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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Golden Tulip Hospitality's Asian Subsidiary to Expand

A management subsidiary of Swiss-based Golden Tulip Hospitality Group, Golden Tulip South East Asia, is to undergo an expansion.

Three different brands- the 5-star Royal Tulip, 4-star Golden Tulip, and 3/3+-star economy business Tulip Inn are to be launched, and Mark van Ogtrop is to head the group, which is responsible for ten countries: Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei, Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar.

The first five projects include a 140-room Tulip Inn hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 4 in Bangkok, to debut in July 2009; a 100-room resort on Samui's Maenam Beach, to be reflagged in July 2008 as the Golden Tulip Resort Samui; a 350-room new project to debut in 2010; a 110-room Tulip Inn in Phuket to be launched in July 2009; and a 170-room Tulip Inn hotel in Phnom Penh, Cambodia to open in May 2009.

According to Hans H.W.R. Kennedie, president & CEO of Golden Tulip Hospitality Group, 'In 2007, the Golden Tulip Group generated around EUR108 million of total revenue, with a profit of EUR1.8 million. In the same year we invested more than EUR4.4 million, while we earned approximately EUR8.4 million from a lease agreement with hotel owners. We believe in the amazing diversity of South East Asia, in particular Thailand. That's why we are investing more than EUR508 Million for the initial development of four years. With a regional office, management and marketing strategies in place we aim to achieve the targets as set.'

Mr. Mark van Ogtrop, managing director and senior vice president of Golden Tulip South East Asia, stated, 'We will expand throughout South East Asia by management contracts, lease agreements, acquisitions and joint ventures. We have had very positive feedback on economy business hotels, not only from customers, but also investors. We believe that this sector offers real potential and opportunity for us to grow in the hotel industry in the region.'

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Vietnam, Cambodia diplomats agree to hold annual meetings

VietNamNet Bridge – Foreign ministries of Vietnam and Cambodia have agreed to hold annual meetings at their first meeting in Hanoi from April 28-May 1.

The two sides during their talks on April 29 also agreed that the second meeting will take place in Phnom Penh in 2009.

On their own countries’ situation and bilateral cooperation, they noted the development of the two countries’ friendship and comprehensive cooperation, bringing practical benefits to both countries’ national construction and development.

The Vietnamese Foreign Ministry delegation is led by Deputy Minister Pham Binh Minh, and the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation delegation, by Secretary of State Long Visalo.

They proudly spoke of their close ties, which contributed to the bilateral relations as well as to improving the two countries’ positions in the region and the world arena.

The two delegations agreed to intensify cooperation in exchanging information and experiences, setting up a hot line to deal with urgent problems, and training personnel.

They also agreed to serve as links to foster cooperation agreements between ministries, agencies and localities, and coordinate in regional and international cooperation projects.

The Cambodian delegation was received by Deputy Prime Minister Pham Gia Khiem on the same day.

At the reception, Deputy PM Khiem stressed Vietnam and Cambodia need to exchange more high-level visits, and hold meetings between their ministries, agencies and mass organisations.

According to Deputy PM Khiem, these activities would help tighten the two countries’ friendship and create new changes in their trade and investment ties.
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LABOUR-CAMBODIA: US Recession May Hit Anti-Sweatshop Campaign

By Andrew Nette

PHNOM PENH, Apr 30 (IPS) - Recession in the United States is endangering a unique experiment that has seen Cambodia become a leading player in the campaign to eradicate sweatshops in the textile industry.

"I think that the industry is going through a tough time," said Ken Loo, until recently secretary of the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia and still closely associated with the sector.

"We export 70 percent to the U.S., so with their economy in recession we expect spending on clothing to drop."

Even a minor downturn in the textile industry will have major economic implications for Cambodia.

The industry makes up approximately 80 percent of the country’s total exports and employs a large number of people. Some estimates claim that up to a million people --out of a population of 13 million -- are either directly or indirectly dependent on the industry.

"What happens in the garment industry in Cambodia matters far beyond the country’s borders," argues Phnom Penh-based author Rachel Louis Snyder. "Whether it succeeds or fails is important because this is the one country that has tried to eradicate sweat shops in an organised way."

"If it does not work here, where is the impetus anywhere else?"

Snyder is the author of ‘Fugitive Denim: A Moving Story of People and Pants in the Borderless World of Global Trade’, which was recently published in the U.S.

The Cambodian chapters focus on the situation that arose when Phnom Penh and the Clinton administration inked a trade deal that linked Cambodia’s export quota for the textiles to the U.S. to efforts to eradicate sweatshops.

Under the deal, Cambodia had to rewrite its labour laws, welcome the formation of trade unions and allow the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to monitor factories and publish their findings.

"This made Cambodia a giant experiment," said Snyder. "The big question was whether it would work and it did. The industry grew and labour and social conditions improved enormously."

The trade deal expired in January 2005 when Cambodia joined the World Trade Organisation.

A series of transitional quotas, what Snyder calls ‘the quota system lite’ where then put in place by Washington to ensure that China could not export more than a certain volume of textiles in certain categories.

These measures, designed to safeguard Cambodia’s textile industry, will finish at the end of 2008, provoking fears that the industry, still young by international standards, could be swamped by power houses such as China and Vietnam where labour and social conditions are not as good.

"These are expiring at a time of potentially global recession when consumers will be looking for cheaper gear," said Snyder.

"Wherever you have economic pressure, the first things to go are labour laws and social conditions. This is a crucial time for Cambodia. They are at risk of losing this incredible experiment."

Observers agree that linking trade quotas to labour standards was the major impetus for Cambodia to work on improving labour conditions. Another has been an innovative programme run by the ILO called ‘Better Factories Cambodia’.

In order to get an export permit textile factories must sign up to the programme and agree to be monitored by ILO teams on a regular basis.

This monitoring process, which the employers help pay for, includes surprise spot checks and in-depth audits that assess the factory’s performance in up to 500 areas.

Although the detailed reports are confidential factories will release at the request of buyers.

According to Tuomo Poutiainen, Chief Technical Advisor for Better Factories Cambodia, the programme currently monitors 298 export garment factories and involves buyers representing approximately 60 percent of Cambodia’s textile exports.

While Poutiainen admits that they do not get everyone, particularly smaller sub-contractors that are not covered by the programme, he stresses that it "is enforced (by the government) quite rigorously, there are some time delays but all exporters get drawn in."

"When the quota system was in place the increased incentives for factories to be involved were explicit," said Poutiainen. "Cambodia’s share of exports to the U.S. was conditional on progress made on working conditions."

He believes the leverage now comes from the buyers, who request the detailed reports, including big name brands such as Nike, Columbia, Gap and Levi Strauss.

"Labour conditions are now part of the reputation niche of Cambodia," particularly for companies keen to prove their socially responsible credentials," said Poutiainen. "Ignore this and the industry will suffer."

As the assassination of high-profile labour leader Chea Vichea in 2004 graphically demonstrated, there is still a long way to go in terms of upholding labour standards in Cambodia.

Cambodian Union leaders list a number of issues that need attention, including failure to payment of entitlements and politically motivated attacks on union representatives.

Poutiainen agrees, adding issues such as double book keeping, unpaid overtime and occupational health and safety.

"It is obvious that we don’t think backsliding on labour conditions is a solution to the problem," said Loo. "Rather we want to increase productivity."

Most observes agree that the ILO programme has helped stave off the crisis that many believed would happen after the original U.S. trade deal signed by the Clinton administration expired in 2005.

It has also helped Cambodia to build a solid base in the face of significant disadvantages facing the industry.

Cambodia has to import virtually all raw materials relating to the textile industry. Power costs are high, there is a lack of extensive port facilities and corruption adds significantly to overheads.
Loo agrees that while selling Cambodia as a niche market on labour conditions has been important, the main factors for international buyers remain price, lead times and quality.

"The ILO programme is definitely a plus in that it has brought Cambodia to the surface and given us a lot of visibility to buyers all over the world."

"But compliance alone is not enough to sustain the industry. If compliance were really that important everyone would be in Cambodia. The image has its advantages. It is one of many things the buyers look at but it is not the only thing that buyers look at."

While business is supportive, publicly and privately, of the ILO’s monitoring programme, Loo says they do have concerns about how it is administered.

In the lead-up to 2010, when the ILO is scheduled to reconfigure and possibly reduce its involvement in the Better Factories programme, GMAC wants the government to make monitoring voluntary.

"If it was a purely voluntary system, most manufacturers would not sign up to it," he admits. "But the manufacturers would face pressure from the buyers. You would also weed out factories and buyers whose priority is not compliance. Those that remained would be fully supportive of compliance."

He says that GMAC has put the argument to government. "They have made it clear they want it to be compulsory.’

"One cannot expect that the industry will grow but what appears likely to happen is a consolidation, smaller, less productive producers will suffer, others will prosper," said Poutiainen. "This will effect the industry but it is not a crash."

"The buyers have worked for a long time with this programme and have invested a great deal of time and social capital in Cambodia and have a lot of relationships. They have an interest in continuing to invest in Cambodia."

"No growth in the garment industry this year in fact the industry will see a slight shrinkage of 5-10 percent," is Loo’s blunt assessment.

"I would say that in our existing state we are not well placed to compete but one factor that could turn this around is our efforts to get duty free access to US markets,’’ Loo said. "The U.S. has given this to all least developed countries except those in Asia, I don’t know why."

The Cambodia government and textile industry has been lobbying the U.S. on this issue for a number of years. Loo is hopeful that an agreement will be reached this year. "The impact of the recession will be worse this year if duty free does not happen,’’ Loo said.
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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Cambodia's former Khmer Rouge rebels face malaria epidemic

Phnom Penh - Impoverished former Khmer Rouge fighters in north-western Cambodia have reported a spike in malaria infections, raising fears of a new epidemic along the Thai border, police said Tuesday. A senior police officer in Samlot who declined to be named said by telephone that the Thai border area had recorded 92 new cases of the mosquito-borne disease last month and 93 this month.

"The cause is heavy rain, and we are trying to educate people to go to the hospital as soon as they detect fever and not believe the cause is just a bad spirit or ghost," he said.

Samlot's rebel fighters held out against the outside world until the late 1990s, and most of its almost 14,000-strong population now eke out a living as subsistence farmers.

In October, a World Health Organization report warned that drug-resistant strains of the disease were increasingly being detected along the Thai-Cambodia border.

Experts blamed such infections on inappropriate use of anti-malarial drugs and other factors, including a postwar population boom. Children are particularly vulnerable to malaria.

Cambodia reported around 60,000 cases of the endemic disease last year with 241 deaths.

Police said no malaria fatalities have been reported in Samlot so far but they feared it was only a matter of time if the number of new infections continued to rise with the peak of the monsoon season still months away.
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Cambodia hoping to lead world rice exports

Cambodia is seeking to become one of the world's leading rice exporters, with the country's agriculture minister, Chan Sarun, saying he hopes to produce enough rice to export some eight million tonnes annually by 2015.

This follows an announcement by Thailand's prime minister that his country, the world's leading rice exporter, will not cut down on exports.

Fears of rice shortages have led to dramatic increases global prices in the price of rice have forced major producers and exporters like India, Vietnam and China to adopt protectionist measures by imposing limits on exports, further exacerbating the problem.

Although Cambodia remains one of Asia's poorest countries, the head of the Cambodian centre for the study and development of Agriculture, Yang Saing Koma, has told Radio Australia's Connect Asia program the prospect of becoming a leading rice exporter is a distinct possibility.

"There is the potential to increase the rice production of Cambodia," he said.

"Of course, we still have big land areas and the rice productivity in Cambodia is still low in those areas, and there is still the potential to expand the cultivated area."

Cambodia's ambitions to increase exports follows Sunday's announcement by Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej that his country, won't cut down on rice exports.

A spokesperson for the International Rice research Institute in the Philippines Duncan Macintosh welcomes the initiatives by both government, and says such moves could help quell the panic that has gripped the international rice market.

"Clearly both ... responses by Thailand and Cambodia to try help stabilise the market - they make good sense and seem to be very good decisions," he said.

"I think most governments in Asia are looking to calm things down, because there's every reason for the markets to be stable."
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Chinese company completes restoration of Cambodia's National Road No. 7

STUNG TRENG, Cambodia, April 29 (Xinhua) -- National Road No. 7in northeastern Cambodia totally opened Tuesday, after an over-three-year restoration work by the Shanghai Construction Group of China.

The 186.648-km-long road, running through Kratie and Stung Treng provinces and directly leading to Laos, was refurbished brand new, thanks to the interest-free loan provided by the Chinese government and its construction team.

"It is the latest achievement during the 50 years of diplomatic relations between China and Cambodia," Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen told the inauguration ceremony on Tuesday at the end of the road bordering Laos.

The restoration of National Road No. 7 will help improve the economic development of northeastern provinces including Kratie, Stung Treng, Ratanakiri and Mondulkiri, Hun Sen told the ceremony attended by hundreds of officials and local residents.

After it has enough infrastructures, the northeastern provinces of Cambodia will be a region of development from 2015 to 2020, he said, adding there are various mines here, which are a very important factor for investment.

It will also help advance the internal integration of the road network of the neighboring countries, especially the triangle are of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, he said

It is part of the road linkage for the ASEAN countries and also perfects Asian Highway No. 11, he added.

Also at the ceremony, Chinese Ambassador Zhang Jinfeng said that the Cambodian-Chinese friendship bore another fruit, as the road is renovated to provide convenience for the local people, upgrade the regional road network and help materialize China's will to consolidate ties with its neighboring country and strive for common development with them.

Later at the ceremony, Hun Sen presented National Construction Medals to Zhang, some Chinese experts and Cambodian government officials.

The restoration of National Road No. 7 started on Nov. 8, 2004.It has 13 bridges, including the 1,057-meter-long Cambodia-China Friendship Bridge over the Sekong River near the border with Laos.

Currently, China is still helping Cambodia build National Road No. 8 and two bridges respectively over the Mekong River and the Tonle Sap River.
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Monday, April 28, 2008

A new political breeze in Cambodia

By Brian McCartan

CHIANG MAI, Thailand - A gathering coalition of smaller parties could give Prime Minister Hun Sen's now dominant Cambodian People's Party (CPP) an unexpected run for its money at National Assembly elections scheduled for this July.

The CPP has ruled the country either alone or in tandem with rival parties since the restoration of multi-party democracy in 1993 and in recent years has strongly consolidated its grip on political power. With its comparatively strong grassroots network, firm control over the national media, and recent successful economic policies, the CPP is widely expected to win the most seats at this year's polls. But perhaps not by the landslide many analysts had until now predicted.

To be sure, Cambodia's other main political parties are still generally in disarray. The Funcinpec party has recently been undermined by internal divisions, leading party founder Prince Norodom Ranariddh to cut ties and start up a new small political party bearing his name. Meanwhile, the major opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) still lacks the numbers and resources to alone represent a real democratic challenge to the CPP. The SRP party has likewise in recent years been plagued by internal discord over strategy and leadership.

Now, faced by the near certainty of another CPP election victory, talks have begun among medium- and small-sized parties of forming a coalition to contest the elections on the same ticket. Some political analysts believe there is some hope of success for such a coalition considering that the CPP received less than half the popular vote during the last general election in 2003 and the more recent commune elections held in 2007.

The 2003 polls resulted in a political stalemate, as neither the CPP nor Funcinpec managed the two-thirds majority constitutionally required to form a government. After a full year of political wrangling and paralysis, both sides agreed to change the rules to an over 50% majority and a new coalition government was formed in July 2004, which the CPP now dominates.

An estimated 23 parties contested the general elections in 2003; as many as 57 different political parties could contest the next polls, around 20 of which are expected to officially announce their candidacy during the April 18 and May 12 registration process. The three main opposition parties now negotiating the formation of a possible coalition include the SRP, the Human Rights Party (HRP) and the Funcinpec breakaway Norodom Ranariddh Party (NRP). A united opposition would increase the individual parties bargaining power vis-a-vis the CPP and in an electoral upset could together form the next government.

The HRP, formed in July 2007 by human rights activist Kem Sokha, founder of the once influential and foreign-funded Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR), cuts a particularly compelling contrast to the CPP. Sokha was jailed for publicly criticizing Hun Sen's policies and has successfully ridden that controversy, along with the CCHR's strong grassroots network, into politics.

The party claims over 10,000 supporters attended its opening congress and several well known political figures have joined its ranks, including Pen Sovann, a former prime minister of the early 1980s communist government. Kem Sokha has a grassroots reputation for fighting corruption and human rights abuses earned as a lawmaker in the dissolved Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party and later as a senator for Funcinpec before he left to create the CCHR in 2002.

With those political forces coalescing, there are already signs of a CPP rearguard defensive. Several of the newly created parties are allegedly in league with the CPP and have been launched strategically as political Trojan horses to penetrate and disrupt a possible united opposition front.

Democratic dirty tricks
The CPP has a long history of running rough and tumble election campaigns and there are growing accusations that the party is again using intimidation and threats against opposition supporters in the run-up to the polls. Senate elections held in January 2006 were criticized by local election monitoring organizations as undemocratic and slanted in favor of CPP-affiliated candidates. For the upcoming elections, 7,000 local election observers and 40 international monitoring bodies have registered to observe the elections.

Ou Virak, the current president of CCHR, believes that while overall the election environment will be better than previous polls, by international standards they still will not be free and fair. He claims that in recent months opposition activists have received threats and that a few have even been killed under mysterious circumstances.

Although there is not yet any hard evidence to indicate any political motivation behind the murders, Ou Virak sees the upshot in killings as "worrisome", particularly considering one of the main opposition parties is running under a human rights banner.

There has also been growing pressure on opposition members to defect to the CPP, particularly among SRP candidates. Where that doesn't work threats have been made against certain SRP commune chiefs and at least one, Tout Saron from Kompong Thom province, was jailed on March 18 on the some say trumped up charges of allegedly preventing an SRT activist from defecting to the CPP. The arrest of two other SRP officials is also being sought in connection with the case.

The arrest and warrants are already drumming up bad publicity for the CPP. Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said in a March 23 statement, "Dubious arrests of opposition officials months ahead of an election should set alarm bells ringing. This divide-and-conquer strategy is a well-known tactic of Prime Minister Hun Sen to subdue his opponents."

In the same statement, the US-based rights advocacy group said it believes that the CPP is conducting a "concerted campaign to coerce SRP members to defect to the CPP and punish those who refuse to do so, with the intention to split and weaken the opposition party before the national elections".

Hun Sen's CPP has long harassed the SRP, according to rights groups. In 2005, SRP member of parliament Cheam Channy was convicted to seven years in prison for what many considered an unsubstantiated charge of creating a rebel army. He served one year and was released after receiving a pardon from King Norodom Sihamoni. SRP leader Sam Rainsy, meanwhile, was convicted that same year for defamation of government leaders and fled the country. That intimidation follows on the bloody and still unresolved grenade attack against a Sam Rainsy rally in 1997 which killed 16 and injured 150 people. Human Rights Watch has alleged the attack was carried out by Hun Sen's own bodyguard unit, charges the premier has strongly denied.

Faced with such strong-arm tactics, few expect the opposition to actually win the July polls. Amendments to previous election laws mean that the CPP can form a government as long as it wins over 50% of the vote, rather than the previous constitutional requirement of a two-thirds majority. In 2003, inconclusive poll results meant that neither the CPP nor Funcinpec could form a government until several months later an agreement to amend the rules was reached.

With an opposition coalition in the offing, it's unclear if the CPP will need to reach out to one of the medium or several of the small parties to form the next government. After a major split and a number of defections, the CPP's current coalition partner, Funcinpec, is not expected to win as many seats at the upcoming polls as it managed in 2003. The party currently holds 20 of the National Assembly's 123 seats.

Due to their historical antagonistic relations with Hun Sen, it seems unlikely for now that the leaders of any of the other major opposition parties - including the SRP, HRP and NRP - would be keen without major concessions to join a CPP-dominated coalition government. Whether their party representatives, many as in the case of the SRP now in the opposition for over a decade, share those views after this July's polls will represent the success or failure of a united opposition.
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Unesco calls off joint talks

Separate meetings now on Preah Vihear listing

THANIDA TANSUBHAPOL


The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation has cancelled a meeting with Thailand and Cambodia in Paris over efforts to put the Preah Vihear temple on Unesco's World Heritage list.

The meeting was supposed to be this Friday and Saturday, with Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama leading the Thai side in the talks.

The meeting has been tentatively rescheduled for May 13, Mr Noppadon said.

The talks will concentrate on Cambodia's proposal to register the ancient ruins, which are right on the border with Thailand.

The only easy access is through Thailand, and some of the border is not demarcated and claimed by both sides.

Unesco will now send its representative, Francesco Caruso, for separate talks with the Thai and Cambodian governments.

The UN agency gave no reason for the change.

Mr Caruso has been appointed by Unesco as a special coordinator between Thailand and Cambodia on the issue and is due in Bangkok next month.

"The Thai government welcomes the proposal and is ready to meet and discuss in good faith with Cambodia the outstanding issues so as to facilitate the process of registration of the temple," the ministry said.

Thailand and Cambodia have agreed in principle to jointly manage Preah Vihear and other ruins in Thailand in the area, but will not allow the project to affect the plan to demarcate the border there.

Preah Vihear, called Khao Phra Viharn in Thai, is on the Cambodian side of Si Sa Ket's Kantharalak district.

But it does not look like the issue will be easily settled.

On April 10, the government handed an aide-memoire to Cambodian ambassador Ung Sean to protest against the deployment of Cambodian troops at the ancient temple.

The government said the troop deployment violated Thailand's territorial sovereignty in the disputed areas along the border, and was also against the spirit of a memorandum of understanding in 2000 concerning the area around the temple.

The Cambodian government countered by summoning Thai ambassador Viraphand Vacharathit to deny all the allegations a day later.

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Sunday, April 27, 2008

Cambodia to hold first ever Khmer Chess tournament

PHNOM PENH, April 27 (Xinhua) -- The Olympic Committee of Cambodia (OCC) and the Cambodian Chess Association (CCA) will jointly hold the First Khmer Chess Tournament from May 3 to 4 in order to standardize and highlight the national game.

Cash prize for champion is 1,000 U.S. dollars, and those for the second place and the third 700 U.S. dollars and 500 U.S. dollars, said CCA chairman Ly Hout here on Sunday.

Other top 10 winners can respectively win 100 U.S. dollars as well as trophies, he added.

Participating teams can be established on provincial or municipal basis and each team should include no more than five members, two or three of them chess players, he said.

Meanwhile, he raised 10,000 U.S. dollars to mobilize all the Cambodians to find and submit historical relics that can tell the real origin of the centuries-old sport.

Khmer Chess is a popular game among the Cambodians, but there had been no national match for it the its rules not officially certified until OCC and CCA got them done recently, said Ly Hout.
With these actions, OCC and CCA want to preserve and develop the national gem and thus benefit the coming generation, he added.
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Last Breakfast in Cambodia

CAMBODIANS and other Theravada Buddhists celebrate their New Year in mid-April. They were not always able to do so. Under Khmer Rouge and Vietnamese rule, those ancient traditions were forbidden, impossible. But now Cambodia is free again and the festivities are in the open. As I wander the country of my youth, I see people spending the long holiday praying at temples and visiting relatives.

And I remember. My family used to hold a reunion on April 13 to mark both the New Year and my mother’s birthday. In 1975, we had no idea that it would be our last. We were all apprehensive about the future, and my mother was distraught because I had missed the American evacuation.

The day before, an officer of the United States Agency for International Development had told me that I had to be at the embassy within an hour if I wanted to be airlifted out of Cambodia. (I was a manager for the American relief agency CARE and had been selected for the evacuation.) Instead, I went to a meeting to find a way to help 3,000 families stranded in an isolated province.

“Maybe I can make the meeting and get to the embassy in time,” I thought.

But as I returned to Phnom Penh, the traffic became heavily congested. Thousands of people on ox carts and overloaded bicycles were making their way to the capital to seek shelter and safety. When I finally reached the American Embassy and gave my name to the security officer, he looked puzzled.

“They are not coming back — they are gone!” The guard shouted his answer to emphasize the hard truth. And he added: “The war is over. We will have peace!”

Speechless, I went to the riverbank and looked at the horizon to see if I could spot the helicopters. The sky was blue and cloudless. I saw nothing. Years later, I learned that I had been looking in the wrong direction. The helicopters had flown westward toward the Gulf of Thailand. And I was looking east.

I was 30 minutes late. My life was going to change forever.

Everyone in the city was in a very somber mood. We prayed that our beloved country would return to the peaceful and stable life of the 1960s. What would happen to us now that the United States had closed its embassy? Two days earlier, President Gerald Ford had announced: “The situation in South Vietnam and Cambodia has reached a critical phase requiring immediate and positive decisions by this government. The options before us are few, and the time is very short.”

Five days later, on April 17, I stopped at a street-side restaurant to have a bowl of Phnom Penh noodles. A waiter took my order in Khmer and shouted in Cantonese loudly enough to be heard all the way to the kitchen: “One bowl of Kuytiev Phnom Penh, no MSG, no fat, blanched bean sprouts, hot tea for the skinny guy with glasses, white shirt, dark pants, table 13!” A different waiter brought my noodles in less than three minutes. Not once had they got the order wrong. It was going to be my last proper breakfast in Cambodia.

I had read gruesome descriptions of the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge against enemies of their revolution: babies thrown into the air and caught with a bayonet, children smashed into trees, villagers having their throats cut with the thorns of palm branches, merchants clubbed to death with the back of a hoe. I did not believe them.

The street was lined with city residents, a few still wearing the kramas and sarongs they had slept in. One was brushing his teeth. But all were looking north, waiting for something. They looked fearful.

I spent all day in a temporary emergency room in the Hotel Le Royal doing what I could to help. I came out for fresh air and saw the Khmer Rouge being welcomed. People seemed genuinely happy that the war had ended.

Later that day, the first day of “peace,” I and 15 of my family members left our home after the Khmer Rouge had ordered all cities immediately emptied, and walked to Pochentong, the village where my siblings and I were born. Our house was occupied by strangers, so we went to the temple. The monks were already gone and there were bodies lying around. Mother was sobbing. The women and girls in our family were choking back tears. The boys and men were all silent.

Shortly thereafter, I was separated from my family by the Khmer Rouge. After a year in slave labor camps, where I survived two death sentences, I escaped to Thailand. Following a few months in a Thai jail, in a Buddhist temple and in a refugee camp, I arrived in Wallingford, Conn., with $2 in my pocket. I later learned I was the only survivor in my close family. The Khmer Rouge had killed everyone else.

Cambodia today is not unlike the Cambodia of my youth — there is deep poverty and enormous wealth, side-by-side. There is unrest beneath the surface, the unrest that helped to make the horrors of the last century possible. And so, as I walk from one memory-filled place to another, I pray for a new year in which Cambodia’s leaders will find a way to bring about peace and stability. And, of course, I pray for my family.

Sichan Siv, a former United States ambassador to the United Nations, is the author of the forthcoming “Golden Bones.”
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Friday, April 25, 2008

Cambodia hopes to export 8 mn tonnes of rice by 2015: minister

PHNOM PENH (Xinhua): Cambodia expects to be able to export eight million tonnes of rice per year by 2015, Khmer-English language newspaper the Mekong Times on Friday quoted Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Chan Sarun as saying.

"We will encourage farmers to crop twice or three times a year and further strengthen irrigation systems in order to increase rice production," the minister told an exhibition of natural agricultural products held on Thursday in Kampong Chhnang province, stressing that the country has three million hectares of agricultural land.

Yang Saing Koma, executive director of the Cambodian Center for Study and Development in Agriculture, agreed that the harvest could be boosted.

"Cambodia has vast tracts of land and current rice output is still low. We believe that Cambodia can achieve the goal, " he said, adding that the government must invest more in the agricultural sector so that farmers have resources and techniques to increase rice yields.

In fact, he said, the kingdom could produce up to 10 million tonnes of rice in the next four or five years.

According to official statistics, Cambodia had a surplus of over two million tonnes of paddy rice from a total harvest of 6.72 million in 2007. High-quality rice sells around one U.S. dollar a kilogram currently in Cambodia.

Last month, the government imposed a ban on rice export and released its stockpile to the market to curb spiraling rice prices.

The inflation occurred reportedly as a result of world food shortage and over purchase of Cambodian rice by Vietnamese and Thai businessmen.

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Audit says management of Cambodian tribunal has improved after calls for reform

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: Cambodia's Khmer Rouge genocide tribunal is making significant progress in improving management problems that led to accusations of corruption, donors said Friday after a new audit.

Allegations of kickbacks and malpractice have dogged Cambodian members of the tribunal. An earlier audit initiated by the U.N. found shortcomings in its management.

The long-delayed U.N.-assisted tribunal to judge former Khmer Rouge leaders has also been plagued by political wrangling and inadequate financing.

Trials are scheduled to start later this year for atrocities committed during the 1975-79 rule of the communist Khmer Rouge, who are blamed for the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million people from starvation, disease, overwork and execution.

The tribunal has Cambodian and international staff who work jointly at every level, including prosecutors, defenders and judges.

A new audit scrutinizing the Cambodian side's operations shows reforms have been effective, two diplomats from the United Nations and the European Commission said.

"This special review has shown that we (now) have a system that can work," Rafael Dochao Moreno, charge d'affaires of the European Commission's mission to Cambodia, told reporters.

Jo Scheuer, country director for the U.N. Development Program, said the audit showed "significant improvements."

He said various audits since 2006 on management of the funds for the Cambodian side have shown "no questionable financial transactions, no misallocated resources and no incomplete or missing documentation in support of disbursements" of money.

He also added that previous auditors have found "no conclusive evidence" to support the allegations of kickbacks being paid by Cambodian personnel in exchange for their jobs.

Scheuer and Moreno are members of a committee made up of representatives of the nations and agencies funding the tribunal. It commissioned the independent review by a private Indian auditing firm to look into hiring and recruitment practices, salary scales, project assurance and a code of conduct for the tribunal's Cambodian staff.

The tribunal has been seeking additional funds for operations through March 2011. It told donor countries in January it would need US$170 million (€108 million), a sharp increase from the originally budgeted US$56.3 million (€36 million).

Rama Yade, the French minister of state for foreign affairs and human rights, told a news conference Friday that her government has pledged an additional US$1 million (€630,000) to the tribunal for this year.
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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Cambodia's tonle sap in distress

Nantiya Tangwisutijit

The Nation
Global warming and economic exploitation destabilise key lake's ecosystem

The Great Lake of Tonle Sap has always been Cambodia's spring of life. Abundant fish stock and seasonal flooding to fertilise rice fields have blessed the region long before the builders of Angkor Wat arrived 900 years ago.

But economic development policies are having the reverse effect. Locals are finding it more difficult to survive, a trend that may only worsen as climate change continues to take hold.

Tonle Sap is Southeast Asia's largest lake, and the source of protein-rich food for Cambodia's 14 million people. As such, the government has sought assistance to aggressively exploit its fisheries under the banner of poverty reduction. But Cambodian sociologist Mak Sithirith of the Fisheries Action Coalition Team said it is not the poor who are benefiting.

Under the scheme, the Cambodian government built infrastructure and introduced market economy to Tonle Sap communities. This has resulted in the end of interdependence between fishing and farming communities, Mak said. The traditional barter system between those growing rice and those catching fish disappeared after an industry of middlemen evolved to wander from village to village, exchanging rice and fish for cash.

"Neighbouring communities who used to rely on one another now compete for material consumption and accumulation obtained by cash and loans," Mak said.

The traditional small-scale fishermen are losing out entirely. The Cambodian government sold fishing concessions to large fishing businesses, banning villagers from the waters that ensured their livelihoods.

Scientists also suspect that changes of water flows caused by dam construction on the lower Mekong River and tributaries may affect the delicate relationship between the Mekong and Tonle Sap. During the rainy season, water flows from the Mekong to fill the lake, with the reverse occurring as the dry season settles in.

Climate change is adding a new level of anxiety. A coalition of Thai and Finnish scientists will soon begin a project to examine the potential climate-change impacts that those around Tonle Sap might experience in the next 50 years.

"Tonle Sap's topography makes the lake very sensitive to changes," Suppakorn Chinvanno of the Bangkok-based Southeast Asia Start Regional Centre said. "A water-level rise of just 0.3 metres can mean a kilometre more flooding on land because of the flat landscape."

This article is based in part on a presentation by Mak Sithirith at the third International Conference of the Asian Rural Sociology Association in Beijing.

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Lawyer they call the Devil's Advocate in court tirade

By Susan Bell
THE controversial French lawyer defending the former president of the Khmer Rouge stormed out of Cambodia's genocide tribunal yesterday – because thousands of pages of documents had not been translated into French.

Jacques Vergès is defending Khieu Samphan, 76, in his appeal against pre-trial detention on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Mr Vergès, who earned the nickname "the Devil's Advocate" for the notoriety of his client list, which ADVERTISEMENThas included the Nazi Gestapo officer Klaus Barbie, the Venezuelan terrorist Carlos the Jackal and the former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, declared: "French is an official language of the tribunal. There is not one page of the case file against Mr Khieu Samphan translated into French. I should be capable of knowing what my client is blamed for."

He told journalists that judges at the Phnom Penh hearing had asked Khieu Samphan to find a new lawyer. "This is a scandal," he said. "This never happens, except in dictatorships."

The Khmer Rouge leader, who has been held by the tribunal since 19 November, is charged in connection with the period his movement held power, from 1975 to 1979. About 1.7 million people died from starvation, disease, overwork and execution as a result of the Khmer Rouge's radical policies in trying to build a classless society.

The flamboyant 83-year-old lawyer is a natural choice to defend Khieu Samphan, whom he has known since both were active in left-wing student activities in Paris in the 1950s.

Biographies have documented Mr Vergès' links to the Khmer Rouge, including his meeting with Pol Pot, whom he befriended in 1949 when the lawyer was president of the Association for Colonial Students.

But there is mystery over his "missing years" – an eight-year period from 1970 to 1978 when he disappeared from public view, cutting all professional and family ties and leaving many to assume he was dead. Most of his associates now believe he had been in Cambodia during this period, a rumour that Pol Pot denied.

Born in Thailand in 1925 to a French diplomat father and a Vietnamese mother, Mr Vergès was brought up in the then French colony of Réunion. He joined the Communist Party there and in 1942 sailed to Liverpool to join the Free French Forces under Charles de Gaulle and participate in the anti-Nazi Resistance.

After the war, he did his legal training in Paris before embarking on a highly controversial career which has been shaped by his anti-colonialist communist beliefs. During the Algerian civil war, he defended many accused of terrorism by the French government, likening their independence struggle to French armed resistance to the Nazi German occupation in the 1940s.

Later, he worked on primarily political cases and has defended some of the most notorious figures of the past 50 years, including both left- and right-wing terrorists, war criminals and militants. When asked if he would have defended Hitler, he once replied: "I'd even defend Bush, but only if he agrees to plead guilty."
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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

German charge with aggravated beating of Cambodian wife

Phnom Penh - A German man was facing 10 to 20 years in a Cambodian jail after police allegedly rescued his wife in what they claimed Wednesday was one of the worst cases of domestic violence they had seen. Alvin Gossnol, 37, was arrested after police received complaints from his 38-year-old wife's family that she was being held against her will in their home and had been badly beaten.

Cheung Prey district police chief in the eastern province of Kampong Cham, Heing Vuthy, said the woman had managed to escape a room she had been locked in for two weeks but had been unable to scale the locked gate because her hands were broken.

"She managed to attract the attention of a boy who was passing and he ran to tell her relatives, who called the police," Vuthy said by telephone.

"After we pulled her over the wall, she told us when they married in 2001, her husband had made a special stick to beat her with. If she got the stick for him herself, he didn't beat her as badly, but if he had to get the stick, he beat her very seriously."

Police said Gossnol was at the home when they arrived but refused to open the gate. He only left the woman alone long enough for her to escape when their 8-month-old baby began crying.

"When we came back with a warrant, we found the stick, exactly as she had told us and it was still covered in her blood," Vuthy said.

The baby was rescued and returned to the mother, police said.

Gossnol, a pig farmer whose exact place of birth in Germany was not available, was jailed pending trial. Under Cambodian law he can be held up to six months pretrial.

"It is safe to say this man seems to have treated his pigs much better than his wife," Vuthy said.

Earlier this month Cambodia temporarily banned marriages of its nationals to foreigners, saying they feared often poor and under-educated women were especially vulnerable to abuse.

Divorce is still frowned upon in Cambodia, and the women also frequently feel a financial obligation to their families to stay with their foreign husbands no matter how bad it gets.
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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Asia limits rice exports as prices and uncertainty rise

By David Montero

sia, home to many of the world's top rice suppliers, accounts for 76 percent of the 30 million tons of the staple food exported each year. Prices are shooting up worldwide, in part because many of those countries have cut back on exports due to fears of shortage. The food-price crisis has underscored that, as a region, Asia is divided into "rice haves" - where domestic production is enough to feed the population - and "rice have-nots," which consistently rely on imports. Correspondent David Montero provides a snapshot of rice supplies around the region:

HAVES

Thailand

Thailand is the world's largest exporter of rice, with 31 percent of the global market. In 2007, it exported 9.4 million tons of rice, out of a total 20 million tons produced. Unlike many Asian countries, it has not imposed any export restrictions, and this year it expects to export between 8.75 million and 9 million tons.

Yet prices of rice have doubled in the country since the beginning of the year, fueling fears of inflation and hoarding. But the government has stockpiled 2.1 million tons of rice, and no shortages are expected.

Vietnam

Vietnam is the second largest exporter of rice in the world, with about 20 percent of the global market. It has said it will limit exports of rice to 3.5 million tons, down from 4.5 tons last year. The announcement contributed to global prices of rice doubling since January. Consumer prices in Vietnam, meanwhile, increased by 20 percent in March, a 12-year record.

India

India exports about 4 million tons of rice a year, making it the world's third-largest exporter. But because food prices have risen by 8.3 percent in the past year, it has also imposed restrictions on exports of rice. That is putting a considerable strain on world prices and supplies, experts say.

Pakistan

Pakistan exported 3.3 million tons of rice last year, making it the fifth-largest exporter just behind the United States. But exports this year are expected to fall by 15 percent to 2.8 million, mainly due to power shortages, according to Pakistani officials.

Since rice is not a staple food in Pakistan - wheat is - the government has not placed the same kind of restrictions as other Asia countries. With rice in tight supply, many countries are pinning their hopes on Pakistan's exports.

China

China is the world's largest producer and consumer of rice, with annual supplies large enough to feed its population. It exported 1.4 million tons of rice last year. But food prices jumped 21 percent in March alone, and consumer prices reached an 11-year high in February of 8.7 percent. To dampen price increases, China imposed strict export restrictions on rice, which is expected to result in a drop of 300,000 tons to the global market. This week it also imposed a six-month tariff on fertilizer exports, to help shore up domestic supply.

Cambodia

Cambodia produced 3.6 million tons of rice last year, according to official estimates. Two million are needed for domestic consumption, leaving Cambodia with about 1.6 million tons in surplus. Last year it exported 450,000 tons of rice, according to the US Department of Agriculture. But this year it may not: In late March, Prime Minister Hun Sen imposed a two-month ban on all exports, hoping to curb the spiraling domestic price of rice. The rate of food inflation reached 24 percent in March, the highest level in a decade.

Indonesia

Indonesia, one of the world's leading consumers of rice, usually imports large quantities of the grain to feed its 233 million people - making it particularly vulnerable to the rice crisis. But this year it expects to harvest 32.6 million tons, about 1.2 million more than it needs for domestic consumption. The surplus comes thanks to an expansion in the harvested farmland area and improved yields. Accordingly, rice prices have only increased by 7 percent this year, much less than in the rest of Asia, which has seen a rise of about 50 percent.

Japan

Unlike the rest of Asia, there is actually a rice glut in Japan, and rice prices are falling, according to the Wall Street Journal. Last year, Japanese farmers produced 8.71 million tons of rice, against a demand of 8.33 million tons. Japanese consumers pay two to three times more for rice than other Asian consumers do, as part of a program to generously subsidize rice production.

South Korea

South Korea looks prepared to weather the current crisis. Last year it produced 4.68 million tons of rice, more than enough to meet the 4.16 million tons of demand. Still, rice prices have shot up 75 percent in the past two months.

Australia

Australia used to produce 700,000 tons of rice and export around 600,000 annually,

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Kep is Cambodia or the whole country is Vietnam

Crabs...we watched them go straight from the trap to the grill to our plates....YUM! (seafood is Kep's only industry)

Kep was once a seaside resort. Then the Khmer Rouge came to town (see the pattern developing?). Kep and Kampot were one of their last holdouts, so the town is just starting to see tourists rolling through. We spoke to some locals who said there weren't even guest houses in Kep 5 years ago. For that matter, there weren't any Cambodians. The locals were too scared (smart) to live there and moved out. In 1994, there was actually a very well documented account of foreigners getting kidnapped by the KR on the road between Kep and Kampot. None of them survived. (Don't worry, Mom, that's why we're avoiding Burma (and now Tibet) this trip).

We took an 18km bike ride around the mountain range that looms over the town and the effect of their recent history was tough to miss. As we tend to do, we rode off the beaten path of the main road and biked around a little further inland. There were seaside mansions, one right after another. Back in the day, Kep was THE beach-side resort town and only the wealthiest of Cambodians (i.e. government officials) could afford to live there. These places were massive. As we rode past them, however, they were no longer inhabited by Cambodia's elite. Life is nothing, if not ironic and the mansions are now inhabited by Cambodia's impoverished. During the KR years, most of the mansions were shelled by mortars, riddled with bullets and bulldozed with tanks. What were seaside mansions are now seaside ruins. So Kep's poor put up a tin wall here, threw up a plastic sheet there and are now squatting in some of the nicest homes in the country.

Having caught the Indiana Jones bug, I desperately wanted to park our bikes and explore some of the homes that were still vacant. Unfortunately, I saw one too many one-legged and no-legged Cambodians begging in the streets. Putting on my Indy fedora wasn't worth the risk of stepping on an undetonated land mine.

Sadly, Kep was our last stop in Cambodia.

Now we're waking up and screaming GOOD MORNING, VIETNAM!

Cambodian Cultural Difference - HALLO! : Okay, so this is more of a traveling phenomenon than a Cambodian phenomenon, but the kids are so cute there, I had to throw it under Cambodia. No matter where we've traveled, we are always bombarded with waves and greetings from the local children. Particularly during our 18km bike marathon, we would here a high-pitched "HALLO!!!!" coming from out of nowhere, only to see a naked 4 year old running out of his house chasing after us, arm frantically waving in there air. Tracy...err I mean Miss America... likes her Southeast Asian celebrity status so much that if somehow a child DOESN'T see us, SHE will scream out to them. She will do anything for her HALLO! fix.

Funnily enough, as we rode on the back of the tuk tuk to the Vietnamese border, the HALLOS! changed to BYE BYE!!!'s.
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Soccer-Cambodia to beef-up national team to stem goals tide

By Ek Madra

PHNOM PENH, April 22 (Reuters) - Cambodia is on a drive to recruit bigger players for its struggling soccer side after years of being hammered by more physical teams, the country's soccer chief said on Tuesday.

Soccer federation president Sao Sokha said the impoverished country's diminutive players had little chance against bigger, stronger opponents so it was time for a complete overhaul.

"We need to have bigger and taller players to play against tough foreign players," he told Reuters.

"The new recruits must meet the requirement of (being) at least 1.7 metres tall, young, strong and able to run fast."

Cambodia's team of labourers, security guards and policemen have conceded 21 goals in their last four matches. The team has never qualified for a tournament outside of Southeast Asia.

Introduced to soccer in the 1960s by French colonialists, Cambodia were fast improvers before a brutal civil war, which included genocide under the Khmer Rouge regime, curtailed their progress and led to a 23-year absence from the game.

Sao Sokha said 30 players had so far been recruited and would be paid up to $250 a month -- eight times the salary of a civil servant.

"Lots of people like to watch the game, but it is difficult to find qualified people to play it," he said.

"I urge all parents to let their children play soccer so that it will help us to find good players -- players who can attract spectators like rock bands do." (Editing by Martin Petty and Greg Stutchbury)


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Monday, April 21, 2008

US gives Cambodia $2 mln for genocide museum

Cambodia is to build a Khmer Rouge genocide museum and library, funded by the United States, as a permanent reminder of the "Killing Fields" atrocities of Pol Pot's guerrilla movement, its director-to-be said today.

Documentation Centre of Cambodia head Youk Chhang, who has been cataloguing the ultra-Maoist regime's crimes for more than a decade, said the museum would be on the site of an old re-education camp in the capital.

"Genocide does not discriminate. It kept happening in the last century and one way is to use education as a tool help to prevent genocide," he told reporters.

Prime Minister Hun Sen, himself a former Khmer Rouge soldier who defected to Vietnam in the late 1970s, handed over the land on April 17, the 33rd anniversary of the 1975 downfall of Phnom Penh to Pol Pot's peasant army.

A $56 million United Nations-backed court has charged five top cadres with war crimes and crimes against humanity. Cambodia has appealed to its donors for another $114 million in funding to see the trials through to a conclusion. - Reuters
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Thai broker Seamico eyes Vietnam, Cambodia in Q3

BANGKOK, April 21 (Reuters) - Thailand's Seamico Securities ZMIC.BK aimed to finalise plans later this year to expand into Vietnam and Cambodia, two of Asia's fastest-growing economies, the brokerage firm said on Monday.

The company also planned to sell up to 1 billion baht ($32 million) worth of debentures during June and July, Seamico Vice Chairman and Managing Director Pinit Puapan told reporters.

"We should have a clear picture of our overseas expansion in the third quarter," Pinit said without giving further details.

Seamico, ranked 7th among Thailand's 38 listed brokers, is focused on underwriting share and debt issues as well as advising companies on initial public offerings.

The Thai firm said last year it wanted to buy stakes in Vietnamese brokerage firms, but did not name any targets.

Vietnam's main stock index .VNI rose 23 percent last year after jumping 145 percent in 2006, powered by surge in foreign funds. The index has fallen 42.3 percent so far this year.

Seamico expected to receive a licence to enter Cambodia later this year, he said.

On Monday, Seamico shares closed down 1.8 percent to 3.22 baht while the overall index was 0.4 percent lower. ($1=31.50 Baht) (Reporting by Saranya Suksomkij; Writing by Ploy Chitsomboon; Editing by Darren Schuettler)

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Cambodia opposes Dalai Lama's attempts to sabotage Beijing Olympics

PHNOM PENH, April 21 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia opposes attempts by the Dalai clique to sabotage the upcoming Olympic Games in Beijing by making use of the Tibet issue, Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Hor Namhong said on Monday.

Cambodia also opposes any foreign interference in China's internal affairs, said Hor, who is also minister of foreign affairs and international cooperation, during a meeting with a visiting Chinese delegation.

The Olympic Games have nothing to do with politics and Cambodia fully supports China's hosting of the 2008 Olympics, Hor told the delegation headed by Zhang Xuan, deputy party chief of China's Chongqing city.

King Norodom Sihamoni will attend the games' opening ceremony in Beijing, he added.

The Cambodian government has consistently adhered to the one-China policy and opposed Taiwan independence, he said.

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French lawyer in Cambodia to represent ex-Khmer Rouge leader

By KER MUNTHIT

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — A French lawyer who defended terrorists and a former Nazi officer arrived in Cambodia on Monday to represent a former Khmer Rouge leader.

Jacques Verges declined to comment and only said "go to the court" before being whisked away in a car after his arrival at Phnom Penh International Airport.

Verges will join a Cambodian attorney to argue former Khmer Rouge leader Khieu Samphan's appeal against his pretrial detention.

The U.N.-assisted tribunal has held Khieu Samphan since Nov. 19 on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity stemming from atrocities committed under Khmer Rouge rule in 1975-79.

The communist group's radical policies led to the deaths of some 1.7 million people from starvation, disease, overwork and execution.

Khieu Samphan is one of five former leaders of the group held for their alleged roles in the atrocities. He has repeatedly denied any involvement.

Verges has won international notoriety for his past efforts in defending criminals such as Venezuelan terrorist Carlos the Jackal and Nazi Gestapo officer Klaus Barbie.

Khieu Samphan has said he has known Verges since he attended university in France in the 1950s, when both were active in student movements against French colonialism.

Khieu Samphan's defense team also includes Say Bory, a Cambodian lawyer who used to serve on the constitutional council, the country's highest legal body.

Say Bory said the defense is challenging both the tribunal's grounds for detaining Khieu Samphan and its arguments implicating him in the Khmer Rouge's atrocities.

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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Cambodian Campaigner Get World's Children's Prize In Stockholm

By Bjarne Wildau

Somaly Mam of Cambodia, who has campaigned against trafficking and child prostitution was Wednesday named winner of the World's Children's Prize. Queen Silvia of Sweden, one of the patrons of the prize, was to present the award, worth 150,000 dollars, at a ceremony on Friday.

Somaly Mam was sold to a brothel as a young girl, and has campaigned against trafficking for the past 12 years. She has set up three safe houses for girls rescued from brothels and offers them food, health care, schooling and job training, organizers said.

Her organization, that is known under its French acronym, AFISEP, has helped some 3,000 former sex workers.

However, Somaly Mam's campaign against the sex trade in Cambodia has "earned her many enemies and death threats. Her own 14 year-old daughter was kidnapped, raped and sold to a brothel" two years ago, organizers said.

Somaly Mam was selected by a jury of former child soldiers, street children, bonded workers and refugees from 17 countries.

Somaly Mam was also winner of the Global Friends' Award in a worldwide vote among some 6.6 million children.

The World's Children's Prize award, was established in 2000 by the Swedish non-governmental organization, Children's World.
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Far Reaching Impact of the Golden Triangle in Southeast Asia

Deep in the former opium-growing region of the Golden Triangle in Southeast Asia, a new road has opened that is bound to change the social, economic and environmental fabric of the region forever. But unlike so many changes in Asia that have been studied only after their impact has occurred, researchers were on the ground for this one from the very beginning.

Using a combination of high-tech satellite technology and traditional boot-pounding research, they are working to understand the impact of change on a region that has largely existed in steady isolation for generations.

The road, inaugurated with great fanfare in early April by the prime ministers of Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, will link the city of Kunming in southern China through northern Laos to Chiang Mai in Thailand and then on to Bangkok, nearly 1,100 miles away. This new “Route 3,” the first modern ground link between China and Thailand, cuts directly through the formerly isolated high mountain areas of the region - the famed “Golden Triangle.”

Among those researching the impact of the road through Montane Southeast Asia is East-West Center researcher Jefferson Fox. Under grants from the National Science Foundation and NASA worth about $1.5 million, Fox and his colleagues are studying how the road will affect the environment, land use practices and daily life in the regions it penetrates.

But in larger ways, their study will contribute to the understanding of how projects such as this have impacts far beyond the direct economic or physical changes that drive them in the first place.

Working with economists, geographers, sociologists and others, Fox put together a high-tech database, which in turn has led to a greater understanding of dynamics of change.

“We’re looking at the road as a metaphor for change,” Fox said.

A half-century ago, this was a remote mountainous region populated by indigenous people who survived on traditional shifting cultivation and subsistence hunting. From far northern Thailand through Laos and into China, “you wouldn’t even know you were in three different countries,” Fox said.

But change inevitably came. Opium production became an export crop, and, later, cash crops such as rubber began to take over. The Chinese, Fox notes, were particularly successful in establishing rubber in the semi-tropical areas of southern China with a system that became a combination of state-run enterprises and private small landholders.

In Thailand, an interest in land preservation led to the creation of land set-asides and national parks that left traditional indigenous people marginalized or dispossessed, he said. In Laos, the indigenous people are increasingly becoming sharecroppers for outsiders who are eager to plant more and more rubber.

The introduction of year-round “monocrops” has had an immediate and measurable impact on the environment, Fox says. This is particularly true with an introduced crop such as rubber, with its high demands for land and water resources.

The only thing holding back even further expansion of rubber and further loss of the existing environment and traditional cultures in the area was lack of an adequate means of getting that product to market.

Hence, the road.

Traditionally, such development projects happen, and then scientists come in to study their impact after the fact, Fox said. In this case, the study began before the road was completed and led to a solid baseline of information that can be used to accurately paint a before-and-after picture.

Whether that change is good or bad can be a matter of perspective, Fox said. But what is without question is that transformation is coming to the region on a scale that could not have been imagined previously.

“We’re really on the verge of a major change in land use in the uplands of Southeast Asia,” he said. “It was going to find a way to happen anyway, but not at this speed.”

What is important to scientists such as Fox is that, this time, the change - beginning with the physical and environmental transformations and moving on to all the associated impacts - is being watched and measured. It makes sense, he said, to monitor land-use change as the baseline for understanding these massive changes taking place.

“These cultures were built around their land use,” he said. “If you change land use policies, you’re going to have an impact on your culture.”

Along with that change of land use come new environmental problems, such as demand for water and loss of biodiversity; the shift from a subsistence to an export economy; social change as people move toward cash jobs and urban centers; and the influx of new people and ideas carried easily along the smooth new Route 3 road.

One concern is the spread of disease, particularly HIV/AIDS, which is known to “flow along roads,” Fox said. The fact that Kunming and the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai are known for high incidence of AIDS makes this unhappy change inevitable.

Another concern, he said, is the potential for an uptick in smuggling. While opium production has been largely curtailed, there is still a lucrative black market for tropical hardwoods and lumber. Illegal forestry could expand with easy access to the new road, he said.

Over time, Fox said, the story of a place transitioning from subsistence to a commercial economy “is not a new story.”

“But a major road that opens up an area that has been totally isolated is not that common,” he said. “Here we have three countries, three (land use) policies. It’s a great opportunity for understanding.”

Jefferson Fox is a senior researcher at the East-West Center in Honolulu, specializing in land-use and land-cover change in Asia, and is coordinator of the Center’s Environmental Change, Vulnerability and Governance research group.
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Friday, April 18, 2008

Careless drivers blamed for high holiday road toll

Written by Khouth Sophak Chakrya

Eight killed, 21 injured in Phnom Penh

Substantially more people were killed on Phnom Penh roads this New Year than during the 2007 holiday break despite the efforts of road safety organizations and the Cambodian government, who campaigned hard to lower the holiday road toll.

Eight people were killed and 21 injured in the capital over the April 12-15 holiday period, said the deputy chief of Phnom Penh’s traffic police, Pen Khun, who blamed poor driving for most crashes.

Last Khmer New Year in Phnom Penh, only one person was killed and 20 injured during the five days from April 12-16, he said.

“Ninety-seven percent of all accidents are caused by human error, primarily drunk driving and speeding,” Khun said.

Meanwhile, the Department of Road Transportation said the number of accidents nationwide from January to March 2008 had more than doubled from the same period last year.

In Siem Reap province this New Year, there were nine traffic accidents that injured 16 people, although no fatalities were reported, Siem Reap police chief Sot Nady told the Post on April 16.

“We had eight fewer accidents this year than in 2007 because many people didn’t drive their cars during the festivities as we had bad storms at the time,” he said.

Keo Savin, director of the Department of Road Transportation, said roads were becoming more crowded and this was contributing to a higher rate of crashes in general.

From January until the end of March, 421 people were killed on Cambodian roads and a further 3,003 injured, compared with 206 fatalities and 2,122 injured in the first three months of 2007, according to the department’s figures.

“The sheer volume of vehicles causes accidents now,” Savin said.

From January 1 to March 31, “in the whole of Cambodia, 11,414 people received driving licenses but the number of registered vehicles went up even faster – 34,810 vehicles were registered, of which 29,049 were motorbikes,” he said.

Several NGOs and government departments issued warnings and held high-profile public ceremonies in the build-up to the Khmer New Year break in the hope of saving lives on the Kingdom’s notoriously chaotic roads.

The National Road Safety Committee on April 7 warned people to drive carefully as there is often a spike in the number of traffic accident during national festivals, particularly during Khmer New Year when thousands of families flood out of the cities in overloaded vehicles to celebrate the holiday in their home provinces.

Still, festivities got off to a bad start in Phnom Penh with five people killed in three crashes on April 13.

Pop star Sok Pisey was injured on April 14 when the car she was driving blew a tire and ran off a road in Koh Kong province, killing four passengers, including her 10-year-old sister, and injuring five others.

The 19-year-old, who had been traveling from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville for a concert, was taken to Calmette hospital and is expected to make a full recovery.

According to the Road Traffic Accident Victim Information System (RTRAVIS), from April 12-18 last year there were 1,340 minor casualties, 74 fatalities, and 341 severe injuries nationwide.

While an accurate national tally of crashes is yet to be compiled for the holiday this year, the deputy head of the department of judicial police, Him Yan, said on 16 April he was optimistic that “traffic accidents during the Khmer New Year period for this year will be fewer than last year.”



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Govt shrugs off Thai border complaints over Preah Vihear

Written by Cat Barton and Vong Sokheng

The government on April 11 denied Thai allegations it was overstepping its boundaries at the long-disputed Preah Vihear temple that straddles the Thai-Cambodian border, in the latest bout of political jostling that has for years has prevented Cambodia from listing the ancient Hindu temple as a UNESCO world heritage site.

Although the International Court of Justice at The Hague ruled in 1962 that the temple belongs to Cambodia, the actual boundary line in the district remains unclear and the 4.6-square-kilometer area surrounding the temple is claimed by both countries.

Thailand sparked off the latest series of exchanges on April 11 when it summoned the Cambodian Ambassador to Thailand, Ung Sean, and claimed Cambodia had dispatched troops to the contested area over a month ago. This would violate a memorandum of understanding signed in 2000 by both parties which bars them from making any changes in the area before the border can be demarcated.

Ouch Borith, Secretary of State at the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told reporters the only armed forces deployed in the area were there to maintain the temple and provide security for visiting tourists.

“There is no confusion about the border and no overlapping area with Thailand’s territory in Preah Vihear,” Borith said. “The border was clearly mapped out in the Hague’s decision which was recognized by the international community.”

Thailand has lodged complaints before; in 2004 over the building of a road, in 2005 over the setting up of official outposts and a community, and in 2007 over the issuing of a decree to claim the area so it can be registered as a World Heritage Site.

This time, they requested Phnom Penh withdraw its armed forces and leave the area vacant until the completion of demarcation – expected in about 10 years.

Cambodia is trying to demarcate the border area itself, which requires finding 73 old markers that once signaled the border line. Since 2006, they have found 20.
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Witness to history, telegraph service set to shut down

During a recent visit to the Central Post Office on Bangrak Road, officials there proudly told me about the history of the post office building, which has been deemed to be part of the nation's cultural heritage.

Jeerawat Na Thalang

The Nation

"There's a bomb underneath the car parking lot," an official said, pointing to the parking space in front of the building. The bomb was dropped during World War II but it did not explode. Officials didn't know how to retrieve the bomb without setting it off, so they left it there after the war ended.

The monolith building was designed according to old European architectural styles and its floor is decorated with tiles from Italy. The tiles may have darkened over the years but they give a vintage look to the interior of what is known as both the Bangrak Post Office and the Central Post Office, Bangkok South.

The building has witnessed the fast-changing pace of communications technology, from the old days when postmen wore neatly ironed shirts with shining stripes and rode bicycles to deliver mail to more modern times when people on different continents can communicate via email within seconds.

From next month, this old building will witness another historical event in the evolution of technology. The telegraph service will cease to exist, with a new generation turning to new methods of communication like e-mail.

Telegraph was once one of the most popular ways to send quick messages. People used the telegraph wire to deliver hot news, such as the results of a job interview, news of a recent death or claims for debt payment. At its peak, from 1987 to 1992, more than 500,000 messages were sent by telegraph each month. But that number has declined to some 8,000 this month. CAT decided to close down the service because the cost of maintaining it was not worthwhile.

The telegraph service came to Thailand in 1875. At that time, both the French and the British offered to construct telegraph lines in Thailand. The French offered to connect the line to Saigon, while the British wanted to run a line from Bangkok to Tavoy, Burma. King Rama V eventually turned down the offers from both countries and decided that Thailand would construct its own line. Thailand launched its first line in the East, connecting Bangkok and Samut Prakan. The service was later expanded to Prachin Buri to connect with the Indochinese line in Battambang in Cambodia and Saigon in Vietnam. Later on, the service was expanded throughout Thailand.

The telegraph was in fact part of several historical events. On January 17, 1928, the Post and Telegraph Department launched the international radiotelegraphy line for the first time by using a short-wave transmission machine to send a signal to Berlin. King Rama VII sent a telegraph to the Thai ambassador in Berlin saying:

SIAMESE MINISTER BERLIN

GREETING AM GLAD TO BE ABLE TO SEND FIRST MESSAGE DIRECT BANGKOK BERLIN RADIO

PRAJADHIPOK R

During World War II, the international telegraph service - which came through Manila - was halted in December 1941. Later on, the Thai government tried to negotiate the re-launching of the service via a neutral country. On April 6, 1942, the international telegraph service was reopened as the service was connected via Geneva, Switzerland.

Postal staff said that when they were students at the Post and Telegraph School, Morse Code class was their toughest because they had to memorise how to send the code accurately. An urban legend at the school had it that some telegraph experts could receive and memorise four messages at the same time before delivering them all later.

Officials said they received incomprehensible messages frequently, which they suspected were sent by lovers. Unfortunately, quite a number of the messages sent were death notices.

"It combined the art of finger-tapping and the accuracy of the code," said Saneth Pangsapha, the 59-year-old head of the Bangkok South Post Office in Bangrak. He demonstrated how to tap the code with his flexible wrist. "Telegraph is very classic. It requires both technical skill and a human touch," he said while complaining that his wrist has turned "dusty" because he cannot move his fingers to tap the code as fast as he used to.

These days, the telegraph service section consists of 25 staff members, a reduction from some 300 when the service was more popular. The telegraph section is located on the upper floor of the Bangrak Post Office. Morse Code is no longer applied. Officials use a computerised system to send telegraphs.

Consumers can, however, fill out the telegraph forms, which they can collect from the ground floor of the post office. Pieces of the brown paper form available in a box obviously shows that the form has not been reprinted in years.

Many years ago, the telegraph office wanted to change the image of the telegraph service. "People were frightened when they received a telegraph. They thought chances were good they were about to receive death news," said Kanissorn Tongsap, another post office official. The post office introduced the idea of telegraphs sent for "friendship and goodwill". However, the campaign was not quite successful as people turned to other types of technology to send messages, such as SMS.

Thailand is not alone in closing the service, as other countries have also ended the service recently. "The other factor forcing us to close the service is that spare parts needed for telegraph equipment are no longer available," said Kanissorn. Some countries such as France, however, used telegraph services during the Iraq War because the services were deemed safer. Who knows, the abandoned telegraph poles along several main roads may be dusted off and used again.

Members of the public are invited to join the telegraph exhibition in the final week of April at the Central Post Office in Bangrak.

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ADRA Provides Food and Shelter for Fire Survivors in Cambodia

Source: Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) International
Ann Marie Stickle
Website: http://www.alertnet.org/redir/mem_out_219487/http://www.adra.org
Reuters and AlertNet are not responsible for the content of this article or for any external internet sites. The views expressed are the author's alone.

Phnom Penh, Cambodia—After a fire completely destroyed 450 homes in an impoverished section of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on April 11, 2008, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) provided emergency food and shelter for 2,400 residents displaced by the disaster.

Coordinating with the mayor's office, ADRA Cambodia distributed rice, noodles, fish, salt, sugar, and vegetable oil to 520 families, or approximately 2,000 identified fire survivors, on April 12.

On April 15, ADRA expanded its response, distributing shelter and noodles for an additional 80 identified families that were also displaced by the fire, and are currently living in a make-shift internally displaced camp near the site of the tragedy.

According to authorities, the fire began at around 5 a.m. and burned for approximately 5 hours.

Due to the close proximity of the poorly constructed wooden homes, and the crowds of people escaping with their possessions, fire engines were unable to enter the area to extinguish the fire, which caused the complete destruction of all 450 homes located there, leaving behind only concrete poles.

More than 50 families were immediately moved to an open field nearby. However, more survivor families are joining the displaced persons camp each day, swelling the camp's population to more than 250 families. ADRA International, the ADRA Asia Regional Office in Bangkok, Thailand, and ADRA Cambodia are funding this response. ADRA has worked jointly with the Cambodia Adventist Mission, the Cambodia Adventist School, and Adventist Frontier Missions in packaging and distribution, and is coordinating with the mayor's office, village leaders, and other NGO partners in the relief efforts.

To assist in ADRA's response to the fire in Cambodia, please contact ADRA International at 1.800.424.ADRA (2372) or donate online to the Emergency Response Fund at www.adra.org. ADRA is present in 125 countries, providing community development and emergency management without regard to political or religious association, age, gender, race, or ethnicity. Additional information about ADRA can be found at www.adra.org. -END- Author: Ann Stickle, Associate Director for ADRA Cambodia Media Contact: Hearly Mayr ADRA International 12501 Old Columbia Pike Silver Spring, MD 20904 Phone: 301.680.6357 Mobile: 301.526.2625 E-mail: Media.Inquiries@adra.org
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Thursday, April 17, 2008

New Year's blast in Cambodia kills 1, injures 25

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — An attacker hurled a hand grenade into a crowd of people dancing at a Buddhist temple to celebrate Cambodia's traditional New Year, killing one villager and wounding 25 others, police said Thursday.

The attack, which killed a 21-year-old man, occurred Wednesday evening about 30 miles north of Siem Reap in western Cambodia, said Ou Em, the provincial police chief.

Many villagers had gathered at the temple for dancing to mark the last day of the traditional New Year holiday, police said.

"First, I thought it was a firecracker that exploded until I saw people with blood on them," said Bou Nimol, a 17-year-old girl who witnessed the attack. "I just ran straight home after that."

Police said they were investigating the attack but had no immediate suspects.

Siem Reap, about 140 miles northwest of the capital, Phnom Penh, is the site of the famed Angkor temples.
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Man guilty of Cambodia coup plot

It is so sad and regret to see the Justice in the United State bear from its role to pro the Mafia government of Cambodia. In stead of helping Chhun as political exile; United State is trying to please those criminal Mafia officials.

A US court has convicted a Cambodian-born man of masterminding a failed coup attempt against the Cambodian government eight years ago.

Chhun Yasith, 52, was found guilty of four charges relating to the failed attack in November 2000.

Dozens of armed men attacked government buildings in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, in a bid to overthrow Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Several people were killed but the prime minister escaped unhurt.

The court in Los Angeles found Chhun guilty of three charges of conspiracy and one of planning a military expedition against a US ally.

"The planning and fundraising happened right here in the United States," prosecutor Lamar Baker told the court earlier this month.

"It was like the labels say, 'Made in the USA'."

But a lawyer for Chhun argued that his client's only goal had been "to bring democracy to his homeland".

"It was misguided and naive in its execution but it was not misguided and naive in its intent," lawyer Richard Callahan said.

Armed attack

Chhun left Cambodia in the early 1980s when the country was in disarray following the Vietnamese invasion that swept the Khmer Rouge regime from power.

He became a US citizen and worked as an accountant in Long Beach, California.

But in the late 1990s, prosecutors said, he founded a group called the Cambodian Freedom Fighters.

The group's aim was to unseat the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge commander who had defected to Vietnam in the late 1970s.

Prosecutors said that the group - controlled by Chhun from a base in Thailand - carried out a series of smaller attacks in the lead-up to the coup attempt.

Then on 24 November 2000, dozens of rebels armed with rockets and grenades attacked government buildings in Phnom Penh.

Several people were killed and more injured.

In the wake of the attack, dozens of people were arrested and jailed. Chhun was tried and convicted in absentia by a Phnom Penh court.

He will be sentenced in Los Angeles on 8 September, where prosecutors say he could face life imprisonment.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Cambodia’s Urban Renewal Turns Ugly


The government is using the fiction of slum clearance to kick the poor off valuable property

Just a stone’s throw away from Cambodia’s National Assembly in Phnom Penh, a fading billboard trumpets an urban renewal campaign promising to transform 100 poor communities into thriving neighborhoods within a year. Included is the decimated slum that lies behind parliament – Dey Krahorm, or Red Earth village.

The billboard, erected a few months before national elections four years ago, shows Prime Minister Hun Sen leading a band of impassioned officials as they stride toward this much publicized goal.

They never reached it. After the election, urban renewal turned into poverty expulsion. Red Earth now resembles a moonscape of rubble, teetering shacks and evacuated spaces. Fewer than 100 of the nearly 1,000 families who lived there when the billboard was erected remain. The rest have been trucked off to one of the many relocation sites 20 to 30 kilometers outside the city, most of which lack electricity, clean water, toilets, schools, clinics and, importantly, access to jobs.

Excluding Burma, “Cambodia has the most abusive record of forced evictions in the region,” said David Pred, the country director of Bridges Across Borders, an international non-governmental organization formed to combat the root causes of violence.

In an interesting twist, the Cambodian Red Cross, which has been appealing for donations to resettle squatters, is headed by the prime minister’s wife, Bun Rany Hun Sen. Besides widespread allegations of corruption and misuse of funds, the Cambodia Red Cross’s appeal for funds to resettle people evicted as a result of land grabs by people closely tied to the prime minister is, to use the phrase of one diplomat, “more than a little off-putting.”

An official at the International Red Cross agreed: “There’s something not quite kosher about this,” he said.

Although evictions have been a companion to Asia’s “asymmetrical growth”, as Pred calls it, over the past 25 years, the situation in Cambodia is exacerbated by the lack of legal protection for those facing eviction. “At least in a country like the Philippines, affected people can go to court and a have some chance at stopping [evictions] or getting fair compensation. That is not possible in Cambodia today,” Pred said.

Dey Krahorm resident Lee Luleng was blunter: “If I call the police [for help] they will arrest me.” Lee Luleng, 61, is among those who have declined the offer of either relocation outside the city or compensation equivalent to less than 10 percent of the land’s market value of more than US$3,000 per square meter from 7NG, the shadowy company that claims ownership of the land. (7NG describes itself as a publicly listed company in a country that does not have a stock exchange. In a telephone interview, 7NG chairman Srey Sothea said the company is not listed on a foreign bourse and that all its funds are sourced in Cambodia. He declined, however, to identify the exact source of the company’s funds or name its board of directors. He did say, however, that 7NG is “seeking foreign investment.”)

Declining a bad deal from 7NG can come at a heavy price. At least 13 residents of Dev Krathorn, including six community representatives, have been charged with criminal offenses, according to the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights, which has documented a three-year campaign of what it calls “harassment, intimidation and provocation” against the community by private security officers and municipal police.

“They shout, ‘Get out, dogs!’ We shout back, ‘You’re worse than Pol Pot,’” is how Lee Luleng described the frequent standoffs with police and security officers. Along with insults and obscenities, police sometimes toss bags of urine at them, residents say. Police erected a wall along one end of the community to block access to street-side shops (forcing owners to sell or relocate) and tried unsuccessfully to block access to the market that is the community’s main source of income.

Srey Sothea, the 7NG head, said no employees of his company were involved in altercations with residents of Dey Krathorm. “We’re a construction company, not a security firm,” he said. He also denied allegations that 7NG is paying police officers to drive the residents from their homes.

“When Cambodians hear the phrase ‘development plan’, they know it means evictions,” explained Choun Chamrong, a land-rights program officer at the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Organization. “Usually they give up quickly because they know they are up against companies or individuals connected to the government,” she explained. In 2006, Adhoc recorded 16 cases of entire communities being forcibly evicted. Last year, the figure rose to 26.

Brittis Edman, a researcher with Amnesty International, pointed to another disquieting trend. “What we are seeing over the last year is that the courts are increasingly being used as tools to silence housing rights activists,” she said before the February release of AI’s report “Rights Razed: Forced Evictions in Cambodia.” The report warned that “at least 150,000” Cambodians are at risk of forced evictions.

The government’s response was unintentionally amusing. It insisted there were no forced evictions in Cambodia and accused Amnesty International of trying to grab headlines. Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak went further. He told reporters that if the government did not respect human rights, it would have expelled Amnesty’s representatives from Cambodia.

What he failed to mention, however, was that police tried to stop Edman from meeting a group of residents facing eviction near Phnom Penh’s Boeung Kak Lake on February 10. “They told us we didn’t have a permit to hold the meeting, but we explained we were just having a discussion,” Edman said. After a brief face-off, police allowed the discussion to proceed, but they photographed every resident, journalist and activist present, and tape-recorded the meeting.

Villagers say they are crammed together now in a ditch with no access to clean water and no source of income. The impact of forced evictions on public health has yet to be measured – at either the local, provincial or national levels – but NGOs working with communities that have been evicted are scrambling to find funds to expand their medical outreach programs. Illnesses include malnutrition, weakened immune systems, bronchitis and other lung infections, skin rashes, ear and eye infections, diarrhea, fever, intestinal worms, fungal infections, and post-traumatic stress.

Andong, a resettlement site where the evicted have been moved to about 20 kilometers from Phnom Penh, is a public-health disaster. The lack of sanitation, clean water and access to health care leaves the 1,500 families crammed into what has been called a “fetid swamp” highly vulnerable to any outbreak of infectious disease, health workers warn.

Five children died of dengue fever there in March last year alone, resident Kat Vijay recalls. Like most of residents of the site, Kat was evicted from Sambok Chap, a settlement along the banks of the Bassac River in Phnom Penh in June 2006.

Resident Sum Khum says living in Andong is worse than the refugee camp in which she spent 13 years on the Thai border. “Then, we had food and water. We had medicine and schools. Aid workers used to visit us,” said the 74-year-old widow. “Now, we have nothing. Sometimes the Christians come with rice and noodles, but they don’t bring enough.”

After almost two years, the evictees are still waiting for running water, electricity, a sewage system, a clinic, a school, and toilets that work. The 12 that were installed last year, along with 12 bathing stalls, can’t be used because they are not connected to running water.

When he lived in Phnom Penh, Kat Vijay worked in construction, mainly restoring the city’s French colonial mansions, for US$2.50 a day. Since then he has had no work except for a three-month stint building a row of 41 rooms at Andong for the Cambodian Red Cross, he says.

Brittis Edman of Amnesty International noted a new development in forced evictions that many diplomats may find even more off-putting. Some residents at resettlement sites are being threatened with eviction again, possibly to make more room for newcomers, she said.

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Charity dinner to provide cows for Cambodia's poor

An inventive scheme aiming to help impoverished families in rural Cambodia by providing short-term loans of cows is the motive behind a gala charity dinner and auction to be held in Osaka next month.

Hope International Development Agency, a nonprofit organization that helps people overcome poverty by providing human and financial resources, will host the May 10 event at The Ritz-Carlton, Osaka, in the city's Kita Ward.

Funds raised at the event will go toward the Cow Bank project, a part of Hope's microcredit program, which promotes self-help among rural families and sustainable development in Cambodia.

The Cow Bank operates literally as its name implies: Families borrow a cow from Hope and use it to fertilize and plough their fields. Ideally, the cow will give birth during the loan period, and when the calf becomes self-sufficient a few months later, the borrowed cow is "paid back" to Hope.

The family keeps the calf, while the returned cow is then loaned to another poor family. This cycle can be repeated several times, according to Hope.

The May 10 event, to begin at 7 p.m., is the second such event the organization has staged in the Kansai region.

The evening will feature a five-course dinner; a silent auction of items from developing countries, local artists and companies; live entertainment by Japanese musicians; a short video presentation on Hope's activities in Cambodia; and the opportunity to contribute to helping people in the nation.

The organization, based in Naka Ward, Nagoya, and headquartered in Canada, invites organizations, groups and individuals to attend the event. A table for 10 costs 220,000 yen, while individual tickets are 30,000 yen each.

Tickets for the gala event must be reserved by April 21.

The Osaka event, to be hosted in partnership with The Ritz-Carlton, Osaka, is sponsored by Lexus and AstraZeneca K.K.

A similar event hosted by Hope in Nagoya on Feb. 29 saw more than 450 people attend, along with media organizations including NHK and local TV and radio stations.

The Tokyo event is scheduled for May 9 at the Embassy of Canada.

For more information, visit www.hope.or.jp or call (052) 204-0530.

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