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Friday, January 22, 2010

Alex Chin proves his mastery of pan-Asian food at Suzie Wong

remember when the concept of pan-Asian hit Cincinnati. Pacific Moon in Montgomery first offered dishes from various Asian cuisines -Thai, Chinese and Japanese - all on the same menu.

Now there's even more to explore as Vietnamese has become more familiar, there's a lot of interest in Korean food, and people are ready to try Malaysian and Cambodian.

Suzie Wong, newly open in East Walnut Hills, offers these newer adventures. With a smartly selected group of dishes from all corners of East and Southeast Asia, you can find something new. Not surprisingly, you'll also find Alex Chin, who was behind that first Pacific Moon menu. He is running Suzie Wong for a Chicago Chinese restaurant group.

Suzie took over the former location of Seny at DeSales Corner. Painted red, fronted by a wall of windows, it's a modern, stylish dining room. A glittery painting of a Chinese robe decorates one wall, the tableware is modern, the feeling chic.

Appetizers come in three categories: warm, cold and group. My husband and I decided we qualified as a group, and ordered two appetizers really meant to be shared by a table of people. We polished them off easily, though.

The dish I'll remember, and no doubt recommend many times, was the Cambodian carpaccio ($11.95). Slices of raw beef filet are topped with a mouth-exploding combination of flavors: tart with lime, fresh with basil, spicy, and salty, you will fight over it. Calamari ($5.95) in a thick, crisp coating with pomegranate sauce was equally hard to stop eating.

Most of the entrées are served to be eaten by one person. That worked out well for me when I ordered the green Bangkok curry served in a coconut shell ($13.95). It swam in a moderately spicy sauce, silky in both texture and taste. They use fresh coconut milk for the dish, not canned, according to Chin, and that's why it feels so light.

But when I ordered the Thai pomegranate chicken ($12.95), I encouraged sharing. It was really the only dish I didn't like, overloaded with a heavy sweet sauce splashed around not as decorative as the cook intended.

The Korean noodle bowl, jan chi guksu ($8.95) was spicy with kimchee and filled with "glass noodles", those transparent rice noodles that are the most slippery substance ever invented, and topped with a fried egg. Nothing better on a cold night - it even beats the delicious pho, ($8.95) with a rich, beefy broth, served with a veritable salad of basil, bean sprouts, lime and peppers.

There's no dessert, but the sensational kalbi ($15.95), Korean beef ribs coated with a rich, sweet sauce served on a sizzling plate, could have substituted.

Service was good, and Chin is a hard worker. Nevertheless, if we had played a drinking game, taking a sip every time any of our servers said "you guys," we would have left plastered.

But we would have had to bring our bottle. They don't have a liquor license yet. But they do deliver in the neighborhood, and I know if I lived nearby, I'd put Suzie on my speed-dial.

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Cambodia Labor Union Issues Strike Warning

Associated Press

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia -- Cambodia's largest labor union warned Friday that it would launch a nationwide strike unless authorities arrest those responsible for the killing of their prominent leader six-years ago.

Chea Vichea, 36, founder and president of Free Trade Union of Workers, was fatally shot in front of a newsstand in the capital Phnom Penh on Jan. 22, 2004. He was known for his outspoken efforts to organize garment workers and improve working conditions in Cambodia.

Two men were convicted in the deaths and sentenced to 20-year prison terms, but many people believed they were framed for the crime and the country's Supreme Court has ordered a retrial.

Chea Mony, the slain leader's brother and current leader of the union, marked the sixth anniversary of the killing by leading a march of nearly 100 workers and a dozen opposition legislators to the spot where the shooting took place. The march was held under heavy security but was peaceful and no one was arrested.

"Today, I wish to send a message to the government that it is time to arrest the real murderers," Chea Mony said. "If the government continues to ignore our appeals, then we will hold a one-week, nationwide strike," he said, adding it would come some time this year.

In December 2008, Cambodia's highest court provisionally released the two men convicted in the Chea Vichea killing Born Samnang, 24, and Sok Sam Oeun, 36, and ordered further investigation in preparation for their retrial.

The court did not give a reason, but the decision came after widespread protests over the convictions.

The Cambodian government, meanwhile, denounced a critical report by Human Rights Watch released this week.

The New York-based rights group said in its annual World Report that "the government misused the judiciary to silence government critics, attacked human rights defenders, tightened restrictions on press freedom, and abandoned its international obligations to protect refugees."

"Cambodians who speak out to defend their homes, their jobs, and their rights face threats, jail, and physical attacks," said Brad Adams, director of its Asia division.

Responding to the report, Cabinet spokesman Phay Siphan said Friday that Cambodia's human rights situation is improving every year thanks to government efforts. "That report sings the same old song and is not a truly scientific report," he said.

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East Turkestan: Cambodia's deportations ordered by China

The deportation of 20 Uighur asylum seekers to China from Cambodia is a sign of China’s influence over its neighbor.

After decades of isolation due to genocide and political conflict, Cambodia has integrated with regional groups like the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and adopted a free market system. However, the right to movement in the country is still restricted and issues related to refugees and migrants are highly politicized. The deportation of 20 Uighur asylum seekers to China in December last year reveals the implications and challenges that face Cambodia.

Although many Cambodian refugees who survived the brutal Khmer Rouge regime were resettled in other countries thanks to the 1951 U.N. Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol, which is a legally binding treaty and a milestone in international refugee law, the Cambodian government, which is a signatory to the convention, ignored it in deporting the Uighurs. It has therefore violated its legal and humanitarian responsibilities. Ethnic tensions between the Uighurs and China’s majority Han people in China’s northwest province of Xinjiang resulted in nearly 200 deaths and 1,600 injured in a July riot last year. Subsequently, hundreds of Uighurs were detained and many executed for their involvement in the riots.

According to Human Rights Watch, at least 43 Uighurs disappeared while 22 entered Cambodia with the hope of seeking asylum to flee persecution in China. Despite appeals from human rights activists and the international community, the Cambodian government, which previously had claimed it would cooperate with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees to provide asylum, promptly deported the Uighurs the day before Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping visited Cambodia.

This clearly indicates China’s strong political influence on the Cambodian government, which allegedly received a package of grants and loans worth approximately US$1 billion for deporting the Uighurs.

In addition, irregularities in the application of Cambodian laws were also evident in the deportation process. Two days prior to the deportation, a new decree signed by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen was issued making the processing of asylum cases the sole responsibility of the Ministry of Interior.

Although the government denied that the passage of this item, which was being drafted for more than six months, was not relevant to the Uighurs’ deportation, it seemed more than pure coincidence. Furthermore, the deportation process was completed in a hurried manner on a late Saturday night when government officials do not work.

The government later justified its action by claiming that the deportation was based on immigration laws and that the Uighurs had illegally entered the country without valid passports or visas. If that is the case, then the government has failed to tackle the many cases of illegal migrants from Vietnam. That the deportation of the Uighurs from Cambodia was influenced by China is evident from the remarks of its Foreign Ministry, which said at a press conference, “China’s stance is very clear. The international refugee protection system should not become a shelter where criminals stay to escape legal punishment.” If the Cambodian government stands by China’s remarks, then why has it not deported former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who is an economic adviser to the Cambodian government, despite repeated requests from the Thai government?

Thaksin was ousted in a 2006 military coup and faces a minimum two-year jail term for corruption, according to the Thai government. But the Cambodian government says that Thaksin’s conviction is politically motivated and that the extradition treaty between the two nations allows either party to deny extradition in cases of “political offenses,” among others. But Cambodia is not the only country where deportation cases are politicized. Thailand has also been criticized for abusing the refugee convention following its late December deportation of an estimated 4,000 ethnic Hmong asylum seekers back to Laos where they face persecution.

Historically, the Hmong people supported the United States during the Vietnam War when the conflict spread to Laos. After the war ended and the communists resumed power in 1975, thousands fled to neighboring Thailand. The Thai government has repeatedly ignored accusations of alleged killings of Cambodian loggers who illegally cross the border and stray into the forests of Thailand. In addition, it has also denied the abuse of refugees from Myanmar who were turned back to sea and left to perish without food and water. Immigration laws have also been politicized in the United States. Several of its immigration laws in the past 20 years were introduced during periodic episodes of anti-migrant hysteria and have been a major political issue during presidential election campaigns.

For example, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, which applied retroactively to those convicted of deportable offenses, including some who had committed minor offences decades ago, was signed under former President Bill Clinton’s administration in September, shortly before elections in November that year. Previously, immediate deportation was enacted only for offences that led to five years or more in jail. This included crimes such as murder, terrorism or threatening the president. However, the 1996 law expanded the scope of crimes meriting deportation to include even minor crimes such as shoplifting. Moreover, the act stripped judges of nearly all discretion in determining whether permanent residents should be deported. There are limits on litigation that prevent individuals or groups from suing the government or appealing decisions by the Immigration Department or lower courts.

Under the expansion of this law together with the 2002 extradition agreement between the United States and Cambodia, signed after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, nearly 200 Cambodian refugees were deported by November 2008 and roughly 2,000 are waiting to be deported. Beyond the unconstitutional law provision, the deportation has been done without any consideration on the impact of the deportees’ livelihood and their families. In a nutshell, many states have abused the rights of migrants and refugees for political benefit despite being signatories to the U.N. refugee convention.

These ongoing violations are a signal to the international community to seek a more effective mechanism and willingness from governments to respect the rights of refugees instead of misusing them for political gain.

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Confucius Institute opens Chinese-language class in Cambodia

Students listen during a Chinese lesson at the Confucius Institute of the Royal Academy of Cambodia in Phnom Penh, Jan. 21, 2010. (Xinhua/Lei Bosong)

The Confucius Institute of the Royal Academy of Cambodia held a ceremony Thursday to celebrate the opening of its first Chinese-language class and Chinese Ambassador to Cambodia Zhang Jinfeng gave the first lecture titled "the History of Chinese and Cambodian Relationship."

The first class has 50 students from various ministries of the government, including the Council of Ministers, ministries of interior, defense, education and information, as well as some universities in the country.

Dr. Khlot Thyda, rector of the Royal Academy of Cambodia and the Confucius Institute, said that "the opening of its first Chinese-language class is of great significance for both sides, especially the big chance for our government officials to study and understand Chinese culture, as well as to promote the exchange of culture between the two countries."

The Confucius Institute in Cambodia, established on Dec. 22, 2009, was jointly run by the Royal Academy of Cambodia and China's Jiujiang University in Jiangxi Province.

On Dec. 22, 2009, Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping unveiled the first Confucius Institute in Cambodia during his visit in Phnom Penh.

Zhang Jinfeng said that China and Cambodia have over 2,000 years of history of friendly exchanges. Since ancient times, China and Cambodia have learn from each other, and have made important contributions to the development and prosperity of oriental culture.

She also recalled the history that in 1955, Premier Zhou Enlai met with Norodom Sihanouk at the Bandung Conference that opened a new chapter in Sino-Cambodian relations.

In her nearly two-hour long lecture, Zhang said that at present, China and Cambodia have established comprehensive cooperative partnership and the two countries have a high degree of political trust and mutually beneficial economic cooperation in various fields, which she said, will be sure to achieve fruitful results, bringing the two peoples tangible benefits.

"I'm very glad to be a student of the first class of the Confucius Institute and listened the lecture given by the Ambassador Zhang," Long Chan Davy told Xinhua with exciting, adding that "I hope to learn more about China to promote the exchange of the culture of the two countries." She also expressed her hope that more and more Cambodians could come here to study Chinese culture.

Sok Chankrissna, student from a university, said that he wants to learn Chinese language "because Chinese language has become the one of the most vital languages in the world. So, more and more people want to grasp it."

"Cambodia and China have long history of friendship, and our Royal Government always pays a great attention to strengthen and develop the traditionally relations between our two countries," said Mam Chheang, student from government sector, adding "as a government official, I think it is very necessary to learn Chinese language to contribute to promoting and deepening the Cambodia and China friendship relations," he added.

The institute, which is the first in Cambodia, will offer a series of Chinese language programs to Cambodian learners and also offer training programs to Chinese language teachers here in the future, according to Wang Xianmiao, rector of the institute for the Chinese side.

Source: Xinhua
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