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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Two Cambodian loggers shot, one missing in new Thai border incident

Phnom Penh - Cambodian authorities said two Cambodian citizens logging illegally in Thailand have been shot dead by Thai troops and a third is missing, national media reported Wednesday.

The two dead men were in a party of 26 who crossed the border on January 10 in Oddar Meanchey province in north-west Cambodia, the Cambodia Daily newspaper quoted a senior army source as saying.

It was the latest in a series of shootings in the past four months in which Thai troops were accused of shooting Cambodians logging illegally and brings the number of dead to at least four.

Last week, the Cambodian government said it would station extra soldiers along the border in Oddar Meanchey to prevent its citizens from crossing illegally into Thailand. After the latest incident was reported, Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said the government would again increase its efforts.

'The government will build more checkpoints to prevent them and warn them from crossing the border illegally to prevent shootings,' he told the newspaper.

In the most infamous case, a 16-year-old died in September after he was shot and wounded, then allegedly tied to an ox cart while alive and set on fire by Thai soldiers. The Thai government later insisted the teenager had already died from gunshot wounds when troops burned his body.

Poverty is widespread in Cambodia and drives thousands to work in Thailand, often illegally.

The relationship between the two nations has been tense for more than a year with a number of clashes reported between troops from both countries over a disputed piece of land near the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple in northern Cambodia.

Ties worsened late last year when Cambodia appointed Thailand's fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra as an adviser to the government.
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Nation ups security ties with Cambodia

HA NOI—Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung yesterday stressed that Viet Nam’s Ministry of Public Security and Cambodia’s Ministry of Interior needed to boost their co-operation to benefit people in both countries.

He made this statement while receiving Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Sar Kheng.

Dung expressed his pleasure with the great achievements in the traditional and friendly relations between the two countries, as well as with the results of meetings between Sar Kheng and Vietnamese Minister of Public Security Le Hong Anh.

He said he hoped that in the future, the two ministries would actively implement their agreements.

Dung said that the good relationship between the two ministries would create favourable conditions for the two countries, especially for their border-sharing provinces.

The leader said that the two ministries needed to develop their mutual support and co-operation in training and the exchange of professional skills to ensure security and social order.

For his part, Sar Kheng said that the co-operation between the two ministries had contributed to boosting the development of the two countries’ relations across all fields.

He affirmed that the Cambodian Government was ready to co-operate with Viet Nam in implementing the agreements reached by the two countries’ leaders, including the co-operation agreement between the Cambodian Ministry of Interior and the Vietnamese Ministry of Public Security.

Earlier yesterday, Sar Kheng held talks with Anh about the two ministries’ co-operation last year, and on the co-operation between the two ministries this year.

On the same day, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung received Professor Joseph Nye of Harvard University, the author of the theory of soft power.

Dung said that Viet Nam always appreciated its co-operation with the United States in the fields of economy, trade, investment, education and training.

He said that the relations between Viet Nam and the US on politics and diplomacy in bilateral and multilateral forums had become stronger.

The leader affirmed that the country was always consistent with building its market economy, integrating into the world economy, ensuring the social welfare system and environmental protection and developing friendship with other countries for mutual benefits.

Professor Nye affirmed that Viet Nam had been forecast to make impressive progress like Singapore and South Korea in the future.

He said that trade liberalisation and globalisation were still going on, giving the country a good chance to boost its exports and attract foreign direct investments.

Dung said he hoped that with his prestige, Professor Nye would make contributions to the co-operative and equal relationship between Viet Nam and the US, as well as between Viet Nam’s universities and Harvard University.

Nye affirmed that Harvard University always paid close attention to Viet Nam. — VNS
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U.S. help Cambodian judicial officials on IT data base

PHNOM PENH, Ninety-seven members of Cambodia's Ministry of Justice received diplomas on Wednesday after they had successfully completing an intensive information technology (IT) training program funded by the United States.

The statement released by the United States Embassy in Phnom Penh said the five-month course -- the first of its kind offered at the ministry -- provided basic technology skills to the graduates and trained them on the use of an electronic information system that is being installed at the ministry by the United States.

As more and more Cambodians come to trust the country's courts to resolve their disputes, the volume and complexity of the ministry's work will increase, an issue the new system will help address, said Flynn Fuller, the mission director.

The system consists of an office intranet for file sharing, a webpage to publicize court information such as caseloads and clearance rates, and a series of databases.

Many court officials still use hand writing for their reports and keep their information on shelves instead of using computer database.

According the statement, the United States is providing nearly two million U.S. dollars this year to strengthen Cambodia's legal system by training judges and lawyers and by providing the public with greater access to information about the courts.
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Cambodian PM says Thai govt will collapse

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: Cambodian premier Hun Sen Tuesday stoked a diplomatic row with Thailand, saying the neighboring country’s government would not survive and branding its foreign minister the “chief of terrorists.” Ties between the two nations, which have fought a string of deadly border clashes, hit a new low late last year when Phnom Penh appointed former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra as an economics adviser.

Hun Sen told a student graduation ceremony that the current Thai government would “not have long to live” and vowed to wait for a new administration to take power in Bangkok before fully restoring diplomatic relations.

Thailand and Cambodia recalled their ambassadors in November and expelled senior diplomats over Hun
Sen’s appointment of Thaksin, who is living abroad to avoid a jail term for corruption in his home country.

Diplomatic tensions soared further when Phnom Penh then refused to extradite Thaksin during his first visit to Cambodia in his new role.

Thai premier Abhisit Vejjajiva took office in December 2008 and must call an election by December 2011.
He came to power after a blockade of Bangkok’s airports in 2008 helped bring down the previous, pro-Thaksin government.

Hun Sen criticized Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya for his involvement in the blockade, which was carried out by the royalist “Yellow Shirt” movement that also helped spark the coup that toppled Thaksin in 2006.

“You are the chief of terrorists in the siege of the airports, because some Cambodians were also hostages at the airports,” Hun Sen said Tuesday, referring to Kasit.

Kasit is a favorite target of the Cambodian strongman after allegedly calling Hun Sen a “gangster” in a parliamentary debate last year. The Thai minister said at the time that his comments had been translated incorrectly.

Hun Sen also restated Cambodia’s claim to disputed land around an ancient temple on the border between the two countries, a row that has sparked a series of clashes since mid-2008 in which seven people have died.

Thai media reported Tuesday that Thaksin would visit Cambodia again in late January to better coordinate fresh anti-government protests in Thailand by his own supporters, known as the “Red Shirts.”

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Second Helping

By Jesse Hughey

Dallas hip-hop producer and DJ Rob Viktum is known as an impeccably tasteful sampler, a beatmaker who uses snippets of half-forgotten soul songs and boom-bap drumbeats for a sound that hearkens to the '90s Golden Era of rap and '70s movie soundtracks. And yet he still manages to sound modern.

But, in 2007, his Progress project referenced a completely different time and place: pre-Khmer Rouge Cambodia. Inspired by a treasure trove of records given to him by a Cambodian family member, he assembled a combination of hard-hitting hip-hop beats merging Cambodian classical music and pop with rappers contributing verses to a handful of the tracks. He offered the resulting collection as a free download on the Internet, and it became a minor sensation, with more than 10,000 copies downloaded in the States and in Southeast Asia.

Tuesday, meanwhile, brought the release of the follow-up, Progress Vol. 2. But, this time, Viktum is raising more than just awareness: Each $7.99 download charge for the digital album will go to a soon-to-be-determined Cambodian charity.

As with the original, Viktum used samples from some 35 or 40 records saved by his longtime girlfriend Tavy Um's father Sihourn Um, who with his wife, Sovannary Um, managed to escape the Pol Pot-led genocide. Knowing of Viktum's love of music, Sihourn gave the rare records to his de facto son-in-law. Had he not salvaged them, they would have almost certainly been destroyed, as music and other cultural artifacts were seen by the communist regime as tainted by capitalism.

"A lot of them were completely random compilations," Viktum says. "One song might be classical Oriental music, and the next will be a Credence Clearwater Revival cover."

While he was proud of the results and bolstered by the encouragement of Um's family, Viktum braced himself for criticism that he was misappropriating the Cambodian culture. To his shock, there was none.

"I figured there would be some backlash, but the Cambodian youth were so intrigued by it because all that music had been destroyed during Khmer Rouge," he says. "They're enthralled with U.S. hip-hop, and then for them to see it used in that way was exciting for them."

While she thinks it's a great album, Tavy is just as proud of Viktum's research into the dark subject. Her parents don't talk much about their experiences during the regime, but a 1999 trip to Cambodia capital Phnom Penh brought the horror to life. There, she visited a memorial at the school her parents had attended. The school had been turned into a torture camp—bloodstains on the walls were still visible, and bones exhumed from a mass grave loomed in a gruesome pile that stood two stories high.

"A lot of people don't realize that as many people were affected as were during the Holocaust," she says.

Like the first, Progress 2 is a mix of instrumental beats and songs with rappers. Each instrumental track is named for a specific date corresponding to an unnamed event, which Viktum hopes will encourage curious record buyers to do some research into the genocide. As for the tracks with rhymes, Viktum let the guest rappers come up with their own titles. In fact, he gave them no framework for their lyrics.

"I didn't want people rapping at you about the issue, because that comes off as corny," he says. " I just said, 'Do whatever the song makes you feel.'"

Despite that lack of guidance, he says positive vibes of triumph over adversity seemed to be a recurring theme.

"Problem Child [from Austin] did 'Born Leader,' which is kind of a from-the-ashes, phoenix-type story," he says. "And Caucasian [from Lubbock] sang 'Progress,' which is just one of those feel-good, moving-forward type things."

Other rappers include Damien Randle of Houston's Legendary K.O./K-Otix, original Progress alum Bavu Blakes (from Austin by way of Dallas) and Viktum's collaborator on his recent Aight, New Drink release, Elucid from Brooklyn.

Though Viktum had a beneficiary in mind, he found out some "sketchy" information about the would-be recipient. As it happened, Um's family recently left the States to visit Cambodia following a death in the family. While there, Viktum says, they plan to choose a beneficiary.

Even without that detail finalized, Progress Vol. 2 is already moving forward.
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