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Saturday, June 07, 2008

Noppadon hails preah vihear proposal

Cambodia's new annexe map for a proposal to list the Hindu temple of Preah Vihear as a World Heritage Site does not claim 4.6 square kilometres of overlapping territory, Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama said yesterday.

Following an agreement between the two countries in Paris last month to list only the temple itself as a heritage site, Phnom Penh on Thursday sent the new map to Bangkok for consideration.

"I have seen the map, which makes clear that Cambodia no longer claims the overlapping downhill area as part of the temple for the World Heritage Site," Noppadon said in a press briefing.

However, the Supreme Command's Royal Thai Survey Department will use satellite imaging to verify the map and location on the ground, he added.

If there is no objection, the National Security Council and the Cabinet will endorse the map and respond to Phnom Penh within a week, enabling Cambodia to send its proposal to the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation by the middle of this month. Unesco's World Heritage Committee will make a final decision on the proposal at a meeting in Canada in July.

Even though Cambodia won its claim to Preah Vihear in the International Court of Justice in 1962, its proposal to list the temple as a Unesco heritage site was opposed by Thailand because the map appended by Phnom Penh showed an area claimed by both countries as part of the temple site.

The agreement reached by Noppadon and Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An in Paris will end not only conflict with Cambodia, but also allegations made by street protesters that the foreign minister might cause Thailand to lose its territory.
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Cambodian kids enjoy last free breakfast after suspension of UN food aid

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: Students at a rural elementary school in Cambodia enjoyed their last free breakfasts in class after the United Nations World Food Program stopped supplying rice and other food because of soaring global prices.

Besides directly providing nutrition for children, the WFP breakfasts have provided an incentive for parents to send their children to school rather than sending them to work in the fields or stay home to look after younger siblings.

WFP said Wednesday that the program will be resumed later, probably around October, as the agency provides US$1.2 billion (€763 million) in new assistance to help tens of millions of people in 62 nations hardest hit by the food crisis.

Meanwhile, though, Cambodia educators must convince parents to keep their children in the classroom.

The principal of Choumpou Proek school, about 43 miles (70 kilometers) west of the capital Phnom Penh, said he has been meeting with village leaders and families to encourage children to keep going to school, even without the benefit of extra nourishment.

The free breakfast program in Cambodia began in 2000 and has recently been benefiting about 450,000 rural students. The World Food Program feeds almost 89 million people worldwide, including 58.8 million children.

Choumpou Proek principal Nheng Vorn — who did not know the program is supposed to be restarted — said his 612 students enjoyed a final free breakfast of steamed yellow split peas with salt — but no rice.

The school's rice supply ran out May 27, so staff cooked the last 64 pounds (29 kilograms) of peas for the students, Nheng Vorn said by telephone from the school in a village in Kampong Speu province. The WFP also provided soybeans and cooking oil.

Even though the school is in a rice-growing area, the farms cannot produce enough of the staple to feed the entire community. WFP selected schools in poorest communities for the breakfast program.

The U.N.'s food agency said three months ago that breakfast stocks at the 1,344 rural schools under its program would run out before mid-June, and stopped sending rice supplies in March.

The cutoff began after five local suppliers defaulted on contracts to provide rice because they could get a higher price elsewhere, program officials said.

The price of rice tripled in the first four months of the year as the world food crisis deepened.

Soaring fuel prices have driven up the costs of fertilizers, farm vehicle use and transporting food to markets. Speculation and increased consumption of meat and dairy goods in China, India and other booming developing nations are also considered major factors in the food price hikes.

About six miles (10 kilometers) from Nheng Vorn's school, Sangkum Seksa school principal Tan Sak said his students have been eating breakfasts of steamed peas with salt since their WFP rice ran out two weeks ago.

The school's kitchen will shut down next week when the peas run out, he said.

Similar situations were occurring around the country and all over the developing world.

In Burundi, Kenya and Zambia, hundreds of thousands of people face cuts in food rations after June. In Iraq, 500,000 recipients will likely lose food aid. In Yemen, it's 320,000 households, including children and the sick.

Most, if not all, will now benefit from WFP's newly announced commitment to renew aid.

Coco Ushiyama, WFP's acting director for Cambodia, said in an interview last month that it was "really a tough decision" to end school food aid in favor of continuing programs benefiting orphans of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, who are in "more desperate need" of food aid.

She expressed concern that the end of free breakfasts could reverse gains already made in trying to improve education for rural children.

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Controversial Russian company starts developing resort on Cambodian island

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) - A Russian company broke ground Saturday on a US$300 million island resort project along Cambodia's southwest coast, despite one of its partners being jailed in the country for alleged sex crimes.

Prime Minister Hun Sen presided over a ceremony marking the start of work on a 2,970-foot (900-meter) bridge that will link Koh Puos _ Snake Island _ with a coastal beach in the port city of Sihanoukville.

Cambodia's government signed a deal with Koh Puos Investment Group Ltd. in 2006 that allows it to develop and manage resorts on the island for 99 years.

The company is run by a group of Russian businessmen, according to its Web site.

One of the group's partners, Alexander Trofimov, was sentenced in March by a Cambodian court to 13 years in prison on charges of sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl.

Trofimov was arrested last October over allegations that he had abused as many as 19 girls since 2005, but was charged only in the case of the 14-year-old. He has denied the accusation.

Cambodian Transport Minister Sun Chanthol said the bridge will cost about US$31.3 million and be completed at the end of 2010.

He said it will help develop Koh Puos «into a world-class resort.

The new resort is part of impoverished Cambodia's efforts to promote the country's beaches as a new tourist destination and a key source of cash, following the success it has had in drawing visitors to its famed Angkor temples.

Sihanoukville is about 115 miles (185 kilometers) southwest of the capital, Phnom Penh.

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Environmental concerns raised about Angkor of Cambodia

PHNOM PENH, June 7 (Xinhua) -- The International Coordinating Committee of Angkor held its 17th technical meeting this week in Siem Reap town, focusing on how the tourist destination can avoid becoming a victim of its success, the Cambodia Daily newspaper said Saturday.

Experts at the meeting have pointed out that the number of tourists and resulting traffic is taking its toll on the area, the newspaper said.

One major problem is sewage, said Shinji Tsukawaki of the Kanazawa University in Japan who is part of the environmental study project Environment Research Development Angkor Cambodia.
With 2 million annual visitors staying an average of five days in Siem Reap town, 1 million tons of human wastewater is deposited into the soil each year, Shinji Tsukawaki said.

The effect of sewage on soil and underground water requires urgent monitoring and measures, he said.

In addition, TS Maxwell of Germany's University of Bonn, who is involved in the Angkor Inscriptions Survey Project, told the meeting that the thousands of visitors who tour Angkor's temples each day could damage stone inscriptions by simply touching them.
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Cambodia: Zongzi becomes a tool of affection relay

By Xia Lin

PHNOM PENH, June 7 (Xinhua) -- Top herbal wine producer of Cambodia Ear Cheam Heng has ordered dozens of Zongzi on eve of the Dragon Boat Festival on June 8 as seasonal gifts for his friends, business partners as well as relatives.

"The Zongzi was well-made, because I ordered it from the Old Place Seafood Restaurant, the most genuine Cantonese cooking place in town," he said.

Each time the festival comes, Ear Cheam Heng would like to treat his personal and commercial friends with this typical Chinese food, to foster closer ties and lubricate his business environment.

In China, people have the tradition to have Zongzi a pyramid-shaped dumpling made of glutinous rice wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves, during the Dragon Boat Festival which was designed to commemorate an ancient major-pillar poet.

In Cambodia, where around 7 percent of its 14 million population are thought as Chinese Cambodians and some 200,000 Chinese people from the mainland, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan get employed in various industries, the tradition enjoys rebirth and even wide-ranging popularity.

Chinese restaurants usually bear the top notch in the Zongzi craze, as owners can be the happiest harvesters in the particular season.

Robin Chang from Taiwan has been running catering trade in Phnom Penh for years. He is fortunate to marry Madame Chang, who insists on making all the meat-mushroom zongzi selling at their restaurant by herself.

And, their advertisement on local newspapers looks totally different from those of others.

"It is hand-made, not by staff members, but by my wife herself," his recipe can always be retold, but never replicated elsewhere in town.

Other bosses can't find so trustworthy and professional hands, so they turn to rely on multifarious, sometimes luxurious fillings that gourmand can find as surprise while eating Zongzi

One restaurant run by local Chinese Cambodians is marketing Zongzi stuffed with super yolk, another by immigrants from Beijing adopts red bean and bacon, and a third, or the boldest, directly puts in abalone and sea cucumber.

As a common understanding, Zongzi can be sold not only as alternative or classic food, but as spiritual pacifier.

"If you miss hometown and family, why not have a Zongzi of ours? It cures your homesickness," Zongzi advertisements usually read like this.

They are truly affective while appealing to the mass Chinese people working in garment factories and for hydro-electric projects.

A local Chinese-Cambodian enterprise even invented the idea of selling Zongzi to raise charity money for the earthquake victims in Sichuan province, China.

"No matter you buy one or a lot more, your care can be always felt in there, because it is not ordinary Zongzi but charity Zongzi reads a letter from the enterprise for local people.

Really, Zongzi can do more than stuffing stomach. It comforts and enriches your mind.

Commercial News, the longest running Chinese-language daily newspaper in Cambodia, on June 6 published a whole page of stories about Zongzi elaborating on its origin, style, cookery and health hints.

"When the stories are read, the tradition and the culture are preserved and inherited," said editor in chief Liu Xiaoguang.

Out of coincidence or mutual influence, local ethnic Khmers also enshrine the habit of making and eating Zongzi which is called in Cambodian language as Num Chang if in pyramid shape and Num Sawm if in rectangular shape.

The pronunciations derive from the Chaozhou dialect of China. Most Chinese Cambodians are rooted in Chaozhou, a region in Guangdong province in southern China.

However, either Num Chang or Num Sawm only contains minced glutinous rice inside bamboo leaves, without any filling. The rice is soaked in alkali water and tastes a little bitter. So, refined white sugar is a necessity when you enjoy a Cambodian Zongzi

When a countryside person returns to Phnom Penh for work, he will always bring some home-made Num Chang for his boss and colleagues.

"Rice and bamboo leaves from outside the city always taste fresh, natural and true," said Socheat, a maid serving foreign family in town.

Zongzi is food in its original sense and can become a tool of affection relay when we study its social sense, said Eang Heng, a 68-year-old Chinese Cambodian who was born here and traveled in most provinces of China when he was young.

"Whether in China or Cambodia, it may look different, but just plays the same role," he added.
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