contribution, food aid to 70,000 people affected by HIV/AIDS and 18,000 TB patients, will resume earlier than originally expected. "At stake are the lives of thousands of HIV/AIDS patients receiving anti-retroviral drugs whose effectiveness depends upon proper nourishment," said WFP Executive Director, James Morris. "And then there are the TB patients whose incentive to complete their treatment is often the food aid they receive at treatment centres.

All these people are desperately poor - this helping hand from Dubai is truly lifesaving." In a poor country like Cambodia where 35 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, hundreds of thousands of children are dependent on WFP meals provided by the agency's food for education programme.

WFP is already starting to see the negative impacts of the suspension of its activities: declines in school attendance rates; reduced attention spans of children in class and worsening health of HIV/AIDS and TB patients as well as, in some cases, a drop in treatment adherence.

The donation by the Government of Dubai will be used to prioritize HIV/AIDS and TB patients but more donations are needed to resume the food for education programme. "We are extremely grateful to the Government of Dubai for their valuable and timely support, which is part of a growing commitment to development aid from the governments in the Gulf region." said Morris. "We appeal to others to follow."

WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency: each year, we give food to an average of 90 million poor people to meet their nutritional needs, including 58 million hungry children, in at least 80 of the world's poorest countries.

WFP -- We Feed People. WFP Global School Feeding Campaign - For just 19 US cents a day, you can help WFP give children in poor countries a healthy meal at school - a gift of hope for a brighter future.Visit our website:

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Cambodia Calls On ASEAN To Present A United Front On Land Mines

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen Monday called on four Association of South East Asian (ASEAN) nations which have so far not signed the Ottawa Treaty banning land mines to conform and help the bloc set an example to Asia and the world.

Speaking at a three-day conference on mine action in the capital, Hun Sen said ASEAN should form a united front and all member governments should sign and ratify their entry to the treaty, the signatories of which agree to prohibit the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel mines and support their destruction. He said Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam and Singapore were the members of the 10-nation ASEAN bloc which had so far resisted signing, adding that if Asia was to become land mine-free, ASEAN should set the example for the continent.

"ASEAN has already declared Asia should be free of nuclear weapons and has asked other nations to sign on this, so ASEAN should also be the leader on the prohibition of the use, production and stockpiling of landmines," he said. He said land mines were a serious obstacle for the development of Cambodia and other Less Developed Nations and were a hidden killer that ordinary Cambodians had been forced to live with for too long.

Cambodia remains one of the most heavily mined nations in the world after 30 years of civil war. Hun Sen said Cambodian Red Cross figures put the number of land mine casualties in the country at 60,000 and counting, with 30 per cent of these fatalities and the rest forced to live as invalids for the rest of their lives. "Of course, this is the right of each country to decide, but I believe ASEAN should unite on this issue," Hun Sen told the conference.

Cambodia recently sent a demining team to Sudan and Hun Sen said that his country was happy to help another nation which would struggle to meet development goals because of the insidious factor of mines. Canadian Ambassador to Cambodia Donica Pottie agreed, and used the opportunity to urge the United States, arguably the most significant nation to so far refuse to join the treaty, to relent and lead by example.

"Canada welcomes the Cambodian appeal ... however, it depends very much on these countries themselves," she said in an interview after Hun Sen's address. "The US has a huge commitment to demining programmes around the world," she said. "We would definitely welcome the US to join (the treaty). We appreciate US demining efforts and ... the US spends a lot of resources on demining, including Cambodia." ASEAN consists of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

© 2007 DPA

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Jolie Overwhelmed at 1st by Refugee Work

The Associated Press
Sunday, March 11, 2007; 8:04 PM

NEW YORK -- Angelina Jolie says her work as a humanitarian ambassador for the United Nations at first left her tearful and overwhelmed.

"The first two years I just cried constantly," the actress told Newsweek. "I couldn't really talk about the situation without being emotional. And I went through a period of just complete lack of hope."

During her February visit to the Oure Cassoni camp on the border between Darfur and Chad she came across a disturbed 7-year-old boy whose family had tied him to a pole to stop him wandering away or banging himself. The boy had spent 48 hours hiding in the bush after his village was bombed.

"I talked to him for like half an hour and just kind of looked at him for a long time before he touched me," Jolie told the magazine, "and there was a little boy in there who was open to a kind sound."

Jolie has visited camps in Africa, Pakistan and Cambodia as part of her work as a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. She said she travels unaccompanied on commercial flights, and doesn't care about people who describe what she does as celebrity tourism.

"I don't know if anybody saying that has spent the last six years of their life going to over 30 camps and really spending time with these people," said Jolie, who wants to return to Cambodia.

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Cambodia arrests senior officer in war against land grabbers

A major colonel from the border unit of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (CRAF) has been arrested, becoming the first senior officer arrested during the government's high-profile campaign against land grabbers.

"We arrested Te Haing in Banteay Mean Chey province according to the warrant from the Phnom Penh Municipal Court" on Saturday, Sao Sokha, military police commander of Cambodia, told Xinhua here on Sunday.

In addition, an official at the court told Xinhua on condition of anonymity that Te Haing was arrested for encroaching state land and cutting forestry to take about 1,567 hectares of land in Banteay Mean Chey province.

"Because he worked there, it was difficult to investigate the case. After checking the case, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court issued the arrest warrant and then transferred his case to Phnom Penh," he said.

Te Haing, also registered as owner of the Te Haing Development Co. Ltd., was accused under Article 97 of the Forestry Law and might be jailed for five to 10 years, he said, adding that all his properties will be confiscated by the state.

On Thursday, Chao Phirun, director general of RCAF's technical and material department, said that he had handed over more than 200 hectares of land to the government after Prime Minister Hun Sen threatened to fire him on Monday in the war on land grabbers.

"I already gave the land to the government (on Tuesday). Hun Sen has written to thank me," said the general, who is from Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party (CPP).

"I am not sad. This is a contribution to help the government," he said of the 215 hectares of land in Kampot province's Chhuk district.

He insisted that he was unaware that he was the target of Hun Sen's threat, as the land was bought by his wife in 1999 from 46 families rather than being grabbed from their hands.

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith told reporters that Chao Phirun will not be fired as he returned the land.

Earlier, a top government official from CPP called Hun Sen to inform about his withdrawal from a land dispute in Koh Sla area in Kandal province.

Hun Sen said on Monday that he will purge perverse land grabbers out of the government and CPP, who might otherwise cause social instability or even trigger off riots.

"The government is going to fight against illegal land grabbing at any cost. The war against land grabbers is starting right now," he told hundreds of diplomats and high-ranking government officials at a national forum.

They should withdraw from land disputes by themselves, and if they don't, they will be fired from the government and expelled from the party, he said.

"I am not going to tolerate anyone any longer on this issue," he added.

Local media have reported recently that military officers and high-ranking government officials used to stand behind land disputes across the kingdom, causing much anger among the people, especially the deprived farmers.

In February, Hun Sen said that illegal land grabbing will destabilize the country.

"Our government has made tremendous efforts to build many roads, but it is sad to see that after the road is built, many people from the city rush in to buy or capture land (beside the road), squeezing the local community out of their property," he said. All provincial governors, district chiefs and commune councils are held responsible for the situation of landlessness and land grabbing in their territories, he said.

"I promise to punish any officials who are found to be involved in land grabbing and clearing of state land for personal use," he added.

Land disputes have been frequent across Cambodia in recent years, resulting in hundreds of death and injury, according to official reports.

Source: Xinhua

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