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Sunday, February 28, 2010

With a Free Enterprise Vietnam, Who Really Won the War?

By William Thompson

Mr. Thompson, Professor of Public Administration, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, is the author of Legalized Gambling: A Reference Handbook (Santa Barbara and Denver: ABC-Clio, 1994 and 1997-2nd ed.).

Over the year-end, I visited Vietnam, and I revised some thinking. I now conclude that we won the Vietnam War. We just weren’t there for the victory party.

I was in Vietnam to visit my son, a school teacher at the South Saigon (yes! SAIGON) International School. I rode on a “cyclo” from the Ho Chi Minh Post Office, filled with merchants hawking goods, to the Ben Thanh Market—from one hot spot of capitalism to another. I took a train trip to the ocean beach at Mui Ne, staying at a Western-style resort. I rode on a bus through incredible motorcycle traffic to Cat Tien National Park. There I asked our German guide (he was from the Deutschland equivalent of our Peace Corps) to tell me just what inside Vietnam was “communist.” Upon reflection he said, “Well, I guess about the only thing is this park. It is owned by the government. I can’t think of anything else.

I’ve come to the conclusion that he might be right. About the only thing communist I found in the country was the national park, along with city parks and a few museums.

The American-Vietnam War was fought with multiple goals—although they were ill-explained and very murky. One rationale for the war was the “domino theory.” Concomitant with containment (as expressed first by George F. Kennan in 1947), the domino theory held that if communist forces could be victorious in one country, then those forces would seek to conquer the next adjacent non-communist country, until all countries had fallen like dominos. The whole world was the target of domino thinking, as expressed in the manifesto of Marx and Engels. If South Vietnam fell to communists supported by the Soviet Union and China, we expected Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Burma, Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines to fall as well, then Asia as a whole—and then the world.

President Lyndon B. Johnson stated in a speech on April 7, 1965, “Over this war…is another reality: the deepening shadow of Communist China. The rulers in Hanoi are urged on by Peking. This is a regime which has destroyed freedom in Tibet, attacked India, and been condemned by the United Nations for aggression in Korea. It is a nation which is helping the forces of violence in almost every continent. The contest in Vietnam is part of a wider pattern of aggressive purpose.”

There were also ideological reasons for being in this war. We wanted to demonstrate the viability of free enterprise capitalism in competition with state ownership of commerce.

President Johnson continued his speech with the hope that even our adversary could see the wisdom of working together for more commerce. “I would hope that the Secretary General of the United Nations could use the prestige of his great office…to initiate, as soon as possible, with the countries of the area, a plan for cooperation in increased development. For our part I will ask the Congress to join in a billion dollar American investment in this effort as soon as it is underway….The task is nothing less than to enrich the hopes and existence of more than a hundred million people.”

There was a humanitarian goal in the war. Johnson spoke of terror and violence in South Vietnam. “It is a war of unparalleled brutality. Simple farmers are the targets of assassination and kidnapping. Women and children are strangled in the night because their men are loyal to their government. Small and helpless villages are ravaged by sneak attacks. Large scale raids are conducted on towns, and terror strikes in the heart of cities.”

Whatever our goals, we abandoned notions that our forces would overturn the existing communist regime of North Vietnam, but would be used to defend the survival of the free enterprise regime of South Vietnam. We did so thinking we were preserving the “independent nation of South Vietnam.” “We want nothing for ourselves, only that the people of South Vietnam be allowed to guide their own country in their own way.” No notice was given to the fact that there was only one nation of Vietnam until the French left in 1954. Our efforts were to support a divided Vietnam—not to promote a united, independent nation. There had been one Vietnam for over a thousand years. There were two Vietnams only for a decade.

In 1973, the U.S. participated in peace talks that promised that a South Vietnamese regime could be preserved. We agreed to disengage and remove our troops and forces, and the North agreed that they would not take over the South. Political realities led to different results. Our withdrawal was accompanied by a withdrawal of funding for our military effort by Congress. In turn, North Vietnam took over the South. In 1975, North Vietnamese troops captured Saigon.

For thirty-five years, I have heard that we had “lost” the war. However, what I saw over the recent holiday leads me to reject that conclusion. The war was “won.” The trouble is that we were not around long enough to see the victory. Ironically, “our” victory was won, not by American troops, but rather by the Vietnamese armies and the Vietnamese people.

The communist takeover did originally, as Washington feared, result in the loss of liberty, property, and life – an almost inevitable consequence of war, as the North Vietnamese Army punished many in the South. It was also a result of the imposition of communist ideology. Private property was seized and free enterprise activities were forcibly restrained.

But more was happening. The U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam guaranteed the collapse of the already fragile Cambodian government, which was deposed and replaced by Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge. The massive wave of violence we feared would be set into motion in southern Vietnam came to Cambodia. Pol Pot’s imposition of peasant communism led to the evacuation of Cambodia’s cities, forced labor in the countryside, and mass murder in the “killing fields.” The killing focused on political rivals—such as Buddhist monks and entrepreneurs—and on those of foreign heritage, including Chinese and Vietnamese. Over two million were murdered in the Cambodian genocide.

With no American forces left in Vietnam, we were hardly in a position to stop the killing. Still, the U.S. did little in using diplomatic pressure to stop Pol Pot. Instead, the Carter administration gave support to Pol Pot by backing the United Nation’s recognition of his government.

But the killing in Cambodia did come to a stop. How? The Khmer Rouge conducted border raids into Vietnam, and Vietnam reacted. On December 25, 1978, Vietnam invaded Cambodia. Pol Pot was deposed, a new government put into place, and the killing ceased. The new communist government of a united Vietnam ended the genocide.

The new puppet government in Cambodia was also communist, but did this mean that dominos were falling? Hardly. While pursuing the goals of Kennan’s containment policy, our efforts were based on an assumption that by being brother communists-in-arms, the Chinese and Vietnamese loved each other. Not so! They enjoyed a millennium of animosities that were only temporarily held in check by the American conflict (and in the previous wars with the French and Japanese). China and Vietnam were traditional enemies.

When Vietnam achieved its unity, the country expelled people of Chinese heritage. China took umbrage. In February 1979, China quit playing dominos, sending 120,000 troops into Vietnam. Vietnam fought back, stopping the Chinese before they could reach Hanoi, and counterattacking across the Chinese border. Within a month, China withdrew from Vietnam. The only thing defeated was the domino theory.

As the killing stopped, and the game of dominos ended, there was an end to communist ideology. The imposition of communist economics led to conditions that the United States had predicted. There was a lack of productivity, a shortage of goods, and starvation. Rice, the country’s leading agricultural crop, had to be imported from India. The Vietnamese are natural hustlers with boundless energy, witnessed in their determination to stand up to the Americans, the French, the Chinese and the Cambodians. Yet, they were now told to stand in line and bow to the edicts of ideological government bureaucrats. Their energy was capped.

Their leaders were not entirely blind. One common story is that a leading general took the podium at the 6th National Congress in 1986. He said, in effect, that he had not asked the people and his troops to shed their sweat, tears, and blood “for this!” They had fought for a better life. Things were only worse. He called for the party to “let the people be free to use their intrinsic energy to produce goods for their own benefit.”

The leaders could not quarrel with the general, and an era of doi moi (renovation, renewal and reform) was initiated by that year’s party congress.

The Vietnamese regime is still led by the Communist Party of Vietnam, but what they have, economically, is what the American military fought to defend. Free market businesses, capital investment, manufacturing, and export development have been part of doi moi. Poverty was cut in half, income doubled, economic growth became rampant, and food is now exported. The people are not hungry. Changes in the economic structure led the U.S. to drop an embargo in 1994, and Vietnam is now part of the World Trade Organization.

Saigon is still “Saigon” to the people, although the government calls it Ho Chi Minh City. In the south of the city, a Taiwanese company reclaimed thousands of acres of swampland and developed a major suburban-like community called

Phu My Hung. There shopping centers and commercial streets are found with restaurants, hotels, single family houses and apartment complexes. The neighborhood houses the South Saigon International School, owned by Taiwanese, but giving instruction in English to children from Vietnam and 30 other nationalities.

Around the corner is the Phu My Hung Bookstore. Most books are in Vietnamese, but I ventured to look around. They had American news and travel magazines. There was also an English language book which I purchased: “Viet Nam Vision 2020: The 10th National Congress of the Communist Party of Viet Nam.” The book explained that the country was enjoying the twenty-fifth year in a row with economic growth, average growth was 5.5% a year, second worldwide only to the Chinese. Agriculture output doubled in fifteen years. Vietnam was second to Brazil in exports of coffee, fourth in rubber exports, and fourth in timber and wooden furniture. There are thirteen automobile assembly plants in the country.

State owned enterprises are being replaced by private concerns. “The overall number of private enterprises had increased from 132 in 1991, 80,000 in 2003, and 170,000 in 2006.” There are 9.7 million “individual businesses,” and half of the families in Vietnam are involved in owning businesses. Seventy-three countries had made investments in the country.

There is concern with corruption in the bureaucracy. The 2020 “Vision” Report decried bribery and corruption among party officials, indicating that the “party had disciplined 40,000 party members in the form of being blamed, warned, expelled, dismissed or sent to jail.”

The notion of the victory of American values is reflected in goals of the party expressed in the report:

To strongly liberate the production force, promote all potential as well as human resources.…To strongly move to a market economy, comply with market principles…To encourage all people to raise their incomes through lawful means….To make significant changes in administrative reform, and reduce red tape, corruption, and wastefulness….To implement a system of distribution basically according to work results, economic efficiency, the level of contributions of capital and other resources.…To create a favorable legal environment, mechanisms and policies to tap all social resources for development….To effectively manage the operations of basic markets in line with a healthy competition pattern….To steadily develop the financial market….To develop the real estate market, including the market of land use rights…To make land a real source of capital for investment….To swiftly draw investment capital...for carrying out important projects on oil and gas exploitation…

The report further urged that “there must be help for the development of enterprises, with no direct interference in their production and business….Efforts must be made to ensure that all citizens have free rights to invest and do their business without limitation in all fields…”

Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee don’t need the Republicans to hire Newt Gingrich to write another “Contract with America.” The Republicans need only look to Vision 2020 Report of the Communist Party of Vietnam for their 2010 platform. The war was won!
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Northeastern states stage a cultural festival

Agartala, Feb 27: To promote closer ties among the Northeast states and with their neighbouring Southeast Asian countries, a month-long cultural festival 'Inter-Cultural Dialogue' is being staged and the second leg of it concluded in Agartala on Friday.

New Delhi-based the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts (IGNCA) in association with North East Zone Cultural Centre (NEZCC) and the state governments
is organizing the first ever-international cultural festival across the northeast region.

The festival began on February 21 in Guwahati, Assam and will wind up on March 12 covering Meghaylaya, Tripura, Manipur and Nagaland, followed by a four-day symposium-cum-cultural show in New Delhi from March 17 to March 20.

Around 150 artists and performers from Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia and northeastern states are performing various traditional dances to showcase their area's traditional art and culture.

Other than traditional Thai dance and Indonesian dance depicting scenes from Indian epics Ramayana and Mahabharata, the mask dance of Sikkim and traditional Indonesian Wayang Kulit (shadow puppet) were enjoyed very much by the audience, as they were totally new to them.

Audience, who were mesmerized by the programme, felt that academics and artists of these regions should collectively revisit their history, culture and economy and look at the commonalities, which still persist to a significant extent. "

I feel our culture, that is to say, ancient Indian culture specially the Aryan culture has been beautifully mixed in their chorography. They are also trying to expose their dance items, their choreography through Ramayana, Mahabharata. This is beautiful mixture of Indian culture and neighbouring countries," said Swapan Nandi, audience and renowned painter.

Participants from the Southeast Asian countries said they were happy participating in the event.
"We are happy to join this festival because here we can show our culture and learn other cultures like of India, Thailand, Cambodia and Java," said Chum Chanveasna, an artist from Cambodia.

The organisers said that the unique relationship in cultural-historical experiences of the people of Southeast Asian countries and northeast India has become a subject of genuine importance in the background of the overall drive for cultural, economic, political understanding and unity, and such cultural events help to bridge the gap and rediscover old ties between them. Read more!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Thai court seizes more than half of Thaksin's fortune

BANGKOK: Thailand's top court on Friday seized $1.4 billion in assets belonging to the family of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra for abuse of his power, far less than expected, in a decision that could appease some anti-government forces.

The court said Thaksin had concealed his ownership of shares in his family telecommunications conglomerate Shin Corp during his five years in office and geared government policies to benefit the company, but ruled that $900 million amassed before his premiership be unfrozen.

Authorities said major violence was unlikely in response to the ruling but mobilised thousands of police and troops to pre-empt any backlash by supporters of the 60-year-old fugitive at the centre of a five-year political crisis in Southeast Asia's second-biggest economy.

Prior to the ruling, analysts said any decision allowing Thaksin's family to keep a portion of the assets would be more favourable for markets in the short term by reducing the risk of an imminent showdown in Thailand's divisive colour-coded crisis.

"The partial seizure of the assets should be what financial markets prefer because both sides can claim victory," said Prapas Tonpibulsak, chief investment officer at Ayudhya Fund Management.

The judges said Thaksin had abused his power in all five major cases against him, which included shaping telecoms and satellite policies, including concessions fees and state loans, to benefit Shin Corp.

Thaksin, ousted in a 2006 coup and convicted in absentia of graft, has denied the charges from self-imposed exile in Dubai.
Read more!

Thai court begins lengthy hearing on Thaksin verdict

BANGKOK, Feb 26 (Reuters) - Judges in Thailand's Supreme Court began reading a verdict on Friday afternoon that will decide whether the government can seize $2.3 billion of ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra's frozen family assets.

The nine-judge panel began reading the long-awaited verdict at around 1:30 p.m. (0630 GMT). It could take several hours before a decision on the assets is announced.

The twice-elected Thaksin, ousted in a 2006 coup and convicted in absentia of graft, is believed to be in Dubai and says he will fight any confiscation of the assets.

Thousands of police and soldiers are on alert across Bangkok, ready to tackle any violence by supporters of the 60-year-old former telecommunications mogul at the centre of a five-year political crisis in Southeast Asia's second-biggest economy.

The pro-Thaksin "red shirt" movement, which forced a regional summit to be abandoned last April and staged protests that sparked Thailand's worst street violence in 17 years, plans a mass rally in Bangkok on March 14 but says it will not protest on Friday [ID:nSGE61N09L].

Other Thaksin supporters, however, plan to gather in Bangkok.

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Cambodia Not Ready for Munitions Pact: Official

By Men Kimseng, VOA Khmer

Cambodiais not ready to ratify the Convention on Cluster Munitions, due to stockpiles it is currently holding, a senior government official said Thursday.

Cambodia is still assessing the cost and means associated with finding a replacement to its current munitions, Prak Sokhon, vice president of the Cambodia Mine Action Authority, said, as a guest on “Hello VOA.”

We need more time to study the number of cluster munitions we have and if we need to replace them in order for us to sign the convention,” he said.

The government also needs to know “how much money and time we need to replace the munitions with the ones that are not banned,” he said. “Once we have these, we can then sign it.”
The UN took the opportunity on National Mine Awareness Day on Wednesday to renew an appeal for Cambodiato renew its commitment to the eliminating cluster munitions.

“We urge Cambodiato sign and ratify as soon as possible the Convention on Cluster Munitions to demonstrate its commitment to a peaceful and secure world,” the UN said in a statement.

Cambodiais peppered with landmines, remnants of decades of civil strife, though the number of mine- and ordnance-related fatalities has dropped over the past four years, falling from 450 in 2006 to 243 in 2009.

The decrease was due to better demining operations, law enforcement and coordination in identifying mined areas, Prak Sokhon said.

Read more!

Cambodia SKorea bilateral trade soars

Cambodian exports to South Korea surged 391 percent in January compared with the same month last year.

Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency says the 4 point 3 million dollar rise comes amid an overall increase in bilateral trade between the two countries.

Korea Chamber of Commerce in Cambodia says rising demand from North America has also help spur the recovery in trade.

South Korea runs garment factories in the Kingdom, and Cambodia in turn imports raw materials for its primary export industry, so trade between the two is highly dependent on demand from the United States and Canada.

Last month rubber was Cambodia's largest export to South Korea indicating the Kingdom's intention to move into other export industries, particularly agricultural products.
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Vietnam to help build Cambodian Assembly's information infrastructure

Hanoi is gripping tighter on Cambodia by trying to tap every piece of information from Cambodian National Assembly. Yuon will collect all internal and external secret intelligence from Cambodian National Assembly to control the state of Cambodia.

The National Assemblies of Vietnam and Cambodia will start a project to install network equipment for information processing and Intranet access at all agencies of the Cambodia National Assembly.

The agreement was reached between the two countries' legislators during a visit to Cambodia by a Vietnam National Assembly delegation this week.

The 300 thousand dollar project is funded by the Vietnam National Assembly.

In the first phase Vietnam will supply servers, computers and transmission lines to Cambodia, this year.

In the second phase next year Vietnam will complete the installation of equipment for the Intranet to support information processing between Cambodia's National Assembly agencies.
Read more!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Cambodia to again sue opposition leader Sam Rainsy

The Cambodian government has filed a new lawsuit against leading opposition figure Sam Rainsy.

The government accuses Mr Rainsy of forging public documents and spreading false information about a border dispute with Vietnam.

Mr Rainsy, who is living in exile, was given a two-year jail term last month for a political protest in which markers along the border were uprooted.

He could face up to 18 years in prison if found guilty of the latest charges.

"The lawsuit involves forging public documents and publicising disinformation related to the forgery of a map in order to manipulate the public over the border issue with Vietnam," government lawyer Ky Tech told the AFP news agency.

'Political tool'

In January, Mr Rainsy was given the two-year jail term in his absence for encouraging villagers to uproot the border markings.

He did not attend the hearing, saying in an e-mail believed to have been sent from France, that the case against him was politically motivated.

"The court in Cambodia is just a political tool for the ruling party to crack down on the opposition," he said.

"I will let this politically subservient court prosecute me in absentia because its verdict is known in advance."

Cambodia and Vietnam officially began demarcating their contentious border in September 2006, in a bid to end decades of territorial disputes.

The 1,270-kilometre (790-mile) border has remained essentially unmarked and vague since French colonial times, with stone markers and boundary flags having disappeared, while trees once lining it were cut down.

Mr Rainsy's party accuses the Cambodian government of ceding territory to its larger and more powerful neighbour.
Read more!

China Huadian Plans To Build 338 MW Hydropower Project In Cambodia

China Huadian Corporation

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And More inside the report…

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Jan 12, 2010: China Huadian Plans To Build 338 MW Hydropower Project In Cambodia
Dec 10, 2009: China Huadian To Invest CNY60 Billion In Huadian-Xiangtan Nuclear Power Project In China
Dec 04, 2009: China Huadian´s Subsidiary To Formulate Wind Power Standards: CEC


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Thursday, February 25, 2010

China, Cambodia sign Consular Treaty to further strengthen cooperation ties

China and Cambodia on Thursday signed here the Consular Treaty, aimed to further strengthen the cooperation relations between the two friendly countries.

Long Visalo, secretary of state of Cambodia's Foreign Ministry and Zhang Jinfeng, Chinese ambassador to the Kingdom, signed the treaty on behalf of their respective countries at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong and other government officials presented at the signing ceremony.

"Along with all-round development of the friendship relations between our two countries, personnel exchanges between the two countries are also increasing," Long Visalo said, and expressed his believe that the Consular Treaty will effectively protect the legitimate interest of citizens of the two countries.

Zhang Jinfeng said that China and Cambodia are good neighbors and have a good cooperation on many fields including consular, such as jointly combat illegal immigrant and transnational crimes.
She said that the Consular Treaty has established the framework of consular cooperation between the two countries, provided a legal basis for solving the problems that may arise in the consular affairs and also defined the responsibilities and obligations of both sides. She believed that the treaty will help promote the further development of bilateral consular relations.

Zhang also hoped that the two sides will exchange instruments of ratification as soon as possible, so that the treaty could come into effect as soon as possible.

At present, Cambodia has established six Consulate Generals in China, including China's Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Kunming, Chongqing and Nanning, while China has not yet set up the consulate in Cambodia.

Source: Xinhua
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OZ in $512m hole after big restructure

OZ MINERALS has signed off on what was a miserable 2009, posting an annual loss of $512 million after being forced into a drastic restructuring by its bankers when the global financial crisis was at its worst.

The restructure reduced the group's portfolio of mines from five to one and led to the appointment in August of a new managing director, Terry Burgess.

According to an upbeat Mr Burgess yesterday, it was time to focus on OZ's future. He said the group's remaining operating asset, the new Prominent Hill copper and gold mine in South Australia, made an excellent start, and that the results of a study of underground mining there would be ready by June. The market should also look out for a maiden-resource estimate next month for the group's gold exploration project in Cambodia, he said.

OZ Mineral's declared loss of $512 million does not look bad when compared with the $2.5 billion loss recorded in 2008, when there were some massive asset-value write-downs following the creation of OZ through the merger of Zinifex and Oxiana. But it was the performance of Prominent Hill that was the main focus at yesterday's profit briefing to analysts.

Prominent Hill's maiden profit was $203 million. After taking in $91 million in charges on the refinancing of bank loans and foreign exchange losses of $113 million, the group's net profit for the year was $31 million.

Including the $607 million loss recorded on the $2 billion sale of the four mines last June (offset by $63 million in earnings before their sale) took OZ's bottom line to the loss of $512 million.

The upside from last year's drastic restructuring is that OZ has minimal debt and cash of $1.07 billion. Despite the cash bundle, it is not paying dividends, preferring to earmark the funds for regrowth.

OZ intends to expand through the acquisition of copper projects, either at the exploration, development or production stage.

Gold was not mentioned, but Mr Burgess said later that OZ had not gone cold on gold.

He pointed to the looming maiden-resource estimate for Cambodia as an indication of OZ's continuing interest in gold. The market believes a maiden resource of at least 2 million ounces will be required to maintain OZ's interest in the project.

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Cambodian military, business cosy up as premier calls for support

Phnom Penh - Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen has asked business leaders to help fund the country's military, saying all citizens of the South-East Asian nation have a duty 'to defend the nation,' national media reported Thursday.

'This is not a legal duty that you have to do - the support is voluntary according to your ability,' the Cambodia Daily newspaper quoted him as saying.

Hun Sen's speech was followed by a get-together late Wednesday hosted by the prime minister where senior military officials were scheduled to meet 250 leading business people.

Government spokesman Prak Sokhon told the newspaper that the aim was to establish a strong relationship between business and the military.

'To sponsor a battalion - well, 'sponsor' is a big word, but the private companies will help as far as they can,' Prak Sokhon said. 'In the past they sent food and so on to the border - it will be this kind of relationship.'

Earlier this month Hun Sen addressed troops near the Thai-Cambodian border and heaped praise on a number of businessmen for providing support to the army.

'[They] donated 7,000 wooden beds at a total cost of 210,000 dollars,' Hun Sen said, before outlining further requirements. 'I need 30,000 beds for the [army], military police and the police who are standing by at the Cambodian-Thai border.'

Hun Sen also announced Wednesday that he would visit troops on the Cambodian-Thai border this weekend in the north-western province of Battambang.

However, he refuted any link with the imminent verdict in the case against Thailand's fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra. Thailand's Supreme Court is set to rule Friday on whether to seize 2.3 billion dollars of Thaksin's assets.

Thaksin was appointed as an adviser to the Cambodian government last year, a move that ramped up tensions between the two nations.

Cambodia's military has long been accused by human rights groups of involvement in illegal activities, including logging, mining, land grabs and human rights abuses.
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Cambodian premier: Opposition leader won't run in next election

Phnom Penh - Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen said the leader of the country's main opposition party would not be permitted to participate in the next general election unless he serves a pending jail sentence, local media reported Thursday.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy is currently in France after being sentenced in January to two years in absentia for his role in uprooting controversial boundary posts on the border between Vietnam and Cambodia.

'This time the court sentenced him to jail - no pardon this time,' Hun Sen was reported as saying by the Phnom Penh Post newspaper. 'In the next election [due in 2013] there will be opposition parties, but this person will not be there.'

'You must be jailed first, if you are brave enough to come and be jailed,' he added.

Sam Rainsy told the German Press Agency dpa in late January that he was prepared to return and serve time provided the government freed two villagers locked up over same incident.

He said the government must also return land that farmers in the border area said they had lost in an ongoing border-marking effort between the two nations.

Both Hun Sen and Sam Rainsy have accused each other of betraying Cambodia in the border row.

The border-post incident, which took place in October, riled Hanoi which has close links to the government in Phnom Penh.

Vietnam has significant business interests in Cambodia, including investments

in agribusiness, aviation, telecommunications and banking.

In December, Hanoi signed an agreement with Phnom Penh that could result in investments worth billions of US dollars, including a deal to look for aluminium ore, known as bauxite, in Cambodia's border province of Mondolkiri.
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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Cambodian PM to make second trip to Cambodia-Thai border area this week

Aiming to inspect border development and military capacity, Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen said Wednesday that he will make his second trip to the country's northwestern border later this week.

Delivering speech at graduation ceremony at Royal University of Phnom Penh, Hun Sen said he will make his second trip to military region 5 on Feb. 27 to inspect the border development, infrastructure and military capacity presence there.

He said the visit is a routine one to be made by a leader of a country and that it has nothing to hide with military challenge with neighboring country.

Hun Sen said prior and during his first visit to border area in the country's northern provinces of Preah Vihear and Uddor Meanchey, there were some comments made by leaders of the neighboring country.

This time, Hun Sen said he will not make any statement concerning the neighboring country as long as no comment to be made prior to his visit there.

Hun Sen spent for almost a week earlier this month visiting several military spots and bases as well as other development infrastructure along Cambodia-Thai border near Preah Vihear Temple.

His presence at the border area had drawn much attention from Bangkok administration on the motive behind his trip there.

Since July 2008, Cambodia and Thai armed forces have exchanged a few rounds of armed conflicts as a result of border dispute near the Cambodia's ancient temple of Preah Vihear.

Source: Xinhua
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Hun Sen to bar Sam Rainsy from running in next general election+

PHNOM PENH, Feb. 24 (AP) - (Kyodo)—Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said Wednesday that opposition leader Sam Rainsy will not be allowed to run in the 2013 general election, calling him a traitor on border issues.

Speaking to graduate students in Phnom Penh, Hun Sen said while Cambodia is in conflict with Thailand over a border dispute, Sam Rainsy has diverted the nation's attention to a border issue with Vietnam.

Hun Sen said Sam Rainsy's action would split the country's armed forces and cannot be "tolerated."

Sam Rainsy, leader of his self-named party, was sentenced Jan. 27 in absentia to two years in prison for having led villagers to uproot border markers on the Cambodia-Vietnam border in October last year.

Sam Rainsy, who lives in exile in France, has defended his action which he said was carried out after villagers showed him wooden poles that had been planted in their rice fields by Vietnamese authorities and "complacent" Cambodian counterparts.

He said the poles were planted 200-300 meters inside Cambodian territory and the villagers uprooted them "to symbolically show their refusal to give up ancestral rice fields they had been cultivating since 1979 and to be deprived of their livelihoods."

The Cambodian and the Vietnamese governments have rejected Sam Rainsy's accusation as groundless.

On Monday, the government warned it would take legal action against Sam Rainsy, accusing him of distributing false border maps.

Cambodia holds a general election every five years, and the next election will be held in 2013.

Hun Sen said the opposition party will not be barred from running in the next election, but not Sam Rainsy, warning that he will be put in jail if he returns to the country.

In the 2008 election, Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party won 90 seats in the 123-member parliament, followed by the Sam Rainsy Party with 26 seats, with the rest taken by three minor parties.

Hun Sen, who has ruled the country since 1985, is often criticized by opposition parties and both local and international human rights groups for having used his power to suppress and silence the opposition.

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Cambodia to conduct multiple rocket launcher tests

Phnom Penh, Cambodia's priminister Hun Sen on Wednesday said that Cambodia will conduct a multiple rocket launching test next week.

Speaking at a graduating ceremony for graduate students, Hun Sen called the move a routine military drill and said it is not intended to show Cambodia's military muscle to any country.

Cambodia has been locked in a territorial dispute with Thailand since 2008 and there have been sporadic military clashes between the two countries at the border area near Cambodia's Preah Vihear Temple.

Hun Sen said the rocket tests will take place March 4 in Kompong Chhnang Province, about 100 kilometers north of Phnom Penh.

About 200 rounds of the BM-21 multiple rocket launcher will be fired to test the military's capabilities as well as the quality of the Russian-made rocket-launching system, he said.

The 122-mm rockets have a range of 40 kilometers. Hun Sen said one round of the BM-21 costs between $1,200 and $3,800.

Earlier this month, Hun Sen toured the Cambodia-Thai border area and visited military units. The trip and the heavy weapons displayed during his visit were broadcast on many television channels in Cambodia.
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Bammer: Listening to Cambodia: Electric, acoustic

By Richard Bammer

Awaking once recent morning, I turned on National Public Radio's "Morning Edition" and heard the music of Dengue Fever for the first time.

During an interview with host Scott Simon, band members played a couple of tunes from their latest album, a compilation of Cambodian rock 'n' roll songs from the late 1970s.

I have to admit I was struck by the music's earnestness, which came through despite my missing the literal message, because I do not understand or speak Khmer, the native language of Cambodia.

But, after all, music is a universal language. On some level, I felt its vibrations, its essence and understood some vague notion of the Cambodian people. For it is true, if you want to understand a people and their culture, listen to their music.

At the same time, I was struck by this fact: The Cambodian pop music Dengue Fever chose to collect was recorded during a particularly horrific time in Cambodian history: the brutal regime of Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot.

The Los Angeles-based band, led by Cambodian songstress Chhom Nimol, backed by a quintet front by Zac Holtzman on guitar and vocals, has been part of modern American culture for a few years now. I recall reading reviews of their performances in the New York Times. Their music has been featured in a number of films and TV shows, including "Must Love Dogs," "Broken Flowers" and twice on Showtime's hit series "Weeds." The band has released several albums, among them, "Venus on Earth," and the DVD "Sleepwalking Through the Mekong," a documentary.

Listening to the NPR interview reminded me that, like music everywhere, Cambodian music has a way of surviving the worst in the world: homicidal dictators, wars, famines and floods.

Besides "Electric Cambodia," two cases in point: "The Music of Cambodia: 9 Gong Gamelan, Volume 1" and "Traditional Khmer Music," albums I bought last month in and near the ancient ruins of Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and Prasat Ta Prum.

I saw and heard the ensemble featured on the latter album, a group of eight to 10 musicians, all of them victims of land mines. I was moved by their resolve to try to make a living despite their disabilities incurred by the leftovers of 20th-century war. I could only imagine how a walk through the jungle one day altered their lives forever in the fiery flash of one terrible moment.

To some Westerner's ears, the high, minor-key sound of four-string Asian violin, gongs, cymbals and hand drums may not be appealing. Yet is easy to hear and feel the joy of the musicians, who played traditional wedding music such as "Houmrong" and "Anteack Prat."

Produced by David Parsons, "The Music of Cambodia" is the first recording made inside Angkor Wat, the world's largest religious monument, which, over time, has been a Hindu and Buddhist temple.

The musicians, including the Pinpeat Orchestra, a local version of the Khmer Empire's royal court music from the ninth to the 15th centuries, used wood and metal percussion instruments and Asian versions of the oboe, fiddle and flute.

Like the ancient ruins they played in, it is testimony of music's ability to survive the vicissitudes of time and turmoil.

Reach Reporter staff writer Richard Bammer at or telephone (707) 453-8164.
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Brenda Hollis Named Special Court Prosecutor

The Secretary-General of the United Nations has named Brenda Joyce Hollis of the United States as Prosecutor of the Special Court. Since 2007, Ms. Hollis has been a Principal Trial Attorney in the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP), where she is responsible for leading the legal team prosecuting former Liberian President Charles Taylor.

From 2001 to 2007, Brenda Hollis was an Expert Legal Consultant on international law and criminal procedure.

During this period she trained judges, prosecutors and investigators at courts and international tribunals in Indonesia, Iraq and Cambodia. She also assisted victims of international crimes in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in Colombia to prepare submissions requesting investigations by the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

. In 2002 and 2003, and again in 2006, Ms. Hollis served as a consultant to the OTP, where she assisted in evidence-gathering missions and provided legal and tactical advice.Ms. Hollis was Senior Trial Attorney at the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia (ICTY) from 1994 to 2001, where she served as lead counsel in a number of historic prosecutions. She led case in which rape was charged as torture, and was lead counsel in the preparation of the case against former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic until her departure from the ICTY in 2001.

Brenda Hollis paid tribute to Deputy Prosecutor Joseph Kamara, who has served as Acting Prosecutor since the departure of Stephen Rapp last September. “I look forward to working closely in partnership with Deputy Prosecutor Joseph Kamara, for whom I have the greatest personal and professional respect,” she said.
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Empowerment of women urged

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists shed light on sale, abuse of females in other parts of world

By PAUL GRONDAHL, Staff writer

TROY-- Nicholas Kristof is surely the only journalist on the planet who submitted this on a newspaper expense form: Purchase of two girl sex slaves in Cambodia, $350.

He dutifully got receipts for his $150 and $200 purchases -- which bought the teenagers' freedom from a Phnom Penh brothel -- and the New York Times reimbursed its op-ed columnist.

"I knew I had a great front-page story, but I was leaving these girls behind and that felt very exploitative," Kristof said of his scheme to buy the girls. He first ran it past a Times lawyer, who did not deny the request since there was no formal policy covering such.

Kristof and his wife and co-author, Sheryl WuDunn, spoke Tuesday to the students of Emma Willard School, a private school for girls in Troy, about the couple's non-traditional, award-winning journalism. Their work has illuminated the oppression of girls and women in the developing world while advocating for gender equality in education and employment opportunities.

WuDunn called bridging the gender divide "the central moral challenge of the 21st century."

Backed by color images projected on a huge screen above the stage of EMPAC on the Rensselaer Polytechnic campus, the couple told simple human stories about girls they had met and interviewed and their hard lives, mired in heartbreaking situations of abuse and neglect in male-dominated cultures in China, Pakistan, Ethiopia and Uganda.

They spoke of a school in rural China and a 13-year-old girl whose family could not afford its $13 tuition. They planned to pull their daughter out of school, condemned to a future of toiling in the fields. With donations sent to the Times, the couple was able to give thousands of dollars to upgrade the school and they paid for the girl, the brightest in her grade, to continue her education. She ended up getting a degree in accounting and helped her parents build a new home.

Not all of their stories had happy endings. In Ethiopia, WuDunn described meeting emaciated girls who were nothing but skin and bone while their brothers were well-fed. In India, they learned that girls have a 50 percent higher mortality rate than boys.

In addition to gender abuse, the oppression of girls is undercutting these poor countries' economic development efforts. WuDunn quoted Bill Gates, who told an audience in Saudi Arabia that they were doomed to trail rich nations for as long as they failed to "fully utilize half the talent in your country" by keeping girls down and offering only boys the chance at an education and skilled jobs.

"Women and girls are not the problem. They are the solution," WuDunn said.

The couple discussed their latest book, "Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide," a best-seller now in its 17th printing after it was first published last fall.

Kristof joked that his wife "holds up about two-thirds of the sky in our household." They have three children and live in Westchester County.

"This is not a zero-sum game," Kristof said of his efforts to give voice to the voiceless females around the world. "Men become the beneficiaries when women succeed."

Kristof and WuDunn became the first couple in 1990 to win the Pulitzer Prize jointly for their coverage of China's Tiananmen Square democracy movement. Kristof won a second Pulitzer in 2006 for his stories on the genocide in Darfur. He has traveled to 140 countries for his far-ranging Times column, which highlights human rights abuses around the globe.

Neither of them projected the gung-ho self-importance stereotypical of foreign correspondents who like to swap war stories. A Cornell MBA and Princeton MPA, WuDunn comes off as poised and business-like, while Kristof, also a Harvard grad, seems soft-spoken and mild-mannered.

In the question-and-answer period, Kristof offered this advice to the students: Travel and engage the world, even the dark places. "You have to get outside your comfort zone," he said. "If it's always fun, something is wrong."

Kristof received the loudest whoops and cheers from the students when he wished happy birthday to Emma Willard. The event, which included a lunch and afternoon discussions with the journalists, coincided with the 223rd birthday of the school's founder, a woman ahead of her time when it came to notions about education, gender and equity in early 19th-century America.

Paul Grondahl can be reached at 454-5623 or by e-mail at
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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Migrants face peril from Thai registration deadline: HRW

BANGKOK - More than one million migrants in Thailand face possible deportation and further abuse if they fail to meet a deadline this week to register with authorities, a rights watchdog said Tuesday.

Thailand has ordered all citizens from neighboring Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos to register and verify their nationality by Sunday or risk deportation, as part of an ongoing clampdown on immigration.

But Human Rights Watch said the ultimatum will force an already vulnerable community to endure further abuse at the hands of Thai authorities and employers who they say regularly exploit migrant workers with impunity.

"Millions of migrants living in Thailand have been subjected to various forms of abuse ranging from extrajudicial killings to torture, arbitrary arrest, extortion...," Sunai Phasuk, the New York-based group's Thailand expert, said at a press conference to launch a report on the deadline.

"Migrant workers need to be seen as human beings, not simply as assets."

Some 200,000 of an estimated 1.3 million migrants in Thailand have begun the registration process, and so far 45,000 have completed it, said HRW, quoting official figures.

The watchdog said registration in theory gives migrants a temporary passport and legal footing in Thailand, but unscrupulous employers routinely confiscate such documents.

Officials also extort money from migrants by threatening deportation and arrest unless bribes are paid, with killings and beatings often going unreported, the 124-page report said.

HRW urged the Thai government to postpone the registration process and enforce labor protections for workers.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has so far bowed to domestic opinion by maintaining a tough stance on immigration, but he has insisted the government will use a rights-led approach.

Abhisit has failed to publicly revoke a series of provincial laws which restrict movement by migrants, banning them from travelling by motorcycle or using mobile phones and laying down curfews.

Thailand, which is seeking a seat on the UN Human Rights Council, has been heavily criticized in recent months for its crackdowns on migrants from neighboring Laos and Myanmar.

In December Bangkok sparked outrage when it defied global criticism and used troops to repatriate about 4,500 ethnic Hmong from camps on the border with communist Laos, including 158 recognized as refugees by the United Nations.

Earlier last year hundreds of ethnic Rohingya migrants from Myanmar were rescued in Indian and Indonesian waters after being pushed out to sea in rickety boats by the Thai military.

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Cambodia Warns Its Citizens Not To Travel To Thailand

PHNOM PENH, Feb 23 (Bernama) -- Cambodian government has warned its citizens not to travel to Thailand amid fears of mass protests from the anti-government group, ahead of a court verdict on whether or not to seize ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra's frozen asset Friday, reports China's Xinhua news agency.

Citing a spokesman of Foreign Ministry Koy Kuong, Xinhua said that the protests by Red-shirtts or better known as pro-Thaksin Shinawatra, is expected to be held from Wednesday, two days ahead of the Supreme Court to rule on Thaksin's assets.

Therefore, Kuong said the Cambodian Foreign Ministry has issued a statement alerting Cambodian people not to travel to Thailand within these few days if they are not necessarily to do so.

"For those who are already in Thailand, are advised to stay far from rally venues to avoid any unexpected risk," he said.

The protest planned by red shirts or pro-Thaksin Shinawatra, former Thai prime minister--is expected to take place on Wednesday.

The United States, Australia and United Kingdom also issued similar warning to their citizens who wish to travel to Thailand during this period.

The Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions will deliver the verdict for the 76 billion baht (US$2.29 billion) asset seizure case of Thaksin on Feb 26.

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Cambodian garment exports drops to 2.6 bln USD in 2009

PHNOM PENH, Feb. 23, 2010 (Xinhua News Agency) -- The total value of garment, textiles and shoes exported last year dropped to 2.6 billion U.S. dollars compared with 3.1 billion U.S. dollars in 2008 as a result of global financial downturn, according to the figures of Commerce Ministry on Tuesday.

It said the total exports to the United States, which is Cambodia's biggest garment market, reached 1.5 billion U.S. dollars last year, down from 1.9 billion U.S. dollars in 2008.
The country's Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia ( GMAC) officials would not see the industry to pick up this year.

Kaing Monika, GMAC's spokesman, said "the international financial crisis has greatly impacted us, especially for our garment exports to the U.S. market."

"It is too early to say if exports of the products will increase for this year given the purchasing orders from overseas reserve for exports till June, not through out this year," he said.

The products exported to the EU also dropped to 718 million U.S. dollars last year from 786 million U.S. dollars in 2008, said the report.

The total value of exports to Canada also lowered to 190 million U.S. dollars in 2009 from 202 million U.S. dollars in 2008.

Exporting of the products to Japan and other Asian countries increased to 233 million U.S. dollars last year from 178 million U. S. dollars in 2008, it said.

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FBI: Alleged Sex Tourist Returned to Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES -- A man who taught English in Cambodia and who is accused of traveling outside the United States to have sex with children arrived back in the United States Monday in FBI custody.

Michael James Dodd, 59, was brought back to the United States by members of the FBI's Sexual Assault Felony Enforcement (S.A.F.E.) Team, a multi-agency task-force dedicated to crimes against children.

The FBI first began investigating Dodd when members of the S.A.F.E. Team traveled to Cambodia in 2008 to meet with law enforcement officials there.

According to a criminal complaint filed against Dodd in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles in January, Dodd taught English in Cambodia for students between the ages of 13 and 45 years old.
Dodd was arrested by the Cambodian National Police in October 2008 for an illegal sexual relationship with a 14 year old girl.

According to the complaint, Dodd admitted to an FBI agent during an interview that he traveled to Cambodia because he wasn't allowed to teach school in most places due to a previous sex offense.

Dodd also admitted, the claim states, to having sexual relations with a female minor and to paying the victim's family $50 every two weeks so he could visit with, and eventually marry, the girl.

He also admitted he paid other children to have sex with him in the area where he lived in Cambodia.

Dodd was convicted in a Cambodian court of sexually abusing the girl, and was sentenced to ten years in prison.

Previously, Dodd was arrested in 2001 in the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands (Saipan) for inappropriately touching thirteen underage female students at an elementary school where he worked.

He served time in prison, and was then put on probation for 15 years and ordered to pay fines and register as a sex offender.

Dodd will have an initial court appearance in Los Angeles on February 23rd.

If convicted of foreign travel to have sex with a child, he faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.
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US$100 million five star hotel is being built by the Sokimex conglomerate in Cambodia's capital

Feb 22, 2010 – The 799-room hotel which is expected to be completed by 2011 will be situated on the east side of the riverfront on Chhroy Changva peninsula in Phnom Penh's Russey Keo district.

"The 16-storey Sokha Phnom Penh Hotel will be built on six hectares of land which is under a 99-year land lease from city hall from 2007," Sokimex president Sok Kong told the Phnom Penh Post.

Sok Kong said the location of the hotel was atmospheric with beautiful river views but admitted, "There is a problem with traffic because there is only one bridge for access".

He said that although the city had recently experienced a hotel boom no new conference facilities have been built to entice business travellers to the city.

The Sokha Phnom Penh Hotel will feature two conference rooms with seating capacity for 1,500 persons and parking spaces for 1,000 cars.

"The hotel's conference centre will seat up to 1,500 people, and will be the [country's] biggest conference hall. It will raise Cambodia's reputation internationally," he said.

"The Sokha Phnom Penh Hotel will be the hotel with the largest conference hall in the city, and it will be suitable for international conferences," said So Mara, undersecretary of state in the tourism ministry.

Cambodia Hotel Association president Loo Meng welcomed the new hotel which will create 1,200 jobs for Cambodians.

“It is a good sign for the tourism sector. It shows that the tourism industry is getting better and better,” he said.

"The hotel will be good for high-class guests, and it will be as high quality as those in neighbouring countries."

Sok Kong said that the Sokha Phnom Penh would be the third five-star hotel operated by Sokimex in Cambodia, joining existing Sokha hotels in Sihanoukville and Siem Reap. Two more were on the drawing boards, he added.

Sokimex is also building two golf courses in a protected area on Bokor Mountain, Sok Kong said, adding that the company was also planning a resort at the site of old Bokor casino. More about the Cambodia Five Star-Hotel:$1%20...

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Monday, February 22, 2010

China seeks Cambodian concession to grow rubber

PHNOM PENH, Feb 22 - China is in discussions with Cambodia to acquire a 60,000 hectare (148,300 acre) land concession to grow rubber and help meet rising domestic demand, a senior official said on Monday.

China's ambassador to Cambodia had expressed interest in Cambodian rubber plantations that could produce as much as 60,000 tonnes for export, said Ly Phalla, director general of Cambodia's General Department of Rubber.

"The demand for rubber is high in China, especially in the production of tyres," Ly Phalla told Reuters.

He said Cambodia exported 42,000 tonnes of rubber in 2008, up from 40,000 tonnes in 2007. Last year's figure is not yet available.

In comparison, neighbouring Thailand, the world's biggest exporter of the commodity, shipped 2.74 million tonnes in 2009.

The mooted deal comes as the impoverished country seeks to modernise and expand its agricultural sector, its biggest currency earner ahead of tourism and garments, with moves to boost production of sugar and rice, mainly for export.

Some 11 Vietnamese companies announced earlier this month they had obtained separate land concessions totalling 100,000 hectares to grow rubber in Cambodia.

Ly Phalla said some of the companies had been operating in the country since 2007 and had so far utilised 10,000 hectares of the total 100,000 hectares awarded. He said Cambodia now had a total of 127,000 hectares set aside for rubber plantations.

Vietnamese investments in Cambodia were worth $210 million in 2009, mostly in rubber and mining, up from only $21 million in 2008, said Le Bien Cuong, head of commerce at the Vietnamese embassy in Phnom Penh.

He said Vietnamese exports to Cambodia totalled $1.1 billion last year, with Cambodia exporting only $172 million worth of goods to its neighbour.

The two countries signed a memorandum of understanding on Dec. 26 over planned Vietnamese investments worth more than $6 billion.

China is currently Cambodia's biggest source of foreign direct investment, having so far pumped $4.3 billion into its nascent economy, which grew in double digits for four successive years prior to the global economic slowdown.
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Angelina Jolie Reunites With Dad Jon Voight

After not speaking to each other in years, Angelina Jolie has finally let her father Jon Voight back into her life.

Jolie and her estranged dad stepped out in public for the first time since 2001 this weekend in Venice.

Jolie, Voight, Pitt and the kids looked like a big happy family enjoying time together on a boat trip down the city's Grand Canal.

A source said: “Since Brad and Angelina have been together, he has been encouraging her to smooth things over with her dad. And when it comes to the kids, Brad wants them to know their grandfather the way the kids know his parents.”

Jolie cut Voight out of her life after he made a comment about her mental well being when she adopted little Maddox from Cambodia in 2001.

Jon said at the time: “I haven't come forward and addressed the serious mental problems she has spoken about so candidly to the press over the years, but I've tried behind the scenes in every way.”

He's been trying to make amends for years, and it looks like Jolie has finally come around to forgiving him.

With all the breakup and 'Jolie Depressed' rumors we've been hearing in the past few months, it's great to see that she's finally letting her father back into her life. Her kids deserve to know their grandfather.
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Malaria causes nearly 300 deaths in Cambodia in 2009

Cambodian government said Monday that malaria, one of the country's deadly diseases has caused nearly 300 deaths in Cambodia in 2009.

Duong Socheat, director of National Malaria Center said some 280 Cambodians died from malaria last year, a sharp increase from a year earlier that recorded only about 200.

He said the number of infection by the disease was also a big jump from more than 50,000 in 2008 to about 80,000 in 2009.

He blamed the sharp increase of the infections and the deaths by the mosquito-transmitted disease to the early rainfalls and the migration of people to the disease infected areas.

Six of the country's 24 provinces are considered as the areas severely affected by the disease. Those provinces are identified as Kompong Cham, Koh Kong, Stung Treng, Ratanakiri, Mondulkiri, and Kratie.

Duong Socheat, meanwhile, blamed the late arrivals of mosquito distributions to the areas.

Cambodia's Millennium Development Goal target for malaria fatalities is 0.1 per cent by 2015.

Source: Xinhua
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Thailand providing psychiatrist to Thai convicted in Cambodia

BANGKOK, Feb 22 (TNA) - The Thai government will provide a psychiatrist to a Thai national convicted and sentenced by a Cambodian court to 20 years in jail for planting landmines along the Thai-Cambodian border after learning that he is has mental health problems, according to Chavanont Intarakomalsut, secretary to Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya.

Mr Chavanont said representatives of the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh had visited Suphap Wongsaprapa on Friday and after talking with him the consular officials found him to be confused and unable to relate the incident in a coherent manner.

He said the ministry had earlier received information that Mr Suphap had a case history as a mental patient and was previously admitted as a patient at a hospital in the northeastern province of Khon Kaen.

If the government could prove that Mr Suphap had mental disorders, it could provide an option for requesting the Cambodian government to reduce his jail term, he said.

In addition, Mr Chavanont noted that while Mr Suphap is a civilian, he was sentenced by a Cambodian military court.

Mr Chavanont said the Thai embassy would coordinate to help him appeal the verdict and requested the Cambodian government to allow a psychiatrist from Thailand, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) or any international organisation to visit and check whether he is suffering mental illness in order to ask for humanitarian assiastance.

He added that Mr Suphap has a criminal record, as he was jailed for five years for striking his father, after which he disappeared from sight. No one could contact him for 10 years from the time he was released from jail until he was arrested in Cambodia.

International media reported that 39-year-old Suphap was sentenced to 20 years in a Cambodian jail after he confessed in proceedings that he had planted at least five landmines in Cambodia's Anlong Veng town near areas claimed by both countries.

The news service said that he was arrested one year ago and that the Khmer authorities charged him with attempted murder, endangering national security and entering Cambodia illegally.

The Cambodian court record was quoted as saying Mr Suphap was arrested by Cambodian border guards just a few metres inside the country while carrying a land mine on February 27 last year. (TNA)
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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Thailand prepares for violence ahead of verdict on Thaksin Shinawatra assets

Thousands of police and soldiers were out on the streets of Bangkok today in a show of strength ahead of the much anticipated verdict on the $2.2 billion fortune of ousted Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

Abhisit Vejjajiva, the Prime Minister of Thailand called for calm, Supreme Court judges were assigned guards and foreign embassies issued travel warnings as fears grew of a violent backlash if the assets of the opposition leader-in-exile are frozen on Friday.

Mr Thaksin's supporters, the "Red Shirts", have said they will hold mass protests if the court doe not rule in Mr Thaksin's favour, but insist that any action will be non-violent.

"We will wait and see what the court says, but any injustice will bring about a phenomenon," Red Shirt leader Jatuporn Prompan said. The government "underestimates the Red Shirts", he added.

Mr Abhisit said a judicial review should be treated with respect or the on-going conflict between the opposing political factions would never come to an end.

However his government has been accused of stoking anxieties by casting the Red Shirts as a dangerous force in a bid to take the focus off the fragile governing coalition.

At least 20,000 extra security personnel have been deployed across Bangkok and pro-Thaksin regions, including around the homes of judges, politicians and government and commercial institutions.

Last week a bomb was defused near the Supreme Court and a grenade exploded at government offices, prompting the United States, Britain and Australia to warn people visiting Bangkok to exercise caution.

The government has announced it will cede control of security to the army and even declare an emergency if necessary, but says it hopes to control the situation.

"We hope that the security measures that we have put in place can handle the instability or incidents that can cause violence," government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said.

An intelligence expert and political observer said the Red Shirts were unlikely to instigate violence even if a court ruling did not favour Mr Thaksin.

Phummarat Thaksadipong, former director of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), said that a strong alliance between the government and the military was enough to keep pro-Thaksin elements at bay.

"Even if the court rules to seize all the assets, the red shirt group will not incite violence," Mr Phummarat told the Bangkok Post newspaper."They are aware those who start it will lose and they are afraid of being jailed," he said.

Since the coup in 2006 Thailand has been torn by frequently violent demonstrations by his supporters and the “Yellow Shirts” who oppose him in the name of King Bhumibol.

Late in 2008, the Yellow Shirts forced the closure of Bangkok's airports after months of sometimes violent rallies in an attempt to bring down the then government, which stood accused of being nothing more than a proxy for Mr Thaksin, who was sentenced in absentia to two years in jail for corruption

Protests by the "Red Shirts" against Mr Vejjajiva's government have had less impact, but last April 100,000 demonstratos forced the early end to a pan-Asian summit..

The threat they pose could, however, have been overblown for political gain, said Michael Montesano, an expert on Thai politics at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore.

"The fact that they need to put in place these measures today is a reminder of how little progress the Abhisit government has made since coming to power in changing the political landscape," he said. "I think a lot of it's propaganda."

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'Arts of Ancient Viet Nam' or Stealing, really?

Garuda with Naga Champa period late 12th-13th Century. Thap Mam site, Binh Dinh province stone. (National Museum of Vietnamese History)

The expansive exhibition of artifacts from the land's historical cultures is on view at the Asia Society in New York.

By Louise Roug

Reporting from New York - "Arts of Ancient Viet Nam," the most ambitious exhibition of Vietnamese art yet to appear in the United States, is a show about meetings.

In room after room, magnificent objects on display tell a story about people -- how we encounter one another and change in the process.

That such meetings are sometimes bloody was an inescapable issue for the organizers of the show, on view at the Asia Society in New York.

For decades, Vietnam existed in the American mind not so much as a geographical place with its own history but rather, singularly, as a synonym for conflict.

And it was this association -- as Asia Society Director Vishakha Desai put it: "that Vietnam means war" -- that organizers wanted to challenge. "We wanted to create a new story," Desai said. Given the interwoven history of America and Vietnam, it is a point delicately made.

For one thing, Nancy Tingley, the show's heroically stubborn curator who worked more than 20 years to realize "Arts of Ancient Viet Nam," has mounted an exhibition that looks at a time well before the Battle of Hue, the massacre at My Lai and the fall of Saigon. This is a historical show that examines another kind of meeting between people: one built on trade and commerce.

One reason it took so long for the exhibition to be realized was that before 2003 Vietnam didn't have a law that would allow for the lending of museum objects. But the Vietnamese government eventually threw its support behind the exhibition and 10 museums in Vietnam have contributed objects, including the Museum of Vietnamese History in Ho Chi Minh City.

Another obstacle was the lack of diplomatic relations between Vietnam and the United States until 1995. "Politics got in the way for some years, but we've gotten beyond that," said Tingley, based in Northern California.

Although she acknowledges the initial difficulty of realizing the project, Tingley is less interested in making overt political statements and more engaged with the question of what these beautifully crafted objects can tell us about the various peoples who lived between the first millennium BC and the 18th century in what is now Vietnam.

"Trade is a lens through which to look at the cultures," Tingley said, adding that as art and objects spread through trade so do ideas.

Or as the general director of the Department of Cultural Heritage in Vietnam, Dang Van Bai, puts it in a foreword to the catalog: "Arts and culture have always provided a bridge to mutual understanding among the peoples of the world."

With economic assistance from other countries, notably France, which has its own history in the region, Vietnam continues to improve the state of its museums, Tingley said.

The show, which runs through May 2, is remarkable for its scale, scope and beauty. The more than 100 objects, which have never appeared together before in an exhibit (not even in Vietnam), span almost 2,000 years. Because the exhibit spans such a wide period and includes different cultures, it is hard to point to a defining Vietnamese aesthetic. Rather, each of the four cultures on display have borrowed iconography and expressions from different parts of the world.

Organized chronologically, the show begins with two contemporary early cultures, the Dong Son and the Sa Huynh, who lived, respectively, in the north and the central-south part of the country until the 2nd century AD.

Like many cultures that appear to us centuries after their demise, the Sa Huynh are best viewed through their burial objects -- in this case, large, upright clay jars that held the dead along with offerings such as weapons and pottery -- and objects such as Chinese mirrors found at Sa Huynh sites suggest that the culture was a center for trade and exchange.

The most impressive remnants from the Dong Son culture are the large bronze drums on display, intricately patterned with abstract bands and images of people, which, along with chicken-headed ceramics, reveal a strong Chinese influence.

The next room reveals a different people -- the Fu Nan, a civilization of city-states that existed in the Mekong Delta from the 1st to the 5th century AD.; to provide historical context, Fu Nan gold jewelry is presented alongside contemporaneous imported objects from Rome, China and India.

The Fu Nan and their trading partners had rich opportunities to exchange ideas and expressions because the monsoon winds kept the traders in foreign ports for four to six months at a time. But little is known about the Fu Nan people except that they were impressive seafarers who built 200-foot-long ships that had an ability to carry up to 700 people and could be used to export not just goods but also live rhinos and elephants.

Moving on, a visitor encounters an almost life-size wooden Buddha -- an incredible artifact, not just for its slender, Giacometti-like beauty but for the simple fact that this wooden statue dates from the 6th century, having survived almost intact -- and half-smiling -- in the bog of the Mekong Delta.

The Buddha's right hand is raised in abhaya mudra, symbolizing peace, and the belly shows a slight bulge, indicating the intake of breath, prana -- gestures that suggest the creator of the Buddha had been exposed to Indian Gupta sculpture.

A wide-eyed demon in a stone frieze on display in another room shows how the people who lived between the 5th and the 15th century in the coastal kingdoms of Champa, near Hoi An, were also influenced by Indian aesthetics. Early Cham inscriptions were done in Sanskrit, and awe-inspiring stone sculptures of the Hindu god Shiva also reveal the Indian influence. (During another encounter between cultures much later, U.S. bombers destroyed a significant Cham site at My Son.)

The final part of the show looks at trade and exchange in the period between the 16th and the 18th century in the port city of Hoi An, about 20 miles from Danang. Chinese porcelain, Japanese silver, cinnamon and gold were among the wares that were traded at Hoi An, and luxury goods that have later been found attest to the continued connection to China and India as well as the Middle East.

Most of the pieces in this part of the show come from the Cu Lao Cham shipwreck, discovered during the 1990s. Tingley speculates that at least part of the ship's cargo was destined for a Vietnamese man living in an Islamic country somewhere in Southeast Asia, so that he might have not only the kinds of ceramic that reminded him of his home but also something that fit his new culture.

Carbon dating suggests that the ship went down in the 15th century, and the remains of fruit found aboard suggest that it had set sail in late fall. The lateness of the expedition meant that the sailors likely encountered rough weather, possibly causing the ship to go down.
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Pan Pacific group raising cash

By Caryn KunzAdvertiser Staff Writer

After 82 years of helping women and children in the Pacific, the Pan Pacific and Southeast Asia Women's Association will hold its first fundraiser next month.

The March 26 event, called Golf for a Child, will help raise money to build a school in rural Cambodia and provide continued support for local organizations such as the Susannah Wesley Community Center.

Founded in Honolulu, the association held its first conference in 1928 with delegates from 11 Pacific and Asian nations. Today, the organization includes 22 chapters dedicated to improving the lives of women and children from Sāmoa to Singapore.

"The basis of the club is still women helping women and children. I know today there are so many organizations that do this, but in 1928 there weren't," said the association's Hawai'i president, Mary Tori Keegan. "This was the first women's organization in the islands."

Keegan said that throughout the history of the group in Hawai'i, money for any cause the group supported came directly from member donations.

"The original members were all very wealthy women who were also very educated. Whenever they wanted to help a cause, they just wrote a check," Keegan said. "They never had to bother with fundraisers. Nowadays, we live in different times. This is the first big fundraiser that we're trying."

Golf for a Child Chairwoman Asipau Pamela Plouffe says the tournament has the potential to expand the association's outreach efforts as it becomes established.

"There is a need for education, not only in Cambodia but throughout the South Pacific and Southeast Asia, and we can be a vehicle for that good cause," she said. "It's something that we can look forward to annually. We also want to expand to other local causes as we establish ourselves and more funds come in."

The association's Hawai'i chapter supports Susannah Wesley Community Center's C-BASE high school diploma program, an alternative education program for youth ages 16 to 23.

"They've practically adopted those kids," said Ronald Higashi, the center's executive director. "They've always been at the graduations that we have here at the center. They even purchase the gowns."

Higashi said that in addition to C-BASE, the Hawai'i chapter also helps fund smaller projects throughout the year and often provides youths with extra necessities.

"I can't say enough about them," he said. "They're always there when we need them."

In May, the association will hold its international conference in Bali, Indonesia. After the conference, Keegan, Plouffe and association delegates from Hawai'i will travel to Cambodia to dedicate their school.

"We've gotten so many new members in the last several years, and they are terrific members that are willing to move in a little bit different direction," Keegan said. "It's a direction that we need now, today. I'm excited about it."

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North Korean agency reports leader's birthday celebrated

Feb 21, 2010 (BBC Monitoring via COMTEX) -- Pyongyang, February 21 (KCNA) - Meetings, film shows and book and photo exhibitions were held in Laos, Cambodia, Romania and Kyrgyzstan between Feb. 9 and 11 on the occasion of leader Kim Jong Il [Kim Cho'ng-il]'s birthday.

On display at the venues were his works and photos on his undying feats and books and photos of the Korean people's struggle for the building of a great prosperous and powerful nation and national reunification.

Speeches were made at the meetings.

The director of the School of Politics and Theory of the Ministry of the Public Security of Laos said that the Korean people have achieved great successes in defending the country, building socialism and improving the people's standard of living under the wise leadership of Kim Jong Il [Kim Cho'ng-il], adding that this serves as precious experience for the Lao people.

The chairman of the External Relations Commission of the People's Party of Cambodia noted that the friendly and cooperative relations between his party and the Korean Workers' Party are favourably developing day by day. The Cambodian people wish the Korean people greater successes in their efforts to build a thriving nation and achieve national reunification, he said.

The chairman of the Romania?Korea Friendship Association said that Kim Jong Il pursued songun [military-first] politics with the insight into the importance of army in carrying out the cause of independence, thereby developing the Korean People's Army into an invincible army, building a self-reliant defence industry and bringing about a great turning point in the building of a thriving nation with the efforts of all the people.

The chairman of the Central Council of the People Unity?"Kyrgys El" Republican Political Party said that the Korean people will surely build a great prosperous and powerful nation thanks to the songun [military-first] leadership of Kim Jong Il.

The participants of the film shows watched the Korean films "Fireworks for a Thriving Nation" and "Korean People's Army, Steel-Strong Ranks."

A message of greetings to Kim Jong Il [Kim Cho'ng-il] was adopted at the event in Romania.

Source: KCNA website, Pyongyang, in English 0336 gmt 21 Feb 10

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

US Center Reflects Greater Asean Attention

By Im Sothearith, VOA Khmer

The US has begun increased engagement with Asean, helping bring new levels of optimism to the region, US Ambassador to Asean Scot Marciel told VOA Khmer in an interview.

Marciel recently completed a diplomatic trip through the region, which has seen increasing economic growth in recent years.

“What we want is better partnerships, closer partnerships with Asean and with all the countries of Asean, where we can work together on a wide range of issues: trade, economic development, health, security concerns, nontraditional security threats, climate change,” Marciel said, at the launch of the Asean Studies Center at American University in Washington. “There’s a whole host of issues where there’s value in the United States working with countries of Southeast Asia. That’s what we’re looking for. We want to be a good partner.”

Asean welcomes American participation, Surin Pitsuwan, Asean secretary-general, told VOA Khmer.

“It’s a major superpower with a lot of resources in the fields of security, economic development, and technological progress, education, human resource,” Pitsuwan said. “If the US really engages with Asean, I think it is going to be a tremendous boost to Southeast Asia, to Asean, certainly to the entire region, because we are connecting major economies, like China, like Japan, and India, Australia together. So, it is important for the US to come back and reengage.”

Even the opening of a specific Asean study program signaled more engagement, he said.

“This is a new focus of intellectual undertaking on regional cooperation,” he said. “Asean is just one element of that regional cooperation.”

“It’s a great opportunity for Americans to have a center that focuses on Asean specifically, not just Southeast Asia as a whole,” Marciel said. “So it’s an opportunity to increase the level of scholarship in the United States about Asean and increase the awareness in the United States about Asean and its growing role.”

Louis Goodman, dean of American University’s School of International Service, told VOA Khmer that center reflected the increasing international importance of Asean.

Asean “is quite successful already and it will be more successful in the 21st Century,” Goodman said.

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Exclusive: Scots miner's son was first Westerner to interview Pol Pot - and was killed hours later

IT was Christmas Eve when Richard Caldwell heard his father had been shot dead in Cambodia.

Only hours after he became the first Briton to meet the notorious dictator Pol Pot, Malcolm Caldwell lay dead in a hotel room in the capital Phnom Penh.

Richard was 21 and at a party at his girlfriends house in 1978 when the call came through that his Scottish lecturer dad had been murdered.

He said: I dont even remember who called. It must have been my mum. I just remember being told he was dead. It was devastating. It was chilling news. Horrible.

We hadnt been expecting him to meet with any trouble at all.

To this day, we dont know why he was killed and I am not sure we ever will.

Pol Pots notorious Maoist ruling party the Khmer Rouge ran Cambodia from 1975 to 1979. During their evil rule, up to 2.5million people perished.

Under Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge tried to take Cambodia back to the Middle Ages, forcing millions of people from the cities to work on farms in the countryside.

But it failed miserably and whole families were enslaved, starved and murdered.

Richard has opened his heart after a former leader of the Khmer Rouge went on trial in Phnom Penh more than 30 years after the brutal regime fell.

Duch, real name Kaing Guek Eav, was head of Tuol Sleng prison camp and is accused of presiding over the murder and torture of at least 15,000 inmates.

Malcolm was 47 when he went to Cambodia as a communist who agreed with the regimes policy of forcing the rich and powerful back to the land.

At that time, the Khmer Rouge had successfully hidden the slaughter from the world and many considered them freedom fighters who stopped Cambodia falling into the clutches of bullyboy America.

Before the Khmer Rouge, during the Vietnam War, America had pounded Cambodia with bombs and set it up with a corrupt puppet government.

Richard said: My father believed in going back to the land and people being self-sufficient. We all know now, looking back, that he was supporting a terrible regime. But he didnt know it at the time.

He knew the ruling elite, the rich and intellectuals, were being forced out of the towns and on to the land.

But he obviously didnt know that they were being killed.

I am sure he would have been horrified if he had known. That may have been what happened. He found out and they killed him because of it.

Malcolms colleagues describe him as a gentle, tolerant, courteous and fundamentally decent man who was a dedicated teacher and writer.

He was scruffy, exceptionally bright and focused on politics. Richard remembers a dad he adored, who was loving but distant.

The son of a miner who had retrained as architect, Malcolm was brought up in Kirkcudbright, Dumfriesshire. He and his brother and sister were all duxes at Kirkcudbright Academy and Malcolm was said to have read every book in the library before he went to Edinburgh University.

As a child, he bred rabbits and chickens and always had a passion for the land.

He met and married his first wife, Ann, while completing a PhD at Nottingham University, where she was also studying.

They had four children but his political progression didnt extend to being a hands-on dad or doing household chores.

In 1959, he joined the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London as a research fellow and became chairman of CND.

At home, he would retreat to his study when he wasnt lecturing and every day he went to the pub for a Guinness at lunchtime and a pint in the evening.

In 1973, he left Ann and the children after years of marriage. He remarried in 1976. Malcolm travelled every chance he got, to China, to North Korea and Vietnam, the countries he felt were putting his political beliefs into practice.

He adored his mother, Violet, and sent her mementoes from wherever he went. Malcolm went to Cambodia with American journalists Elizabeth Becker and Richard Dudman. They were among the first Westerners to get in after the Khmer Rouge closed the borders.

Richard said: Cambodia has a sinister ring to us now but at that time, the Khmer Rouge were known as freedom fighters. Not a lot of information was coming out and access was very restricted.

It wasnt considered scary to go there. It wasnt considered threatening to Westerners, I suppose because no Westerners went there. I certainly wasnt worried about his safety.

I suppose looking back, he was politically naive. But he felt he knew the country through his many contacts there.

It is one of reasons I have been reluctant to hold any strident political views, because he was so adamant and yet he turned out to be so wrong.

It was three days before Christmas 1978 and on the last day of his trip, Malcolm was granted an audience with Pol Pot.

The dictator had rarely been seen beyond his most trusted circle but, as an invasion by neighbour Vietnam seemed imminent, he wanted to show he had allies in the West.

So Malcolm became the first Briton to meet him. The only other person present was a translator, who would later say the encounter had been animated and friendly.

That night back at the hotel, Becker, who had grown disillusioned with the Khmer Rouge, debated with Malcolm.

Becker said: Caldwell tried once more to get me to change my mind. He compared Cambodia to Scotland. He was a Scottish nationalist and said Cambodia feared Vietnam the way Scotland feared the English. I saw no relevance to such a remark, and he retired to his room with the prophecy that Scotland would be independent by the middle of the Eighties.

But regardless of their political differences, she liked him. He was a real sweetie, she said. He was also homesick for his family and said he would never spend another Christmas away from them.

Becker went to bed at 11pm and was woken by the sound of gunfire. She opened her bedroom door to be confronted by a young man brandishing a gun.

She panicked and fled to the bathroom. Dudman had also woken up and knocked on Malcolms door. As they discussed the commotion, another armed man appeared and fired shots into the floor.

Dudman ran into his room and hid. Two hours later, an aide told Decker and Dudman that Caldwell was dead in his room and he wanted them to witness that his body was there.

Decker said: There was Malcolm, lying on the floor in his pyjamas, blood on his chest, hislong auburn hair wild around his face. His eyes were closed. At the threshold of his room was another body, a young man clothed in black who looked like the boy who had pointed his pistol at me.

What was he doing there, dead, sprawled across the floor?

She was never given an answer.

A few years ago, documents obtained with a freedom of information request, by Malcolms brother David, suggested he had been murdered by Pol Pots regime, perhaps because the Scottish academic had, at the last minute, seen it for what it was.

Or perhaps an enemy of Pol Pot did it to embarrass the regime.

The next month, the Vietnamese invaded and the regime was no more. Whatever the reason, Malcolms death was pointless. Becker believes there may have been no real motive and it was as senseless as the rest of the slaughter in Cambodia.

She said: Malcolms murder was no less rational than the tens of thousands of murders. His death was caused by the madness of the regime he openly admired.

Two guards assigned to Malcolm and the journalists were arrested and tortured at the Tuol Sleng, so its not possible to give credence to their confession that the execution was designed to undermine the Khmer Rouge.

They claimed the journalists had been allowed to live so they would write about it.

Richard believes the mystery will never be solved. He said: I can relate to the idea that it was Pol Pot because that would suggest Dad knew what was going on and they had to get rid of him. But who knows?

I did think of going to Cambodia to see the place for myself but I dont think I will now. I dont think it would serve a purpose.

I dont think we will ever know who killed my father.
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