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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Rubber Gives New Bounce to Economy

Cambodia plans to expand rubber production to beef up its agricultural sector.


Blocks of rubber latex on display at national workshop by the Ministry of Agriculture, April 12, 2012.


Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen announced plans Thursday to encourage rubber smallholdings in a bid to expand production as the country promotes the cash crop as the number two commodity after rice.

Hun Sen said the government will support not only large-scale rubber plantations but also smaller producers.

“We must continue to promote smallholding rubber plantations and promote rubber plantation on economic land concessions,” he said.

Cambodian Rubber Department Director Ly Phalla told RFA that family-based rubber plantations have increased in Koh Kong, Sihanoukville, and Kampot provinces in the country’s s southwest.

According to government targets, Cambodia plans to increase the area of land used for rubber plantations to 400,000 hectares (1 million acres) and to export 300,000 tons of rubber latex by 2020.

Cambodia, whose leading cash crop is rice, currently has about 300,000 hectares (750,000 acres) of rubber plantations, but most of the trees have been planted in recent years will not be ready in the immediate period. Rubber trees take about five to six years before they can produce white, milk-like rubber latex.

Last year Cambodia exported about 46,500 tons of rubber, double the year before. The exports generated about U.S. $200 million dollars and made Cambodia the world’s ninth-biggest producer.

All of its rubber is for export and most is sold to Vietnam, Malaysia, China, and Singapore, where it is used in manufacturing

Cambodia has welcomed foreign investment, especially from Vietnam and China, giving companies 99-year land concessions to establish rubber plantations.

Of the land used for rubber plantations last year, over two thirds were land concessions to companies, while the remaining were small-scale family and private plantations.

At least 77 companies are investing in the crop in the country, covering 17 percent more land than the year before.
‘Just like gold’

At the same time as increasing production, Cambodia is moving to increase the quality rubber produced. Most of the rubber produced currently are low grade..

“We must ensure the quality of cultivation and of the variety because inferior varieties return low yields and result in revenue losses,” Hun Sen said.

He warned that failure to upgrade rubber quality could boomerang on the expansion plans, resulting in losses valued at about U.S. $600 million annually from 2020.


Agriculture Minister Chan Sarun said that the government is working on improving rubber grades to make them acceptable in international markets.

“We must guarantee our quality, including planting, selecting seeds because bad seeds will [dampen yield],” he said.
He forecast a great future for Cambodia’s rubber industry, likening planting rubber to “making gold.”

Cambodia’s biggest cash crop will remain rice, its primary agricultural export, he said.

Environmentalists in Cambodia have campaigned against rubber plantations in protected forest areas.

In the Prey Lang forests in the northeastern part of the country, activists have combated illegal logging and other abuses which they say stem from government concessions for opening up the land to rubber plantations.

The Prey Lang network says more than 40,000 hectares (98,840 acres) in the forest have been granted for rubber plantations alone.

Reported by Sok Serey for RFA’s Khmer service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.
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Cambodia May Lure Up to 10 IPOs a Year, Korea Bourse Says

By Saeromi Shin

Cambodia’s stock market, which is set to open next week after several delays, may be able to lure five-to-10 initial public offerings a year, according to Korea Exchange Inc., the Cambodian government’s partner in the bourse.

State-owned Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority (PPWSA) will start trading on April 18, while Telecom Cambodia and Sihanoukville Autonomous Port are preparing to go public, Kim Bong Soo, Korea Exchange’s chairman and chief executive officer, said in an April 9 interview at his Seoul office. Telecom Cambodia may list as early as October, according to Tong Yang Securities (Cambodia) Plc, which is managing the share sale.

“Cambodia is going to be a very attractive market as investors benefit from the nation’s economic development,” Kim said. “Many inquiries are being placed for possible listings.”

Cambodia is developing a capital market to lessen its reliance on aid that is equal to a 10th of the nation’s $11 billion economy. Growth may be around 6.5 percent this year, according to the Asian Development Bank, compared with an average of 8 percent between 2001 to 2010. The nation has said it’s seeking to spur economic development by privatizing its state-owned companies and encouraging private enterprises to expand with new funding.

Cambodia’s financial system was fractured in 1975 when the Khmer Rouge captured Phnom Penh during the final stages of the Vietnam War. Its Communist guerrillas blew up the central bank, declared its currency worthless and outlawed private property and trading. During leader Pol Pot’s reign, Cambodia’s fertile countryside became the killing fields where 1.7 million people, or 20 percent of the population, perished.

Phnom Penh Water

Plans for a bourse in Cambodia have been delayed several times since 2009, derailed by the global financial crisis, technical issues and lack of readiness among the nation’s companies.

Phnom Penh Water (PPWSA) raised about $21 million in Cambodia’s first initial public offering after pricing the shares near the high end of a marketed range, Han Kyung Tae, managing director of sale arranger Tong Yang Securities (Cambodia), said by phone on April 9. The firm is a unit of a Seoul-based Tong Yang Securities Inc. Phnom Penh Water’s IPO was priced at 6,300 riel ($1.58) a share.

“I believe dozens of companies will list their shares within five years,” Korea Exchange’s Kim said. “Listings of five-to-10 companies are possible a year.”

The Cambodian government, which offered the site and building for the bourse, holds a 55 percent stake in Cambodia Securities Exchange Co., while the Korean bourse operator, which provided information-technology systems, owns the rest.

Myanmar Exchange

Korea Exchange, which oversees the world’s 13th-largest stock market, is helping Asian countries set up exchanges in return for stakes in the bourses and is seeking cross-trading partnerships in a bid to respond to mergers among global bourses. The Seoul bourse operator helped Laos open its stock market last year and is hoping to do the same for Myanmar.

Myanmar President Thein Sein has sought to reconcile with political foes and open the economy since taking power after 2010 elections that ended five decades of military rule. This month, the government floated its currency and held by-elections that included dissident Aung San Suu Kyi, prompting the U.S. and European Union to reconsider sanctions.

Tokyo Stock Exchange Group Inc. and Daiwa Securities Group Inc. had negotiated a “memorandum of understanding” to establish a stock exchange and develop the country’s capital markets, the companies said in an April 11 statement.

Cross Trading

Korea Exchange said in an e-mail yesterday that it will do its best to win the Myanmar government’s confidence until the Southeast Asian nation makes a final decision and enters into a binding agreement for the establishment of its exchange.

Last year, the South Korean bourse and Tokyo’s exchange began listing prices of each other’s equities and agreed to develop the technology to allow for cross trading, aiming to promote mutual-listing of exchange-traded funds and derivatives. Korea Exchange has proposed cross-trading partnerships with Turkey, Greece and Brazil, Kim said.

“Those countries are highly interested in our offer,” he said. “Securing many cross-trading deals is a necessity for our survival amid growing global competition among exchanges,” he said.

The Korean bourse is also contacting companies in Turkey, Greece, Brazil, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan about listing their shares in South Korea, according to Kim.

To contact the reporter on this story: Saeromi Shin in Seoul at sshin15@bloomberg.net
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Darren Boey at dboey@bloomberg.net Read more!

US Government, Sotheby's Battle over Ancient Khmer Warrior Statue

A federal judge in New York says that a 10th century Cambodian statue will remain in the custody of Sotheby's auction house while a dispute over its ownership plays out in court. U.S. District Judge George Daniels says that because all parties agree that the statue is safely housed in a Sotheby's warehouse, it should not be subjected to the risk of being moved unnecessarily.

U.S. prosecutors and the Cambodian government say the 1,000-year-old sandstone statue, depicting a warrior in the Hindu saga The Mahabharata, was looted from the temple of Prasat Chen in the 1960s or 1970s and should be repatriated. The feet of the statue remain at the temple at Koh Ker, which was briefly the capital of ancient Cambodia.

In a civil complaint, federal prosecutors said that Sotheby's knew the statue had been stolen when it offered it for auction last year on behalf of a Belgian client who had bought it in 1975, the first time it was sold publicly. The U.S. filing reads like a magazine story, quoting at length from email exchanged between a Cambodian art expert and Sotheby's.


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"According to the forfeiture complaint, Sotheby's was told by the very expert they hired to authenticate and appraise the piece, that it was, quote, 'definitely stolen,'" said Tess Davis, an antiquities lawyer who is advising the Cambodian government. "And the same scholar actually urged them to consider donating it back to the national Museum of Phnom Penh to, quote, 'save everyone some embarrassment.'"

In a later email, however, the scholar wrote Sotheby's that it did not appear that Cambodia was requesting the return of all looted artifacts owned by foreign individuals and museums, saying "[I] think that legally and ethically you can happily sell the piece." Sotheby's subsequently featured the statue on its catalog cover. It was expected to sell for up to $3 million.

Peter Neiman, an attorney representing Sotheby's, said the statue was purchased legally by the Belgian collector. "We vigorously dispute the government's allegations," he said after the hearing. "Sotheby's acted in good faith and compliance with the law at all times here, and we expect the evidence is going to show that this is not stolen property, that it belonged to the consignor, and Sotheby's acted perfectly appropriately in consigning it for sale."

In a statement, Sotheby's added that the statue might have been missing from its site for as long as 1,000 years. It said that "condemning a public sale process inevitably drives those owners of antiquities toward private transactions, an outcome deeply disadvantageous to any and all who claim to be on the side of sensitive and careful handling of this material."

Davis, however, said that much of Cambodia's ancient art was looted during the upheaval surrounding Cambodia's civil war, and sold to foreign collectors and museums. "I doubt that anyone who has been working in the field of cultural heritage preservation is very surprised by this court proceeding," she said.

The statue, known as the Duryodhana, stood facing another warrior figure, the Bhima, whose feet also remain at the Koh Ker temple site. Davis said challenges to the ownership of that figure, now in the collection of the Norton-Simon Museum in California, might also be raised.
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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Cambodia sees sharp rise in internet subscribers in past year

PHNOM PENH, April 10 (Xinhua) -- Approximately 1.69 million people in Cambodia have subscribed internet services as of December last year, almost 8-fold increase from only 194,000 users in 2010, according to the statistics of Ministry of Posts and Telecommunication on Tuesday.

It said the country has 27 internet service providers by last year, up 7 companies if compared to a year earlier.

The Minister of Posts and Telecommunication So Khun attributed the huge increase to good internet infrastructure, competitive service fees, and more people's awareness of internet usage.

He said the development of Information and Communication Technology is one of the government priority sectors to contribute to the country's economic growth and poverty reduction. "We have been putting all our efforts to develop the ICT sector to be as developed as that in advanced countries," he said. Read more!

The Lineup: Adidas, MLS announce 'smart tracking system'; workers faint at Nike-contracted factory in Cambodia



adidas MLS micoach.jpg
This drawing suggests the capabilities of the micoach data system
Adidas and Major League Soccer today announced that the 2012 AT&T MLS All-Star Game will feature the company's "micoach professional soccer team tracking system."

The technology will be built into the apparel, said Michael Ehrlich, a spokesman for Adidas America, which is based in Portland. (Original version of this post mistakenly said it would be built into jerseys.)

But the company released few other details about the system on Tuesday, saying more would be announced in advance of the July 25 All-Star Game in Philadelphia.

The system, a news release says, "provides coaches with real time performance metrics on the field of play including player position, power output, speed, distance covered, intensity of play, acceleration and GPS heat mapping."


teampix.jpg
Players pose in the 32 uniforms that Nike designed for the league.
Only the Seattle Seahawks significantly altered its design.

A photo accompanying the news release suggests that the data may be projected for public analysis.

In other words, now fans may have irrefutable proof whether a professional athlete is, indeed, dogging it.

The introduction of the system follows last October's announcement at Adidas America of the micoach SPEED_CELL that can be attached to soccer shoes to record a variety of data. The SPEED_CELL was introduced at the same time as a soccer shoe to carry the device, the adizero f50 micoach.

"Our leading innovations help athletes and coaches on the field of play and we are finding ways to use these innovations to create more immersive sporting environments and experiences that will revolutionize the way we view sports and engage and excite fans," Patrik Nilsson, Adidas America president, said in a news release.

Because it is the officials supplier of uniforms, aka "apparel," for the MLS, Adidas will have no issues with every player -- who has an individual choice of shoes -- taking part in the micoach tracking system.

The team-tracking technology was developed at Adidas AG headquarters in Germany, which presents the intriguing possibility that it could be introduced into apparel worn in the National Hockey League. Adidas AG-owned Reebok is the NHL's uniform supplier.

The tracking system has been tested and developed with MLS and its clubs, multiple
national teams, and clubs in Europe, according to the news release.Following All-Star Game, the new technology will be rolled out globally in the coming seasons.

Cambodia factories:
Nike has issued a statement in response to mass fainting episodes at one of the company's contract apparel factories in Cambodia.

More than 300 workers fainted at a Sabrina Manufacturing plant last week in Kampong Speu. Also, 28 workers fainted at Mirae Apparel in Phnom Penh.

Nike's statement says:
We have been made aware of a potential violation of the health and safety provisions in Nike's Code of Conduct. We take these matters very seriously and have sent in Nike's Sustainable Manufacturing auditing team to conduct an investigation and speak with workers. At the conclusion of that audit, Nike will determine next steps. The audit should be concluded soon. Nike has requested ILO Better Work Cambodia, the industry supply chain governance body in Cambodia, to include this incident in their current research into the causes behind mass faintings in the region.
 A politician, meanwhile, is calling for a boycott of Nike products.
UniWatch word: It's been a week since Nike unveiled its interpretation of what an NFL uniform should look like. So the last word on the subject – that being Nike's introduction, but certainly not the subject of NFL uniforms -- should go to the dean of team athletic apparel, Paul Lukas of UniWatch. He was among the first to predict Nike would play it safe -- because it had no other choice -- with its NFL uniforms designs.

25 percent cut: Not much is available on this on the Web, but Adidas AG chief executive Herbert Hainer apparently told German-language publication Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that the company will slash its 47,000 products by 25 percent. "We just have too many products," Hainer said.

Rules change urged: Some companies, including Nike, are urging India's government to relent on some of the rules governing foreign companies opening wholly-owned 'single-brand' retail stores, says The Times of India.

Social media and the Summer Olympics: Britain’s Olympic hopefuls, says the Daily Mail, "are shamelessly advertising everything from cars to breakfast cereal on Twitter after signing lucrative sponsorship deals – without declaring they have a relationship with the brands." Read more!

Monday, April 09, 2012

Barrister heads to Cambodia to bring justice to victims of the Khmer Rouge

DERBY barrister and recorder has been appointed by the United Nations as a senior prosecutor in the Khmer Rouge Tribunal in Cambodia.

Keith Raynor, who has practised at Derby Crown Court since 1994, was one of more than 400 applicants for the job.

Barrister Keith Raynor said he had always been interested in international criminal law.
Barrister Keith Raynor said he had always been interested in international criminal law

The tribunal was set up by the UN and Cambodian government in 2006 to try former members of the Pol Pot regime for genocide and crimes against humanity between 1975 and 1979.

A quarter of the population – two million people – died during the communist revolution, depicted in The Killing Fields movie.

Mr Raynor, of Coxbench, has prosecuted and defended in a wide range of criminal cases but nothing quite on this scale.

He said: "I am delighted to be appointed. My daily routine will change tremendously – I will now be focusing on one very large case, instead of a number of cases."

It is the largest international criminal tribunal since the Nuremberg trials at the end of the Second World War.

Mr Raynor said: "I am particularly looking forward to working with Cambodian and other international lawyers. It will be a challenge but I like to be challenged.

"It is a significant change for me and my family but there will be opportunities for all of us in Cambodia and the chance to experience a different culture."

The 47-year-old has one more trial to do in Nottingham, which involves the riots of last summer, before he packs up his wig and gown for the trip to Phnom Penh.

Speaking about the history of the case, Mr Raynor said: "In the first few days, the Khmer Rouge rounded up civil servants and military officers, took them to the Olympic stadium and shot them.

"They then forced people to leave their homes and move into the countryside as part of an agrarian revolution – to work in the rice fields and on industrial-scale projects, such as building a dam with little modern machinery."

He said that banks were abolished, money was outlawed and there was political indoctrination. Professionals including doctors and teachers were also executed.

Mr Raynor said the methods of killing were particularly "brutal". Other people died of illness, exhaustion and starvation.

"No other country has ever lost such a proportion of its population in a politically-inspired campaign instigated by its own leaders," he said.

Mr Raynor has never been to Cambodia but he and his wife, Joanna, have spent a lot of time travelling and working overseas, including in Australia, Hong Kong, Chile, Kenya and Germany.

The dad-of-two qualified as a solicitor in 1990 and served in the Army until 1994.

Between 1996 and 2004, he was in partnership at a solicitors' firm in Derby. He then transferred to the Bar and practised from chambers in Nottingham until last year when he moved to London.

Mr Raynor, who applied for the UN job 18 months ago, said: "I have always been interested in international criminal law. When I was in the Army, I helped train soldiers before deployments to the Gulf War in 1991.

He has started learning Khmer, the indigenous language of the country, but his work will be in English.

Mr Raynor has been appointed to work on the second case in the tribunal, which involves three top members of the former regime.

The first case saw the conviction of Kaing Guek Eav, who was the chief jailer. He was given a life sentence for his role in the deaths of more than 14,000 people at a torture centre in Phnom Penh.

Although the trial will take up a lot of Mr Raynor's time, the Derby Rugby Club coach has offered to referee and teach the sport there.

His interior designer wife Joanna and sons Lewis, 15, and Max, 13, will fly out for a visit in the early summer with a view to joining him longer term in September.
Read more!

Workers fainting in Cambodia factories

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia, April 9 (UPI) -- A Cambodian politician is calling for a global boycott of Nike after fainting incidents at a garment factory that supplies the sports brand.

Member of Parliament Mu Sochua said workers are being exploited and international companies that do business in Cambodia should send in experts to investigate working conditions at the factories that supply them, The Phnom Penh Post reported Monday.

The opposition politician criticized government labor officials for failing to do more to protect workers.

More than 300 workers fainted at a Sabrina Manufacturing plant last week in Kampong Speu. The newspaper said 28 workers fainted Friday at Mirae Apparel in Phnom Penh.

"The brands are taking a big risk," Mu Sochua warned. "Consumers are beginning to learn what's going on."

Dave Welsh of the American Center for International Labor Solidarity said the fainting incidents were probably related to poor nutrition, forced overtime and poor occupational health and safety, the newspaper reported.
Read more!

Workers fainting in Cambodia factories

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia, April 9 (UPI) -- A Cambodian politician is calling for a global boycott of Nike after fainting incidents at a garment factory that supplies the sports brand.

Member of Parliament Mu Sochua said workers are being exploited and international companies that do business in Cambodia should send in experts to investigate working conditions at the factories that supply them, The Phnom Penh Post reported Monday.

The opposition politician criticized government labor officials for failing to do more to protect workers.

More than 300 workers fainted at a Sabrina Manufacturing plant last week in Kampong Speu. The newspaper said 28 workers fainted Friday at Mirae Apparel in Phnom Penh.

"The brands are taking a big risk," Mu Sochua warned. "Consumers are beginning to learn what's going on."

Dave Welsh of the American Center for International Labor Solidarity said the fainting incidents were probably related to poor nutrition, forced overtime and poor occupational health and safety, the newspaper reported.
Read more!

Friday, April 06, 2012

Stronger Public Administration Needed: Analyst


Lao Monghay says Cambodian society is changing, and the administrative system must change with it.


Cambodia’s public administration needs to be strengthened or it risks increased instability, a political analyst says.

Speaking as a monthly guest on “Hello VOA,” the analyst, Lao Monghay, compared public administration to the “arms, legs and body” of a government.

The body must be strong to “respond to social change,” he said. And if it can’t, the challenges will be “insurmountable.” “That can lead to social instability,” he said.

Cambodian society is changing, and the administrative system must change with it, he said. Laws must be enforced, power decentralized at both the local and national levels, corruption dealt with and the abuse of power curtailed, he said.

The main goal is people’s wellbeing, he said, and to create a social atmosphere where people live “together as a nation.”

Speaking to international groups and the media in Washington this week, the UN’s special envoy for Cambodian human rights, Surya Subedi, said the rights environment has improved, but there is still “not enough political will, not enough determination.”

Donors and the rest of the international community must push the government towards “serious” reform in the judiciary, parliament and other agencies responsible for human rights, Subedi said.

Specific improvements are needed in the areas of land grabbing, a law to regulate NGOs, and the judiciary, among others, he said.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan said officials are working to reform the country, which is still plagued by the legacy of the Khmer Rouge and civil war.
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Kunming-Cambodia direct flights to be launched later 2012

PHNOM PENH, April 6 (Xinhua) -- Direct flights between China's Kunming city and Cambodia's Siem Reap and Phnom Penh are expected to be launched later this year in order to further promote trade and tourism between the two countries, said a Cambodian government official on Friday.

The plan was announced on Friday during a meeting between visiting Li Jiheng, Governor of China's Yunnan province, and Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, Minister of the Council of Ministers (COM), according to Ek Tha, spokesman and deputy director of press unit at the COM.

"In the meeting, His Excellency Li Jiheng sought Cambodia's permission for the upcoming direct commercial flights from Kunming to Cambodia," he said. "It is expected the flights will be launched later this year."

According to Ek Tha, Li told Sok An that a newly built international airport in Kunming city worth more than 2 billion U. S. dollars will be inaugurated on June 28 this year and he had invited Sok An to join the inauguration.

Sok An welcomed the plan for the direct flights, saying that the flights from Yunnan will bring more tourists to Cambodia.

According to the statistics of Cambodia's tourism ministry, Cambodia attracted 247,200 Chinese tourists last year, an increase of 39 percent, making Chinese tourists the third largest arrival group to this Southeastern Asian nation.

Meanwhile, Sok An said attending the airport inauguration would give Cambodia's civil aviation officials a chance to learn a great deal about new developments in civil aviation industry.

Li led a large group of business executives from Yunnan province to visit Cambodia from April 4-6.
Read more!

Dentists give hope to Cambodians

By Dan Marcinkowski, Edmonton Journal



In less than two weeks, more than 1,000 patients were treated in Cambodia by members of the Alberta-based volunteer group Kindness in Action.

"We basically did a full range of dental care for patients," said Dr. Kevin Lobay, a clinical lecturer in both dentistry and the department of emergency medicine at the University of Alberta. "We made sure that patients were fully treated, not just doing one part and moving on to the next patient."

Lobay, along with 15 other Canadians, made the overseas trip in mid-February. Once in Cambodia, local volunteers, mostly translators, joined the cause and the team grew to more than 25 members made up of dentists, dental hygienists, dental assistants, physicians and pharmacists.

Lobay,who is trained as both a dentist and emergency medicine physician, helped many children. Many of the kids had major tooth decay, some so bad that all of their teeth had to be removed, while others simply needed numerous fillings. "Many of these patients have never seen a dentist," Lobay said. "Every patient is unique and obviously important. We worked on some very poor people in Cambodia that have no other resources or opportunities to have their medical or dental problems addressed."

One memorable moment was of a patient who had severely decayed teeth and needed her wisdom teeth out. There is a myth in Cambodia that the removal of wisdom teeth will cause blindness. The patient asked Lobay if she was going to go blind and Lobay promised the patient that she would be OK.

After her teeth were pulled, he asked if she could still see. She said yes, laughing.

The satisfaction of helping people is what Lobay will remember most about his journey to Cambodia. "You take away a life experience that you can't get any other way."

The crew had to bring their own equipment, including generators, because power is unreliable there.

This was the fifth time in the past seven years that Lobay travelled overseas to help those in need. He has volunteered in the Philippines, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Peru through Kindness in Action. "Not sure where we are going next. We will have a meeting to discuss where to go next year," he said.

The dental charity provides free dental care in areas around the world for those who have limited or no access to dental care. Kindness in Action also helps to fill needs beyond dentistry including work on building schools and setting up clinics.
Read more!

Federal agents might seize Khmer statue

American museums, including the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, are home to thousands of Khmer objects with murky ownership histories.
Cambodian art
Federal agents have threatened to seize from Sotheby's a 10th-century Cambodian sandstone statue. (Homeland Security / April 5, 2012)




NEW YORK — Federal agents have threatened to seize from Sotheby's a 10th century Cambodian sandstone statue, alleging the auction house planned to sell it despite warnings that looters had stolen the piece from its rightful place, adorning an ancient temple in the former Khmer kingdom.

Court documents filed Wednesday in New York say the statue of an ancient warrior was torn from the Prasat Chen Temple in Koh Ker in northern Cambodia sometime in the 1960s or early 1970s, when the Asian nation was engulfed in civil unrest. The statue fell into the hands of a private collector in Belgium, whose heirs reached an agreement with Sotheby's to sell it on consignment last March.

Cambodia is the latest country seeking to reclaim ancient art looted from its soil and sold on the black market before surfacing in the United States. American museums, including the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, are home to thousands of Khmer objects with murky ownership histories that could be subject to similar suits if Cambodia seeks to pursue them.

Shortly before the Sotheby's sale, Cambodian officials notified the auction house that the object had been looted, and the parties have been negotiating a settlement to the dispute for the last year.

Those negotiations ended abruptly Wednesday when the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York filed a civil forfeiture suit, claiming the statue was stolen property under U.S. law.

"The ... statue is imbued with great meaning for the people of Cambodia and, as we allege, it was looted from the country during a period of upheaval and unrest, and found its way to the United States," Manhattan U.S. Atty. Preet Bharara said in a statement released by his office. "With today's action, we are taking an important step toward reuniting this ancient artifact with its rightful owners."

Sotheby's disputed the allegations, saying in a statement that the statue "was legally imported into the United States and all relevant facts were openly declared."

In recent years, mounting evidence has emerged that American collectors and museum officials knowingly bought looted antiquities, ignoring national ownership laws of source countries and U.S. laws that treat such objects as stolen property.

Sotheby's appears to have ignored similar warning signs, according to internal auction house emails cited in the court records.

"The Cambodians in Pnom Penh now have clear evidence that it was definitely stolen from Prasat Chen at Koh Ker, as the feet are still in situ," warned an American scholar who was studying the object for the auction house. "It is also possible that the Cambodians might block the sale and ask for the piece back. ... I don't think Sotheby wants this kind of potential problem."

The scholar later consulted with "culture spies and [a] museum director" in Cambodia and told Sotheby's it was unlikely that the government would pursue a claim. Sotheby's proceeded with the sale, with officials saying in internal emails that while it might receive bad press from "academics and 'temple huggers,'" the potential profits from the sale made it "worth the risk."

The New York Times identified the scholar as Emma C. Bunker, an authority on Khmer art who has publicly defended the right of American collectors to buy objects with unclear origins.

There are frequent references in the federal complaint to another statue looted from the same site. Experts say it is a reference to a sandstone statue of a temple wrestler at the Norton Simon Museum, which the museum purchased in 1976 from a New York dealer and describes as coming from Koh Ker.

In a statement, the museum said it had not been contacted by Cambodia, whose officials have long known about the statue's existence. "In more than three decades of ownership, the foundation's ownership of the sculpture has never been questioned," said a spokeswoman.

That may soon change, experts say.

"Over the last decade, the climate has become much more favorable for Cambodia and other source countries seeking to repatriate looted antiquities," said Tess David, an American attorney specializing in cultural patrimony law who is advising the government of Cambodia.

In a study of Sotheby's sales published last year, Davis found that 71% of Khmer objects sold had no documented ownership history, suggesting they may have been products of the illicit trade.
Read more!

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Sotheby's sued for return of 10th century Cambodian statue

Sotheby's the auctioneers is being sued for the return of a 10th century sandstone statue which prosecutors claim was looted from a temple in Cambodia.

Sotheby's sued for return of 10th century Cambodian statue

The Duryodhana statue is alleged to have been stolen from the Prasat Chen temple in Koh Ker, a remote jungle site 200 miles north of Phnom Penh which was the capital of the Khmer Empire until around 950 BC.

It is claimed that it was taken at some point during the 1960s or 1970s, when Cambodia was going through a time of violent political turmoil.

US Attorney Preet Bharara, for the Southern District of New York, accused Sotheby's of importing the statute for auction in its Manhattan office in March 2010 despite knowing it had been stolen.

The auctioneer obtained the Duryodhana from the heirs of a Belgian antiquities dealer, who bought it from an auction house in the United Kingdom in 1975.

If the statue is recovered, it will be returned to Cambodia, Mr Bharara said. He added: "With today's action, we are taking an important step toward reuniting this ancient artefact with its rightful owners."

The Duryodhana once stood on a pedestal near the entry to the western pavilion of Prasat Chen, a temple dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu.

The feet of the statue remain there today.

At the request of the Cambodian government, Sotheby's agreed to remove the statue from sale last year, but it remains in the auctioneer's possession.

In a statement, Sotheby's said: "This sculpture was legally imported into the United States and all relevant facts were openly declared.

"We have researched this sculpture extensively and have never seen nor been presented with any evidence that specifies when the sculpture left Cambodia over the last one thousand years nor is there any such evidence in this complaint.

"Given that Cambodia has always expressed its desire to resolve this situation amicably, and that we had an understanding with the US Attorney's Office that no action would be filed pending further discussion towards a resolution of this matter, we are disappointed that this action has been filed and we intend to defend it vigorously."
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Friends Without A Border's Gala Honors Cambodian Genocide Refugee and Peace Activist

By Friends Without A Border
Friends Without A Border


NEW YORK, April 4, 2012 -- /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Friends Without A Border (Friends) announces that its 10th Annual Gala will take place on Thursday, April 12, 2012 (6 to 9:30 p.m.) at Espace, 635 West 42nd St., New York City. The recipient of this year's Healing Cambodia Award is child of war turned man of peace, Arn Chorn-Pond.

Based in New York, with chapters in Canada, Japan, and France, Friends is a 501(c)(3) organization which raises awareness and funds to support Angkor Hospital for Children, a leading pediatric hospital in post-genocide Cambodia. Founded in 1996 by photographer Kenro Izu, Friends raised the funds to construct AHC in February 1999 and continues to raise millions each year for pediatric healthcare in Cambodia. AHC is internationally respected for quality, compassionate care provided to more than 125,000 sick, malnourished, and impoverished children annually. Since 1999, AHC has treated more than 1,000,000 children.

When the Khmer Rouge came to power in 1975, nine-year-old Arn and hundreds of other children were sent to Wat Ek, a Buddhist temple converted into a prison camp, where he survived by playing the flute to entertain the soldiers. In five days, a master trained Arn and four other children to play the flute and the khim, a Cambodian dulcimer. At the end of that time, Arn and another boy were chosen to play propaganda songs for the camp guards; the other three children and the master were led away and killed. When the Vietnamese invaded Cambodia in 1978, Arn was handed a gun and forced to fight: "The Khmer Rouge gave us guns and pushed us into the front line. Children who refused were shot in the head."

Arn Chorn-Pond has helped to restore artistic traditions to a brutalized nation. As founder of Cambodian Living Arts, he sparked a renewal of the country's artistic expressions and revitalized its dying art forms. Against the grim backdrop of a nearly extinguished Khmer identity, his unique leadership through art and music continues to bring healing to millions. Arn Chorn-Pond is also co-founder of Children of War, and of the Southeast Asian Big Brothers/Big Sisters Association of Providence RI. He later served as director of Youth Programs for the Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association in Lowell, Massachusetts, and as special advisor on Cambodian affairs for Clear Path International. Cambodian Volunteers for Community Development, which he founded in 1993, organizes community rebuilding projects and has enrolled more than 100,000 young members in community service. He is the recipient of the Spirit of Anne Frank Outstanding Citizen Award, Amnesty International Human Rights Award, and the Reebok Human Rights Award, among others. A biographical novel about Arn Chorn-Pond, Never Fall Down, will be published in May 2012 by HarperCollins.

"It is a true pleasure for Abbott and Abbott Fund to join Friends Without A Border and many others in honoring Arn Chorn-Pond for his incomparable contribution to Cambodia and Cambodians overseas," said Katherine Pickus, Divisional Vice President, Global Citizenship and Policy, Abbott. "We're also proud to share a broader commitment to advancing the health of children in Cambodia and countries around the world."

As 1 of only 5 teaching hospitals in Cambodia, AHC has trained thousands of Khmer nurses and doctors as part of its mission to help rebuild the nation's healthcare infrastructure. Outreach programs instill preventive health, nutrition, and hygiene practices among rural residents and upgrade health centers. Its Homecare program is the largest hospital-based pediatric HIV antiretroviral therapy program outside the nation's capital, Phnom Penh.

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Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Southeast Asian leaders: Lift Myanmar sanctions

By JIM GOMEZ, Associated Press


PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Southeast Asian leaders called Wednesday for Western countries, including the European Union, to immediately lift punitive sanctions imposed on Myanmar now that the once-pariah nation has embraced democratic reforms.

The leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations made the call after concluding an annual summit in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh. Myanmar was represented at the gathering by President Thein Sein, who received a flurry of praise for the recent reforms in his poor Southeast Asian nation, most recently Sunday's by-elections won by pro-democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi and her party.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said the appeal for sanctions to be lifted would first be relayed to the EU, which punished formerly military-ruled Myanmar for massive human rights violations.

"We called for the lifting of all sanctions on Myanmar immediately in order to contribute positively to the democratic process and economic development in that country," the heads of state said in a statement, promising to help when Myanmar assumes ASEAN's rotating chairmanship in 2014.

During the two-day summit, Thein Sein reported to the other leaders that the elections saw a huge turnout of voters and were held peacefully, drawing praise from his counterparts, Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said.

Myanmar's government, basking in newfound confidence, invited all of ASEAN's foreign ministers to visit the country's capital city of Naypyitaw as a group, possibly in the next few months, diplomats said.

Until recently, Myanmar was the black sheep of ASEAN, with other member countries repeatedly reprimanding it for its failure to move forward on a promised roadmap to democracy, including the freeing of Suu Kyi from years of house arrest.

"This is a tremendous change in the dynamics nowadays," Natalegawa said. "Normally the Myanmar issue is discussed as a problem but now it's seen as very much different."

"Certainly there was no condemnation; there were lots of commendations," he said.

Natalegawa said ASEAN foreign ministers would relay their appeal for the sanctions' lifting when they meet their EU counterparts in the near future.

Last month, the EU suspended entry restrictions against 87 top Myanmar officials to reward its moves toward political reforms, but a freeze on their assets will be maintained until further notice. The EU also still has in place an arms embargo and a ban on the sale of goods linked to internal repression. It also has suspended certain development aid programs.

The weekend vote in Myanmar will fill just 45 vacant seats in the country's 664-seat Parliament but took on historic significance because of Suu Kyi's presence. After two decades as a political prisoner, Suu Kyi won a victory that marked a turn in her political career and for the country as it emerges from a half-century of military rule.

While they mustered a united front on Myanmar, some Southeast Asian countries wrangled over a proposal to craft a nonaggression accord aimed at preventing armed clashes over territorial rifts in the South China Sea that involve China and ASEAN members Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines. Taiwan also contests vast areas in the resource-rich region.

Other members of ASEAN are Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Singapore and Thailand.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III insisted ASEAN must craft such a "code of conduct" and then take it up with China as a group. Beijing opposes any arrangement that would force it to face a bloc of nations. China wants to negotiate with individual claimant countries over the disputes, something that will give it advantage for its sheer size.

The Philippines, backed by Vietnam, wanted Cambodia, ASEAN's steward this year, to make that sequence clear in a summit statement. Cambodia later issued a statement that avoided any mention of the contentious issue.

Cambodia's summit statement renewed ASEAN's call for the peaceful resolution to the issue of North Korea's nuclear program but completely ignored any mention of a rocket launch planned for later this month.
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ASEAN Still Searching for Consensus on South China Sea Dispute

"This is not necessarily a neat sequential process isn't it. Of course, ASEAN … first and foremost, must have a solid consolidated position."

Philippines' President Benigno Aquino III, right, talks with his Foreign Minister Albert del Rosario, left, during the retreat meeting at the 20th ASEAN Summit at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh Cambodia, April 4, 2012.
Philippines' President Benigno Aquino III, right, talks with his Foreign Minister Albert del Rosario, left, during the retreat meeting at the 20th ASEAN Summit at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh Cambodia, April 4, 2012.

Southeast Asian leaders say they will rush to reach a unified position on resolving competing territorial claims in the South China Sea. During the final day of a key Association of Southeast Asian Nations leaders summit in Phnom Penh, negotiators struggled to reach a consensus on how to approach the disputes with China.

The maritime dispute has become increasingly heated in the last year. China claims ownership of much of the South China Sea, along with four ASEAN states, including the Philippines.

On Wednesday, ASEAN chair Cambodia issued a statement saying that the ten member states have agreed to "intensify efforts" on agreeing to a code of conduct, or CoC, on the dispute.

The question that ASEAN leaders sought to answer this week, is whether China would be involved in those discussions before the group had reached a consensus.

"It must be resolved peacefully in accordance with a rules-based regime and the new element that we've introduced is that the drafting of the CoC and the inclusion of the major elements should actually made by ASEAN internally before China is invited," stated Albert Del Rosario, the Philippines' secretary of foreign affairs.

ASEAN officials said Wednesday's pledge to expedite the process is an attempt to reach that consensus as soon as possible.

But the next scheduled meeting on the issue between China and ASEAN is only months away. On Wednesday, other ASEAN leaders said it was important to have a common position in any regional negotiations, but they also left the door open to China's involvement.

"This is not necessarily a neat sequential process isn't it. Of course, ASEAN … first and foremost, must have a solid consolidated position," said Marty Natalegawa, Indonesia's foreign affairs minister and a former ASEAN chairman. "But at the same time as we proceed, there will be constant communication through the ASEAN-China framework, so that whatever final position ASEAN comes up with will have benefited from having some kind of communication with China," he said.

It has been 10 years since ASEAN members first agreed in principle to reach a consensus on the South China Sea. Yet member nations still have failed in seeking a common approach to govern negotiations with China. The issue has become increasingly heated in the last year, particularly with maritime confrontations between China and the Philippines.

Although they failed again to reach a consensus, Natalegawa says this week discussions were a positive step.

"The big picture is one that must not be lost … now we have a situation where all are basically rushing to get the CoC off the ground. Which was not the case before. Now we have China wanting to come in and ASEAN wanting to finalize the CoC as soon as possible," said Natalegawa. "This is all good dynamics."

The next ASEAN leaders' summit is scheduled for November, also in Cambodia.
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Cambodia’s Hun Sen Proves A Feisty Asean Chair

By Martin Vaughan


Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen seemed to forget in a Wednesday press conference that he was speaking as the chair of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations bloc, and used the occasion to deliver a feisty harangue against his domestic political enemies.

Deriding his critics as “crazy analysts” and “stupid philosophers,” Mr. Hun Sen jarred awake an international press corps of about 200 reporters that had steeled themselves for sunny talk of regional harmony and bland pronouncements on such Asean perennials as customs cooperation.

While he didn’t mention any of his foes by name, he taunted one by mentioning several times an analyst with a “bald head.” People present suggested it might refer to Lao Mong Hay, a human rights activist and vocal critic of Hun Sen’s government who earlier in the week made comments to local news outlets about the powerful influence of China in the tiny Southeast Asian nation – a sensitive topic there.

Mr. Lao Mong Hay implied in his comments that the visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao to Phnom Penh two days before the Asean summit was designed to pressure Cambodia to soft-pedal disputes over competing territorial claims in the South China Sea during talks this week. The subject of the South China Sea came up repeatedly during the Asean summit, with some Southeast Asian nations pressing for a common stance on conflicts in the resource-rich waters, while China has worked to keep the topic off of Asean’s agenda as much as possible.

Mr. Hun Sen also lambasted members of the opposition in the National Assembly who had complained, wrongly he said, of undue Chinese influence. “They are not able lead the country if they are involved in politics in such a silly way. . . Cambodia is not going to be bought by anyone,” he said.

Mr. Hun Sen’s outburst was all the more surprising given that this week’s summit represents a powerful opportunity for Cambodia to burnish its reputation on the international stage. Although it’s one of the smallest countries in Southeast Asia, with about 15 million people, it has seen its tourist industry and broader economy take off in recent years after the country stabilized following years of political chaos during and after the Khmer Rouge era. Each year a different Southeast Asian country takes over as Asean chair and hosts its key summits; despite his reputation as something of a maverick, many analysts had expected Mr. Hun Sen to focus attention on statesman-like issues such as regional stability and economic development rather than highlighting domestic political disputes.

Mr. Hun Sen’s the tirade went on for close to 30 minutes. Mr. Hun Sen handled a question on the Myanmar elections before another question on China set him going again against his critics. One hour and fifteen minutes after the press conference had begun, Southeast Asia’s longest-serving leader declared it was time for lunch.
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China stalls Cambodia’s first rice exports at border

Cambodia had made its first direct shipment of rice to China, an official revealed yesterday, but the test run, which was hoped to open the vast Chinese rice market to local exporters, was largely unsuccessful.

Golden Rice Co Ltd shipped 48 tonnes of milled rice to China earlier this year in a test of potential rice trading between the two countries, Sok Hach, the president of the company, said during a discussion on Cambodia’s export sector yesterday.

But the shipment had failed to meet inspection standards after arriving in the southern Chinese port city of Shenzhen, he said.

“It’s not a problem with the quality of Cambodia’s rice. It’s a paperwork problem on the Chinese side,” Sok Hach said on the sidelines of the meeting, held at the ASEAN-EU Business Summit in Phnom Penh.

“There’s something missing between the political level and technical level for the shipment.”

Without politically circumnavigating strict regulations, Cambodian rice had little chance of landing in Chinese bowls, an expert with Cambodia’s Agricultural Development International told the Post last year.

Chinese companies signed several memorandums of understanding (MoUs) with Cambodian rice millers last year but the agreements were political, not technical, Sok Hach said.

In mid-2011, Cambodian rice millers Soma Group and TTY Group signed MoUs for 20,000 tonnes of milled rice apiece, but the rice has yet to leave Cambodian ports.

Angkor Rice signed a 1,000-tonne MoU with China National Cereal, Oil and Foodstuffs Corporation in August.

Breaking into the Chinese market for rice had proved more problematic than markets such as the European Union, Sok Hach said.

When the company made a similar trial run for rice exports to Europe two years earlier, no such regulatory problems occurred, he said.

EU demand largely fuelled the Kingdom’s exports last year.

Despite the setback, Sok Hach claimed Cambodia would begin direct shipments to China this year.

“Cambodian rice will flood the Chinese market,” he said.
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Tuesday, April 03, 2012

In Surprise, Cambodia Puts South China Sea on Summit Agenda

China claims the highlighted portion of the South China Sea. Many other governments also claim all or part of the South China Sea.

Reversing an earlier decision, Cambodian officials have put the South China Sea on the official agenda for Wednesday, the final day of an Asean summit in Phnom Penh.

Cambodia had left the contentious issue off the agenda, following a visit by Chinese President Hu Jiantao over the weekend. But Asean members Vietnam and the Philippines raised the issue at a meeting of foreign ministers on Monday.

Several Asean members have overlapping maritime and island claims in the South China Sea with China and Taiwan.

Soeu Rat Chavy, secretary of state for the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told reporters Tuesday the issue was now on the agenda.

“We have received no pressure from any country,” she said. “The Chinese leader and Asean leaders have agreed to do whatever they can to effectively implement the [code] of conduct in the South China Sea to ensure peace, stability and prosperity in the region.”
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Organization in Cambodia gets kids off the streets and teaches them job skills for a better future

By Sarah Dallof



A teacher and student at Romdeng restaurant work side by side
 during preparations for the lunch rush in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Four years ago Srey Nim was stuck in a life that few would envy and she herself did not want.

She spent her days on the streets of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, selling flowers and water to tourists. It was hard work, day after day in the heat making little to bring home to her widowed mother. To escape, she would leaf through magazines looking at the pictures but unable to read the words.

Then came the turning point. An outreach group with Friends-International invited her to play sports with a group of kids. They made her an offer: If she wanted off the streets, they would give her an education and teach her a trade of her choice. She accepted.

Today, the shy and smiling 17-year-old is a student at Romdeng restaurant, which is owned by Friends-International. She works hard and one day hopes to open her own restaurant featuring both Khmer and international cuisine.

“Before, I was lonely,” she said, speaking through a translator. “Now I feel I have a brighter future. I know how to read. I love to cook.”

Srey Nim is one of many success stories at Friends-International, which asked the students to use pseudonyms for this story to protect their privacy. There are students who now own their own restaurants, who teach cooking classes and who have broken the cycle of poverty. The organization offers vocational training in nine areas ranging from mechanics to hair styling to welding, but it is their cooking and hospitality program that gets all the attention. More than 100 students are currently training in the organization’s working restaurants giving them important experience.

In turn, customers enjoy a delicious meal and get the opportunity to meet the people their support will directly benefit. Friends the Restaurant offers international tapas-style plates and is staffed by advanced students. Mid-level students train at Romdeng, which features Khmer food.

On any given night at either establishment, the reservation book is impressively full and people are buzzing about. Student waiters are flanked by their teachers as they take orders and greet guests. The kitchen is a bit more chaotic as line cooks work quickly to fill orders and prepare drinks. Customers seem excited to be there and for good reason. The cuisine at Romdeng and Friends the Restaurant are ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, on Trip Advisor’s list of places to eat in Phnom Penh.

The success of the restaurants was not without long hours and days, according to hospitality and business coordinator Gustav Auer, who was tasked with getting the two eateries up and running 13 years ago.

“It was an adventure,” Auer said. “We never expected it to become so successful and so big.”

Today, the restaurants are 65 percent self-sustaining, with groups like UNICEF and the Skoll Foundation making up the rest. Friends-International has since added a café in Phnom Penh, a restaurant in Laos and is publishing a series of cookbooks. They sell bags made by local women, including Srey Nim’s mother, and candleholders made by welding students in the restaurants’ gift shops.

Auer didn’t expect how attached he would become to the students. In many cases teachers became substitute parents to the kids. Auer pointed to the example of a student who emailed him earlier that morning asking if Auer would attend his upcoming wedding.

“(When he and I met) he was living above the sewer,” he recalled. “He had training with us and started to work for a few restaurants, and now he owns his own business, his own restaurant. It’s actually quite a famous restaurant in Phnom Penh. I’m very proud of him.”

For every success story in the program, there are a hundred more waiting to happen on the streets of Cambodia’s capitol, where an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 kids live and fight to survive. The fluctuation in numbers is due to harvest season and various natural disasters in the region.

But it’s a tough and dangerous life for children no matter their numbers. They are at high risk for physical, psychological and sexual abuse, HIV infection and drug abuse.

Sopheap, 24, knows the risks all too well. A year ago he was living on the street addicted to ice and yama, a pill laced with meth. Friends-International placed him in drug detox and vocational training.

Now he’s working alongside other youths he knows from the street in Romdeng. He has a place to sleep, and medical and dental care. It’s a far cry from his days on the street.

“I think I’ll have a good job in the future and be able to make good money,” he said through the translator. “I hope other kids get the chance as well.”
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Monday, April 02, 2012

Far From Meetings, Evictees Ask Region for Help

“I would like to ask all the ministers to help all the people here, whether they are inside or outside tents, who are in miserable conditions.”


Nearly 200 families were moved here from the city, following a forced eviction at Borei Keila, a Phnom Penh neighborhood slated for development by the company Phan Imex.



Far from the Asean ministerial meetings underway on Monday, victims of forced evictions in Cambodia say they need regional leaders to help enforce human rights.

At a squalid relocation camp at Phnom Bath mountain, where many displaced families live in poverty, Nhim Sopha, 29, told VOA Khmer she needs Asean’s leaders “to help solve the problems, so that I can have a plot of land.”

Nhim Sopha, who is a widow with one child, said she was forcibly evicted with around 300 families from the Phnom Penh neighborhood of Borei Keila earlier this year. They were brought by truck to this desolate mountain location, 50 kilometers from the city.

A piece of land, she said, “would be enough for me, and then I’ll demand nothing else.”

Rights advocates say the ongoing forced evictions of rural and urban Cambodians goes against the “spirit” of Asean. Cambodia is hosting an Asean summit in Phnom Penh, with the leaders of all 10 countries expected to meet on Tuesday.

The site at Phnom Bath lacks clean water, electricity, schools and health facilities. The displaced here say they are vulnerable to heavy winds and rainstorms, and they fear poisonous snakes and insects.

“I would like to ask all the ministers to help all the people here, whether they are inside or outside tents, who are in miserable conditions,” Sin Vanny, who is 70 years old and was among the Borei Keila evictees, told VOA Khmer.

Residents from the neighborhood have had little success in getting their complaints heard, despite protests in the city and requests for help from the administration of Prime Minister Hun Sen, Cambodia’s parliament and foreign embassies.

Sia Phearum, director of the Human Rights Task Force, a housing rights advocacy group, said Cambodia’s role as head of Asean should compel it to be a role model for other member nations.

“This seems like a small issue, so it is not necessary for other Asean nations to step in,” he said. “Doing so would embarrass Cambodia. So now the government should solve the problem for the people quickly, so that they won’t have to wait and won’t protest, because this won’t make a good image for Cambodia as chair of Asean.”

Some evictees believe Asean can do little for them.

Chay Kimhorn, 33, who was forced from Borei Keila but refused to move to the relocation site, said the government is not likely to bring up such issues at a regional forum.

“They’ll raise only the development of new buildings and so on,” she said. “I don’t think they know how miserably we are living these days, because we talk to all the media and they simply ignore us.”
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Burma, S. China Sea Dominate ASEAN Summit Discussions

“As far as Indonesia is concerned, this is a very good development."

Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN Foreign Ministers
Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN Foreign Ministers from left, K. Shanmugam of Singapore, Surapong Tovichakchaikul of Thailand, Pham Bihn Minh of Vietnam, Hor Namhong of Cambodia and Lim Jock Seng of Brunei wait for their counterpart from Myanmar Wunna Maung Lwin, bottom, prior to the photo session of their meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia April 2, 2012.


This week leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are meeting in Phnom Penh, where competing claims to parts of the South China Sea, Sunday's election in Burma and North Korea’s planned satellite launch are dominating discussions.

Burma’s political reform process has been a high-profile objective for the 10 member bloc of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Last November the group agreed to grant Burma the chair of the bloc in 2014 on the basis of its democratic reforms.

After Sunday’s by-election, which Burma had invited ASEAN representatives to observe, Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa praised the vote’s execution.

“As far as Indonesia is concerned, this is a very good development. An important step in further making irreversible the democratization process in Myanmar," Natalegawa said.

This year's chair, Cambodia, released a statement calling the election "successful" and "peaceful" and urged the international community to consider lifting longstanding economic sanctions.

ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan said he was "encouraged" by the vote in Burma, also known as Myanmar.

"We hope that this will contribute to a more effective integration of Myanmar [Burma] in the global community and Myanmar and ASEAN will be able to work on other issues that will be more meaningful and contributing to the well-being of the people of Myanmar, rather than being stuck on the issue of instability and lack of political reconciliation in Myanmar," he said.

During the leaders summit this week, territorial disputes in the South China Sea are also expected to be a high-profile issue.

Four ASEAN members claim rights to parts of the South China Sea, along with China and Taiwan.

At a meeting of foreign ministers on Monday, the Philippine's secretary of foreign affairs, Albert del Rosario, urged his counterparts to take concrete steps forward on a collective code of conduct, or COC, for dealing with the dispute. Del Rosario said he hopes ASEAN will formulate its stance by the end of the year, but acknowledged the group remains divided over how to proceed.

“I think the difference of opinion lies in the fact that we are advocating a draft of the COC be prepared before we sit down with China," del Rosario said. "Others are taking the view that China should be invited to come in for the initial discussions.”

ASEAN ministers also expressed concern over North Korea’s announcement of a planned satellite rocket launch. Observers have said the rocket trajectory could see it head south near Philippines, Australian or Indonesian territory.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Natalegawa called on North Korea to refrain from the launch.

"We are obviously deeply concerned by the prospect of the launch of the satellite, both in terms of the safety and security issues," Natalegawa said. "But most of all, and not least, in terms of the disruption it is causing to the conditions conducive for the resumptions of six party talks."

Monday’s meeting of ASEAN foreign ministers is ahead of Tuesday's main leaders' summit.
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Hu's Cambodia trip deepens bilateral ties: Chinese experts

BEIJING, April 2 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit to Cambodia has resulted in significant achievements for the ties and cooperation between the two countries and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said Chinese experts on Monday.

During the 4-day visit which concluded on Monday, Hu met Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni, Senate President Chea Sim, National Assembly President Heng Samrin and Prime Minister Hun Sen, and was warmly welcomed by all walks of Cambodian society.

The two countries signed a variety of agreements on cooperation during Hu's visit, which is the first visit by China's head of state since 2000.

The two countries have also issued a joint communique, vowing to strengthen cooperation in politics, economy, defence, and strategy.

"This demonstrates the traditional friendship between the peoples of China and Cambodia," said Tong Xiaoling, Chinese ambassador to ASEAN, "the friendship was established by the leaders of older generations of both countries, and has faithfully continued through to the present day."

Since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1958, China and Cambodia have supported each other in various issues. In 2010, the two countries built the comprehensive strategic partnership.

This time around, Hu's suggestions for enhancing bilateral ties during this visit have been echoed by Cambodian leaders.

During Hu's visit, the two countries agreed to expand all-round bilateral cooperation and double bilateral trade between the two countries, reaching 5 billion U.S. dollars by the year 2017.

This cooperation will provide tangible benefits to the peoples of both countries, said Hu Qianwen, former Chinese ambassador to Cambodia.

China has almost 360 investment projects in Cambodia at present, with a total amount of foreign direct investment (FDI) of 1.43 billion U.S. dollars as of 2011. Cambodia's FDI to China currently stands at 130 million U.S. dollars.

Tong said China will further expand its investment in Cambodia's infrastructure, and provide more support to Chinese enterprises going to Cambodia.

In the meantime, this bilateral cooperation is also of strategic importance, said Hu Qianwen, adding that Cambodia understands and firmly supports China in issues concerning China's core interests, such as Taiwan and Tibet. Cambodia also takes a fair attitude toward the South China Sea issue.

In the joint communique announced on Sunday, the two countries agreed that China and the ASEAN countries shall continue to abide by the purpose and spirit of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), give full play to all existing mechanisms including the Guidelines for the implementation of the DOC, facilitate the full implementation of the DOC, and ensure the success of the workshop on the 10th Anniversary of the signing of the DOC.

Experts said President Hu's visit to Cambodia will also help promote understanding between China and other ASEAN countries, especially during a period when international and regional situations are now experiencing profound changes.

President Hu's visit came after the United States announced its return to Asia Pacific at the end of last year. Moving its strategy eastward will have a significant impact in this region, said Zhang Jiuhuan, former Chinese ambassador to Thailand and Singapore.

Cambodia holds the presidency of ASEAN in 2012, and will host the 20th ASEAN Summit starting from Tuesday to Wednesday.

"China, Cambodia and other ASEAN countries all hope to maintain peace and stability of the region. Hu's visit will have positive influence during this period of change," said Zhang.
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Sunday, April 01, 2012

Chinese president, Cambodian king discuss all-around cooperation


Chinese President Hu Jintao (C) meets with Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni (R) in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, March 31, 2012. (Xinhua/Huang Jingwen)


PHNOM PENH, March 31 (Xinhua) -- Visiting Chinese President Hu Jintao met with Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni here Saturday to discuss all-around bilateral cooperation.

Hu said the Cambodian royal family has made special contributions to the development of China-Cambodia ties. The half-century friendship between King-Father Norodom Sihanouk and generations of Chinese leaders has remained strong and is becoming even firmer, said Hu.

Carrying on this tradition, King Sihamoni has attached great importance to the development of the friendly and cooperative ties between China and Cambodia, and has made new and important contributions to the promotion of their traditional friendship, Hu said.

China cherishes its traditional friendship with Cambodia, and will make all efforts to push forward the China-Cambodian comprehensive strategic partnership to benefit both peoples.

King Sihamoni said Hu's visit is of historical importance and will certainly promote the traditional friendship between the two countries and achieve fruitful outcomes.

The king said Cambodia has always viewed China as its closest great friend, and the royal family will continue to play a positive role in consolidating and promoting friendly cooperation between the two countries.

President Hu said he was glad to see Cambodia's progress in maintaining political stability, reaching ethnic reconciliation, sustaining economic development and achieving a rise in international status.

He expected Cambodia to gain further achievements under the leadership of King Sihamoni with the joint efforts of the Cambodian government and its people.

Also on Saturday, Hu met Prime Minister Hun Sen and would meet Senate President Chea Sim, and National Assembly President Heng Samrin.

The Chinese president arrived in Cambodia on Friday for a state visit.


Chinese President Hu Jintao (C) meets with Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni (R) in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, March 31, 2012. (Xinhua/Li Xueren)
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Oakland's Cambodian community holds anti-violence march

By Alan Lopez
Contra Costa Times

OAKLAND -- Almost 40 years after the Khmer Rouge unleashed a genocide in Cambodia, natives to that country in Oakland still feel the aftershocks.

Violence is plaguing the community of about 2,700, with shootings, robberies and thefts occurring weekly, say community organizers.

The problem of violence in the Cambodian community is exacerbated by mental health problems and a fear of speaking out, which affects refugees of the 1970s Cambodian genocide, said Talaya Sin, a research assistant with Cambodian Community Development Inc.

"I'm scared, to be honest," said Sin, whose extended family members have been the victims of violence. "It doesn't feel safe (in Oakland)."

The Oakland Cambodian Community March 4 Peace held Saturday was meant to bring Oakland Cambodians together and quell the violence.

Led by several Buddhist monks, about 150 people marched around the San Antonio neighborhood, chanting anti-violence and pro-community slogans, and carrying signs that read "Stop the Violence." Afterward, the crowd, which included children, teenagers and seniors, gathered at St. Anthony's Church on 16th Avenue to watch cultural performances and eat free food.

Before the march, a Cambodian-American police sergeant at the event offered safety tips, emphasizing the need for people to be aware of their surroundings.

Mayor Jean Quan encouraged the crowd to call police when crimes occur and also encouraged young Cambodians to finish high school and apply for the police department. "Right now, we have only two other Cambodian officers, and we need more," she said.

In an interview after her speech, Quan said that Oakland Cambodians are coming together because of a recent uptick in violence. She said that gang violence plagued the community in the middle of the last decade but had died down.

"The community jumped on it right away," after the violence escalated, she said.

Sin said the current violence is believed to be the result of retaliations from groups of youths attempting to control turf in the neighborhoods. They are not considered gangs because they are less organized, she said.

Five members of her cousin's family, including two children, were injured in a drive-by shooting on East 22nd Street last year, Sin said.

The day before, her nephew was shot and almost killed while walking to a liquor store during the daytime.

The violence died down until Dec. 10, when a father of four was killed during a drive-by shooting while he slept.

"I don't want to live through a genocide here," Sin said. "My parents did. I'm surprised, but I'm not surprised, that people are OK with killing each other."

The event Saturday was the first step to organize the community, with an eye toward becoming more involved with the larger Pacific Islander community in Oakland, said Pysay Phinith, an assistant project director with Asian Community Mental Health Services.

"Today we are taking steps to change our community for the better," she told the crowd.

Deborah Roderiques, who watched as marchers passed her home on Foothill Boulevard, said she appreciated the anti-violence efforts. Her brother was murdered in 2003.

"You don't even feel safe getting on a bus anymore," she said. "It's too bad; they need to straighten this out."
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