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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Group heads to Cambodia

MONMOUTH — A half dozen Monmouth residents are part of an 11 person mission that left Friday for Cambodia.

The trip is a joint effort between First Christian Church in Monmouth and The Crossing, in Macomb. Larry Moore, Mark McCaw, Jim and Pam Epperson and Marty and Sherry Johnson are all local residents going on the trip, which will return Dec. 9.

During a prayer service prior to their departure Friday, Pastor Jim Epperson reminded everyone the trip was not a vacation, but a chance to spread hope.

A mission went to the same place in Cambodia last January, said Pam Epperson, worship coordinator for First Christian Church. They will be helping and providing medical supplied to girls who were trafficked in the sex slave industry, as well as children whose families are homeless and living as "squatters."

"It's complicated because most of the girls come out of a Buddhist background and think they deserved the horrible things that happened to them," Pam Epperson said. "We give them hope in Jesus Christ, God forgives. It's not their fault."
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U.S. Deportee Brings Street Dance to Street Boys of Cambodia

By SETH MYDANS

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — It may be the only place in Cambodia where the children are nicknamed Homey, Frog, Floater, Fresh, Bugs and Diamond.

And there are not many places like this small courtyard, thumping with the beat of a boom box, where dozens of boys in big T-shirts are spinning on their heads and doing one-hand hops, elbow tracks, flairs, halos, air tracks and windmills. And, of course, krumping.

It is a little slice of Long Beach, Calif., brought here by a former gang member by way of a federal prison, an immigration jail and then expulsion four years ago from his homeland, the United States, to the homeland of his parents, Cambodia.

The former gang member is Tuy Sobil, 30, who goes by the street name K.K. The boys are Cambodian street children he has taken under his wing as he teaches them the art he brought with him, break dancing, as well as his hard lessons in life.

K.K. is not here because he wants to be. He is one of 189 Cambodians who have been banished from the United States in the past six years under a law that mandates deportations for noncitizens who commit felonies. Hundreds more are on a waiting list for deportation. Like most of the others, K.K. is a noncitizen only by a technicality. He was not an illegal immigrant. He was a refugee from Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge “killing fields” who found a haven in the United States in 1980.

He was an infant when he arrived. In fact, he was born in a refugee camp in Thailand and had never seen Cambodia before he was deported. But K.K.’s parents were simple farmers who failed to complete the citizenship process when they arrived.

Like some children of poor immigrants, K.K. drifted to the streets, where he became a member of the Crips gang and a champion break dancer. It was only after he was convicted of armed robbery at 18 that he discovered that he was not a citizen.

Like many deportees, he arrived in Cambodia without possessions and without family contacts. He was a drug counselor at first and then founded his break dancing club, Tiny Toones Cambodia, where he now earns a living teaching about 150 youngsters and reaching out to hundreds more.

With the financial support of international aid groups like Bridges Across Borders, based in Graham, Fla., he has expanded his center into a small school that teaches English and Khmer and computers in addition to back flips, head stands and krumping, or crazy dancing.

Some other deportees have found work that uses their fluency in English, particularly in hotels. Some have reunited with families. But many have slipped into unemployment, depression and sometimes drug use.

“Some were doing well initially but now over time have become unemployed or never did get employment, and just got discouraged,” said Dimple Rana, who works with Deported Diaspora, which is based in Revere, Mass., and helps deportees adjust.

“I know of a whole bunch of returnees whose mothers were sending money from their Social Security,” she said. “Now, with the economy in the United States, it is very hard and families are not able to send even $100 or $150.”

K.K. stands out as a success, both in finding a calling and in embracing his fate. He has a fair command of the language, unlike some deportees who arrived with no knowledge of Khmer.

“I think it was meant for me to be here, even though I lost my family,” he said. “And my kid is there, Kayshawn. He is 8.”

K.K. is in touch with his relatives in Long Beach but has not seen them since he was deported.

“Right now, you know, these kids are my family,” he said. “I don’t have a kid here, but I adopted one, a street kid. His mom and dad are on drugs.”

The boys and girls leaping and spinning here are the children of Cambodia’s underclass, like thousands who fill the slums of Phnom Penh — children who spend their evenings, as K.K. put it, “begging and digging through garbage to find food.”

K.K., whose youth was not so different from theirs, said he teaches them to find pride in who they are. A wall of his center is marked with students’ graffiti: “I want to be a rapper,” “I want to be a D.J.,” “I want to be a doctor.”

“I try to tell them not to judge people by the way they look,” he said. “I still have a struggle here in Cambodia. People judge me. People see me with tattoos and think I’m a bad guy.

“Sometimes it’s, ‘Come on, we’re going to kill some Americans,’ ” he said, describing threats from street toughs. “I’m not American. I’m Khmer, man.”

His journey between identities reached a point of strangeness when he was invited last December to perform with some of his students at a Christmas party at the United States Embassy.

“The American ambassador gave me a handshake and a hug, and asked me one day when his kid is a little older he wanted to put him in my school,” K.K. said.

The ambassador at the time, Joseph A. Mussomeli, recalled the performance as “great fun,” but he said the piquancy of the moment had not been lost on him.

“You are right that there is a certain wonderful irony to him being ‘rejected’ or at least ‘ejected’ from the U.S. and still landing on his feet — or shoulders and head — dancing,” Mr. Mussomeli said in an e-mail message.

“While watching him I was reminded of that great patriotic speech by Bill Murray in ‘Stripes,’ ” he added, “where he talks about Americans as being rejects from all the good, decent countries of the world! K.K. is/was an American in everything except in law — and he has shown this by his creativity, tenacity, and undying optimism.”

Now another irony is in store for K.K. His club has been invited to send dancers to perform in the United States — Cambodian boys who speak no English and have never left their country.

The real American among them, K.K., deported and excluded from the United States for the rest of his life, must stay behind.

“I can’t go,” he said over the thump of the boom box, as his boys jumped and bounced around him like tiny springs. “I can understand that they deported me here. I’d like to go visit — only visit, because I live here now. I have a brand new life.”


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Friday, November 28, 2008

Cambodia sentences Russian pedophile to 8 years in 2nd trial

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia's Sihanoukville Municipal Court has handed down a second child-sex conviction to Russian businessman Alexander Trofimov for soliciting sex with an underage girl, sentencing him to an additional eight years in jail, state media reported Friday.

The 41-year-old former chairman of Koh Puos Investment Group, who is already serving six years for sexual assault in Cambodia's largest-ever pedophilia case, appeared in court for sentencing after missing the first two days of his trial, his lawyer, Saing Vannak, was quoted by the Phnom Penh Post as saying.

He added that he was unsure whether Trofimov would appeal the ruling.

"I will talk to my client about whether to appeal," he told the Post after the sentence was handed down.

Trofimov was convicted on one of two counts of purchasing sex from a minor, brought by a single victim.

The second count involving 17 victims is still under investigation, with a verdict expected later, said Teng Maneth, a legal officer at the anti-pedophile NGO Action Pour les Enfants.

This week's trial was the third attempt to get Trofimov into court after a lack of lawyer delayed earlier trials.

Trofimov was arrested in 2007 and first stood trial in March of this year on charges of abusing a 13-year-old girl.

He was sentenced to 13 years, but his prison term was slashed to seven years by the Appeals Court in October.

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Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia further co-operation on development triangle

Leaders of Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia signed yesterday a Vientiane Declaration on strengthening the development triangle co-operation and approved the joint agreement of the fifth summit. These were a part of mechanisms to further their co-operation on development triangle area discussed at fifth summit of the Prime Minister Bouasone Bouphavanh of Laos, his Vietnamese and Cambodian counterparts Nguyen Tan Dung and Samdech Hun Sen in Vientiane on 26 November. At the summit, the joint co-ordination committee has also signed the MoU to build the policy for attracting and provision of facilities to promote trade, investment and tourism in which the mechanism has been asked to determine in order to realise the said MoU.

Mr. Bouasone Bouphavanh, Prime Minister of Laos has said that the signed agreements are very importance and significance because it would be a fundamental principle as well as the key reference for the member country to develop the development triangle area with sustainable, richness and prosperity manner. He added that in order to reach the goal of development triangle, the member country has to double work, particularly to increase the fund to develop the infrastructure and human resources.

During the event, the three sides has agreed to build the forum for business sector and propose to organise the meeting for leaders of three countries with business sector at the next summit. Laos and Vietnam has expressed thanks to Vietnamese government for its great assistance on human resource development. They also agreed to encourage the exchange visit of youth leaders from three countries and considered to organise the meeting for the youth leader of the three countries during the next summit.

On this occasion, the leader of the countries has unanimously agreed that the 5th CLV summit held in Vientiane on 26 November has reached with highest successful and met the target goals.

In addition, the three PMs agreed to propose the ASEAN Secretary - General to ask the Thai government to confirm the hosting of 14th ASEAN Summit.

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Official: Thai crisis adversely affects border talks with Cambodia

PHNOM PENH, The current situation of Thai politics has affected negatively its border negotiation with Cambodia, said Cambodian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Hor Namhong here on Friday.

"I can say that the complicated situation of politics in Thailand has exactly negative impact on the border discussion and plantation of border makers between Thailand and Cambodia," he told reporters after coming back from a regional meeting in Laos.

Both sides have already agreed to hold foreign ministers' meeting next month in Siem Reap and the experts from the two countries are also scheduled to measure the land, plant border makers and cleaned the mines near the Preah Vihear Temple during the same month, he said.

The resolution of the border matters now depends on the Thai side's situation, he said.

"We still need more time and are following the situation in Thailand," he added.

In October, Cambodian and Thai troops exchanged fire on their disputed border area, killing two and wounding a dozen.

Prior to the clash, the ownership of the Preah Vihear Temple caused both sides to maintain military stalemate near the border for weeks.

During this period, rounds of meetings were held, but all failed to find common ground on the border issue to break the stand off.

The two countries have 790-km-long border line, but only with 73 border posts which were planted in 1907.
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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Recovered identity: Cambodian community in Portland moves beyond the horror of Khmer Rouge killing fields


By Erin Hoover Barnett, The Oregonian

The years are like shadows she could never really grasp:
Growing up in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge. Her brother forever separated from her family. Her sister dying. Forced labor in rice fields. Then, at age 14, escaping to Oregon with her mother.

As a teenager in Milwaukie, Mardine Mao was happy to forget. She yearned to say she was from Hawaii or the Philippines, anywhere but Cambodia and the darkness she associated with it.

But as she matured, Mao, now 41, discovered that embracing her identity and sharing the details of that painful time is the road to empowerment.

Cambodians in the Portland area are coming to the same realization as a community. Most of Oregon's more than 5,000 Cambodians fled the Khmer Rouge; many have suffered silently with the rage and anxiety of post-traumatic stress, some struggling to assimilate and nurture American-born children and grandchildren.

Now refugees such as Mao -- a child during the Cambodian genocide and so best able to move on -- are leading the cause to build the community's future by unburdening its past.

Mao this summer became president of the Cambodian-American Community of Oregon and has launched an oral history project. As a U.N. tribunal in Cambodia finally brings members of despot Pol Pot's killing machine to justice, Cambodian youths in the metro area will record their elders' experiences under the Khmer Rouge.

Portland has gotten behind the project with a small grant and has asked the Cambodian participants to share the documentary they produce with neighborhood associations, educating a wider audience about the genocide, recovery and resilience.

For Mao, a Washington County resident and Beaverton High School graduate, the project offers a chance to unlock her own story and tell it to her teenage sons for the first time. The story of how she came to lead this project shows not only her blossoming but the blossoming of her community.

"We're not excited about opening up," says Mao. "But I think we have a responsibility to educate the general public and the world -- and especially our own children."

Mao sits at a friend's coffee shop in a blue silk top and jeans. Her calm face, framed by dark hair, offers little hint of her troubled past.

She is still piecing her story together, drawing out her stepfather, in whom her mother confided. Mao's mother died in 2002 before Mao had the courage to ask about their time in Cambodia.

Mao was born Mardine Ung in 1967 in Phnom Penh, the capital, where her father directed a government-owned news agency. Her father hoped to move the family to Oregon but died before it was possible, leaving his wife to fend for three children when Khmer Rouge troops took over in April 1975.

Mao's mother gathered Mao and her younger sister, Srey Touch, for the forced march to a village 30 miles away. Mao's older brother, Sovathara, was with relatives. They never saw him again.

Mao, just 8 then, believes she was sent to a school to learn the regime's philosophy and work in a rice field. Her mother was also pressed into field work. Mao learned from her stepdad that when she was allowed to visit her mother, she brought ambok (rice cereal) that she had squirreled away. Mao knew her mother was starving.

The only clear memory Mao has is of lying ill on the floor of a thatched hut with many other sick people. Someone gave her a pink pill.

"I'm like blank," she says. "I keep asking people, 'When you're 8 or 9 years old, do you remember everything at that age?'"

The regime targeted the educated and upper classes. An estimated 1.5 million Cambodians -- one-fifth of the country's population -- were starved, worked or shot to death in what became known as the killing fields.

The Vietnamese invasion in 1979 plunged the country into chaos. Mao's mother fled the village with Mao and Srey Touch. They returned to the city only to find that their relatives had all perished.

Returning to the village, the family squatted in a machine shed. Srey Touch fell ill. When she died, they rolled her small body in a woven mat and buried her.

With nothing left, Mao and her mother followed others to the Thai border, fearful of Khmer Rouge soldiers hiding from the Vietnamese.

"I imagine her holding my hand and running at the same time, barefoot in the jungle," Mao says, a flicker of pain passing through her dark eyes.

A friend of Mao's father from Oregon traveled to the refugee camps and found Mao and her mother.

Mao arrived at her uncle's home in Southeast Portland knowing no English. But at 14, she knew one thing: She wanted to put the past behind her.

"I think for a long time I thought I was a bad person," she says, "because I wanted to erase my identity and, as a result, my memory."

Mao and her mom settled with another relative in Milwaukie.

Mao kept quiet in class at Milwaukie Junior High, afraid to ask questions. She remembers scrambling to look up words such as "cell" and "dissection" in science class while her peers cruised through the text.

Yet she took in a lot. She looked in awe at women driving cars with one hand on the steering wheel. She had never seen women drive.

Mao pursued accounting after high school. She felt comfortable in the background.

She married Mony Mao, a civil engineer and fellow refugee, in 1987. Two years later, Mony helped form the Cambodian-American Community of Oregon.

Mardine Mao steered clear of leadership roles. Speaking up in Cambodia was never rewarded. Politics meant corruption and power-seeking. So when her husband rose in the late 1990s to chair the Cambodian community's board, she stayed on the sidelines, buying raffle prizes, cooking and cleaning up after events while raising the couple's sons, Perrin, an eighth-grader and Davin, a high school senior.

"I still had the mentality that this is something that is a job for a man," she says.

Then something changed.

In 2006, the state removed a young Cambodian girl from her parents in Washington County and thrust her into foster care. The family didn't know where she was taken or how to get her back.

Community leaders asked Mao to help the family. Mao learned that the girl had gone to school with a bruise after an older brother threw a Coke can at her. Authorities got involved when the girl, bright and precocious, told a school counselor that her parents disciplined her by smacking her hand with chopsticks.

Mao explained to the social worker that this is common in Cambodia and that the parents didn't understand that it was considered abuse in the United States. After three months, the state let the girl go home.

The family's attorney, Ronault "Polo" Catalani, says Mao made all the difference in the emotional, adversarial process.

"She listens carefully. She lets them get all of that breath out and then she'll talk," Catalani says. "She doesn't shout. She just tells you. There's something just very factual about the way she presents and very fair."

Mao shared the experience during Khmer Heritage Night at a Southeast 82nd Avenue banquet hall in December 2006. She was a minor speaker on a roster that included former Gov. Barbara Roberts and Portland Mayor Tom Potter. She read a prepared speech and says no one expected much until she opened her mouth.

"Something happened to me earlier this year that changed how I feel about volunteering and my outlook on life," she told the hundreds gathered. She relived for her audience the moment when the little girl walked back through her family's front door.

"Her whole face lit up the entire room. She couldn't stop smiling," Mao told them. "I was overcome with joy."

The experience, she said, crystallized her realization that she could make a difference and helped her see that embracing -- not shunning -- her heritage is what emboldened her.

"Now I am more confident and more outspoken than ever," she told them. "Ladies and gentleman, we have a community that provides all these opportunities."

The audience burst into applause.

Mao still carried a burden.

She never got to process with her mother those years in Cambodia. She never got to ask her mother how she survived.

She shared that regret last year at Portland's Khmer Rouge Tribunal Forum at Portland State University, an event that Mao and the community group helped to organize.

The event gave local refugees a chance to talk about their memories, many for the first time. Mao encouraged attendees to pass on the stories to their children before it's too late. The children need to know their family history, she told them, to know who they are.

"That's what I was struggling a long time with in my early days," Mao says now. "I wanted to be somebody else. Now, with just being part of the community, I kind of found myself. I'm a Cambodian American."

Mao also believes that a wider audience can benefit from knowing the stories of immigrants in their midst. She challenged herself to broaden her audience in classes this year at PSU. For one project, she told classmates about her mother's struggle in Cambodia and how hard her life was compared with Mao's.

Afterward, classmates surrounded her with praise. Instructor Vicki Reitenauer says some didn't know about the Khmer Rouge atrocities.

"They left knowing some bit of it and, in a more subtle way, being more enlarged human beings than they were when they went in," Reitenauer says, "and Mardine was a big part of that."

Mao will graduate from PSU in the spring after 20 years of taking classes. She changed her major from accounting to human resources. She says she wants to work more with people.

And she is ready to help more members of her community tell their stories.

The community will begin the oral history project this winter with 20 youths and elders. More will follow. A PSU history professor is training participants to elicit memories sensitively.

Catalani, the attorney, co-chaired a Portland committee that chose the project for a $10,000 grant. The Northwest Health Foundation is considering a $50,000 grant.

"Cambodians have done an incredible job of caring for their own as the tension of their experiences simmers as depression or boils over into rage," he says. "Now they can share what they endured with a larger audience. ... We are all humanized by the sorrow of these people and the persistence of people. We recognize in those faces our beauty and our pain."

Mao hopes the project will provide an important piece of family history for her own sons. Her oldest, Davin, is president of the community's youth organization and will be among the first to conduct interviews, drawing out his parents, his mom's stepfather and his dad's parents.

Davin says he has always thought his father's experience under the Khmer Rouge was more difficult than his mother's. But he admits he doesn't really know much about what his mother endured because she doesn't talk about it.

He has, however, noticed the change in his mom. He remembers her speech at Khmer Heritage Night.

"Maybe," he says, "she's found her calling."


Mardine Mao

Age: 41


Family: Husband, Mony Mao, a civil engineer; sons, Davin, 18, and Perrin, 13

Home: Cedar Mill area of Washington County

Leadership: President of the Cambodian-American Community of Oregon, which provides cultural, educational, recreational and other services for the more than 5,000 Cambodian Americans in Oregon. Learn more at www.cacoregon.org

Community: Cambodians in the metro area are concentrated in Southeast and North Portland, Washington and Clackamas counties, and southwest Washington

Oral history project: Cambodian youths will interview elders about their experiences under the Khmer Rouge. A documentary about the project will be shared through community groups. To learn more, call Hun Kim at 503-412-8933.

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Thailand insists it is ready to host ASEAN summit

BANGKOK, Thailand: Thailand insisted Thursday that it will be able to host a regional summit in December, even after three neighboring countries raised concerns that ongoing political turmoil in the Thai capital could force the meeting's cancellation.

In recent days, protesters demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat have stormed Thailand's two main international airports, forcing their closure and the cancellation of hundreds of flights. They have occupied the prime minister's office since August, vowing to stay put until Somchai and his government step down.

Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos voiced fears Thursday that Thailand may not be able to host the annual summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, scheduled to take place Dec. 15-18 in the northern city of Chiang Mai.

ASEAN Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan must consider postponing the summit "to ensure the successful outcome ... given the current political situation in Thailand," the three countries said in a statement.

Surin was not available for comment Thursday.

Thai Foreign Ministry Spokesman Tharit Charungvat said the summit would not be rescheduled.

"Everything is still going ahead as planned and we are still ready to host the summit," Tharit said.

The 10-nation ASEAN bloc comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

The summit venue already has been shifted from the capital, Bangkok, to Chiang Mai. The foreign ministry has denied the move was to avoid the anti-government protests, insisting it was because the weather is nicer in the north.

Thailand's powerful army commander stepped into the fray Wednesday, urging Somchai to step down and asking protesters to leave Suvarnabhumi.

Neither side heeded his calls, leaving the country paralyzed.
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Cambodia, EC to meet on ban of Siem Reap Airways

PHNOM PENH, Experts from the European Community (EC) will meet in February with the Cambodian civil aviation officials over the EC ban of the Siem Reap Airways' flights to its market, an official said here on Thursday.

EC banned all flights of the Siem Reap Airways to its countries, because it was gravely concerned with safety standard, Rafael Dochao Moreno, Charge d'Affaires of EC's diplomatic mission to Cambodia, told a roundtable discussion on economic and political cooperation between Cambodia and EC.

It also involved the company's technique, training and other confidential report, he said.

After EU put it on blacklist, the Cambodian government also banned its domestic flights, he said.

"We hope the matter will be solved soon," he added.

Earlier this month, EC added the Siem Reap Airways, a local subsidiary of the Thailand-based Bangkok Airways, to its blacklisted airlines, citing its failure to comply with international and Cambodian civil aviation standards.
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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Cambodia's Siem Reap Airways suspending operations

Cambodia's Siem Reap Airways is temporarily suspending operations, two weeks after it was put on a European Union blacklist of banned carriers over safety concerns.

A spokesman for Thai parent company Bangkok Airways says from Bangkok that Siem Reap Airways has halted all domestic operations between the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh and the tourist city of Siem Reap.

He says flights have since 22 November been operated by Bangkok Airways with ATR turboprops.

The spokesman says Siem Reap Airways' international flights to nearby destinations will meanwhile be suspended on 1 December.

He says the grounding is a voluntary one and it comes around two weeks after the European Commission added the airline to its list of banned operators. Siem Reap Airways does not serve Europe but the European Commission said the airline "does not operate in compliance" with Cambodian safety regulations and does not meet ICAO standards.

"Significant concerns have also been expressed by ICAO with regard to the ability of the Cambodian civil aviation authorities to implement and enforce the international safety standards," the European Commission said in a statement on 14 November.

The Bangkok Airways spokesman says Cambodian authorities are seeking to resolve the issues that led to the ban and Siem Reap Airways hopes to resume services in the near future.

Specific reasons for the ban have not been disclosed but Cambodian media have reported that it was due in part to aircraft registration issues. Siem Reap Airways' ATR, Airbus A319 and Boeing 717 aircraft are wet-leased from Bangkok Airways and are registered in Thailand.

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Wednesday spotlight: Nurse heading to Cambodia

by Shannon Maynard

Leah Blondke always has wanted to travel.

She is interested to see how people live in other cultures and wants to make a difference in the lives of others. So, when she had the opportunity to travel with the medical group Operation Renewed Hope, she jumped at the chance.

"I've always wanted to get a taste of other cultures," the 22-year-old Pittsford resident said. "I want to see what the world is like and learn from (what I see)."

Blondke leaves Friday for Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she will spend 10 days assisting a group of doctors on a relief trip. The team will set up clinics and offer free medical, dental and optometry care. Blondke will be responsible for triaging patients and assisting doctors.

While she has been a registered nurse only since June, Blondke hopes her experience at Allegiance Health will benefit her during her time in Cambodia.

"I've learned a lot working at Allegiance and I hope to be able to better assist the doctors with hands-on care," she said.

This will be the second relief trip Blondke has taken with Operation Renewed Hope. In May, she spent 10 days in Uganda. It was an experience that surprised her and made her realize how fortunate Americans are.

"I was impressed with how content the people were," she said.

"They didn't have near the possessions we have, but they were content — like they didn't know what they are missing."

Despite the long plane ride, food and different living conditions, Blondke is looking forward to getting to know some of the Cambodian people and help make their lives a little better.

"I'm interested in seeing how the people have recovered from their recent bad history and I'm open to learning everything I can," she said.


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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thai Protesters Occupy Premier’s Temporary Office

Nov. 25 (Bloomberg) -- Thousands of anti-government protesters occupied Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat’s temporary office, three months after taking over the official Government House compound in central Bangkok.

“We will go wherever the premier goes,” said Parnthep Pongpourpan, a spokesman for the People’s Alliance for Democracy, whose members also gathered at the nearby Thai military headquarters. Two people were wounded today when shots were fired during a clash between anti- and pro-government supporters on a Bangkok highway, Agence France-Presse reported, citing police.

Anti-government protesters yesterday blockaded parliament, forcing lawmakers to abandon a legislative session, and said they may confront Somchai at Bangkok’s new international airport tomorrow when he returns from an Asia Pacific summit in Peru. The premier has rejected calls for his resignation, and police have avoided clashing with the PAD after an Oct. 7 incident at parliament in which two people died and 470 were injured.

“We will have to negotiate for the return of our offices,” said government spokesman Nattawut Saikuar, estimating that several thousand protesters were at the temporary offices in the former Don Mueang Airport. The location of tomorrow’s scheduled cabinet meeting hasn’t been decided.
Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport was closed due to protests today, Agence France-Presse reported, citing airport authorities. The international airport canceled all departing flights after demonstrators surged into a terminal, the Associated Press reported.

Shots Fired

Anti-government demonstrators fired shots today after government supporters began throwing rocks at a truck carrying PAD members as it was returning from the old airport, the Associated Press reported, citing Thai PBS television. The anti- government group then chased their opponents, who numbered several dozen, AP said.

The Bangkok-based protest group, which includes many middle- class residents and receives support from the country’s royalist elite, accuses Somchai’s ruling party of buying votes to win elections and opposes former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, ousted in a September 2006 coup. At least five people have died as a result of the protests since August.

Army Chief Anupong Paojinda met other military chiefs to discuss the protests today and reiterated their commitment not to stage another coup, according to army spokeswoman Sirichan Ngathong.

Thaksin, who fled in August to avoid corruption charges, said he will return to Thailand at some point, according to an interview with Dubai-based Arabian Business published Nov. 23.

‘Bring Confidence’

“The country is going down deeply,” Thaksin was quoted as saying in the report. “I can bring confidence quickly back to Thailand.”

Somchai, Thaksin’s brother-in-law, has called for national unity as Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy faces its slowest growth in eight years.

Thailand’s gross domestic product may expand as little as 3 percent next year, the National Economic and Social Development Board said yesterday. That would be the slowest pace since a 2.2 percent rate in 2001 and less than the central bank’s lowest estimate of 3.8 percent.

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Delegation of China-ASEAN Association visits Cambodia

PHNOM PENH, Nov. 25 (Xinhua) -- A delegation of the China-ASEAN Association here on Tuesday met with Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni, initiated a cataract removal project and donated a digital library to local university.

During the meeting with the king, both sides reviewed the bilateral cooperation and exchange between Cambodia and China in the past years, and wished the two countries to conduct more joint works in various sectors in the future.

The Cambodian-Chinese ties are expected to arise to a new level over the current trust and friendship, both sides agreed.

For the surgery project at the Preah Ang Duong Hospital, about a hundred of Cambodian patients will receive cataract operation conducted by Chinese ophthalmologists.

The hospital used to treat half of the country's cataract patients, whose number rises by 20,000 per year.

At the Royal Academy of Cambodia, the delegation donated a digital library, where users can find rich data and information with a computer.

Acting Prime Minister Sok An told the donation ceremony that the library is expected to provide a new way for students and teachers to conduct their study and teaching work.

The delegation arrived here on Monday to carry out the programs to mark the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic relations between China and Cambodia and the Year of China-Cambodia Friendship 2008.

The China-ASEAN Association is a civilian organization devoted to promoting the ties between China and ASEAN nations in the fields of politics, culture, economy and trade, technology, sports, health and tourism.
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Rape risk increasing in Cambodia

By Guy de Launey

Women and girls in Cambodia are facing an increasing risk of rape and sexual assault, a government report has said.

It says that around a quarter of the female population faces domestic violence.

But the study showed many Cambodians think it can be acceptable for a husband to assault his wife.

The Ministry of Women's Affairs released its findings to coincide with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

Long-held prejudices are combining with new forms of anti-social behaviour to put young women and girls at particular risk, the report says.

It said that the increasing use of drugs and alcohol by men is having a direct impact on the safety of female Cambodians.

It suggests that gang rape is being treated as a "sport" in some areas - and that law enforcement agencies need to do more to stop it.

Education needed

The research also indicates that women themselves may have created one of the biggest barriers to reducing domestic violence.

When presented with a list of justifications for a husband attacking his wife, more than half the women surveyed agreed with at least one of the suggested reasons.

The report says that education may be the key to changing the attitudes which allow attacks on women to go unpunished - or even condoned.

The Ministry of Women's Affairs points out that Cambodia is ahead of many other developing countries in terms of its legislation.

There are laws on the prevention of domestic attacks - and the national millennium development goals include targets for the reduction of violence and human trafficking.

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Stratus' ENTICE Platform Turns Asian ISP into VoIP Provider, Rapidly Deploying Service to Malaysia, Cambodia & Indonesia

MAYNARD, Mass., Nov 24, 2008 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Stratus Technologies, Inc., announced today that Danawa Resources ( www.danawa.net.my), a broadband service provider operating in Malaysia, Cambodia and Indonesia, has deployed the Stratus ENTICE E-REV telecommunications platform to expand into residential, enterprise and wholesale VoIP-based phone service throughout its coverage area.

The installation marks the first multi-country ENTICE deployment in Southeast Asia as well as highlighting the use of ENTICE to enable an ISP to leverage their existing Internet infrastructure to add VoIP offerings. Danawa operates under the Danawa name in Malaysia, ClickNet in Cambodia and PrimeNet in Indonesia.

Danawa selected ENTICE E-REV as its services deployment platform because of its ability to provide session control, customer billing and value-added applications such as unified messaging and prepaid/postpaid services in a single solution, eliminating the need to license and integrate components from multiple vendors.

The deployment went live in June with a superswitch located in Singapore controlling satellite switches in each of Danawa's three serviced countries. The implementation - completed in less than a month - utilizes Stratus' ftServer(R) continuous availability hardware in conjunction with Dell 2950 dual-core servers to achieve fault tolerance. Stratus' ftServer family offers 99.9999% uptime with a proprietary architecture that eliminates clustering by providing two-server redundancy in a single housing.

"The countries where we offer broadband service have an underdeveloped telecom infrastructure with very expensive international calling, so it was logical for us to diversify into phone service by piggybacking VoIP on top of our existing broadband backbone," said Peter Chew, Danawa's Chief Technical Officer. "Stratus was the only solution that fulfilled our key requirements: a cost-effective one-platform architecture, rapid deployment, and a central point of control for all three countries."

"This implementation is a direct result of our integrated approach to VoIP deployment. Our ability to deliver an application server, session border controller, billing system, unified messaging system and endpoint provisioning system in one integrated package simplifies VoIP installations immeasurably," said Nathan Franzmeier, Stratus senior vice president of the Emerging Network Solutions Group. "This was Danawa's #1 criterion for selecting a VoIP platform, and it is a key reason for our growth."

In addition to providing ISP and voice services in Malaysia, Cambodia and Indonesia, Danawa Resources owns and operates citywide WiFi broadband and intercity fiber links in the state of Sarawak in Malaysia. The company is a subsidiary of Mitzmara ICT Technologies Group, a Malaysia-based multinational provider of wireless broadband Internet access services and a wide variety of IT sales and support services.

About Stratus Technologies, Inc.

Stratus Technologies, Inc., is a provider of complete VoIP and converged service solutions for telecommunications service providers. By helping its customers connect their world using trusted, innovative solutions and backing it with people they can count on, Stratus is making convergence simple. Stratus' telecommunications solutions are installed in 14 of 20 of the world's largest carriers. Stratus has 28 years of expertise in server and services technology and has been a trusted solutions provider to customers in the telecommunications, manufacturing, life sciences, financial services, public safety, transportation & logistics and other industries. For more information, visit www.stratustelecom.com.

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Center for Friends Without a Border Opens in Cambodia

MENLO PARK, Calif., Nov 24, 2008 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- Friends Without a Border has announced the opening of the Center for Friends Without a Border in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Located next to the Angkor Hospital for Children, the Center is designed to increase awareness of the many programs sponsored by Friends while helping to promote Green architecture and renewable energy in Cambodia. Visitors to the Center will be able to observe exhibits by world-renowned photographers, learn more about the history of Cambodia and see the remarkable impact and progress being made through the medical care, education and outreach programs provided by the Angkor Hospital for Children.

The Center was funded by Sterling Stamos Capital Management of Menlo Park, CA and New York, NY, a private investment firm committed to the idea of corporate philanthropy and "doing well by doing good." "We are proud to have helped fund such a remarkable facility," said Peter Stamos, Chairman and CEO of Sterling Stamos. "The Angkor Hospital for Children has been a wonderful project that has dramatically contributed to the well-being of the children of Cambodia. This project allows us to express our sincere gratitude for all that both Friends and Angkor Hospital have done."

The Center was designed pro bono by Cook+Fox Architects in New York and is the first green, sustainably designed project of its kind in Cambodia. Cook+Fox, well-known for its design of the Bank of America Tower in New York City, the first LEED Platinum skyscraper in the U.S., used techniques for minimizing energy use and recycling water, as well as sustainably-procured and locally-crafted materials.

Forever changed by his encounters with Cambodian children in dire need of medical care, famed Japanese photographer Kenro Izu founded Friends Without a Border in 1996 and helped construct the Angkor Hospital for Children. Since 1999, Angkor Hospital has treated over 560,000 children and is the largest pediatric HIV treatment facility outside the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh.

Sterling Stamos is a private investment firm that invests globally using an endowment approach across five asset classes: fixed income, equity, absolute return, real assets and private equity. With principal offices in New York City and Menlo Park, CA, Sterling Stamos has over $8 billion in assets under management.

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Vietnamese Information ministry gives Cambodia radio station

The communist Vietnam is setting up it Radio Station in Sihanoukville to dig deep channels in order to secretly sending informations, communications and spying on Cambodian government.

PHNOM PENH — Broadcasts from a third radio station given Cambodia as a gift from Viet Nam’s Information and Communications Ministry have started.

The 2kW FM radio station in Sihanoukville will disseminate information about Cambodia’s state policies and provide scientific and technological knowledge to local listeners.

Cambodia’s Information Minister Khieu Kanharith, local representatives and diplomats from Viet Nam’s embassy in Phnom Penh attended the opening on Thursday.

The Information Minister said the station indicated the solidarity and friendship between Cambodia and Viet Nam.

The other two FM radio stations given to Cambodia are in Svay Rieng and Campot provinces.
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Rockers Placebo to play anti-slavery gig at Cambodia's Angkor Wat

by Claire Truscott*

Alternative guitar band Placebo are to headline the first rock concert at Cambodia's Angkor Wat temple complex, putting years of catering to their fans' teenage angst behind them to speak out against human trafficking.


The December 7 gig, held as part an of an MTV Exit campaign, will transform the 12th century Khmer ruins into a rock venue that will also feature US band The Click Five and a host of other international and Cambodian stars.

Lead singer Brian Molko, best known for his androgynous looks and penchant for black nail polish, told AFP he felt "honoured" to play at the historic jungle temple complex.

"It's just one of the most breathtaking and unique places I have ever spent time in really," the 35-year-old, who visited the ruins as a tourist three years ago, said in a telephone interview from London.

"It's also a very spiritual and quite calming place and so to be able to perform in front of it is just ridiculous."

But taking on the one-off gig at the crumbling ruins has presented some technical difficulties for the London-based three-piece, whose hits include "Nancy Boy" and "Pure Morning".
"We decided that since we don't have access to a massive wall of sound... we have been forced to deconstruct our songs, tear them to pieces and put them back together in novel and unusual ways.

"It's very challenging and very stimulating," he said, describing the end result as "more melody than bombast".

Molko said he hoped the show will attract Cambodians as well as international fans and highlight the problem of this "modern form of slavery".

Cambodia has struggled to shed its reputation as soft on human trafficking, and earlier this year suspended marriages between foreigners and Cambodians amid concerns they were being used to traffic poor, uneducated women.

The US State Department refused a visa to Cambodia's late police chief Hok Lundy in 2006 due to allegations he was involved in trafficking prostitutes.

"There may be people (in the audience) who wish to get more involved in trying to change things. That's all that we can do as a rock band. We are not politicians, we are not heads of police," Molko said.

The concert is part of a series of music shows in Cambodia organised by the anti-trafficking MTV Exit campaign and the US Agency for International Development to raise awareness in young people about human trafficking in the region.

The last international recording artist to perform at Angkor Wat, which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was tenor Jose Carreras who sang for a charity gala dinner there in 2002.
Molko said the rock concert, which is Placebo's only outing before their sixth studio album comes out next spring, is part of a change of focus for him after becoming a father three years ago.

"When you have somebody in your life that you care about more than yourself it's a massive shift in perspective in the way that you view the world," Molko said.

"It does make you want to become involved in the planet that we live on. It's the world that you are passing on to your children."
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Animal rights group slams Cambodia monkey trade

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - An animal rights group says Cambodia is flouting international conventions by allowing the cruel capture of monkeys for research in the United States and China.

A report to be released on Monday by the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) says thousands of long-tailed macaque monkeys are taken from the wild each year and kept in cruel conditions before being exported.

Thousands more are raised on monkey farms in conditions so far removed from nature that they are traumatized for life, it says.

While the long-tailed macaque is not endangered, the group says the unregulated trade is already having an effect on population numbers and leading to a degrading of Cambodia's jungles.

"People around the world will be shocked by the findings of the BUAV investigation and to learn of the suffering inflicted on Cambodia's monkeys," said Michelle Thew, chief executive of the organization.

"At a time when there is growing international concern over the plight of primates, we urge the Cambodian government to protect its indigenous macaque population."

Apart from humans, the macaque is the world's most widespread primate and includes 22 species ranging from Africa to Japan.

They are highly intelligent and adapt well to living in urban areas where they frequently earn a love-hate relationship with locals on account of their mischievous ways.

The report says nearly 10,000 monkeys were exported from Cambodia last year -- mostly to laboratories and primate dealers in the U.S. and China.

International conventions discourage the use of captured wild animals for research, preferring second-generation breeding stock instead, but BUAV says this is widely ignored in Cambodia.

The report said as many as eight out of 10 macaques trapped in the wild died before reaching the laboratory as a result of poor treatment, handling or trauma.

The BUAV has called on the Cambodian government to better regulate the industry and to ban the capture of wild animals.

It also urges the U.S. and European Union to prohibit imports of captured wild animals and to press for better conditions at monkey breeding centers.

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Date for Cambodian infant's surgery is set

LONG BEACH - Soksamnang Vy, an 11-month old boy from an impoverished village in Cambodia who was brought to the United States for life-altering heart surgery, has had a date set for the procedure.

The Children's Heart Center in Las Vegas, which is donating its staff and facilities for the surgery, has scheduled Vy for an appointment on Dec. 1, with surgery on Dec. 4 or 5.

Vy and his mother, Ratha Pang, arrived in Long Beach on Sunday, accompanied by Peter Chhun, the founder of nonprofit Hearts Without Boundaries, which is sponsoring the trip.

The boy suffers from a ventricular septal defect or hole in his heart.

Although the surgery to fix it is relatively routine in the United States, it requires use of a heart-lung machine and expertise not readily available in Cambodia.

"The baby has a congenital heart defect that without surgery will shorten his life," said Dr. Paul Grossfeld of San Diego, a cardiologist familiar with Vy's condition.

Vy is the second child Chhun has brought out of Cambodia for the open-heart procedure. The first, 9-year-old Davik Teng, had surgery at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles in March and has since returned to her village outside of Battambang in northwest Cambodia.

After surgery, Vy will likely remain in the hospital for three or four days to recover and will stay in Las Vegas another week or two for checkups.

If all goes to plan, Chhun says Vy should be well enough to return home by the end of January.
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Friday, November 21, 2008

Cambodia not to raise Preah Vihear issue at ASEAN Summit in Thailand

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia will not list its dispute with Thailand over the ownership of the 900-year-old Preah Vihear Temple into the agenda of the ASEAN Summit next month in Bangkok, Chinese-language newspaper the Commercial News said on Friday.

"The ongoing world financial crisis will top the agenda of the summit, and we will not raise the Preah Vihear issue there," Cambodian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Hor Namhong was quoted as saying here on Thursday at a press conference.

Cambodia needs not to do that, because all ASEAN member countries and other nations friendly to Cambodia have said that they expect Cambodia and Thailand to solve their dispute through bilateral negotiations, he said.

According to the outcome of the recent meeting between the foreign ministers of the two Southeast Asian nations, the two sides will start to measure the border line and locate the existing border posts in December, and the Joint Border Committee and both foreign ministers will convene new meetings in January, said the Cambodian Foreign Minister.

Earlier this week, Phay Siphan, secretary of state of the Cambodian Council of Ministers said that Cambodia will not boycott the summit in Thailand, even as the two countries have border dispute.

An armed clash in October killed two Cambodian soldiers and wounded two others, after Thai troops entered the disputed border area over sovereignty claim.

There are now 73 demarcation posts along the 805-km border between Cambodia and Thailand, 50 percent of which are recognized by the Thai side. Cambodia still plans to plant hundreds more posts there in order to specify the border line.

In 1962, the International Court of Justice awarded the Preah Vihear Temple and its surrounding lands to Cambodia, but Thai nationalists have turned down the decision and used to stir up protests and demonstrations over its ownership.
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World's poorest nations meet in Cambodia

As trade officials from the 21 APEC nations gather for their high profile meeting in Peru, their counterparts from the world's poorest countries are doing the same in Cambodia. A two-day ministerial meeting of nearly 50 least-developed countries is underway, looking at how poorer nations can integrate into the global trade system. The Director-General of the World Trade Organisation Pascal Lamy says the meeting comes at a crucial time, when the global financial crisis could jeopardise the goal of reducing world poverty.

KARON SNOWDON: With a membership of 33 African nations and 15 from Asia and the Pacific, this group represents the poorest of the poor. The meeting in the Cambodian city of Siem Riep is organised by the United Nations, the World Trade Organisation and the Cambodian Government. It's about helping the least developed countries or LDCs find ways to participate in world markets with economic benefits. Aidrie De Groot, a director with the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation says the global financial crisis is a setback.

ADRIE DE GROOT: We fear that on the one hand it will reduce in the coming two years, maybe, the assistance provided by developed countries to developing countries - which will make our work much more difficult. Secondly, it will certainly decrease demands for products from these developed countries and that is, of course, the key issue that we're trying to deal with. The only way for us, in our perception, for LDCs to grow faster is to increase their exporters to help accelerate the domestic market development and that certainly will be under pressure for as long as the financial crisis holds on.

KARON SNOWDON: It's the second annual meeting of trade and economic ministers from LDCs and coincides with the more wealthy APEC gathering in Peru where national leaders will join their trade ministers later in the week. While both meetings are discussing trade, perhaps it could be said the more important is the one in Cambodia. Its aim is to target aid programs into helping poor nations develop products to the right standards to export. That involves many aspects from agriculture to training, transport and food safety. The focus is on the "aid for trade" mechanism and ways to speed up poverty reduction through south-south cooperation. As these are often negotiated on a bilateral basis, how do big multinational organisations like the UN help?

ADRIE DE GROOT: We help countries to deal with international standards, not any particular set of international standards, most of the donors see benefit in going through the UN.

KARON SNOWDON: And the WTO Aid for Trade Task Force was set up two years ago in 2006 - with which you're working very closely - what progress has that made so far?

ADRIE DE GROOT: Within that an Enhanced Integrated Framework has started which is a focused fund where countries last year pledged about $120 million for the first two years and most of it will simply be funded on a multi bilateral basis: by bilateral donors funding it through multilateral channels.

KARON SNOWDON: Given the UN's bureaucracy, the size of the bureaucracy, what risk is there, with the UN being involved, much of that funding will be dissipated through the UN bureaucracy and not going to the programs that previously were worked through on a bilateral basis?

ADRIE DE GROOT: Our own organisation is quite a small and rather efficient organisation and we have proven we move faster, often, than bilateral organisations. I think what we are doing is attracting funds on the basis of that efficiency. Often the different donors don't always coordinate well and one way of coordinating effectively is to channel your assistance through one organisation to bring it together.
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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Security forces in Cambodia forcibly evict 300 families

Security forces in Kampot Province, southern Cambodia this week forcibly evicted around 300 families and burnt their homes to the ground.

Around 100 soldiers, police, military police and Forestry Administration officials took part in the forced eviction in Anlong Krom village in the Chhuk District.

The largest group present belonged to Brigade 31 of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces. It has been reported that they were carrying firearms including AK47s and handguns.

Around 130 houses, mostly thatched huts built with straw and leaves, were burnt down on 17 November, leaving homeless families spending the night in the open. Many slept on the ashes of their homes. The security forces burnt down the remaining 170 houses the following day.

“The immediate priority is for authorities to provide emergency relief, including adequate shelter, food, clean water and medical assistance to the homeless families from Anlong Krom village. Then the government needs to ensure they have access to adequate alternative accommodation and compensation, and conduct a full inquiry into how they lost their homes,” said Brittis Edman, Amnesty International's Cambodia researcher.

Amnesty International has learnt that members of the mixed force beat and kicked many of the villagers. Three people had to be taken to hospital for their injuries.

At no time during the two days were villagers or human rights monitors shown any documentation providing for the legal basis for the eviction.

"There was no prior notice, no eviction order, no court decision. This eviction speaks volumes about the state of rule of law in Cambodia," said Brittis Edman.

According to human rights monitors, the local authorities claim that the village is an illegal settlement; poor farmers have settled on the land there, which they thought was vacant. Some families have told human rights workers they moved onto the land up to six years ago, while others have settled there more recently. Many of the settlers are believed to have been landless and the community in Anlong Krom was living in poverty.

At least 3,100 families, or approximately 15,000 people, have been affected by forced evictions in Cambodia so far this year. Some 150,000 Cambodians are known to be living at risk of forced eviction in the wake of land disputes, land grabbing, agro-industrial and urban redevelopment projects.

The Cambodian government has an obligation under international law to protect the population against forced evictions. Whether they are owners, renters or illegal settlers, everyone should possess a degree of security of tenure which guarantees legal protection against forced eviction, harassment and other threats. The prohibition on forced evictions does not, however, apply to evictions carried out by force in accordance with the law and in conformity with international human rights law.

Amnesty International is urging the Cambodian authorities to end all forced evictions and declare and introduce a moratorium for all mass evictions until legislative and policy measures are in place to ensure that evictions are conducted only in full compliance with international human rights laws and standards.
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Rockers Placebo to play anti-slavery gig at Cambodia's Angkor Wat

BANGKOK (AFP) — Alternative guitar band Placebo are to headline the first rock concert at Cambodia's Angkor Wat temple complex, putting years of catering to their fans' teenage angst behind them to speak out against human trafficking.

The December 7 gig, held as part an of an MTV Exit campaign, will transform the 12th century Khmer ruins into a rock venue that will also feature US band The Click Five and a host of other international and Cambodian stars.

Lead singer Brian Molko, best known for his androgynous looks and penchant for black nail polish, told AFP he felt "honoured" to play at the historic jungle temple complex.

"It's just one of the most breathtaking and unique places I have ever spent time in really," the 35-year-old, who visited the ruins as a tourist three years ago, said in a telephone interview from London.

"It's also a very spiritual and quite calming place and so to be able to perform in front of it is just ridiculous."

But taking on the one-off gig at the crumbling ruins has presented some technical difficulties for the London-based three-piece, whose hits include "Nancy Boy" and "Pure Morning".

"We decided that since we don't have access to a massive wall of sound... we have been forced to deconstruct our songs, tear them to pieces and put them back together in novel and unusual ways.

"It's very challenging and very stimulating," he said, describing the end result as "more melody than bombast".

Molko said he hoped the show will attract Cambodians as well as international fans and highlight the problem of this "modern form of slavery".

Cambodia has struggled to shed its reputation as soft on human trafficking, and earlier this year suspended marriages between foreigners and Cambodians amid concerns they were being used to traffic poor, uneducated women.

The US State Department refused a visa to Cambodia's late police chief Hok Lundy in 2006 due to allegations he was involved in trafficking prostitutes.

"There may be people (in the audience) who wish to get more involved in trying to change things. That's all that we can do as a rock band. We are not politicians, we are not heads of police," Molko said.

The concert is part of a series of music shows in Cambodia organised by the anti-trafficking MTV Exit campaign and the US Agency for International Development to raise awareness in young people about human trafficking in the region.

The last international recording artist to perform at Angkor Wat, which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was tenor Jose Carreras who sang for a charity gala dinner there in 2002.

Molko said the rock concert, which is Placebo's only outing before their sixth studio album comes out next spring, is part of a change of focus for him after becoming a father three years ago.

"When you have somebody in your life that you care about more than yourself it's a massive shift in perspective in the way that you view the world," Molko said.

"It does make you want to become involved in the planet that we live on. It's the world that you are passing on to your children."
Read more!

World's poorest nations call for more aid amid global financial woes

SIEM REAP, Cambodia (AFP) — The world's poorest countries on Thursday called on rich nations to continue giving aid despite the global financial crisis.

The appeal from trade ministers and representatives from nearly 50 Least Developed Countries ended two days of talks in Cambodia's tourist hub Siem Reap to discuss trade and the credit crunch.

Jointly organised by the UN Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) and the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the meetings discussed the need for an Aid for Trade (AFT) initiative to speed up trade reforms in poor countries.

"The least developed countries appeal to rich countries to continue to give all kinds of aid to them," said Cambodian Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh.

"AFT can help to strengthen our capacity in producing products that can be exported to the rich countries," he said.

In his opening remarks on Wednesday, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said the world's poorest nations were already suffering from tariffs and strict controls hampering their access to world markets.

Ministers also discussed the latest "Doha" round of WTO negotiations, officials said.

Attempts to hammer out a global trade pact have repeatedly broken down as the world's poorest nations and economic powers trade blows.

Developing countries have been pressing for greater access to agricultural markets in the industrialised world.

Developed nations are in return seeking a better deal for their manufactured products in developing markets.
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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Cambodia urges unity among poor nations on trade

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said Wednesday poor countries like his must continue speaking with one voice in the Doha round of global trade talks to ensure their competitiveness with developed countries.

He also lashed out at wealthy nations for maintaining trade barriers that hurt poor countries, such as farm subsidies and high food safety standards.

"Poor countries are always open to products from developed countries, but when we try to enter developed countries, we often are faced with very strong trade barriers," Hun Sen said.

He spoke in a speech opening a two-day conference of industry and trade ministers from 49 so-called least developed countries in Siem Reap province, Cambodia's tourist hub.

Hun Sen called on the countries "to bind together in solidarity and a united voice to lead us to our common success in negotiating" a revival of global trade talks.

The World Trade Organization's Doha Round talks that began in 2001 broke down in July because of a dispute among India, China and the U.S. over tariffs to protect farmers in developing markets.

Hun Sen called for a "win-win" solution to all but said poor countries "must send another clear message" to key players in the negotiation process to ensure "the principle of free and fair trade of the WTO, which is the heart of the development."

Protectionism will only cause more pain to the development prospects of poor countries that are now facing "profound and possibly prolonged effects" from the global financial crisis, WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy said at the conference.

"They will be left with no means to resort to, especially after the initial squeezes of a general economic slowdown," he said in a speech.

He urged WTO members to agree by the end of the year on methods for settling disagreements on agriculture and industry in order to provide "a stepping stone" toward the conclusion of the Doha Development Round in 2009.
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Khmer Rouge photo exhibition opens in Cambodia

In Cambodia, a unique photography exhibition is touring the provinces. The photographs were taken by Sweden's Gunnar Bergstrom in 1978, when he was a guest of the Khmer Rouge. At the time Mr Bergstrom was a committed Maoist who believed Pol Pot was embarking on a project to create a perfect society. It was only after he arrived home that Mr Bergstrom decided he'd been used as a propaganda tool and, far from creating social perfection, the Khmer Rouge was systematically destroying Cambodia's people.

In 1978 Gunnar Bergstrom thought the Khmer Rouge represented a glorious future. One in which inequality and injustice would be eradicted. When he and four colleagues from the Sweden-Kampuchea Friendship Association were invited to visit Pol Pot's Democratic Kampuchea he saw happy villagers and a flourishing society. But he also saw things which caused him disquiet. It took him six months to talk about them and thirty years before he could return to the country and fully face his mistake.

GUNNAR BERGSTROM: In Sweden and some of these countries the Maoist faction of the left was quite strong. I guess all leftist people had this vision but especially for me the Maoist version of equal society, no oppressors, we were told that the leaders were a cooperative group and no personality cult like Mao Tse-Tung took or Kim il-Sung because we didn't like that. They were the persons that we had worked for to support during the whole war with the Americans and when Khmer Rouge won the war I didn't think it came to our minds that they could become the new oppressors.

BILL BAINBRIDGE: So then you went to Cambodia in 1978, what did you see there?

GUNNAR BERGSTROM: Well, we were taken on the tour that I think today was a fake, arranged propaganda tool. At the time I think I was impressed. We were taken on a 14-day trip to cooperatives, farming, factories, we were taken to exceptions and fakes and given a positive picture of this period.

BILL BAINBRIDGE: You've said though that you did have some what you called forbidden thoughts at the time. What were those?

GUNNAR BERGSTROM: For instance, when we were forbidden the first day to go outside of the room in Phnom Penh, except for a few areas, we complained and then they let us moved around but I thought at that time that maybe the whole, all the rumours maybe are true, this is a concentration camp. So those thoughts crept around in my mind but I didn't share them with the rest of the group. They didn't fit the Maoist picture.

BILL BAINBRIDGE: And so at what point did you begin to realise that you'd been so wrong about the Khmer Rouge?

GUNNAR BERGSTROM: Six months after we came home, maybe eight months. I wrote an article in a paper in Sweden that we had been wrong. It's just that I thought that I could write that article and then move on to other things. I didn't realise the magnitude of the misjudgment, I didn't realise the whole gigantic picture, that took a longer time, but I left the group and the movement there about half a year after I came home.

BILL BAINBRIDGE: So now you're exhibiting some photographs that you took at the time. What is it that you can see in those photographs that you couldn't see in 1978?

GUNNAR BERGSTROM: I think you have to realise that some of the things I see in the photographs are because I have information now that I didn't have then. I know that masses of killings occurred - that colours the pictures today. But I can also let some of the forbidden thoughts come up now and some of these things I can see just because, you know, the mind is liberated from Maoist glasses.

BILL BAINBRIDGE: And so this is your first trip back in 30 years?

GUNNAR BERGSTROM: Yes.

BILL BAINBRIDGE: What have you found? What kind of reception have you had there?

GUNNAR BERGSTROM: The reception has been mainly positive, you know. But I think that I have to tell Cambodian people I'm sorry and then another part is talking about that period again and learning from it and I hear that there are young Cambodians who don't believe that it was that bad. So I think I had, you know, for these three days mostly positive reactions. There are also other reactions, you know, it wakes memories for survivors of Tuol Sleng and people who lost everyone during this period but I'm still prepared for someone who would maybe be very angry at me or upset or something, but so far it has it's been quite OK. And more than OK.
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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Global Challenges | Global HIV Testing Campaign Launched in Cambodia, Uganda

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation in Cambodia last week launched the first phase of a program that aims to test 10,000 people in the country for HIV, the Phnom Penh Post reports. The campaign is part of an AHF program to test one million people worldwide for HIV by World AIDS Day on Dec. 1. Mam Sophal, president of the HIV/AIDS program at the Municipal Health Department in the capital of Phnom Penh, said that 579 people have been tested so far. Chhim Sarath, country program manager for AHF Cambodia, said HIV testing is "very important," and that people who test positive are provided with counseling, prevention education and care services. Sophal said that positive responses from people being tested eased his initial concerns that the campaign would not be successful. "I thought people would be afraid of the results and would not join the program, but when it started, people came to the test with smiles on their faces," he said.

Sarath said that the campaign is an "opportunity to reach people and teach them about HIV/AIDS," adding that an estimated 1,000 people daily were educated through the campaign during a recent festival. The testing campaign also will expand to eight provinces in Cambodia. Government statistics show that HIV prevalence in the country among people ages 15 to 49 has decreased from 1.9% in 2003 to 0.9% in 2007, the Post reports. AHF officials say that HIV/AIDS has spread from high-risk groups such as injection drug users and commercial sex workers to the general population (Shay/Chakrya, Phnom Penh Post, 11/14).

Uganda To Participate in Testing Campaign
In related news, the AHF campaign recently was launched in Uganda and plans to test at least 10,000 people for HIV by Dec. 1, Uganda's Daily Monitor reports. Emmanuel Ziraba, the event's coordinator, announced last week that testing centers would be established at strategic sites throughout the capital of Kampala. Event coordinators also are working with stakeholders in Kampala who have "agreed to intensify their daily work to capture more people during the week," Ziraba said. He added that people who test HIV-positive will be put in contact with care providers and given information on living with the virus. Ziraba added that people who test negative for HIV "will be equipped with knowledge on keeping away from infection."

According to the Monitor, estimates show that about one million Ugandans are living with HIV/AIDS but less than 20% are aware of their status (Kirunda, Daily Monitor, 11/15).

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Fake drugs worth 6.6 million dlrs seized in Asia: Interpol

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — Police across Southeast Asia have arrested 27 people and seized 6.6 million dollars worth of counterfeit anti-HIV drugs, antibiotics, and other medicines, Interpol said Tuesday.

The global police organisation said 16 million fake pills, also including anti-malaria and anti-tuberculosis drugs, were netted in Operation Storm, a five-month sting that ended in September.

Nearly 200 raids were carried out in Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam with the support of Interpol and the World Health Organisation, it said in a statement.

The crackdown targeted individuals and groups involved in the manufacture and distribution of four classes of counterfeit medicines identified as posing "a significant public health risk," Paris-based Interpol said.

The operation "will provide a blueprint for future actions in targeting this type of criminal activity which affects every corner of the globe," Interpol Secretary General Ronald K. Noble said in the statement.

The results of the operation were released Monday at the start of an international law enforcement training seminar on combating counterfeit drugs in Cambodia, Interpol said.
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Is Pakistan Obama's Cambodia?

by George C. Wilson

President-elect Obama has committed himself to stepping up the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan. It is not an overstatement to say that he will risk his whole presidency, and perhaps even unwittingly put nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorists who might use them to attack the United States, if he leaps too far into neighboring Pakistan in pursuit of elusive victory.

The rub, as the Vietnam and Iraq wars showed us all, is unintended consequences. Our military leaders can, and almost certainly will, make a strong case to Obama that there is no way to defeat the Taliban and their allied tribes in Afghanistan without cleaning out their sanctuaries just over the Afghan border in Pakistan.

I can hear frustrated U.S. commanders on the ground in Afghanistan making the same kind of argument to Obama’s team tomorrow that I heard yesterday in Vietnam when I was a combat correspondent there.

I could empathize with this lament, for example, that I heard in 1968 from a 9th Division infantry battalion commander, whose mission was to rid his area — South Vietnam’s rice bowl, the Delta — of the stealthy Viet Cong guerrillas:
“I can have my kids chase the Viet Cong all day and all night. But whenever they catch up to a good number of them, they just run over the border into Cambodia where we can’t go. All I’m really doing down here is buying time with my kids’ lives for the diplomats to settle this thing.”

His was among the impressive military arguments I heard for either invading Cambodian border sanctuaries or getting the United States out of the otherwise unwinnable Vietnam War.

President Lyndon Johnson resisted invading Cambodia. He had concluded that this would only widen the war, infuriating an already skeptical Congress. Early on in Johnson’s presidency he confided to Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, but not the public, that he saw the war as a no-win. Secret tapes of Johnson’s conversations, since made public, document him saying this to McNamara on Feb. 26, 1965: “I don’t think anything is going to be as bad as losing, and I don’t see any way of winning.”

His successor, Richard Nixon, who took office in 1969 after the Vietnam War had ruined Johnson’s presidency, including his dream of building a Great Society, rushed into Cambodia where Johnson had feared to tread.

First, Nixon authorized, without telling the public, secret bombings of Cambodia, which had tried to stay neutral. Then on April 30, 1970, Nixon announced he had ordered the invasion of Cambodia with U.S. and South Vietnamese troops to “clean out” the enemy’s border sanctuaries.
Now think “Pakistan” to hear the same ring. Four days later — on May 4, 1970 — National Guardsmen killed four student anti-war protesters on the campus of Kent State in Ohio.

Those two events, coming right on top of each other, mobilized anti-war lawmakers in Congress to curb the president’s war-making powers and to cut off the money the South Vietnamese army needed to continue fighting the war after U.S. troops left the field under Nixon’s Vietnamization strategy.

The military defeat Johnson had feared all along, without saying so publicly, came in 1975 when Communist North Vietnam conquered capitalist South Vietnam.

Nixon’s invasion of Cambodia, even though his announced purpose was just to clean out the border sanctuaries, contributed to Cambodia’s political turmoil.

The invaders also failed to achieve the military objective of finding and destroying the Communist headquarters in Cambodia known as COSVN for Central Office for South Vietnam.

The Communist Khmer Rouge in the aftermath of the invasion toppled the pro-American leader of the country, Lon Nol, and wiped out the upper classes in a bloodbath that some reports estimated murdered 2 million Cambodians. Again, unintended consequences.

Fast forward to Pakistan today. President Asif Ali Zardari, husband of Benazir Bhutto, a Muslim moderate who was assassinated in December while campaigning in parliamentary elections, is already complaining about U. S. military strikes against alleged al Qaida and Taliban targets in Pakistan’s border regions.

An American-led ground invasion of Pakistan under the same “clean out” rationale Nixon used could cause such political turmoil that the bad guys might get their hands on one or more of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute estimates Pakistan has at least 60 nuclear weapons.

Imagine a worst case scenario of terrorists sneaking just one nuke into New York City and setting it off at lunch hour. Thousands of people could be incinerated, skyscrapers toppled and the air poisoned for years.

The Bush administration, Congress and the media have been rightly faulted for not worst-casing the American invasion of Iraq before it was ordered in 2003. History warns that those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Obama needs to look long and hard at the worst unintended consequences of leaping into Pakistan. While he’s at it, the new president should consider what would happen if U. S. forces captured or killed Osama bin Laden. Osama’s deputies would feel compelled to retaliate against the United States in a spectacular way. Does Obama want another 9/11? Better to keep American fingerprints off the deed if it is done.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Cambodia's inflation rate declines in October

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia's consumer price index grew by 18.12 percent from October 2007 to October 2008, marking a decrease of inflation rate this year, national media said on Tuesday.

The inflation rate stood at 22 percent in August and 20 percent in September, according to official figures.

While prices remain high compared with last year, some price changes that occurred month to month recently have slowed or reversed compared with previous trends, English-Khmer language newspaper the Cambodia Daily quoted official report as saying.

The financial crisis and the falling value of U.S. dollars have take a toll on the Cambodian economy, it quoted experts saying.

The high inflation seems to be decreasing in Cambodia, it quoted a bank source as saying.

From 2005 to 2007, Cambodia experienced double-digit economic growth and inflation became apparent at the beginning of this year.

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CAMBODIA: Arsenic in Mekong putting 1.7 million at risk

PHNOM PENH, 17 November 2008 (IRIN) - Arsenic contamination of the Mekong River and groundwater is putting millions of residents at risk of severe illness due to arsenic poisoning, the UN and NGOs warned.

After surveying wells along the Mekong, which flows through Lao PDR, Cambodia and Vietnam, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and governments concluded that as many as 1.7 million people were at risk of arsenic poisoning, whose long-term symptoms include skin lesions and cancer.

Twenty-one percent of the Vietnamese population is exposed to arsenic above the World Health Organization's acceptable level of 10ppb (parts per billion). It is found not just in groundwater but in bottled water, tap water, even fish, according to the Vietnam Ministry of Health.

In Cambodia and Laos, the precise numbers of people exposed to arsenic contamination is not yet known, though UNICEF and government agencies are compiling a report to be released later this year.

In some provinces along the Mekong River in Vietnam and Cambodia, residents are exposed to 30 times the acceptable level of arsenic, according to data from the Vietnam Ministry of Health.

Water containing arsenic above 300ppb could cause cancer within three to four years, the Health Ministry said.

Arsenic has no taste or smell, and can take years of slow build-up before symptoms are revealed, making it especially hazardous and hard to detect.

Contamination caused by sedimentation

"Arsenic contamination in the Mekong is understood to have been caused by recent sedimentation," Thowai Sha Zai, chief of UNICEF's water, environment, and sanitation (WES) division in Vietnam, told IRIN.

Sedimentation refers to the process whereby sediment accumulates, often with the side-effect of accumulating naturally occurring arsenic through chemical interactions.

In the 1990s, a lot of poorly planned NGOs built wells for villages and did not fully understand the long-term situation after they left.


"It is not known if this has been caused by other reasons as well, such as industrial pollution, since there has been no scientific study or evidence on that," he added.

Clearing arsenic from water supplies is costly, so authorities in Cambodia instead paint contaminated wells red and instruct residents to use them only for washing clothes and dishes.

In Vietnam, UNICEF and the government have provided rural residents with special filters to strain the water to reduce their exposure.

Yet some villagers remain scared of poisoning, even if only using the water for washing clothes. "We have abandoned many wells," Le Giau, a Vietnamese Mekong resident at the Vietnam-Cambodia border, told IRIN, adding that they were afraid of what could happen to them if they wore clothes with arsenic residue.

Since clean drinking water is hard to come by, some residents collect rainwater.

"In the 1990s, a lot of poorly planned NGOs built wells for villages and did not fully understand the long-term situation after they left," said one Cambodian NGO employee in Phnom Penh, who asked not to be named. "Many were short-term volunteer programmes that didn't teach people about the dangers of arsenic from their wells."

Arsenic poisoning became a public health crisis in India and Bangladesh at the time, and later gained more attention in Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, and China, which all depend on the Mekong.

gc/bj/mw.
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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Buddha-shaped termite nests in Cambodia

PHNOM PENH--Hundreds of devout Cambodians have flocked to see five unusually shaped termite nests that look like seated figures of Buddha, witnesses said Sunday.

The iconic insect homes appeared on the cement floor of 56-year-old Kuong Keo Ry's house near Phnom Penh, shortly before a traditional death festival held in October when she was mourning her late husband.

"I am happy that my house has been chosen. After other people and I pay respect to the Buddha shapes, we all feel content," the widow told AFP by telephone.

She said she first became curious about the nests in October because she would sweep them away every day -- but that the wood-munching bugs would rebuild them overnight.

Over the past month around 50 to 60 people had come to her house every day to view the Buddhas, Kuong Keo Ry said.

A journalist who went to see the termite Buddhas said he was "thrilled" by them.

"It's like a miracle to me," said Sok Samnang, who hosts a Cambodian television show.

"One night after we put jasmine ornaments around the five Buddha shapes, they became higher. Each of them is 50 centimeters (19 inches) tall and looks exactly like a seated Buddha," he said.

Cambodian Buddhist scholars have said that the Buddha shapes represent apparitions of deities.

"I've never seen anything like this before in my life. I believe the termites are trying to bring us a message from God," said devout Buddhist San Son, 60, who visits the nests regularly to pray.

Buddhism permeates all aspects of culture in Cambodia, despite attempts to eradicate it by the former Khmer Rouge regime.
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Forgotten for 400 years, Angkor is a tribute to civilization and nature




SIEM REAP, Cambodia -- For something so ancient, the rock face looked as content as a man who's just eaten a big slice of peach pie.

"Who made you?" I whispered. "Were you lonely when nobody came to visit for 400 years?"

No answer. Just a smile.

That is the fascination of Angkor, the mysterious temple complex of Cambodia. As at the pyramids of Egypt or the temples of the Maya, visitors here must infer the nature of a civilization from the astounding architecture left behind.

A stunner in the jungle
Angkor, located in the city of Siem Reap in central Cambodia, probably should have been a winner in last year's New Seven Wonders of the World contest.

In scope and beauty, it easily beats Mexico's Chichen Itza and possibly even Peru's Machu Picchu. It likely lost because fewer people have seen it than the other attractions.

Although 2 million tourists a year visit Angkor now, the site was basically covered by the jungle from 1500 to 1900, then off-limits to visitors due to war and political instability in Cambodia from the 1960s to 1998. Its masterpiece is Angkor Wat, a funky temple built in the 12th Century in honor of the Hindu god Vishnu.

Stunningly original, the temple's five towers were built using porous clay foundations and sandstone exteriors. Put together with an unknown mortar, stones were stacked like a Jenga puzzle, each piece fitting atop the other into tall spires.

Yet Angkor Wat is only one of 72 major temples, and the Angkor ruins area is more than 1,000 miles square.

There are ways to tour Angkor responsibly, says the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property. Don't touch and don't take anything except photographs. Wear soft-soled shoes so sharp heels don't leave marks. Don't brush backpacks or bags against the monuments. Avoid climbing on them except where allowed. Don't leave graffiti or litter, and talk softly.

Especially, I'd add, when talking to the carvings.

Riches to ruins
The rise-and-fall story of Angkor is dramatic enough to fill 10 history books.

Between the 12th and 15th centuries, the great Khmer Empire spread over what are now parts of Laos and Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia. Its center was Angkor, the home of the kings, temples, fountains and gold.

A series of attacks by the Siamese and exhaustion of the land by overfarming led to the abandonment of the city in the early 15th Century, historians believe.

That's when most of Angkor fell victim to the jungle for 400 years. There it sat, while nations rose and fell, while America was discovered, while Shakespeare wrote "Hamlet."

When French archaeologists in the late 19th Century rediscovered Angkor and started pulling the vines away and looking at what remained, they were astonished. We still are.

Ancient art gallery
It takes all day for even a bare-bones tour. You can start before sunrise and watch the sun come up over the towers of Angkor Wat, stay all day, then watch the sun go down from a hill nearby.

Some of the ruins have been sufficiently restored so that you can wander the halls and climb the steps. Yet most are only partly put back together, giving the ruins a tumbledown feel, as if you'd just stopped by after an earthquake.

Angkor Wat, built in the early 12th Century by King Suryavarman II, is the star of Angkor. But I preferred the Bayon, a nearby temple with 49 towers emblazoned with nearly 200 huge carved images of a pleasantly smiling face. Historians believe the images represent either King Jayavarman VII, who built the temple in the late 12th Century, or the Buddhist "compassionate being" Lokesvara, or both.

Yet, the Bayon is not just a happy-face ruin. It's also an ancient art gallery, with wonderful bas-relief murals depicting the ordinary life of the Angkor people -- gambling, in childbirth, dancing, cooking, playing, hunting and fishing. These murals not only are a kind of Facebook posting of daily life back then, they illuminate the high standard of living at Angkor in its heyday, when people had enough to eat, safety, leisure and time to create such art.

Locals and tourists
You don't need a guide to visit the Angkor complex, but I would recommend it. The complex is so huge that it helps to have someone show you high points you might miss on your own.

Many tourists get around by tuk-tuk, a cart with an awning pulled by a motorcycle driver. Other sightseers visit by car, van, tour bus, bicycle or even by elephant, depending on what kind of tour they book.

Inside the complex, it's not just sightseers. Local people gather sheaves of rattan, the reed used to weave baskets. Cattle wander amid the chaos. An ice cream truck parks in a field. At most of the popular temples and sites, persistent children sell sticky rice, baskets, scarves, bracelets, guidebooks, bananas, pineapple chunks and Fanta Orange.

The average tourist needs at least two days to see Angkor, but archaeology buffs will want to stay longer.

One of the most photo-friendly sites is Ta Prohm, a temple-monastery. Today, visitors can see the temple much as it was found in the early 1900s, with giant kapok tree roots winding through the doors and windows, so that the stone temple appears to be part of the natural landscape. Also lovely is Neak Pean, a pond with a fountain as elegant as anything you'd find at Versailles.

Too popular?
Today, the Angkor Wat complex is in no danger of fading away. Huge luxury hotels have opened pell-mell outside the park just in the last three years. About 3,000 new hotel rooms are about to be added to the 7,000 already here.

Naturally, environmentalists aren't happy about the unregulated hustle and bustle right next to a UNESCO World Heritage site. They worry about the water table under Angkor being sucked dry by hotel wells. They worry that the site's fragile ruins can't handle the traffic.

Still, I keep thinking that the kings who built Angkor would probably love all the attention.

From the 1960s to 1998, Cambodia was either at war, crippled by the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime or unstable. Now, the fledgling democratic nation is trying to make up for lost time in expanding tourism at a frenetic pace in Siem Reap/Angkor, the destination for half of all tourists to Cambodia.

Ready or not, Tourism Cambodia expects up to 3 million tourists at Angkor by 2010.

Contact ELLEN CREAGER at 313-222-6498 or ecreager@freepress.com.
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