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Thursday, August 06, 2009

Greece: Teacher spends summer break schooling kids — in Cambodia

By Jessica Spies, staff writer
Greece Post



Greece, N.Y. — A local teacher will be able to add “reinforcing English skills of Buddhist monks” to her résumé after a trip to Cambodia this summer.

Greece resident Merrill Mey, a teacher at the Rochester City School District, is spending part of her summer vacation in Siem Reap, Cambodia, with the non-profit organization United Planet.
The organization provides volunteer experiences of up to a year in more than 50 countries.

“I’ve always wanted to do something different with my summers and I always wanted to travel,” said Mey, speaking before she left for Asia.

Earlier this month, Mey boarded a 25-hour flight to Siem Reap, a more developed area of Cambodia that houses one of the largest religious temples of the world. She is teaching English to Cambodian children during her two-week trip.

“A big part of United Planet is to bridge between two cultures,” Mey said. “Hopefully they can show me the great things about their area and I hope I can do the same.”

Once she returns, she plans on sharing the cultural lesson with her students.

Mey teaches first graders at John Walton Spencer School No. 16 on Post Avenue in the city.
She’ll teach the same group of students in second grade this coming school year.

Before the end of the school year in June, Mey taught her students a little bit about her summer trip.

“I showed them where Cambodia is on the map, what the land looks like and what the buildings look like over there,” she said.

Kimberly Lee, who has worked with Mey for eight years, said, “Although some of the students may not realize just how far away Cambodia is, they are all eager to give Miss Mey advice as to what games she should play with her new students.”

Lee said the trip is not only a professional experience for Mey, but a personal one as well.

“Through this opportunity, I believe Merrill will receive much more than she anticipates,” Lee said. “In addition, the students she teaches in Rochester will grow from this experience.”

Mey said is staying in a guest house, which is more like a hotel than the homes where most Cambodians live. She will, however, eat the same food the natives eat.

“I’m very adventurous with food, but very leery,” she said. “They tell you that canned food is your friend.”

As it’s a volunteer trip, Mey has to pay for her flight, supplies and her housing in Cambodia.

To be a part of Mey’s adventure, visit www.firstgiving.com/MerrillMey.
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U.S. Senate's Webb to visit Myanmar this month

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Senator Jim Webb will visit Myanmar this month, the first member of Congress to travel to the southeast Asian country in more than a decade, his office said on Thursday.

Webb, who chairs a Senate subcommittee on East Asia and Pacific affairs, leaves on Sunday for a five-nation, two-week trip "to explore opportunities to advance U.S. interests in Burma (Myanmar) and the region," a statement from his office said.

A Vietnam war veteran and former U.S. Navy Secretary who speaks Vietnamese, Webb will also meet government representatives and industry leaders in Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia, his office said.

U.S. lawmakers are pushing for the release of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Myanmar, but Webb, a Virginia Democrat, is not expected to see her during his visit, an aide to the senator said.

U.S. relations with Myanmar's military junta have been strained for years. In May, President Barack Obama extended for one year a ban on U.S. investment first imposed in 1997 because of the authorities' repression of the opposition. Last week, Obama renewed sanctions targeting imports from Myanmar.

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New Tamil Tiger head arrested: Sri Lanka military

By C. Bryson Hull


COLOMBO (Reuters) -- The new head of the Tamil Tigers, the separatist group defeated by the Sri Lankan military after a 25-year war, has been arrested in Thailand, Sri Lanka's military said on Thursday.

Selvarajah Pathmanathan was wanted on two Interpol warrants and took the reins of the remnants of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) after their defeat in May.

"He has been arrested in Bangkok. That is all we know at the moment," military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said.

There was no immediate comment from Thai officials.

Pathmanathan, better known as KP during his decades running the LTTE's arms and smuggling networks, took over as the public leader of the separatist group after Sri Lanka's military announced victory on May 18 after a 25-year war.

He was the first LTTE official to acknowledge the death of Tiger founder and leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran, who was killed in the closing days of Sri Lanka's offensive on a narrow spit of northeastern coast where they had surrounded the rebels.

Security experts had long suspected Pathmanathan was hiding in southeast Asia.

A Western diplomat assigned to Sri Lanka met him somewhere in the region earlier this year, part of an effort to persuade the LTTE to surrender in the face of an imminent defeat and free civilians they were holding by force in the war zone.

Pathmanathan was believed to have earned millions of dollars procuring weapons for the Tigers and running smuggling operations from bases across the region including Thailand, Cambodia and Myanmar. Security experts say he had multiple passports.

Some estimates said the LTTE earned between $200-300 million from extortion, weapons sales and drug smuggling. Analysts said part of a brief struggle for Prabhakaran's mantle after the war was to take control of its financial assets.

After the war, Pathmanathan said the LTTE would try non-violent means to achieve its goal of a separate state for Sri Lanka's minority Tamils. Among his first initiatives was to try to form a transnational government-in-exile.

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