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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Officials: 8 crew missing after freighter sinks off Turkey's Black Sea coast

By: Suzan Fraser, The Associated Press


ANKARA, Turkey - Turkish Coast Guard boats, tug boats and a helicopter were searching for eight crew members after a Cambodia-flagged freighter ship sank in stormy waters off Turkey's Black Sea coast on Tuesday, officials said. Three other crew members were rescued.

The ship, Vera, was sailing to Turkey's Aliaga port from Russia when it sank off the coast during a storm, regional Gov. Erol Ayyildiz said. He said police were also searching the shore for the missing crew.

Ayyildiz said the ship's second and third captains and its cook, a woman, were rescued and hospitalized.

"There is hope that the eight (missing) will be rescued," the state-run Anadolu Agency quoted Ayyildiz as saying. "They are used to the sea, they are experienced. Therefore, until we reach them, we are assuming that they are alive."

The Maritime Affairs Directorate said there were 10 Ukrainians and one Georgian crew member aboard the ship, which was carrying scrap metal.

It said at least three tug boats had joined the Coast Guard search-and-rescue effort, while Ayyildiz said a helicopter had also been dispatched.

"By the time the Coast Guard arrived in response to the distress call, the ship had already sunk," Irfan Erdem, head of the Chamber of Commerce for the region, told Turkey's NTV television.

He said a storm likely caused the ship's cargo to shift, tilting the vessel to the side and causing it to take on water.

Much of Turkey has been affected by a cold snap that has hit parts of Europe, with stormy weather disrupting maritime traffic.

The accident occurred some 10 days after another cargo ship brushed against two anchored vessels during severe weather off the coast of Istanbul, taking on water for hours before authorities pulled it ashore using a tug boat.
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Hun Sen Calls on Rubber Corp To Hand Over Shooting Suspects

“I condemn such violence and cannot tolerate it.”


Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen, right, sits during a meeting at Peace Palace in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, July 28, 2011. Hun Sen on Thursday opened the third meeting with environment ministers from the Greater Mekong Subregion countries which consists of Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.


Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday demanded a rubber plantation turn over two security guards accused at opening fire on a gathering of villagers earlier this month.

Police say they are searching for two men who shot at a crowd of villagers who had gathered in protest to a land concession in Kratie province on Jan. 18. Four people were injured in the shooting, but no arrests have so far been made.

Hun Sen called the violence intolerable and called on TTY Corporation, which is owned by powerful business tycoon Na Marady, to turn over the security guards.

The Kratie court has issued a summons for the two guards.

At the inauguration of a new road in Mondolkiri province, Hun Sen said the company should be punished if it is found to be protecting them.

“I condemn such violence and cannot tolerate it,” Hun Sen said. “And ask the TTY Corporation to help hand over the offenders to the authorities of justice.”

Hun Sen said he had ordered Interior Minister Sar Kheng to arrest the men.

Land disputes are a growing concern in areas of more and more land concessions. Rights workers have pointed to tens of thousands affected and a potential source of widespread unrest.

Hun Sen said Tuesday he would take back land concessions if the violence continues.

Am Sam Ath, lead investigator for the rights group Licadho, welcomed premier’s words, but he said, “we will watch the effectiveness in implementation of Hun Sen’s speech.”
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Monday, January 30, 2012

Cambodia to import oil from Iran

The government of Cambodia has announced that it is planning to import and refine oil from Iran in clear defiance of recent US sanctions on Iranian oil imports.


“Cambodia will not take into account the foreign policies of other countries toward Iran when considering investment in the Kingdom,” spokesman of Cambodia's Council of Ministers Ek Tha said yesterday.

“We do not discriminate where our FDI [foreign direct investment] comes from,” he said, adding that the deepening of cooperation with Iran was strictly civilian, not military, the Phnom Penh Post reported.

According to Ek Tha, Cambodia is planning to refine crude oil that it imports from Iran at a local refinery whose construction will begin within a few months, and then sell refined products to China and South Korea starting in 2014.

Construction of Cambodia's first oil refinery, located on 365 hectares in Sihanoukville and Kampot provinces, will begin in April and finish in 2014.

Tehran and Phnom Penh signed a memorandum of understanding to cooperate on oil and gas projects last year.

Reacting to the announcement, spokesman for the US Embassy in Phnom Penh, Sean McIntosh, said members of the United Nations shouldn't ignore US policy toward Iran.

"We expect all UN members to strictly enforce UN [Security Council] relations and to consider carefully the impact of new US regulations when considering engaging in economic activity with Iran," he added.

The US President Barack Obama signed into law new sanctions against Iran which seek to penalize other countries for importing Iran's oil or doing transactions with the country's central bank. The European Union also approved new sanctions against Iran's oil and financial sectors on January 23, which will cut off crude oil imports from Iran on July 1.

The United States, Israel and their European allies accuse Tehran of pursuing military objectives in its nuclear program and have used this pretext to impose four rounds of international and a series of unilateral sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

Iran has refuted the allegations, arguing that as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Tehran has a right to use nuclear technology for peaceful use.

SS/AZ/HGH
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Cambodia's ruling party wins Senate majority

PHNOM PENH, Jan 30 (Bernama) –- The ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) gained a majority of the votes in the country's Senate elections, receiving up to 77.81 percent, according to preliminary results provided by the National Election Committee (NEC) of Cambodia on Sunday.

The Sam Rainsy Party (SRP), which is the country's main opposition party, gained 21.93 percent of votes, reported Vietnam news agency on Monday.

According to NEC, the official election result will be announced on Feb 4, but may be postponed to March 5 if there is any complaint from political parties.

The Senate elections are taking place under observation of 131 representatives of political parties and 1,432 domestic and foreign observers.

Only two main political parties participated in this year's elections. They are the ruling CPP and SRP.

The elections will select only 57 seats out of 61 seats as two senators will be appointed by the King and two by the National Assembly.

The Senate election is held every six years. In the last election in 2006, CPP won 45 seats, followed by the royalist FUNCINPEC party with 10 seats, and the remainder went to SRP.
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Cambodia's ruling party wins more Senate seats

Jan 30, 2012 (Rasmei Kampuchea Daily - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- ' Phnom Penh (Rasmei Kampuchea Daily/ANN) -- The ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) won 78.1 per cent of the vote in Cambodia's Senate elections on Sunday with the opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) getting about 21.99 per cent, according to preliminary results announced by the National Election Committee (NEC).

The CPP announced separately that it had won 46 of the 57 seats up for grabs in the indirect election which was limited to less than 12,000 local councillors and national lawmakers. The SRP said it expected to win 11 seats. Two of the other four seats are appointed by the king and the other two are elected by the National Assembly.

Both parties said they were satisfied with the election environment.

Ok Kim An, an official at CPP headquarters, said: "The number of votes for the CPP rose in every province even though the increase varied from one province to another." Yim Sovan, the SRP spokesman, noted that his party had only two seats in the outgoing Senate.

The CPP and SRP were the only two parties to field candidates in the election for the Senate, the third since the upper house was established to resolve a political crisis that followed elections for the National Assembly in 1998.

The ruing party held a majority of almost two thirds in the outgoing senate with 45 seats. Funcinpec, the royalist party which has since split but still governs in a nominal coalition with the CPP, had 21 seats including two voted by the National Assembly. Since it didn't field candidates in Sunday's election, both the CPP and SRP expected to gain.

The preliminary results Sunday showed the CPP winning 8,880 votes of the 11,412 valid votes counted with the SRP getting 2,503 votes, the NEC said. A spokesman said some of the completed ballots were invalid.

Voter turnout among the those eligible to cast ballots was 99.6 per cent. The NEC said 46 of the the eligible 11,470 members of Commune Councils and the National Assembly did not vote.

After voting closed at 3 pm, the NEC said the elections had been held in a safe and secure environment.

Cambodia is scheduled to hold commune elections in June ahead of national parliamentary elections in 2013.
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Friday, January 27, 2012

Eastern promise in Vietnam and Cambodia



Hoi An

Lying in the bath on a wooden junk in the South China Sea at dawn, the porthole opens on to an astonishing vista of mini mountains, one of Vietnam's most extraordin-ary surprises. It is pure Doctor Dolittle territory, with thousands of rough-hewn islands of limestone jutting out of the turquoise water. All that is needed is for a giant sea snail to slide gracefully into view among the 1,969 rocky isles, which UNESCO has described as one of the eight natural wonders of the world.

The Bhaya, an elegant junk with 20 cabins, is sailing in Halong Bay, 100 miles east of Hanoi. It begs for Agatha Christie to set Monsieur Poirot a mystery on board. It is light, airy and comfortable but full of potential for a whodunit: a very respectable couple from Shropshire sit next to a young gay couple from Germany, while a boisterous Australian family order drinks. Some try squid-fishing from the lower deck after a fresh crab dinner served on crisp white tablecloths.

Canoes are available in the afternoon for the more adventurous, and a spa is discreetly set up by white-uniformed staff for those who want to do nothing. This is a quirky sea venture: Bing Crosby songs alternate with Russian-Scottish music at the bar; cocktails are only a couple of dollars or so a shot. Vietnam at every stage is delightful and inexpensive.

How wise were the French to choose Indo-China when the world was like a huge Monopoly board being divided by the West's Great Powers. What is not to like about what is now Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos: staggeringly beautiful countries with ancient cultures going back more than 1,000 years, and landscapes, people and cuisine that are all beyond seductive.

It is almost 40 years since this region was ravaged by tanks, bombs and civil war. It is
37 years since the Vietnam War ended and Vietnam is now one of the world's fastest-growing economies. Hanoi buzzes with modern expansion yet remains traditional: women in coolie hats carry baskets of jackfruit past hi-tech gadget shops and a shiny Louis Vuitton store; and after just a short drive, you are in paddy fields with farmers trudging beneath palm trees in scenes that have remained unchanged for centuries.

Everything is a mix of ancient and modern. Hoi An, about 500 miles south of Hanoi, is an ancient town declared a World Heritage Site for its extraordinarily well-preserved 17th-century buildings, bridges over the river and old pagodas. Alongside are shops where Indian tourists whisper, 'Even we find it cheap here,' as they snap up silk scarves and have their children's portraits drawn by talented street artists for £4.

This former harbour town at the estuary of the Thu Bon river was an important trading centre in the 16th and 17th centuries, where Chinese from various provinces settled alongside Japanese, Dutch and Indians. During this period, the town was called Hoai Pho (Seaside Town in Vietnamese). Originally, it was a divided town with the Japanese settlement across the 16th-century Japanese Bridge, the only known covered bridge with a pagoda on the side.

In Ho Chi Minh City, the cult of the eponymous former leader is much celebrated with statues and a tomb that receives as much attention as Lenin's in Red Square. For those brought up on Apocalypse Now and other Vietnam films, it is fascinating to see this tranche of modern history - always referred to by locals as the 'American War' - through the eyes of the Vietcong.

The War Remnants Museum shows devastating photographs of the effect of American bombing using the chemical weapon Agent Orange. The message of the museum is a complete condemnation of America for its military intervention. Curiously enough, however, the museum is partly funded by American Democrat donations, and the Vietnamese staff are extraordinarily friendly to every sheep-faced American tourist.

Yet more riveting is a visit to Cu Chi, just an hour by taxi (£40 return), where 75 miles of underground tunnels were bored out during the war. It is where the Vietcong lived amid horrendous conditions. The torturous underground traps, complete with sharp spikes, which they laid to ambush American soldiers send shivers down the spine. But the ingenuity and bravery of the Vietcong as they lived in these subterranean passages, just 18 inches high and accessed by wormhole entrances leading to pitch darkness, only popping up to fight the US troops, is remarkable.

For something less cultural, but no less enjoyable, incorporate into your trip a few days at the Fusion Maia resort in Da Nang, where every spa treatment is free and the beach is sprawling and dramatic.

And anyone going to Vietnam must also hop on a flight to Cambodia to see Angkor Wat. It is 1,000 years old, the same age as Westminster Abbey, and the temples are exactly like something from Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book. Vast tree roots drape over ancient stone arches and steps, and the carvings of Buddha have survived ten centuries. This is a place where the number of tourists seems to be easily diluted - there are, after all, more than 5,000 temples in the area.

Stay at Raffles Grand Hotel d'Angkor: simple, traditional, luxurious and detail-oriented. It also smells completely delicious, nothing is too much trouble and the comfort is as extraordinary as the value. Noodles and spring rolls seem to almost pop up in one's dreams, along with locust curry and frog's leg soup. This is a journey for all the senses, and a delight for anyone interested in history, ancient and modern. ES

Geordie Greig travelled courtesy of Vietnam Airlines (020 3263 2062; vietnamairlines.com) and leading Indo-China destination management company HG Travel (hgtravel.com); Bhaya Cruises (bhayacruises.com);
the InterContinental Hanoi Westlake (intercontinental.com); Fusion Maia (fusion-resorts.com); the Raffles Grand Hotel d'Angkor (raffles.com); and the Caravelle Hotel (caravellehotel.com). Vietnam Airlines offers non-stop services four times per week from Gatwick to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. etours (0844 472 3421; etours.co.uk) offers a six-night Vietnam package from £1,789 per person, with a three-night extension to Siem Reap from an additional £569 per person

.
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Cambodia's political parties conclude 21-day campaign for Senate vote

PHNOM PENH, Jan. 27 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia's political parties had ended electoral campaigns for the third legislature of the Senate on Friday, two days prior to the vote.

Mao Sophearith, member of the National Election Committee (NEC), said Friday that during the 21-day campaign, the parties had promoted their political stances through marching and broadcasting on the National Television of Cambodia.

"In general, the campaign had been done smoothly with good environment and security," he said in a press briefing to conclude the campaign. "There was no any violence happened during the period."
Only two main political parties will participate in this Sunday ' s election. They are the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) and Sam Rainsy Party, a main opposition party in the country.

According to the NEC, the Senate has 61 seats, but the election is held for only 57 seats as two senators will be appointed by the King and the other two by the National Assembly.

Each of the two parties has named 57 full candidates and 57 reserve ones to the NEC to compete in the election.

The Senate election on Sunday will be voted by 119 Members of Parliament and 11,351 commune councilors at 33 polling stations across the country.

The results will be announced on Sunday afternoon.

The Senate election is held every six years. The last one was in January 2006, at that time, three parties -- Cambodian People' s Party, Funcinpec and Sam Rainsy Party -- joined the contest. As a result, the CPP won 45 seats, the Funcinpec 10 seats and the Sam Rainsy party two seats.
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Two Uighurs deported from Cambodia to China get life

BEIJING (Reuters) - China has jailed two Muslim Uighurs deported from Cambodia for life, Radio Free Asia reported on Friday, showing no sign of loosening its grip on far-western Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region which holds rich deposits of oil and gas.
The sentences -- and deadly clashes this week between police in Sichuan and ethnic Tibetans -- come at a sensitive time for China for whom ensuring stability ahead of a leadership transition later this year is a top priority.
They also precede a visit to the United States by Vice President Xi Jinping, who is seen as China's leader-in-waiting and who could come under criticism for the government's handling of the unrest.

Cambodia, the recipient of increasingly large amounts of Chinese investment and trade, was sharply rebuked by human rights groups for deporting the asylum seekers.

Two days after Cambodia deported the Muslim Uighurs in December 2009, Chinese Vice President Xi visited Phnom Penh and signed 14 trade deals worth $850 million.

The U.S.-funded Radio Free Asia broadcast and online news service cited family sources and local authorities in Xinjiang who in turn quoted jail notices they had seen.

It was unclear when the sentences were handed down or what the men had been charged with.

A spokeswoman for the Xinjiang government told Reuters she was not aware of the sentences.

The two Uighurs were among a group of about 20 who had sought asylum in Cambodia following ethic riots between Uighurs and majority Han Chinese in Xinjiang's capital of Urumqi in July 2009. Another of the group was jailed for 17 years, Radio Free Asia said, adding that the jail terms of the others were not known because court proceedings were held in secret.

"The imprisonment of these men, who were forcefully deported from a place of refuge, should serve as a wake-up call to the world about the brutal treatment awaiting Uighur asylum seekers who are sent back to China," Uighur American Association president Alim Seytoff said in a statement posted on the advocacy group's website.

"The Uighurs in Cambodia were sent back to the very repression they were attempting to flee. We cannot allow the long arm of Chinese pressure to govern the treatment of Uighur asylum seekers in other countries."

Radio Free Asia, citing rights groups, said the asylum-seekers had fled persecution because they had witnessed Chinese security forces arresting and using lethal force against Uighur demonstrators during the riots that killed nearly 200 people, many of them Han Chinese.

Many Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking Muslim people native to Xinjiang, resent Chinese rule and controls on their religion, culture and language.

In September, China said it had sentenced four people to death for violence in two Xinjiang cities last summer in another flare-up that left 32 people dead.

(Writing by Ken Wills and Judy Hua; Editing by Nick Macfie)
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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Army dismisses reports of Thai-Cambodian military clash



BANGKOK, Jan 25 – The Royal Thai Army on Wednesday dismissed reports of a renewed clash between Thai and Cambodian soldiers at Ta Kwai Temple, but conceded that one soldier was wounded in a gunshot accident.

Thai army spokesman Col Sansern Kaewkamnerd stood firm that there was no military clash at the Surin province bordering Cambodia.

Col Sansern said the Second Army Region Command reported that the wounded soldier was Cpl Veerawat Pairoh, accidentally shot in the leg while on patrol along the border as another soldier fell and accidentally shot him with his 9mm pistol. The wounded man was sent to hospital.

The army spokesman said there was no reaction from Cambodian soldiers following the accident.

Second Army Region commander Lt-Gen Thawatchai Samutsakorn who oversees the border area earlier said that no clash between troops of the two neighbours had occurred.

Ties between Thailand and Cambodia have been strained with sporadic clashes between their troops since the historic Preah Vihear temple was granted UN World Heritage status in July 2008.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled in 1962 that the temple belonged to Cambodia, but a 4.6 square kilometre (1.8 square mile) surrounding area remains in dispute as both countries claim ownership of the tract.

The court, last July ordered Thailand and Cambodia to withdraw their troops from the newly-defined demilitarised zone in a disputed portion of their border around the temple while urging both countries to work with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to agree to allow the regional bloc's observers to enter the disputed zone.

The two neighbours agreed to follow the court’s order and use the General Border Committee mechanism to consider details in implementing it.
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Survivors Sell Books at Prison That Once Held Them

“I saw a lot of depth in his face and his eyes, and from there I wanted to read more about his story.”


Khmer Rouge survivor Chum Mey, 81, right, talks to reporters as another survivor Bou Meng, 70, left, listens at Choeung Ek stupa, former Khmer Rouge killing field in the outskirt of Phnom Penh, file photo.


Bou Meng and Chhum Mey spend less time at the trial of Khmer Rouge leaders these days, and more time at the torture center they both survived.

The two men sit at the Tuol Sleng musuem, the former prison known the Khmer Rouge as S-21, selling the stories of their lives to tourists.

The men say they are not happy to do so, but they have no choice if they want to earn a living.
Bou Meng, who sells copies of his biography, “A Survivor From Khmer Rouge Prison S-21,” by Huy Vannak, said he earns a few dozen dollars a day. On good days, he might earn a few hundred.

“I sell my book for $10, but some people give me $20 without getting back the change,” he said. “I thank them and kiss their hands to show that it’s their hands that help feed me for my daily survival.”

Bou Meng endured severe torture here under the Khmer Rouge, making it hard to return.

“Whenever I enter this place, I get really tense, but I have to come to earn some money, to feed my family, because I’m inadequately supported by the state,” he said.

Author Huy Vannak, who is now a spokesman for the Khmer Rouge tribunal, said he wrote the book “in hopes of making Mr. Bou Meng’s life meaningful, and to help him in various ways, both financially and mentally.”

Canadian tourist Claude Brale bought the book on a recent visit to the museum after talking with Bou Meng.

“I saw a lot of depth in his face and his eyes, and from there I wanted to read more about his story,” Brale said.

In another corner of the museum grounds, survivor Chum Mey sits selling books about the Khmer Rouge and magazines that tell his story of survival. It’s the only way he can support his family, he said.

The tribunal, which has already tried the former head of Tuol Sleng, Kaing Kek Iev, “has never provided anything to the victims,” Chum Mey said. “There are now only two remaining survivors of the S-21 prison after the passing away of Vann Nath, but there has not been any result for us at all.”

“Why does the court not pity the two remaining survivors who are sitting selling books to feed our stomachs?” Bou Meng said. “Why does it pity only the accused so much? What is the court is! I'm so disappointed.”

Huy Vannak said the court does not distinguish between Chum Mey, Bou Meng and the many other victims of the Khmer Rouge. “We don’t think there should be special treatment for any party,” he said.

Visitors here said that by buying books, they hope they help in some way.

“I hope it buys him some comfort in his life and enables him to have a better quality of life,” said Adam Marris, an Australian. “I hope he gets some satisfaction from being able to tell his story and perhaps make the world a better place.”
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CEB flies direct to Siem Reap in Cambodia

By Mary Ann Reyes

MANILA, Philippines - Cebu Pacific (CEB) will become the only airline flying direct from Manila to Siem Reap in Cambodia when it launches its flights on April 19, 2012. It will be a thrice weekly service, utilizing one of Asia’s youngest aircraft fleets.

“Adventurous backpackers usually travel by land from Ho Chi Minh or Bangkok to Siem Reap, just so they can visit Angkor Wat, part of the Angkor World Heritage site. Now, Cebu Pacific can fly them to Siem Reap on its trademark lowest fares,” CEB VP for marketing and distribution Candice Iyog said.

CEB will also be the only airline operating flights between the Philippines and Cambodia. According to the UNESCO World Heritage Center, Angkor is one of the most important archaeological sites in Southeast Asia. The Angkor Archaeological Park contains the remains of the different capitals of the Khmer Empire from the 9th to the 15th century, including the famous Temples of Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and Bayon.

To launch its newest international route, CEB offers P888 seats between Manila and Siem Reap from Jan. 27 to 29, 2012 or until seats last. These are for travel from April 19 to May 31, 2012.

Flights for CEB’s Manila - Siem Reap – Manila route are scheduled to depart Manila at 7:50 p.m. every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday, arriving in Siem Reap at 9:30 p.m. Return flights will leave Siem Reap at 10:30 p.m., and arrive in Manila at 2:10 a.m.

CEB operates the most extensive network from the Philippines to the ASEAN region, with 12 weekly flights to Bangkok, four weekly flights to Brunei, daily flights to Ho Chi Minh, four weekly flights to Jakarta, three weekly flights to Kota Kinabalu, twice daily flights to Kuala Lumpur, and up to seven daily flights to Singapore. It will commence its direct twice weekly Manila-Hanoi flights on March 17, 2012.

Meanwhile, CEB also holds a seat sale to select destinations from Jan. 27 to 29, 2012 or until seats last, for travel from March 1 to May 31, 2012.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Ousted Residents of Borei Keila File Suit Against Developer


Police began pushing, hitting and kicking the demonstrators, eye witnesses and rights workers said after they failed to disperse after the demonstration, on Wednesday January 11, 2012.


Several hundred families from the Borei Keila neighborhood filed suit against development company Phan Imex on Wednesday, for what they claim is a breach of an agreement to properly house residents displaced by their project.

Nearly 400 families were forcibly evicted from the Borei Keila site this month, and former residents say Phan Imex failed to construct two buildings of a promised 10 in order to house them.

Instead, many have been sent to relocation sites far from the city that lack proper health, hygiene, education and commerce opportunities, they said. The complaint calls for around $2,500 per family in compensation.

Tim Sakmony, a representative of the residents, said damages to homes in forced evictions cost families between $1,000 and $4,000.

“The company completely bulldozed my house,” Eng Than, 51, told VOA Khmer. “Dishes, rice, soup pots, blankets, mosquito net, clothes.”

Suy Sophan, president of Phan Imex, said the company will work to reach an agreement with families that have proper documentation and was offering a $500 relocation fee to families without it.
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UN defends judge in Khmer Rouge trial row



United Nations Special Expert to the Extraordinary
 Chambers in Courts of Cambodia David Scheffer (AFP)

PHNOM PENH — The United Nations on Wednesday said a new foreign judge in the Khmer Rouge tribunal could push on with new cases even without the support of Cambodia, in the latest row to rock the court.

David Scheffer, the UN special expert to the tribunal, said Laurent Kasper-Ansermet could proceed with probing two new politically charged cases linked to the 1975-1979 regime despite Cambodia's objection to the Swiss judge.

"Our view is that this particular individual, judge Kasper-Ansermet, has clear authority to fulfil his duties in this country and we look forward to him doing so," Scheffer told reporters after crunch talks with Deputy Prime Minister Sok An.

Scheffer said Cambodia's rejection of Kasper-Ansermet as the international co-investigating judge was a breach of the 2003 accord which created the court to find justice for up to two million people who died under the Khmer Rouge.

But government spokesman Phay Siphan said the two sides had a "different interpretation" of the agreement and insisted Cambodia had the right not to endorse the Swiss judge.

"We need more discussions to solve this so no one loses face or loses their integrity," he told AFP, refusing to say how the stand-off could be resolved.

According to court rules, the reserve judge must be appointed if there is a vacancy, a situation that arose when a German judge abruptly quit in October citing government opposition to further prosecutions.

Kasper-Ansermet recently said on Twitter that he fully intended to investigate the two cases, which involve five former Khmer Rouge members, to the dismay of the Cambodian government.

Kasper-Ansermet's Cambodian counterpart You Bunleng has publicly refused to work with the Swiss so long as he is not legally accredited.

Scheffer said Kasper-Ansermet "does not need You Bunleng" to carry out investigations.

The tribunal has so far completed just one trial, jailing a former Khmer Rouge prison chief for overseeing the deaths of some 15,000 people.

A second trial involving three senior regime leaders is ongoing but the landmark proceedings risk being overshadowed by the current controversy.
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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Near Cambodia's Temple Ruins, a Devotion to Learning

SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA — Millions of tourists come here every year to visit the ancient ruins of Angkor Wat, an influx that has helped transform what once resembled a small, laid-back village into a thriving and cosmopolitan town with thumping nightlife and more than 10,000 hotel rooms.

 
Students at Build Bright University in Siem Reap, Cambodia.


But the explosion of the tourism industry here has also done something less predictable. Siem Reap, which had no universities a decade ago, is now Cambodia’s second-largest hub for higher education, after the capital, Phnom Penh.

The sons and daughters of impoverished rice farmers flock here to work as tour guides, receptionists, bartenders and waitresses. When their shifts are over, they study finance, English and accounting.

“I never imagined that I could go to university,” said Hem Sophoan, a 31-year-old tour guide who is now studying for his second master’s degree. “There’s been so much change and opportunities for young people.”

The establishment of five private universities here is helping to transform the work force in this part of Cambodia, one of Asia’s poorest countries and a society still living in the shadow of the genocidal rule of the Khmer Rouge. Employers say that English proficiency is rising and that workers who attend universities stand out for their ability to express themselves and make decisions. A generation of students who would otherwise have had little hope to study beyond high school are enduring grueling schedules to get a degree and pursue their dreams.

Khim Borin, a 26-year-old tour guide by day and law student by night, says he wants to become a lawyer. But he sometimes has trouble staying awake in class during the high tourist season, when he spends hours scaling vertiginous temple steps and baking in the tropical sun.

“I tell my friends, ‘Hit me if you see me falling asleep,”’ he said.

The son of a broken and impoverished household, Mr. Khim Borin worked as a bartender and a masseur and installed air-conditioners at hotels before becoming a tour guide. He summarizes his life as “hard but happy.”

The five universities in Siem Reap currently enroll more than 10,000 students. Most of the campuses, which are scattered around the town, are quiet during the day but come to life with the buzz of students’ motorcycles as soon as the sun sets.

The United Nations and foreign aid organizations have had an oversize role in helping steer the country since the Khmer Rouge were driven from power more than three decades ago. But the symbiosis of work and study here came together without any master plan.

It was driven largely by supply and demand: universities opened to cater to the dreams of Cambodia’s youth — and offered flexible hours in sync with the rhythms of the tourist industry. University administrators say 80 to 90 percent of the students hold full-time jobs.

“They come here, find a job first, and then they start their bachelor degree,” said Rous Bunthy, vice president for administrative affairs at the University of South-East Asia, which opened here in 2006 and has an enrollment of 2,300.

Most students pay the annual tuition of $400 themselves, Mr. Rous Bunthy said. “Some of their parents can help a little — maybe $10 a month,” he said.

Although the fees are a small fraction of what private universities in more developed countries charge, students often struggle to pay, administrators say.

“The main problem is financial support,” said That Bunsay, vice president of administrative affairs at the Siem Reap branch of Build Bright University, the largest in Siem Reap with about 5,000 enrolled.

“They need to find money first and then go to school — money is the first priority,” Mr. That Bunsay said.

Luckier students get sponsorship from foreigners. On a recent evening, an Argentine insurance saleswoman on vacation here, Maria Theresa Landoni, waited outside Mr. That Bunsay’s office. She had come to the university to pay the tuition of a young woman who wanted to study tourism.

Ms. Landoni recounted how she struck up a friendship with the driver of her tuk-tuk, the open-air motorized rickshaws popular here, and met his daughter during a visit to the family’s house. “They were very, very, very poor,” Ms. Landoni said. “This is a country that has suffered a lot.”

Ms. Landoni said she agreed to pay one semester’s worth of fees for the daughter: $180. “I don’t have a lot of money,” Ms. Landoni said. “But I have enough for that.”

All five of the universities in Siem Reap are privately owned, and some are for-profit institutions. But administrators say it will be years before the owners of the universities make money. The wealthy Cambodians who back the schools seem to see them largely as philanthropic ventures.

“The shareholders say they are wasting their money compared with other investments,” said Mr. Rous Bunthy of the University of South-East Asia. “But they are happy because they are helping people.” Among his university’s shareholders are the owner of a clothing wholesale business, a beer magnate, the owner of a supermarket chain and the founder of a successful English-teaching school.

The quality of the universities in Siem Reap is uneven, says Mr. Hem Sophoan, the tour guide, who is studying for a master’s in public administration.

“They are thinking about quantity first — to support their business. They are happy if they have many students. They want market share,” he said of the universities.

Many graduates seem to have stayed with their employers and moved up, their degrees having made them better prospects for managerial roles. But it is too early to draw conclusions about whether the degrees are leading to better jobs. The six-year-old University of South-East Asia, for example, has had only two graduating classes, and they were small.

Still, Mr. Hem Sophoan and other students say that despite any shortcomings at the universities, the experience of attending classes and obtaining a degree is transformative.

Chan Sreyroth, a 29-year-old manager at a company that owns restaurants in Siem Reap, says she sees a big difference in her employees who attend universities.

“The difference is that they have a dream,” said Ms. Chan Sreyroth, who oversees around 250 employees, many of them students. “After they study, they are not scared anymore. They want to be something.”

After graduation, students who work and study at the same time often have an edge over fresh graduates who have never worked before, for whom starting a career can be difficult, Ms. Chan Sreyroth and others say. University students are “more communicative,” she said. “If they don’t like something, they speak out.”

Ms. Chan Sreyroth and others say they are lucky that Angkor’s temples have proved so popular with tourists. If it were not for the sandstone structures nestled in the jungles, Siem Reap would probably have remained a backwater. Last year, 3.3 million tourists visited Siem Reap, half of them foreigners, according to the Cambodian Ministry of Tourism.

Kong Soeun, the deputy director of the local tourism office, is trying to convince others in the tourism industry that Siem Reap should declare an annual day of remembrance for the people who built the temples.

He says the tourist industry helped resurrect his life. His early years were shattered by the Khmer Rouge. Of 11 brothers and sisters, 6 disappeared. But he put himself through university with income earned as a tour guide, earned a law degree and dreams of becoming a crusading lawyer.

“We should remember their souls,” Mr. Kong Soeun said of his forebears who built Angkor Wat. “These temples are a very great thing.”
Read more!

Cambodia Weather Forecasting Capability; Install Weather Products in Caribbean; Assist NOAA Migrate New Data Services

NEW ORLEANS, LA--(Marketwire -01/24/12)- Global Science & Technology, Inc. (GST), a leading innovator of weather forecasting products, is proud to announce three major initiatives all related to the firms' successful weather forecasting technology.

Global Science & Technology to Modernize Cambodia Civil Aerometeorology

GST is assisting the Cambodia Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) with the modernization of its weather data information processing capability in support of aviation operations in that country.

"We're providing the WAFS-METLAB2 and BriefNet systems to Cambodia CAA at key facilities in country that will process aviation weather data, ultimately making the final information available as flight briefing products and other meteorological charts for aviation professionals," said GST Program Manager Paul Heppner.

Global Science & Technology Updates, Installs Systems in Caribbean

During 2011, GST developed an updated version of its popular DirectMet satellite reception system for Geostationary Orbital Environmental Satellite (GOES) imagery. The new DirectMet system operates on the Windows 7 Operating System, with an updated Graphical User Interface for user friendliness. A Windows 7 DirectMet system was installed in Curacao during 2011, and the two new systems are being installed during 2012 in Aruba and Barbados.

"DirectMet is a vital system for the tracking of hurricanes in the tropics," explained Heppner. "DirectMet includes hurricane analysis tools as part of the software package."

Global Science & Technology Assisting NOAA, Customers Migrate to New Data Services

"The International Satellite Communication System (ISCS) satellite broadcast is expected to terminate during 2012, at which time GST customers with METLAB workstations will need to switch to fileserver data access," Heppner said.

GST is working closely with NOAA to test communication interfaces, as well as prepare customers with software updates and transition. The ISCS is the primary way aviation meteorology data is communicated throughout the Americas, Atlantic, Caribbean, and Pacific. Many GST customers rely upon their METLAB workstations to process the ISCS data, then visualize the data into meaningful meteorological products that support their operations.

All weather products will be on display and demonstrated at the annual American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting being held at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, 900 Convention Center Blvd., New Orleans, LA at booth 701 Tuesday, January 24 through Wednesday, January 25.
Read more!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Cambodia refuses to seat swiss judge at Khmer Rouge tribunal

The United Nations says Cambodia is refusing to permit a Swiss investigating judge to take his place on the tribunal trying suspected Khmer Rouge war crimes, blocking at least two pending cases.

A spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Friday the U.N. has been formally notified of Cambodia's decision not to appoint Swiss magistrate Laurent Kasper-Ansermet to the court.

The spokesman described the decision as a "matter of serious concern," and said it breaches the terms of the 2003 agreement between Cambodia and the United Nations that established the tribunal.

Kasper-Ansermet was to have filled a vacancy created by the departure of German judge Siegfried Blunt - who resigned late last year complaining of interference by the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The tribunal has convicted a notorious Khmer Rouge prison warden and is hearing a second case involving three top former Khmer Rouge leaders. But as long as Blunt's post remains vacant, the court cannot bring anyone else to trial.

Blunt first came under criticism when a prosecutor complained last year that he and co-investigating magistrate You Bunleng had failed to properly investigate what have come to be known as Cases 003 and 004. Several international staff members also resigned to protest the handling of the cases.

Details of the two cases have never been officially released. Press reports, however, say both involve former Khmer Rouge military commanders who were allegedly complicit in the arrest, imprisonment and in some cases massacre of thousands of Cambodians.

Kasper-Ansermet has had his own problems with his Cambodian counterpart. Shortly after his arrival in Cambodia, he charged that You Bunleng was blocking him from releasing important information about the two suspended cases.

You Bunleng responded that Kasper-Ansermet was not yet legally accredited to the court and did not understand the legal principles of its work.

Cambodia's Supreme Council of Magistracy met last week to decide whether to approve the Swiss jurist's appointment. But U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky told VOA's Khmer service this week that Cambodia was "under an obligation" to appoint the reserve judge when there is a vacancy.

A coalition of 23 Cambodian rights and relief groups went further. In a press release Thursday, the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee argued that Kasper-Ansermet was officially appointed when he was named a reserve magistrate and that he requires no further approval.

The group also called for an independent inquiry into the conduct of the investigating judges, saying the legacy of the tribunal will be seriously damaged without one.

No such inquiry is planned, although the U.N. this week named American lawyer David Scheffer, a former U.S. ambassador-at-large for war crimes, to observe and advise on the court's work.

About 1.7 million Cambodians are believed to have died or been executed during the period of Khmer Rouge rule in the late 1970s.

Prime Minister Hun Sen has argued that going ahead with more prosecutions would deeply divide Cambodian society, destabilizing the country.
Read more!

Garment firms shifting base from China to Cambodia

Abundant supply of labour coupled with preferential market access to several markets is making the Southeast Asian nation of Cambodia one of the preferred alternatives for garment companies wishing to shift their manufacturing base outside China.

Wages in China have risen by 18-20 percent annually during the past three years, leading to an increase in the cost of production, and making several units less competitive in the international market. This has induced many garment companies to search for alternative bases outside China.

On the other hand, Cambodia’s garment industry has grown substantially over the last year. Around 300 licensed garment firms in the Kingdom exported US$ 3.3 billion worth of goods in the initial 10 months of 2011, a jump of 35 percent year-on-year, according to Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC).

Mr. Ken Loo, Secretary General of GMAC, told fibre2fashion, “Cambodia is well positioned to take advantage of the exodus of investors and buyers looking to exit China. Firstly, there is an abundant supply of labour and there are no other industries in Cambodia that would compete with the garment industry for absorbing labour.”

“Secondly, Cambodia enjoys excellent preferential market access to most markets in the world. In particular, apparel produced in Cambodia enjoys duty free access to the EU, Canada, Japan, China, etc.,” he adds.

Informing about potential buyers and investors in Cambodian garment sector, he says, “There is much interest from buyers in EU, Japan and Canada, mainly because of the preferential market access. As for the investors, they come from all over the world.”

He mentions that the apparel sector in Cambodia employs approximately 350,000 workers.

One of the companies to recently relocate its garment production base from China to Cambodia is the Hong Kong-based innerwear manufacturer Top Form International Ltd.

The company is setting up its garment factory in the outskirts of Phnom Penh and it plans to employ 1,200 workers by the end of the current year. It proposes to produce 80,000 innerwears a month for export to the US and European markets. The Cambodian unit would account for about one-third of Top Form’s total production.

Explaining the rationale for shifting the base, Top Form’s Chairman Mr. Willie Fung says, “We took a decision to shift our manufacturing base to Cambodia for two reasons. It is an investment in low cost production outside of China, and we will be able to provide operational support from our established manufacturing base and management in Thailand.

Listing the benefits to Top Form, he says, “This will revitalize our company’s competitiveness in the price sensitive business in the global market. Moreover, it will also provide us with a growth opportunity outside of China.”



Fibre2fashion News Desk - India
Read more!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

In the Year of the Dragon, stop torture

By Karen Tse, Special to CNN


Editor's note: Karen Tse Karen Tse is a human rights lawyer, Unitarian Universalist minister and former San Francisco public defender who founded International Bridges to Justice. Tse spoke at the TED Global conference in July in Edinburgh, Scotland. TED is a nonprofit organization dedicated to "Ideas worth spreading" which it makes available through talks posted on its website
Geneva, Switzerland (CNN) -- The dragon is the Chinese counterpart of the phoenix rising from the ashes of destruction. And as we bring in the Year of the Dragon Monday, the most important of the years in the Chinese Zodiac, let's consider a great opportunity -- and an awe-inspiring responsibility -- to create an ethical world together.

The challenge we must face: Every day, throughout the world, mothers, fathers, sons and daughters are arbitrarily detained, tortured and denied access to counsel and basic due process rights -- causing untold human suffering, perpetuating patterns of violence and impunity, and sapping vast economic potential.

We may think of torture as a last-resort instrument of authoritarian regimes or rogue groups to extract information from political prisoners, But torture is a much more common occurrence than that.

More than 100 countries -- including some we describe as democratic -- practice some sort of torture, often on a massive scale, and most of the tortured are not even political prisoners. Torture is actually used most of the time just because it is the cheapest form of investigation, less expensive than building a proper legal system.

TED.com: What's the right thing to do?

In the midst of this crisis exists an urgent opportunity. Of the 113 developing countries that, according to our database, practice torture, 93 have taken a strong first step in favor of human rights by signing international conventions and adopting domestic laws that safeguard the rights of ordinary citizens.

Unfortunately, many of these laws remain unenforced due to a lack of trained lawyers, a lack of awareness of what respect for human rights really means, and a lack of resources to turn the situation around. These critical gaps allow entirely preventable human rights violations to occur over and over again, despite a legal framework being in place and governments being willing to accept international support.

I first came to this realization in 1994 when I walked into a prison in Cambodia and met a 12-year- old boy who was tortured and denied counsel -- for stealing a bicycle. Over time, I came to realize that the vast majority of torture cases actually happen to everyday citizens throughout the world and not to political prisoners.

And yet the global community spends the majority of its efforts on political prisoners and on punitive measures as opposed to preventive measures that create positive change.

Suddenly, when I looked into that Cambodian boy's eyes, it became clear: Precisely because he was not a political prisoner, the Cambodian government had no interest in the boy, for better or worse. This was the way the police did their work. They didn't need to build a case based on evidence; they roughed up the suspects to get a confession.

Thus, we recognized the opportunity to help him, and the many thousands like him throughout the world. This is the mission of International Bridges to Justice (IBJ), which was born 12 years ago, in the last Year of the Dragon.

TED.com: The global power shift

In those years, defenders from throughout the world have joined our cause, seeking justice for the poorest of the poor, training local officials, and literally defending life and human dignity. From China to Zimbabwe, from India to Burundi, we see the seeds of justice starting to grow.

Our starting point is not instances of torture and broken legal systems. We focus instead on the attainment of functioning courthouses, competent police officers, trained legal defenders, resulting in ordinary citizens everywhere encountering justice rather than brutality.

Our challenge is to breathe life into existing legal frameworks, to stop investigative torture before it occurs, and to create a culture where the rule of law and respect for due process and human rights is the norm.
Yes, this sounds incredible. Many would say it is simply not possible. Yet in in the country where I first encountered the 12-year-old tortured boy, IBJ today now represents indigent defendants in 13 out of Cambodia's 24 provinces.

In those provinces where IBJ has its legal aid centers, investigative torture today is virtually eliminated, a dramatic turnaround from a culture of abuse and impunity in a few short years' time. Cambodia's government has asked IBJ to work on helping to build a legal aid system. We trained the police, we empowered the defense lawyers, we raised the population's awareness -- and where we work, torture is now the exception and not the rule.

Imagine a 36-year-old Sri Lankan woman, held in pretrial detention for nine years. Only after an IBJ lawyer intervened did she regain her freedom and see her children again. And this story is one of the least unpleasant ones. At least she had not been severely tortured, raped or abused.

Despite overwhelming challenges, courageous defenders are having the prophetic imagination to see a world without abuse and torture and are fashioning this hope into reality. They are enabling their countries to rise from the ashes of destruction by rebuilding stable societies through the safeguards of their legal system.

For the latter half of the 20th century, as human rights became an important factor in international relations, activists played an excellent role in raising awareness of problems. But we've reached a point where there is only so much that this can accomplish. If we learn about abuses and only prosecute abuse after the fact, what good does that do?

Instead of optimizing the approach by doing the same thing only a bit more effectively, we need to innovate -- that is, we need to do something new entirely. We can't play the game by the rule of the tormentors, whereby they torture and we decry. We won't always lose, but we'll never win.

We need to act before the torture happens in the first place. A shift is taking place toward upholding human rights through legal rights -- using the infrastructure of the public justice system to ensure that basic protections are upheld. The payoff is preventing abuse, rather than exposing mistreatment and prosecuting after the fact. Just having a lawyer supervise the process of a suspect's detainment puts police and prosecutors on notice that they are being watched not just by a defender, but by society at large.

There was a time when it was impossible to imagine a world without polio. There was a time when it was impossible to imagine the abolition of apartheid. But that did not stop those who believed in a better world, and I believe we can stop the use of investigative torture in the 21st century. The time is now.
We are the Dragon.

We are the Game.
Let us rise up from the ashes of destruction and create our ethical future together. Read more!

Cambodia evictions continue unchecked

In the most recent manifestation of an old injustice, 300 families were forced from their homes in a central slum.

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — In fast-developing Phnom Penh, land is at a premium, and it's the poor who pay the price for high-end development.

It is not a new story. Around 250,000 Cambodians were evicted from their homes between 2005 and 2009, according to local human-rights groups.

And the trend continues to gather steam, despite a high-profile case last year in which the international community got involved, if only for a moment. In 2011, the World Bank froze loans to Cambodia after 20,000 families were faced with forced eviction.

But even the freeze, which stands today, hasn't stemmed the tide of evictions. The government continues to favor major development firms over the poor Cambodian majority.

In the most recent case, a major development company, Phan Imex, bulldozed the modest slum homes of 300 families in a neighborhood called Borei Keila in the capital Phnom Penh.

Anatomy of a forced eviction
Hundreds of Borei Keila residents fought against armed riot police with Molotov cocktails and rocks in a battle that began in the early morning of Jan. 3, and continued for hours with many injuries on both sides. Eight protesters were arrested in the fray, and remain in prison as of this writing.

The next day, evictees took to the streets, protesting outside international embassies for help.

“We thought we were dead,” said one woman with a recent wound on her face. She said she was sleeping in her Borei Keila apartment when bulldozers began to knock it down.

“We were not able to get anything out of the house — this is all I have, a krama [a Cambodian scarf] and some dirty clothes,” she said.

Most of the evictees wanted to remain anonymous, concerned about possible government backlash.

Their complaint?
Phan Imex had promised to build 10 new apartment buildings for 1,776 residents to replace the demolished homes, in a deal reached with villagers and the government in 2003. But Phan Imex announced in 2010 that it could only afford to build eight buildings, leaving 300 families in the lurch.

The left-out families were offered plots of land in two relocation sites instead of finished apartments. The sites, mind you, more closely resemble desolate refugee camps. Confused children, far away from the schools, roam in packs. Their families scramble to build shelters to keep off the sun, and keep out the mosquitoes.


Protesters weren’t safe from the law either: 30 women and children, peacefully protesting in downtown Phnom Penh on Jan. 11, were thrown into vans and sent to a detention center. Held without charge, the government claimed the women and children were being kept to “to figure out their real needs and intentions."
Of these, 20 of the detained women and children staged a dramatic escape on Jan. 18, climbing over the walls as security personnel looked on, taking tuk-tuks to a local NGO, the Housing Rights Task Force.
More from GlobalPost: Cambodia pushes out the poor

"This eviction shows once again that Cambodia's political and economic elite can operate with absolute impunity, without regard to the law," said Tim Malay, president of the Cambodia Youth Network, condemning the evictions in a press release.

As of last week, 100 families were living at one of the relocation sites, Phnom Bat, which is about 35 miles from the center of the capital. But Phan Imex has formally recognized only 60 families as having claim to a plot of land there, which leaves the other 40 vulnerable to potential future eviction.

The company has demanded petitioners for plots present residence documents and be "recognized" by a local authority. But finding the right documents and getting recognition is proving hard for some evictees. Many lost their paperwork when their homes were destroyed.

"The company [Phan Imex] is fully supported by the governor and the head of the government," said opposition lawmaker and human-rights activist Mu Sochua of the evictions. "There is total silence from their part, while the company calls the shots. This is total lack of accountability."

What can former residents of Borei Keila expect?

"The only thing the future holds for these Borei Keila families is the desperation of dispossession that affects a rapidly growing number of Cambodians who have been forced off their land," said Human Rights Watch Asia deputy director Phil Robertson.

"There is no better way to abuse a person's economic, social and cultural rights than to strip them of the land where they have resided for generations," he added.

When the World Bank got involved

The Borei Keila evictees face a situation similar to that of the Boueng Lake evictees, who made headlines in 2010 and 2011 as they waged their own battle against Shukaku Inc, a development company headed by a senator from the ruling Cambodian People's Party.

As Shukaku pumped sandy sludge into the inner-city lake and the homes surrounding it to make way for high-end development projects, around 20,000 families were faced with forced eviction.

Some families accepted inadequate compensation for their homes and left, but many did not. In response to the evictions, the World Bank froze loans to Cambodia in August of last year, a freeze that has yet to be lifted.

In response to the freeze, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen awarded 12.44 hectares of residential land to villagers displaced by Shukaku Inc, and over 500 plots have been awarded to date, although protests and disputes continue.

One Boeung Kak evictee, Kun Chantha, joined in the Borei Keila protests this month outside the US Embassy.

“I want you to go back and ask Phan Imex what else they want from you,” a passionate Chantha told the crowd, who stood in the hot sun, largely ignored by Embassy staffers who passed in and out of the heavily fortified gates.

“Give everything to them ...” she said. “Even if you are naked, you shouldn’t be ashamed. The people who should be ashamed are the government.”

How widespread are forced evictions?

Despite the high-profile World Bank freeze, land-grabs and evictions still take place distressingly often, as the government doles out land concessions to rubber, mining, tourism and agriculture firms.

According to a recent USAID report, 7 percent of Cambodia's land outside protected areas has been granted to private firms for agro-industrial plantations.

These concessions have been made at the expense of the average Cambodian: according to the report, landlessness has been on the rise since the late 1990s, and as of 2009, an estimated 20 to 40 percent of rural households had no formal title to their property.

Cambodian law dictates that land can be taken from individuals if it's in the public interest, but the law also says the government has to pay the market value of the land in compensation to evictees, a stipulation that's rarely honored.

The reality of relocation

Evictees face hard lives at relocation sites.

There are no bathrooms, medical care is far-off, and water quality is poor. NGOs are forced to drop off food and medical supplies. Most of the men are in the city, trying to eke out a living far from their families.

A recent survey of 195 relocated or land-threatened people, conducted by local NGO Housing Rights Task Force, came back with distressing results.

More than two-thirds of households in relocated areas were over $869 in debt (in a nation where per capita gross domestic product stands at only $830 a year), while 35.7 percent of relocated people are unemployed, in comparison to 18.4 percent prior to the forced move.

Evictees vie for global spotlight

Despite protests and local media attention, the international community has paid little mind to the plight of Borei Keila residents, or to Cambodian land-grabbing issues in general.

Many feel that sweeping international action is the only way to get government attention — and specific action at that.

On Wednesday, four people protesting a local land grab were shot in Snuol, in southern Cambodia. Prime Minister Hun Sen has condemned the shootings, perpetrated by private security guards, but whether they will be brought to justice remains to be seen.

"The Cambodian government only responds to a mixture of embarrassment and fear of losing development projects," said Robertson of Human Rights Watch. "The international community has to continue to demonstrate the political will to confront these abuses whenever and wherever they occur."

But as January drags on, relocation sites fill up, and 8 Borei Keila protesters languish in prison, no condemnations like the World Bank loan freeze are forthcoming.

As one evictee said outside the US embassy, "Only the poor help the poor. The rich and powerful would never dare to come here to help us."

Sek Sokunroth (Alex) contributed reporting to this story. Read more!

Ancient Cambodian temple stirs to life

By Associated Press ..BANTEAY CHHMAR, Cambodia — It's still entwined in mystery and jungle vines, but one of Cambodia's grandest monuments is slowly awakening after eight centuries of isolated slumber, having attracted a crack archaeological team and a trickle of tourists.



A Cambodian boy leans against one of the mythical
 figures that guard the approaches to Banteay Chhmar,
 an 800-year-old temple from the days of the great Angkorian Empire.
“It takes awhile to unfold this temple — and everywhere there are enticements,” says John Sanday, the team leader, as he navigates through tangled undergrowth, past dramatic towers and bas-reliefs and into dark chambers of the haunting monastic complex of Banteay Chhmar.
What drove Jayavarman VII, regarded as the greatest king of the Angkorian Empire, to erect this vast Buddhist temple about 105 miles from his capital in Angkor and in one of the most desolate and driest places in Cambodia remains one of its many unsolved riddles.

At its height in the 12th century, the empire extended over much of Southeast Asia, its rulers engaging in a building frenzy that produced some of the world's greatest religious monuments.

Called the “second Angkor Wat,” Banteay Chhmar approaches it in size, is more frozen in time than the manicured and made-over superstar, and has so far been spared the blights of mass tourism of recent years at Angkor.

In 2011, an average of 7,000 tourists a day visited Angkor, one of Asia's top tourist draws located near the booming northwestern city of Siem Reap. Banteay Chhmar saw an average of two a day, with no tour buses and bullhorn-wielding guides to disturb the temple's total tranquillity or traditional life in the surrounding village.

Abandoned for centuries, then cut off from the world by the murderous Khmer Rouge and a civil war, Banteay Chhmar didn't welcome visitors until 2007 when the last mines were cleared and the looting that plagued the defenseless temple in the 1990s was largely halted.

A year later, the California-based Global Heritage Fund began work at the site under the overall control of the country's Ministry of Culture and now spends about $200,000 a year on the project.

Sanday, a veteran British conservation architect, assembled a team of 60 experts and workers, some of whom were with him on an earlier restoration of the Preah Khan temple at Angkor. Others were recruited from the surrounding community and although barely literate, Sanday says they're among the best he's worked with in Asia.

Challenging them are hundreds of thousands of stone blocks from collapsed shrines and galleries scattered helter-skelter within the 4.6-square-mile archaeological site. Towers teeter, massive tree roots burrow into walls, vegetation chokes a wide moat girding the temple.

Three-quarters of the bas reliefs — rarely found at other Angkorian temples — have fallen or been looted, the most notable being eight panels depicting Avalokiteshvara, an enlightened being embodying Buddhist compassion.

Thieves sheared off four panels with jackhammers, smuggling them into nearby Thailand where two are widely believed to be decorating the garden of a Thai politician. A pair has been recovered and the others are still at the temple, although only two still stand.

“We've been struggling away with this gallery for nearly two years now,” says Sanday at another bas-relief, one depicting a figure believed to be Jayavarman VII leading his troops into battle. In vivid detail, the ancient sandstone wall springs to life with charging war elephants, soldiers plunging spears into their enemies and crocodiles gobbling up the dead.

Nature and time have proved the culprits: the vaulting protecting the 98-foot relief collapsed, exposing the wall to monsoon torrents, which seeped downward to wash away the masonry and loosen the foundations. Pressure from the weight above toppled sections of the wall or forced it to lean.

“He's going to have to come down,” says the 68-year-old architect of the king's image. A section of the wall is angled dangerously outward, he explains, so it must be dismantled, the foundations reinforced and the sandstone blocks meticulously numbered, charted, then set back into place.

Nearby, two young Cambodian computer whizzes are pioneering a shortcut to the reassembly process through three-dimensional imaging. The work-in-progress is one of the temple's 34 towers recently damaged in a severe storm.

Some 700 stone blocks from the tower have been removed or collected from where they fell and each one will be videographed from every angle. Since like a human fingerprint, no stone is exactly alike, still-to-be-finalized software should be able to fit all the blocks into their original alignment after they are repaired.

“We hope that with one push of the button all the stones will jump into place to solve what we are calling ‘John's puzzle,'” says Sanday.

When an original block has gone missing or is beyond repair, either an original stone from elsewhere on the site is used or, as a last resort, a new stone will be inserted.

“My philosophy is to preserve and present the monuments as I found them for future generations without falsifying their history. So often people tend to guess what was there,” he says.

The Global Heritage Fund, he says, is also intent on involving the community. “We can't protect Banteay Chhmar. They have to be the protectors. So they must gain some revenue from the temple,” Sanday says.

The Community Based Tourism group, which the fund supports, is training locals to become guides and devising ways to derive more income from tourism, part of which is funneled into betterment of the entire village.

Sanday and local organizers, however, hope Banteay Chhmar's remote location will spare it from a mass tourist influx. Thus he is not keen to have it listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, something the Cambodian government is pushing for.

“I often come here in the late afternoons, when the birds come alive and a breeze stirs,” Sanday says as fading sun rays, filtered through the green canopy, dapple the gray, weathered stones. “It's peaceful and quiet here, like it used to be at Angkor. This is a real site.”

If you go

Banteay Chhmar

Ancient Cambodian monument: There are no hotels, but Community Based Tourism runs six modest, clean homestays in Banteay Chhmar village, also arranging meals and tours. Rooms cost $7 a night. Details and contact information at visitbanteaychhma.org 


Getting there: Located about 105 miles from Angkor. Cars can be hired in nearby Siem Reap, site of an international airport, for the drive to Banteay Chhmar.

When to go: November through February are the cool, sunny months followed by scorching heat and then monsoon rains when some roads to Banteay Chhmar become impassable.


 Read more!

Lion dances performed in Cambodia to celebrate Chinese New Year

PHNOM PENH, Jan. 22 (Xinhua) -- Chinese traditional lion and dragon dances have begun performances in Cambodia on Sunday to celebrate coming Lunar New Year, which falls on Jan. 23.

The dances started from the Royal Palace, then to the Chinese Embassy in Phnom Penh before going elsewhere across the country.

The six groups of lion and dragon dances from the Chinese community in Cambodia had performed at the Royal Palace to bless Cambodia with happiness and prosperity in the New Year, Lao Shi Heng, vice-president of Chinese Association in Cambodia, said.

The groups were welcomed by Kuy Sophal, senior minister in charge of public affairs at the Royal Palace.

Later, at the Chinese Embassy, the groups were greeted by the ambassador Pan Guangxue.

"The Lunar New Year is the most important festival in China," he said, adding that it marked the end of the winter and the start of the spring.

The ambassador has also hailed overseas Chinese for promoting Chinese custom and tradition in Cambodia.

"May the Year of the Dragon bring luck, fortune and prosperity to China and the world," he said.

Traditionally, lion dance is invited by Chinese families to perform as a symbolic ritual to usher in the Spring Festival and to ward off bad luck and evil spirits.

Chinese New Year is one of the largest festivals in Cambodia, up to 80 percent of Cambodian people celebrate it every year, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said in a public speech in last January.

According to the figures from the Chinese Association in Cambodia, there are some 700,000 Chinese descendants living in Cambodia.
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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Cambodia’s ex-king heads to China for medical tests



Former Cambodian king Norodom Sihanouk, center, passes a wreath to his son King Norodom Sihamoni, right, after arriving at the Phnom Penh International Airport yesterday to go to China.Jan 20, 2012

 Cambodia’s ailing former king Norodom Sihanouk yesterday left his country again for Beijing to undergo medical tests, despite a vow to stay in his homeland forever.

The 89-year-old ex-monarch, who is a revered figure in Cambodia, smiled and waved to well-wishers as he was given a red-carpet sendoff by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and other senior government officials at Phnom Penh airport.

It is unclear how long Sihanouk, who is traveling with his wife and their son, King Norodom Sihamoni, will remain abroad.

The ex-monarch has suffered from a number of ailments in recent years, including cancer, diabetes and hypertension. He has been a frequent visitor to China, where he received the bulk of his treatment.

After returning in October from a previous stay of almost three months in Beijing, Sihanouk told his compatriots that he would never leave Cambodia again, in a speech to mark the 20th anniversary of his return from exile.

However, his medical needs have made it impossible to keep that promise, said Sihanouk’s personal secretary, Prince Sisowath Thomico.

“The Chinese doctors can travel to treat him in Cambodia, but they can’t bring their equipment with them so they asked him to go to China for a check-up,” Thomico said.

“His health is still good,” he added. “He is still strong.”

One of Asia’s longest-serving monarchs, the former king abruptly quit the throne in October 2004 in favor of his son, citing old age and health problems.

Despite abdicating, the ex-monarch sometimes uses his Web site to communicate with the outside world.
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Vietnam, Cambodia report bird flu deaths

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Vietnam on Thursday confirmed its first human death from bird flu in nearly two years, a day after neighboring Cambodia also logged its first fatality this year as new cases of the H5N1 virus are reported in Asia and the Middle East.

Both deaths appear to be linked to contact with poultry, and no human-to-human transmission is suspected. Other human bird flu cases have been reported recently in Indonesia, Egypt and China. Outbreaks typically flare among poultry stocks during the winter flu months, often resulting in a spate of human cases.

In Vietnam, test results confirmed that an 18-year-old Vietnamese man died of the disease Monday after being hospitalized a day earlier, said Dang Thi Thanh of southern Kien Giang province's health department.

She said the man was working at a duck farm in neighboring Can Tho City when he fell sick with a high fever and breathing problems. His house has been disinfected and those who were in contact with him remain under surveillance.

No sick or dead poultry have been reported on the two farms where the man worked or among neighboring flocks, but samples have been collected for analysis and the farms have been disinfected, said Huynh Thi Khai Hoan, an animal health officer in Can Tho City. However, many of the ducks on the farms where the man worked had already been sold.

In Cambodia, a 2-year-old boy died Wednesday after developing symptoms Jan. 3. He was reportedly in contact with sick poultry in his village, according to the World Health Organization. The country's last death occurred in August.

The virus rarely infects humans and usually only those who come in direct contact with diseased poultry, but experts fear it will mutate into a new form that passes easily from person to person.

The WHO says that globally there have been 341 human deaths from 578 confirmed bird flu cases since 2003. About 60 of those deaths occurred in Vietnam.

Before Monday, Vietnam had not seen a human bird flu death since April 2010, according to the Ministry of Health's Preventive Medicine Department.

The government has called for stepped-up efforts to fight bird flu as a massive movement of people and poultry begins ahead of the Lunar New Year festivities, which start next week.
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UN names new adviser for Cambodia Khmer Rouge trials

The United Nations has named a new special expert to advise on assistance to the Khmer Rouge trials in Cambodia.


A student reads court documents displaying portraits of Khmer Rouge leaders Ieng Sary, from right, Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea during a UN-backed war crime tribunal in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on 16 January, 2012
Three Khmer Rouge leaders (photos from left)
Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan and Ieng Sary are on trial
 David Scheffer, the former US ambassador-at-large for war crime issues, is ''very well qualified to provide expert advice'', the UN said in a statement released on Wednesday.

He replaces Clint Williamson, whose term expired on 30 September 2011.

The UN-backed genocide court is seeking justice for almost two million deaths under the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s.

Mr Scheffer was involved in the establishment of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, said the UN statement.

He was also experienced in setting up the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, the International Criminal Court and the Special Court for Sierra Leone.

In November 2011, three top Khmer Rouge leaders - Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan and Ieng Sary - went on trial for crimes committed during the regime's rule.

Another leader, Ieng Thirith, was found incapable of standing trial because of ill health.

Former Khmer Rouge prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Comrade Duch, was convicted of crimes against humanity in 2010 in the tribunal's first case.

Last week, a Swiss judge publicly accused his Cambodian counterpart of stopping him from revealing key information about two other possible prosecutions.

It is the latest row between judicial officials at the UN-backed court.

The Swiss judge replaced a German judge who resigned unexpectedly in October 2011, citing political opposition to further prosecutions.

The trial of Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan and Ieng Sary continued this week.
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Cambodia still in fight to curb pirated goods

Despite continued efforts to curb intellectual-property violations in Cambodia, weak enforcement and government bureaucracy continue to stymie that progress, experts have said.

Cambodia faces many of the same IP problems as neighbouring countries, but regulation of the black market has proved largely unsuccessful, not least because the Kingdom lacks policing capacity.
Regulators have been unable to put to work the international support networks and aid available to them.

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“When we get aid from other countries, I worry that Cambodia doesn’t have the human resources to implement the project,” Var Roth San, director of intellectual property at the Ministry of Commerce, said yesterday. Still, at an ASEAN-wide IP workshop held last week in Phnom Penh, the Cambodian government said it would launch 45 enforcement projects between 2012 and 2014, he said.

On the purchasing side, Cambodians were often unaware of what intellectual property meant, Var Roth San said.

The lack of understanding – which amounted to little more than a price difference to many in the country – was also a challenge to weaning Cambodia off pirated goods, he said.

IP infringement in Cambodia, ranging from software, music and books to cigarettes, alcohol and pharmaceuticals, is pervasive, according to Sean McIntosh, spokesman for the US embassy in Phnom Penh.
Weak enforcement had failed to significantly reduce the trade, which is thought to include 95 per cent of the computer software in the Kingdom, he said.

The Cambodian government spreads management of IP issues across three ministries.

That separation among regulators was inefficient, confusing and a hindrance to enforcement, Peter Fowler, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) intellectual property attaché for Southeast Asia, said.

“The international trend . . . is to consolidate all IP-related administration and policy functions in a single office or agency,” Bangkok-based Fowler said, adding that Cambodia’s regulation scheme was somewhat unique.

Change is coming, but slowly. Cambodia first moved to bring IP regulation under one roof in 2008, and a draft plan for a single office could be approved within a month, the Ministry of Commerce’s Var Roth San said.

The World Intellectual Property Organisation has pledged to provide technical assistance for the transition.

As ASEAN’s 2015 integration draws closer, IP issues in the region would only become more important, Fowler said.

Yet as Cambodia comes to terms with already weak enforcement, new challenges are emerging with the larger global trade in protected goods and the increasing availability of the internet.

The increased involvement of transnational criminal organisations with the movement counterfeit goods also posed a threat, Fowler said.


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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Cambodia's export to EU reaches US$1.3b

Business Desk
Rasmei Kampuchea Daily


Cambodia's export to the EU market in 2011 reached over US$1.3 billion, increasing almost 40 per cent from 2010, according the EU ambassador to Cambodia.

"Overall, comparing the total value of exports from Cambodia to the EU in 2010 with 2011 data, an increase of 39.86 per cent can be reported. The EU is only second after US ($2,070,009,468 million, representing 45. per cent of total export of Cambodia) as destination of total Cambodian exports in 2011," Ambassador Jean-François Cautain, Head of the EU Delegation to the Kingdom of Cambodia told The Cambodia Herald in this week's interview.

He added most recent export figures for Cambodia (2011) show that the value of exports leaving Cambodia to the EU registered at slightly more than $1.3 billion, representing 28.7 per cent of Cambodia's total exports.

EU imports from Cambodia in 2011 highly concentrated in textiles and textile articles (78 per cent in 2011 compared to 64.8 per cent in 2010), footwear (9.5 per cent in 2011 against 24.8 per cent in 2010), other goods including vehicle equipment (about 7 per cent), and rice (0.5 per cent).

In the past few years, rice has been a promising export product in agriculture, especially since its coverage under Everything But Arms (the European preferential trade scheme that allows Cambodia-based firms to export sugar and other goods to the EU) since 1 September 2009, with exports to EU increasing exponentially from about $2 million in 2008 to $31.5 million in 2010. In 2011 the value of rice exported to the EU market reached $66 million, with an incredible 108.94 per cent increase in 2011 compared to the previous year.
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Extremely Rare Turtle is Released into the Wild

Southern River terrapin, fixed with a satellite transmitter, is set free to breed in the waters of Cambodia

Wildlife Conservation Society, Cambodian Fisheries Administration, and Wildlife Reserves Singapore will monitor turtle

Less than 200 adult individuals remain in the wild

Newswise — NEW YORK (January 18, 2012) – The Wildlife Conservation Society, in conjunction with the Cambodian Fisheries Administration and Wildlife Reserves Singapore, announced today the successful release of a Southern River terrapin (Batagur affinis) – one of the most endangered turtles on earth – into the Sre Ambel River in Cambodia.

The turtle was released on Monday, January 16th at a ceremony attended by officials, conservationists, and local people.

The female turtle, which weighs approximately 75 pounds (34 kilograms), is fixed with a satellite transmitter that will allow conservationists to track its whereabouts – the first-ever satellite monitoring study for this species.

Captured in the Sre Ambel River by local fishermen in April, 2011, the turtle is one of an estimated 200 adults remaining in the wilds of Cambodia, Malaysia, and Indonesia. It was voluntarily turned it over to the WCS Cambodia turtle team instead of being sold into the black market trade where it would have been sent to food markets in China.

The population in the Sre Ambel River is estimated at less than ten nesting females. Thus, this individual is extremely important for maintaining genetic diversity of this species that has already suffered drastic population declines.
WCS believes the pop
ulation has an excellent chance of recovery as the coastal mangrove forests of Southeastern Cambodia are some of the largest and most pristine in Southeast Asia, spanning some 175 square miles (more than 45,000 hectares). These habitats are crucial to numerous aquatic and terrestrial animals and are vital nursery areas for marine fisheries.

Conservationists will monitor the turtle’s movements to see how it utilizes this region. Of particular interest is how the turtle navigates through commercial fishing grounds, as well as areas where it could be threatened by other factors such as habitat destruction by sand mining or conversion of mangrove forests into shrimp farming facilities.

WCS notes that numerous studies on similar long-lived species have shown that as little as a five percent increase in annual adult mortality can cause populations to go extinct.

“By reducing the adult mortality of the Southern River terrapin, even by fractions – as little as ten animals a year per population in this circumstance – we can have immediate and long-term positive impacts on the remaining wild populations of this critically endangered species” said Brian D. Horne of the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Heng Sovannara, Deputy Director of Cambodia’s Fisheries Administration’s Conservation Department, is extremely hopeful that the release will enhance efforts to conserve the species. “By identifying areas that are most utilized by the turtles, we can pinpoint our efforts to reduce the turtles being caught as fishery by-catch as well as targeted hunting,” he said.

Dr. Sonja Luz, Deputy Director of Conservation & Research for Wildlife Reserves Singapore, said: “This project will contribute greatly to a much brighter future for this critically endangered terrapin. Hopefully, more public awareness and education opportunities will arise from this and allow us to create better protection tools and a safer environment for these amazing reptiles.”

In 2000, a small population of Southern River Terrapins, Batagur affinis, was found in the Sre Ambel after many years of being considered locally extinct.

The turtle was once considered solely the property of the King of Cambodia, but has been decimated by overhunting over the past two decades.

Following the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot regime, the Cambodian people were left in severe poverty, and with the growing international demand for turtles in China for human consumption, literally thousands of turtles were captured and sent to China for much needed income by the country’s impoverished people.

The Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild places worldwide. We do so through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world's largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the Flagship Bronx Zoo. Together these activities change attitudes toward nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony. WCS is committed to this mission because it is essential to the integrity of life on Earth. Visit: http://www.wcs.org/

Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) is the parent company of award-winning attractions Jurong Bird Park, Night Safari, Singapore Zoo and the upcoming River Safari. WRS parks strive to be world-class leisure attractions, providing excellent exhibits of animals presented in their natural environment for the purpose of conservation, education and recreation. In the areas of conservation and research, WRS parks have undertaken multiple projects through collaborations with various organisations and institutions on the oriental pied hornbill, pangolin and orang utan. Highly popular with tourists and locals, Jurong Bird Park welcomed 900,000 visitors, the Night Safari, more than 1.1 million, and Singapore Zoo over 1.6 million visitors in 2010. More information can be found at http://www.wrs.com.sg/.
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