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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

American arrested in Cambodia on child sex charges

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – An American man has been charged with soliciting sex from two Cambodian girls, officials said Wednesday.

Michael James Dodd of Washington, DC, was arrested at his rented house in the capital, Phnom Penh, on Sunday, said police Maj. Gen. Bith Kimhong.

He said police who raided the house found the two girls, ages 13 and 14, inside with Dodd.

Dodd was charged during a court appearance on Tuesday, said prosecutor Sok Kalyan. If convicted, Dodd could face up to 10 years in prison, Sok Kalyan said.

The suspect's Cambodian lawyer, So Dara, said his client denied the allegation against him.

Cambodia has long been a magnet for foreign pedophiles because of poverty and law enforcement undermined by corruption. But the country's police and courts have stepped up action against sex offenders in recent years.

A 59-year-old Michael James Dodd is listed as a sexual offender on a Web site of the Department of Law Enforcement of the State of Florida in the US. The listing gives his last registered address as Syracuse, New York.

It was not immediately clear if the man, who was convicted in July 2002 of sexual abuse of a child, was the same man arrested in Phnom Penh. - AP
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Thai parliament gives green light for border talks with Cambodia

BANGKOK (AFP) — Thai parliament has given the government the green light to launch talks with Cambodia aimed at settling a long-running border dispute which boiled over into violence, officials said Wednesday.

The next round of talks aimed at ending a military stand off on disputed land near Cambodia's ancient Preah Vihear temple will be held next month, after a border firefight on October 15 killed one Thai and three Cambodians.

"Parliament has granted the government two frameworks of negotiation," said Virachai Plasai, a foreign ministry official in charge of legal affairs.

"The two frameworks will allow the government to launch negotiations with Cambodia in order to solve the boundary and border issues," he told reporters.

Initial issues to be hammered out, beginning when the two sides meet from November 10 to 14, are the redeployment of troops on disputed land near Preah Vihear and removing landmines from the area.

In the longer-term, Virachai said, the two countries would try and settle ownership of patches of disputed land along Thailand and Cambodia's 798-kilometre (495-mile) shared border.

The Cambodian-Thai border has never been fully demarcated, in part because it is littered with landmines left over from decades of war in Cambodia.

Tensions between the neighbours flared in July when the 11th century Preah Vihear was awarded United Nations World Heritage status, rekindling long-running tensions over ownership of the surrounding land.

Two rounds of emergency talks after the October 15 clashes made little progress, with both sides only agreeing not to fire on each other again.
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Cambodia's first rock opera opens next month


PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Cambodia's first rock opera will premiere in Phnom Penh next month, a cultural milestone in the Southeast Asian country where performing arts were banned during the brutal Khmer Rouge years.

"Where Elephants Weep" is an East-meets-West blend of traditional Cambodian music and Western rock that is modeled after "Romeo and Juliet" and inspired by the Broadway musical "Rent."

Organizers said Wednesday the show will open a 10-day run Nov. 28 in a converted movie theater in the capital, Phnom Penh, a year later than its planned debut at the end of 2007.

The show was commissioned by Cambodian Living Arts, a project of the Boston-based nonprofit organization World Education, which seeks to revive traditional Cambodian performing arts and inspire contemporary artistic expression among Cambodians.

Charley Todd, a co-president of the CLA's governing board, said the opera had a successful preview last year in Lowell, Mass., which has a sizable community of Cambodian refugees. But producers needed extra time for fine-tuning.

It is expected to later tour in other countries, including the United States, South Korea and Singapore.

Arts and entertainment were banned when the Khmer Rouge ruled Cambodia between 1975-79 and killed some 1.7 million people through starvation, disease, overwork and execution. Execution sites from the time now serve as grim attractions for tourists visiting Cambodia.

"Where Elephants Weep" is an operatic take on "Tum Teav," the Cambodian version of "Romeo and Juliet."

It tells the story a Cambodian-American who lost his father during the Khmer Rouge era and returns home after Cambodia's civil war to trace his roots. In Phnom Penh, he meets and falls in love with a Cambodian woman who works as a karaoke singer.

The music was composed by the Russian-trained Cambodian maestro Him Sophy. He was inspired by the musical genre of the rock opera "Rent," which he saw twice during a trip to New York City.

Cambodian musicians in the performance use electric guitars, electronic drums, keyboards and traditional instruments like buffalo horns, bamboo flutes, gongs and the chapei, a long-neck lute with two nylon strings.

After seven years of work, Him Sophy said he expected a celebration — both on stage and in the country.

"It is going to be a big national cultural event," Him Sophy said. "And the entire team is committed to making it happen flawlessly and perfectly."
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