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Friday, March 13, 2009

ASEAN-EU FMs to Cambodia

Phnom Penh, Foreign ministers from the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the European Union (EU) will meet in this capital May 4-6 to analyze the global crisis.

Official Cambodian sources stated that guests from United States, Japan and China are also expected to attend the meeting.

They will analyze a group of measures aimed at boosting cooperation and reducing effects of the current global crisis.

Also on the list is the signing of a treaty of collaboration and friendship between both groups.

The event will take place in Siem Reap, 186 miles north-east of Phnom Penh.

The 10 ASEAN member countries, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, Brunei, Singapore, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar keep regular contacts with the EU Commission in the ASEM forum, a process of informal dialogue also extended to Oceania states.

According to an official announcement, the ASEM meeting will be run in Postdam, Germany, on March 16-17, with an agenda focused on labor and social issues. A conference on development will be held in Manila, Philippines April 20-21.

Also included is the Group of 20 Summit, which ASEAN will attend as a guest on April 2, and an expected summit of 16 countries from Asia and Oceania on April 10-12.

In two chapters, ASEAN + 3 (China, Japan and South Korea) and ASEAN + 6, also including India, Australia and New Zealand, regional leaders will also debate economic plans to face the impact of the world financial crisis, in the Thai city of Pattaya.

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Energy delegation from Cambodia is in New Orleans to study the oil and gas industry

by The Times-Picayune


A delegation from the Cambodian National Petroleum Authority is in New Orleans this weekend meeting with representatives from the local energy industry and preparing for its own foray into oil and gas production.

Oil was discovered off the coast of Cambodia several years ago, but the country has yet to begin active energy production. The purpose of the delegation's two-week trip, which includes stops in Washington, D.C., New Orleans and Houston, is to learn more about the industry Cambodia hopes to break into.

Ho Vichit, vice chairman of the Cambodian petroleum authority, said it's too soon to predict when his country will begin production. Still, he said, "Cambodians are ready to begin oil production."

The development of an energy industry would boost the impoverished Cambodian economy by generating income and encouraging infrastructure development, said Kem Reat Viseth, an advisor to Cambodia's Deputy Prime Minister. It would also stimulate reforms in the country's educational system.

Though the price of oil has declined after hitting all-time highs last year, the delegates said Cambodia remains committed to pursuing energy exploration.

After spending the earlier part of the week in Washington, D.C., the twelve-member delegation arrived in New Orleans on Thursday for a reception at the World Trade Center. The group is spending today at the Morgan City facility of McDermott International, Inc, an energy services company, and leaves for Houston on Monday.
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Late Cambodian monk's poems detail homeland terror

Samkhann Khoeun, of Lowell, Mass., holds a Khmer language manuscript of poetry by the Buddhist monk Ly Van Aggadipo, that features his photo on the cover, at the Glory Temple, in Lowell, Nov. 20, 2008. Ly Van's internal struggles from his experiences under the Khmer Rouge remained a mystery until some of his followers found a collection of his poetry left behind in his quarters at the temple. Buddhist monks Bo Chhuom, 75, behind left, and Voeun Vann, 35, behind right, look on. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)


By RUSSELL CONTRERAS

LOWELL, Mass. (AP) — For years, Ly Van Aggadipo served as the spiritual mentor to many Cambodian refugees in this old mill city, guiding followers at the Glory Buddhist Temple through family issues, work problems and recurring nightmares from the horrors of the Khmer Rouge.

But his own internal struggles from the Khmer Rouge remained a mystery, and those who knew him say he rarely spoke of his own story of fleeing war-torn Cambodia.

Then, soon after his death last year, friends found a collection of the monk's poetry tucked under stacks of old Buddhist texts. On worn pages were handwritten, carefully crafted poems describing his memories of witnessing infant executions, starvation at labor camps and dreams of escaping to America.

Now followers are seeking to publish the poetry, even as the discovery of this vivid historical record of the atrocities has reopened for many a painful time they still have not reconciled in their own lives.

"It put us in tears again," said Samkhann Khoeun, 45, who studied under Ly Van. "We couldn't believe it. When I read (the work), it was so vivid. It refreshed the memory."

Everyone knew the basics of Ly Van's life, Khoeun said. "But we didn't know the details and no one ever asked. He was so busy helping us," Khoeun said.

Kowith Kret, of North Chelsmford, Mass., and formerly of Cambodia, speaks with a reporter at the Glory Buddhist Temple, in Lowell, Thursday, Nov. 20, 2008. The elderly Buddhist Monk Ly Vann, who lived at the temple until his death in January of 2008, wrote about his internal struggles from the Khmer Rouge in poetry that was only recently discovered in his former living quarters at the temple. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
Born in 1917 in a small Cambodian village, Ly Van and his family lived through the Khmer Rouge regime of the 1970s, which perpetrated one of the worst mass genocides of the 20th century. An estimated 1.7 million people died from starvation, disease and executions due to the radical policies of the communist group. According to the temple's biography of Ly Van, he was forced to work on agricultural and public projects for 14 hours a day. It was during this time that the monk witnessed mass executions and large-scale starvation.

In early 1979 when Vietnamese soldiers invaded Cambodia, Ly Van and thousands of others fled to Thailand through dangerous terrain and later ended up in Lowell, a community second only to Long Beach, Calif., for the largest number of Cambodian residents living in the United States.

While in Lowell, Ly Van helped establish the Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association and was invited to lead the Glory Buddhist Temple in 1988, a position he held until his death in January 2008.

Khoeun and others found the manuscript just days after Ly Van's body was cremated.

In one translated verse, Ly Van writes about how he and other refugees fled to Thailand by traveling through a treacherous mountain range packed with thieves and land mines. It was a well-known trek where Thai soldiers pushed refugees over cliffs at gunpoint while refugees tumbled over each other trying to escape.

"Surrounded by corpses as we walked, slept and ate; an unbearably foul smell/Emanated from the swollen, rotten bodies, most of which were missing limbs and heads."

Ly Van also writes of the conditions of a refugee camp in Thailand where women were constantly raped, men were frequently beaten and families combatted filthy living facilities.

"...we had to sleep on the bare concrete floor, like animals/Dirty water and stench-filled raw sewage floated everywhere/We were swarmed by mosquitoes constantly, resulting in rashes all over our bodies."

Kowith Kret, whose parents were executed during the Khmer Rouge, said it was hard to read the monk's account because it brought back the past. "But it is the fact," said Kret, who also studied under Ly Van. "People have to accept the experience they've been through."

George Chigas, a political science professor at UMass-Lowell who has seen copies of the poems, said the monk wrote in a rare 11-syllable meter style that is more than 1,000 years old in Cambodian literature. "It showed great devotion to cultural tradition and, at the same time, tries to preserve something that had been lost," Chigas said.

That's important, Chigas said, especially since the Khmer Rouge regime burned old texts and killed scores of writers and artists.

He compared Ly Van's writing to Loung Ung's memoir, "First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers," as an act of "trying to put old demons to rest."

Today, an estimated 20,000 Cambodian Americans live in greater Lowell.

So far more than half of Ly Van's poems have been translated from Khmer to English, Khoeun said. Members of the Glory Buddhist Temple are selling a CD of Ly Van's work read in Khmer and expect the rest of the manuscript to be translated by the end of the year. They also are aiming to raise $40,000 to get 5,000 bilingual copies published by April 2010.

So far, two publishers in Cambodia have expressed interest and the group still is searching for a U.S. publisher.

After reading the poems, Khoeun said, he and other refugees have more questions for Ly Van. Questions, such as, when did he have time to write? What was life like in a refugee camp right before coming to America? And how many late relatives of the refugees did Ly Van know?

"He knew my grandfather who died right when I was born. I never asked him about that," Khoeun said. "I guess I always took him for granted."
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Cambodia issues new border regulations for neighboring foreigners

PHNOM PENH, People of the bordering provinces of Thailand, Vietnam and Laos with border passes issued by their governments can stay in the bordering provinces of Cambodia for one week, the Commercial News reported on Friday.

This measure aims to facilitate cross-border trade and shore up the tourist sector, one of Cambodia's pillar industries, the Chinese-language daily newspaper quoted Tourism Minister Thong Khon as saying.

In addition, Vietnamese and Lao people with passports can travel in Cambodia within a period of one month, without applying for visa, he said.

"They can also drive their cars into our country, with their automobile insurance certificates," he added.

Earlier on Tuesday, the minister told a press conference that foreign tourist arrivals in Cambodia dropped by 2.19 percent in January, compared with the same month in 2008.

Cambodia received around 2 million foreign tourist arrivals in 2008, a 5.5 percent rise over 2007, but slightly lower than the government's expectation, according to official figures.
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Dog sniffs for tiger droppings in Cambodia

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — A dog trained in Russia to sniff for tiger droppings has begun searching for the big cats in a protected area in Cambodia, conservationists said Friday.

The German wire-haired pointer named Maggie last week began to search for signs of tigers in Seima Biodiversity Conservation Area.

"Normally, a dog can smell very far. So we are using the dog to find the presence of the tigers in the area," said Men Soriyun, a project manager for the north-eastern protected area.

Conservationists are uncertain how many of the big cats remain in Cambodia's jungles.

A second dog will be brought from Russia to the protected area later this year, according to conservationists at the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society.

Tigers originally ranged over much of Asia, but are now scattered across parts of south and southeast Asia, with a few populations in the Russian far east and China, according to the group.

It said up to 500,000 tigers likely roamed the Asian continent 200 years ago, but poaching and habitat loss has reduced the population to about 5,000.

In 2006 the group and conservation outfit Panthera, also based in New York, launched a 10-million-dollar initiative called "Tigers Forever."

The use of sniffer dogs is part of the programme, which aims to increase tiger populations by 50 percent in key sites across Asia over ten years.

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