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Sunday, June 15, 2008

Democrat calls for FM to reveal Cambodia's new map

Thailand is always trying to find the way around. it even had been trying to claim Ankor Wat Temple as theirs. Thailand is afraid of loosing a square inch to Cambodia but they already encroaching hundred square Kilometers on Cambodia land.

The Democrat party called on the Foreign Ministry on Sunday to reveal the new border lines for Preah Vihear Temple proposed by Cambodia in its bid to list the temple as a Unesco World Heritage site.

Deputy party leader Alongkorn Polabutr expressed concern the ministry appeared to be withholding details of the Cambodian proposal.

Phnom Penh's bid to make Preah Vihear Temple a protected site reached a stalemate last year when Bangkok objected to a map attached to the proposal.

Bangkok said it included overlapping zones between both countries and they had to be demarcated first.

Several rounds of negotiations followed and Cambodia agreed to propose a new map which Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama said did not include the overlapping areas.

He doubted the government would compromise on the issue that could benefit former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra who was reportedly keen about investing in Koh Kong province in Cambodia.

Alongkorn said the ministry should make the issue transparent by showing details of the map to the public before Unesco considers the Cambodian proposal between July 2 and 10.

The Cabinet is scheduled to endorse Cambodia's new map next week, enabling Phnom Penh to submit its proposal to Unesco.

Thailand and Cambodia claimed ownership of the temple until the World Court ruled in favour of Cambodia in 1962.

Alongkorn said yesterday was the 46th anniversary of that ruling.

It should be noted the World Court ruled that only the temple, not the areas around it, belonged to Cambodia, he said.

A seminar on the controversy was conducted in Si Sa Ket province yesterday, where many panellists expressed doubts on the Thai government's expected admission of Cambodia's new map.

Last week, some residents in Si Sa Ket called for the removal of Cambodian communities from overlapping areas.
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Vietnam-Cambodia Friendship Association holds national congress

Our ancesters said "a friend in need is a friend in deed". So Cambodia is a friend in need for Communist Yuon to get some deeds. Cambodia has lots of thing for Yuon to steal including encroachments of Rubber Plantions.

VietNamNet Bridge - The Vietnam-Cambodia Friendship Association (VCFA) re-elected Vu Mao as President for the 2008-2013 period at its 3 rd National Congress in Hanoi on June 14.

Addressing the event, President of the association Vu Mao, stressed the important strategic relations between Vietnam and Cambodia , saying that bilateral relations are seeing positive developments on the basis of mutual benefits, traditional friendly neighbourliness and comprehensive cooperation.

Over the past five years, the VCFA has actively and creatively renewed its activities, improving the people-to-people diplomatic work, strengthening the traditional friendship and solidarity, and comprehensive cooperation between Vietnam and Cambodia .

The congress defined the VCFA’s focal tasks in the 3 rd term, namely to promote the education on the two countries’ traditional friendship, solidarity and comprehensive cooperation, attach importance to economic, trade, scientific and technical cooperation; continue to develop the organisation, improving the quality of its activities and strengthening its leadership.

The VCFA will create opportunities for former Vietnamese experts and volunteer soldiers to visit their former combatant fields in Cambodia , and organise exchange meetings for students and business clubs of the two countries.

Cambodian Ambassador to Vietnam Vann Phal highly appreciated the traditional friendship, solidarity and fine cooperation in the spirit of “good neighbourliness, traditional friendship, and long-tern, durable and comprehensive cooperation” between the two countries.

The congress also passed its revised charter and elected a new 39-member executive committee.

(Source: VNA)
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Adventurers drawn to the beauty of Cambodia

By Jenny Hammond


AFTER decades of unrest, Cambodia is coming into its own as a destination for travelers eager to embrace architecture, adventure and smiles, writes Jenny Hammond.

Compared with its high profile neighbors, wartorn Vietnam and the idyllic paradise of Thailand, Cambodia tends to fly under the radar. But that does not mean this fascinating country has any less to offer.

After three decades of war, Cambodia is now at peace and attracting more and more tourists with the promise of Indiana Jones- or Tomb Raider-type adventures.

Undoubtedly Cambodia is a beautiful country, quite different from its neighbors.

For starters there are vast expanses of bright red earth house communities where the homes are built on stilts to protect residents from floods in the rainy season and the odd rogue snake, while at the same time providing shelter for livestock below.

The view feels more like something out of Africa than Asia with mango trees nestled along the sides of bumpy roads where smiling locals sell juicy slices of pineapples to weary passers-by.

Cambodia was ravaged during the war years and still has the highest number of unexploded land mines in the world. But with a vast expanse of magnificent horizons and some of the world's most breathtaking man-made structures, the horrific past is being replaced by the wonder of the country's rich cultural heritage.

The biggest attractions on the tourist trail are the temples of Angkor which are among the most incredible structures on Earth in spite of thousands of years of wear and tear and, more recently, clumsy tourist feet.

Situated near the sleepy town of Siem Reap, the temples were only rediscovered by the Western world in the 1860s although they still housed a wealthy working monastery.

The discovery generated a great deal of international interest in Cambodia, with well-known explorers swooping on the country to document their travels throughout the area. But in the last part of the last century, visiting Cambodia became difficult as the country was forced into conflict with neighbors.

With Cambodia and its relics now safe to visit following its recent past, tourism is becoming a booming industry.

And most are heading straight for Angkor. The temples of Angkor, capital of Cambodia's ancient Khmer empire, rival each other in size, detail and beauty, but Angkor Wat, the largest religious structure in the world, stands proud near the center of them all.

Angkor Wat is the best example today of man's devotions to the gods through its sheer size and intricate carvings. More than 3,000 individually carved "heavenly nymphs" adorn the structure while the high turrets of the temple all point west leading many to believe the monument was built as a tomb - the west symbolically points towards death.

A note to remember for visiting this temple is that it is lit at night between 7:30pm and 9pm so a visit at this time allows a brief escape from both the heat and the distracting tour bus crowds.

But in spite of Angkor Wat's size, it is by no means the best of the many monuments spreading throughout a thick forest.

Heading north from Siem Reap, you first come across Angkor Wat, then the walled city of Angkor Thom where stone faces of tranquil Buddhas stare serenely into the thick jungle.

To the east of the city is the mesmerizing temple of Ta Prohm intertwined in a jungle wilderness and Banteay Kdei that offers intricate stone carvings.

Restorations are underway in many of the structures, but the beauty of Ta Prohm is embellished by the way nature has reclaimed the temple with massive trees winding around the structure, breaking up walls as if they were made of sand.

Like a giant octopus enveloping the temple, the tree trunks and roots - often more than 30 centimeters wide - wind through the crevices while birds chatter noisily in the tree tops above.

With temperatures often exceeding 30 degrees Celsius, young local children run to tourists touting cold refreshments as well as a myriad of craft items such as flutes, bags, postcards and books.

While many parents have been lost in conflicts, maimed by land mines or even killed by poisonous snakes, the children still welcome visitors with wide smiles and fluent English greetings.

After the architecture, the hospitality in Cambodia is the most notable aspect of a visit there, as locals are quick to wave happily at foreign faces - making it a top destination for anyone seeking culture, beauty, kindness and an incredible adventure.
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Tourists help in Cambodia's struggle against war, poverty


By Chris Gray
The Philadelphia Inquirer

SIEM REAP, Cambodia - Let's be honest: It was the specter of tigers, temples and tom yam soup that led my husband and me to honeymoon in Southeast Asia. We wanted an adventure to remember, on a continent where neither of us had been.

But as I researched our trip, I realized that we should spend at least a little time practicing "voluntourism," giving back to people who are still struggling for the basics after decades of war and poverty.

We found a way to have it all in Siem Reap, Cambodia, home of the ancient temple complex Angkor Wat, and Ponheary Ly, a tour guide who considers it her mission to help educate as many Cambodian children as possible.

I found Ly, a Siem Reap native and survivor of dictator Pol Pot's labor camps, through the Asia message board on Fodors.com. Ly, 44, is a veteran guide who has arranged private tours of Angkor Wat and other Siem Reap attractions in both English and French - languages she learned in secret during the Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia - since 2000.

A former English teacher, Ly has also worked for seven years to enroll children in Cambodian schools. While public school in the country is ostensibly free for the first three years, many rural children do not have the $12 necessary for shoes, school supplies or uniforms, she said.

"As a teacher, I knew about the difficulties of the kids and families who couldn't send the kids to schools," she said. "Also, I found that the kids are smart, but they don't have any occasion to show how smart they are. To build the country, we have to build the education for all people, especially the kids."

It's a message that Ly's clients - mostly Americans who prefer independent travel with native guides to packaged tours - could support. In addition to touring the temples, more and more visitors asked Ly whether they could visit the schools and donate money for bicycles, supplies and uniforms.

One such convert

Lori Carlson, formerly of Austin, Texas, was one such convert. When she visited here in 2005, Carlson was struck by Ly's background and dedication. On her return to the States, she founded the Ponheary Ly Foundation (www.theplf.org), a registered nonprofit that channels money directly to the schools.

Carlson, 48, raised $90,000 for five schools - and quit her job to move here to work full time with Ly. She formed a board of directors for the PLF, which distributed school supplies to 1,955 children.

"I believe the travelers who go to visit the temples at Angkor Wat understand they bear at least some of the responsibility to gently nudge these children toward school rather than reinforce the idea that it's good to stand on the corner and beg dollars from tourists," she said.

With such strong advocates, Don and I were excited to meet Ly and do our part. We arrived here to find a city undergoing massive change. The number of tourists visiting Angkor Wat, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1992, has exploded in recent years, spurring an increase in hotels, shops, restaurants and other businesses.

While the influx of dollars has been good for many Cambodians (merchants prefer U.S. dollars to the Cambodian rial), it's disconcerting to see barefoot bicyclists ride past $800-a-night hotels. Young children hawk maps, books and trinkets near the temple grounds; tuk-tuk drivers fight over $1 fares.

That's not to say that Don and I eschew luxury (it was our honeymoon, after all). We turned down a $20 room at Ly's simple guest house, primarily because it didn't have a pool, which we considered essential to deal with the area's crushing humidity. At $95, our poolside room at Bopha Angkor was spacious yet not ostentatious, and the package included daily breakfast, a traditional Khmer dinner and a massage.

More than 300 temples

Just a few hours after we landed, we went to Angkor Wat with Ly's brother Dara as our guide. There are more than 300 temples in the complex, but Dara steered us to the ones that would provide the most interesting backdrops for my husband, the photographer.
As we sweated in the 90-degree heat, I asked Dara about his family's experience under the Khmer Rouge. He told us that his father, a teacher in Siem Reap, was among the first wave of educated people to be killed under Pol Pot's regime. As a result, Dara and his siblings were sent with their mother to the countryside to work.

It's a sobering tale, and we heard more from Ly over the next few days. Ly, who was 13 when the Khmer Rouge came to power, and her siblings survived, mainly because villagers would leave food for them at night.

"We were given this much rice," Ly told us, holding up the tip of her finger.

Dara would "crawl out on all fours, like a cat" to get extra food; sometimes, actual cats or monkeys would have gotten to the rations instead, she said.

Still, the extra nourishment kept the family alive - and the Khmer Rouge noticed. Officials asked her mother why her children were still alive when so many other youngsters had died, Ly said. When her mother refused to answer, she was horribly beaten.

Such atrocities were common in the Pol Pot years. Yet most Cambodians don't like to talk about the time under the Khmer Rouge, Carlson said. It's rare to find it discussed in schools, primarily due to the country's Buddhist beliefs, which hold that people - even war criminals - are responsible for their own karma.

Understands what's important

Ly is different, Carlson said. She understands that it's important to talk about the past so it doesn't happen again. We were talking in Ly's van, on our way to deliver lunch to the 476 children at Knar school, out in the Cambodian countryside. On the road, we saw men on bikes toting crates filled with piglets and open huts with children playing in the dirt.

Cambodian families expect all children, no matter how young, to contribute economically, Ly told us. Which is why even the kids who are lucky enough to go to school attend for a half day; at home, they are needed for chores, farm work or other ways to make money.

Incentives

In addition to a donation made before our trip, we gave Ly $40 for lunch, which buys two noodle packets for each child. That's essential, Carlson said, because if the child received only one packet, he or she would take it home to the family instead of eating it. The school tries to feed the children at least once a day to make sure they have enough energy to learn, Carlson said.

We arrived at Knar School, which consists of several one-story classrooms. As Don carried the boxes of noodle packets into the rooms, the children's eyes grew wide. They straightened in their seats and thanked us by pressing their hands together and bowing.

Carlson and Ly showed us around the school and talked about the improvements that have been made. Incentives such as bicycles, uniforms, and extra noodle packets show the families that there are tangible benefits to their children attending school, Carlson said.

"I would like to have my country be the same as the other countries," Ly said, with Cambodian children able "to have good education to work well to get out from the poor life."

The children seemed to love school, showing off their uniforms and books. An impromptu game of soccer ensued, with Don in the thick of it. It was an emotional sight for me, which sparked later discussion: Although we had been together several years, Don and I had never talked about the greater good we could accomplish as a couple.

It's a conversation that all newlyweds should have, wherever their honeymoon takes them. For us, road-testing our fledgling marriage in an underdeveloped country not only gave us the adventures we sought, but also set the course for a more permanent path. And that's definitely a trip worth taking.
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Cambodian Cabinet approves 2 hydroelectric dam projects to be built by Chinese companies

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: The Cambodian Cabinet has approved plans for Chinese companies to build two hydroelectric plants beginning the end of this year, a government official said Saturday.

Environmental groups say the dams threaten the country's ecosystem and the livelihoods of thousands.

Both dams will be located in Koh Kong province in southwestern Cambodia, said Seng Savorn, a spokesman of the Council of Ministers.

China National Heavy Machinery Corp. will take until at least 2014 to complete a US$540 million dam, which should be able to generate up to 246 megawatts of electricity, he said.

Another Chinese company, Michelle Corp., is to build a US$495.7 million dam intended to generate up to 338 megawatts of electricity, he said. The project is due to be completed in 2015.

Electricity generation in Cambodia remains largely undeveloped, with most power plants using fossil fuels. The impoverished Southeast Asian nation also buys electricity from neighboring Vietnam and Thailand.

Power costs in Cambodia are among the highest in the world, and only about 12 percent of its 14 million people have access to electricity, according to the World Bank.

Electricity prices are also a major source of complaint from investors in Cambodia.

In a bid to meet future electricity demand, the government has identified 14 potential hydroelectric dam sites across the country.

Environmentalists have voiced concerns about the impact those projects will have.

In a report earlier this year, U.S.-based International Rivers Network said "poorly conceived hydropower development could irreparably damage" Cambodia.

"Large hydropower projects can incur significant environmental and social costs that risk undermining sustainable development," said the report released in January.

Seng Savorn dismissed the concerns, saying the projects were studied thoroughly before they were approved by the Cabinet.

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