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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Monks see Buddha in wasp nest

By Matt Russell

Experts are skeptical, but the Cambodian Buddhist community is abuzz over what they believe is a miracle at their temple in southeast Rochester: A wasp nest in the shape of a seated Buddha.
The nest, which is nestled in the eaves high above the entry to the Buddhists' one-story gathering hall, was spotted last week during a large celebration in which community members give monks new robes.

"Instead of the celebration we were having, we were paying attention to the beehive," said 35-year-old monk Sokunthea Thun.

Elder members of the Cambodian Buddhist community said they have never seen an apparition of the Buddha in their lifetimes.

"The Buddha is trying to tell everybody to seek peace in their lives," said 70-year-old Voeun Sor of Rochester, a Cambodia native who has lived in the United States for 20 years.

The location of the nest is typical for paper wasps, said Kirk Payne, a naturalist at Quarry Hill Nature Center in Rochester.

"They'll make a comb that can be kind of be wave-like," he said. "I can imagine how they could make a shape like an undulating, Buddha-like figure."

The Buddha-shaped formation could actually be made of four different nests formed over the last two to four years, said Robert Jeanne, an entomology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

"If you want to read miracles into that, that's your privilege, but I wouldn't be inclined to do that," he said.

Beehives appear to have a special significance in Cambodian Buddhism: Honey collecting is a common activity in Cambodia, where Buddhist temples feature honeycomb-shaped towers.

Indeed, a beehive is prominently featured in a colorful painting on the temple grounds in Rochester, a fact that 76-year-old monk Moeun Ngop pointed out Monday afternoon while asserting the wasp nests were a miracle.

The Buddha wasn't trying to send a message with the nests, but the insects were trying to communicate a Buddhist message, Thun said.

"Bees can do this kind of miracle, so humans can also do miracles," he said. "Everywhere in this world, we humans need to follow in the bees' path to make peace and serenity."

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Cambodia, Vietnam to build processing plant to boost trade

PHNOM PENH, Nov. 12 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia and Vietnam have agreed to build a new industrial processing factory aimed at boosting the two countries' agricultural exports, national media reported Wednesday.

The factory will promote cooperation between the two largely agricultural countries and raise quality standards on export goods such as beans, corn, palm sugar and cashew nuts, the Phnom Penh Post said.

Officials say the products would be aimed at the local and export markets.

"The factory will be constructed near the border between both countries in order to capitalize on each country's resources," HorNamhong, Cambodian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, was quoted as saying.

News of the partnership follows Prime Minister Hun Sen's return from a state visit to Vietnam, where he signed a trade agreement to increase cross-border commerce.

Trade between Cambodia and Vietnam reached 1.7 billion U.S. dollars through the first eight months of this year, Hor Namhong said, up from 1.19 U.S. dollars billion in 2007.

"Vietnam has more modern technology, capital and human resources than Cambodia, so (the new factory) will offer a significant tool to develop our economy," he said.

Le Bien Cuong, the commercial counselor at the Vietnamese embassy in Cambodia, said hopes were high that the factory would be completed soon, and that the plant would raise the quality of local products to international export standards.
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Cambodia, Thailand promise border troop withdrawal

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - Cambodia and Thailand pledged on Wednesday to start marking out disputed bits of border next month and withdraw troops in January to avoid a repeat of last month's armed clashes at the 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple.

After three days of negotiations by a joint border committee in the Cambodian resort town of Siem Reap, Thai Foreign Minister Sompong Amornwiwat said "99 percent" of the problems had been resolved.

He did not elaborate other than to say the agreement had to be approved by Thailand's parliament, as required by the constitution.

At a joint press conference broadcast on Cambodian television, Cambodian foreign minister Hor Namhong said the troop withdrawal would make way for joint teams to clear the thousands of landmines that litter much of the jungle-clad border.

"We have decided to plant border pillars in the disputed area first because we are trying not to have a repeat of the conflict," Hor Namhong said.

One Thai and three Cambodian soldiers died in last month's exchange of rifle and rocket fire, which both sides accused the other of starting.

The Hindu temple, which sits on the escarpment that forms the natural border, has been a source of tension for generations.

The International Court of Justice awarded it to Cambodia in 1962, but the ruling did not determine the ownership of 1.8 square miles (4.6 sq km) of scrub next to the ruins, leaving considerable scope for disagreement.

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HIV Testing for Global 'One Million Tests' Campaign Begins During Cambodia's National Water Festival

AHF Cambodia CARES Donates 20,000 Kits to Government Testing Programs and Commits to Test 10,000 Individuals; Hard-hit Country Will Test 30,000 People Throughout November

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia, Nov 12, 2008 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- As part of an ambitious global effort to test one million people for HIV in observance of the One Million Tests World AIDS Day 2008 campaign, AHF/Cambodia CARES launched its inaugural testing effort during the annual Water Festival, the largest festival in the Cambodian calendar which marks the end of the rainy season. AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest AIDS group in the US which currently provides AIDS medical care and services to more than 83,000 individuals in 22 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean and Asia, spearheaded the worldwide initiative to test one million people in conjunction with the observance of this year's World AIDS Day.

AHF Cambodia CARES, which operates 11 free AIDS treatment clinics throughout the country, has taken a leadership role in Cambodia's HIV testing efforts by donating 20,000 kits to government HIV testing programs. In addition, AHF Cambodia CARES has also committed to testing 10,000 individuals. As a result, one of the countries in the Asia Pacific region that has been hardest-hit by the HIV/AIDS epidemic will test 30,000 people for HIV throughout the month of November.

"With the beginning of the Water Festival today, AHF Cambodia CARES was pleased to get an early start and launch our country's participation in the World AIDS Day 2008 One Million Tests campaign. At four sites in Phnom Penh, AHF Cambodia CARES tested 250 individuals. Of these, three people were found to be HIV-positive, and each has been counseled and linked to a clinic for follow up care and access to lifesaving antiretroviral treatment," said Chhim Sarath, M.D., AHF Country Program Coordinator for Cambodia.

Cambodia is one of the poorest nations in Asia and also has one of the most rapidly growing HIV/AIDS epidemics in the region. The HIV epidemic has spread beyond high-risk groups such as sex workers, male police officers, factory workers, mobile populations, injection drug users and men who have sex with men, to the general population.

The number of Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT) centers in Cambodia has increased dramatically over the last 5 years (only 12 sites in 2000 to 199 sites by the first quarter or 2008). Of the current 199 VCT centers, 180 are supported directly by the government, while 19 are supported by non-governmental organizations.

About AHF
AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) is the nation's largest non-profit HIV/AIDS organization. AHF currently provides medical care and/or services to more than 85,000 individuals in 22 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean and Asia. Additional information is available at www.aidshealth.org

SOURCE: AIDS Healthcare Foundation CAMBODIA
AHF Global (Phnom Penh)
Chhim Sarath, MD, Country Program Manager
+855-12-912-124
chhim.sarath@aidshealth.org
or
UNITED STATES
AIDS Healthcare Foundation
Ged Kenslea, Communications Director
+1-323-860-5225
Mobile: +1-323-791-5526
gedk@aidshealth.org

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