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Monday, August 31, 2009

Vietnamese Art Exhibition to Premiere in Houston

An exhibition of Vietnamese art, with more than 100 objects never before seen in the U.S., will premiere at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston Sept. 13. It will remain on view through Jan. 3.

The show, called "Arts of Ancient Viet Nam: From River Plain to Open Sea," includes major loans from Vietnam's leading museums, including objects from the first millennium B.C. through the 17th century that have never before left the country.

The museum describes the show as the first "exhibition in the U.S. to address the historical, geographic, and cultural contexts of pre-colonial Vietnamese art in depth."

The show looks at Vietnam's history as a crossroads for travel and trade in Southeast Asia and beyond. Artifacts include ritual bronzes, fine gold jewelry, terra cotta burial wares, Hindu and Buddhist sculptures, and ornaments made of gold, lapis lazuli and crystal.

The exhibit was co-organized by The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston and Asia Society in New York, which worked with nine museums in Vietnam and the Ministry of Culture. The show will travel to New York next year and be on view at Asia Society Feb. 2-May 2, 2010.
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Sex-tourism operation nets three, Justice Department says

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Three men charged with sexually exploiting Cambodian children are being brought back to the United States to face prosecution, the Justice Department announced Monday.

The men are the first to be charged under an international law enforcement initiative specifically targeting Americans traveling to Cambodia for the purpose of sexually abusing children.

The initiative, Operation Twisted Traveler, is an effort by the Justice Department and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to crack down on sex tourism.

"The men charged in this investigation apparently thought they could pursue their abhorrent desires by leaving the United States to prey on children in another country, but they were sadly mistaken," U.S. Attorney Thomas P. O'Brien said in a statement.

"We are now working closer than ever with officials in other nations and concerned private parties to take every effort we can to identify and prosecute sex tourists, as well as to provide every protection we can to the world's children."

Ronald Boyajian, 49, Erik Peeters, 41, and Jack Sporich, 75, are each charged with international travel and engaging in sexual contact with minors, a charge carrying a maximum prison sentence of 30 years, according to the Justice Department.

They are slated to make their first appearances in federal court on Tuesday, the Justice Department indicated in a news release.

The defendants are charged with international travel and engaging in sexual contact with minors, a charge carrying a maximum prison sentence of 30 years for each of their alleged victims, according to the department.

They are charged under the federal Protect Act, enacted six years ago to strengthen federal laws relating to predatory crimes against children outside U.S. borders, the department added.

The three defendants were apprehended, according to Immigration and Customs officials, as a result of information provided by the human rights organization International Justice Mission and the group Action Pour les Enfants, which combats child exploitation.

All three men have been previously convicted of sex offenses in the United States, the Justice Department noted in its statement.

"These types of cases are disturbing not only because young, defenseless children were victimized in unspeakable ways but also because the defendants went to such lengths to engage in their dark activities overseas," O'Brien said at a news conference.

He highlighted the case against Peeters, who was convicted on child molestation charges in 1990.

"Our case against Mr. Peeters outlines evidence of him allegedly molesting Cambodian boys, paying them small amounts of money -- $5 to $10 -- and possibly taking digital pictures of his young victims while they were naked," O'Brien noted.

He said Peeters molested at least three boys in Cambodia over the course of several months. One of the boys was 12 years old when the abuse is said to have started.

Boyajian is said to have "engaged in sexual activity with a 10-year-old Vietnamese girl in an area outside Phnom Penh frequented by child sex tourists known as 'Kilo 11,' " the Justice Department statement said.

Sporich, according to Action Pour les Enfants investigators cited in the government's criminal complaint, repeatedly hosted three Cambodian boys at a residence outside the city of Siem Reap. The complaint states that Sporich "was known to drive his motor bike through the neighborhoods while dropping Cambodian (money) on the street in order to meet kids."

The new charges "clearly demonstrate to the Cambodian people that the United States will not tolerate this type of abuse," said Carol Rodley, the American ambassador to Cambodia.

"These cases not only signal to the Cambodian victims our commitment to justice, but they will also act as a powerful deterrent for those individuals who are contemplating traveling to Cambodia to engage in illegal sexual activity with minors."

The International Labor Organization estimates that at least 12.3 million adults and children are victims of forced labor, bonded labor and sex slavery each year.

Cambodia is one of several countries recently added to a U.S. "watch list" because of what a State Department report calls a worsening human trafficking record in that country.
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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Kien Giang boosts friendship with Cambodia’s Kep province

The friendship between Yuon and Cambodia have been travelling into Indochina federation, closer and closer following Ho Chi Minh's ideology.

The southern province of Kien Giang on August 29 presented 50 wheelchairs to the disabled in Cambodia’s Kep province and granted scholarships worth US$2,000 to the Cambodian students there.

The gifts were handed over by the Vietnam-Cambodia Friendship Association’s Chapter in Kien Giang and Kien Giang’s Union of Friendship Organizations at a debut ceremony for the executive board of the Cambodia-Vietnam Friendship Association in Kep province.

Private computers and US$500 in initial financial aid were also given to the province on this occasion.

The event was attended by the Cambodian Standing Deputy Prime Minister, Men Sam An, and the Chairman of Kien Giang’s Union of Friendship Organizations, Le Van Hong, who is on a working visit to Kep province.

Mr Hong and his entourage toured the local scenery as well as cultural and historical relic sites in Phnom Penh during their stay in Cambodia.
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Veterans who saved 100 soldiers ask Obama to present citation

Vietnam veterans Ray Tarr, left, of Kittanning, and Donnie Colwell, of Emerickville. For a video of the interview, go to post-gazette.com.


By Torsten Ove, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


Ray Tarr, 59, has a fake eye, a dent in his head, a withered arm and wince-inducing scars on his back, all courtesy of a rocket-propelled grenade that slammed into his tank in Cambodia in 1970.
"We had a saying in Vietnam," he shrugged last week in recollection. "When someone died or something bad happened, we just said, 'It don't mean nothing.' "

But the actions of his unit on March 26, 1970, a few months before he was wounded, did mean something -- resulting in a Presidential Unit Citation issued in March, 39 years after the fact.

Now the veterans of that battle are asking President Obama to present the citation to them personally in the East Room of the White House this fall. It could happen as early as October.

With a First Cavalry infantry company pinned down, outnumbered and out of ammunition, Mr. Tarr's Alpha Troop of the 11th Armored Cavalry rushed to save 100 men.

"I'm proud that I'm an American and could serve my country and that I could help those guys," said Mr. Tarr, of Kittanning, who was a 20-year-old tank loader.

"They were not going to live through the night," said his friend, Donnie Colwell, 61, of Emerickville, Jefferson County, who won the Silver Star for gallantry as commander of the unit's medical armored-personnel carrier.

"There were some other things that happened [in the war] that we could have gotten awards for. But the point is, we saved 100 grunts. They would have been massacred."

Alpha's commander at the time, Texas multimillionaire John B. Poindexter, 64, wrote a book about the rescue in 2004 called "The Anonymous Battle" and pushed for the citation.

The White House won't comment on whether President Obama will make the presentation. Presidents rarely do. Usually, another official does the job, typically at the unit's base, which in this case is California.

But Mr. Poindexter, owner of J.B. Poindexter & Co. in Houston, said all of his men deserve the honor of a White House ceremony. He said he'll pay for the trips for the 100 or so men who want to go.

"The Presidential Unit Citation is a tiny affirmation of my obligation to those men," he said. "On an institutional level, I feel the men who served in Vietnam, like those who served in Korea, Afghanistan and Iraq, fought a particularly unpopular war. This is a much-belated gesture of great importance."

Months in combat
Ray Tarr and Donnie Colwell first met in the motor pool at Quan Loi in 1969 and learned that they had lived near each other before they were drafted and sent overseas. Ray had been an apprentice bricklayer with his own car; Donnie had been attending Allegheny Technical Institute for electronics.

Times were turbulent and they knew the war was going badly, but they were too young to think much about it.

"We had no idea what we were getting into," Mr. Tarr said.

When they met, Mr. Colwell was commander of the unit's armored carrier that transported the chief medic, Gary Felthager, and had already earned two Purple Hearts for injuries suffered in mine explosions. Mr. Tarr became a loader in a Sheridan tank.

The men served under Mr. Poindexter, their bright, aggressive 25-year-old captain.

By March 1970, Alpha Troop had been in combat for months near the Cambodian border, where construction battalions were building a road through the jungle in anticipation of a May invasion of Cambodia.

The 11th Cavalry's job was to seek out North Vietnamese Army units in the region and destroy them.

They endured numerous firefights, and each evening parked their tanks and armored vehicles in a ring to protect against attack or infiltration by highly trained troops, who crept up at night.

But one of their worst episodes was an accident. On the night of March 25, three men died and five were wounded in explosions that also destroyed one of their armored carriers.

The soldiers initially thought the blasts were the result of enemy action and braced for combat. They later learned that one of their own mortar shells had detonated inside its tube and set off other shells.

Mr. Colwell tried to help the wounded. One man, he recalled, had lost both arms and both legs. He died a short time later.

'Get ready, let's go'
When morning came after a sleepless night, the Alpha platoons moved out on reconnaissance patrols. By late morning, everyone heard sounds of a battle in the distance.

They learned from the radio that Charlie Company had wandered into an elaborate hidden North Vietnamese bunker complex and had come under heavy fire. U.S. fighter jets swooped in, dropping bombs in support of the trapped company, while Cobra helicopter gunships fired rockets and machine guns at the North Vietnamese.

But C Company was outnumbered 3-to-1 and taking heavy casualties. Its men were also out of water and ammunition.

Capt. Poindexter knew what he had to do.

"He just told us, 'Get ready, let's go,' " Mr. Colwell said.

"There was no hesitation," Mr. Tarr recalled. "In the Army, you follow orders. But you could tell by the looks on guys' faces that no one really wanted to go."

They hadn't slept in 30 hours and they were scared, but they moved out. It took more than an hour for the armored column to plow 2.5 miles through the triple-canopy jungle.

"We broke into a clearing, and there they were," Mr. Tarr recalled. "I remember seeing the wounded men. I saw three soldiers lying under ponchos, obviously dead."

But C Company rejoiced as Alpha Troop opened fire with .50-caliber and M-60 machine guns.

"It was just relief on their faces to see us," Mr. Tarr said.

"We were fighting for our lives," recalled Paul Evans, then an 18-year-old private, in "The Anonymous Battle." "Then out of nowhere, the tanks and [armored carriers] came busting out of the jungle. ... For 34 years, they have been my heroes and always will be."

Mr. Colwell, whose job was to protect Doc Felthager as he worked on wounded men, was one of the first Alpha troopers on the ground. He saw one man who had been shot through the forehead and had died, and another who had been shot in the leg and later died of blood loss. At least 66 other men were wounded.

A mad minute
Waving his pistol, Capt. Poindexter immediately ordered his vehicles to line up in a row with the Sheridans in the center. Alpha then launched what the men called a "mad minute," in which every vehicle fired all of its weapons for 60 seconds. They moved ahead another 50 yards and did it again. The North Vietnamese fired back.

"It was pandemonium," Mr. Tarr said. "You can't believe the noise, the smoke, the confusion."

The Sheridans and the armored carriers advanced, crushing the underground bunkers under their treads while infantrymen hurled grenades and fired at enemy soldiers.

Alpha lost one man: Robert Foreman, Mr. Tarr's platoon sergeant, who was killed by a rocket-propelled grenade behind his gun shield on a Sheridan.

The North Vietnamese suffered at least 80 killed and an unknown number of wounded. The rest fled. After dark, Alpha Troop carefully backed out and evacuated the wounded to a landing zone, where helicopters carried them to safety.

All told, the two units lost seven men in two days. More than 70 were wounded, Capt. Poindexter among them.

But had Alpha not come to the rescue, the survivors insist, every man in C Company would have died. The North Vietnamese units were tenacious and ruthless.

The war went on for Mr. Tarr and Mr. Colwell. There were other battles, including the one that sent Mr. Tarr to Walter Reed Army Medical Center and earned him his Purple Heart.

They moved on
When the Alpha troopers came home, no one thought much about March 26. For them, it was like many other firefights, and Vietnam was a war everyone wanted to forget.

Mr. Poindexter did put in for individual medals for some of his men, but a unit citation didn't enter his mind for decades. He put aside the war, built a manufacturing empire and got rich.

In Pennsylvania, Mr. Colwell became a coal miner and Mr. Tarr a dental lab technician for the Veterans Affairs hospital in Butler. They raised families and moved on with their lives.

During his last days in Vietnam, Mr. Poindexter wrote a clinical account of the battle. After it was rejected by Armor magazine, he set it aside until 1999, when the regimental commander of the 11th Cavalry invited some veterans to discuss their Vietnam experience.

Mr. Poindexter revised the old manuscript, and Armor published it in 2000. He later developed the account into his self-published book, which included his recommendation for the Presidential Unit Citation and the recollections of his old comrades.

Mr. Tarr and Mr. Colwell both contributed.

Mr. Poindexter describes the book as a "faint eulogy for America's first wartime defeat." For him, the presidential citation is similarly symbolic.

There are veterans of Alpha Troop who don't see it that way. Some want nothing to do with reunions or commendations. Mr. Colwell said Doc Felthager, the medic who saved so many men before his eyes, has never responded to e-mails or calls.

Mr. Tarr and Mr. Colwell said they understand.

When Mr. Tarr was wounded in Cambodia, a young man on the tank behind him, Danny Ray Schmidt, of Indiana, took an AK-47 slug in the head and died.

"I was treated as a hero at Walter Reed and when I came home," he said. "What did Danny Ray Schmidt get? I think about that and I feel bad."

Mr. Colwell said he came home from the war an angry, confused young man. He struggled with bad dreams and a violent temper for years, and he drank too much.

It wasn't until a religious conversion a few years ago, he said, that he became a different person.

"I'm much calmer now," he said. "But the demons still chase me."


Torsten Ove can be reached at tove@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1510.
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Cambodia cuts troops at temple

The Hun Xen regime's soldiers are garding the 12th century Preah Vihea Temple



Fifty per cent of soldiers withdrawn from controversial temple



By The Nation Agencies



Cambodia has cut back its military presence at Preah Vihear Temple - a trigger point in the past year - while Thailand's Parliament is expected to allow the two countries to move ahead with boundary demarcation in the overlapping area.

"We have pulled out 50 per cent of the troops from Preah Vihear Temple," Chhum Socheat, spokesman for Cambodia's National Defence Ministry, said yesterday.

"This shows that the situation at the border is really getting better, and that both countries have a mutual understanding of peace," he said.

Thailand and Cambodia have been at loggerheads over the controversial Hindu temple since last year when Thailand opposed Phnom Penh's move to inscribe the Khmer sanctuary on Unesco's list of world heritage sites.

After the UN World Heritage Committee granted the coveted status in July 2008, both countries boosted their military forces in the area, with clashes following twice in October and April, leaving seven soldiers of both sides dead.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen last week said Thailand had just 30 soldiers stationed on the border, meaning Cambodia could stand some troops down and send them back to their provincial bases.

"We still have enough troops remaining to protect our territory," said General Chea Dara, deputy commander of Cambodia's armed forces.

If Thailand "shows a softer manner" they could cut the numbers further. "However, if anything happened, our troop mobility would be very swift," he said.

The Thai government in June re-ignited the row over the temple when it asked Unesco to reconsider its decision to list the temple located in Cambodia.

However, Unesco did not take the Thai request into consideration. The foreign ministries of the two neighbours maintained peaceful means to resolve the dispute through the Joint Commission on Demarcation for Land Boundary (JBC).

The JBC met last November, February and April to set a framework on boundary demarcation and provisional arrangements for the disputed area near Preah Vihear.

The results of the three meetings need approval from Parliament so further discussions on the details can be held.

Parliament is set to meet today to consider the minutes submitted by the Foreign Ministry, after the motion was postponed from last week since the Lower House was busy with the marathon debate on the budget bill.

Some senators, however, said they would reject the JBC minutes and demanded the government take a tough position to evict a Cambodian community from the contested area that they considered was under Thai sovereignty.

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The Next Step for Microfinance: Taking Deposits

By Barbara Kiviat


Some 30 years ago, the field of microfinance was born from a radical concept: poor people, when lent small amounts of money, will pay it back in a timely manner. In the meantime, that money can be put to use in ways that help boost income—goat farming, say, or carpet weaving—and, ostensibly, raise a family's standard of living. Now another radical concept is starting to take hold: that the thing people really need, more than business loans, is a safe place to save their money. It's what development expert Robert Vogel calls the "forgotten half of rural finance."

To be clear, loans aren't going away. A quick look back at last year's credit crunch reminds us how important lent money can be to economic activity. The reason loans came first in microfinance, though, wasn't grand strategy but pragmatism. In most parts of the world anyone can make a loan, including the non-profits that trek into developing countries to reach people traditional financial institutions have ignored. The same isn't true of savings accounts and other banking products, which are typically heavily regulated.

Yet ask people what they want, what's more important for day-to-day living in a Ugandan village or Indian slum, and a safe place to keep their money often trumps business lending. Early adopters of what's sometimes called savings-led microfinance find that the demand for savings accounts far outstrips the demand for loans. Bank Rakyat in Indonesia, for instance, has 10 savers for every one borrower. "Low-income people need a variety of financial services," says Bob Christen, director of the financial services group at the Gates Foundation, which has given tens of millions of dollars in grants to savings initiatives.

This, of course, makes perfect sense. Simply think of your own saving and borrowing habits. In fact, even under the construct of microcredit—which, by definition, lends money for business use—borrowers often spend part of their loan on things that would typically be paid for from a checking or savings account. Survey data from Bank Rakyat shows that micro-borrowers use funds for household needs, like school fees, home repairs and holiday expenses, some 30% of the time. The issue, importantly, is not that poor people don't have savings, but rather that they tend to save in hard-to-tap assets, like livestock and jewelry. To free up cash, the solution is often to pawn possessions—and to pay someone a fee in the process.

The range of work the Gates Foundation has found to fund shows the breadth of organizations interested in creating a better way. Some money is going to help existing savings institutions and credit unions gather more deposits, but a lot is also funding development in technology meant to make savings easier to access and accounts less costly to maintain. "Agent-based banking," in which financial services are delivered though existing institutions—like pharmacies and newsstands—is one key area of research. Another: mobile banking. In Kenya, for example, the telecom M-Pesa has seen smash success with its mobile-phone-based banking, which includes a way to save.

A number of traditional microfinance institutions, many of which have evolved into formal banks, are also assigning renewed importance to gathering deposits. A few years ago, Grameen, one of the industry's largest players, loosened rules around its savings accounts to better accommodate how clients wanted to use them.

But not all microfinance institutions have been quick to drum up savings. While some microfinance institutions, especially well-established players in Latin America, rely heavily on depositor funding, many other organizations find it easier to run their microlending businesses with money from investors. Microcredit is such a hot topic in the realm of finance that even with the credit crunch, many institutions are awash with money from investors drawn to the notion of making a profit while simultaneously furthering a social mission. The idea of gathering deposits seems time-consuming and expensive without much pay-off.

So some development outfits are essentially going back to the beginning and building new organizations with savings at the center. Since 2005 Oxfam America has been creating savings groups in villages in Mali, Cambodia, Senegal and El Salvador. Each group has about 20 members—in the tradition of microfinance, almost all of them are women. The members contribute a small amount of money each week, and then, from this pot of savings, lend out sums to those members who need loans. The program is based on a model that's common throughout the world—such groups are called tandas in India and tontines in West Africa—and designed for Oxfam to eventually bow out.

"What we've done is taken the paradigm of microfinance and flipped it inside out," says Jeffrey Ashe, Oxfam America's director of community finance. "We're creating autonomous groups and defining sustainability in a whole new way." In many ways it's microfinance back to its roots—small, rural, community-based. But it also represents the next step forward.

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Saturday, August 29, 2009

RIGHTS-CAMBODIA: Mass Evictions May Follow Lake Grab

By Andrew Nette


PHNOM PENH, Aug 29 (IPS) - A plan to redevelop Phnom Penh’s largest remaining natural lake into a residential and shopping precinct has ignited a storm of protests and claims that it could result in the largest eviction in Cambodia’s post-war history.

Local and international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) fear the redevelopment of Boeung Kak lake could be the precursor of a fresh round of evictions across the country and renewed pressure on communities involved in existing land disputes.

The commencement of the project comes ahead of a Sep.10 meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) which will debate whether or not to extend the three-year mandate of Yash Ghai, the Special U.N. Representative for Human Rights in Cambodia.

NGOs plan to raise the Boeung Kak project at the meeting as evidence of the continuing problem of forced evictions in Cambodia.

Rumours about the lake’s redevelopment, circulating for more than a decade, were confirmed in February 2007 when Phnom Penh Municipality signed a 79 million US dollar, 99-year lease on the site with a company called Shukaku Inc.

Although little known, Shukaku Inc has been linked in the Cambodian press to Pheapimex, a giant land company owned by ruling party senator Lau Meng Khin.

Amid a heavy police presence, contractors began pumping sand into the lake on Aug. 26 in preparation for the development of a 133-hectare commercial and housing project.

According to Housing Rights Taskforce, a coalition of more than 20 local and international housing rights organisations, residents have been told the pumping will continue 18 hours a day until 80 hectares of the 90-hectare lake are filled.

Boeung Kak residents claim they were not notified about the work and have received few details about the project and what will happen to those affected.

Chou Ngy, lawyer for the residents, told an Aug. 27 press conference that the project breaches several Cambodian laws.

These include the failure to publicly release an environmental impact assessment and the lack of a bidding procedure preceding the agreement.

He said residents are currently preparing to file an injunction to prevent it going ahead.

"According to the 2001 Land Law, the lake itself should be inalienable state land, so its ownership cannot be transferred for longer than 15 years, during which time the function (of the property) must not change," said a joint statement released this week by the Centre for Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) and Amnesty International (AI).

"Many of the families have strong legal claims to the land under the Land Law," it said.

Municipal authorities say around 600 families will be affected, but NGOs put the number at approximately 4,250 or roughly 30,000 people.

Local media has reported that residents have been given three choices by the municipality; they can move to government approved accommodation in the north east corner of the city which NGOs say is not yet completed, take an 8,500-dollar lump sum in compensation, or wait until alternative housing has been built around the new Boeung Kak lakeshore.

The market rate for land is up to 6,000 dollars per sq m. Under the terms of their lease, Shukaku is paying approximately 50 cents per sq m per year.

"We are very concerned what will happen to our houses and livelihoods and the possibility that we will have to move," Som Vanna, one of the affected Boeung Kak residents, told the Aug. 27 press conference.

"We ask the company to halt the process of filling in the lake and meet the community to discuss the issue."

Touch Sophany moved to Boeung Kak in 1979 and makes a living growing vegetables such as morning glory around the lake. "I think I speak for all families when I say the Boeung Kak lake area is very easy to live in," she said. "Even poor people can make a living catching snails in the lake. The water is polluted, but this is being used as an excuse to force people out in the name of development."

"I want to stress the compensation offer is not acceptable to the people," said Sophany. "They should pay us the market rate."

International NGOs have criticised the planned development.

"If the government wishes to develop Boeung Kak, they should do so through a legal process, with the participation of communities that live around the lake," said Dan Nicholson, Phnom Penh-based Asia Coordinator, COHRE.

Concerns are also being expressed about the potential environmental impact of filling in the lake, which NGOs maintain is a natural reservoir for excess rainwater during the monsoon season.

Officials from the ministry of water resources and meteorology disagree and have told the local media it is not a flood protection area. An environmental impact assessment conducted by the Phnom Penh Municipality also supported the decision to fill in the lake.

Land grabbing and forced evictions are a major issue in Cambodia,

Cambodia’s media is littered with stories of large-scale real estate and infrastructure projects, many of them involving the allocation of significant areas of land, often as concessions.

Two significant development projects have been revealed in the last month alone.

These are the development of an island the size of Hong Kong off the coast of the southern province of Sihanoukville and a two-billion-dollar residential project in the former French colonial resort of Kep.

Housing organisations are concerned about the rights of people in those areas given Cambodia’s recent history of forced, sometimes violent, evictions, many clearly illegal under the country’s laws, which occur without proper consultation or compensation.

So serious was the outcry about the issue that in the months leading up to the Jul. 27 election Prime Minister Hun Sen personally intervened in one dispute and threatened to dissolve the National Authority for the Resolution of Land Disputes, seen by many as a lame duck for its lack of activity.

After a pre-election lull in evictions, there are fears that communities currently embroiled in land disputes will be under renewed pressure and that there will be a spate of new evictions.

"There is an expectation that a lot more evictions will happen and that evictions in the works for some time will now get the green light," said David Pred from the NGO Bridges Across Borders, which operates a school in the Boeung Kak area.

"We are concerned that a number of evictions could be carried out after the election and we call on the government to respect the laws of Cambodia and their international human rights obligations," said Nicholson.

Housing rights organisations aim to make Boeung Kak a major issue at the Sep. 10 UNHRC meeting.

The meeting will consider whether to extend the mandate of the current special representative for human rights in Cambodia and as such will look at the country’s human rights record.

COHRE, AI and Human Rights Watch are all expected to make presentations about the human rights situation, said Nicholson. "There is no doubt that Boeung Kak and other evictions [in Cambodia] will be on the agenda,’’ he said.
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Khmer Rouge trial enthrals Cambodian public

Robert Carmichael/IPS - On Aug. 17 it was the turn of French national Martine Lefeuvre, who was married to Cambodian diplomat Ouk Keth, to testify.

At the invitation of the Khmer Rouge government, Ouk Keth returned to Phnom Penh in 1977 to help rebuild the nation, but was immediately arrested, tortured for six months and then killed at the infamous Tuol Sleng, otherwise known as S-21, prison that Duch (pronounced Doik) ran.

Duch is the first senior Khmer Rouge cadre to be tried in the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, or the Khmer Rouge tribunal, which is backed by the United Nations (UN). He faces a life sentence on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes, as well as homicide and torture.

Her husband’s fate unknown to her, Lefeuvre told the court how she searched for several years for news of her missing husband. In 1980 a family friend in a refugee camp on the Thai-Cambodian border told her he had seen Ouk Keth’s name on a list of people murdered at S-21, a former high school that the Khmer Rouge converted into a prison in 1975. Ouk Keth was one of more than 15,000 thought to have been tortured and executed in the Tuol Sleng (which means ‘Hill of the Poisonous Tree’) facility under Duch’s command.

Lefeuvre returned to France and her two young children.

"I had to tell my children that they must grow up without their daddy," she said breaking down. "My son, who was seven, and my daughter, who was four and a half, asked me every day: ‘Have you seen Daddy? Will we see Daddy again?’ I had to tell them, no, they will never see their daddy again."

Much of the testimony from the tribunal is harrowing, and the experiences of many Cambodians explain why many do not talk about what happened under the Khmer Rouge regime that ruled the country between 1975 and 1979. Around two million people are thought to have died under one of the most brutal regimes in recent history.

But telling Cambodians about those terrible years is a key part of the remit of the joint U.N.-Cambodian tribunal, said Reach Sambath, the head of the tribunal’s public affairs office.

That is a challenge here, where around 85 percent of people live in rural areas, and illiteracy is widespread.

For that reason, the court endorses a number of methods of informing the public, Reach Sambath said. One method that his office runs, for example, is to bus in people from across the country to watch proceedings in the 500- seat auditorium. By mid-August more than 17,000 Cambodians from across the country had attended the trial, he said.

The public affairs office, which operates with limited resources, also produces material that is distributed online and by hand at the court itself. But measured in sheer numbers, the most successful way of letting Cambodians know about the proceedings and workings of the tribunal is through the use of television and radio.

The tribunal’s daily proceedings are broadcast live on national television every day. But many people do not have the time to spend four days a week following events, which is where a surprisingly successful television show has come in.

The weekly half-hour TV show, which is mainly funded by the British Embassy, is entirely independent of the tribunal’s public affairs office. It is broadcast by national broadcaster Cambodia Television Network in its prime lunchtime slot on Mondays and repeated the following day.

The show’s producer, Matthew Robinson of independent production company Khmer Mekong Films, said between two and three million people watch it each week – a sizeable proportion of the South-east Asian country’s 15 million population.

The format is straightforward enough. Robinson, an experienced British producer and director who lives in Phnom Penh, says that two presenters and a guest examine the events of the previous week.

Co-presenter Neth Pheaktra said the purpose of the show is to provide a concise summary of Duch’s trial, which began on February 17.

"During the 24 minutes of the programme we have the summary, the diary of the Duch trial, and the key points that the witness, the defendant and the judges reveal in the court," Neth Pheaktra said.

According to Robinson a key challenge when devising the format was to create a show that was relatively simple to make but that would appeal to the target audience of mainly rural and often poorly educated Cambodians.

"Then (we mould) them all together in a fairly fast-moving way in language that our audience could understand and be interested in," he explained, "so that over a short period, you have seen the most important things in the proceedings that week."

Ung Chan Sophea, the other presenter, said the show’s writers ensure that the scripted wording is as simple as possible, even when trying to convey the complicated legal jargon that characterises legal proceedings.

That is something the live feed, understandably, cannot do.

At a small coffee shop in Phnom Penh, Mao Sophea said he loves the analysis the show provides of the week’s proceedings.

"For me this is a good show, and the presenters are excellent too," he said. "But to tell you the truth, I haven’t heard too many people talking about it – most of the people I know prefer to watch the all-day broadcasts."

And not everyone is a convert. Lah Yum, seated at another table, hardly watches it "because I am normally asleep during lunchtime when this show is broadcast."

But some of Lah Yum’s friends do watch it, and as the trial of Duch heads towards its conclusion, they are interested in more than just the proceedings. They want to see what the process and the verdict will mean to those who lost loved ones under the Khmer Rouge regime:

"What they are waiting to see is how the trial will manage to deliver justice for the families of the victims," he said.

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

FAO to donate 12 mln euro to help Cambodia against drought

PHNOM PENH, The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations will donate 12 million euro (about 17.16 million U.S. dollars) to Cambodia after the country was hit by drought, the FAO official said on Thursday.

"The budget will be signed with Cambodian partner on Sept. 2, but actually we have already helped in fighting against drought in the country," Seung Soy, program assistant for FAO told Xinhua by phone.

"The budget will focus more on helping the training, rice seeds, fertilizers, planting other agricultural crops for local farmers," he said, adding that the finance is from the European Union (EU).

"We also have concern on the food security after it is being hit with drought this year," he added.
Currently, eight provinces in Cambodia have been hit by drought and 40,000 hectares of rice seedlings have been affected by it.

"But Now, Cambodian government has taken actions to save rice seedlings from dry. We used water pumps to help farmers and we prepared seeds for local framers," Chan Tong Ev, secretary of state for Ministry of Agriculture told Xinhua. However, he said he could not comment about the budget, but waiting.
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Cambodians Still Traumatized

Will the long-awaited trial of Khmer Rouge leaders ease Cambodians' trauma, or stir painful memories?

PHNOM PENH—A Cambodian psychiatrist has testified at the trial of a confessed Khmer Rouge torturer that up to 40 percent of Cambodians suffer psychological trouble as a result of the faction’s brutal four-year rule.

“According to research conducted after the Khmer Rouge period, two out of five Cambodians have [suffered] mental problems and psychosocial crises. This figure is high—up to 40 percent” of the population, Chhim Sotheara said.

Studies this year also found that some 14 percent of Cambodians aged 18 and older have suffered post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Chhim Sotheara testified at the trial of Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, who commanded a Khmer Rouge torture center when the group was in power from 1975-79.

During the Khmer Rouge regime, people were trained not to trust each other. This has continued among Cambodians today,” said Chhim Sotheara, of the Transcultural Psychosocial Organization, which promotes community mental health programs,

He added that Duch’s trial offers a chance for Khmer Rouge victims to heal through the administration of justice.

The Journal of the American Medical Association this month published new research by experts at the University of North Carolina that found most Cambodians feared the tribunal would stir up painful memories.

Those who most wanted revenge were also likely to suffer PTSD, they wrote.

Some 87.2 percent of Cambodians 35 or older believed trying Khmer Rouge leaders would stir painful memories, they found, adding, "Now that the trials have begun, longitudinal research is needed to determine the impact of the trials on Cambodians' mental health."

Duch is the first of five senior Khmer Rouge figures scheduled to face long-delayed trials and the only one to acknowledge responsibility for his actions. His trial, which started in March, is expected to finish before the end of the year.

He could face life imprisonment. Cambodia has no death penalty.

Original reporting by Leng Maly for RFA’s Khmer service. Translated by Sothea Thai. Khmer service director: Sos Kem. Executive producer: Susan Lavery. Written and produced in English by Sarah Jackson-Han.
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Genocide moved from Europe to Africa-France's Veil

By Evelyn Leopold


UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The lessons of the Holocaust and the mass killings in Cambodia did not end the threat of genocide as mass slaughter continues in Rwanda and Darfur, a survivor of the Auschwitz death camp said on Monday.

Simone Veil, a French politician, addressed the U.N. General Assembly as part of the body’s second commemoration of the Holocaust, timed to the liberation by the Soviet army of Auschwitz, the largest Nazi concentration camp.

"After the massacre in Cambodia, it is Africa that has been paying the price, in Rwanda, in Darfur," she told the audience, which included other survivors and their families.

Veil, who lost several members of her immediate family, recounted her year at Auschwitz when she was 17. "We don’t talk today about our families. We have to laugh so as not to cry," she said.

Veil, Israeli Ambassador Dan Gillerman and moderator Shashi Tharoor, a U.N. undersecretary-general, used the occasion to rebuff deniers of the Holocaust.

The General Assembly adopted a U.S.-drafted resolution on Friday condemning Holocaust deniers, weeks after a Tehran conference dominated by speakers questioning the extermination of 6 million Jews in World War Two.

"This new negation worries me because it has found a great echo through the new technology, especially among the young," Veil said, referring to the Internet.

Gillerman was more direct. "Today, that same member state tries to rewrite history, denying the Holocaust, denying the Nazi genocide, denying the painful fate of 6 million Jews and others in Europe, denying the value of human life and the very founding principles of this world body," he said.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, after coming to power in August 2005, caused an international outcry by terming the Holocaust a "myth" and calling Israel a "tumour" in the Middle East.

General Assembly President Sheikha Haya Al Khalifa of Bahrain called for paying tribute to all victims, and a representative of the disabled reminded listeners that those who had physical defects were the first to die.

"Today’s commemoration is an important reminder of the universal lessons of the Holocaust, a unique evil which cannot simply be consigned to the past and forgotten, " Al Khalifa said. "The Holocaust was a historical event, which cannot be denied. Its consequences still reverberate in the present."

At a news conference following the ceremony, representatives of the Roma and Sinti (gypsies) made clear that a half a million of their numbers at Auschwitz perished and most in central and eastern Europe were still subject to discrimination and the targets of violence.

"Especially in the countries of Eastern Europe, there are millions of members of our minority who live in ghetto-like housing, often cut off from any infrastructure," Romani Rose Chairman of the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma said.

He called for the United Nations to appoint a special human rights envoy to promote their rights.
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Cash-rich miner OZ mulling its future

By Sarah-Jane Tasker


OZ Minerals is sitting on $1 billion in cash as it decides how to move forward, and is determined not to repeat past mistakes that forced it to sell most of its assets to China.

New chief executive Terry Burgess said OZ Minerals, which escaped being placed into administration when it sold the bulk of its assets to China Minmetals, was developing a strategy over the next few months that would take the company forward.

He said decisions would be made about what commodities and regions to operate in, The Australian reports.

Its only current assets are the Prominent Hill copper-gold mine in South Australia and exploration ground in Cambodia.
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"What we have is a new company in a very unusual position in as much as there is a project that has recently gone through commissioning and is progressing well, but there is no debt and we have $1bn of cash we have to ensure we spend in the most prudent way," he said.

"Importantly for us, we want to make sure we make the right decisions.

"We don't want to make any repeat mistakes made by us or anybody in the past."

Mr Burgess made the comments as the Melbourne-based miner reported a net loss in the first half of fiscal 2009 of $585.6 million, compared to a loss of $500,000 a year earlier.

OZ said the first-half result was affected by lower commodity prices and a one-off loss of $553.9m on the sale of assets to Minmetals.

Revenue was $854.5m, compared with $529.3m in the first half of fiscal 2008, while revenue from its only surviving operation from the asset sale was $89.6m.

The miner had a cash balance at June 30 of $1bn and debt in the form of convertible bonds with a face value of $US105m ($127m).
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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Troops Begin Partial Border Withdrawal

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer


Cambodian soldiers and armored personnel carriers began a step-by-step withdrawal from border positions near Preah Vihear temple on Wednesday, as part of a drawdown deal with Thailand.

The partial withdrawal follows an announcement by Prime Minister Hun Sen on Saturday and a meeting between top military commanders on Monday.

Lt. Gen. Chea Dara, deputy commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, told VOA Khmer “a number of soldiers” had withdrawn from the front line near Preah Vihear temple, which has been at the center of a military standoff since July 2008.

At least seven soldiers from both sides have been killed in skirmishes following the build-up, which began after Preah Vihear temple was listed as a World Heritage Site, prompting protests in Thailand and Thai occupation of land claimed by both sides near the temple.

“We began to pull our soldiers back to their previous bases, following the order of Prime Minister Hun Sen,” Chea Dara said.

The withdrawal included soldiers from Intervention Brigade 11, soldiers from Siem Reap and Kampong Thom provinces and Hun Sen’s bodyguard unit, he said.

The withdrawal was to reduce tensions from the standoff, said Chhum Socheath, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defense.

“It is a sign of stability in the border area,” he said. “It demonstrates a better situation and cooperation between the soldiers of the two countries along the border.

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Dams menace Mekong River life

PLANS to build a series of dams on the largest river in South-East Asia are threatening to destroy the livelihoods of millions of people in Cambodia and surrounding nations.

The Mekong River flows through the developing country, providing much of the food and nutritional needs of a population estimated at more than 14 million.

Most live a traditional lifestyle, relying on the river to grow their rice crops, and taking fish from the river - one of the world’s largest inland fisheries - for food.

But if plans by the Cambodian, Thai and Laotian governments to dam the river go ahead, these rural communities could find it difficult to survive.

Footscray resident and Leader photographer Glenn Daniels recently made a journey up the Mekong with international aid organisations Oxfam and Manna Gum as part of a campaign to save the river for the millions of people who rely on it.

“The aim of our journey was to document the livelihoods of people who live on the islands along the Mekong and how they’ll be affected if a dam is built,” Mr Daniels said.

Through his skills with a camera, Mr Daniels is hoping to alert Australians to the plight of these people.

His photos will be shown next year in Melbourne.

It was a highly unjust situation that the people found themselves in, Mr Daniels said.

“The first notification that these people had of the dam proposal was some Chinese officials surveying the land,” he said.

“There have been no talks of compensation ... for the relocation of families.”

Spending time with the villagers, sharing meals with them, observing their daily work patterns and watching children play gave Mr Daniels some insight into a lifestyle far removed from suburban life in Melbourne’s West.

“Most of the people we saw or interviewed technically live on less than $1 a day,” Mr Daniels said.

“In monetary terms they are extremely poor, but they grow their own rice, raise pigs, and they work together, along with taking all the fish that they need from the Mekong, and the family buffalo is like their bank account.

“The value of all that is far more than $1 a day.

“If they are forced to move they most likely won’t be able to farm the land any more. They will have to move to the cities, where, if they’re very lucky, they might earn more than $1 a day, but their expenses will also greatly increase so they would probably find it much harder to survive.”

Mr Daniels learnt a lot about a rich and diverse culture from “friendly and gentle people”, along with seeing the impact organisations such as Oxfam have had, including establishing schools, providing clean water and immunisations for animals.

“If these dams go ahead, they will make all the work that Oxfam has put in for these people a waste of time, it will threaten the diversity and health of one of the planet’s most important river systems, and most importantly it will destroy the lifestyles of millions of people,” Mr Daniels said.
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US sex offender given 10 years in jail in Cambodia

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) --

A Cambodian court sentenced an American man on Wednesday to 10 years in prison for sexually abusing a teenage girl.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court Judge Chan Madina found Michael James Dodd of Washington, D.C. guilty of soliciting sex from a 14-year-old girl. He was arrested in October 2008 at his rented house in the capital, Phnom Penh, in the girl's company.

Dodd was also ordered to pay 20 million riel ($4,878) in compensation to the girl's family.

Florida's Department of Law Enforcement lists the 60-year-old Dodd as a sex offender and details his last registered address as Syracuse, New York. The department's Web site says he was convicted in July 2002 of sexual abuse of a child.

Cambodia has long been a magnet for foreign pedophiles because of poverty and corruption in law enforcement. But the country's police and courts have stepped up action against sex offenders in recent years.

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S.Africa aims to produce own H1N1 flu vaccine

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - South Africa has no choice but to develop its own H1N1 flu vaccine, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said on Wednesday, citing concerns treatment will not be available to poorer nations.

"South Africa has arrived at a situation where we have no option but to start developing our own vaccine capacity, not only for H1N1, but generally," Motsoaledi told parliament.

"The disturbing feature about today's world... has been expressed by the minister of health for Cambodia... who noted that the developed world, after producing the vaccine, may want to cover their own population first before thinking about the developing world," Motsoaledi said.

South Africa does have a growing vaccine industry, but is considered by experts to be unlikely to be able to produce a swine flu vaccine any time soon.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared swine flu a pandemic in June. It has killed some 1,800 people after spreading to nearly 180 countries, 25 of them in Africa.

Latest figures from South Africa's National Institute for Communicable Diseases show 15 people have died from the virus and over 5,000 cases have been reported.

Swine flu, which mostly hits pregnant women and young children, has infected about 182,000 people worldwide, according to official figures, although health experts and scientists say the real tally is probably in the millions.

It is largely treatable using oseltamivir but vaccines are recommended as a population-wide method of prevention.

Motsoaledi, citing WHO statistics, said potential H1N1 vaccines were unlikely to be developed before November at the earliest or by April next year.

"Unfortunately ... there is no capacity in developing countries to produce their own vaccines and at the moment all the vaccine production is being processed in Europe and America, with China also in the process of doing so," he said.

Companies making vaccines include AstraZeneca's MedImmune unit, CSL, GlaxoSmithKline Plc, Novartis AG and Sanofi-Aventis SA.

Roche AG and Gilead Sciences Inc's Tamiflu and Glaxo's Relenza can treat influenza, and were recommended for people with a risk of complications or death.
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New bird count finds more rare ibises in Cambodia

In this Nov. 2, 2006 photo released by wildlife conservation groups of BirdLife International, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), and World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF), White-shouldered Ibis perch on branches of a tree in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Conservation organizations announced Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2009, that a new bird census has found that there are more of the endangered White-shouldered Ibis living in Cambodia than had previously been thought to be surviving worldwide. (AP Photo/BirdLife International, WCS, WWF)


PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA — A new bird census has found that Cambodia is home to more endangered white-shouldered ibises than had been thought were in existence worldwide, three conservation organizations said Wednesday.

A joint statement from BirdLife International, the Wildlife Conservation Society and the World Wildlife Fund for Nature said 310 of the wading birds were found in the country's north and northeast during research carried out in July.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature, or IUCN, had estimated this year that from 50 to 249 mature white-shouldered ibises were in existence worldwide, making the species critically endangered.

Hugh Wright, a PhD student at Britain's University of East Anglia who has been leading the research for 18 months, said there was a good chance that the actual population exceeded 310.

"Nevertheless, it is unlikely that the population has increased or is recovering, instead we are just starting to make more effort to count them and searching in more places," he said.

The statement did not mention any plans to expand their research.

The birds, considered endangered by the World Conservation Union, have a dark plumage with a pale blue collar and an off-white patch on the forewings, according to the Web site of the IUCN. They are found mainly in Cambodia although they were once common in other Southeast Asian countries including Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Indonesia, it said.

The statement said that it was not yet clear why the bird's numbers have been in decline in the last few decades, "although hunting and habitat destruction are likely to have played a part." It said they will conduct a new count in Cambodia in September.
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Key memo from JBC

By The Nation


Parliament will tomorrow consider an important memo from a ThaiCambodian Joint Border Commission meeting.

"I think it must be something about territory or budget," Kriangkrai Sampatchalit, directorgeneral of the Fine Arts Department, said yesterday.

The commission did not need to submit its minutes of the meeting to Parliament if it just agreed on a cooperation framework, he said.

"So far, I don't know the details of the memo that Parliament will look at on August 28," he said.

The department had been in charge of the preservation of historical sites and academic aspects only, he said.

Thailand and Cambodia have worked together well on the academic front even though both have claimed ownership to a 4.5squarekilometre area around Preah Vihear Temple on their common border, he added.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

How Cambodian culture re-emerged after the devastating Pol Pot years

By Tom Fawthrop, Bangkok Post



The awesome grace and meticulous movements of the performers have entranced audiences since ancient times, an experience now shared with plane-loads of tourists descending on Siem Reap in western Cambodia, the jumping off point for the world's largest temple complex - legendary Angkor Wat.

Dating back to the days of the great Angkor empire that flourished from the 9th to 15th centuries, Cambodian dance is a celebration of the gods, mythology, and the world of the royal palace.

This 144-page, lavishly-illustrated, coffee-table book authored by Denise Heywood, a lecturer on Asian art, brings the reader a fine appreciation of Cambodian dance intertwined with the turbulent history and how it has always been at the core of Khmer culture and identity. The book details and explains the origins and development of the dances, music, and shadow puppetry, all in the context of their spiritual importance as a medium for communicating with the gods.

But Cambodia's recent tragedy brought its great tradition of dance near oblivion. The "Killing Fields" regime of the Khmer Rouge not only killed through slave labor, starvation, and slaughter nearly 2 million people, including 90 percent of artists, dancers, and writers, but it also came close to extinguishing Khmer culture and tradition. Pol Pot's brand new agrarian dystopia had no place for the arts, culture, or any other kind of entertainment except xenophobic songs and Pol Pot propaganda.

Heywood first arrived in Cambodia as a freelance writer in 1994, and her interest in dance was heightened by the extraordinary tale of how a few dancers and choreographers survived the genocidal years from 1975 to 79.

In January 1979, a new Heng Samrin government backed by Vietnam proclaimed the restoration of normal society after four years of the Pol Pot regime had trashed most aspects of family life and the previous society.

A handful of survivors emerged from the darkest era in Cambodian history dedicated to resuscitating their cherished traditions of dance. Actor, poet, and director Pich Tum Kravel and former director of the National Conservatory Chheng Phon were among the cultural stars who miraculously survived.

They became the key people enlisted by the new Ministry of Information and Culture under Keo Chenda, charged with the critical mission of bringing all the surviving dancers together.

The expertise was handed down through the generations from master to pupil and never documented in written form, so everything depended on human memory. The late Chea Samy became the leading teacher at the re-established School of Fine Arts in 1981 (ironically Pol Pot was her brother-in-law).

Piecing together the collective memories of survivors and much of the vast repertory, the performing arts were revived.

When this reviewer saw the post-Pol Pot Cambodian National Dance Company perform in Phnom Penh in 1981, it was a highly-emotional experience. Members of the audience wept. This outpouring of raw emotion encompassed both tears of sadness for those loved ones they would never see again - and tears of joy that Khmer dance was alive again and had risen from the ashes of nihilistic destruction.

Nothing had greater significance for the Khmer people in this process of rebuilding than this revival of the nation's soul and psyche in which dance plays a central role.

While Heywood is to be commended for her documentation of the revival of dance in the 1980s, it is a pity she has wrongly contextualized this cultural renaissance by claiming that "Heng Samrin's Vietnamese government" organized a national arts festival in 1980.

In fact, President Heng Samrin and everyone else in the new government were all Cambodians and not Vietnamese. Somehow the author has been infected with the cold war propaganda emanating from Asean governments and US embassies in the region.

The reality was more complicated. The cultural revival depicted in this book makes it clear that Vietnamese control over security and foreign policy, despite tensions and differences with their Cambodian allies, did not block the re-emergence of Khmer culture that at the same time planted the seeds for future independence.

In 2003, Unesco bestowed formal recognition proclaiming the Royal Ballet of Cambodia to be a masterpiece of oral and intangible heritage. And one year later, Prince Norodom Sihamoni, a former ballet choreographer and dancer, was crowned king.

Thai classical dance borrows much from the dance traditions of Angkorian times. After Siam's invasion of Siem Reap in 1431, hundreds of Cambodian dancers were abducted and brought to dance in Ayutthaya, at that time the capital hosting the royal court of the Thai king.

This timely book also mentions that Cambodian choreographer Sophiline Shapiro has, among many other projects, adapted Mozart's Magic Flute to Khmer classical dance as part of a 2006 festival to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the great composer's birth.

This production with many innovations caused a stir among the purists. Shapiro passionately defends her new productions against the critics, telling the author "increasing the repertory of dance will help to preserve it and prevent it from atrophying or becoming a museum piece."
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Cambodia Releases E-Government Guidelines

PHNOM PENH, The agency behind the nationwide e-government released a long-awaited guidelines for the first time, at the end of last week detailing what ministries and other government departments needed to do, to take their services online, a local media reported on Wednesday.

The National Information Communications Technology Development Agency (NIDA) also released information security to ensure government information was kept secure and protected from system intruders, China's Xinhua news agency reported, citing a report from the Phnom Penh Post.

NIDA Secretary General Phu Leewood was quoted as saying that the e-Government Service Deployment Plan was important for building information communication technology (ICT) capacity in govenment and also for tracking progress and what remained to be done.

"This is a master map for us to walk together in the right diection for all [government and private] institutions to get up to speed with the global ICT sector," he said.

Thirty government ministries and institutions received the two sets of guidelines at a seminar last week.

The guidelines were based on a needs analysis conducted at all relevant ministries in 2007 with technical assistance from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

They identify areas in which e-government can be used to build the public service competency of government institutions, provide guidelines for collecting data and help establish a blueprint for expanding government services.

Van Khema, a deputy director at NIDA in Charge of networks, said the key obstacle in the path of the e-government rollout is the connection of all 24 provinces to the central government's information-sharing system via a fibre-optic backbone.

He declined to give a timeline, saying only the infrastructure would be in place "soon".

Called the Provincial Administration Information System Project, the e-government project has a budget of some US$15 million to connect offices within each province to one another, and another US$20 million to connect each province to the government in Phnom Penh.

Three data centers -- in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville -- will act as hubs for surrounding provinces.

-- BERNAMA
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ADB, S.Korea Support Cambodia to Improve Cross-Border Road Links

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Republic of Korea are supporting road and border improvements in Cambodia to help reduce poverty, increase economic opportunities, and boost ongoing efforts to strengthen trade and tourism in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS), a press release issued by ADB on Tuesday said.

ADB's Board of Directors approved a loan equivalent to 16.3 million U.S. dollars for the project which will rehabilitate 113 kilometers of a national road in the northwest of the country, and upgrade a cross-border facility with Thailand. The Ministry of Strategy and Finance of Korea is extending a loan equivalent to 25. 6 million U.S. dollars through its Economic Development and Cooperation Fund (EDCF).

The pot-holed gravel road, that is impassable in the wet season due to flooding, cuts through two of the poorest provinces in the country -- Banteay Meanchey and Oddar Meanchey. It links up with another major route which is a key conduit for goods and people between northwest Cambodia and northeast Thailand, and also forms a feeder connection to the GMS east-west corridor.

Roads are the lifeblood of transport in the GMS but poor surfaces raise costs, cause lost economic opportunities and contribute to high accident rates. The upgraded road and border facility will reduce travel times, improve traffic safety, increase access to markets, and provide new job and business opportunities. It will be another step to strengthen connectivity and develop economic corridors across the GMS -- a bloc of six nations committed to closer ties that support sustainable growth, boost employment and reduce poverty.

"The project will support the GMS strategy by improving connectivity between Thailand and Cambodia, thereby enhancing subregional transport and trade," said Shihiru Date, transport specialist in ADB's Southeast Asia Department.

The improved facilities are expected to aid cross-border tourism as the restored road connects to a key east-west route to Siem Reap site of the world famous Angkor Wat temple. Opportunities for contract farmers, who cultivate high-value fruit for export to neighboring countries should also expand, while the all-weather surface will improve access to health and education facilities. The project will include an HIV prevention and anti- human trafficking program, as new cross-border roads represent a potential threat for the spread of communicable diseases, and the trafficking of women and children.

ADB's loan, from its concessional Asian Development Fund, comprises 34 percent of the total project cost. It has a 32-year term with an eight year grace period carrying a one percent interest charge, and 1.5 percent for the balance. The Government of Cambodia will contribute counterpart funds of six million U.S. dollars, while the Ministry of Public Works and Transport will be the executing agency.

The estimated completion date for the project is December 2013.
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KRouge trial can help trauma

PHNOM PENH - THE trial of Khmer Rouge leaders is a chance for the regime's victims to overcome their lingering trauma, a psychological expert told Cambodia's UN-backed tribunal on Tuesday.

Dr Chhim Sotheara was testifying at the trial of Duch, whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav and who stands accused of overseeing the torture and execution of roughly 15,000 people at Tuol Sleng prison during the regime's 1975-79 rule.

But the expert, who is director of Cambodia's Transcultural Psycho-social Organisation, noted that the victims' trauma seemed to reoccur after they observed the court proceedings.

The denial by some Khmer Rouge leaders of their roles in the atrocities also created more pain for the victims, he said.

Dr Sotheara said that people were traumatised throughout the nation after the Khmer Rouge destroyed the country's infrastructure and created an 'environment of fear'.

He told the court that Cambodians could cope with their three-decade-old trauma only when justice had been served and the truth behind regime was revealed.

'The trial of the former leaders of the Khmer Rouge is an opportunity for the victims who have suffered and who have been traumatised for many years to overcome their trauma through justice,' he said.

'It will be very helpful to heal the wounds, the suffering of those victims,' he added.

Dr Sotheara told the court that for every five Cambodians, two had developed trauma, while 14 percent of country's population aged over 18 had experienced post-traumatic stress disorder.

Led by Pol Pot, who died in 1998, the Khmer Rouge emptied Cambodia's cities in a bid to forge an agrarian utopia, resulting in the deaths of up to two million people from starvation, overwork and torture.

Several senior officials from the regime face trial. -- AFP


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Monday, August 24, 2009

Siam Cement may revive Vietnam petrochemical plans

BANGKOK, Siam Cement PCL (SCC.BK), Thailand's largest industrial conglomerate, said on Monday it could move ahead with a plan to build a petrochemical complex in Vietnam that has been delayed by the global economic crisis.

The project required an investment of about $3-4 billion and sentiment in financial markets hads now improved, which could make it easier for the company to get financing, President Kan Trakulhoon told reporters.

"The situation has improved and we decided to hire an adviser. In the past, we had to postpone it because the financial market was closed. If we get some financing, we will move ahead," Kan said.

In March, Siam Cement said the project would be delayed for at least two years because the global financial crisis had made it difficult for the company and its partner, Petrovietnam, to finance the project.

Apart from the petrochemical complex in Vietnam, Siam Cement also delayed two cement projects in Indonesia and Cambodia.

Vietnamese state oil group Petrovietnam and Siam Cement began construction of the joint-venture complex last year in the southern province of Ba Rai Vung Tao.

The first part of the project had been expected to be completed in 2011 and the second in 2013.

At 0457 GMT, Siam Cement shares were up 1.82 percent at 195.50 baht, in line with the overall Thai stock market. ($1=34.00 Baht) (Reporting by Pisit Changplayngam; Writing by Khettiya Jittapong; Editing by Alan Raybould)

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Tourist arrivals rebound in July in Cambodia

PHNOM PENH, A 10 percent jump in tourist arrivals in July eroded losses over the first six months of the year, local media reported on Monday, citing unofficial numbers released by Tourism Minister Thong Khon.

More than 163,000 people visited the country last month, bringing arrivals for the first seven months of the year to 1,284, 085, a 0.3 percent rise on the l,246,685 million visitors through to the end of July 2008, the Phnom Penh Post quoted Thong Khon as saying.

Figures for the first six months of the year show a l.1 percent fall in visitor arrivals, compared with a year earlier, to 1,086, 518. The figures include tourists and business travelers.

An increase in visitors from neighboring Laos and Vietnam offset a huge fall in arrivals from South Korea, which was the single largest source country for foreign visitors in the early part of 2008.

Accurate numbers were unavailable for July, but visitors from South Korea fell 33 percent year-on-year over the first half from 160,446 to 106,345. Arrivals from Vietnam were up 40 percent over the same period from 105,275 to 147,721, while Laotian visitors increased 141 percent to 52,708.

"Vietnamese tourists still lead tourists from all other countries, followed by those from South Korea and America," he said.

Ho Vandy, co-chairman of the Government-Private Sector Forum's Tourism Working Group, said the slight recovery in July had been noticed. "[it's] a good sign for all of us who earn a living in the tourism sector, and we are not so concerned now about the slow months earlier this year," he said.

Cambodia's Hotel Association (CHA) President Luu Meng said the number of booking in hotels was increasing, indicating the recovery was the start of better times ahead. "We have received more reservations and bookings from people coming to stay and visit our country, mostly from Japan, Europe and America," he was quoted as saying.

Thong Khon said he was optimistic arrivals would expand between 2 percent and 3 percent from 2008, when 2.12 million people visited Cambodia. (PNA/Xinhua)

ALM/ebp
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PHI Mining Group Provides Corporate Update

LOS ANGELES, CA and FRANKFURT, GERMANY--(Marketwire - August 24, 2009) - PHI Mining Group, Inc. (PINKSHEETS: PHIG) (FRANKFURT: RPBA), www.phimining.com, a company engaged in mining, today announced management updates regarding important corporate activities.

Since November 2008, PHI Mining Group has entered into a number of agreements with strategic partners in Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam to participate in mining opportunities including gold, black pearl granite, copper, manganese, and limestone. Recently, the Company has also partnered with VCS Mining, LLC (www.vcsmining.com) to explore special opportunities in Haiti.

In the near term the Company will focus on the black pearl granite and manganese projects in Thailand, the copper project in Vietnam, the limestone project in Cambodia, and the VCS-PHI partnership in Haiti.

The black pearl granite mining area is situated in Wang Mee Commune, Wang Nam Kiew District, Nakhon-Ratchasima Province, Thailand, approximately 81 acres, with estimated total capacity of 1,400,000 cubic meters and minimum capacity of 495,000 cubic meters. In addition, other mines that are part of the this project include: (1) a brown marble mine in Saraburi Province with estimated total capacity of 1,750,000 cubic meters and minimum capacity of 750,000 cubic meters, (2) a black marble mine in Lopburi Province with estimated total capacity of 1,200,000 cubic meters and minimum capacity of 450,000 cubic meters, and (3) a yellow marble mine in Lampang Province with estimated total capacity of 1,800,000 cubic meters and minimum capacity of 800,000 cubic meters.

The mining area for the manganese deposits is approximately 125 hectares (approximately 310 acres), located in Village No. 4, Watthana Nakhon Sub-district, Watthana Nakhon District, Prachin Buri Province, Thailand. The value of this manganese mine is estimated to be in excess of $US 75 million.

The Vietnam copper mining area is located in Nam He - Huoi Say, Muong Tung Commune, Muong Cha District, Dien Bien Province. Nam He project is regarded as the fourth biggest reserve of copper ores in the Northwest region of Vietnam. Previous surveys have shown that the copper metal reserve amounts up to 200,000 metric tons, with an estimated valuation of approximately $1 billion.

The Cambodia limestone mining area is located in Strung Treng Province. It has been estimated that the mineralized deposits in this area exceed 2 billion metric tons and could be worth several billion dollars. PHI Mining Group has partnered with Paul Cham Group Co., a Phnom Penh-based company, to work on this project.

The VCS-PHI Joint Venture will initially focus on further exploration in selected locations that are expected to show significant mineralized deposits, the Northeastern and Southeastern areas of Haiti.

A geological study of the northeastern section of Haiti situated along the margin of the Caribbean plate reveals the presence of copper and gold porphyry deposits. This geological environment in Haiti, which hosts numerous gold and copper occurrences, is similar to the Pueblo Viejo deposit in the adjacent Dominican Republic. According to reports from Barrick Gold Corporation (www.barrick.com), Pueblo Viejo has 215 million tons of proven and probable reserves containing 20.4 million ounces of gold, 117.3 million ounces of silver, and 423.5 million pounds of copper, as of the close of 2007. In contrast, Haiti's mineral potential has yet to be fully explored.

PHI Mining is in the process of completing the required financial audits to update its filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission and resume trading on the OTCBB. The Company will continue to report further progress on the projects mentioned above in the near future.

About PHI MINING GROUP

PHI MINING GROUP is a U.S.-based mining and exploration enterprise focused on acquiring and developing precious metal, base metal and industrial mineral properties. The company has signed agreements to acquire interests in gold, lead, zinc, copper, granite, and limestone properties in South East Asia and has partnered with VCS Mining, LLC. to explore mining opportunities in Haiti. PHI Mining Group is committed to high standards in the areas of environmental management and health and safety for its employees and neighboring communities. Web site: www.phimining.com.

Safe Harbor: This news release contains forward-looking statements that are subject to certain risks and uncertainties that may cause actual results to differ materially from those projected on the basis of such forward-looking statements. Such forward-looking statements are made based upon management's beliefs, as well as assumptions made by, and information currently available to, management pursuant to the "safe-harbor" provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995.

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Top army leaders of Cambodia, Thailand meet in Phnom Penh

PHNOM PENH, The top army leaders of Cambodia and Thailand met in Cambodia's capital of Phnom Penh on Monday to reiterate their good cooperation and to strengthen their relationship.
Cambodia's military sources said during the meeting Gen. Pol Saroeun, commander-in-chief of Cambodian Royal Armed Forces, and Songkitti Jaggabatara, supreme commander of the Thai army, reiterated their statements of making good cooperation and relations, especially, between the armies of the two nations.

Both Pol Saroeun and Songkitti affirmed that good cooperation and relations are of common interest for both nations, the sourcessaid.

The two sides, however, did not talk on redeployment of troops stationed near khmer Preak Vihear temple, saying the issue shall be left for decision by the two countries' regional commanders there.

It is the first time for Gen. Songkitti Jaggabatara to make a visit to Cambodia and it is also the first time to hold such top army leaders' meeting.

But since the border dispute between the two countries occurred last year that resulted in the deaths of a number of soldiers, and several others injured, many round of talks at different levels were held including prime ministers, defense and foreign ministerial level down to regional commanders.

Songkitti Jaggabatara who arrived in Cambodia late Monday will return to Thailand on Tuesday after a planned brief sightseeing visit to Angkor Wat in Siem Reap province.
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Iraq, Vietnam wars share similarities

Many thinking Americans believe that comparisons between current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the Vietnam conflict of 40 years ago are inappropriate and unnecessary. I disagree and would like to share several similarities I've discovered. Here are just a few:

Congress never declared war in Vietnam and did not fulfill this Constitutional obligation for Iraq or Afghanistan. Instead, Congress abrogated its responsibility and deferred these critical decisions to the president and his advisors. As a result, the United States was deprived of the opportunity to openly argue, debate and analyze the consequences of war before placing so many young Americans in harm's way.

The stated reasons for all these wars are suspect. In Vietnam, it was the dubious Gulf of Tonkin Resolution while in Iraq the elusive weapons of mass destruction justified an invasion. Committing our troops without debate and analysis allowed misinformation, fear and clouded judgment to establish foreign policy that the United States has endured for decades.

In Vietnam, U.S. military leadership seriously underestimated the determination and resolve of those "little guys in black pajamas" while in Afghanistan, the British, Russians and Americans were stunned that illiterate mountain tribesmen could go toe to toe with the best trained and equipped armies in the world. Only arrogance can explain this critical lapse in judgment.

Geopolitical considerations have influenced all of these conflicts. Remember that Cambodia and Laos were largely off limits to the U.S. incursions during the Vietnam War and were safe havens for our adversaries. Today, the rugged, frontier border regions of Pakistan and Iran pose similar problems for military planners.

Finally, our impatient, high-tech, push-button approach to warfare is at odds with hit and run tactics of elusive guerrilla fighters in the mountains of Afghanistan just as it was 40 years ago in the jungles of Vietnam. Asymmetrical warfare continues to befuddle our military strategists who promise surgically precise operations and quick results.

So, what is gained by comparing past and present armed conflicts? Perhaps if we reflect on where we've been we can better determine where we are going as a nation. And maybe Congress will face up to its most important constitutional obligation and challenge our chief executive when the issue is whether or not to send our people into war.

Greg Capito
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Millions Of Asian Women At HIV Risk

Approximately 50 million women in Asia are at risk of contracting HIV from their husbands or long-term partners, according to a UNAIDS report.

According to the report, by 2008, women accounted for 35% of all adult HIV cases in Asia, compared with 17% in 1990. In addition, more than 90% of the 1.7 million HIV-positive women in Asia contracted the virus from their husbands or long-term partners, according to UNAIDS.

It added that in Cambodia, India and Thailand, the largest number of new HIV cases occurs among married women.

According to the report, the spread of HIV in Asia primarily occurs through unprotected commercial sex, the sharing of dirty needles among injection drug users and unprotected sex among men who have sex with men.

Men who buy sex make up the largest group living with HIV, according to the report, which added that most of these men are either married or will get married. The report found that at least 75 million men regularly buy sex in Asia, while an additional 20 million are MSM or IDUs.
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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Border trade zone draws thousands

AN GIANG — The official opening of the Tinh Bien Commercial Zone in An Giang Province today coincides with a festival to promote high quality Vietnamese goods in the Tinh Bien area that borders Cambodia.

The 10ha commercial zone with duty-free businesses attract 1,500 visitors every day.

Forty-three companies have registered to conduct business in the zone, representing a total of more than VND350 billion (US$19.5 million) in registered capital. Twenty-four of them have begun operations.

Domestic and international tourists are allowed to buy imported products at the supermarket in the Tinh Bien Commercial Zone, and are exempt from import taxes, value-added tax and special consumption taxes for the first VND500,000 of purchases.

The two-day festival of Vietnamese goods attracted 60 Vietnamese businesses to display high quality goods, including textiles and garments, footwear, handicrafts, chemicals, foodstuff and construction materials.

The festival is part of Viet Nam’s efforts to enhance exports and duty-free sales to Cambodia, according to organisers.

Participating enterprises could take the opportunity to promote trade and explore distribution channels, said the An Giang People’s Committee chairman, Lam Minh Chieu.

Cambodian distributors can also sign import deals at the event.

Nguyen Minh Tri, head of the zone’s management board, said the fair played a significant role in the export of Vietnamese goods to Cambodia.

During the fair, Hau Giang Pharmaceutical Joint-Stock Company and An Giang Province’s General Hospital will provide free health check-ups for 400 poor residents living in Cambodia’s border area.

The organisers will also take preventive measures against swine flu during the event.

An Giang, sharing a 94-km-long frontier with Cambodia, is home to five international and national border gates, including Tinh Bien, Vinh Xuong, Khanh Binh, Bac Dai and Vinh Hoi Dong.

The province said total export turnover of commodities transported via the five border gates in the first eight months of 2009 was US$438 million. — VNS
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Lasers the weapons of choice in battle to preserve world heritage sites

By Paul Gallagher



Scientists are to record three-dimensional models of world heritage sites so that they can be recreated if they fall victim to climate change, natural disaster, war or terrorism.

The team of six Scottish scientists - from Historic Scotland and the Glasgow School of Art - will team up next month with an American company, CyArk, to shoot laser beams at Mt Rushmore in South Dakota.

They will create a 3D model accurate to within 3mm, digitally preserving the carved faces of former Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln should they need to be repaired.

Funding for the project was rushed through because of concerns over the deterioration of the granite rockface.

CyArk has identified several other "at-risk" sites, including the Acropolis in Athens, threatened by acid rain, and Machu Picchu in Peru, which suffers from excessive tourism. Pollution, over-expansion and deforestation may have permanently damaged Tikal National Park in Guatemala, one of the largest archaeological remains of the pre-Columbian Maya civilisation.

CyArk's aim is to create 3D models of 500 sites around the world in a five-year project.

Work began this year on scanning the underworld of Rome, 170km of winding catacombs dating back two millennia, and the Zapotec capital of Monte Alban, in Mexico.

Other sites proposed for digital mapping include Angkor Wat in Cambodia, the Khmer temple complex built for King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century, Thebes in Egypt and Pompeii, the Roman town buried by the eruption of Mt Vesuvius.

The Scottish team has already created 3D models of Stirling Castle and Rosslyn Chapel in Midlothian, Scotland.

Scanning is almost complete on New Lanark's world heritage site, a restored 18th-century cotton mill in southern Scotland. Once work is complete at Mount Rushmore in October, the team will move to Skara Brae, "the heart of Neolithic Orkney", on an island north of Scotland, which is under threat from coastal erosion.
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THE SOUTHEAST ASIAN SAILORS' BIBLE

If you're travelling around the region by boat, there's one publication that you must have

Writer: By Alan Parkhouse


Newspaper section: BrunchIn the past 20 years Thailand has become the boating capital of Asia, with both locals and foreigners taking to the sea in large numbers. Some prefer to sail yachts and enter the many annual regattas held in Thailand, while others prefer a boat with a motor and go cruising along the coastlines or weave their way through the country's many small islands.

One thing both groups have in common - apart from being surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery in the world - is the need for a comprehensive guide book. They need to know where it's too shallow to go, where to drop anchor for the night, where to get fuel, food and water, and most importantly, where there are reefs or rocks that will send their boats down to Davy Jones' locker if they're not careful.

For many years the guide book many used and swore by was the Andaman Sea Pilot. Now the third edition of this book has been released and it has been updated and expanded to cover a much larger area, and given a new name. It went on sale last month after an official launch party - aboard a boat, of course - during the annual Phuket Raceweek Regatta.

It is now called Southeast Asia Pilot, and since its launch in Phuket last month orders have been flooding in from skippers and boat owners around the world.

"We call it the Sailors' Bible and I wouldn't go to sea anywhere in Southeast Asia without it," says Captain Marty Rijkuris, who runs the hugely popular internet sight http://www.asianyachting.com, which covers all aspects of sailing in Asia.

The latest edition of the book covers approximately two million square miles and nine countries, with detailed information about marine conditions in Thailand, Burma, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia, the Philippines, Hong Kong and India's Andaman Islands. There is also a lot of detail on the best east-west routes through southern Indonesia.

For those sailing to Thailand from Australia or New Zealand, or coming from Sri Lanka or India in the west, this book is a must have.

Between the maps and charts is a wealth of information, covering everything from where to anchor through the day and at night, if a water supply is available, seaside restaurants, transport and even diving and snorkling locations.

Even for a non-sailor this book makes fascinating reading, and it's easy to see that the two experienced men who wrote this book have really done their homework.

For example, one section on the sea gypsies, or the Moken people, in southern Burma, reads: "We occasionally come across the Moken in the Mergui Archipelago. They pull into a nearby beach in their flotilla of boats. Adults, children, cats, dogs, chickens and ducks leap off each boat and rush into the jungle to forage. Suddenly, at some hidden signal, people and animals come rushing back out of the forest and jump on the boats just before they leave for another anchorage.

"Sometimes the Mokens cautiously approach our yacht with a gift of rock oysters or the haunch of a wild bear after a successful hunt. They are always delighted when we give them a gift in return - a roll of cloth or a dive mask. If the Moken do not approach you they want to be left alone."

The book's two authors, Englishman Andy Dowden and Australian Bill O'Leary, who also took the beautiful pictures in the guide, are both colourful characters with a wealth of experience on the water.

O'Leary, a professional mariner, sailed to Thailand from Australia in 1987 aboard a sleek yacht called Stormvogel, which was featured in the Hollywood film Dead Calm. O'Leary helped with the filming off Hamilton Island on the Great Barrier Reef before sailing the yacht to Phuket.

He then joined the up-market Amanresorts as founder and general manager of Amancruises, the original luxury powerboat charter business in Phuket which caters to the rich and famous.

For more than 20 years he built and commissioned scores of local and imported charter vessels and trained more than 150 Thai crew, before retiring early this year.

Dowden left the UK in 1981 aboard his own 46-foot sloop to cruise the world and arrived in Thailand for the first time in 1984 after several years of cruising Southeast Asia. In 1989 he set up a yacht services and boat building business in Phuket and wrote a number of cruising guides for the local waters.

Dowden has spent 25 years sailing the waters of Thailand and Malaysia and is still involved in the yachting industry, helping to organise two of the country's most popular regattas and running the annual International Boat Show in Phuket.

"Bill and I put a lot of hard work into every edition of this book because we both realise what a great advantage it is to have on a boat," Dowden told Brunch. "Apart from all our own research, we invited a select number of well qualified voyagers to update facilities and opportunities in this rapidly developing cruising destination.

"The best professionals have created detailed, helpful and accurate charts and a logical, easy to use, layout style."

Southeast Asia Pilot is available at most leading bookstores, or it can be ordered direct from the website, http://www.andamanseapilot.com.
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Two French men held on underage sex charges in Cambodia - Summary

Phnom Penh - Two French nationals were questioned at a Phnom Penh court on Saturday on charges of soliciting sex from a minor and producing child pornography. Both crimes carry the possibility of lengthy jail sentences. The head of the municipal police's anti-trafficking department, Keo Thea, said both men would be charged by the court on Sunday.

"They were questioned today on the first charge of having sex with a 16-year-old girl and on the second charge of making child pornography," Keo Thea said.

The men, named by the Cambodia Daily newspaper as 62-year-old Michel Jean Raymond Charlot and 60-year-old Claude Jean-Pierre Demeret, were arrested after Charlot solicited a 16-year-old at a well-known red-light district in Phnom Penh and brought her back to his guesthouse.

The girl then told the police about Demeret.

Police searched the room at the guesthouse where Demeret was staying and found a collection of sexually explicit videos and photographs of him, most of which the police said were taken in Thailand.

A search of Charlot's room uncovered a collection of similar photographs and videos.

Keo Thea earlier told national media that their arrests were a significant success for the police.

"[Demeret] confessed that he had actually taken a lot more pictures in Thailand than in Cambodia," Keo Thea told the Cambodia Daily, adding that police believed the images were made for commercial purposes rather than, as the men had claimed, their own entertainment.

Police said evidence against the men included children's underwear and toys, as well as dozens of videos of the suspects and numerous sexually explicit photographs of the men with what police believe are children in Thailand.

Cambodia has long been seen as an easy place for foreigners to procure sex with minors, which under Cambodian law that combats sexual exploitation is anyone under the age of 18. In recent years the authorities have cracked down on the problem.

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