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Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Russian experts offer training to Cambodian anti-drug officials

Mar 03, 2010 (BBC Monitoring via COMTEX) -- [Report by Visal: "Anti-Drug Law Enforcement Officials Are Trained To Have Sufficient Capacity"]

Phnom Penh: 57 Cambodian anti-drug law enforcement officials, from the Departments of Customs and Camcontrol, Anti-Drug Bureau, National Military Police, Phnom Penh Municipality, and Kandal Province, are receiving, starting from 1 March morning, training instructed by Russian experts to increase their capability and knowledge so they will have sufficient skills to enforce the drug control law.

Kao Khondara, vice-chairman of the National Authority for Combating Drugs, said that this training course would help drug law enforcement officials, who were having difficulty in combating illegal drug trafficking, production, and transaction, to obtain higher possibilities in drug control.

Alexander I. Ignatov, Russian ambassador to Cambodia, said that the Russian Government, like the Russian people, had always helped Cambodia in national rehabilitation and construction. Particularly, the Russian drug control institution had provided technical assistance and expert trainers to make presentation in this training course.

It should be pointed out that the four-day training course on drug control law enforcement will focus on a number of themes, including cooperation with public and non-government organizations in combating drugs trafficking and preventing drug use, cooperation offered with the monitoring of measures to thwart money laundering [sentence as published], and investigation into crimes relating to the theft of drugs from legal drug circulation.

Source: Reaksmei Kampuchea, Phnom Penh, in Cambodian 3 Mar 10

BBC Mon AS1 AsPol FS1 FsuPol tbj

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Ex-war correspondents plan reunion in Cambodia+

PHNOM PENH, March 3 (AP) - (Kyodo)—A group of war correspondents plans to hold a reunion next month in Phnom Penh in memory of colleagues who perished in Cambodia during the Indo-China War in the early 1970s, organizers of the event said Wednesday.

Chhang Song, an information minister during the U.S.-backed Lon Nol government, told Kyodo News that the event was set for April 20-23 with a gathering of war correspondents who covered Cambodia from 1970, when the Lon Nol government was inaugurated, to 1975, when the Lon Nol regime collapsed and gave way to the Khmer Rouge government.

Carl Robinson, a former Associated Press correspondent and another organizer of the event, told Kyodo News via e-mail that while there had been reunions in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon, among war correspondents who covered the Vietnam War, none had been held in Cambodia.

Chhang Song said the commemorative plan had received full backing from Khieu Kanharith, the Cambodian minister of information.

Robinson, who was based in Saigon from 1968 through 1975, said that between April 1970 and April 1975, 33 foreign journalists and 21 Cambodian journalists were killed or went missing while performing their jobs.

Among foreign journalists who died during the Cambodia conflict were 10 Japanese, eight French nationals, seven Americans, and others from Switzerland, West Germany, Austria, Netherlands, India, Laos and Australia.

"Chhang Song and I are the inspiration behind this one. I think for many of us, the experience of Cambodia was so painful -- not only the war itself but what followed -- that it's been very hard for us to come to terms with over the years," Robinson said.

Robinson said he expects more than a dozen of the 40 or so surviving war correspondents to attend the reunion.

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Kbal Spean or the River of 1000 Lingas : The combination of natural and cultural attraction

Located about 50 kilometers from Siem Reap town, Cambodia, Kbal Spean is one of the foremost attraction sites in the Province. The site is also commonly known as the River of 1000 Lingas.

Mar 03, 2010 – Located about 50 kilometers from Siem Reap town, Cambodia, Kbal Spean is one of the foremost attraction sites in the Province. The site is also commonly known as the River of 1000 Lingas. If traveling from Banteay Srey, the finest architectural temple, it will take 12 Km. Kbal Spean offers both natural and cultural attraction to visitor at the same time. It can be argued that Kbal Spean is a unique Angkorain area due to its holy and cultural aspects accompanying with the pure forest and water fall. The River of 1000 Lingas, which is located in Phnom Kulen, represents the combination of natural beauty and the religious carving stone.

The Angkorain area was constructed under the reign of King Jayavarman II in the early of 9 century. The linga is a simple phallic shape, the symbol of the god Shiva and his powers of creation. There are reportedly around 1,000 images in all. They probably served a purification purpose. In addition to the lingas along the riverbed, there are bas-relief carvings in many of the boulders along the stream. The carvings end in a small but pretty waterfall that apparently was once used as a ritual bathing spot by the king. The landscape around the stream is also rather spectacular in itself. It is no doubt that the place was the hiding spot of the Khmer Rouge during the war time. With the reclining Buddha,remarkable riverbed caving, water fall, and pure forest, Kbal Spean can be a good attraction, especially during the raining season when the place contains large volume of water, where visitor can enjoy. Regarding to religious belief, some visitors believe after getting bath there, it will bring good things and even help cure the illness.

This attraction is popular for domestic tourists while probably the international tourists may lack information and the long distance from Siem Reap town. However, to complete and explore the real travel experience in the top destination of Cambodia, Kbal Spean WOULD NOT BE MISSED. It is the golden opportunity to view all attractions of the world heritage site and economically contribute to local resident and help enhance living standard and be apart of sustainable tourism development solution in Cambodia.

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Drought drops Mekong River to nearly 2-decade low


BANGKOK — Severe drought has dropped the Mekong River to its lowest level in nearly 20 years, halting some cargo traffic and boat tours on the Asian waterway that is the lifeblood for 65 million people in six countries, a draft report said.

The decrease was caused largely by an early end to the 2009 wet season and low rainfall during the monsoons, rather than dams built upstream in China, according to documents drafted by the Mekong River Commission.

"At this stage there is no indication that the existence of dams upstream has made the situation more extreme than the natural case," said the draft report seen by The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Nongovernmental organizations have long blamed China for shrinking the Mekong and causing other ecological damage by building dams. A dozen exist or are planned on the river in the country where it originates.

But dams have also been built or planned in other countries, principally on the river's many tributaries in Laos.

Senior officials from Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam met Wednesday in Luang Prabang, Laos, to discuss the river. China and Myanmar, the other two riparian countries, are not commission members.

The report said the river level in southwestern China is the lowest in 50 years, with only half the volume that would be normal in February. Levels at mainstream measuring stations in Laos and northern Thailand are below those in 1992.

River tour operators have stopped services on stretches of the river in Laos and cargo vessels have been halted in China's Yunnan province, the report said.

The commission said the water scarcity has sparked fears of food shortages, lack of access to clean water and impoverishment in some of Southeast Asia's poorest regions.

"This situation represents a wide regional hydrological drought affecting all countries in the upper part of the (Mekong) basin," the report said. It also noted the commission will hold further discussions with China but gave no details.

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Voyage of discovery: Vietnam, Camboidia

Written by Catharine Stewart-Roache

After docking in Ho Chih Minh City (Saigon) we immediately got on an airplane and flew to Phnom Penh, the capitol of Cambodia. We visited museums, palaces, and took a sunset boat trip on the Mekong. But the transforming moment for 60 of us (students, faculty and Lifelong Learners) was our visit to the Palm Tree Orphanage where 80 children ages 1-24 live as one big family, taking care of each other and getting more education than the government schools.

As we walked down a dark but crowded street on Friday night, we felt small hands in ours to take us to their home. The children were ready to show us where they have classes and go to sleep, play and eat. They know only a little English, but hugs and warm smiles went a very long way. We sang songs to each other and played silly games. We had met 14 of these students who are trained classical Cambodian dancers. They had come onto our ship in the morning and we were amazed at their dancing skills. No professional troop is any better.

As we left Palm Tree there were tears in many a students' eyes as it really hit home how tough a life many, many people on Earth have. The war with the Khymer Rouge took almost half of the population and the lives of almost 100 percent of all teachers, professors and "cultured" people.

The continuing result is a country that struggles. There is 50 percent unemployment and more than 35 percent live on less than $1 a day. Corruption is widespread. Many (some guides said most) of the government is very corrupt and are left over from the leaders of the hated Khymer Rouge, who are associated with Chinese interests and ethnicity. There is no industry save tourism. Angkor Wat is their economic salvation. About 300,000 Cambodians are in tourist-related fields.

We got to experience knowledgeable guides and pesky, begging children at the World Heritage site, Angkor Wat — which was built up in my mind so much that I thought I would be disappointed. Not so. It is truly fantastic and covers a huge area of buildings and interior rooms. Pat and I both wished that we were there for a week with our bicycles. That would be a terrific way to see it.

Oh, but it was hot! And the humidity was in the 90s. We climbed and climbed, and drank and drank water. I would be surprised if anyone was a runner or tri-athlete here. But I did see an aerobics class going on during the weekend. I could never be that dedicated.

Our return to Vietnam gave us an exciting experience of traffic. It is more organized than in 1998 (we now know which side of the street people are supposed to ride on), and there are far less bicycles and rickshaws, but there are masses of people zipping in and out of each other's way. Pat says Saigon may become the first city to have "carpool" lanes for motor bikes with three or more people! Babies are sandwiched in between parents; sometimes two or three children hang on to mom and dad. Add to this, bikes going against the traffic and making lefthand turns in front of cars and buses from two lanes to our right.

We ended our travels in this part of Southeast Asia by visiting the Mekong Delta. In this part of South Vietnam the river is sometimes 2-3 kilometers (3-4 miles) wide. We spent the day on the water and on jungle walks. We were refreshed with Jackfruit, sapodilla, mango, and bright pink dragon fruit. The main meal of the day was one of the best meals of the trip.

We will be sailing before dawn in order to catch the tide and make it out of the Saigon River, which empties into the South China Sea. Then on to India. This will take more than a week and will give me time to catch my breath and reflect on what I have seen and learned. It is almost overwhelming.

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ANZ subsidiary linked to Cambodian army

By Liam Cochrane for Radio Australia

ANZ Royal, a subsidiary of one of Australia's largest banks, has denied it is involved in a scheme that creates partnerships between private businesses and Cambodian military units.

Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen announced the initiative last week and said more than 40 partnerships had been established to provide food, medicine, tools, buildings and transport for troops and their families.

One of the businesses named as a sponsor of the Cambodian army was Metfone, a subsidiary of a mobile phone company owned by the Vietnamese military.

Another on the list was ANZ Royal, a joint partnership between Australia's ANZ Bank and one of Cambodia's biggest business conglomerates, The Royal Group.

Cambodian council of ministers spokesman Phay Siphan says the scheme reflects Cambodian culture.

"Some Cambodians on management [at ANZ Royal], they have the chance to mobilise their charity to support some [soldiers]," he said.

"The charity hasn't just been supported today, it's been years already. It's just that they have been assigned it so that the people understand who they help."

ANZ Royal has declined to comment to ABC's Radio Australia, but chief executive Stephen Higgins has been quoted in local media saying that he is unsure how his company's name appeared on the list of military sponsors, saying it might be "some type of printing error".

A statement from ANZ in Australia said "it is not appropriate for ANZ to provide support or sponsorships to individual military units in any country in which we operate".

"ANZ Royal Bank, as a subsidiary of ANZ, has not and will not be providing such support," the statement said.

Seeking answers

The initiative to formally link businesses with the military has raised concerns among human rights groups that work in Cambodia.

Naly Pilorge, a spokeswoman for the rights group LICADHO, says "it is especially concerning because some of these ministries [involved] have absolutely no link to the military, such as those that are supposed to focus on youth or women or health".

"That's the question we are trying to find the answers to, because right now it is very unclear.

"It is alarming because some of these ministries have nothing to do with the military, and for good reason."

Ms Pilorge says a similar scheme would not be tolerated in other countries.

"In most countries, developed countries and developing countries, it would be illegal for business in the private sector to openly and directly fund the milliary," she said.

"But by dealing so openly there is an assumption that the military is open to any group or any company that wishes to use the military to protect its interests and its private interests.

"We have see this over the country over the years in terms of land grabbing. We have seen the military used, especially in the rural areas... to evict people to protect the interests of economic concessions.

"This is really disturbing because legislation says the miliary is to protect citizens equally and not be used for the private interests of companies."

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LDS Church works with Cambodian government to aid rice farmers

By Carole Mikita

KAMPONG CHHNANG, Cambodia -- Last November, KSL 5 News showed you how Utahns were helping Cambodian children receive education and training that changes their lives. Now, other Utahns, also missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, are working to help rice farmers double their production.

The rice fields of Kampong Chhnang province in Cambodia are brown in the dry season, but the farmers who own them have increased production substantially in the last three and a half years.

"I went around and spoke to a number of them, and almost every one of them indicated that, personally, the amount of rice that they raised on a particular piece of ground doubled, in terms of the yield received," said LDS missionary Elder Lowell Curtis.

Lowell Curtis and his wife, Cheryl, are from Riverton. They are serving a humanitarian mission in Cambodia.

The farmers the couple are helping belong to a cooperative and participated in a project with Latter-day Saint charities and CEDAC -- the Cambodian Center for Study and Development of Agriculture. After centuries of doing it the same way, now they plant fewer seeds and plant them differently.

The farmers see a difference.

"New rice machine; the farmer come here, and testing, and [I] feel that the rice that come out is very good," Oum Sok said through a translator.

He was talking about the rice mill. LDS charities provided the funds to build it; the farmers from the village and surrounding villages financed the machinery. With a larger crop and their own mill, they have enough for their families and plenty of yield to sell.

The program also encourages the families to raise other crops, which create a healthier diet. The farmers also learn to raise chickens or pigs and increase their numbers. The money they earn from sales now goes here to the savings bank the farmers built, and they have moved out of poverty.

These villagers are not Latter-day Saints, most are Buddhists or Muslims.

"This particular project, the number of beneficiaries would be well over a hundred thousand, I suspect," Curtis said. "There aren't any members of the Church who have directly benefited from it. It's just an attempt to help individuals wherever the help may be needed without consideration for religion or national origin."

The rice program started in 2006 and concluded at the end of 2009. The farmers saw an increased success every year; and with the savings program, many have become financially independent.

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More Cambodian farmers shift toward organic crops

PHNOM PENH, Mar. 3, 2010 (Xinhua News Agency) -- The number of organic farmers producing crops in Cambodia is growing thanks to efforts aimed at training agricultural workers in organic farming techniques, local media reported on Wednesday, citing the Cambodian Center for Study and Development in Agriculture (CEDAC).

Marking the first organized meeting for organic farmers, CEDAC president Yaing Saing Koma was quoted by The Cambodia Daily as saying that the number of organic farmers registered with his organization reached 61 in 2009, up from just five in 2004 when CEDAC started to train farmers in the use of natural fertilizers.

"It is not easy to grow organic vegetables as we must be careful about the health of consumers," he said, making reference to the heightened risk of disease from insects in crops grown without the use of chemicals. "We don't use chemical substances to grow vegetables, only natural fertilizers."

Organic produce amounted to just 30 tons in 2009, according to CEDAC, which helps farmers earn a fair price for their produce at five shops in Phnom Penh and another located in Preah Sihanouk city.

In a statement released on Tuesday, CEDAC said that organic produce sells for an average of 15 to 25 percent more than non- organic vegetables sold in local markets.

The German development service, or DED, has been assisting CEDAC in their quest to link organic farmers to the domestic markets.

Anna Meusinger, a junior adviser to CEDAC working with DED, said despite recent progress a lack of irrigation systems was limiting the growth rate of organic farmers.

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