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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Muslim of Cambodia

by Rouquiyah Yoeu

Cambodia is a little country whose history and people have been in turmoil both through foreign domination and internal strife. When people think of Cambodia, they probably imagine the genocidal holocaust which killed millions of Cambodians under the communist rule of Pol Pot and the Khmar Rouge. When pictures are presented of Cambodia, many people see Buddhist temples, idols, ancient buildings or monks. What people do not realize is that between 2.5% to 5% of the people were devoted Muslims. These Muslims include primarily a group known as Chams and also some Khmar (indigenous Cambodians) of the south. The Chams are descended from Malay or Indonesian traders. Before the Cambodian holocaust the approximate number of Muslims was between 120,000 and 350,000 and there were 300 mosques. It is very difficult to get any precise numbers but the Cambodian Muslims estimate that at least one half of the Muslims in Cambodia were either killed or became refugees.

Each Muslim village contained one surow, which is similar to a foundation. This large, one room house was mainly used for Islamic studies such as Qur’anic recitings, hadith, Shar’iah and Arabic studies. However, larger mosques were built for Muslim gatherings and festivals. These larger mosques usually made from bricks were almost always provided with a dome. Through volunteers, young and old, big mosques were established. After working all day, people gathered to help with the construction of the new masjid. Some mixed sand, rocks and water for cement. Others laid bricks while still others helped raise the dome. Wherever there was work needed, Muslims were ready and willing to help. Through hard work by the Muslim community, a masjid was soon provided for all. Along with the invasion of the Khmar Rouge came destruction of many beautiful masjids. Because the Khmar Rouge discouraged religion, they therefore tried to destroy all buildings of worship.

For each devoted Muslim family, life included daily prayers, Qur’anic recitation and Islamic study. Many Khmer Muslims were fishermen or farmers. Many Chams were cattle traders, silk weavers and butchers. For all Muslim youth, Islamic studies were held during their three months of vacation away from regular school. These studies were mainly taught by an Imam in the surow. One Imam might have 30-40 students, free of charge. Because of the importance placed on Qur’anic recitation, classes were held for at least six hours a day.

As soon as the Khmar Rouge seized power many Cambodians, Muslims and non-Muslims, all felt their destructive power. Education was prohibited, and those who were educated were executed, Imams were in danger. Some were killed while others hid for fear of their life. Islamic prayers and Qur’anic studies were prohibited. Anybody caught praying would be killed. Many Qur’ans were burned. During the Khmar Rouge era, Islam seemed lost as people fled for their lives. But today, Cambodian Muslims are slowly, progressively rebuilding this small Islamic nation. Even though the Khmar Rouge are still a threat and are attempting to regain control of the country from the Vietnamese, the Muslim Cambodians seek refuge with Allah (SWT).
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Mad tourist rush threatens future of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat

Posted on Thursday, April 12, 2007 (EST)

The Cambodian Government and locals are reportedly concerned over the over-exposure of its famous Angkor Wat (Sun) temple to tourists.



The Angkor Wat temple is the biggest Hindu temple in the world. It is counted among the seven modern wonders of the world and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site visited by millions of tourists each year. Until 150 years ago, this whole city was undiscovered, being covered by thick jungles and overgrown trees! This temple is a wonderful example of the Hindu concept of the cosmos. The moat represents the oceans. The temple is the Mount Meru and the galleries, which lead up to the sanctum, are the various continents. The constant upward movement of the building from one gallery to the next represents the spiritual path of a human being. The final destination is the sanctum sanctorum where he/she comes face to face with divinity. Photo Credit: © Prabhakar Patil


Sydney, Apr.12 (ANI): The Cambodian Government and locals are reportedly concerned over the over-exposure of its famous Angkor Wat (Sun) temple to tourists.

There is a worry now that the droves of tourists visiting the heritage-listed site could grow from the hundreds at present to thousands.

The Sunday Telegraph quotes Khun Sokha, a tourist guide, as saying, "The ancients built the temples for religious purposes, not for such crowds of tourists to climb on."

"The harm is obvious. We are worried, but the people's livelihood depends on these tourists," he adds.

The Cambodian Government is caught in a Catch 22 situation. On the one hand, the Angkor Wat temple is at the very heart of Cambodia's identity, and on the other, is the fear that this famous landmark could be ruined by the onslaught of the nearly two million tourists that see it annually. The Government is recognizing the need to keep these precious ruins intact.

"The harm to the temples is unavoidable when many people walk in and out of them," says Soeung Kong, deputy director-general of the Apsara Authority, which oversees Angkor's upkeep.

It is also hard to ignore the nearly 1.85 billion dollars in revenue that tourism brought to the impoverished country last year.

"We are trying to keep that harm at a minimal level," Kong says.

The Angkor Wat has been on the UNESCO's World Heritage List since 1993.

Since then, tourist arrivals have risen meteorically, with the Government hoping for three million visitors to Cambodia by 2010. (ANI).

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'I love Cambodia,' college grad says


Posted on Apr 11, 2007 by Dea Davidson*

SOUTHEAST ASIA (BP)--Even before he's fully awake, Joshua McFadden* knows he's not in Kentucky anymore.

Roosters crowing, babies crying and his neighbors pumping water from the well outside his bedroom window remind the recent college grad that he's in Cambodia. So do the thatched-roof homes on stilts he passes as he bikes down the red dirt road to a Cambodian-style outdoor diner. Yet, as he wolfs down breakfast and endures teasing by the older village women, he is thankful God brought him to Southeast Asia.

"I love my job. I love these people. I love Cambodia. I love my life," McFadden says. "I know it sounds sappy, but it's true. When I'm riding my bike through a village and say, 'Hi,' to all the kids, it's a daily revival. How often do you go through a village and everyone speaks to you?"

McFadden's interest in sharing Christ internationally sharpened as a result of trips to Cambodia and China in college, but he can see how God started working on him back in the fourth grade. That year, his Sunday School teacher, a short-term missionary journeyman just back from Kenya, brought carved rhinoceroses and tribal masks to class and helped make sharing Christ come alive. That teacher, Randy Jacobs*, is now McFadden's team leader in Cambodia.

McFadden has learned a lot since he stepped off the plane in August 2006 – not only about fitting in with a different people group but also the importance of helping them physically as well as spiritually.

"It's really important for Christian people to do development work in addition to evangelism to catch the vision for really changing a place," McFadden says. "I just hope I am able to portray to them someone who genuinely cares about their needs. If we totally ignore the dire situation and physical concerns, it's not responsible on our part as Christians."

McFadden and his team minister to the Cambodian people first by providing water filters, locating cleaner water sources, providing medical education and creating educational videos. Within his team, McFadden is taking a key role in animal husbandry and agricultural programs. As he helps his neighbors raise healthier goats and pigs and produce better crops, he builds relationships that give him opportunity to share his testimony.

While McFadden loves the work he is doing now, he is excited about plans to move to a more remote village on his own. That village, accessible only by ferry across the Mekong River, has no electricity, running water or concrete buildings. By choosing to live among these isolated Buddhist people, he hopes to show them that happiness in life comes not through rituals or things but through a God they have never heard about.

At the end of his two-year term in Cambodia, McFadden hopes he will have helped change the lives of some Cambodians, but more importantly, his life will have changed.

"It's one of my biggest hopes that I'll be different when I go home," McFadden says. "I love my life in America, but I want to go back and be different so I don't get pulled back into American culture. I think it would be the way Jesus would live on earth."
--30--
*Names changed for security reasons.
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Cambodia mulls pipeline project from shore to Sihanoukville

Some international companies will study the feasibility next month of building a gas pipeline from Cambodia's offshore oil exploration sites to seaport Sihanoukville, local press reported on Thursday.

The U.S. oil giant Chevron, Japanese firm Mitsui and South Korean electronics group LG will together examine the feasibility of constructing the pipeline, an official from the Investment Committee of the Cambodian National Assembly was quoted by English- language newspaper the Cambodian Daily as saying.

Addressing seminar "Avoid the Oil Curse" held here on Wednesday, Chairman Phan Sina said no company has yet been selected to build the pipeline, which is expected to transport natural gas from Block A, where Chevron has been drilling test wells.

The pipeline study brings Cambodia one step closer to the much- anticipated production of oil and gas, said the report.

Cambodia is also preparing an oil and gas management law in anticipation of its oil and gas production.

At least 700 million barrels of crude oil are estimated to lie off Cambodia's coast and the government expects to collect revenues from petroleum by as early as 2010.

Source: Xinhua.
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Roundup: Cambodia mobilized to ward off "oil curse"

Cambodia here on Wednesday convened a seminar named as "Avoid the Oil Curse," in efforts to prepare on legal and theoretical bases for the expected influx of oil revenues around 2010.

"We have to have the legal framework in order to avoid 'oil curse.' We have learned lessons from other countries bound with such a curse, especially Nigeria," Phan Sina, chairman of the Investment Committee of the Cambodian National Assembly, told the seminar.

Cambodia is trying to find legal assistance and technique from international institutions to help to prepare the law, he said.

"Except for the Cambodian Sea, we also have oil and gas in the Tonle Sap Lake, so we have to establish a clear legal framework to manage oil and gas benefits," he added.

Ian Gary, policy advisor for extractive industries from the Oxfam American, told reporters that Cambodia has to guard against the mentality that "let's just enjoy the party while it lasts," in case of its expectation for oil revenues.

The government has to think about how "to diversify and create new jobs, because oil by itself doesn't create jobs," he said.

NGOs like the Oxfam American will also "encourage the government to be more transparent about how money coming from the oil industry is being managed and spent," he added.

Meanwhile, other experts and technicians at the seminar warned that Cambodia needs to keep its expectation under control, as it still remains unclear exactly how much oil is under the sea and whether the kingdom can become a significant energy producer at last.

Oil revenues are also expected to give equal benefits and chances to all the Cambodians and not to cause rebellious movement on basis of inequality and injustice, they added.

Back to February, the United States Ambassador to Cambodia Joseph Mussomeli said that the Cambodian government should avoid the situation that "a small corrupt elite siphons off revenue that should go to improving the welfare of all the people."

Leaders of the countries should have the political will to demand that the revenues from these extractive industries be used solely for the improvement of the country, he told a national economic conference.

Addressing the same occasion, Prime Minister Hun Sen said that "the revenues from the recently confirmed discovery of oil reserves will provide additional money for financing development projects in Cambodia. These revenues will be directed to productive investment and poverty reduction."

"We will make sure that oil is a blessing but not a curse," he said, adding that the kingdom, with 35 percent of its people still living in poverty, will adopt a way of independence to develop the future industry rather than depending on other countries or partners.

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

Oil buzz started in Cambodia in 2005, when U.S. energy giant Chevron Corp discovered petroleum off its coast, striking black in four of five test wells.

Since then, firms from France, South Korea and Japan have been reportedly seeking for exploration licenses from the Cambodian government.

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

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

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

Source: Xinhua.
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Bay Area man who traveled to Cambodia for sex with minors sentenced

(04-11) 14:26 PDT SAN FRANCISCO -- A Bay Area man who pleaded guilty to having sex with an underage girl while in Cambodia was sentenced this week to 64 months in prison followed by five years of supervised release and ordered to pay $10,000 in restitution.

Michael Koklich, 49, who is also known as Michael Light, was indicted in 2006 on charges of violating a so-called sex tourism law, which makes it a crime to engage in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places. Koklich, who lived part-time in Cambodia and in various Bay Area locations, was arrested in Phnom Penh in February 2006.

Koklich admitted to investigators that he had sexual relations with two girls, ages 11 and 13, according to court documents, and said he paid them $10 to $20 for each encounter. The claims were bolstered by interviews with the victims, prosecutors said in court documents.

He also told investigators that he had had sex with 40 to 50 underage girls in Cambodia over the course of three years, court records show.

Prosecutors also wrote in court documents that Koklich wrote letters to his adult Cambodian girlfriend after his arrest and asked her to pay off the victims and the families to discourage them from testifying against him.

Under an agreement with the U.S. Attorney's office, Koklich pleaded guilty to one of two counts, and agreed to pay $5,000 to each victim.
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Cambodoia'sKangaroo Judge outraged International Views


Phnom Penh - The Cambodian Appeals Court on Thursday dismissed the appeal of the convicted killers of a prominent union activist and said 20-year jail sentences would stand in a verdict that infuriated human-rights groups who have campaigned for the defendants' release.

Judge Saly Theara took minutes to uphold the August 2005 sentence against Born Samnang, 27, and Sok Sam Oeun, 40, for the January 2004 shooting death of opposition-aligned union leader Chea Vichea. The two men were not present in court.

After a hearing that featured a string of witnesses saying Samnang had been 60 kilometres away at the time of the shooting, that the two men had never met prior to being charged and that confessions were made by the men under duress, Theara said he was unmoved.

Without waiting for lawyers to arrive at the court, Theara also ignored the summations of the prosecutor in the case that there were huge gaps in the police case and he wanted further investigations. The judge instead said the defence had failed to prove Samnang and Oeun were not the ones who gunned down Vichea in broad daylight on a busy city street as he read the newspaper.

Theara also took the word of a guesthouse owner who did not appear but placed Samnang at his premises on the day of the shooting over the testimony of Samnang's wife, mother-in-law and friends who vouched he was in the provinces celebrating his wedding. The judge said the crime occurred in January, which was not a normal month for weddings.

The families and lawyers of the defendants condemned the decision as unfair and called it a crushing blow. Sam Oeun is known to be suffering serious health problems in prison.

The prosecution case against the pair was led by since disgraced former Phnom Penh police chief Heng Pov, currently serving 25 years in jail for the murder of a senior judge and false imprisonment, but Theara did not consider Pov's convictions.

Pov is expected to face further charges, including a number for murders and attempted murders.

A spokesman for prominent local human-rights group Licadho said a group of rights groups intended to release a joint statement later in the day, but at the moment 'everyone is in complete shock.'

'In the traditional Cambodian court system, people are innocent until proven guilty,' he said. 'In this case, even the prosecutor admitted that after three years, he still had gaps in his case and failed to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt.'

'How the judge can still reach this verdict is a mystery to us here at Licadho,' the spokesman said.

Peter Leuprecht, the special representative of the UN secretary general for human rights in Cambodia, called the Vichea verdict into question as early as 2004, saying the evidence pointed to the men's innocence, and groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have repeatedly demanded the men's release.
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