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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Cambodia sends soldiers to join multinational training exercise in Mongolia

PHNOM PENH, The w government has sent 51 soldiers from Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) to participate in the UN's peacekeeping training operation exercise in Mongolia entitled, "Khan Quest 2009", a Cambodian military source said on Saturday.

"The peacekeeping exercise is so important for our armed forces to join with other countries to keep the peaceful stability, security and order in the world," said Taing Sambun, Cambodia's director of Institute for Training Peacekeeping Forces, Mine and UXO clearance. The process of exercise will be lasted for three weeks.

"The Cambodian delegation was led by Gen. Meas Sophea, deputy commander-in-chief of RCAF and infantry commander," he said, adding "we have support from UN for joining this exercise," he noted.

It is a good cooperation between our country and other countries to share experiences and learned experience from each other about the strategies in peacekeeping in a country, he said.

"These forces will be used for reconciliation in a war-torn country, or a country which used to have internal conflict and a post-war country when the war ended," he added.

"The main role of the peacekeeping forces is to join to seek peace, stability and safety for people in the war-torn country," he stressed, adding "this exercise is not the military exercises but for peacekeeping for the UN's peacekeeping forces. It is a second time for Cambodia to participate multinational exercise in Mongolia and we become an active member," he said.

In a farewell ceremony on Friday, Moeung Samphan, secretary of state for national defense called the soldiers "to focus on training and learning from other partner's experiences and to prepare for joining other peacekeeping mission in other places in the future."

Khan Quest is a multinational training exercise with the goal of improving peace support operations. The exercise is hosted by the Mongolian Armed Forces and sponsored by the U.S. Pacific Command.

As part of the exercise, troops will conduct field exercises, humanitarian civic assistance training, medical readiness training and will take part in a peacekeeping operations seminar.


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A treasure of Buddha

Buddhist Monk Moeng Sang looked over the Relic presentation temple early Friday morning, at the Watt Munisotaram in Hampton that is taking place this weekend to celebrate the arrival of relics of Buddha that will be enshrined there. Monks from Sri Lanka have delivered the relics, and this weekend's "flower festival" at the temple also includes a groundbreaking for a new building on the property in rural Dakota County.


A festival this weekend celebrates the arrival of a Buddhist relic at a temple in rural Dakota County.

By KATIE HUMPHREY, Star Tribune


After a trip to India in February, Cambodian Buddhist monk Sang Moeng returned to Watt Munisotaram, his home temple near Hampton, Minn., practically bubbling over with excitement.
The Maha Bodhi Society of India, a group that oversees many Buddhist shrines, including the Tree of Enlightenment, offered to help find a relic of Buddha -- remains believed to be perfect proof of enlightenment, and symbols of wisdom, love and compassion -- for the rural Dakota County temple.

This weekend, Watt Munisotaram hosts a festival to celebrate the arrival of the relic from another temple in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

"We were fortunate to find a temple willing to share a relic with us," Yanat Chhith, a leader of Minnesota's Cambodian Buddhist community, said. "It's a very small piece, but that's good enough."

As many as 2,000 people from around the country and world, including monks from as far away as Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, are expected to participate in ceremonies this weekend as the relic of Buddha is enshrined in the temple, located among nondescript farm fields a few miles east of Farmington.

They will also be celebrating the 21st anniversary of the Minnesota Cambodian Buddhist Society, the groundbreaking for a building called a stupa that will eventually house the relic, and a flower festival to raise funds for construction. The celebrations runs through Sunday and the general public, Buddhist and otherwise, is invited to participate.

"Our world is so divided, but here we're all working together," Chanda Sour, a temple board member, said.

Trying to convey the spiritual significance of the relic, Sour and the others said words failed them. "A lot of this is too deep for words," Sour said.

Just preparing for the festival has drawn dozens of volunteers to clean, cut grass, prepare food and decorate the temple. There are between 7,000 and 8,000 Cambodian Buddhist in Minnesota.

Peace and stress

Moeng, the abbot at the temple and monastery, watched cheerfully over the preparations last week.

When he speaks of the relic, the way it was offered to him amid music and ceremony in Sri Lanka, and the trip he and five others made to bring it to the rural Minnesota temple, he radiates enthusiasm.

He explains that it is a rare opportunity -- he knows of only one other Cambodian Buddhist temple in the United States, in Maryland, that has such a relic. The experience was exciting, staggering, an honor, and full of great joy, he said through an interpreter.

It also had its stressful moments.

While transporting the relic on one bumpy return flight, he spent much of the time meditating to calm his nerves.

A group of about 20 people greeted him and the other travelers -- a temple board member and four lay people -- at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, and others joined in a procession when Moeng stepped out of the bus at the end of the temple driveway on County Road 50.

"You can feel the energy," Sour said of the build-up to the festival. "Once it arrived here, everybody got a second wind."

Going forward, that energy will be focused on building the stupa. The building will likely take years to build, but when it is completed it will house the relic of Buddha on its third and uppermost level.

The $1.5 million stupa will have a square base measuring 60 feet on each side and taper to a point more than 100 feet in the air. Like the ornate temple, it will be decorated from the top down with carvings and moldings by Socchea Yav, a Cambodian artist whose work covers the buildings at Watt Munisotaram.

Chhith said the first floor of the stupa, located just to the west of the main temple, will be used as a place for memorial ceremonies and peaceful reflection.

"We build this as a memorial to remind us of the achievement of humanity," Chhith said.

Katie Humphrey • 952-882-9056
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5 Asean countries get their act together

By ACHARA PONGVUTITHAM,
PETCHANET PRATRUANGKRAI
THE NATION ON SUNDAY



Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Burma seek system

Major Asean rice-producers Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Burma plan to form an association to create a sustainable system for trading and production.

The plan was unveiled yesterday following Cambodian leader Hun Sen's initiative at the Asean Summit in Cha-am in late February. It focuses on price stabilisation, food security in the region and rice development. It aims for price stability next year.

It comprises the five countries of the Ayeyawady-Chao Praya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (Acmecs) and will set up an Acmecs Rice Traders Association.

Thailand, Laos and Cambodia have agreed in principle and plan talks with Cambodia and Burma during the Asean Economic Ministers Meeting, which ends today.

For some years Thailand and Vietnam have cooperated to curb price-cutting in the export market through data exchange.

A Thai source close to the negotiations said they solved Thailand's major problem on circumvention by neighbouring countries, diluted price-cutting in the region and stabilised prices.

"It will create a supply chain in the region which will strengthen bargaining power in the world market," the source said.

Chaiya Yimvilai, adviser to the commerce minister, said yesterday that Laos proposed Thailand and Vietnam draw up the plan.

Thailand and Vietnam are white-rice producers while Laos focuses on sticky rice.

Laos has approached Thailand as a partner in a joint venture with Kuwait to grow rice in Laos.

The Lao government has allocated 200,000 hectares.

Laos has 2 million hectares set aside for rice, but only 900,000 are actually under the crop.

Meanwhile, the Asean-Australia and New Zealand Free Trade Agreement comes into force on January 1.

Australia and New Zealand are important trade partners of Asean, with bilateral trade in 2008 valued at US$67.2 billion (Bt2.3 trillion). They were the seventh largest export market of Asean.
Asean exports to Australia and New Zealand reached nearly $44 billion last year. Major goods were fuel, machinery, automobiles, gold and electrical appliances.

Chaiya added that Thailand and Australia would increase trade in services under the Thailand-Australia Free Trade Agreement. Australia wants to see more business-to-business trade.

Australian Trade Minister Simon Crean said the Asean-Australia and New Zealand Closer Economic Relations (CER) pact would benefit trade and investment growth during the global economic downturn.

"The pact will not only open market access between the two regions but also capacity-building and integration among us," he said, and though technical details remained to be worked out, it should be implemented on schedule early next year.

Crean also strongly supported Asean's bilateral pacts with six trading partners forming the Asean+6 group.

Asean and its partners must create a framework for East Asian integration, he said.

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Palm Beach County health care workers travel to help heal in some of the world's poorest parts

By DIANNA SMITH

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Saturday, August 15, 2009

WEST PALM BEACH — This West Palm Beach nurse can't help everyone.

But she's determined to try. That's why she treks to Cambodia every summer and sees children and adults whose bellies are empty and whose faces are thin. They're dying of malnutrition, dehydration, diseases that they probably wouldn't die from here in the United States.

Regina Clark, a nurse manager at Columbia Hospital, is one of many hospital staff members who spend their summer vacations not relaxing by the beach, but working in remote countries. They've dedicated their lives to helping the sick in America, and now they're taking their mission overseas.

"There were some that we know won't live long enough to get the help, and that's what breaks your heart," Clark, 53, said of the people in Cambodia.

That's how it is across the globe, in poor villages where doctors are scarce and modern medicines don't exist. So Clark and many other local nurses and doctors have committed themselves to helping each year.

Mission through music

Clark and 31 others traveled to Cambodia in July with a group called Musicianaries International - a nonprofit ministry dedicated to spreading God's love through music.

The group - which included doctors, nurses and professional musicians - delivered more than 500,000 containers of medicine, 700 school uniforms, 2,700 toothbrushes and toothpaste, 295 mosquito nets and 330 tons of rice.

They traveled the country in vans and spent time by the borders along Thailand and Vietnam. Their goal? To see people who have never been to hospitals.

"They're such a starving population. The average age is about 22," said Clark, who was on her third summer trek as a volunteer. "There's such a need for medical care."

Common medical problems include malnutrition, skin rashes, eye conditions and dehydration. Yet they still manage to smile.

"The people ... they warm your hearts," she said.

"You don't have to be fluent in the language to know they welcome anything. It's a great feeling."
Educating the islanders

While Clark headed for Cambodia, Dr. Michael Wolford traveled to the island of Tanna off the east coast of Australia. He was in the South Pacific with a group called Healthcare Ministries, a worldwide medical outreach program of Assemblies of God World Missions.

Wolford, 44, is an emergency room physician at Columbia Hospital and Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center.

In Tanna, he found many children suffering from malnutrition and ringworm or tapeworm.

He talked to the people through a translator about healthy living, encouraging them to take better care of themselves.

For almost three weeks, Wolford treated many men for high blood pressure and others for skin problems.

Because the island is primarily jungle, most who live there use machetes.

"It was unbelievable to see 5- and 6-year-olds swinging around machetes," he said.

Wolford said he enjoys showing people that there are others in this world who care about them.

"I've been blessed with talents I can share with people," he said, "and there's a world of people who need help."

Helping in Haiti

When his cousin died 10 years ago of liver cancer, Dr. Serge Thys wanted to keep his memory alive.

So he and others created the Gaskov Clerge Foundation, named after his cousin, with goals that include helping the sick in Les Cayes, Haiti, where Clerge and Thys were born.

Thys, 56, is the chairman of the psychiatric department at Columbia Hospital and also medical director of youth services.

This month, he returned from a trip to the southern part of Haiti where people have no access to any form of health care.

He and more than 60 of his colleagues built makeshift clinics in churches and schools and saw almost 3,000 people.

Like Clark and Wolford, Thys vows to continue his travel each year.

"It's priceless," Thys said. "You end up receiving much more than you give. This is the most beautiful part."
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