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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Mini Charity Marathon for Kids in Cambodia

Runners gearing up to race to raise money

If you haven't witnessed it yourself then you would have heard the story of a child with his or hands stretched out begging for money, pleading for help, longing for a bit of hope.

A common sight for tourists traveling in Asia and around the world.

The plight of children in poor countries is not something everyone has witnessed first hand. But for those who have, it's something they never forget.

In Cambodia, where half of the population is under 15, the story is no different.

Child prostitution, homelessness, poverty, a paedophile's playground, human trafficking are just some of the horrors faced everyday.

And something two well traveled women saw for themselves and never forgot.

Andrea Kvasnica and Emma Stringer got the chance to help those children they had seen being exploited, neglected and forgotten during a marathon of a fundraising stint at the weekend.

What started out as being a fun 10km run between friends turned into a mini-marathon of English teachers in Daegu raising 2.4million Won ($2,700 Canadian dollars) for children of Cambodia.

Along side the river on the morning of Saturday, June 9th, with a back drop of mountains, and below the roaring traffic overhead, 75 people ran, walked, cycled and rollerbladed all with a common cause. To support children of poverty.

"It was just supposed to be a small run with 10 friends, but more people heard about it and it just escalated from there," says Emma, originally from Leicester, England.

The two pals have lived in South Korea for three years and as keen athletes, running about five times a week, they wanted to do another long distance run having completed a half marathon in April.
Andrea Kvansnica and Emma Stringer with co-worker Mr. Cho never forgot what they saw in Cambodia

"The way it works here is that as the season goes on so the distances get longer, but we only wanted to do a 10km so decided to organize our own," says Andrea, from Ottawa, Canada.

With the help and support of other friends they were able to organize the 10km and 5km mini-marathon in Daegu and from their experiences in the impoverished Southeast Asian country decided the children they had seen stuck in a plight of hopelessness would benefit from their hard work.

The two friends, who met in South Korea while working at a Hagwon in Daegu, traveled to Cambodia in October 2005 with the intention of staying for seven days.

But having experienced the plight of children and families there were forced to cut their holiday short. Something they never forgot.

"We were planning to be there for seven days, but everywhere we went it was like people were breathing devastation," recalls Andrea, 27.

Hearing stories from tuktuk drivers who had lost their family to genocide, murder and poverty and seeing first hand the immense problem of child exploitation by paeodophiles they were shocked by how it left them feeling. Were they also taking advantage of the people by being tourists? Were they feeding the corruption of the poor?

"It was really depressing and we felt really bad because we are mega rich compared to them. We were trying to have a vacation and we felt so guilty because we were rich and they weren't," adds Emma, 26.

Andrea says "To go and visit was really hard because every day you are reminded of how dire the situation is. It's in your face all the time. Any time anyone asks me where's the worst place I have been to, Cambodia always pops into my head. That was humans in their worse situation."

Since their trip the pair have learnt more about the history and politics of the country and discovered the charity Children of Cambodia Fund who they chose to donate the money from the mini marathon to. The money will be used to help rescue children living on the dumps and tips of litter and rubbish everywhere because they have no families, no homes and no money.

The organization is trying to combat the problem with child prostitution by setting up orphanages and projects to get the children off the streets.

Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in Asia with 85 percent of the population of 12.5 million people living in rural areas. There is a high infant mortality rate and the average life expectancy is 57 years old. During the notorious regime of Pol Pot in the 1970s around 1.5 million people lost their lives.

"Everywhere has poor places, we know, but it was a massive difference in Cambodia," says Emma.

Andrea adds: "The difference is that in other countries you can see there is some wealth and they can feed themselves and provide houses, but in Cambodia you just don't see it. Everyone is just suffering and the thing is there's no hope. They just don't have the means to move on. Their generation is stumped."

Since starting to organize the mini marathon six weeks ago, Andrea and Emma have realized they are not alone in their experience and know they will not be the last.

"A lot of people told us they had been or were about to go. Cambodia touches a lot of people's hearts from what they have heard or seen," adds Andrea.

The money raised far exceeded the two women's expectations and the support they say was amazing.

"We just want to say thank you to everyone who helped us and we hope it will be of some benefit to the children in Cambodia," Andrea says.
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China donates 200 water pumps to Cambodia

China donated 200 units of small-size diesel-powered water pumps on Wednesday to Cambodia for agricultural use.

Sun Weiren, Economic and Commercial Counselor of the Chinese Embassy to Cambodia, and Sam Sarith, Secretary of State of Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology of Cambodia, signed the certificates of delivery and receipt on behalf of both governments.

Sun said that the Chinese government expects the donation to help beef up the agricultural development of Cambodia.

Sarith expressed his government's appreciation for the donation and hoped to carry out more cooperation with the Chinese side in the field of agriculture, especially irrigation and water conservancy.

Source: Xinhua
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Cambodia's Hun Sen tells Japanese he will fight graft

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen pledged Thursday to fight corruption to lure more investors from top donor Japan as he tries to wean his government away from foreign aid.
Hun Sen, visiting Japan for his 15th time, met with business leaders and was set to sign a bilateral agreement on encouraging investment.

"By strengthening good governance, we will continue to thoroughly manage public agnecies and to eradicate corruption and reduce costs for investors," Hun Sen said at the luncheon with business leaders.

"I firmly believe that Japanese investment is essential for further development of Cambodia," Hun Sen said. "We are aiming to stabilise the political, economic and security environment so that investments can be made with confidence."

He said the investment agreement, to be signed later Thursday with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, should also improve opportunities for Japanese businesses eyeing to invest in Cambodia.

Japan is the top donor to Phnom Penh, but the world's second largest economy accounts for a mere two percent of Cambodia's overall trade, according to Japanese official data.

Donors are meeting in Cambodia next week, but many have expressed deep frustration over the lack of reform in the country including corruption.

Hun Sen earlier this month praised China, which has a growing rivalry for influence with Japan, for handing over aid without any conditions.

At the luncheon, Hun Sen said Cambodia was on a steady growth track, overcoming the regional economic crisis in the 1990s and occassional natural disasters.

Recently discovered natural resources, such as oil and natural gas, should also boost Cambodia's international standing, Hun Sen said.

"Private sector participation is essential. I am convinced that the Cambodian economy will grow further with participation from Japanese companies and investors as we continue to improve Cambodia's investment environment," he said.

"Cambodia historically had had difficulties and struggles. But we have overcome the difficulties with our strong will to develop the nation under democracy," he said.

Hun Sen voiced optimism that growth, which has surged ahead at around 9.0 percent a year since 2000, would help eliminate widespread poverty in Cambodia.

"It is my sincere hope that well thought-out social and economic development will further reduce poverty in our nation," he said.

He thanked Japan's consistant financial and other aid for his nation, adding that more assistance is needed to improve infrastructure, human resources, and business and technological know-how.

Japan pledged more than 100 million dollars at last year's donor meeting, which netted Cambodia some 600 million dollars in aid.

Hun Sen, who arrived late Wednesday and leaves Saturday, also had an audience with Emperor Akihito.

He will travel to the southern region of Fukuoka to observe a project in farm development, a top priority for Cambodia.
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Cambodia PM calls for more investment from Japan

TOKYO, June 14 (Reuters) - Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday urged Japanese business leaders to invest more in one of the poorest Asian countries which he said could make a new start as a country build on rich natural resources.

"Development of natural gas and mineral resources provide Cambodia with great potential and this means Cambodia will make a new start as a country founded by natural resources in the international community," he told Japanese business leaders.

Japan's direct investments in Cambodia stood at $4 million for the five years from 2002.

"We will improve the environment for investments and I feel confident that investments by Japanese companies and investors will help the Cambodian economy grow stronger," Hun Sen said.

He said Japan's aid had helped Cambodia vastly improve its infrastructure in the last decade.

Japan's aid grants to Cambodia stood at $1.17 billion in the 1992-2007 period and Japan had extended yen loans totalling $137 million in the same period, Hun Sen said..
He said that the Cambodian economy had grown 13.5 percent in 2005 and 10.8 percent in 2006.

He also said Cambodia's per capita gross domestic product (GDP) had nearly doubled to $513 in 2006 from $288 in 2000, and inflation had remained below 3 percent between 2000 and 2006.

He said he would sign a bilateral investment pact with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe later in the day.

"I certainly believe that this pact will serve as a source of great confidence for those who invest in Cambodia," he said.

Japan's imports from Cambodia stood at 8.6 billion yen ($70.06 million) in 2005, while Cambodia's imports from Japan were 11.5 billion yen. ($1=122.74 Yen) .
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Judges Approve Rules For Cambodia Tribunal

By Ker Munthit
Associated Press
Thursday, June 14, 2007; Page A22

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia, June 13 -- Cambodian and foreign judges announced rules Wednesday clearing the way for a U.N.-assisted genocide tribunal to begin long-delayed proceedings against Khmer Rouge leaders in the deaths of about 1.7 million people between 1975 and 1979.

The rules were one of the judges' last major tasks before they could begin working on the cases, but it was unlikely the trials would start any time soon: No one has yet been indicted. Many Cambodians worry that the aging defendants could all die before they are brought to justice.

The top Khmer Rouge leader, Pol Pot, died in 1998. The only defendant now in custody is Kaing Khek Iev, also known as Duch, who headed the notorious S-21 torture center in the capital, Phnom Penh.

Their senior-level colleagues, Nuon Chea, the communist movement's chief ideologue; Ieng Sary, the former foreign minister; and Khieu Samphan, the former head of state, live freely in Cambodia but are in declining health.

Cambodia and the United Nations created the genocide tribunal last year under an agreement they reached in 2003. The 17 Cambodian and 12 foreign judges and prosecutors have spent the last six months in sometimes rancorous disagreement on trial guidelines.

After two weeks of meetings, the Cambodian- and U.N.-appointed officials unanimously agreed on a set of rules Tuesday, they said at a news conference in Phnom Penh. "Now that the rules have been adopted, we can move forward," Kong Srim, a Cambodian judge with the tribunal, read from their statement.

"These rules enable us to hold fair, transparent trials before an independent and impartial court," said Robert Petit, a U.N.-appointed prosecutor from Canada, also reading from the statement.

The tribunal is an unprecedented hybrid. It will operate under the Cambodian judicial system, which is often criticized as weak, corrupt and susceptible to political manipulation. Decisions require support from a majority of the Cambodian judges, backed by at least one U.N.-appointed judge.
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