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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Cambodian PM to make second trip to Cambodia-Thai border area this week

Aiming to inspect border development and military capacity, Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen said Wednesday that he will make his second trip to the country's northwestern border later this week.

Delivering speech at graduation ceremony at Royal University of Phnom Penh, Hun Sen said he will make his second trip to military region 5 on Feb. 27 to inspect the border development, infrastructure and military capacity presence there.

He said the visit is a routine one to be made by a leader of a country and that it has nothing to hide with military challenge with neighboring country.

Hun Sen said prior and during his first visit to border area in the country's northern provinces of Preah Vihear and Uddor Meanchey, there were some comments made by leaders of the neighboring country.

This time, Hun Sen said he will not make any statement concerning the neighboring country as long as no comment to be made prior to his visit there.

Hun Sen spent for almost a week earlier this month visiting several military spots and bases as well as other development infrastructure along Cambodia-Thai border near Preah Vihear Temple.

His presence at the border area had drawn much attention from Bangkok administration on the motive behind his trip there.

Since July 2008, Cambodia and Thai armed forces have exchanged a few rounds of armed conflicts as a result of border dispute near the Cambodia's ancient temple of Preah Vihear.

Source: Xinhua
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Hun Sen to bar Sam Rainsy from running in next general election+

PHNOM PENH, Feb. 24 (AP) - (Kyodo)—Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said Wednesday that opposition leader Sam Rainsy will not be allowed to run in the 2013 general election, calling him a traitor on border issues.

Speaking to graduate students in Phnom Penh, Hun Sen said while Cambodia is in conflict with Thailand over a border dispute, Sam Rainsy has diverted the nation's attention to a border issue with Vietnam.

Hun Sen said Sam Rainsy's action would split the country's armed forces and cannot be "tolerated."

Sam Rainsy, leader of his self-named party, was sentenced Jan. 27 in absentia to two years in prison for having led villagers to uproot border markers on the Cambodia-Vietnam border in October last year.

Sam Rainsy, who lives in exile in France, has defended his action which he said was carried out after villagers showed him wooden poles that had been planted in their rice fields by Vietnamese authorities and "complacent" Cambodian counterparts.

He said the poles were planted 200-300 meters inside Cambodian territory and the villagers uprooted them "to symbolically show their refusal to give up ancestral rice fields they had been cultivating since 1979 and to be deprived of their livelihoods."

The Cambodian and the Vietnamese governments have rejected Sam Rainsy's accusation as groundless.

On Monday, the government warned it would take legal action against Sam Rainsy, accusing him of distributing false border maps.

Cambodia holds a general election every five years, and the next election will be held in 2013.

Hun Sen said the opposition party will not be barred from running in the next election, but not Sam Rainsy, warning that he will be put in jail if he returns to the country.

In the 2008 election, Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party won 90 seats in the 123-member parliament, followed by the Sam Rainsy Party with 26 seats, with the rest taken by three minor parties.

Hun Sen, who has ruled the country since 1985, is often criticized by opposition parties and both local and international human rights groups for having used his power to suppress and silence the opposition.


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Cambodia to conduct multiple rocket launcher tests

Phnom Penh, Cambodia's priminister Hun Sen on Wednesday said that Cambodia will conduct a multiple rocket launching test next week.

Speaking at a graduating ceremony for graduate students, Hun Sen called the move a routine military drill and said it is not intended to show Cambodia's military muscle to any country.

Cambodia has been locked in a territorial dispute with Thailand since 2008 and there have been sporadic military clashes between the two countries at the border area near Cambodia's Preah Vihear Temple.

Hun Sen said the rocket tests will take place March 4 in Kompong Chhnang Province, about 100 kilometers north of Phnom Penh.

About 200 rounds of the BM-21 multiple rocket launcher will be fired to test the military's capabilities as well as the quality of the Russian-made rocket-launching system, he said.

The 122-mm rockets have a range of 40 kilometers. Hun Sen said one round of the BM-21 costs between $1,200 and $3,800.

Earlier this month, Hun Sen toured the Cambodia-Thai border area and visited military units. The trip and the heavy weapons displayed during his visit were broadcast on many television channels in Cambodia.
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Bammer: Listening to Cambodia: Electric, acoustic

By Richard Bammer


Awaking once recent morning, I turned on National Public Radio's "Morning Edition" and heard the music of Dengue Fever for the first time.

During an interview with host Scott Simon, band members played a couple of tunes from their latest album, a compilation of Cambodian rock 'n' roll songs from the late 1970s.

I have to admit I was struck by the music's earnestness, which came through despite my missing the literal message, because I do not understand or speak Khmer, the native language of Cambodia.

But, after all, music is a universal language. On some level, I felt its vibrations, its essence and understood some vague notion of the Cambodian people. For it is true, if you want to understand a people and their culture, listen to their music.

At the same time, I was struck by this fact: The Cambodian pop music Dengue Fever chose to collect was recorded during a particularly horrific time in Cambodian history: the brutal regime of Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot.

The Los Angeles-based band, led by Cambodian songstress Chhom Nimol, backed by a quintet front by Zac Holtzman on guitar and vocals, has been part of modern American culture for a few years now. I recall reading reviews of their performances in the New York Times. Their music has been featured in a number of films and TV shows, including "Must Love Dogs," "Broken Flowers" and twice on Showtime's hit series "Weeds." The band has released several albums, among them, "Venus on Earth," and the DVD "Sleepwalking Through the Mekong," a documentary.

Listening to the NPR interview reminded me that, like music everywhere, Cambodian music has a way of surviving the worst in the world: homicidal dictators, wars, famines and floods.

Besides "Electric Cambodia," two cases in point: "The Music of Cambodia: 9 Gong Gamelan, Volume 1" and "Traditional Khmer Music," albums I bought last month in and near the ancient ruins of Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and Prasat Ta Prum.

I saw and heard the ensemble featured on the latter album, a group of eight to 10 musicians, all of them victims of land mines. I was moved by their resolve to try to make a living despite their disabilities incurred by the leftovers of 20th-century war. I could only imagine how a walk through the jungle one day altered their lives forever in the fiery flash of one terrible moment.

To some Westerner's ears, the high, minor-key sound of four-string Asian violin, gongs, cymbals and hand drums may not be appealing. Yet is easy to hear and feel the joy of the musicians, who played traditional wedding music such as "Houmrong" and "Anteack Prat."

Produced by David Parsons, "The Music of Cambodia" is the first recording made inside Angkor Wat, the world's largest religious monument, which, over time, has been a Hindu and Buddhist temple.

The musicians, including the Pinpeat Orchestra, a local version of the Khmer Empire's royal court music from the ninth to the 15th centuries, used wood and metal percussion instruments and Asian versions of the oboe, fiddle and flute.

Like the ancient ruins they played in, it is testimony of music's ability to survive the vicissitudes of time and turmoil.

Reach Reporter staff writer Richard Bammer at RBammer@TheReporter.com or telephone (707) 453-8164.
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Brenda Hollis Named Special Court Prosecutor

The Secretary-General of the United Nations has named Brenda Joyce Hollis of the United States as Prosecutor of the Special Court. Since 2007, Ms. Hollis has been a Principal Trial Attorney in the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP), where she is responsible for leading the legal team prosecuting former Liberian President Charles Taylor.

From 2001 to 2007, Brenda Hollis was an Expert Legal Consultant on international law and criminal procedure.

During this period she trained judges, prosecutors and investigators at courts and international tribunals in Indonesia, Iraq and Cambodia. She also assisted victims of international crimes in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in Colombia to prepare submissions requesting investigations by the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

. In 2002 and 2003, and again in 2006, Ms. Hollis served as a consultant to the OTP, where she assisted in evidence-gathering missions and provided legal and tactical advice.Ms. Hollis was Senior Trial Attorney at the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia (ICTY) from 1994 to 2001, where she served as lead counsel in a number of historic prosecutions. She led case in which rape was charged as torture, and was lead counsel in the preparation of the case against former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic until her departure from the ICTY in 2001.

Brenda Hollis paid tribute to Deputy Prosecutor Joseph Kamara, who has served as Acting Prosecutor since the departure of Stephen Rapp last September. “I look forward to working closely in partnership with Deputy Prosecutor Joseph Kamara, for whom I have the greatest personal and professional respect,” she said.
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Empowerment of women urged

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists shed light on sale, abuse of females in other parts of world

By PAUL GRONDAHL, Staff writer


TROY-- Nicholas Kristof is surely the only journalist on the planet who submitted this on a newspaper expense form: Purchase of two girl sex slaves in Cambodia, $350.

He dutifully got receipts for his $150 and $200 purchases -- which bought the teenagers' freedom from a Phnom Penh brothel -- and the New York Times reimbursed its op-ed columnist.

"I knew I had a great front-page story, but I was leaving these girls behind and that felt very exploitative," Kristof said of his scheme to buy the girls. He first ran it past a Times lawyer, who did not deny the request since there was no formal policy covering such.

Kristof and his wife and co-author, Sheryl WuDunn, spoke Tuesday to the students of Emma Willard School, a private school for girls in Troy, about the couple's non-traditional, award-winning journalism. Their work has illuminated the oppression of girls and women in the developing world while advocating for gender equality in education and employment opportunities.

WuDunn called bridging the gender divide "the central moral challenge of the 21st century."

Backed by color images projected on a huge screen above the stage of EMPAC on the Rensselaer Polytechnic campus, the couple told simple human stories about girls they had met and interviewed and their hard lives, mired in heartbreaking situations of abuse and neglect in male-dominated cultures in China, Pakistan, Ethiopia and Uganda.

They spoke of a school in rural China and a 13-year-old girl whose family could not afford its $13 tuition. They planned to pull their daughter out of school, condemned to a future of toiling in the fields. With donations sent to the Times, the couple was able to give thousands of dollars to upgrade the school and they paid for the girl, the brightest in her grade, to continue her education. She ended up getting a degree in accounting and helped her parents build a new home.

Not all of their stories had happy endings. In Ethiopia, WuDunn described meeting emaciated girls who were nothing but skin and bone while their brothers were well-fed. In India, they learned that girls have a 50 percent higher mortality rate than boys.

In addition to gender abuse, the oppression of girls is undercutting these poor countries' economic development efforts. WuDunn quoted Bill Gates, who told an audience in Saudi Arabia that they were doomed to trail rich nations for as long as they failed to "fully utilize half the talent in your country" by keeping girls down and offering only boys the chance at an education and skilled jobs.

"Women and girls are not the problem. They are the solution," WuDunn said.

The couple discussed their latest book, "Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide," a best-seller now in its 17th printing after it was first published last fall.

Kristof joked that his wife "holds up about two-thirds of the sky in our household." They have three children and live in Westchester County.

"This is not a zero-sum game," Kristof said of his efforts to give voice to the voiceless females around the world. "Men become the beneficiaries when women succeed."

Kristof and WuDunn became the first couple in 1990 to win the Pulitzer Prize jointly for their coverage of China's Tiananmen Square democracy movement. Kristof won a second Pulitzer in 2006 for his stories on the genocide in Darfur. He has traveled to 140 countries for his far-ranging Times column, which highlights human rights abuses around the globe.


Neither of them projected the gung-ho self-importance stereotypical of foreign correspondents who like to swap war stories. A Cornell MBA and Princeton MPA, WuDunn comes off as poised and business-like, while Kristof, also a Harvard grad, seems soft-spoken and mild-mannered.

In the question-and-answer period, Kristof offered this advice to the students: Travel and engage the world, even the dark places. "You have to get outside your comfort zone," he said. "If it's always fun, something is wrong."

Kristof received the loudest whoops and cheers from the students when he wished happy birthday to Emma Willard. The event, which included a lunch and afternoon discussions with the journalists, coincided with the 223rd birthday of the school's founder, a woman ahead of her time when it came to notions about education, gender and equity in early 19th-century America.

Paul Grondahl can be reached at 454-5623 or by e-mail at pgrondahl@timesunion.com.
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