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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Sotheby's trying to resolve Cambodia relic dispute

By ULA ILNYTZKY Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) -- Sotheby's is working to help return an ancient statue to Cambodia after the government claimed it had been illegally removed from the country decades ago.

The New York auction house said Wednesday it withdrew the 1,000-year-old relic a day before a March 2011 sale at the request of Cambodia, which also asked Sotheby's to arrange for its return. Sotheby's says the government did not allege that the statue had been stolen by the current owner.

The sculpture of a mythical warrior had been estimated to sell for up to $3 million.

Sotheby's says the owner is a European collector who purchased it from a London dealer in 1975.

The auction house is trying to resolve the dispute by looking for a buyer who would donate the statue to Cambodia.

Online: www.sothebys.com
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US deportations of Cambodian Americans challenged by exile community

During the violence of the Khmer Rouge regime in the late 1970s tens of thousands of Cambodians fled to nearby Thailand. Some went on to the Philippines and then to the US, where families resettled and tried to start over.

But about a decade ago, the US stepped up its deportation of Cambodians who had been convicted of “aggravated felonies” forcing many to leave the US, the only home they’ve known. Many of these exiled Americans now reside inside Cambodia. A group of them have made a short film called My Asian Americana that they’re using to advocate for changes in the US policy.

One of those involved is Kosal Khiev.

“If the world is black and white, then let me bring the color...”

That’s a clip from one of his poems, “Why I Write.” Khiev was born in a refugee camp in Thailand before moving to the US with his family. At the age of 17 he was charged with attempted murder in connection with a gang fight. He served 14 years of a 16-year sentence before being released in 2011, when he was deported to Cambodia. He joins us now from Phnom Penh.

To see a video of Khiev’s "Why I Write":
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xCKvWSHl_hw

To see Studio Revolt’s "My Asian Americana," which features Khiev and other American exiles in Cambodia:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/aapi/whats-your-story

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IMF Says Cambodian Economy to Grow 6.5%, But Warns of Risks

Phnom Penh (dpa) – Cambodia’s economy is expected to grow 6.5 per cent in 2012, up from 5.75 per cent last year, the International Monetary Fund said in its annual review, adding that government policies to boost the investment climate were paying off.

However, in its assessment, which was released overnight, the US-based body warned the kingdom’s economy was vulnerable to the global slowdown, adding that its narrow export base made it susceptible to “significant downside risks.”

Cambodia’s economy is based on agriculture, garment manufacturing, tourism and construction, with the last three helping to buoy the economy last year. The garment industry was the largest foreign exchange earner in 2011 worth 3.75 billion dollars in exports.

“If you look at the report there has been quite a bit of progress on several fronts and that progress needs to be continued,” IMF country director Faisal Ahmed told dpa Tuesday, adding that one key area needing attention was the financial sector.

The IMF assessment called again for a moratorium on banking licences – more than 30 banks now operate in Cambodia, making it “overbanked” – until the central bank has sufficient capacity to regulate the sector.

“The current degree of concentration and fragmentation poses risks to financial stability, while not delivering sufficient benefits from competition and innovation,” the report stated.

Stagnant tax revenues combined with increased spending following 2011’s floods had cut the government’s deposits to around 4 per cent of GDP, leaving it with limited room to tackle future challenges.

The IMF recommended the government boost efforts to increase the tax take and raise spending on infrastructure and high impact social programmes. Further improvements to the business environment would also reap rewards, contributing to an expectation of 7.6-per-cent growth over the medium-term.

The IMF again cautioned that guarantees to firms involved in build-operate-transfer power projects, particularly hydroelectric dams, could generate “potentially large contingent liabilities.”

The high cost and poor reliability of the electricity supply has long proven a brake on inward investment, which is why the government has signed deals for dozens of projects over the next decade. However it has also guaranteed to buy all of the electricity generated by at least some of those projects.

Although the risk posed by that guarantee might not seem significant given the current shortage of electricity, the IMF said, “the sheer size of these projects, and the fact that risks for complex infrastructure projects are difficult to quantify ex ante, call for continuous and careful monitoring.” dpa rmc ses Author: Robert Carmichael
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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Ancient Statue Sits in Limbo as Rights Question Looms

By TOM MASHBERG and

The pedestal and feet belonging to a disputed thousand-year-old statue,
 currently held by Sotheby's, in Cambodia.
The Department of Homeland Security has opened an investigation, but Cambodian officials say they have held off asking for the piece to be seized while they negotiate with Sotheby’s for a private purchase. The auction house says that the seller is a “noble European lady” who acquired it in 1975. Although it was severed from its feet and pedestal, which were left behind at a remote Cambodian archaeological site, Sotheby’s says there is no proof that it was taken illegally.


The quiet tussle over the relic reveals the swampy terrain of auctioning antiquities with incomplete or disputed pedigrees. Sellers with a good-faith belief in their ownership rights enter a landscape in which ethics and regulations are evolving, governments are increasingly assertive, and lawyers versed in arcane statutes are as necessary as jungle guides. 

“We live in a different world, and what was acceptable 50 years ago is no longer so,” said Matthew F. Bogdanos, a Marine Corps Reserves colonel and a lawyer, who was awarded a National Humanities Medal for leading the hunt for treasures ransacked from the Baghdad Museum in 2003. ”Whatever the letter of the law may state, in the end you have to ask yourself, ‘Does the item pass the smell test?’ ”

Jane A. Levine, senior vice president and worldwide compliance director for Sotheby’s, said the auction house was “aware there are widely divergent views on how to resolve conflicts involving cultural heritage objects.”

“Sotheby’s approach to the Khmer sculpture is one of responsible and ethical market behavior and international cooperation between private and public entities,” she said.

Archaeologists and Cambodian officials say the case of the footless statue is all the more poignant because of the country’s recent history of genocide and plunder, and because researchers have found the very pedestal and feet belonging to the artwork. The discovery was made in Koh Ker, 60 miles northeast of the Angkor Wat temple complex; Koh Ker, another city in the Khmer empire, was at one time a rival capital to Angkor, which was once the largest city in the preindustrial world, perhaps more than three times the area of New York City today.

The sculpture, which is five feet tall and weighs 250 pounds, is one of a pair of scowling athlete-combatants in intricate headdresses from the mid 900s who were positioned in battle-ready stances and come from one of Koh Ker’s temples; it is about 200 years older than the famous sculptures at Angkor Wat.
In 2007 archaeologists matched the other statue, on display since 1980 at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, Calif., to its similarly detached pedestal.

Archaeologists say all clues suggest the work at Sotheby’s was plundered in the 1970s amid the chaos of power struggle and genocide, when the Khmer Rouge ravaged Cambodia, and looters hacked their way into long-inaccessible temples, pillaged priceless antiquities and sold them to Thai and Western collectors. The Khmer Rouge ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979.

“Every red flag on the planet should have gone off when this was offered for sale,” said Herbert V. Larson Jr., a New Orleans lawyer and antiquities expert who teaches legal issues involving smuggled artifacts. “It screams ‘loot.’ ”

When asked whether the statue could have been stolen, Ms. Levine countered that the statue could have been removed any time in its thousand-year history, and said the word stolen was often “used loosely.”

To write the catalog entry for the statue, Sotheby’s hired the scholar Emma C. Bunker, a co-author of the authoritative book “Adoration and Glory: The Golden Age of Khmer Art.” She called it an unrivaled example of Khmer sculpture, and the lot was promoted on the catalog’s cover and in a Sotheby’s news release. It was withdrawn on the day it was to be sold, March 24, 2011, after a Cambodian official working with the United Nations, Tan Theany, complained in a letter “that this statue was illegally removed from the site” and asked Sotheby’s to “facilitate its return.”

The Cambodian government also contacted the State Department, prompting the investigation by the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement branch. A spokeswoman for the agency, Danielle Bennett, said it “is working closely with the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and the government of Cambodia to look into the matter and determine the proper course of action.”

Sotheby’s says its research proves that its client has had “clear title” to the work since buying it from Spink in London in December 1975. A spokeswoman for Spink, which was acquired by Christie’s in 1993, said the 1975 records about where the company had obtained the statue were no longer available. Ms. Levine would not discuss the federal government’s investigation.

Ms. Levine, a former federal prosecutor named last year to President Obama’s Cultural Property Advisory Committee, said Cambodia’s willingness to negotiate indicates that it is aware that under American and Cambodian law, it has no legal claim. She said Cambodia “did not identify any basis to contest the owner’s title to the property and did not allege that it would be unlawful for Sotheby’s to sell the statue.”

Originally, Ms. Levine said that Cambodia had been informed of the Sotheby’s sale “four to six weeks” before the auction. Late on Tuesday, however, a Sotheby’s spokeswoman said that Ms. Levine’s recollection had been “incorrect,” and that the auction house had notified Cambodia on Nov. 8, 2010, four and a half months before the auction date. The statue’s seller, speaking through Sotheby’s, declined to be identified or to comment.

Laws governing the repatriation of disputed artifacts are complex and differ from nation to nation. In Cambodia’s case, because the statue was exported “long before the passage of a 1993 Cambodian law that nationalized cultural heritage,” Ms. Levine said, there were no restrictions on its sale or auction.

Nonetheless, the global controversy surrounding looted artifacts has led many American museums to adopt ethical guidelines that go beyond the legal requirements. In 2004 the Association of Art Museum Directors declared “member museums should not acquire” any undocumented works “that were removed after November 1970, regardless of any applicable statutes of limitation.”

Ms. Levine said Sotheby’s withdrew the antiquity from the auction block “to forge a solution acceptable both to Cambodia and to the owner of the statue.”

Doing so has laid bare a little-known but increasingly common practice used by poor nations to recover artifacts. Working with the Unesco office in Phnom Penh, Cambodia has asked Sotheby’s to bargain with a wealthy Hungarian antiquities collector who has offered to pay $1 million for the statue and present it to Cambodia as an act of good will.

“There is no question the statue was looted in the final stages of the war,” said the collector, Istvan Zelnik, a former Hungarian diplomat in the region who has visited Koh Ker. His own collection forms the Zelnik Istvan Museum of Southeast Asian Gold in Budapest.

“The best solution is that I purchase it for purposes of donation,” Mr. Zelnik added.
Anne LeMaistre, the Unesco representative in Phnom Penh, who is involved in the Sotheby’s talks, said “buying back such items can seem distasteful, but sadly it is not unusual when the country’s aim is return of the property.”

Yet another wrinkle is expected on Wednesday when lawyers working with Cambodia plan to announce the rediscovery of a 1925 French colonial law declaring all antiquities from Cambodia’s multitude of temples to be “part of the national domain” and “the exclusive property of the state.” The statement goes on to say that this law remained in force after Cambodian independence, which came in 1953.

Tess Davis, executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation and the Cambodia scholar who dug out the law, said it had been analyzed by three French-speaking lawyers conversant in cultural heritage litigation and by Ms. LeMaistre. All four say it “nationalizes ownership of Cambodian cultural artifacts.”

If international legal authorities and American civil courts agree, the law could establish 1925, rather than 1993, as the dividing point after which Cambodian artifacts taken without government permits can be treated as stolen property. Cambodia would still have to prove that the statue was looted after 1925, “a high burden but not an impossible one,” according to Mr. Bogdanos, who agrees the 1925 law “appears to be valid.”
If it survives legal challenges, the law could affect the Norton Simon piece too, although that case would be more difficult because Cambodia has long known of the statue’s presence there, lawyers say. Mr. Simon, the industrialist and collector , bought his statue, also in 1975, from a leading Madison Avenue antiquities dealer, William H. Wolff.

Eric Bourdonneau, the archaeologist who matched both statues to their bases, says the relics were looted in the early 1970s.

He said French records in Paris indicate the statues were in place in 1939, and that the Koh Ker temple was thickly covered by jungle and inaccessible by road until it became a military staging area for Khmer Rouge and Vietnamese forces.

On one thing all parties agree: The statue is a masterpiece. In the Sotheby’s catalog Ms. Bunker wrote, “If one could choose only one sculpture to represent the glory of Khmer art, this figure could fulfill such a challenge.”
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Hundreds Protest Dam Plans

Ethnic minorities march against the construction of a hydroelectric dam in northeastern Cambodia.

More than 500 ethnic minority residents of riparian communities in northeastern Cambodia held a peaceful protest Tuesday against the construction of a Vietnamese-led hydroelectric dam that will relocate them from their ancestral land.

The villagers, who live along the Se San River in Stung Treng and Ratanakiri provinces, marched on foot and led a boat procession to the Lower Se San 2 Hydroelectric Dam construction site, about 25 kilometers (16 miles) upstream from Stung Treng city—the provincial capital.

They donned red cloth around their waists and foreheads to honor local spirits and held prayers to protect the river ecology from the U.S. $816 million dam project, which is being led by Electricity of Vietnam.

Villagers also carried banners which read, “We must preserve the river, which is the livelihood of the people.” The Se San River is a tributary of the Mekong River.

Representative Siek Mekong told RFA that dam construction would force the ethnic minority villagers to be evacuated from their land along the riverside and would lead to the loss of their plantations and sacred graveyards and forests.

“We urge the local authorities and the government to stop the dam construction plan,” he said, adding that villagers would not take money or the promise of new property to move.

“We don’t want any compensation [to relocate] even though the authorities have promised to compensate us.”

Local authorities met with villager representatives during the protest, but were unable to come to an agreement on the dam project.

Deputy commune chief Beng Teng of nearby Sre Kor district said that authorities had initially sought to prevent the villagers from marching against the dam construction, but later allowed the protest because representatives promised to proceed in a peaceful manner.

“Local police telephoned me and told me to halt the protest or they would deploy forces to crack down on the villagers. But the villagers didn’t do anything wrong, they just prayed to their spirits,” he said.

“The villagers voted for me, so I must support them.”

Provincial governor Loy Sophat could not be reached for comment on the status of the dam, but an official with the Ministry of Industry, which issued licenses for the project, said the Cambodian government had not finalized plans for construction yet.

Dam plansIn 2007, Cambodia's Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy, and Electricity of Vietnam signed a memorandum of understanding which included the undertaking of an environmental impact assessment and a feasibility study for the Lower Se San 2 project.

In January 2011, Vietnam’s Ministry of Planning and Investment licensed Electricity of Vietnam to make its investment into the project.

The project is being carried out by the Cambodia-Vietnam Hydropower Company, a joint company of EVN International—a subsidiary of Electricity of Vietnam—which holds a 51 percent majority stake and the Royal Group of Cambodia, which holds the remaining 49 percent.

Site preparations for the construction on the 400-megawatt dam began in 2011. Critics of the project have said that without a national grid, Cambodia will be unable to make use of the power generated by the dam and that the majority of the electricity will be sold to Vietnam.

An RFA reporter who witnessed the protest and visited the construction site said hundreds of hectares of forest had been cleared for the dam reservoir and at least three bulldozers were clearing trees through controlled burns.

As many as 2,000 people—most of whom are members of ethnic minority groups—are facing relocation because of the project and environmental activists say nearly 80,000 people will lose access to fish whose migratory paths will be blocked by the dam.
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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Buddhist temple tells tale of ancient empire

 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.

“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 which 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 tranquility 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-long relief collapsed, exposing the wall to monsoon torrents, which seeped downwards 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 another 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. Avoiding mass tourism also is why he isn’t keen to have it listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, something the Cambodian government is pushing.

“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.”
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Cambodia: PM’s Brother Wants Sex Case Dropped

The brother of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has requested a court official to drop a sexual harassment suit against two of his friends, drawing condemnation from rights groups.

Hun Sen’s older brother Hun San made the request in a letter to Banteay Meanchey Provincial Court Chief Prosecutor Phann Vanrath, a copy of which was seen by RFA. The prosecutor’s office confirmed with RFA that it had received the letter on Friday.

In the letter dated Dec. 3, 2011, Hun San, who is the director of an agency under the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation, calls the harassment claim against Cambodian Mine Action Center official Oum Socheat and businessman Thang Pisith “groundless.”

“Please forgive me that I can’t meet you in person,” reads the letter by Hun San, who is the director of the Kampuchea Shipping Agency & Brokers Department.

“I would like to request that you, brother prosecutor, please help intervene and aid Oum Socheat and Thong Pisith to put an end to the Nov. 13, 2011 accusation made by a waitress in a Stung Treng restaurant.”

Hun San questioned the accusation against the two middle-aged men, who allegedly verbally harassed and groped 25-year-old Hy Theavy while she served them, saying they would not have done so with others present at the table.

“As mentioned above, I ask that the prosecutor please intervene and drop the case. I hope that the prosecutor will help in ending the suit.”

Prosecutor Phann Vanrath confirmed to RFA that he had received the letter, but said it would not influence his decision on the case. He added that the court is investigating the matter and expects to issue a ruling in March.

“Both sides have their lawyers. The lawyers have asked for copies of the [victims] lawsuit,” Phann Vanrath said.

“I don’t know who leaked the letter, but we [the court] didn’t leak it. To do so would be against the court confidentiality code of ethics,” he said.

“I don’t bend to outside influence. I would quit my work [if that was a problem],” he said.

Potential influence
Cambodian rights group Adhoc’s Chief Investigator Ny Chakriya said he had also seen the letter, but refused to identify the source of the leak for security reasons.

He added that the letter may have already influenced the court’s decision.

“Based on the prosecutor’s statement in which he claims the letter did not influence him, Adhoc will continue to monitor the case,” he said.

“We will see via the court’s decision whether the judge can act without interference.”

Meanwhile, accuser Hy Theavy stood by her complaint of harassment, adding that if the suspects hadn’t committed any crimes then they would not have had to ask for help from the prime minister’s brother.

“Why did Hun San dare to say that Oum Socheat and Thong Pisith didn’t abuse me and decide to write a letter to the court’s prosecutor to drop my case?” she asked.

Hy Theavy said that she now fears for her personal safety.

“Is Cambodian law truly for both the rich and the poor?”

Reported by Sophalmony Soun for RFA’s Khmer service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.
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Chea Sim’s Ex-Bodyguard Chief Sentenced to 26 Years

“I didn’t commit anything. It’s injustice. I will appeal.”

Lt. Gen. Chhoeun Chanthan was found guilty for breach of confidence, distribution and selling of weapons and mismanagement.


The military court sentenced a former bodyguard chief of ruling party president Chea Sim on Friday to 26 years in jail.

Lt. Gen. Chhoeun Chanthan was found guilty for breach of confidence, distribution and selling of weapons and mismanagement.

Judge Pok Porn also ordered Chhoeun Chanthan to pay more than $3.6 million in compensation to three victims for their losses.

The sentence came more than a week after a court in Phnom Penh sentenced the former bodyguard chief to another ten years in prison for illegal possession of firearms and falsifying public documents.

“I didn’t commit anything,” Chhoeun Channthan told reporters. “It’s injustice. I will appeal.”

His lawyer Orn Hing says the decision is “unacceptable” as the court had mixed a civil case with a military one.

Chhoeun Channthan was arrested on August 2011 along with three bodyguards. The three have been sentenced by the Phnom Penh court to between three and four years in prison.
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Friday, February 24, 2012

Kuwait ambassadors to Cambodia, Gabon present credentials

CAPITALS, Feb 24 (KUNA) -- Dhrar Nasser Al-Tuwaijri presented his credentials to King of Cambodia Norodom Sihamoni, as Kuwait's first resident ambassador to the Southeast Asian country.

The handing over of Al-Tuwaijri's credentials was carried out during a ceremony at the Royal Palace in the capital Phnom Penh, the Kuwaiti Embassy said in a statement Friday.

During the ceremony, Al-Tuwaijri conveyed the regards of His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and His Highness the Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah to the Cambodian King Sihamoni.

Al-Tuwaijri also presented a memorial to King Sihamoni on this occasion.

Meanwhile, Abdullah Khalid Al-Askari presented his credentials to President of Gabon Ali-Ben Bongo Ondimba as Kuwait's first resident ambassador to the West Africa nation.

The ceremony was held at the Presidential Palace and attended by a large number of state officials, the Kuwaiti Embassy said in a press statement.

Al-Askari conveyed to Ondimba the greetings of His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and His Highness the Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah.

For his part, Gabon President sent his greetings to Kuwaiti leaderships and people, calling for more efforts to develop and strengthen bilateral relations in all fields.
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Tsongas reflects on visit to Cambodia

By Kristin Lynch

PHNOM PENH -- U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas sets off on the last leg of her Cambodian journey tomorrow, when she departs for the fabled Angkor Wat complex, a World Heritage Site that's considered to be among the most important archaeological locations in Southeast Asia.

For the past four days, Tsongas has been meeting with government leaders and civil-society organizations inside this steamy cauldron of Phnom Penh, a pulsing, buzzing capital filled with mangos, markets and motos on the banks of the mighty Mekong.

"My desire to come here was fueled by the fact that I represent Lowell, which is home to the second-largest Cambodian-American community in the United States," Tsongas said yesterday during a press conference facilitated by the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh. "So many of my constituents remain very connected to this country, and I wanted to be more familiar with what their concerns are."

During yesterday's press conference, Tsongas alluded to some of these concerns, but was careful not to deliver too harsh a rebuke.

"My real intent is to learn," she said. "I didn't come here with a personal agenda."

"My real intent is to learn," she said. "I didn't come here with a personal agenda."

Corruption is a sore subject for Cambodia, which continually ranks near the bottom in international measures of government transparency. But Tsongas talked in general terms about the importance of "a system of laws that are open and transparent."

While acknowledging the strides Cambodia has made in the past several years to make its political system more democratic -- this is a country where less than 15 years ago, the current prime minister was publicly and violently battling with his main opponent on the streets of the capital -- Tsongas said she met with opposition leaders "who felt their voice wasn't given ample room."
Those would-be officials of the Sam Rainsy Party, Cambodia's main opposition party, with whom Tsongas met on Tuesday.

After that meeting, SRP lawmaker Son Chhay said he encouraged the congresswoman to pressure the U.S. to help ensure that Cambodia's upcoming national elections, slated for June, are "free and fair."

He also discussed human-rights abuses with Tsongas, "especially the use of violence by armed forces over people," in reference to cases of military officials firing on protesting civilians. One such incident occurred as recently as Monday, Tsongas' second day in Cambodia, when an unidentified official shot into an unarmed crowd protesting Puma factory workers in a province near Phnom Penh.

Tsongas promised to take what she heard "home to Washington."

A day after her meeting with SRP leaders, on Wednesday, Tsongas met with Ouk Borith, secretary of state at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a member of the ruling Cambodian People's Party. In addition to bilateral issues, the two focused on ways Cambodia and Lowell could foster closer economic ties, Tsongas reported.

"For example, we talked a little about how to bring agricultural products to the city of Lowell because there are Cambodian-Americans who would like to purchase particular foods that cannot be grown in the U.S.," Tsongas said.

In addition to her meetings with government officials, Tsongas met with several nongovernment organizations, including the Wildlife Alliance, an environmental conservation NGO, and the Returnee Integration Support Center, an organization that helps American refugees who have been deported to Cambodia integrate into life. She also met with the American Cambodian Business Council.

"I've learned a lot and as I deal with these issues, my viewpoints will be shaped by much of what I've heard here, so in every instance where there's something relevant to Cambodia, I'll be better informed because I've simply been here," Tsongas said at yesterday's press conference.

Beyond the policy details, the Pearl of Asia still held some surprises for Tsongas, who marveled at the frenetic nature of its roads, bubbling with whizzing moto drivers and tuk tuks brimming with passengers and supplies.

"People travel up and down these streets without getting in any accidents, despite the fact that I see very few stop lights or stop signs. It's remarkable," she said.

And most importantly, she said, "it's nowhere near as hot as I thought it was going to be."

Kristin Lynch is a staff reporter on the national desk at the Phnom Penh Post in Cambodia. A native of Rancho Santa Margarita, a small town in Orange County, Calif., she covers most U.S.-related stories and has been following Tsongas' visit.
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Reporter recalls rare trip to Pol Pot’s Cambodia

The outside world understood little about what was going on in Pol Pot’s Cambodia, the closed-off country at the time. (File photo)


By Michelle Fitzpatrick
AFP PHNOM PENH


When the Khmer Rouge invited a pair of American journalists to Cambodia in the late 1970s for a rare glimpse of the revolution, they found empty streets and schools in a city with no laughter.

“There was nobody there. It was like walking into the Twilight Zone,” recalled one-time Washington Post correspondent Elizabeth Becker.

Invited by the hardline communist regime to visit the capital Phnom Penh in 1978, she jumped at the rare chance to see the secretive revolution in action and meet its leader Pol Pot.

But after a tense two-week trip, peppered with numerous staged photo opportunities in a filmset-like atmosphere, Becker left convinced of the regime's insanity. And her British travel companion was dead.

More than three decades later, the now retired journalist has returned to put her photographs and recorded interviews with Pol Pot and other Khmer Rouge leaders on display in Cambodia for the first time.

She is also preparing to testify before Cambodia’s U.N.-backed court in a landmark trial against three top leaders ̶ including ex-foreign minister Ieng Sary, who arranged her visa for that fateful trip.

The three deny charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide for their roles in the 1975-1979 regime, which is blamed for the deaths of up to two million people from starvation, overwork or execution.

Led by “Brother Number One” Pol Pot, the hardline communist movement emptied cities, abolished money and religion and forced millions to work in huge labor camps in a bid to create an agrarian utopia.

But the outside world understood little about what was going on in the closed-off country at the time.

By December 1978, in the final days of the regime, a Vietnamese invasion was imminent and the Khmer Rouge belatedly sought support to fend off the enemy ̶ starting with positive press about the revolution.

“They had isolated themselves from the world and desperately needed friends or help,” Becker, now 64, said in a recent interview with AFP.

Becker, who began her career as a war reporter in Phnom Penh in the early 1970s, was invited with U.S. journalist Richard Dudman, who had covered the Vietnam War.

The third guest was Malcolm Caldwell, a Scottish Marxist academic who had written a favorable book about the revolution.

That Becker was granted a visa is somewhat remarkable since she had already published several critical pieces about the Khmer Rouge, based on the horror stories that were trickling in from Cambodian refugees.

“Do not presume they were all-seeing and all-wise,” Becker said about the Khmer Rouge leadership. “The one thing people keep forgetting is how incompetent these people were. They were cruel and ruthless and incompetent.”

Throughout their stay, Becker said the three foreigners were “under the equivalent of house arrest,” escorted by armed guards at all times.

But the intrepid reporter “snuck out a couple of times” and behind the facade of freshly painted buildings and manicured parks in the capital, “they just left everything to rot.”

Outings to model cooperatives in the countryside, where well-fed villagers were working in seemingly idyllic surroundings, proved no less surreal.

“I was alarmed by what I didn’t see,” she recalled. “You kept thinking you’re going to turn a corner and real life would show up but it never did.

“There were never kids playing on the street, there were never kids at school, there were never people at the pagoda, there were no markets, no laughing, nothing.”

On the final day, Becker and Dudman became the first and last Western journalists to interview Pol Pot during the Khmer Rouge's reign.

“He was much more charismatic and handsome than I’d expected,” she said.
Pol Pot lectured them about the threat of war with Vietnam, saying he wanted NATO troops to fight alongside Khmer Rouge soldiers.

“That’s how desperate it was, that Pol Pot would imagine NATO would join him,” Becker said.

Caldwell had a private meeting with the Khmer Rouge supremo. Hours later, he was shot dead in his guesthouse.

Mystery surrounds the murder to this day although Becker, who briefly encountered the Cambodian gunman in the guesthouse where Caldwell was killed, simply blames the madness of the Khmer Rouge.

“To find some rational reason why Caldwell would be murdered when this was a regime that was irrationally killing its own people... I don't know that that makes sense.”

On December 25, 1979, two days after Becker and Dudman left Cambodia with Caldwell’s body, Vietnamese forces invaded. By January 7, they had taken the capital and ousted the Khmer Rouge.

Pol Pot fled to the jungle from where he would continue to fight a guerrilla war. He died in 1998 without ever facing justice.

When her turn comes to take the stand, Becker does not expect to suffer from the recollection problems that have plagued some elderly defendants and witnesses.

“I don’t have to rely on my memory,” she said. “I kept my notes, I kept my recordings. That’s the writer’s advantage.”
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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Idaho Troops Poised For Peaceful Trip To Cambodia

By Associated Press


TWIN FALLS, Idaho -- More than 80 Idaho Army National Guard troops are getting ready to go back overseas - this time for a peaceful mission in Cambodia.

The troops from the 116th Calvary Brigade Combat Team will be working providing a variety of training services, including to Cambodian Royal Army engineering and medical personnel.

The Times-News reports the peacekeeping and humanitarian mission will take place from March 13-23.

Col. Tim Marsano says the mission helps Idaho troops better prepare for overseas deployments and operations.

The project gives troops a chance to provide medical attention to underserved populations in the area, including dental and eye care and regular medical procedures.

Last year, troops provided medical treatment to more than 5,000 Cambodians and helped build a small school and drinking water system.
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Puma officials go to Cambodia after factory shooting

FRANKFURT, Feb 23 (Reuters) - German sportwear maker Puma (Xetra: 696960 - news) sent officials to investigate working conditions in Cambodia after a local woman working for one of its suppliers was shot during a labour protest on Monday.

The woman, who was employed by Kaoway Sports, was shot during a protest by employees of several factories calling for better working conditions and increased pay.

Puma said it is paying for the medical costs of the woman, who is receiving treatment at a hospital in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh.

Puma said its safety directors in Asia were working with non-governmental organisations, other brands and trade unions to come up with ways to improve the safety and well-being of employees in its supplier factories.

"We are very aware that the working situation in Cambodia is problematic so that's why we're in the process of talking at an industry-wide level," a Puma spokeswoman told Reuters.

Garment exports were Cambodia's biggest currency earner last year. The sector employs more than 300,000 helping to feed thousands of families in a country where a third of the population live on $1 a day.

The industry generated $4.2 billion in exports last year but has been plagued by pay disputes, mass faintings and illness among workers, believed to be brought on by sweat-shop working conditions.

Puma said Kaoway had on Friday agreed to improve pay for its workers, offering them a $10 monthly transport subsidy and a daily subsidy of $0.50.

Two other young women working for Kaoway Sports were also injured on Monday, human rights organisations LICADHO and CLERC said.

A different Puma supplier in Cambodia was placed under investigation last year after a mass fainting. Other big brands that use Cambodian suppliers include H&M (Stockholm: HMB.ST - news) , Nike, Marks & Spencer (Dusseldorf: MA6.DU - news) , New Balance and Gap .

A panel of international and local judges earlier this month called on garment factories in Cambodia to urgently increase employees' salaries and pressed big international clothing brands to do more to improve working conditions. (Reporting by Victoria Bryan Editing by Maria Golovnina)
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Stronger economic growth for Cambodia in 2012

SINGAPORE: Cambodia's central bank expects economic growth in 2012 to accelerate to its fastest pace in four years.

The director general of the policy-setting institution told Channel NewsAsia that new investments in agriculture and banking will lead the way.

Garment-making has been a mainstay of Cambodia's fledgling economy. It has ticked over at between six and seven percent annually for the past four years.

But, the government is now turning its focus back to the land in the hope that rice growing and other farming produce will lift growth closer to eight per cent, making it among the world's fastest growing economies.

According to a source from the International Monetary Fund, Cambodia's yearly average GDP growth rate over the last ten years is 7.7 per cent.

The Asian Development Bank's growth projection for Cambodia in 2012 is 6.5 per cent.

National Bank of Cambodia's Director General, Nguon Sokha, said: "One of the priorities of the government is to develop the agriculture sector. At the moment, growth is driven by garment sector, tourism sector and construction. Cambodia is an agriculture land so we need to develop based on our natural resource."

ASEAN economies are expected to grow some 5.5 per cent this year. And with more foreign direct investment (FDI) coming into the region, the Asian Development Bank said emerging markets like Cambodia should leverage off China's increasing presence in the region and make better use of the regional connectivity in order to fully realise its growth potential."

More than 50 per cent of Cambodia's FDI comes from China but there are impediments that must be addressed.

Asian Development Bank's Assistant Chief Economist, Cyn-Young Park, said: "Cambodia faces significant infrastructure deficiency in both physical and soft infrastructure. Cambodia has already expressed that there are some skills mismatched in various areas. They are trying to invest a lot in vocational training that really matches the jobs that are being created for the future."

More of such jobs may soon be found in banking, which has relatively liberal foreign ownership rules compared to its neighbours.

Mr Sokha said: "There are a lot more interest from foreign investors to enter the banking industry in Cambodia given the good economic potential, macroeconomic stability and political stability. We need to balance between the need to establish a fair competition in the banking sector in order to reduce the cost in using the financial services for our consumer. But at the same time, we also need to look into the components, like risk management."

But with other frontier markets like Myanmar opening up, Cambodia may have new competitors for that foreign money.

- CNA/fa .
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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

ADB provides Cambodia 69 mln USD for provincial road improvement

PHNOM PENH, Feb. 22 (Xinhua) -- The Asian Development Bank (ADB) signed up to provide 69 million U.S. dollars to Cambodia to support a major upgrade of provincial roads in some of the country ' s poorest provinces, according to the bank's press release on Wednesday.

According to the press conference, the loan agreement was inked between the ADB's Vice-President Stephen Groff and Cambodia's Minister of Economy and Finance Keat Chhon yesterday.

The provincial roads improvement project, financed by a 52 million dollar loan from ADB's Special Funds and a 17 million dollar loan and grant from the Pilot Program for Climate Resilience (PPCR), will be used to rehabilitate about 150 kilometers of unpaved provincial roads in Kampong Chhnang, Kampong Speu, Prey Veng and Svay Rieng provinces, homes found a large number of the country's rural poor.

"Efficient transport is critical for economic growth. This initiative will provide safe, cost effective and year-round access to markets, employment centers and social services for poor and remote communities," Groff said.

The press release said Cambodia's remote rural economy is becoming increasingly dependent on the road network. However, only 11 percent of the total 9,500 kilometer secondary national and provincial roads are paved. As a result, economic opportunities are limited.

Moreover, the transportation safety has become a serious concern with the steady growth in traffic, overloaded cargo vehicles, and poor road maintenance, which all caused the highest accident rate in the region.

Since the early 1990s, ADB has supported Cambodia to build or upgrade its road network including national, provincial and rural roads.

By the end of 2011, ADB's assistance to the transport sector consisted of 11 projects amounting to 373 million U.S. dollars.

It said the ADB's loan for the Provincial Road Improvement Project, from its concessional Special Funds, will have 32 year term including an eight-year grace period carrying a 1 per annum interest charge, rising to 1.5 percent a year for the balance of the term.

The Ministry of Public Works and Transport is the executing agency for the project, which will commence in April 2012 and be completed in March 2017.
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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Fuel feud leaves tourists stranded at Angkor Wat

Travelers headed for Angkor Wat in Cambodia wait in the departure hall of Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport yesterday after their Tonlesap Airlines flight was canceled because the airline owes what Far EasternAir Transport says is more than NT$3 million in fuel costs.Photo: Chu Pei-hsiung, Taipei Times

LEASE:Far Eastern Air Transport accused Tonlesap of failing to pay US$100,000 in fuel charges and suspended flights. The Cambodian airline denies the allegations

By Shelley Shan / Staff Reporter

More than 200 Taiwanese tourists traveling to and from Angkor Wat in Cambodia were delayed yesterday after Far Eastern Air Transport (FAT) unexpectedly suspended its flights to the world heritage site.

The Taiwanese airline, which resumed services in April last year, leased one of its aircraft and cabin crew to Tonlesap Airlines in Cambodia, which offers charter flights to Angkor Wat.

However, the Cambodian carrier has failed to pay FAT accumulated fuel charges of NT$3 million (US$100,000), FAT said.

FAT’s decision to suspend the flights delayed trips for 255 Taiwanese tourists, Tonlesap Airlines said.

FAT spokesperson Kevin Yang (楊天佑) said the company had been trying to collect the charges from Tonlesap, but the Cambodian carrier had ignored the requests.

“The payment was due on Monday and Tonlesap has not paid the money owed. We decided to stop the service,” Yang said, adding that the company was a victim as well.

Tonlesap denies the allegations. The Cambodian airline said in a statement that it had paid FAT about NT$4.43 million as a guarantee, adding that a dispute remained over about NT$1 million.

Tonlesap said it had tried to negotiate with FAT, but it had yet to receive any goodwill response from the Taiwanese company.

“We sent a legal attestation letter to FAT on Monday requesting it to resolve the dispute based on the terms of the contract,” Tonlesap said in a statement. “FAT’s unilateral act has damaged the interests of the passengers. We will actively protect the passengers and seek restitution from FAT.”

The unexpected move by FAT angered tourists who had arrived at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport early in the morning to catch the flight.

“If they wanted to cancel the flight, they should have told us at least a day in advance,” an angry female passenger told a reporter. “Now we’re here and have already taken days off from work and they tell us the flight has been canceled. What’s this?”

The Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) said Tonlesap had dispatched a Boeing 737-200 aircraft to carry the Taiwanese passengers back to Taiwan, which was scheduled to arrive at Taoyuan at 7:15pm yesterday, adding that the Cambodian airline must bring back all the stranded Taiwanese tourists at Angkor Wat who were scheduled to board its flight.

The CAA has also asked Tonlesap to provide a copy of its flight schedule from now until the end of this month so that it could monitor its service.

The CAA added that while it would not intervene in the dispute, it would accept passenger complaints and help them seek compensation from Tonlesap.

The agency said that while it had heard rumors of the dispute between the two airlines, it did not expect FAT to suspend the flight service this way.

FAT said that Tonlesap is run by Alex Lou (樓文豪), who is accused of involvement in siphoning funds belonging to FAT three years ago.

After being detained for two months, Lou was released on NT$4 million bail and barred from leaving the country.

FAT said that it then sought compensation of NT$790 million from Lou after the airline resumed operations last year. Lou then convinced FAT he could help the carrier expand its operations by negotiating aviation agreements with Cambodia, Palau and other countries, and was able to go to these countries because of the petition from FAT, it said.

Aside from the unpaid bills, FAT also accused Lou of insider trading of FAT shares and transferring those gains to Tonlesap and other airlines he owns, adding that it had requested prosecutors to investigate Lou.

The CAA said FAT’s finances were not sound, adding that it had failed to keep a cash flow of NT$150 million, one of the main requirements the CAA had insisted on for FAT to continue operations.
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Cambodian media publish K. Rouge jailer's apology


PHNOM PENH — Cambodia's UN-backed war crimes court said Tuesday that media in the kingdom were publishing an apology by a Khmer Rouge jailer imprisoned for life in a bid to provide "reparation" to genocide victims.

Kaing Guek Eav, who oversaw the deaths of some 15,000 people at S-21 prison in the late 1970s, earlier this month had his punishment for war crimes and crimes against humanity increased on appeal.

The court said that statements of apology and acknowledgements of responsibility made by the defendant -- better known as Duch -- during his trial were being published in newspapers, websites as well as radio and television stations starting on Tuesday.

"The publishing of these statements is one form of reparation for the victims," tribunal spokesman Lars Olsen told AFP.

Chum Mey, 81, one of the few survivors to leave S-21 alive, welcomed the initiative.

"It's right to publish the statements through newspapers, radio, and television stations because more people would see and hear the words," he said.

During his nine-month trial Duch repeatedly apologised for his role at S-21, but later surprised the court by asking to be acquitted.

Led by Pol Pot, who died in 1998, the Khmer Rouge was responsible for one of the worst horrors of the 20th century, wiping out up to two million people through starvation, overwork and execution.

A second trial involving the regime's three most senior surviving leaders opened late last year.

Unlike the UN tribunals set up overseas to deal with war crimes in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, the Cambodian tribunal was created in the country where the Khmer Rouge massacres were committed.

It aims to communicate its methods and results with the Cambodian people, in order to foster greater public understanding of a chapter of history still largely overlooked by local school textbooks.
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Gunfire hits at least 3 striking Cambodian workers

At least three striking garment workers were wounded by gunshots Monday while protesting outside their factory in southeastern Cambodia.

Keo Kong, police chief of Bavet town in Svay Rieng province, said three women were hurt, one seriously, by an unknown gunman who fired at them when the protest by more than 1,000 workers turned rowdy.

The workers at the Kaoway Sports Ltd. factory have been striking since Friday to demand better working conditions and benefits.

The factory is Taiwanese-owned and makes footwear for Germany’s Puma brand, according to the Phnom Penh Post newspaper. Commerce Ministry statistics show that most of its production is shipped to Europe, especially Germany and Italy.

The Cambodian human rights group Licadho last month lamented the increasing use of armed force against protesters.

It said there had been at least five incidents in two months in which public security forces or private armed guards opened fire on people protesting land grabs, with 19 people hurt, including seven by gunfire.

Striking workers said the gunman Monday was a factory security guard. Police said the man fled the scene, and they were investigating.

Keo Kong said the shooting began after workers started throwing stones at the factory, shattering mirrored glass.

Licadho official Nuth Bopinnaroath said the victims were aged 18, 21 and 23, and the seriously injured one received a chest wound.

The factory is located in an industrial estate, the Manhattan Special Economic Zone, close to the border with Vietnam. Last week, workers at another business in the zone, Taiwanese bicycle maker Bestway Industrial Co. Ltd., ended a two-day strike after most of their demands for better working conditions were met, the Phnom Penh Post said.
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Chinese envoy unveils Chinese Corner at University of Cambodia

PHNOM PENH, Feb. 21 (Xinhua) -- Chinese Ambassador to Cambodia Pan Guangxue on Tuesday attended the launching ceremony of Chinese Corner at the University of Cambodia and donated books and digital documents to the leading university in Cambodia.

Pan said that he hopes the Chinese Corner will help the Cambodian university students get more understanding of Chinese language and culture.

Pan also donated 189 kinds of Chinese books, 55 types of visual audio documents in addition to five computers to the university, covering many areas related to China, like language, culture, geography, society and modern technologies.

Besides, the electronic library system also donated by the Chinese ambassador is particularly eye-catching.

According to Pan, the e-library system includes 21,000 kinds of Chinese books and a large quantity of various visual audio documents, which would definitely satisfy the Cambodian students' eagerness to learn Chinese language and culture.

Kao Kim Hourn, secretary of state at Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, and President of University of Cambodia, expressed his gratitude to Ambassador Pan, saying the Chinese Corner and book donation will certainly help the Cambodian students, as well as public, acquire the knowledge of China in all fields.

The president said, besides the university students, the books and e-documents donated by Pan will be allowed public access.

A library staff who earned his master degree from a Chinese leading university, told Xinhua that more and more Cambodian students and citizens share the desire to study Chinese language and culture since China is growing fast both economically and politically. However, their resources are limited in terms of both publications and teaching staff.

He affirms that the Chinese Corner and books donated by Ambassador Pan will not only meet the students' studying desire, but also trigger their interest in going to China for further education.

He also says that there is a Chinese Department in the university with a very small enrollment.
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Vietnam, Cambodia promote legislative cooperation

HANOI, Feb. 21 (Xinhua) -- Chairman of the Vietnamese National Assembly (NA) External Relations Committee Tran Van Hang held talks here on Tuesday with Chairman of the Cambodian NA Commission on Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation, Media and Information Chheang Vun, to promote legislative ties.

Hang welcomed the visit to Vietnam by the Cambodian parliament delegates, saying the long-standing friendship and all-sided cooperation between Vietnam and Cambodia, including legislative agencies, have continually developed over the years.

In the current regional and global changing situation, the two countries' legislative bodies should further expand exchange of information and closely coordinate at international forums, especially in the ASEAN cooperative framework and other sub- regional mechanism, to contribute to promoting the process for peace, stability, cooperation and development in the region and the world as a whole, Hang said.

He affirmed that Vietnam has attached importance to consolidating and developing relationship and cooperation with Cambodia, considering it a valuable asset of both countries that should be well preserved for each country's development and prosperity, and for peace, national independence, democracy and social progress worldwide.

The two sides shared a view that currently the Vietnamese and Cambodian NAs are implementing the agreement on cooperation signed on April 26, 2007. After reviewing results of their cooperation obtained in the past years, they discussed about content of the memorandum of understanding on the new agreement with adjustments and supplements, which will be submitted to the two NAs for approval.

Regarding activities of the two NAs' external relations commissions, the two chairmen agreed to increase more visits and well coordinate in holding a conference of the NA External Relations Commissions of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia in July in Vietnam.
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Monday, February 20, 2012

Sciaroni to Represent Cambodia at US Business Conference

Former White House counsel promotes economic development in Cambodia



PHNOM PENH, Cambodia--(BUSINESS WIRE)--

Bretton G. Sciaroni of Sciaroni & Associates will represent the Kingdom of Cambodia at the first-ever Global Business Conference hosted by US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in Washington, DC Feb. 21 and 22.

Sciaroni, senior partner at the Phnom Penh-based professional services firm, is chairman of the American Cambodian Business Council (AmCham). He has provided advice and counsel to foreign investors seeking to do business in Cambodia since 1993 and also serves as legal advisor to the Royal Government of Cambodia as well as chairman of the International Business Chamber.

"It's an honor to represent Cambodia at such a high level meeting, bringing together leading businesses and representatives from around the world to discuss ways we can work together to contribute to economic prosperity," he said.

The two-day conference will feature opening remarks by Gen. Michael Hayden (“An Insider’s View of the World”) and presentations by executives of IBM, General Electric and Microsoft. More than 100 countries will be represented at the forum.

The first day of the event will feature sessions on export promotion, increasing foreign investment in the United States, creating public-private partnerships, facilitating business and leisure travel to the United States, and key policy topics of interest to businesses abroad. The second day will include breakout sessions, hosted by the State Department’s regional Assistant Secretaries, to discuss regional strategies to advance shared economic interests.

Sciaroni, who was nominated to represent Cambodia by the US Embassy in Phnom Penh, said the conference “is an opportunity to promote Cambodia as an investment destination among top US Companies.
“Given the fact that Cambodia is chairing the ASEAN summit this year, it’s perfect timing to present the country to the international business community,” he said. Sciaroni added that the Washington meeting also provides a platform to “promote the idea of a US-ASEAN business summit that is currently under active discussion.”

The conference will cover general international business subjects concerning US trade policy and the potential for international collaboration.

Sciaroni, a former White House counsel, has provided investment and legal advice to multinational companies, development agencies and the diplomatic community in Cambodia for nearly 20 years. His firm of Cambodian and expatriate staff provides counsel to many of the world’s leading companies who have investment interests in the Royal Kingdom of Cambodia.

In addition to serving as heads of the local business councils, Sciaroni, along with the Minister of Finance, co-chairs the Working Group on Law, Tax and Good Governance for the Royal Government of Cambodia.

While in Washington, Sciaroni will also attend a meeting sponsored by the US Chamber of Commerce to discuss Sec. Clinton’s planned trip to Cambodia in July as well as the October ASEAN Economic Minister meetings.

About Sciaroni & Associates
Sciaroni & Associates is a leading legal and professional services firm based in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Since 1993, the firm has provided advice and business insight to many of the world’s leading companies as well as the Royal Government of Cambodia. Senior Partner Bretton G. Sciaroni has nearly 20 years of experience advising clients in Cambodia and is a leading contributor to the development of the Cambodian economy. Managing Partner Matthew Rendall has worked in Cambodia since 1994 and has extensive property and labor law expertise as well as considerable experience in general investment structuring. Managing Partner John Pike has more than 25 years of investment banking and legal experience in the United Kingdom and throughout Asia. The firm provides guidance and expertise in all facets of law and investment, from company creation to licensing, labor, property and government relations. Additional details may be obtained via the firm's website at http://www.sa-cambodia.com/ .


Contact:.
Sciaroni & Associates
Office Manager
Greg Regan, (855) 23 210 225
greg@sa-cambodia.com.
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Cambodia's fainting workers

Cambodia’s garment industry represents 90 percent of the country’s exports and employs more than 300,000 workers by some estimates. It survived the 2008 global financial crisis, although job losses were registered across all special economic zones. But despite its vital contribution to the local economy, the garment sector has been facing criticism that it has been able to maintain global competitiveness only at the expense of providing its labor force with better working conditions and benefits. Indeed, the statutory minimum wage of Cambodia’s garment workers is currently the lowest in the Mekong region.

Last year, more than 200,000 workers in the garment sector went on strike in protest over their pauperized working conditions. The government responded by reminding employers to strictly enforce the occupational safety and health standards required by law.

To further highlight the demands of garment workers, the Asia Floor Wage network organized Cambodia’s first ever People’s Tribunal on Minimum Living Wage and Decent Working Conditions early this month. It was also the first tribunal in the Asia-Pacific aimed at establishing a standard on the issue of fair pricing for garment manufacturers and, in particular, strengthening the bargaining power of female workers within the global supply chain.

Aside from the wage issue, the tribunal also discussed the alarming rise of mass fainting incidents in many garment factories. In 2011 alone, the Free Trade Union reported that 2,300 workers fainted in five factories. Initial investigations revealed that many workers suffered from low blood sugar, malnutrition, dehydration, food poisoning and over-exertion. The government later confirmed that the fainting cases were related to poor working conditions in many factories.

During the tribunal, workers in the “fainting factories” recalled how they regularly work for 12 to 14 hours a day while being exposed to strong chemicals in hot and poorly ventilated environments. Most of the female workers said they also have to travel long hours, standing in overcrowded trucks, to get to work each day.

To stop the fainting, factory owners merely need to ensure that occupational safety and health policies are implemented. Specifically, workers should be taught how to properly handle chemicals and electrical equipment. In addition, workers should be given time to rest at the weekend, while any overtime worked during peak factory production periods should be undertaken in compliance with the law.

The tribunal succeeded in articulating the demands of garment workers, but the proposed reforms still need to be aggressively presented to the government and the global clients of Cambodia’s garment factories. Just a week ago, 162 garment workers in a Preah Sihanouk factory were reportedly rushed to various hospitals and clinics after they fainted at work.

A few years ago, there was a global outcry over the recruitment of child workers in Southeast Asia’s infamous sweatshops, an outcry that forced Western companies, employers, buyers, and local governments to sign a pact against this unfair labor practice. Today, consumers should likewise be informed that clothing companies are able to cut the prices of goods at the expense of Cambodia’s fainting workers.
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Cambodia, China willing to further enhance cooperation in all fields: officials

PHNOM PENH, Feb. 20 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia and China are willing to further promote bilateral cooperation in all fields in the framework of ASEAN-China relations, officials said Monday.

The commitment was made during the official visit of Ma Mingqiang, secretary general of ASEAN-China Center, to Cambodia.

In a meeting with Cambodia's Minister of Tourism Thong Khon, Ma Mingqiang said this was his official visit to Cambodia since the ASEAN-China Center was launched on Nov.18,2011.

"The visit aims at promoting ASEAN-China cooperation in trade, investment, tourism, education, and culture," he said.
Meanwhile, Thong Khon said Cambodia saw China as a big source of visitors to Cambodia in the near future.

He added that last year, Cambodia received 247,000 Chinese tourists, up 39.2 percent, making Chinese tourists the third largest arrival groups to Cambodia.

"Based on the trend, the country expects to see about 600,000 Chinese visitors here in 2015 and up to 1 million in 2020," said the minister. "To achieve this goal, we have been strengthening our tourism product quality and services, and encouraging hotels, restaurants and resorts to use Chinese language in order to meet the needs of Chinese tourists."

Cambodia and China signed tourism cooperation on Feb. 9, 1999, he said.

On Monday, Ma had also met with Pich Rithi, director general of the commerce ministry's general directorate of domestic trade, and both sides had affirmed the necessity to boost bilateral trade and investment cooperation for mutual interests.

Pich Rithi said Cambodia saw China as the largest market for Cambodian agricultural products, especially rice and cassava, so that he asked Ma to help attract Chinese businesspeople and investors to do business in the fields in order to increase Cambodia's exports to China.

Ma said that through the ASEAN-China Center, he would try to promote Cambodia's investment potentials to Chinese investors and the world.

Also, on the day, Ma had met with Chea Sienghong, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy, and Soeung Rathchavy, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

Ma and his delegation arrived here on Feb. 19 for a 3-day visit. They will leave Cambodia for Vietnam on Tuesday.
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OZ Minerals to sell off Cambodian gold assets

OZ MINERALS announced plans yesterday to sell off its gold assets in Cambodia, closing a controversial chapter for the company that was forced to deny allegations of impropriety last year in relation to this business.

The Cambodia Daily newspaper last year alleged relatives of government officials had received hundreds of thousands of dollars after the Australian company bought out its local partner in a goldmining venture.

The newspaper said the trio were appointed in 2006, just before Shin Ha concluded a joint-venture agreement with Oxiana, headed by Owen Hegarty. The company was later named OZ Minerals after merging with Zinifex.

OZ Minerals and the Cambodian government denied any impropriety. A company spokeswoman said in July last year that an internal investigation could find no evidence of wrongdoing.

Last week this newspaper reported that documents released by the federal Attorney-General's Department under freedom of information laws showed that officials in the financial crime section were last year taking a keen interest in the allegations.

OZ Minerals has had the Cambodian business under review since April last year when it became clear that the gold exploration program was not going to yield the 2 million ounce resource the company needed to make it a starter project.

The company sold off its rights to Renaissance Minerals yesterday for $17.8 million in cash, shares and options with a further $22.5 million due if project milestones are achieved from the deposits with estimated gold reserves of 729,000 ounces.

''We have concluded that this project does not fit within OZ Minerals' strategy with regard to scale in relation to the commodity and our overall preference for mid-tier copper projects,'' said OZ Minerals chief executive Terry Burgess.

OZ Minerals sold all its operating mines, except Prominent Hill, to China Minmetals in June 2009 for $US1.39 billion after it failed to reach an agreement with its banks to repay debt.

It only survived as a separate company when the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, blocked the sale of Prominent Hill, a copper and gold mine in South Australia.
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Gunfire hits at least 3 striking Cambodian workers

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia

At least three striking garment workers were wounded by gunshots Monday while protesting outside their factory in southeastern Cambodia.

Keo Kong, police chief of Bavet town in Svay Rieng province, said three women were hurt, one seriously, by an unknown gunman who fired at them when the protest by more than 1,000 workers turned rowdy.

The workers at the Kaoway Sports Ltd. factory have been striking since Friday to demand better working conditions and benefits.

The factory is Taiwanese-owned and makes footwear for Germany's Puma brand, according to the Phnom Penh Post newspaper. Commerce Ministry statistics show that most of its production is shipped to Europe, especially Germany and Italy.

The Cambodian human rights group Licadho last month lamented the increasing use of armed force against protesters.

It said there had been at least five incidents in two months in which public security forces or private armed guards opened fire on people protesting land grabs, with 19 people hurt, including seven by gunfire.

Striking workers said the gunman Monday was a factory security guard. Police said the man fled the scene, and they were investigating.

Keo Kong said the shooting began after workers started throwing stones at the factory, shattering mirrored glass.

Licadho official Nuth Bopinnaroath said the victims were aged 18, 21 and 23, and the seriously injured one received a chest wound.

The factory is located in an industrial estate, the Manhattan Special Economic Zone, close to the border with Vietnam. Last week, workers at another business in the zone, Taiwanese bicycle maker Bestway Industrial Co. Ltd., ended a two-day strike after most of their demands for better working conditions were met, the Phnom Penh Post said.
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Friday, February 17, 2012

Good ties boost investment, trade, tourism between Cambodia, China

PHNOM PENH, Feb. 17 (Xinhua) -- The bilateral relations between Cambodia and China in terms of investment, trade and tourism have become stronger in the past year thanks to the two countries' good relations, said officials Friday.

Cambodia attracted China's investments of 1.19 billion U.S. dollars in 2011, up 71 percent from 694 million U.S. dollars in a year earlier, according to the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC).

China's 22 investment projects last year focused on property development, mineral business and processing plants, motorcycle assembly factories, gold mining, rice mill and garment factories.

The bilateral trades amounted to 2.5 billion U.S. dollars last year, up 73.5 percent, the highest growth rate among the bilateral trade between China and other ASEAN countries, according to the statistics provided by the Chinese Embassy.

Chheng Kimlong, an economics lecturer at the University of Cambodia, said the strong bilateral relations between the two countries are the most important factor resulting in sharp rises in the bilateral trade and investment.

In addition, he said, Cambodia has a number of potential sectors for investors and the country remains peaceful and political stability.

"These factors in combination with Cambodia's constant supports and incentives to Chinese investors, more and more Chinese see Cambodia as safe place for their investments," he said.

Cambodia attracted 247,200 Chinese tourists last year, an increase of 39 percent--the highest growth rate among foreign visitors to this impoverished country, said Tith Chantha, director general of the Tourism Ministry.

He said the sharp increase in Chinese visitors to Cambodia was due to attractive tourism sites, broad promotion and increasing direct flights.

"We hope that Cambodia will receive at least one million Chinese tourists by 2020," he said, adding that to achieve the target, the ministry has encouraged more training courses for Chinese speaking guides and urged hotels, restaurants and other entertainment facilities to use Chinese language.
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Thursday, February 16, 2012

'Cambodia vows to deepen ties between ASEAN and dialogue partners'

PHNOM PENH (Xinhua) - As the chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) this year, Cambodia is committed to build closer relations and cooperation between ASEAN and its dialogue partners, Prime Minister Hun Sen said Thursday.

"As the ASEAN chair, Cambodia will play a model role to deepen ties between ASEAN and East Asia nations such as China, Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), South Korea and Japan as well as countries in the region including the United States and Australia," he said.

Cambodia wanted to see ASEAN to be stronger and more influential in order to work more effectively in regional and global levels, he said at the opening of the 2012 Cambodia Outlook Conference under the theme "Cambodia's Priorities for Inclusive Growth, Regional Integration and ASEAN Leadership."

Meanwhile, the premier highlighted the important role of China in the help to develop economics and societies in ASEAN.

"Cambodia, ASEAN member states alike, is situated very close to China, which is the world's second largest economy and the world's largest market for agricultural products," he said. "These are valuable assets and good opportunities for ASEAN to tap China's market for their social and economic development."

The premier also reiterated that as the ASEAN chair, the country would try all its best to push ASEAN to realize a community by 2015.

ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

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Angkor Gold Corp.: Diamond Drilling Commences on the Okalla Gold Prospect

VANCOUVER, British Columbia

ANGKOR GOLD CORP.  CA:ANK +9.30% ("ANGKOR") is pleased to announce that a contract for a minimum of 2000m NQ cored diamond drill holes in the Okalla Prospect on Banlung tenement, Ratanakiri Province, Cambodia, has been awarded to Kluane Drilling Inc, a Canadian owned and operated contractor operating in Cambodia. The rig is on site and drilling of BL12-028 commenced on February 15, 2012.

Deployment of this rig means that the company now has 2 diamond drilling rigs working in Cambodia. An earlier press release (November 21, 2011) announced that a Cambodian company, Veriak, had started drilling on the Border prospect, Oyadao tenement.

The Okalla drill program is aimed at a large disseminated gold-copper occurrence in diorite that coincides with a 'C' zone soil geochemical gold-copper-molybdenum anomaly on the prospect. The geochemical anomaly terminates to the north against an overlying Quaternary flood basalt flow, and reappears about 1km to the northeast, beyond the basalt ridge. Two holes drilled into this anomaly prior to the onset of the last monsoons were reported previously (press release dated October 25, 2011), and they and 3 others showed encouraging thicknesses and gold and copper values:


-- BL10-010D: 121.0m @ 491ppm Cu from 3.0m
-- BL10-020D: 100.1m @ 796ppm Cu, 0.23g/t Au from 0.0m
-- BL10-021D: 98.0m @ 880ppm Cu from 3.0m
-- BL11-026D: 94.9m @ 850ppm Cu, 0.55g/t Au from 28.0m
-- BL11-027D: 72.8m @1180ppm Cu, 0.24g/t Au from 16.2m


All cores will be saw-split before sampling. Cores will be stored at the Company facility in the city of Banlung, Ratanakiri province. All analyses will be done by a reputable internationally recognized laboratory. In the past, Angkor has used ALS-Chemex in Vientiane, Laos for gold by single assay ton fire assay with an AA finish, and in Brisbane, Australia for base metals by ICP-MS following acid digestion. Higher value results will be analysed in duplicate. Company QA/QC protocol requires the insertion of some 20% of blank and standard samples on a randomized basis throughout the sample sequence. The protocol further requires that no sample interval be greater than 1.0m or less than 0.5m.

The QP for this release, which he wrote and approved, is Adrian G. Mann, P. Geol., VP Exploration for ANGKOR GOLD CORP.. He is a graduate of London University and of the University of the Witwatersrand, with over 40 years world-wide experience in mineral exploration and mining geology. Dr. Mann lives in Calgary, Alberta.

ANGKOR GOLD CORPORATION is a public company listed on the TSX-Venture exchange. The company has 4 exploration licenses in the Kingdom of Cambodia covering a total of 1167 km2 and 3 Memoranda of Understanding with the Ministry of Mines, Industry and Energy covering a further 1499 km2. The company has been actively exploring these concessions over the past 21/2 years, and has now covered all 7 tenements with stream sediment geochemical sampling, has flown low level aeromagnetic surveys over much of the ground, drilled some 9,775 metres of NQ core in 89 holes, and has collected in excess of 14,000 'C' zone soil samples in 7 centres of interest, over a combined area of 18km2, in addition to numerous trenches and detailed geological field mapping. Exploration on all tenements is ongoing.

THIS PRESS RELEASE, REQUIRED BY APPLICABLE CANADIAN LAWS, IS NOT FOR DISTRIBUTION TO U.S. NEWS SERVICES OR FOR DISSEMINATION IN THE UNITED STATES, AND DOES NOT CONSTITUTE AN OFFER TO SELL OR A SOLICITATION OF AN OFFER TO SELL ANY OF THE SECURITIES DESCRIBED HEREIN IN THE UNITED STATES. THESE SECURITIES HAVE NOT BEEN, AND WILL NOT BE, REGISTERED UNDER THE UNITED STATES SECURITIES ACT OF 1933, AS AMENDED, OR ANY STATE SECURITIES LAWS, AND MAY NOT BE OFFERED OR SOLD IN THE UNITED STATES OR TO U.S. PERSONS UNLESS REGISTERED OR EXEMPT THEREFROM.

Reader Advisory

Except for statements of historical fact, this news release contains certain "forward-looking information" within the meaning of applicable securities law. Forward-looking information is frequently characterized by words such as "plan", "expect", "project", "intend", "believe", "anticipate", "estimate" and other similar words, or statements that certain events or conditions "may" or "will" occur. In particular, forward-looking information in this press release includes, but is not limited to, statements with respect to the timing and completion of the Corporation's financings and related information. Although we believe that the expectations reflected in the forward-looking information are reasonable, there can be no assurance that such expectations will prove to be correct. We cannot guarantee future results, performance or achievements. Consequently, there is no representation that the actual results achieved will be the same, in whole or in part, as those set out in the forward-looking information.

Forward-looking information is based on the opinions and estimates of management at the date the statements are made and are founded on the basis of expectations and assumptions made by the Corporation. Such forward-looking information is subject to a variety of risks and uncertainties and other factors that could cause actual events or results to differ materially from those anticipated in the forward-looking information. Some of the risks and other factors that could cause the results to differ materially from those expressed in the forward-looking information include, but are not limited to: general economic conditions in Canada, Cambodia, the United States and globally; industry conditions, including fluctuations in the prices of gold and other base metals; governmental regulation of the mining industry in both Canada and Cambodia, including environmental regulation; unanticipated operating events or performance which can reduce production or cause production to be delayed; failure to obtain industry partner and other third party consents and approvals, if and when required; competition for and/or inability to retain mining equipment and other services; the availability of capital on acceptable terms; the need to obtain required approvals from regulatory authorities; stock market volatility; liabilities inherent in mining operations; competition for, among other things, capital, undeveloped lands, skilled personnel and supplies; incorrect assessments of the value of acquisitions; geological, technical, drilling, processing and transportation problems; changes in tax laws and incentive programs relating to the mining industry; failure to realize the anticipated benefits of acquisitions and dispositions; and other factors. Readers are cautioned that this list of risk factors should not be construed as exhaustive.

The forward-looking information contained in this news release is expressly qualified by this cautionary statement. We undertake no duty to update any of the forward-looking information to conform such information to actual results or to changes in our expectations except as otherwise required by applicable securities legislation. Readers are cautioned not to place undue reliance on forward-looking information.

Neither the TSX Venture nor its regulation services provider (as that term is defined in the policies of the TSX Venture) accepts responsibility for the adequacy or accuracy of this press release.

This news release was distributed by GlobeNewswire, www.globenewswire.com

SOURCE: Angkor Gold Corp.



CONTACT: ANGKOR GOLD CORP.
Mike Weeks, President
Telephone: (780) 518-0326
Email: mw@angkorgold.ca
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Chinese Red Cross donates water pumps to Cambodia

PHNOM PENH - The Red Cross Society of China on Thursday donated 146 water pumps worth $200,000 to Cambodian Red Cross to help those provinces hit hard by floods last year.

The hand-over ceremony was presided over by Annie Sok An, the first vice president of Cambodian Red Cross, and Chinese Ambassador to Cambodia Pan Guangxue.

Annie Sok An expressed her gratitude to the Chinese Red Cross and the Chinese people, saying that their selfless help to Cambodia will significantly improve Cambodian people's standard of living and enhance Sino-Cambodian ties.

She added China had been helping Cambodia in various fields, including infrastructure construction, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

Pan said that China's water pump donation was a sincere help between friends, adding that as Cambodia's biggest donation partner, China will continue assisting Cambodia in the long-run.

Pan told Xinhua that the two Red Cross societies share a long history of frequent exchanges and the cooperation between them includes humanitarian assistance and long-term staff training.
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Chinese Red Cross donates 146 water pumps to Cambodia

PHNOM PENH, Feb. 16 (Xinhua) -- The Red Cross Society of China on Thursday donated 146 water pumps worth 200,000 U.S. dollars to Cambodian Red Cross to help those provinces hit hard by floods last year.

The hand-over ceremony was presided over by Annie Sok An, the first vice president of Cambodian Red Cross, and Chinese Ambassador to Cambodia Pan Guangxue.

Annie Sok An expressed her gratitude to the Chinese Red Cross and the Chinese people, saying that their selfless help to Cambodia will significantly improve Cambodian people's standard of living and enhance Sino-Cambodian ties.

She added China had been helping Cambodia in various fields, including infrastructure construction, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

Pan said that China's water pump donation was a sincere help between friends, adding that as Cambodia's biggest donation partner, China will continue assisting Cambodia in the long-run.

Pan told Xinhua that the two Red Cross societies share a long history of frequent exchanges and the cooperation between them includes humanitarian assistance and long-term staff training.
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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Cambodia: Judicial harassment against Mr. Soum Chankea

URGENT APPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY


KHM 001 / 0212 / OBS 020
Judicial harassment
Cambodia
February 15, 2012


The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Cambodia.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC) of the judicial harassment faced by Mr. Soum Chankea, its Provincial Coordinator in Banteay Meanchey province.

According to the information received, on February 9, 2012, Mr. Soum Chankea was summoned by the Prosecutor’s Office in Sisophon, capital of Banteay Meanchey province, following a complaint lodged by Mr. Oum Socheath, Head of the Banteay Meanchey branch of the Cambodia Mine Action Centre (CMAC) and Coordinator of the UNDP-CMAC mine clearance programme. The questioning is scheduled for February 20, 2012. The Prosecutor will then decide whether charges will be officially brought against Mr. Soum Chankea. These include “slanderous denunciation”, an offence punishable by up to one year in prison and a up to two million riels (380 euros) fine under Article 311 of the Criminal Code.

The complaint against Mr. Soum Chankea follows ADHOC’s intervention in a gender-based violence case. The victim filed complaints against Mr. Oum Socheath and Mr. Pong Piseth, also known as Mr. Veth, a business man in the area of real estate and construction, on November 4 and 9, 2011 respectively, accusing them of sexual harassment and assault. Following the victim’s complaints, the authorities allegedly took no action to investigate the allegations. Mr. Soum Chankea intervened several times in her favour to urge the police and the Prosecutor to investigate the case. According to information gathered by ADHOC, Messrs. Oum Socheath and Pong Piseth would be benefiting from the protection of a businessman whose brother is a high-ranking government official.

The Observatory expresses its deepest concern about Mr. Soum Chankea's summons for questioning, which seems to merely aim at sanctioning his human rights activities, and accordingly calls upon the Cambodian authorities to put an end to all acts of harassment - including at the judicial level - against him.

Actions requested:

Please write to the Cambodian authorities and ask them to:


i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Soum Chankea;

ii. Put an end to acts of harassment - including at the judicial level - against him as well as against all human rights defenders in Cambodia;

iii. Conform in any circumstances with the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted on December 9, 1998 by the United Nations General Assembly, and in particular :
- Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually or in association with others, to promote the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”,
- and Article 12.2 which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”.

iv. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Cambodia.


Addresses:

·       Mr. Hun Sen, Prime Minister, Office of the Prime Minister, Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia, Fax: +855 23 36 06 66 / 855 23 88 06 24 (c/o Council of Ministers), Email: leewood_phu@nida.gov.kh
·       Mr. H.E. Ang Vong Vathna, Minister of Justice, No 240, Sothearos Blvd, Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia, Fax: 023 364119. Email: moj@cambodia.gov.kh
·       Mr. Sar Kheng, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, Ministry of Interior, 275 Norodom Blvd, Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia, Fax: + 855 23 212708. Email: moi@interior.gov.kh
·       Mr. Hor Nam Hong, Minister of Foreign Affairs, 161 Preah Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia, Fax: + 855 23 21 61 44 / + 855 23 21 69 39. Email: mfaicasean@bigpond.com.kh
·       Ambassador Mr. Sun Suon, Permanent Mission of Cambodia to the United Nations in Geneva, Chemin de Taverney 3, Case postale 213, 1218 Grand-Saconnex, Switzerland, Fax: + 41 22 788 77 74. Email: camemb.gva@mfa.gov.kh; cambodge@bluewin.ch 

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Cambodia in your respective countries.

***
Geneva-Paris, February 15, 2012

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory, an OMCT and FIDH venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
·     Email: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
·     Tel and fax OMCT: + 41 22 809 49 39 / 41 22 809 49 29
·    Tel and fax FIDH: +33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / 01 43 55 18 80
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