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Friday, February 13, 2009

Cupid highlights revealing depths of Cambodia's generation gap

Written by Chhay Channyda and Mom Kunthier

While some view Valentine's Day celebrations as un-Cambodian, the younger generation embraces the occasion through buying gifts and spending time with their loved ones.

Where's the love this Valentine's Day? Apparently, not at Phnom Penh's Bak Touk High School, where director Sok Sovanna tells the Post he's imposed a "love-free" zone during what he calls a very un-Cambodian holiday.

"I don't support Cambodian youth celebrating Valentine's Day because it is not a part of Khmer culture, such as Khmer New Year or P'chum Ben," Sok Sovanna said.

"This is part of Western culture that makes our young people overwhelmed with joy and leads them to forget about their studies."

However, the adamant director acknowledged that his authority on this point does not extend beyond school grounds.
"I don't care if [students] celebrate outside school by giving gifts to loved ones. But if I see students doing such things in my school, I will re-educate them not to show their romantic love here," he said.

Sok Sovanna's "Cupid crackdown" could have an unintended economic impact.
Flower-sellers have done a brisk trade in recent years by setting up stalls near high schools and other areas where students gather. They may find business slow anywhere near Bak Touk High School.


If we celebrate in a good way, it will not have a negative impact on our tradition.


"At my school, there will be no flower-selling inside or outside. This is our rule to enforce discipline among our students," he said.

Jeopardising tradition
Resistance to the holiday is not simply a matter of enforcing parochial discipline but preserving national culture, Miech Ponn, an adviser to the Mores and Customs Commission within the Buddhist Institute, told the Post.

Miech Ponn challenged the capital's love-crazed youth to consider whether their culture will be lost as more young people become enamoured with Western traditions.

"I do not know how they celebrate Valentine's Day in Western countries, but the way we bring in their culture into Cambodia is too overwhelming," Miech Ponn said.

"We seem to bring in outside culture to destroy our own. I think many Cambodians just don't understand their own traditions very well."

If they did, he added, they would find little need to look towards the West.
"Valentine's Day means a loving day. We already have this in Cambodia. It's P'chum Ben and Khmer New Year, during which children and young people show their respect and love, and they make amends to anyone they have wronged. This is our traditional way of showing we love each other," Miech Ponn said.

"I understand globalisation, but if we bring such culture in, why do other countries not take some of our culture back with them? In the end, we expand their culture by forgetting our own," he added.

Celebration of love
But on a day given over to the celebration of friendship and love, questions of tradition or even geo-cultural trends are the last things on young people's minds.

Sok Liya, 18, a student at Indradevi High School, has no boyfriend but plans to celebrate the day by going out to eat with her friends.

"Valentine's Day is good for people who have love and can spend time with their lovers. But even though I don't have a boyfriend, I will spend time with my classmates and have fun," she said.

However, she cautioned young women planning a romantic day with the men in their lives to think of their security.
"[Some men] think that they can do whatever they want," she said.

Sok Chamroeun, 23, a student at Sisowath High School, is preparing for his first Valentine's Day with his girlfriend. Part of those plans will include ditching his studies for the day and purchasing flowers and gifts for his true love.

"I think Valentine's Day is a special occasion for me because I will be able to tell my girlfriend about my honest heart and my feelings for her," Sok Chamroeun said.

He added a word of advice to those who might look down on the holiday or dismiss it as another example of young Cambodian people losing touch with their heritage.

"I know some people will use this holiday to behave badly and in a way that contradicts their culture. But for me, if we celebrate in a good way, it will not have a negative impact on our tradition," Sok Chamroeun said.

"I don't think Valentine's Day is a bad day, as some people say. On this day, all people - young and old - can celebrate together. We don't focus simply on youths."
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Experts cast doubt on launching stock exchange market in Cambodia

Hun Xen's stock exxchange in Cambodia is something that should be laughing at. While Cambodia had no corruption law and high ranking government officials are the culprits, stock exchange is the big meal for those tigers, and we could see the failures (loosing stocks) will be suicides and hanging themselves

By Xia Lin

PHNOM PENH, Experts have express their doubt and lack of confidence, as the Korea Exchange (KRX) plans to sign an official agreement with the Cambodian government next week to help launch the kingdom's proposed stock exchange market in December, national media said on Friday.

Some observers warned that the timing of the initiative could create problems as Cambodia faces reduced economic growth, increased unemployment and the threat of rising non-performing loans, said English-language daily newspaper the Phnom Penh Post.

"I think that currently, the environment is not good enough to proceed with the stock market in Cambodia," Kang Chandararot, economist and president of the Cambodia Institute for Development Study, told the newspaper.

Cambodia would risk losing investors' confidence, if it rushed prematurely into establishing an exchange, he said.

Nguon Meng Tech, director general of the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce, urged the government to postpone launching the exchange until 2012, saying that not enough Cambodian investors understood how a bursae worked.

"Most Cambodian business old hands have little knowledge about a stock exchange. So, how can they throw money at it?" he said.

Meanwhile, Minister of Finance and Economy Keat Chhon said on Thursday that "we will put our efforts into achieving a (December) target" although the government could not "set an official date for the establishment of the stock market."

"The global financial crisis, of course, impacts the stock market. But we won't abandon our plan to establish an exchange due to the crisis," he said.

KRX manager Inpyo Lee expected institutional investors and foreigners to be the main source of liquidity in the early stages of the Cambodian exchange.

Although there had been no formal agreements signed, investment and retail banks had expressed interests as institutional investors, he said.

About 30 companies would be listed by the time the exchange was operating "normally," he said.
The stock exchange market was mulled and prepared years ago amid common prosperity and development of the country, but finally came into shape as the national economy slowed down right after 3 years of double-digit growth from 2005 to 2007.

The Cambodian economy was estimated to grow by only 7 percent in 2008 and the government is trying to maintain a 6 percent growth in 2009.

However, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said that Cambodia's economy will come under intense pressure in 2009 as tourism, garments and construction take a hit from the global economic meltdown.

"Cambodia's exceptional growth performance is coming under increasing strain from the global economic crisis and weakening external demand", said an IMF report, adding that foreign direct investment will decline and foreign reserves could fall to about 1.9 billion U.S. dollars.

The report predicted 4.8 percent economic growth for Cambodia in 2009.

The World Bank has forecast 4.9 percent Gross Domestic Products (GDP) growth for Cambodia this year.
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Officials refuse certain foreigners to adopt Cambodian children

PHNOM PENH, The Cambodian government officials have refused foreign single parents, gay parents, low-income parents and parents with two children to adopt Khmer offspring, national media said on Friday.

They made this opposition clear during meetings with representatives from France and U.S. here this month, said English-language daily newspaper the Phnom Penh Post.

This opposition will become an outright ban when a draft law on adoption, currently being reviewed by the Council of Ministers, is approved by the National Assembly, Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, told the newspaper.

The law is expected to pass soon, and will make it legal for Cambodian parents to give up their children for adoption, he said.

Currently, only Cambodian orphans can be adopted.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Hor Namhong met with Jean Paul Monchau, the French official responsible for overseeing international adoptions, on Feb. 3 and voiced concern about the potential psychological effects such adoptions have on children, according to a ministry press release.

Ouch Borith, secretary of state at the ministry, also raised the same points during a Monday meeting with Janice Jacobs, the assistant secretary of state for consular affairs at the U.S. State Department, it said.
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Dung is key to tracking elusive Cambodian tiger


PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — A dog trained to sniff for tiger droppings will help conservationists determine if the big cats still roam one of Cambodia's largest nature reserves.

Starting next week, Maggie, a German wirehaired pointer, will begin scouring the undergrowth and sniffing for tiger scent on trees at the 1,158 square mile (3,000 square kilometer) Seima Biodiversity Conservation Area in northeastern Cambodia.

The unorthodox move to employ a dog trained in Russia to search for signs of tigers comes after camera traps and field surveys failed to find the big cats last year. The last sign of a tiger was in 2007, when a paw print was spotted in the park.

"We think this is the best method when we have a large area and not that many tigers," said Hannah O'Kelly, a wildlife monitoring adviser for the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society, which along with the wild cat conservation group Panthera is spending about $30,000 to bring Maggie and a second dog from Russia to Seima later this year.

Hiring the two dogs is part of a $10 million, 10-year initiative by WCS and Panthera, also based in New York, called "Tigers Forever." It aims to increase the numbers of tigers by 50 percent in Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, the Russian Far East and Thailand through a range of measures that include better monitoring, assessments of threats and efforts to minimize the dangers facing the big cats.

The campaign was launched in 2006 to combat a dwindling tiger population in Asia. Across the continent, the number of tigers has plummeted to as few as 5,000 tigers from a high of 100,000 a century ago due to poaching, habitat loss and other threats. It is unclear how many tigers remain in Cambodia.

Men Soriyun, a project manager for Seima Biodiversity Conservation Area, said he felt that dogs offered the best hope of finding the tigers and that the method could be used by other national reserves.

"The best way to find tigers in the jungle is to use dogs because they can find tigers by their smell," Men Soriyun said.

Cambodia is the first country in Asia to employ the dogs to search for tigers, a method pioneered in Russia's Far East region which has hundreds of tigers spread across several thousand miles (kilometers).

Since then, dogs have been used to search for jaguars in South America and leopards in Africa.

All six dogs taught to search for tigers were trained by wildlife biologist and WCS consultant Linda Kerley in Russia's Lazovsky Nature Reserve. The best dogs for the task, she said, are hunting or sheep herding dogs that can easily detect the musky smell of the tiger's scat, excrement left by a wild animal.

"We don't want a dog that will hunt tigers," said Kerley, who accompanied Maggie to Cambodia. "We want a dog that wants to hunt for the scent of the scat."

The effort is part of a larger campaign by conservationists worldwide to mine animal droppings for genetic information that can save endangered species.

Elephant dung, for example, was used two years ago to calculate the population of pachyderms in Malaysia's Taman Negara National Park.
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