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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Largest Cambodian Buddha resurrected in Siem Reap

PHNOM PENH, June 4 (Xinhua) -- The largest reclining Buddha in Cambodia, part of the Baphuon Temple at Angkor in Siem Reap province, has just opened to the public, the Mekong Times newspaper said Wednesday.

The Buddha is a 16th century addition to the west face of the 11th century Hindu Baphuon temple, the newspaper said, adding that it marks a religious schism between the Brahmanic Angkor society and the Buddhist culture that arose later.

The Buddha is one of the final stages of the reconstruction of the temple, with the three tiered monument slated to be fully open to the public by the end of 2009.

The restoration of the temple has been an epic journey, begun by the well-known French organization Ecole Francaise d'Extreme-Orient (EFEO) before the civil war in 1970. The project was interrupted by the war and resumed by the EFEO in 1995.

The Reclining Buddha, a representation of the Buddha after attaining enlightenment, is 70 meters long and 12 meters high. The French have undertaken nine years of "complex work" on the statue, which is one of the "most astonishing" archeological remains of the post-Angkorian period, according to a French Embassy press release.
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Airlines reduce flights to Cambodia as off season comes

PHNOM PENH, June 4 (Xinhua) -- Airlines are beginning their annual reduction of flights into Cambodia as the off season of tourism has started, the Cambodian Daily reported Wednesday.

As of June 1, Bangkok Airways has temporarily canceled its twice-weekly flights from Chiang Mai, Thailand, to Siem Reap, Cambodia, which will not reopen until October.

Meanwhile, the airline will remain its five-to-six daily flights from Bangkok to Siem Reap, the English-Khmer language newspaper quoted company source as saying.

Last month, Vietnam Airlines canceled 110 flights into Siem Reap, which is the hottest sight-seeing spot of Cambodia.

Also in May, Eva Air cut off 13 flights into Cambodia.

Every year, airlines scale back flights to Cambodia when the rainy season begins and tourism slows, the paper quoted airport official as saying.

Tourism is one of the kingdom's foremost pillar industries. In 2007, it received some 2 million foreign tourist arrivals.
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Cambodian prostitutes protest police crackdown


PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — About 200 Cambodian prostitutes protested peacefully Wednesday against a police crackdown and claimed to have been physically and sexually abused in custody.

The prostitutes staged a protest in the capital, Phnom Penh, to complain that they had been unlawfully detained and to highlight the behavior of guards at the rehabilitation center where they were held.

"Some of them (the sex workers) were beaten and gang raped by the center guards, and most of the time they did not use condoms," said Chan Dina, a 31-year-old prostitute and member of the Cambodian Prostitute Union, a sex workers' advocacy group.

Police began rounding up male and female sex workers from brothels, bars and parks in March, detaining them for a week to 10 days at the Prey Speu rehabilitation center on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.

Cambodian law does not explicitly define prostitution as illegal, but commercial sex is frowned upon by authorities who routinely launch sweeps to clean up the streets.

"Sex workers are human beings and we have equal rights" and deserve protection from abuse, Chan Dina said.

"We do not think that sex work is wrong. It is just a means to an end," said Pich Sokchea, a 42-year-old transvestite sex worker with the Women's Network for Unity, another prostitutes' advocacy group.

Pich Sokchea urged the government to end the crackdown because it was affecting the livelihood of sex workers, many of whom were forced into the profession by poverty and debts. "We are people who sacrifice everything for the sake of our families and for our livelihood."

It was unclear what prompted the latest crackdown but some activists said an anti-trafficking law approved in March may have caused authorities to take a tougher stand against prostitution.

Police Lt. Gen. Khieu Sopheak, the Interior Ministry's spokesman, dismissed claims that police committed violence against sex workers and said none was mistreated in the crackdown.

He defended the crackdown, calling sex work unacceptable in Cambodia.
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