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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Bringing the tastes of Cambodia to Fairfax

Annandale resident and author of the book " A taste of Cambodian Cuisine", Demaze Baker is teaching cooking classes each month on how to prepare traditional Cambodian meals.

Cooking teacher, author shares her passion for exotic cuisine
by Alexandra Greeley Special to the Times

Perhaps the least known of Asian cuisines, Cambodian food has been a rarity in the Washington, D.C., metro area. But cooking teacher Demaz Baker of Annandale hopes to change that.

According to Baker, no Cambodian restaurants exist in the District or its surrounding suburbs, making it a challenge for interested foodies to go out and taste the culture's traditional flavors. That doesn't make it impossible, though, says Baker, who is also an amateur chef and author of two Cambodian cookbooks -- such as "A Taste of Cambodian Cuisine," which is available on Amazon.com. With monthly classes at the Arlington County Adult Education Center and a little patience, anyone can learn how to master the culture's sweet and savory flavors.

Although it shares many similarities with Thai cuisine, Baker says Cambodian cooking is "lighter and less spicy in taste," with less reliance on coconut milk and chilis.

A U.S. resident since the mid-1970s, Baker has held daytime jobs with the Department of Defense. But in her spare time, she has indulged her passion for Cambodian food by learning the traditional recipes from her homeland and then cataloging them in her two self-published cookbooks. This has certainly been a labor of love, for Baker admits she never learned how to cook as a child in her parents' home.

"I have always liked cooking, but I never learned it in Cambodia," she said. "My aunts are really the experts in Cambodian food. I even registered in cooking school when I was a student in Australia, but I only studied there for two months."

As a newcomer to the area, Baker longed for the sweet and savory delicacies from her native country. Finding no restaurant that offered the food she craved, Baker set about learning the basics of the cuisine by calling friends and relatives all over the world.

"I gathered recipes from whomever had the expertise," she said.

Top on her phone list were two friends in Los Angeles and others in France and Canada, but because Cambodians usually never write down measurements, reconstructing the recipes required experimentation and tasting.

After gathering stacks of recipes, Baker turned to trying them all, tasting what worked and discarding the rejects.

"This was a labor of several years," she said. "But now I know how to cook properly."

As a result, Baker wrote her first cookbook, "Cambodian Cuisine," in 1999 and issued her second, "A Taste of Cambodian Cuisine," in 2009. A full-color volume, the book is available online at Amazon.com and also at Barnes & Noble.

As a complement to her culinary hobby, Baker started teaching Cambodian cooking at the Arlington County Adult Education Center, offering a month's worth of classes each semester.

"I would teach once a week for the month," she said. After eight years of offering adult education classes, Baker decided to simply teach cooking in her own home. This switch has worked out well, she says, noting that many of her former students signed up and have now formed an informal cooking club, though all newcomers are welcome to join in.

Held one night each month, the classes require student participation supervised by Baker. Afterward, all sit down to a feast.

"A typical menu includes a main-course soup and two side dishes, one with vegetables and often one with fish," she said, adding that the usual Cambodian meal includes fish, since the Mekong River running through the country is a rich source of freshwater fish. There may also be a chicken or beef curry, which is a norm here in the U.S. but is a luxurious meal back home in Cambodia, where chicken and beef are expensive for the average household.

Participants learn three dishes per class, and classes cost $55 each.

Her students are so enthusiastic about Baker's food that they have been urging her to open a restaurant. After all, she notes, all her siblings own a restaurant in Quebec. But Baker's response is simple: No way, she says.

"In my opinion, for a small restaurant to be successful, it has to be run by family members," she says. "Besides, you have no other life if you own one."

For more information, contact Demaz Baker at www.Cambodian

Cooking.webng.com.

Recipe: Saraman Chicken

Serves four

Demaz Baker explains that Cambodian cooking is very similar to Thai cooking, which is evident in this rich chicken curry. To simplify the long and arduous process of pounding ingredients for a curry paste, the basis of all Thai and Cambodian curries, Baker uses commercial curry paste, making the preparation of such dishes relatively fast. All ingredients are available in Asian markets.

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

3 tablespoons Masaman curry paste

one (13.5- ounce) can coconut milk

2 pounds boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces

3 tablespoons fish sauce

2 tablespoons sugar or palm sugar

½ teaspoon salt

2 cups pearl onions, peeled

4 to 5 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and quartered

nHeat the oil in a deep saucepan over medium heat. Add the curry paste and blend well until it becomes oily. Scoop out the creamy part of the coconut milk (about ¼ cup), and stir into the curry. Add the chicken, and sear for about five minutes. Add ¾ cup water and the remaining coconut milk, fish sauce, sugar, salt and pearl onions. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook 15 to 20 minutes more, or until the chicken is tender. Add the potatoes, cover and continue cooking until the potatoes are cooked.

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Operation Smile Creates Smiles With USNS Mercy in Cambodia

SIHANOUKVILLE, Cambodia — Doctors and volunteers from the non-governmental organization Operation Smile embarked aboard the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy, June 17, for six days, to perform surgeries ranging from cleft lip and cleft palate repair to addressing facial and burn scars in support of Pacific Partnership 2010.

Pacific Partnership is a joint effort between host nations, partner nations, NGOs, and other U.S. government agencies that come together each year to foster the relationships in which they provide medical, dental, veterinary, and engineering civic action programs as well as subject matter expert exchanges with local medical professionals.

Before the Cambodian leg of the Pacific Partnership 2010 mission began, Operation Smile participants pre-screened more than 130 children and adults with cleft lips, cleft palates, and other facial deformities, to select patients for reconstructive surgeries.

“We have brought a full medical team of plastic surgeons, anesthesiologists, and nurses,” said Scott Snyder, Operation Smile program coordinator for the mission. “We will be performing around 20 to 25 surgeries a day and we are hoping to see about 80 patients during the next four days.”

The Operation Smile team aboard Mercy brings together people of many countries and backgrounds. For this effort, the team is made up of 47 members from Cambodia, Ireland, Italy, United Kingdom, and United States, working as a whole to complete these surgeries and help the Cambodian patients in need.

“It’s great for us to be working aboard [Mercy],” said Snyder. “We usually work in government hospitals in developing countries and sometimes the facilities aren’t that great. We come aboard with the Navy, and it’s like working in one of the best hospitals in the U.S.” Operation Smile has conducted missions with the Navy since 2006 and joined Pacific Partnership by participating in the 2008 mission.

While most of its efforts concentrate on the delivery of surgical care, Operation Smile engages in subject matter expert exchanges – even within its own organization.

“I really wanted to go on this trip,” said Brenda O’Brien, an Operation Smile volunteer from Ireland, when she discovered Operation Smile would be participating in Pacific Partnership 2010. “I am looking forward to seeing the techniques from the different surgeons from all the different countries.”

According to O’ Brien, the part that means the most to her is getting the patients aboard, giving them a clean recovery room, and them knowing that they are getting the best treatment they can possibly get.

Operation Smile has provided free surgeries to children around the world since 1982. With a presence in over 50 countries, Operation Smile has helped children whose parents cannot afford to give them the surgeries they need. Today more than 145,000 children have been helped by the medical volunteers at Operation Smile.

The fifth in a series of annual U.S. Pacific Fleet humanitarian and civic assistance endeavors, Pacific Partnership 2010 is aimed at strengthening regional partnerships among U.S. government organizations, host nations, partner nations and international humanitarian and relief organizations.
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Viettel wins award for its Cambodian service

VietNamNet Bridge – Metfone Viettel, the Cambodia-based affiliate of Vietnamese military-owned mobile phone service provider Viettel, was named "the most promising service provider of the year" on June 10 by the global consulting firm Frost & Sullivan, becoming the only representative of Indochina to be honoured in the category in the firm’s Asian Pacific ICT Awards this year.

Viettel inaugurates mobile phone network in Cambodia

VN sets its sights on dominating Cambodia’s telecom market

Telecom operators expand overseas

The award reflected international recognition of Viettel’s role in the growth of Cambodia’s telecommunications industry. The industry could now be ranked at the same level with other countries in the region and world due to the contribution of the Metfone brand.

Metfone Viettel director Nguyen Duy Tho said the award was earned by Cambodia’s telecommunications industry over the past few years, of which Metfone was just a representative.

"Metfone is honoured to bring pride to the country," Tho said. "I would like to express the sincerest thanks to the Government, ministries and agencies, people, customers and other operators for their support so far."

Metfone quickly became the leading mobile phone service provider in Cambodia after its introduction in the country last year.

In the past year alone, mobile phone density in Cambodia has increased from 15 to 40 per cent, with 120 base transceiver stations (BTS) and 1,000km of optic cable for every million people. Internet broadband use also rose from 0.5 to 2 per cent.

Cable infrastructure could now satisfy the requirements of 3G technology and provide free internet for 10 per cent of Cambodia’s schools.

"The award recipients have demonstrated their great success despite the difficulties of the economic downturn," said Frost&Sullivan partner and Asia-Pacific managing director Manoj Menon, adding that the recipients were the leaders of the industry in the region.

Frost & Sullivan’s ICT Awards were presented annually to companies that demonstrated the best practices in their industry. Past awards have often honoured firms from Japan, South Korea, South Asia and China, Frost & Sullivan said in a press release. This year, representatives from emerging markets were recognised, including Telkomsel (Indonesia) and Axiata (Bangladesh) as well as Metfone.

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Monday, June 21, 2010

World Notes: Palestine, Cambodia, Uzbekistan, Angola, Honduras, Iceland


Palestine: Amnesty International diagnoses collective punishment

Amnesty International reacted to Israel's decision June 17 to allow more civilian goods into Gaza by condemning that nation's continuing siege of 1.4 million Gazans as collective punishment. Quoted by IMEMC News, Amnesty spokesperson Malcolm Smart called upon Israel to "comply with its obligations as the occupying power under international law." He criticized Israel also for destroying Gaza's economy through barriers placed on exports of goods and free movement of residents. Interference with Gazans seeking medical care outside the enclave was seen as particularly odious, a point reinforced by the World Health Organization's condemnation the next day of non-functioning medical equipment at Gaza City's Ash-Shifa Hospital. The blockade excludes spare parts and servicing engineers.

Cambodia: Garment workers plan big strike

Despite Labor Minister Vong Soth's plea two weeks earlier to delay strike action pending completion of negotiations, the Free Trade Union of Workers, representing 86,000 garment workers, on June 15 announced a three-day strike in mid-July. The union is demanding a monthly minimum wage increase from $50 to $70, according to phnompenhpost.com. Union head Chea Mony asserted, "All the workers should raise their voices in order to achieve a reasonable salary and better conditions for work." An Interior Ministry spokesperson warned of legal consequences if the strike leads to violence. The potential strike is also aimed at supporting 87 workers unable to work at the Tack Fat garment factory following their refusal to accept in-factory job transfers.

Uzbekistan: Summit promotes Russia-China cooperation

The June 11 summit meeting in Tashkent of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) was the occasion for solidifying relations between Russia and China. In their third encounter this year, Presidents Hu Jintao and Dmitri Medvedev reaffirmed plans for humanitarian and cultural exchanges, widened commercial ties, and Medvedev's upcoming visit to China. SCO member nations China, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan agreed to new internal administrative measures and to procedures for admitting new member states. The summit reaffirmed collective efforts aimed at dealing with the world economic crisis and promoting regional stability and economic development. Representatives of Mongolia, India, Pakistan and Iran attended as observers. Afghan President Hamid Karzai was an invited guest.

Angola: Oil riches fuel social gains

A recent nationwide survey, undertaken by the government and UNICEF and reported by Afrol News on June 15, showed progress toward five of eight Millennium Development Goals: malnutrition; education; gender balance; child survival and malaria; and HIV/AIDS. Since 2002, malnutrition is down 12 points to 23 percent, and 76 percent of age-appropriate children attend school, although primary school completion rates lag. Maternal mortality remains high, and only 42 percent of people have access to safe drinking water, a backward step. Angola, ranking 143rd out of 158 nations in the UN 2009 Human Development Report is criticized for corruption in oil income distribution. Some 30 percent of governmental spending, derived overwhelmingly from oil exports, is now dedicated to social programs.

Honduras: Violence mounts

Outside Tegucigalpa on June 14, gunmen killed television reporter Luis Arturo Mondragon, the ninth journalist killed this year. Attempts on her life forced television journalist Karol Cabrera to escape to Canada a week earlier. Amidst agitation by public sector workers for wage increases and a national minimum wage, two men gunned down Oscar Molina, a beverage union leader's brother-in-law, on June 10. In mid-June, gunfire spared labor leaders Carolina Pineda and José Luis Baquedano, the latter active with the National Resistance Front. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton earlier in June had urged Latin American leaders to accept the present government, successor to that of coup-deposed Manuel Zaleya, a "left-leaning president," according to The New York Times.

Iceland: Fraud investigators have worldwide beat

Following collapse of the Icelandic Banks Kaupthing, Landsbanki and Glitnir in 2008, proprietors and directors have lived abroad. Parliament last month blamed them for extracting "inappropriate loans from the banks," reported estrategumtrading.com on June 14. Alleging theft of $2 billion, Glitner Bank liquidation overseers are suing former bank officers for fraud in a New York court. They are also targeting auditing firm PricewaterhouseCoopers for obscuring fraudulent transactions. The worldwide assets of former bank director Jon Asgeir Johannesson have been frozen, among them two top-end New York City condominiums worth $25 million. And former President Sigurdur Einarsson of Kaupthing Bank "does not intend to return to Iceland so they can arrest him," preferring instead to reply on rights afforded him in Great Britain.

Photo: Chinese President Hu Jintao, fifth left, and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, third right, meet on the sidelines of the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, June 10. (AP/RIA Novosti, Vladimir Rodionov, Presidential Press Service)
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Ultimatum Issued in Mu Sochua Court Fine


The Phnom Penh municipal treasury department has issued a court order to opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua that requires her to pay a court-mandated fine and compensation to Prime Minister Hun Sen or face a jail term.

Mu Sochua, who lost a Supreme Court appeal in a guilty verdict for defamation this month, is in the US. She has said she will not pay the fine and compensation, a total of around $4,500, in a countersuit brought by Hun Sen after she sued him for allegedly degrading remarks in public speeches.

If a warrant is issued for her arrest, she will be the second Sam Rainsy Party member to be abroad and facing a jail term.

Sam Rainsy himself remains in exile and faces a two-year sentence for destruction of border markers in Svay Rieng province. He is facing additional criminal charges for publishing a map on his website alleging improper border demarcation by the government.

Both lawmakers have been without their parliamentary immunity since 2009, and both have said the courts are being politically manipulated by the ruling party to damage the opposition.

In a letter last week to Mu Sochua, the municipal treasury department said she would have two weeks to pay her fine.

Mu Sochua is currently traveling in the US to promote a documentary film on human trafficking she helped produce. She was not immediately available for comment.

Municipal court prosecutor Sok Roeun told VOA Khmer Monday he will soon issue his own letter giving Mu Sochua 10 days to comply with the fines.

“If she still opposes, she will be arrested,” he said.
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Saturday, June 19, 2010

China catches up

By Boston Herald Editorial Staff


China’s industrial workers have started striking again for higher wages, notably at Honda plants. Yes, you read that right.

Chinese factory owners long have been able to pay rock-bottom wages. Life in the countryside was so grinding that young people fled to industrial areas whenever they got the chance.

Often living in dormitories, their lives highly regimented by management down to the number and timing of bathroom breaks, the workers sent much of their wages to their parents back on the farm

That was then. Today factory workers know they can live in a real apartment. (China has a real estate bubble of its own.) Mom and dad are doing better; the worker has a little money to spend and believes he or she deserves more.

It’s exactly the sequence of events that started in Britain in the Industrial Revolution of the late 1700s and the United States in the 1870s.

Some factory owners may be able to move to Vietnam, Cambodia or Sri Lanka. But an automobile transmission plant is hard to move; stoppage of production is extremely costly and replacement workers may be unwilling to face strikers. The Honda strikers have been winning wage increases.

In any developing country, labor costs tend to rise. Forty years ago complaints about low-wage Japanese workers stealing American jobs were common; recently an hour’s labor in Japanese manufacturing has ranged from 80 percent to 100 percent of the cost of an hour in the United States. Down the road the Chinese may complain about low-wage Sri Lankans.

It’s all part of what we call progress
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Dance fest to help Cambodian kids

By Katheleen Conti


Lowell’s United Teen Equality Center will host a break-dance competition, or B-boy battle, from 3 to 8 p.m. today to help a Tyngsborough teen raise funds to assist children in Cambodia.

Rachel Field, 17, was invited by best friend, Andrew Sinuon, and his family to vacation with them June 27 in their homeland, but she said she “didn’t feel right’’ going to a poorer country on vacation “and not do something about it.’’ Field will bring funds raised to the Green Gecko Project, a school for poor children in Cambodia. Field said, she’ll partner with friends of the Sinuons to travel and donate food and goods to local villages.

Field will film her experiences for a possible documentary, as well as her blog, www.changeforcambodianchildren.blogspot.com. Through events including a yard sale and car wash, Field, a member of United Teen Equality Center, has raised about $1,000.

Tickets for the break-dance competition, featuring Lowell and Boston teens, are $8 at the door, 34 Hurd St., Lowell. Checks should be made out to UTEC, with the memo “Change for Cambodian Children.’’ Read more!

Friday, June 18, 2010

40 Years Later, Combing Cambodia for Missing Friends


Tim Page, a photographer, during the latest of many fruitless trips to find the remain of his friend Sean Flynn who disappeared during the vietnam war.


By Seth Mydans

PKHAR DOUNG, Cambodia — “Let’s rock and roll,” said Tim Page, once one of the wild and daring young photographers of the Vietnam War, strapping himself into the front seat of a four wheel drive van.

“Like Flynn and Stone, three intrepid journalists left Phnom Penh on a hot morning headed for Kampong Cham,” he said, narrating his departure recently with two colleagues.

He settled back for the long ride, past the town of Skun, known for its fried spiders, past hypnotic rows of rubber trees, out to this dusty village near the Mekong River where he believed the bones of two missing war photographers, Sean Flynn and Dana Stone, were buried.

It was not an unusual journey for Mr. Page. Now 66, he has been on this hunt for years, determined to find answers and to come to terms with the war that has dominated his life.

Just 40 years ago, the missing men had headed down an empty road with their cameras in search of Khmer Rouge guerrillas. They were never heard from again.

Their fate has become one of the enduring mysteries of the war, two young journalists — like movie adventurers — riding their motorbikes into no-man’s-land and losing a bet against fate.

Mr. Flynn, the dashing and glamorous son of the film star Errol Flynn, had in fact briefly been an actor, and he brought an aura with him to Vietnam that gave his disappearance at the age of 28 a mythic quality.

“Sean Flynn could look more incredibly beautiful than even his father, Errol, had 30 years before as Captain Blood,” wrote Michael Herr in his classic book about the war, “Dispatches.”

“But sometimes he looked more like Artaud coming out of some heavy heart-of-darkness trip, overloaded on the information, the input!”

Mr. Page had shared some of those journeys into darkness, and his visit to Pkhar Doung was the latest of many forays in what he calls “a 25-year madness” in search of the bones of the man he calls his brother.

Weeks earlier two bounty hunters had made a false claim to have found them, reviving interest in the disappearance and spurring American investigators to step up the search for the missing journalists.

“I don’t like the idea of his spirit out there tormented,” Mr. Page said, a wandering ghost that could only find rest, as many in Asia believe, after proper funeral rites. “There’s something spooky about being M.I.A.”

Mr. Page is also seeking a measure of peace for his own soul, scarred like his body from the traumas of combat, from nearly fatal wounds and the loss of friends, trying to put together what he calls “an enormous jigsaw puzzle, bits of sky, bits of earth.”

“I don’t think anybody who goes through anything like war ever comes out intact,” he said. “I suppose the closure of Sean’s fate also has to do with closure of the whole war experience.”

Theirs was an intimacy forged by shared danger and by what Mr. Page calls the magnetic pull of two only sons searching for a bond.

“We could have been brothers, and felt as though we were,” Mr. Page wrote in a memoir, “Derailed in Uncle Ho’s Victory Garden.” “We would sit for hours in the same room, hardly speaking yet in total communication, a vibration as intimate as between lovers.”

For Mr. Page a lonely intimacy has continued, and he hears what seems to be the voice of his friend from time to time, the voice of a tormented spirit.

“We have conversations in strange moments, and often enough to remind me of the presence of his spirit,” Mr. Page said on his recent drive to Pkhar Doung. “It’s there but not there, and you’re aware that there’s something somehow lurking, just out of reach.”

He said that as he drives past the rubber trees, whose rapid regular repeated rows create the illusion of some ghostly shifting world in the distance, he often hears his friend’s voice, “What are you doing, man? What are you doing, boy? What are you doing, mate?”

Mr. Flynn’s lost bones and wandering soul are not alone in Cambodia, where as many as a quarter of the population died in the late 1970s during the brutal rule of the Khmer Rouge. Many of their remains, like those of Mr. Flynn, are still unidentified in killing fields around the country.

Cambodia was a particularly dangerous place for foreign journalists during five years of war before the Khmer Rouge victory in 1975. At least 37 died or disappeared, including 15, along with Mr. Flynn, in a six-week period in April 1970.

After pursuing various theories and false trails, Mr. Page said he now believes that Mr. Flynn survived for a year after his disappearance and may have been killed by lethal injection at a field hospital here. On a visit last year, Mr. Page recovered some medical vials and turned them over for analysis to the American military office in Hawaii that seeks to recover the remains of missing soldiers.

This new visit to Pkhar Doung did little to solve the mystery. Since the bounty hunters had ravaged the site with a backhoe, the American military office, known by its acronym as JPAC, had sealed it off. Mr. Page was turned away by the local police.

In the future, he said, he planned to talk with nearby villagers who might have some memory of captive foreigners long ago and what became of them.

Even if he never does succeed, Mr. Page said his search had helped him honor both Mr. Flynn and other journalists who died or disappeared in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.

His pursuit has inspired a documentary, a new memorial to dead and missing journalists in Phnom Penh, journalism courses for local reporters and most significantly a book called “Requiem,” which includes the work of 135 photographers from all sides who died covering Indochina’s decades of war.

Mr. Page, who grew up in Britain, taught himself photography and covered the war as a freelancer from 1965 to 1969, sending pictures to major American and French publications including Time and Life, Look and Paris-Match.

He became known for his vivid combat pictures and also for the risks he took and the wounds he survived. At the time Mr. Flynn disappeared Mr. Page had suffered his most severe injuries, from a mine explosion that sent shrapnel into his brain and body.

He was pronounced dead on arrival at a hospital, he said, but surgeons revived him for a long and painful recovery. The thin borderline between life and death still seems to draw him.

“At the end of the day, the mysticism of it — living, not living — becomes a mystery,” he said, “and I don’t think we are ever privileged except on death’s doorstep to actually understand it.”

He hovers close, though, pouring his energies into his search for the unmarked grave of his friend, then sometimes finding comfort in the quiet of a cemetery.

“It’s always peaceful in a cemetery,” he said. “Everyone there has found rest. All the tribulations of life are over, and you return to the peace of nothingness".
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Advisor to Cambodia's PM apologizes for making statue

An advisor to Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen has apologized for making a statue without permission.

In a letter made available to the media on Friday, Om Yintieng, advisor to Prime Minister Hun Sen said he had made a statue of the Prime Minister in a way to express his respect and gratitude, but without knowledge or consent from him.

He thus made a public apology and asked for forgiveness from the premier.

Om Yintien made the apology soon after the Cabinet of Prime Minister Hun Sen issued a statement on Thursday saying a number of places have been displayed with statues of the country's leaders or certain artists make sculpture or reproduction in objects of the leaders for decoration at homes or as souvenirs.

The statement said the gesture has affected the country's tradition and culture which does not allow any statue or sculpture of the leaders be displayed while they are still alive.

In the letter of apology, Om Yintieng did not mention the details of Hun Sen's statue that he had built and where exactly it will be displayed, but local media has reported Friday saying the premier's statue was designed for display inside the premise of government's anti-corruption unit, where is chaired by Om Yintieng.

The statue which was seen Thursday by reporters under the wraps was already removed from the site on Friday.

Source: Xinhua
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Exhibition Celebrates Khmer Bronze Casters, With Hope for Action


While museum-goers in Washington enjoy a new display of ancient Cambodian bronzes on loan from the National Museum of Cambodia, a US scholar says artifacts smuggled out of the country in the past should be returned home.

“All people who study Cambodia and all people who visit Cambodia know how important it is that monuments in Cambodia remain as intact as possible,” Hiram Woodward, a emeritus curator of Asian art, told VOA Khmer after his lecture and a tour of the “Gods of Angkor” exhibit Saturday.

“There are now treaties concerning bringing stone sculptures into the United States,” he said, “and one hopes that some of the objects that have been removed from Cambodia in past years will eventually make their way back to Cambodia.”

Both countries signed an agreement in 2003 banning the illegal import of Cambodian artifacts to the US.

Ork Sophon, director general of the Ministry of Culture, told VOA Khmer Monday that illegal smuggling has decreased as a result, while the US has confiscated and returned a number of antiquities.

However, some artifacts that were purchased before the 2003 agreement remain in the US, and Cambodia is trying to convince collectors to voluntarily return them, Ork Sophon said.

“We have so far directly contacted US private collectors who are now getting old and have no children to take care of the items [and asked them] to return them to us,” he said.

Cambodian officials hope the “Gods of Angkor” exhibit, which is currently on display at the Freer and Sackler Galleries in Washington in collaboration with Cambodia’s National Museum, will raise artifact awareness and inspire more participation in the fight against smuggling.
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Thursday, June 17, 2010

U.N. envoy warns of failing judiciary in Cambodia+

PHNOM PENH, June 17 (AP) - (Kyodo)—Concluding a 10-day working mission in Cambodia, the U.N. special envoy on human rights in Cambodia said Thursday the country's judiciary is facing tremendous challenges.

"The judiciary in Cambodia is facing tremendous challenges in delivering justice for the people of the country, especially the poor and marginalized," Professor Surya Subedi, the U.N. special rapporteur, said.

While considering the overall state of the judicial system in Cambodia, he raised specific concerns relating to the judiciary's role in protecting freedom of expression and in cases involving land- related rights.

"I am troubled by the impact of land disputes, land concessions and resettlements on the lives of ordinary people, both in rural and urban areas, miscarriages of justice and the narrowing of political space for critical debate in society due to the disproportionate use of defamation, disinformation and incitement lawsuits against journalists, human rights activists and political opponents," he said in a statement.

He called on the government "to introduce appropriate measures to enhance the independence and capacity of the judiciary to enable it to function as an institution capable of providing justice to all in Cambodia."

"If you are poor, weak and dispossessed of your land, you seem to have limited chance to obtain redress either through existing administrative land management systems, or through the courts," he said.

Subedi did, however, welcome the adoption of a series of new laws in recent years, including a new penal code, an anticorruption law and a criminal procedure code that are designed to strengthen the system of justice.

But, he warned, a combination of a lack of adequate resources, organizational and institutional shortcomings, a lack of full awareness of the relevant human rights standards and external interference, financial or otherwise, in the work of the judiciary, has resulted in an institution that "does not command the confidence of people from many walks of life."

Subedi was on his third mission to Cambodia since being appointed special envoy last year.

During his stay, he met with Cambodian leaders including King Sihamoni, Foreign Minister Hor Namhong, President of the Cambodian Human Rights Committee Om Yentieng and President of the Supreme Court Dith Munthy.

But he failed to meet with Prime Minister Hun Sen despite having a prior arrangement to do so.

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US returns stolen Angkorian sculptures to Cambodia

PHNOM PENH — The United States on Thursday returned seven sculptures created in the great Angkorian era that had been smuggled from Cambodia, a US embassy spokesman said.

John Johnson said the sandstone artefacts, dating from between 1000 and 1500 AD, arrived by ship and were blessed by Buddhist monks in a handover ceremony in the southwestern port of Sihanoukville.

The sculptures, which include a head of the Buddha, a large bas-relief and an engraved plinth, were recovered by US immigration and customs enforcement officials in Los Angeles in 2008, Johnson added.

The great Angkorian empire emerged as a powerful regional force beginning in the ninth century and built the stunning Angkor temple complex in northwestern Cambodia, which remains the country's main tourist attraction.

But the country's key temples suffered huge damage from looters during three decades of civil war, which ended in 1998.
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Travel: Cambodia, Myanmar photo workshop

Viewpoint Photographic Art Center and Rick Murai will host Cambodia/Myanmar: Through the Lens photography workshop, Jan. 2 through 17, 2011. This is a good opportunity to produce unique and personal photographs amidst exotic cultures, ancient temple architecture and stunning landscapes.

Noted Penn Valley fine art photographer Rick Murai will present his photographs from Southeast Asia and discuss the itinerary and highlights of this custom tailored workshop at 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 23, at Viewpoint Gallery, 2015 J St., Sacramento. Admission is free and all are welcomed to attend.

The cost is $3765/person and includes intra Asia airfare, lodging, land travel, guides and most meals. The workshop is limited to 14 participants.

Participants of this travel workshop will photograph and experience remote cultures, ancient temple architecture and stunning landscapes. Designed for photographers of all proficiency levels and varied mediums, this custom crafted workshop will insure ample time to effectively photograph at each location. There will be early morning and evening photo sessions, guest speakers, group/individual formal and informal instruction and image sharing.

Photographers will visit Phnom Penh, Cambodia's capital and Tuol Sleng prison and the Killing Fields. The tour will then journey to the villages and markets of Siem Reap and the sprawling temple complex of Angkor Wat. The next stop is Myanmar's capital, Yangon, for visits to the imposing Schwedigon Pagoda and then on to the revered ancient sacred center of Bagan to photograph its thousands of pagodas. The tour will end with the intriguing floating villages of Inle Lake.

Murai is widely exhibited and published and a recipient of the 2008 UK Travel Photographer of the Year award. His extensive global travel is sure to make this a fascinating and highly productive experience.
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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Fish stock in northeastern Cambodia to be sustainably managed by local people

On 11 June, 2010 Mondulkiri province's Fisheries Administration Cantonment officially transferred management rights of the Sen Kangha Community Fishery to local Indigenous people living along the Srepok river in Koh Myeul Leu and Koh Myeul Krom villages of Koh Nhek district. Representatives from both parties signed a three-year long agreement aiming at sustainable management and use of local fishery resource.

With support from WWF, the signing ceremony was organized by the Fisheries Administration Cantonment at their office in Sen Monorom town and was attended by 60 participants from the Provincial Governor's Office, Fisheries Administration, Sen Kangha Community Fishery, WWF and many other local authorities.

His Excellency Chan Yieun, Governor of Mondulkiri, who presided over the ceremony, encouraged effective implementation of the agreement and urged all members of the Sen Kangha Community Fishery to sustainably manage and conserve fish stocks for long term benefit.

"I would like to ask all relevant authorites, especially the Fisheries Administration Cantonment, to cooperate with and provide support to the Sen Kangha Community Fishery in effectively implementing the Fisheries Law, National Strategy on Fisheries Management and other fishery-related regulations," the Governor said as he was delivering the opening speech at the event.

Rapid population growth and illegal fishing practices have led to over-fishing and falling fish yields. Due to the high dependency on fisheries for local livelihoods and food security, the Forestry Administration in collaboration with WWF, have been supporting the establishment of the Sen Kangha Community Fishery since 2007.

"With decreased fish yields observed over the past years due to illegal fishing activities, local communities are worried about potential disappearance of some fish species," said Mr Moul Phath, WWF’s Provincial Conservation Planning Specialist.

The community fishery provides an opportunity for people in Koh Myeul Leu and Koh Myeul Krom villages to conserve fish resources for their long term benefit.

In his speech, the Governor also highlighted that many of Mondulkiri's important zones of natural fish stocks, especially in Koh Nhek district, could, if managed sustainably, supply enough fish to meet the provincial consumption, as well as support other people living at the border of Ratanakiri province.
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International Festival of Art & Ideas calendar for June 16

INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF ART & IDEAS

Tickets for all performances with admission price may be purchased online at www.artidea.org/tickets, at the Shubert Theater Box Office (247 College Street, New Haven) or by phone at 203-562-5666 or 888-736-2663. For a complete listing of events, visit www.artidea.org.

June 16

Noon-8 p.m., “Susurrus” (every 30 minutes, noon to 6 p.m.) Playwright David Leddy’s “Susurrus” is part radio play, part avant-garde sonic art, part stroll in the park reflecting themes of William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and includes music from Benjamin Britten’s opera. Audience listens to “Susurrus” through an iPod while following charted path through Edgerton Park, starting at Sarah T. Crosby Conservatory, Edgerton Park, 75 Cliff St., New Haven, $30, sturdy shoes encouraged.

Noon, New Haven Ballet Performing “Sei por Quattro” by Artistic Director Noble Barker to music of Nino Rota and “River of Diversion,” inspired by the Quinnipiac River, Elm Street Stage, free.

Noon, Walking Tour: Ingalls Rink: Newly Restored Famous Yale Whale Wes Kavanagh, senior design associate, Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates, and Wayne Dean, senior associate director of Athletics, lead a tour of Eero Saarinen’s masterpiece (all ages), space limited, reserve at 888-ART-IDEA, meet at Sachem Street entrance to rink, free.

12:20 p.m., Walking Tour: From Drips to Dots: Selections from the Collection of Richard Brown Baker With Jennifer Farrell, the Florence B. Selden assistant curator, Department of Prints, Drawings and Photographs (teens and adults), meet at Yale University Art Gallery, free.

1:45 p.m., Nicki Mathis’ Afrikan Amerikan Jazz Reflects her ties to Africa as well as Mexico and Brazil, Elm Street Stage, free.

5:30 p.m., Ideas: Rebuilding Culture in Iraq & Cambodia - From Crisis to Recovery Joseph Roach, Sterling Professor of Theater and English Director , Yale University, U.S. Marine Colonel Matthew Bogdanos, who led investigation into and recovery of artifacts from the looting of the Iraq Museum, moderated by Helen Ibbitson Jessup, specialist in the art and architecture of Southeast Asia and Cambodia,,founder of Friends of Khmer Culture Yale Center for British Art, 1080 Chapel St., free, reservations recommended: www.artidea.org.

5:30-7:30 p.m., Bike Tour - Eye on New Haven: A Photographic Tour Bring your camera and join an experienced local photographer on ride to some of New Haven’s most picturesque places, several stops to shoot, all riders (10 miles), meet at Festival Info Booth, Church and Elm streets, free.

6:30 p.m., Thomas Bergeron Quintet Trumpeter presents impressionist interpretations of Claude Debussy piano preludes with his jazz quintet, Elm Street Stage, free.

7 p.m., Book Signing, Matthew Bogdanos, author of “Thieves of Baghdad: One Marine’s Passion to Recover the World’s Greatest Stolen Treasures,” proceeds from books donated to the Iraq Museum, Atticus Bookstore/Cafe, Chapel Street, free.

8 p.m., Courtyard Concerts: Joyce Moreno One of Brazil’s most influential artists, Grammy Award-nominated singer/songwriter and guitarist combines samba rhythms and jazz harmonies with intelligent lyrics, Yale Law School Courtyard, 127 Wall St., $30 general admission, must be reserved.

8 p.m., “Khmeropédies I & II” French-Cambodian choreographer Emmanuèle Phuon’s collision of classical Khmer court dance with contemporary Western movement techniques, Frederick Iseman Theater, 1156 Chapel St., $25; call to reserve.

8 p.m., “Moby Dick” Conor Lovett in his one-man performance of his adaptation of Herman Melville’s novel, accompanied by original music by Caoimhin O’Raghallaigh, $15-$40, Long Wharf Theatre, Mainstage, 222 Sargent Drive, all seats reserved.

Tickets for all performances with admission price may be purchased online at www.artidea.org/tickets, at the Shubert Theater Box Office (247 College St., New Haven) or by phone at 203-562-5666 or 888-736-2663. Visit www.artidea.org.
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Check out these itineraries on Princess Cruises

Princess Cruises is offering adventurous passengers two opportunities in 2011 and 2012 to experience one of travel’s most grand voyages: The World Cruise.

Encompassing multiple continents and dozens of the globe’s treasured places, these fascinating itineraries will give travelers the unique opportunity to experience the world along with Princess’ style and service.

Let’s let the company explain its offerings:

The intimate Pacific Princess will sail on a 107-day journey from Ft. Lauderdale to Venice, departing January 13, 2012, offering the line’s popular small-ship cruising experience. For an Australian-style world cruise, Dawn Princess will sail roundtrip from Sydney on May 25, 2011.

Travelers on these voyages will be able to experience UNESCO World Heritage Sites – such as Fiordland National Park in New Zealand, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, and historic Cairo. It also is possible to travel beyond the ports in some locations with overland excursions to such must-see destinations as the Great Wall of China and Angkor Wat, Cambodia.

Pacific Princess will also introduce three new ports for Princess – Santa Marta, Colombia; Puerto Quepos, Costa Rica; and Manama, Bahrain.

Pacific Princess – 107 days – January 13, 2012:

This Ft. Lauderdale to Venice itinerary will visit 38 destinations in 28 countries, including the mighty Panama Canal, the idyllic South Pacific, plus the “down under” experience of Australia and New Zealand.

Passengers will explore a variety of vibrant Asian cities such as Toyko, experience the bustle of India and Egypt’s legendary monuments, and see some unique European ports, such as Dubrovink, before finally arriving in Venice.

Three new ports debut on this voyage: Santa Marta, the oldest city in Colombia, is the site of the last days of Simon Bolivar, the liberator for whom Bolivia is named. From this port, passengers can visit a number of historical sites, including the oldest church in Spanish America, or can enjoy Tayrona National Park for ecological tours and time at the beach. Puerto Quepos offers an off-the-beaten-path experience in Costa Rica, near the ecotourism destination of Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio. Manama, the main port for Bahrain, a small island country in the Persian Gulf, is home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Fort of Bahrain or Qal’at al-Bahrain (the Ancient Harbour and Capital of Dilmun) plus other numerous archeological sites.

Pacific Princess passengers will also have the opportunity to experience a variety of other UNESCO World Heritage Sites. These remarkable places that make up the planet’s cultural and natural heritage include Fiordland National Park in New Zealand, Sydney Opera House, the Great Blue Mountains near Sydney, the Great Barrier Reef (from Cairns), the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, the historic center of Macau (from Hong Kong), the Taj Mahal (from Mumbai), ancient Petra (from Aqaba), historic Cairo (from Alexandria) and the old city of Dubrovnik. Passengers may also take in UNESCO sites such as the Great Wall of China and Cambodia’s Angkor Wat with several overland adventures available during the voyage.

The full itinerary for the Pacific Princess world cruise adventure starts in Fort Lauderdale, followed by calls in Aruba and new port of Santa Marta (Colombia), before transiting the engineering marvel of the Panama Canal. The ship then heads up the coast to new port of Puerto Quepos (Costa Rica), and San Juan del Sur (Nicaragua), to San Diego.

Passengers will then enjoy crossing the Pacific with visits to Honolulu, Kauai (Nawiliwili), Pago Pago, Tonga (Nuku’Alofa), and then Auckland, and Fiordland National Park in New Zealand.

In Australia, the ship visits Burnie, Tasmania and spends two days in Sydney, plus visits Cairns for the Great Barrier Reef. Heading for Asia, the ship calls at Guam, then Tokyo, Hiroshima, Busan, Shanghai, and two days in Hong Kong. Next is Ho Chi Minh City (Phu My), Bangkok (Laem Chabang), Singapore and Phuket. In India, passengers will experience Chennai and Mumbai (for a full-day tour to the Taj Mahal), then the ship reaches Bahrain for the new port of Manama, followed by an overnight call in Dubai. Then it’s on to Salalah, Safaga (for Luxor/Karnak), Alexandria (for Cairo/Giza), and a transit of the Suez Canal. Once in the Mediterranean, the ship calls at Dubrovnik and Koper (for the capital of Slovenia, Lubljana), and then finally on to the final port of Venice.

Sailing roundtrip from Sydney, this world cruise features an Australian flavor. Dawn Princess will call at 43 intriguing ports on six continents and will introduce some new destinations not seen on her previous global voyages, including Costa Rica, Morocco, Jordan, Israel, Scotland and Norway. Popular destinations such as Singapore, Dubai, the Mediterranean, the Panama Canal and the Hawaiian Islands are also included.

The full cruise itinerary will take passengers from Sydney to Darwin, then across the Equator to Singapore, Kuala Lumpur (Port Kelang), and Langkawi, Malaysia. Then the ship sails to India with calls at Cochin, and Mumbai (for the Taj Mahal).

The cruise continues to Abu Dhabi, Dubai (overnight), Muscat (Mina Qaboos), and Aqaba in Jordan (for Petra). Dawn Princess will then sail through the Suez Canal to reach Port Said (for Cairo/Giza), followed by Jerusalem (Ashdod). Then it’s on to the Mediterranean with visits to Mykonos, and Istanbul, with a cruise by ANZAC Cove. The classic ports of Athens (Piraeus), Naples (for Capri & Pompeii), Rome (Civitavecchia), Florence/Pisa (Livorno), Monte Carlo, and Barcelona come up next, followed by Casablanca (for Rabat), Lisbon, Paris/Normandy (Le Havre), and then on to London (Dover). Northern Europe ports include Amsterdam and Bergen, Norway as the ship then sails to Britain and Ireland with calls at Edinburgh/Glasgow (Greenock), Dublin, and Cork (Cobh – for Blarney Castle).

Dawn Princess next crosses the Atlantic with a stop in Bermuda on the way to Ft. Lauderdale. Passengers will then visit Cartagena and transit the spectacular Panama Canal. Sailing up the Pacific Coast, the ship reaches Costa Rica (Puntarenas), Acapulco, Manzanillo, and then Los Angeles. Passengers will then enjoy sailing across the Pacific to Honolulu, Tahiti (Papeete), Bora Bora, and Apia (Western Samoa), as the ship heads for home with a final call in Auckland before reaching Sydney once again.

World cruises can also be booked in segments, ranging from 15 to 32 days. Full cruise fares begin at $21,995 per person and segment fares start at $2,495, based on double occupancy. The Pacific Princess sailing opens for sale June 17, 2010, the Dawn Princess world cruise is currently available for booking.

Additional information about Princess Cruises is available through a professional travel agent, by calling 1-800-PRINCESS, or by visiting the company’s website at www.princess.com.

# # #

About Princess Cruises:

One of the best-known names in cruising, Princess Cruises is a global cruise and tour company operating a fleet of 17 modern ships renowned for their innovative design and wide array of choices in dining, entertainment and amenities, all provided in an environment of exceptional customer service. A recognized leader in worldwide cruising, Princess offers its passengers the opportunity to escape to the top destinations around the globe, ranging in length from seven to 107 days. The company is part of Carnival Corporation & plc (NYSE/LSE:CCL; NYSE:CUK).
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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Drug-resistant bugs on rise globally: report

Many such drug distribution programs may be driving drug resistance and endangering the lives they are meant to save, according to the report from the Center for Global Development.

"Drug resistance is a natural occurrence, but careless practices in drug supply and use are hastening it unnecessarily," the Center's Rachel Nugent, who led the group writing the report, said in a statement.

Millions of children in the developing world die every year from drug-resistant strains of malaria, tuberculosis, AIDS and other diseases, the report found.

Since 2006 donors have spent more than $1.5 billion on specialized drugs to treat resistant bacteria and viruses, and this could worsen, the report cautions.

So-called "superbugs" such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureas, or MRSA, now cause more than 50 percent of staph infections in U.S. hospitals.

Bacteria and viruses begin to evolve resistance to drugs almost as soon as they first encounter them. If drug treatment leaves even one microbe alive, it will reproduce and whatever genetic attributes helped it survive will be multiplied in the next generation.

Last week, experts told a Congressional panel that U.S. regulators need to provide a clear path for drug companies to develop new antibiotics and should consider offering financial incentives.

The Center's report looks for even broader action, urging WHO to lead others, including pharmaceutical companies, governments, philanthropies that buy and distribute medicines, hospitals, healthcare providers, pharmacies and patients.

The report finds clear links between increased drug availability and resistance. For instance, in countries with the highest use of antibiotics, 75 to 90 percent of Streptococcus pneumoniae strains are drug-resistant, it found.

Poor quality drugs, counterfeit drugs, incomplete use of drugs and other factors all contribute to the problem, the report found. And this problem will worsen as drug access programs succeed, it cautions.

"The number of people being treated for HIV/AIDS, for example, increased 10-fold between 2002 and 2007; there was an 8-fold rise in deliveries of (drugs) for malaria treatment between 2005 and 2006, and the Stop TB Partnership's Global Drug Facility has expanded access to drugs for TB patients, offering nearly 14 million patient treatments in 93 countries since 2001," the report reads.

"While increased access to necessary drugs is clearly desirable, it brings challenges in preserving the efficacy of these drugs and ensuring they are used appropriately."

For instance, in 2008, an estimated 440,000 cases of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis emerged.
The Center for Global Development, an independent, nonprofit group, specializes in research on global poverty and inequality.
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Japanese ship, officers arrive in Cambodia on medical aid mission+

PHNOM PENH, Japanese medical officers arrived in the Cambodian port city of Sihanoukville on Tuesday aboard a Japanese maritime Self-Defense Force transport ship on the second leg of a two-nation mission to participate in a U.S. Navy-led medical aid program in Asia.

While in Cambodia, they will take part in medical aid activities for about two weeks under former Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's "Fraternity Boat" initiative.

The 8,900-ton MSDF transport ship Kunisaki, with roughly 200 crew members on board, arrived together with the U.S. Navy hospital ship Mercy on Tuesday morning, an official of the Japanese Embassy in Cambodia said.

The embassy said doctors and Japanese Self-Defense Forces personnel will conduct medical and cultural activities with U.S. Navy personnel and nongovernmental groups as part of this year's Pacific Partnership program.

Prior to its mission in Cambodia, the Kunisaki took part in the Pacific Partnership program in Vietnam.

The U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh said the Pacific Partnership 2010 is the fifth in a series of annual U.S. Pacific Fleet humanitarian and civic assistance endeavors aimed at strengthening regional partnerships and increasing navy-to-navy contact with host and partner nations, U.S. interagency groups, and international humanitarian and relief organizations.

Pacific Partnership 2010 brings together military medical and engineering professionals from Australia, Canada, France, Japan, and Britain, according to U.S. Embassy officials.


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60,000 protest against Cambodia land grab

The United Nations' human rights office in Cambodia has condemned a government ruling that banned a peaceful march by people at risk of losing their land.

Early on Tuesday, dozens of armed riot police blocked several hundred representatives from delivering a petition to the home of the Cambodian Prime Minister, Hun Sen.

Sixty thousand villagers whose land is under threat across the country signed the petition, which calls on Hun Sen to help them.

Instead, the villagers were forced to hand over the petition to officials from Hun Sen's cabinet at a nearby park.

Land-grabbing is arguably Cambodia's most pressing problem, but a weak judiciary has proven no match for powerful interests behind the scourge.

The municipality banned the planned march late on Monday, but did not give a reason for doing so.

The United Nations' local human rights office described the ban as "regrettable", adding that it was given without reason or justification - and therefore contrary to the new law regulating demonstrations.
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Monday, June 14, 2010

CAMBODIA: Strike threats loom while pay talks stall

By Leonie Barrie


The threat of a strike by garment workers in Cambodia appears to have abated while talks on a rise in the minimum wage get underway between manufacturers, unions and local government officials.

Union representatives said in late May that they would launch a strike this month after becoming frustrated at a lack of progress on the pay talks.

They had agreed at a meeting of the Labour Advisory Committee in February to form a working group to conduct pay negotiations, with a view to implementing changes by the end of this year - but it seems a specific date to begin the discussion has still not been set.

Indeed, Ken Loo, secretary general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC), confirmed to just-style the industry group is still "waiting for the government to organise such meetings and negotiations."

Unions are keen to see the monthly minimum wage for Cambodian garment workers lifted from its current level of US$50 to between $70 and $93 per month to cover basic living costs such as food, housing and travel expenses.

If agreed, this would be the first wage increase in around two years.

"GMAC received a letter from [the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia (FTUWKC)] in late May," Ken Loo said "informing us of the intention to conduct this strike as well as indicating their request for a revision of the minimum wage.

"Our government responded on 5 June that there are procedures that have been put in place and committees that have been formed to look into this issue, and have requested that the union in question submit their request to the respective committee."

He added: "GMAC's position is that we would follow the instructions of the government and wait for them to organise such meetings and negotiations."

The International Labour Organization (ILO) also notes that while "a basic framework for these [new minimum wage] negotiations has been agreed, important details of the process remain outstanding."

While it waits for government action, GMAC is holding a meeting on the minimum wage and draft trade union law on Thursday (17 June) to discuss the issues with factory owner, directors and managers.

Despite being hit hard by the global downturn, Cambodia's garment sector has seen exports rebound this year, with exports up 7.2% in the first quarter.

Crucially there has been a strong recovery in exports to all of its major markets, with shipments to the US up by 4.1% and to the European Union up by 7.3%.
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Moya Dayen wins US$13.4m contract for water project in Cambodia

By Jonathan Peeris


SINGAPORE : Catalist-listed environmental engineering firm Moya Dayen has clinched a US$$13.4 million contract from the Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority in Cambodia.

The contract is for the supply, delivery and construction of an intake tower around 25 metres high located in the Mekong River.

It also covers the construction of a raw water pumping station with a capacity 135 million litres per day and a raw water transmission main connecting the station to the water treatment plant site, as well as other ancillary works.

The contract is scheduled to start this month and is expected to take 30 months to complete.

This is the second contract that Moya Dayen has clinched with the Cambodian authority since 2006.

The contract is not expected to have a material impact on the firm's earnings for the financial year ending in September. - CNA /ls
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Sunday, June 13, 2010

China’s Workers Strike Back

As a wave of strikes at Honda and protests over worker suicides at Foxconn led the firms—two of China’s major foreign manufacturers—to offer workers significant pay raises, China watchers are wondering whether the country is facing the end of cheap labor. After a string of suicides among employees at Foxconn’s plant in Shenzhen, where the starting wage was a paltry $130 per month, the company effectively offered to double many workers’ salaries. Simultaneously, 1,900 workers at Honda’s transmission plant in nearby Foshan staged a two-week walkout to demand better pay from a firm that recently announced record sales in China. Workers at two other Honda plants followed suit, halting production again.

The Honda strike was “a watershed,” says Ian Crawford, executive director of the British Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai, since it marked “the first time a big international company [in China] has had a formal mass withdrawal of labor over wages, with at least tacit union acceptance.” The incidents suggest that China’s migrant workers are increasingly unwilling to accept bottom-of-the-barrel wages or the -military-style discipline of factories like Foxconn’s. “Workers today are more aware of their rights—they can go online, they get information about what happens abroad,” says Liu Kaiming, a migrant-worker expert at Shenzhen’s Institute of Contemporary Observation.

China’s one-child policy—which has reduced the supply of able-bodied youth—also puts migrant workers in a stronger position, says Liu. In fact, Shenzhen now faces a labor shortage, as workers move to Shanghai and other cities where the minimum wage is higher. A new law on labor-dispute resolution, introduced two years ago, has also enhanced workers’ confidence by giving them easier access to legal redress.

A more assertive migrant workforce is putting pressure on trade unions, too. Traditionally, the unions have represented government interests, which have often coincided with those of big business. But when the Foxconn crisis erupted, the All-China Federation of Trade Unions quickly appealed to private employers for higher wages and better treatment for workers across the country. Unions still see themselves as a bridge between workers and management, says Crawford, but they are now more likely to demand pay raises if they think workers are being treated unfairly. A recent Peking University survey found that unionized companies usually offer higher wages, better pensions, and slightly shorter working hours.

The risk for China is that companies, especially those on narrow margins, may consider relocating to Cambodia or Indonesia, where wages are lower and the workers potentially more pliable. Those which do remain—and Western consumers, too—may have to get used to a rise in what economists call “the China price.”
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30 years after Khmer Rouge, killing fields, Cambodia grows new generation of art conservators

The Khmer Rouge caused the deaths – by killing, starvation, and disease – of an estimated 2 million Cambodians, including an entire generation of art conservators. With the killing fields in the history books, skilled professionals are now reemerging.

Metals conservationist Huot Samnang at the National Museum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. He is a new generation of arts conservators and educated professionals rising from the ashes of Khmer Rouge, who,in the Killing fields of the 1970s, killed most of the country's intellectuals and educated elite because they considered a threat to the Maoist regime

In a side wing of Phnom Penh’s National Museum, Noeun Von is slowly bringing a piece of his culture back to life.

He casts a cloth over a bronze Buddha, removing the dust that has settled on the figure. When this piece was first unearthed, the figure’s head had been detached from its body. But now the piece has been meticulously repaired, allowing the intricate details on the centuries-old bronze to be revealed.

Mr. Von’s handiwork, and that of his colleagues in the five-year-old metals conservation laboratory, will be on display this year in the United States as part of “Gods of Angkor,” a major exhibition of the work of Khmer bronze casters hosted by the Smithsonian Institution.

More than a presentation of Cambodia’s precious art, however, the exhibition will also shine a spotlight on the skilled professionals working to preserve this country’s culture.

An entire generation of conservators was lost in the killing fields during the brutal Khmer Rouge regime. After the Khmer Rouge was ousted from power in 1979, preservation of invaluable Khmer artifacts was left largely to the foreign conservators who ventured into the country. Slowly, however, that has changed.

Through a training partnership with the Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler galleries, a new crop of young museum professionals has risen to replace the lost generation.

“We can run the lab and do the conservation by ourselves,” says Huot Samnang, who heads the laboratory. “Step by step, we’re becoming self-sufficient.”

The “Gods of Angkor” will display some of the first pieces preserved entirely by the laboratory – a series of seven bronze Buddhist images. It is of no small significance in a country where cultural identity is intertwined with its rich Angkorian heritage.

“We feel proud of this exhibition,” Mr. Samnang says. “We can let the world know about our culture and the craftsmen that produced this incredible art.”

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Saturday, June 12, 2010

The ICC And The Use Of Force

Uganda President Yoweri Museveni, centre, receives former UN Secretary Kofi Anan, right, and Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete, left, during the opening of the Review Conference of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), in Kampala, Uganda, 31 May 2010

The court's founding in 2002 was a key development in international law, creating a permanent forum to bring to justice those responsible for crimes of staggering scale.
Diplomats from around the world are meeting in Kampala, Uganda, to review the workings of the International Criminal Court and possibly expand its authority. The court's founding in 2002 was a key development in international law, creating a permanent forum to bring to justice those responsible for crimes of staggering scale and providing recognition and relief to their victims. With 111 member-nation signatories, its mandate is no less than to protect future generations from the savageries of genocide and other crimes against humanity that have ravaged generations past and present.

In reviewing the court's operations, delegates and observers at the Kampala conference are discussing how effective the ICC and the broader system of international justice have been and what might be done to improve their effectiveness. They are also considering amending the ICC's founding document, the Rome Statute. One amendment would define the crime of aggression, which the statute gives it power to prosecute, but does not delineate. The aggression issue has divided delegates wary of expanding the ICC'S mandate at a crucial time in its development, when it has yet to complete a trial in the cases already before it.

The United States joins in this sense of caution, and has warned that pushing ahead without consensus could entangle the court in political disputes and jeopardize its ability to carry out its already challenging mission.

While the United States isn't a party to the ICC, it has an abiding interest in its work and success. The U.S. fight against genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes is reflected in its support for the work of the tribunals for Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Cambodia, among others. The end of impunity and the promotion of justice are stabilizing forces in international affairs.
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Portland teen raises money for Cambodian school

CAROLINA HIDALGO
The Associated Press

(AP) — PORTLAND, Ore. - On a tidy shelf in a bright turquoise bedroom in Southwest Portland sits a framed certificate from the Cambodian Ministry of Education. It is written in Khmer, the official language of the Southeast Asian nation, except for a name: Christina Schmidt.

The document, essentially a fancy thank-you note, was presented to the 15-year-old last winter in a tiny village about a day's drive northwest of Phnom Penh after she helped raise more than $16,000 to build a secondary school in the impoverished country.

"I feel like it's part of my duty to give back and to help others who aren't as lucky as I've been," Schmidt said

Now, as she wraps up her freshman year at Lincoln High School, the teen with a passion for nonprofit work and a knack for raising money is preparing for her next project: a family Habitat for Humanity trip to Guatemala. She and her 13-year-old brother, Andrew, have raised $2,000 to put toward construction supplies. They will donate their time to build a house with the family that will live in it.

Schmidt, sitting at her dining room table, traces her interest in humanitarian work to a 2007 family vacation to Vietnam and Laos that introduced her to life in developing countries.

She got involved with Cambodia a few months later while considering what do the next year for her eighth-grade project, required of students at Arbor School of Arts & Sciences, the private school she attended in Tualatin.

An e-mail from her dad held the answer. It contained a news article about a girl who raised thousands of dollars for American Assistance for Cambodia, a nonprofit that builds schools. As soon as she read it, she rushed downstairs to her dad's home office.

"This is what I want to do," she told him. "I want to do this."

Her excitement surprised her father, David Schmidt, a pulmonary specialist at Kaiser Sunnyside Medical Center.

"I didn't intend for her to do that exact project," he said. "But she grabbed onto it kind of like grabbing a bull by the horns."

Before jumping in, Christina Schmidt tracked down and pored over American Assistance for Cambodia's tax records. "They use every single cent that they get so well," she said.

She also learned that if she could raise $13,000, it would be matched with $20,000 from the World Bank and Asian Development Bank-enough to build a school.

Next, Schmidt had to track down a professional to work with, a requirement of her school. She found a mentor in Kim Freed, former managing director of the Oregon Zoo Foundation, who had years of fundraising experience.

Freed said she was nervous when she heard that Schmidt planned to raise $13,000 in nine months.

"But I could tell by her determination and her energy that she was going to see it happen," Freed said. "I was very much inspired by her."

Bernie Krisher, former Newsweek Tokyo bureau chief and founder of American Assistance for Cambodia, said schoolchildren often work together to raise money to build schools, but only a very few can accomplish the goal on their own.

"They are very compassionate," Krisher, who has corresponded with Schmidt by e-mail, said of children who devote time and money to advancing education around the world. "They're going to contribute a great deal and learn a lot and probably succeed in life."

Schmidt kicked of a 300-letter fundraising campaing and secured small grants from two foundations. Then during her 2008 winter break, her family traveled to Cambodia on vacation, and Schmidt got the chance to visit an American Assistance school.

Interacting with the students brought her project to a "whole other level," she said. She keeps a gift from them, a frosted blue binder filled with colorful drawings, next to the certificate on her bedroom shelf.

Her favorite drawing, of a yellow and red sun overlooking a field of purple flowers, came with a message: "Hello! My name is Kunthea." She was touched that he made an effort to write in English. "I just thought that was so sweet."

Schmidt and her father returned to Cambodia a year later to attend a dedication ceremony for the school she helped pay for: The Arbor School of Hope. The 80 students lined up in their crisp white shirts and navy slacks and skirts to greet her. They giggled when she said hello in their language: "Johm ree-uhp soo-uh!"

In the end, she raised $16,235.14. Now she's working to use the extra money to secure a water filter and textbooks for the three-room, shingle-roofed school. She has also become interested in water scarcity issues, recently participating in Portland's Walk for Water and helping with awareness days through her high school's Mercy Corps club.

"Christina's always been pretty confident," said her mother, Jennifer Schmidt, who's taking the year off from teaching. "But ever since the project, she seems much older and more mature."

Christina Schmidt is grateful for the outpouring of support she received. She keeps a zip-close bag filled with letters from donors in a cabinet below the certificate of thanks.

"They're just really important to me," she said of the letters. "Because the school wasn't really built by me. It was all the people who gave the money who really deserve the recognition, because without them, it wouldn't have happened."
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Int'l organizations help digging wells for Cambodian farmers

Cambodian government in cooperation with development partners have been digging about 1, 000 water wells for Cambodian farmers in rural areas, a government official said here Saturday.

Mao Saray, director of rural water supply department of Ministry of Rural Development, said Saturday that the Asian Development Bank, United Nations Children Fund and International Monetary Fund are the major development partners that have engaged in the project.

He said the government allocated 2,000 million riel (about 500, 000 U.S. dollars) for water well projects.

Irrigation network and clean water supply are still inadequate in Cambodia, and thus many Cambodian villagers dig their own water wells to get water for their daily consumption.

Mao Saray said the digging of water wells for rural farmers are conducted throughout the 24 provinces and city -- with the aim of helping the people access to water.

However, he said, of the 24 provinces and city, there are seven provinces and cities that the underground water contains acetic which is harmful to human skins and health.

He said the seven provinces and city are Phnom Penh, Kandal, Kampong Thom, Kompong Chhnang, Kratie and Prey Veng.

And in order to get rid of their health risk by the use of water wells in those locations, health experts help them use proper filters.

Of the country's 14 million population, about 80 percent are farmers.

Source: Xinhua
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Friday, June 11, 2010

Sudbury Contingent celebrates of Lincoln-Sudbury memorial school in Cambodia

By Mira Vale/Special to the Town Crier
GateHouse News Service


SUDBURY — On Tuesday, May 11, I handed in my statistics final exam and headed back to Lincoln, a joyous return home after what was by all accounts a wonderful first year of college. The next afternoon, I set off to visit Lincoln-Sudbury. This little jaunt was not to drop by my former high school. Rather, the journey on which I embarked was to attend the opening ceremony for the Lincoln-Sudbury Memorial School, a sister school to our own L-S in the Thmar Kaul district of Battambang, Cambodia.

Over the past twenty months, students and community members involved with the Lincoln-Sudbury Memorial School Project have worked to raise funds to build and maintain a sister school in memory and honor of the students and graduates of L-S who died before their time. Working alongside American Assistance for Cambodia (AAfC), a prominent nonprofit that has constructed over 500 schools in rural Cambodia since 1999, we passed our initial fundraising goal of $13,000 last June, about the same time as the L-S Memorial School finished construction. The school building, which boasts five classrooms furnished with desks, benches, chalkboards, school supplies, and English-speaking teachers, opened for its 300 high school-aged students on October 1, 2009. This trip, which sent what I hope will be the first of many contingents from Sudbury’s L-S, was intended to celebrate our partner school’s existence and to begin to establish relationships between our school communities.

So twenty-one long and altitudinous hours after leaving Lincoln’s luscious and temperate verdure, I touched down in Phnom Penh, the nation’s capital. I stepped off the plane into heat more penetrating than I can describe and met up with Peng Ty, the AAfC representative assigned to take us around. I also met up with L-S legend Bill Schechter, much-beloved history and journalism teacher of several decades, and David Barron, a professional photographer, Sudbury resident and L-S alum from 1978.

After a day in Phnom Penh spent catching our breath and touring the most important sites, museums, and genocide memorials, we drove up to Battambang on National Highway 5, Cambodia’s main roadway. A single-lane, startlingly straight thoroughfare, the highway took us by countless villages and rice fields.

The next morning was the opening school ceremony. Something of a misnomer, given that school has been in session for seven months, the students were nonetheless thrilled to see us as we pulled up to the school complex. The ceremony was so colorful and joyous. Bill and I both delivered speeches, as did the school principal, the provincial minister of education and sport, and the district governor. We were blessed by Buddhist monks, listened to the Khmer national anthem sung in unison, and cut a ceremonial ribbon in front of the school’s main entrance.

As the students filed into their classrooms, our L-S contingent went through each room, handing out school supplies and pointing out Massachusetts and Cambodia on the first world map these children had ever seen. All the kids wanted to take pictures with us, and though I think my smile broke from the photo ops, I appreciated the chance to meet students and ask them about their lives.

We returned the next morning to talk more, and I was supremely relieved to be able to walk into classrooms without receiving a standing ovation and enthusiastic applause. I spent most of my time with Nary, a cheerful twelfth-grader who plans to attend university in the fall. Clearly at the top of her class, Nary relished the chance to practice her English, which is her favorite school subject among Khmer, math, biology, chemistry, and physics. The Cambodians I met were not especially physically affectionate, but Nary gave me a big hug when we had to part ways.

I returned home several days later, mind swimming with ideas, hopes, and plans for our two Lincoln-Sudburys. Amidst effusive thank-yous in his speech, the school principal noted that the Memorial School could use another two computers; the solar panel that powers the one we currently have installed can support up to three, and having only one computer for three hundred students is a ratio that borders on absurdity. One of my hopes for this project is to continue raising money to support and improve our sister school.

In my own speech, I focused on the three goals I have for this project. The first goal, to positively direct the grief of my own community so as to heal from our losses, is one that is ongoing and can never be fully achieved. The countless letters and emails I have received to date give me hope that this project is helping that process of healing.

My second goal is to help another school community by enhancing opportunities for education. From talking with students and hearing how appreciative they are to learn in this building, I am confident that we have and can continue to assist our friends at the school in Thmar Kaul.

My third goal is to establish a lasting, sustainable connection between our two school communities, relationships that afford everyone an opportunity to learn from each other across thousands of miles. I hope students from Lincoln and Sudbury will email with students from Thmar Kaul, and I hope L-S will send groups to visit and volunteer at our sister school in years to come.

Cambodia has been through times of unspeakable hell, tragedy beyond what we can comprehend. Some of this suffering came at the hands of the United States, which dropped more tons of bombs on Cambodia during the Vietnam War era than it did on Japan in the Second World War. Lincoln-Sudbury has also seen its share of sadness, though I will not pretend our suffering lies on a comparable scale. Our communities stand to learn so much from each other. It is my sincere hope that L-S in Cambodia will become a proud and sustained point of contact, and that L-S in Sudbury will develop involvement in Cambodia as a continuing part of its curriculum and its legacy.

Mira Vale, a student at Yale University, came up with the idea of starting a school in Cambodia and led many fundraising efforts while a student at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High.
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Gentle survivors leave indelible impressions

WEEKS after returning from Cambodia, I still dream each night I'm sleeping on a boat that drifts aimlessly across the Tonle Sap.

Beside me are the landless people who tether their vessels to the shifting edges of this vast freshwater lake, the largest of its kind in Southeast Asia.

I wake confused, certain I will find a sleepy family squatting before the fire, stirring the morning soup, readying themselves for a new day on this body of water that is more welcoming for them than solid ground. So immersed have I been on my journey into this country that even in my sleep I am visited by its gentle souls.

It's a journey that begins in relative luxury: guests at Phnom Penh's Golden Gate Hotel, my fellow travellers and I sip cocktails at the Foreign Correspondents Club, straining for a view of the Mekong River. We have sealed ourselves off momentarily from the deprivation of this city, lingering over our cranberry mojitos and Singapore slings as motos rush by like fireworks on the street below.

But we haven't come to Cambodia to gawk from a distance at the flotsam washed up from decades of civil war and the unspeakable brutality of Pol Pot's regime. Under the guidance of the SeeBeyondBorders foundation, we will seek out the beauty of this place, build connections, target development initiatives and channel support to marginalised communities. In short, we will try to make a difference.

During several days, we are introduced to the complex Cambodian narrative: at Phnom Penh University, where we pair up with students desperate for English conversation, and at Pol Pot's Tuol Sleng prison, redolent still with incomprehensible evil. There's the non-government organisation-funded school at which we apply termite control and play shriek-inducing games with village children and the Khmer Rouge killing field transformed by Jesuit Services Cambodia into a vocational training centre for the disabled. The wares of the Mekong Wheelchair Shop are custom-designed for the country's robust roads and rice fields. The wheelchairs are as utilitarian as bicycles in a country still paved with five million landmines.

Thus initiated, we buy fish-stuffed baguettes for breakfast and board an early-morning bus to Battambang. Provincial Cambodia opens up like a storybook: ox-wagons heaving beneath clay vessels, a new highway arching optimistically above the morning bustle, the curiously titled Ministry of Cults and Religions building tucked into a side street. We stretch our legs at a roadside market where a Cambodian expat now living in the US offers me a bite of her whole fried chicken. I settle for a bag of dried jackfruit instead.

We are staying at the Arrupe Welcome Centre, run by Spanish Jesuit Kike Figaredo and a cohort of young volunteers; here, farmers rake mounds of rice set out in the sun to dry and wheelchair-bound youngsters zip about, shaping for themselves a destiny never imagined under Pol Pot.

SeeBeyondBorders has organised a three-day intensive maths workshop for 70 village teachers, many of whom are barely out of school themselves; they register bright and early on the first day, hungry for knowledge. The five Australian teachers in our group unfurl Khmer number charts and unpack wooden blocks, practising their counting. "Muoy, bir, bei," they chant.

The rest of us spend two days with Dhammayietra Mongkol Borei, a local health and development NGO. Our job is to construct salas, meeting places for elderly Cambodians. Dhammayietra founder Arlys Herem, an American nurse who came to Southeast Asia to work with refugees in 1983, says old people, always well respected in Cambodian society, are central to the country's social reconstruction. "There's [also] great potential for them to monitor what's happening to orphans and vulnerable children in the village," she explains.

Forming a chain gang with the villagers, we haul stones, pass buckets, lay bricks and concrete, and eat communal meals. Alex, a young Sydney-based Canadian, converses with the man beside her, she in English, he in Khmer. "We somehow understood one another," she says later.

As we're about to farewell the villagers, they present us with bowls of milky, purple brew and watch us expectantly. "You really should try some," SeeBeyondBorders founder Ed Shuttleworth whispers, noticing our hesitation. And so we tuck in, for if we don't at the very least accept our hosts' generous hospitality, what would be the deeper purpose of our visit? The dish, as it turns out, tastes much like a pudding my grandmother might have served.

Made with "chicken blood" potatoes, coconut milk, sugar and sticky rice, it's a parting gift as sweet and warm as the people who deliver it.

We travel by van to Siem Reap and settle in at the Reflection Centre, run by Denise Coghlan, Australian-born director of Jesuit Refugee Service Cambodia and member of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines that won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997. The centre has a peacefulness that even the traditional sleeping mats and bucket baths can't dislodge. Indeed, these authentic surrounds only deepen the impression of our daily encounters.

We join a group of women who run a village nutrition program and set to work hacking the rinds off pumpkins, cooking soup in a blistering lean-to kitchen, dishing it out to rows of hungry, bright-eyed children.

When we gather each evening to reflect on our days, I feel increasingly impotent in the face of such overwhelming hardship.

While the teachers run another round of oversubscribed workshops, Adam, a landscape architect from Sydney, works on a gardening project with refugees from Sudan and Iraq, and the rest of us prepare parcels for destitute families living on the Tonle Sap. We visit disabled villagers with their wide smiles and agonising stories: in one home the grandmother has lost her legs, the father his arms and eyes. He has gone for a walk, his wife tells us; he feels his way with his feet.

The lake is wild and inaccessible the morning we are to deliver the parcels, but the day after, as we squeeze in some last-minute sightseeing, we get a call from the priest who runs the outreach program: the wind has subsided, he's off to the lake, would we like to join him? Angkor Wat or the people of the Tonle Sap? There's no contest.

The floating villages bob about in their soupy waters, wooden vessels flanked by waterborne pens in which livestock and vegetables flourish. "You must hand over the rice with two hands," Ratana Som, our translator, instructs us. "You must also sit because it makes you equal."

I clamber awkwardly aboard a boat, settling into an incense-scented space occupied by a woman, her daughters and grandchildren. The ceiling is pasted with bright pink lace and images of the saints; a cat slinks casually by, a baby slumbers in a hammock. I hand the package to the grandmother, sceptical of the long-term effect of this gesture.

Perhaps she has sensed my despondency for as I leave she hugs me tightly and reassuringly, as a mother would.

And in that moment I have an unexpected, liberating epiphany: my world has expanded while I wasn't looking, stretching its boundaries to envelop Cambodia and its people, transforming the hungry, damaged faces on the evening news into the warm, flesh-and-blood people sitting before me. Leaving my shoes at the door, I have allowed a whole new consciousness to stream through me. I haven't saved the world, but I've taken an important first step.

We offload our remaining cargo against the backdrop of a lavishly setting sun, then float back towards Siem Reap and our own privileged lives.

Tucked into my metaphorical pocket are the mementos I wouldn't have found for love or money at Cambodia's markets and souvenir shops: the indelible stories of the people I've met along the way, and the profound cross-cultural acceptance that came with that motherly hug on the Tonle Sap.

Catherine Marshall was a guest of SeeBeyondBorders.

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The SeeBeyondBorders mandate is to empower communities living in developing countries by supporting specific partners and projects.More: www.seebeyondborders.org.

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Endangered crocodiles hatched in Cambodia

By Ouk Navouth And Jerry Harmer
Associated Press

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Conservationists in Cambodia are celebrating the hatching of a clutch of eggs from one of the world's most critically endangered animals.

Thirteen baby Siamese crocodiles crawled out of their shells over the weekend in a remote part of the Cardamom Mountains in southwestern Cambodia, following a weekslong vigil by researchers who found them in the jungle.

Experts believe as few as 250 Siamese crocodiles are left in the wild, almost all of them in Cambodia but with a few spread between Laos, Myanmar, Indonesia, Vietnam and possibly Thailand.

The operation to protect and hatch the eggs was mounted by United Kingdom-based Fauna and Flora International, for whom conservation of this once-abundant species is a key program.

"Every nest counts," program manager Adam Starr told Associated Press Television News. "To be able to find a nest is a very big success story, to be able to hatch eggs properly is an even bigger success story."

The nest, with 22 eggs inside, was discovered in the isolated Areng Valley. Fauna and Flora International volunteers removed 15 of them to a safe site and incubated them in a compost heap to replicate the original nest. They left seven behind because they appeared to be unfertilized.

A round-the-clock guard was mounted to keep away predators like monitor lizards. Last weekend the crocodiles began calling from inside the shells, a sure sign they were about to hatch.
Within hours 10 emerged — and a further surprise was in store. Three of the eggs left behind at the original nest also hatched. A field coordinator, Sam Han, discovered the squawking baby crocodiles when he went to recover a camera-trap from the site.

"When I first saw the baby crocodiles they stayed and swam together near the near site. They were looking for their mother," he said. He snapped a few photos of the hatchlings, their noses poking out of the water.

To cap the success, the camera-trap yielded two infrared shots of the mother crocodile returning to the nest.

The reptiles are now being kept in a water-filled pen in a local village in the jungle-covered mountain range. The indigenous Chouerng people who live there revere crocodiles as forest spirits and consider it taboo to harm them. It's likely they'll be looked after for a year before being released into the wild.

But the euphoria is tempered by hard-edged reality. This part of the Areng Valley has been earmarked for a major hydropower project. The conservation group is looking for other areas of similar habitat to release the juveniles when the time comes.

"To put these crocodiles back into the Areng Valley could spell certain doom for them," Starr said.

The Siamese crocodile has suffered a massive decline over the last century, because of a high demand for its soft skin. Commercial breeders also brought them to stock farms where they crossed them with larger types of crocodile, producing hybrids which further reduced numbers of the pure Siamese.

In 1992 it was declared "effectively extinct in the wild" before being rediscovered in the remote Cardamoms in Cambodia eight years later.

Siamese crocodiles take 15 years to reach sexual maturity, complicating efforts to revive the population. Only a handful of the 13 new crocs are likely to survive long enough to make a long-term impact on numbers.
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Cambodia announces plan to conserve land a long shores of Tonle Sap lake

PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA — Cambodia announced plans Thursday to conserve forested shore areas around Tonle Sap, Southeast Asia's largest freshwater lake.

Sam Nov, a deputy director of the country's Fisheries Administration, said that some 1.6 million acres (640,000 hectares) of forest land that floods during rainy season with be declared off-limits for development, including encroachment by farmers planting rice.

The lake covers about 618,000 acres (250,000 hectares) during the dry season and expands to about 3 million acres (1.25 million hectares) during the rainy season. It is the habitat for more than 200 species of fish, 42 types of reptiles, 225 species of birds and 46 kinds of mammals.

"The flooded forests are very vital shelters for several species ... and their offspring," Sam Nov said. "We urgently need to conserve this forest. If not we will lose it forever."

Several areas of flooded forest and wetlands have already been cleared by farmers and agribusiness companies in recent years to convert the land for dry season farming, he said.

Officials from the six provinces that surround the lake, located about 120 miles (200 kilometers) northwest of the capital Phnom Penh, will soon begin informing villagers of the ban on destroying the forest areas, said Sam Nov.
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