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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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