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Saturday, December 06, 2008

Tourist dies in Cambodia

PHNOM PENH - A GERMAN tourist has died in Cambodia's north-east after falling off a veranda and refusing hospital treatment, police said on Saturday.

Eye-witnesses told police that 65-year-old Klaus Dieter Rubloff had been waiting for a bus on a riverside veranda in Kratie province on Thursday when he fell three metres to the ground.

He was taken to the nearby provincial hospital with head and hand injuries but refused to stay there, wanting to travel instead to the capital Phnom Penh.

He was found dead the next morning at the guesthouse where he was staying.

'The tourist accidentally fell off the balcony. After he was sent to the hospital, he refused requests by the doctor and his two foreign friends to stay in the hospital,' said provincial police chief Chuong Seang Hak.

'His death was caused by the accident and his refusal to be hospitalised here,' he said. -- AFP

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Concert to benefit school in Cambodia

By Ron Cassie

A benefit concert planned for later this month traces its genesis back three and a half years, to a meeting between a Frederick couple and a former Cambodian refugee.

During a vacation to Vietnam and Cambodia in February 2005, Ted and Bonnie Nieman were overwhelmed by the poverty in rural Cambodian towns. When they returned to Frederick County, they began raising money to build wells for clean drinking water in the villages neighboring their hotel -- work they continue to this day.

Sensavon Bennici, who as a child escaped Cambodia's murderous Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s with her family, read about their efforts in The Frederick News-Post in April 2005 and contacted the Niemans. The Niemans and Bennicis, including Sensavon, her husband Frank and four children, Maria, Anthony, Matthew, and Charles, have been friends ever since.

Now Maria, a senior at Walkersville High School, has organized a concert to benefit the Niemans' latest Cambodian project, a new school for 120 children in a rural village about 30 miles outside Siem Reap (population 10,000).

"I have had this idea since the end of my sophomore year," said Bennici, a classical pianist. "This summer I really got thinking about it, and in July and August I began talking to some of my friends about it. At the beginning of the school year I talked to our principal, David Kehne, and he was supportive. Everyone at the school has been very supportive, taking the time to deal all my questions and make I was doing everything I needed to do."

Bennici named the concert "Harmony for Hope."

Fifteen Walkersville students, including Maria and her brothers, will play. Anthony, 15 and a sophomore at Walkersville, will play classical guitar, and Matthew, 8, and Charles, 7, will both play piano concertos. Maria will perform a duet with each sibling.

"I thought that would be cute," she said.

The first half of the program will be classical. After intermission, the second half will feature more contemporary music.

"Jason Mraz, Train, things like that," Bennici said. "That way everyone in the audience will have a particular favorite."

Admission is free. Donations toward, the Niemans' nonprofit group, and the new school will be accepted. Bennici said she plans to have Ted Nieman give a brief talk about both before the concert.

Since 2005, the Niemans have raised money to install an estimated 1,000 wells and helped local Buddhist monks construct and launch a sewing center for impoverished women, Ted Nieman said. They have raised $6,000 toward the $30,000 for the new elementary school in Pouk.

About 120 first- and second-graders now squeeze into a single-room schoolhouse. Their two teachers' salaries are subsidized by Donated school books and supplies are delivered regularly.

"The kids push and shove each other for a new No. 2 pencil," said Nieman, who with his wife has traveled back to Cambodia five times since their first trip. "They are so eager to learn."

One hope is that eventually the school will be expanded to include third- and fourth-grade classes.

"I was raised to make education a priority and it's very important to me, personally," said Bennici, who is considering Stanford, Carnegie-Mellon and NYU, among other colleges.

"I think the whole world should have access to quality education, and I think what the Niemans are doing is inspiring. It shows you don't have to be Angelina Jolie to make a difference. You can start your own organization or make a contribution to one right here."

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