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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Cambodia's floating villages

Tonle Sap largest freshwater lake in Asia

By Michael McCarthy, Vancouver Courier

One of the great wonders of the world is the vast temple complex of Angkor Wat, spread through the jungles of northern Cambodia. Aside from the gigantic size of the complex --it was the largest city in the world in the Middle Ages before the jungle consumed it after its unexplained abandonment--one wonders why the Khmer empire was located here in the middle of nowhere, with no rivers or trading routes to support the city and its huge population. However, another great wonder of the world can be found a few miles away.

Tonle Sap is Cambodia's Great Lake and the most prominent feature on the map of Cambodia, a huge body of water stretching across the northwest section of the country. In the wet season, the Tonle Sap Lake becomes the largest freshwater lake in Asia, swelling to an expansive 12,000 square miles, and the largest freshwater floodplain in the world. More than three million people live on the floodplain around the Tonle Sap but what's interesting are the 170 floating villages found on the lake itself.

In the rainy season, a unique hydrologic phenomenon causes the Mekong River to reverse direction, filling the lake up instead of draining it. The inflow expands the surface area of lake more than five-fold, inundating the surrounding forested floodplain and supporting an extraordinarily rich and diverse eco-system. More than 100 varieties of waterbirds and over 200 species of fish, as well as crocodiles, turtles, macaques, otter and other wildlife inhabit the inundated mangrove forests. The Tonle Sap provides more than half of the fish consumed in Cambodia.

Sitting on the edge of the lake are these distinctive floating villages, many sitting on towering stilts, with their economy and way of life deeply intertwined with the lake, the fish, the wildlife and the cycles of rising and falling waters. Visiting them is not easy unless you happen to travel with your own motorboat, but not far from Angkor Wat you'll find the tiny port of Chong Khneas, where a fast ferry departs daily for the capital of Phnom Penh, a five-hour journey across the great waters. Here the Khmer and Vietnamese boat people live in their floating homes and a guided two-hour boat trip through the floating village costs $6 U.S. and is an experience worth the time and effort.

Drifting through these drowned villages on a boat is the weirdest thing. In the dry season the houses stand eerily atop stilts in a sea of mud. At the height of the rainy season, the tops of trees poke through the surface of the water in a drowned landscape. Depending on the time of the year and the depth of the lake--it can be as little as a foot deep at times--trucks and cars look like they are being driven on top of the water and villagers appear as if they are walking on the surface. Huge fish traps are placed everywhere. Some of the houses float, others are on stilts, and yet others are boats on which entire families live.

Being so close to a major tourist site like Angkor Wat, this floating village gets plenty of visitors, and the villagers have devised interesting tourist attractions like the crocodile farm, where you can get face to face with some nasty creatures who are, thankfully, kept in a pit. Just don't fall in. Then there are the snake girls, who live on barges and run up to visiting boats thrusting giant water snakes into people's faces. Certainly you can take a photo, but be prepared to pay a fee. There are even floating bars and restaurants, markets, a clinic and a school. Watching kids play basketball in the middle of a vast lake is something different. If you don't want to descend from your boat to explore, villagers will paddle out to meet you, offering excellent ice-cold Cambodian beer and snacks.

Other more remote floating villages can be visited at more time and expense, and bird watchers will go crazy floating through the giant mangrove swamps spotting the 100 different species of waterbirds. But make sure you don't fall out of the boat, because a floating clinic 200 miles away from the nearest hospital likely won't be able to patch up any crocodile attacks.

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PM: Cambodia not allow any one to use Cambodia as shelter against other countries

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday said that his country does not allow foreigners and international organizations to use Cambodia as a stronghold to create illegal political and international organizations to oppose neighboring countries.

Hun Sen made the remarks at the celebration of the 15th anniversary of the founding of the Brigade 70 on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.

"The government has followed a policy that does not allow any illegal political and military organizations which has the purposes of making turmoil in the country to use Cambodia as a stronghold to do activities to oppose the neighboring countries," Hun Sen said.

"We strongly opposed illegal political and military organizations to conduct subversion in the country and in neighboring countries," he added. "Our armed forces are playing a key role to fight against these activities," he noted. "Moreover, our armed forces also contribute to humanitarian mission and to fight against terrorism cooperated with international communities."
In 2003, Cambodia arrested Thai nationals including Muhammad Yalaluding and Abdul Azi Haji Chiming, both from Yala province and sentenced them to life in prison on charges of helping the regional terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) plot a terrorist attack against western embassies in Cambodia.

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Korean University honours former President Kufuor

Accra, Oct 13, GNA - South Korea's Inje University has conferred an Honorary Doctorate Degree (PhD) in Political Science on former President John Agyekum Kufuor and it goes with full scholarships for two Ghanaians to study any of the sciences in the university.

A statement signed by the former President's Press Secretary, Mr Frank Agyekum, quoted a release from the office of the Dean of Graduate School, Dr Sung Goo Kang, as saying Inje University was established in 1932, is ranked second by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology of Korea and excels in the sciences.

Dr. Kyeonp Ho Lee, President of the University, in conferring the award, lauded former President Kufuor for devoting his productive life to the service of Ghana which culminated in his serving two four-year terms as President.

"His role in ensuring peace and stability in the West African region and the Africa continent as a whole, as Chairman of the Economic Community of West Africa States and the Africa Union deserves to be celebrated by all," the statement said.

In accepting the award, former President Kufuor said he was overwhelmed with his selection and dedicated it to leaders throughout the world who stood for the respect of human rights and the rule of law. The ceremony was attended by a large Asian academic community, business and interest groups as well as the Acting Ghana Ambassador in Korea and ambassadors from Sudan, Congo, Egypt, South Africa, Lebanon, Cambodia and Singapore. 13 Oct 09.
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Cambodia ready for its close-up

By Patrick Frater

BUSAN, South Korea -- Location managers now have an additional choice in Southeast Asia, following the recent establishment of a film commission in Cambodia.

The new Cambodia Film Commission made its market debut Monday at BIFCOM.
Established this year with finance from France's Agency for Overseas Development, the organization is headed by Cedric Eloy as CEO and Sovichea Cheap as director.

"This is real-low-cost Asia, but these days Cambodia has so much more to offer, too," Eloy said. "Regulation is done with a light touch. Our office acts as a filter for the ministry and can get shooting permits issued within a couple of weeks. Many of our locations could pass for other places in Asia."

He said that the country is also improving other technical facilities such as lighting and grip equipment, trained operators and disused factories that have been used as studios by the BBC for four months.

"Natural landscapes are already one of our great strengths, but the government is looking to expand on that with the creation of a 'natural reserve for cinema' complete with jungle, seaside locations and facilities," Eloy said.

International films that have previously shot in Cambodia include "Tomb Raider," Korea's "R-Point" and the recent "Same, Same but Different," by German director Detlev Buck, which premiered at the Locarno Film Festival and played at last month's Toronto festival.
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