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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


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 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.


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
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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