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Saturday, October 02, 2010

China's top legislator meets Cambodian King

Wu Bangguo (R), a chairman of the standing committee of China's National People's congress, meet with Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni in Shanghai, east China Oct.2, 2010.

SHANGHAI, Oct. 2 (Xinhua) - China and Cambodia pledged to further cooperation and bilateral ties as top Chinese legislator Wu Bangguo met with Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni in Shanghai Saturday.

"China attaches importance to relations with Cambodia and hopes to deepen and advance the mutually beneficial cooperation to lift bilateral ties," Wu told Sihamoni.

Wu, chairman of China's National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, said China cherished the special friendship with the Cambodian Royal Family.

The friendship nurtured by Chinese leaders and former Cambodian King Norodom Sihanouk had weathered the changing international landscape, said Wu.

Bilateral relations had seen frequent high-level visits, increased political mutual trust, and mutually beneficial trade cooperation and support on international and regional issues, said Wu.

Wu also thanked the king for his support to the Shanghai World Expo and presence at the celebrations of China's National Pavilion Day at the Shanghai World Expo Friday.

Sihamoni said the progress in bilateral relations was in the line with the two peoples' aspirations and the Cambodian Royal Family was committed to boosting bilateral cooperation.
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Danville man charged in marriage scheme


LOUISVILLE — A Danville resident is among 35 people from three states who have been indicted by a federal grand jury for allegedly being part of a conspiracy to smuggle Cambodian citizens into the United States by way of fraudulent marriages.

Kong Cheng Ty, 43, is charged with conspiracy to commit marriage fraud. Ty is one of the leaders of the alleged scheme which involved paying U.S. citizens to travel to Cambodia to engage in sham marriages to Cambodian citizens in order to help them come to America, according to court records.

“He is what they consider one of the organizers of the conspiracy,” said Christopher Francis, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Louisville.

Ty is a foreign-born Cambodian citizen who became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2005, Francis said. He is among six other organizers who, working through nail salons in Kentucky, paid Americans to travel to Cambodia to participate in phony engagements and marriages.

$7,000 exchanged

Court records allege that Ty met with Christopher James McAlister at a Steak and Shake restaurant in Versailles in November 2005 to discuss the marriage scheme.

Ty allegedly paid McAlister more than $7,000 and arranged for him to fly to Cambodia to meet Sokunthy So. McAlister and So posed for pictures during an engagement ceremony and at other locations before McAlister returned to the United States, court records show.

In 2006, McAlister met with an attorney in Louisville to fill out visa paperwork for So. McAlister traveled back to Cambodia in 2008 to get So and bring her to America.

In February 2008, McAlister and So participated in a civil marriage ceremony in Louisville “knowing that the marriage was not entered into in good faith but was in exchange for something of value, and that the purpose of the marriage was to enable So to obtain permanent legal resident status in the United States,” according to court documents.

Ty is listed as a witness at the marriage ceremony.

The larger marriage conspiracy began in 1999 and continued through April of this year. The 35 people indicted are from Kentucky, Indiana and Tennessee.

Eleven of the people who were among the first charged in the conspiracy already have pleaded guilty.

An arraignment date for Ty, who was indicted earlier this week, has not yet been set.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ann Claire Phillips, and it was investigated by the Immigration Customs Enforcement Office of Homeland Security.
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PoliSci class take trip to Cambodia

By Adam Trodell

Members of the Cambodia Service Learning Project took a trip to Cambodia from July 10-26, which included sightseeing, learning about the culture and history of the country, visiting Commerce's sister city Pailin, and helping some local schools.

Political science department head and associate professor Dr. JoAnn DiGeorgio-Lutz is the instructor of the Cambodia Project course, PSCI 497, and she said the trip helped students get the full experience of studying a country.

"This is the first time I had been to Cambodia, and it was amazing," DiGeorgio said. "We got to put context to what we were studying in the abstract. You can learn about something, you can look at a country on a map, you can look at pictures of a country and read about its history, but when you're there experiencing it, it becomes very real. It becomes something you can attach meaning to."

Senior political science major Kaycie Clark said the trip was a revealing experience.

"It was life changing, seeing people in a society that is completely different than what you're used to, a developing world," she said. "It changed my perspective on life. I realize how lucky I am to be here."

DiGeorgio said she feels most of the students who visited Cambodia came away with a similar feeling.

"I think, for most of them, it really opened their eyes to the developing world and situations in the developing world," she said. "Cambodia is what we would call a war-torn society rebuilding after years of war and a genocide that basically eradicated anything, any education, any infrastructure, and so on."

The Cambodian Civil War lasted from 1967-1975, and led to the Khmer Rouge, or Communist Party of Kampuchea, rising to power and instigating the Cambodian Genocide. During their four-year reign, millions of Cambodians were killed or imprisoned, and the Cambodia Project members spent some of this trip learning about those darker times in the country's capital.

"The first few days it was all learning about the genocide," Clark said. "During the first four days in Phnom Penh we went to the S-21 museum, the political prisoner museum. It was a political prisoner camp where they executed thousands of people."

Also during those first few days, the class met Youk Chang, who was named in Time Magazine's Most Influential People of the 20th Century. Chang is the director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, which, according to DiGeorgio, is tasked with tracking all the testimonies of anyone affected by the genocide.

"We also got to visit the international criminal tribunal that's trying the leaders for war crimes and genocide, and met with the U.N. special prosecutor there," DiGeorgio said.

While these remnants of the war still exist, Clark said she felt the people as a whole seem to be getting past it.

"Cambodia is making strides to advance themselves," she said, "but after a whole generation died, they're still trying to pick up the pieces from the Khmer Rouge destruction."

After their time in Phnom Penh, the group went to Battambang and met with people from Dewey International University, a partner of A&'M-Commerce.

"We met with students there, they had a big welcome for us, and we got to interact with university students in Cambodia and see what life is like for them there," DiGeorgio said.

Education was one of the main focuses for members of the Cambodia Project, as this is one of the aspects of society the country is faced with rebuilding.

"The GDP per capita, the income, is about $300 per year," DiGeorgio said. "So, families are oftentimes faced with the choice of paying $15 a year to send a kid to school and you only have $300 a year."

Among the multiple schools the group visited was Hometown School in Siem Reap. The Cambodia Project is working to help this school buy a computer, bikes for their 5 teachers, and school supplies for the students, according to the group's website, They also delivered supplies to Elizabeth School in Lak 62, a village settled by refugees from the war.

"We got involved with a village close to Thailand, actually on the border, where we delivered school supplies," Clark said. "That was a big part of the trip, delivering school supplies to these kids. It was really cool."

Toward the end of their trip, the group visited government officials from Pailin, which became Commerce's sister city on Nov. 19 of last year. Commerce City Councilman and Cambodia Project member Doug Rohrabaugh got the chance to meet with his counterparts.

"[The trip was about] a cultural exchange," group member and Student Government Association senator Adam Haney said. "A lot of southeast Asia, especially Cambodia, after Vietnam, was really ignored and forgotten about by the west. It's to try and re-establish some of these ties with regimes and peoples like the Cambodians that want to re-engage with the rest of the world."

Some of the students who took this trip are looking to go back along with new Cambodia Project members. DiGeorgio is already starting to plan her return, as well.

"I'm going back in December and going to be to be developing the service learning program for Dewey International," she said. "I'll be helping them to created programs like I have here for service learning. Then I'm going back in May mini and doing a small mini-mester for credit. I can only take about 10 students, and I've got some graduate students already signed up."

Clark said she is one of the members hoping to return and do volunteer work, and she is also planning on doing the same in other developing countries.

"I'm actually looking at going this summer to Guatemala, and Dr. DiGeorgio actually compares Guatemala to Cambodia as far as development," Clark said. "I think I'm going to go for two months; learn Spanish for a month and teach for a month."
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