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Monday, August 29, 2011

CAMBODIA-THAILAND: Men trafficked into "slavery" at sea

PHNOM PENH, 29 August 2011 (IRIN) - Taing Ky* and his cousin were told they would be gardeners in Thailand, but instead they were forced to work on Thai fishing boats.

Each year, hundreds of Cambodian men, many impoverished farmers, are lured from their homes with the promise of better-paying jobs in Thailand, only to find themselves on Thai fishing boats plying the waters of the South China Sea.

"We were told we would earn good money," Taing Ky, 37, a father-of-five from Cambodia's Kampot Province, about 200km southwest of Phnom Penh, told IRIN. After six months, they managed to escape while the boat was offloading on Benjina island in northern Indonesia. There they were picked up by local authorities.

Thousands of Cambodian men are now believed to be working against their will in exploitative working conditions on long-haul trawlers well beyond the reach of law enforcement agencies, and often alongside Burmese men.

"It's slavery. There's no other way to describe it," Lim Tith, national project coordinator for the UN Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking (UNIAP), told IRIN.

Thousands exploited
According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), about 125,000 Cambodians are registered as working legally in Thailand, including more than 25,000 in the fishing sector.

But with formal migration costs becoming prohibitive and limited economic opportunities for Cambodians at home, it is widely believed the number of undocumented Cambodians in Thailand is significantly higher; many are trafficked.

Of the 89,096 Cambodians deported from Thailand in 2009 for illegal migration, more than 20,000 (23 percent) were reportedly trafficked, according to a 2010 UNIAP Human Trafficking Sentinel Surveillance.

And while about 31 percent of Cambodian fishermen deported from Thailand reported being trafficked, those on fishing boats far from Thai shores for up to a year at a time are more difficult to track and regularly drop off the radar.

"This is a big problem, but the cases we actually receive are really just the tip of the iceberg," said Lim Tith. "The true number of men being trafficked in this manner is much higher."

In addition, the problem appears to be shifting from Malaysia to Indonesian waters, where more and more men are now being reported, 25 this year alone, he said.

Those lucky enough to escape report 20-hour work days, food deprivation, regular beatings and threats at the hands of the crew, many of whom are armed.

"The captain had a gun. We had no choice but to work," said one survivor.

So bad are conditions that those deemed expendable are tossed overboard.

"Many of these men have been badly traumatized by what's happened to them," Mom Sok Char, programme manager for Legal Support for Children and Women (LSCW), a local NGO and one of the first to monitor the trafficking of men, explained. "After months of forced labour, that's understandable."

Culturally, most men do not seek psychological support, he said, making follow-up and adjustment back into the community particularly difficult.

"More and more men are falling victim and this is a genuine concern of the Cambodian government," San Arun, chairwoman of the Cambodian Coordinated Mekong Ministerial Initiative Against Trafficking (COMMIT) taskforce, agreed. "It's not just women and children any more," she said, calling for greater regional cooperation on trafficking.

Thai action urged
Earlier this month, the UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, called on the Thai government to "do more to combat human trafficking effectively and protect the rights of migrant workers who are increasingly vulnerable to forced and exploitative labour.

"Thailand faces significant challenges as a source, transit and destination country," said the UN expert at the end of her 12-day mission to the country.

"The trend of trafficking for forced labour is growing in scale in the agricultural, construction and fishing industries," she said.

While commending the Thai government with the enactment of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2008, she warned that the implementation and enforcement of the law remained "weak and fragmented", often hampered by corruption, especially among low-cadre law enforcement officers at provincial and local levels.

"Thailand must do more to combat human trafficking effectively," Ezeilo concluded.

Thai authorities say there is little they can do about the trafficked Cambodians working on Thai fishing boats, particularly when the alleged crimes occurred outside Thai waters, if they do not report it.

According to UNIAP, most of the deportees who were exploited choose not to report their cases due to fear of their broker, employer, or the police; a lack of understanding of their rights; and/or inability to speak Thai.

*not his real name
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The China Alternative: Cambodia

The China Alternative is our series covering other manufacturing destinations in emerging Asia that may start to compete with China in terms of labor costs, infrastructure and operational capacity. In this issue we look at Cambodia

By Kaitlin Shung

Aug. 29 – Tourists to Cambodia often take similar routes, discovering the wide and stately streets of Phnomn Penh before taking a dusty six hour bus ride to Siem Reap, home of the beautiful Angkor Wat. Among the ruins of the ancient Khmer Kingdom at Angkor Wat, local Cambodian children can often be seen calling out flattering phrases, usually in Chinese and English, looking for a crisp American dollar or a few pieces of candy.

Cambodia boasts a rich and more recently, bloody, history. An underdeveloped country of roughly 14.7 million, Cambodia was set back significantly in the 1970s under the extremist rule of the Khmer Rouge. It was estimated that nearly 20 percent of the population died under the leadership of Pol Pot due to starvation, torture, and executions, and the economy was completely dismantled.

As a result of its short time under French rule, the official languages spoken are Khmer, French and English, although French appears to be scarce except among the older generations. The majority of the population is within the 15-64 age range and the country has a respectable 73.6 percent literacy rate.

Cambodia operates as a multi-party democracy under a constitutional democracy, and the long-serving prime minister has a considerable amount of power. The head of State is King Norodom Sihamoni, who was sworn in on October 29, 2004 while the prime minister is Hun Sen.

The Cambodian currency is the riel (KHR), which traded, on average, at KHR4,145 to US$1 in 2010. In addition to the riel, U.S. dollars are also commonly accepted and according to the New York Times, almost 90 percent of deposits and credits in the banking system are denominated in U.S. dollars. With a large portion of capital and savings in the greenback, the Cambodian government ultimately has less ability to influence the economy and thus less control.

EconomyBefore the global financial slowdown, Cambodia was one of the strongest economic performers in Southeast Asia, posting annual growth of around 10 percent over the previous decade. Cambodia’s economy is focused in four key industries: tourism, clothing, construction and agriculture. The lack of diversification in the economy impacted on the country hard when the Global Financial Crisis hit and since then, the government has begun efforts at initiating reforms to encourage the development of emerging industries.

Within its labor force of 8.8 million, roughly 70 percent work in agriculture which constitutes roughly one-third of Cambodia’s GDP. The country’s GDP grew 6 percent year on year in 2010 to US$11.63 billion, which is comparatively about one-fiftieth the size of China’s economy. After agriculture, services account for 45.2 percent of GDP while industry contributes 21.4 percent.

Exports totaled US$3.687 billion in 2010, with primary export partners being Hong Kong, the United States and Singapore. Comparatively, imports were US$6.005 billion and primary import partners were China, Vietnam and Hong Kong. Key exports were clothing, timber, rubber, rice and fish while key imports were petroleum, cigarettes, gold and construction materials.

FDI inflows totaled US$532.5 million in 2010, with the majority of capital coming from China. Chinese investment is often preferred because it is generally unconditional, as opposed to Western investment which is usually tied to political and economic reform. In the first half of 2011 alone, Chinese investors had already put in place plans for 360 projects worth US$8 billion in Cambodia, which is nominally the equivalent of all Chinese investment in Southeast Asia in the previous year.

As previously mentioned, Cambodia has access to a number of natural resources, but the country often does not have the infrastructure in place to take advantage of those resources. For example, nearly 70 percent of the country is covered with trees, but the lumber industry falters under illegal logging, costing vast amounts of missed revenue.

Oil and natural gas were found in Cambodia in 2005, the exact amount of which has not been released, but commercial extraction is expected to begin in 2012.

Investing in Cambodia“We welcome investments in all sectors, including banking, insurance, and telecommunications. Investors can own 100 percent of their business here, in most countries 100 percent foreign ownership is not allowed,” Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen has been quoted as saying.

Key industries for investment include agriculture (an industry which has an ample labor supply in Cambodia but lacks investment in physical infrastructure), technology to increase yields, and the country has a gaping hole where a processing and packaging industry should be. Furthermore, light industry and manufacturing are relatively underdeveloped, despite the low labor costs in the country. More information on investing in Cambodia can be found through the web site –

Taking the lead from China’s successful Special Economic Zones (SEZs), Cambodia has also begun to build SEZs, primarily along the country’s borders with Thailand and Vietnam. There are a total of 21 approved SEZs – of which five have already commenced operations and two are under construction. Cambodia’s SEZs offer tax and VAT benefits and strong government support has simplified importing and exporting into these areas.

Administratively, the government has set up two boards responsible for managing the country’s SEZs: the Cambodian Special Economic Zone Board and a separate trouble shooting committee. Both are headed by Prime Minister Hun Sen and if managed properly, will help bring foreign investment into the country through these economic zones.

Investing in Cambodia has certainly been helped by the country’s entry into the World Trade Organization in 2004 (Cambodia was the second least developed country to join the WTO through the full working party negotiation process). As a member of the WTO, Cambodia has taken steps to meet international trade and regulatory standards, including the implementation of a number of new legal reforms. Examples include: the Law on Commercial Enterprises (2005), the Law on Commercial Arbitration (2006) and the Law on Secured Transactions (2007).

In addition, Cambodia is also a member of ASEAN and the World Intellectual Property Organization.

The 2011 Index of Economic Freedom, a joint effort by The Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal, ranked Cambodia 102 out of 179 countries or 17 out of 41 in the Asia-Pacific region. This is an improvement over the previous year’s ranking, attributed to improvements in monetary control, labor freedom and a reduction in corruption. Cambodia’s ranking suffers largely because of weak property rights and cumbersome bureaucracy.

Comparatively, the 2011 World Bank Doing Business Rankings ranked Cambodia as 147 out of 183 countries surveyed. A slight decrease from the 2010 rankings, Cambodia still has significant barriers in starting and closing a business as well as enforcing contracts.

Why invest in Cambodia?Cambodia is an attractive investment opportunity for a few key reasons. First, the country has an income tax rate of 20 percent and because of its desire to attract foreign investment, also offers additional tax incentives. For example, eligible projects can receive tax holidays of between six and nine years from initial investment.

Unlike ownership requirements in neighboring countries like China, Cambodia allows for 100 percent foreign owned businesses. The lack of price controls on goods and services and no restrictions on repatriation of funds, free up investors in terms of downgrading investment risk.

Its status as an undeveloped country also works to the benefits of investors through tariff-free exports, which Cambodia has when trading with partners like the United States, Canada and Europe. Entrance into Cambodia is a gateway to the rest of the ASEAN market and domestically, the signs of an emerging middle class are appearing. With that comes the increased local consumption of goods and services.

Furthermore, as a part of the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS), Cambodia is strategically located in a hotspot for both economic and political influence. The GMS includes Yunan Province and the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in China, as well as Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. Currently, over US$10 billion has been pledged for infrastructure projects which will build economic corridors between countries in the region.

The positives aside, Cambodia’s business environment is not without problems and areas of concern. The most prevalent problem for foreign investors is corruption, which is reinforced by weak governance and a lacking legal framework.

In 2010, Transparency International ranked Cambodia 154th out of the 178 countries surveyed. Lack of transparency and abuse of power by government officials have drawn scrutiny to this Southeast Asian country. For example, a story came out this year about government action against two NGOs who were highlighting the negative effects of a US$84 million railroad investment, funded in part by the Asia Development Bank, on displaced families. Pressure on these groups opened the government to criticism and highlighted problems related to free speech in Cambodia.

High reliance on imported goods and services also do not speak well to the sustainability and strength of Cambodia’s economy.

Poor infrastructure in the country has impeded the development of local and global linkages between Cambodia and the world economy. The government has prioritized building roads, airports, telecommunication networks and has received support from foreign sources like the Asia Development Bank and the governments of Australia and China.

In 2010, the government passed the National Strategic Development Plan which focused on the country’s development from 2009 to 2013. A highlight of the plan was an estimated US$1.1 billion in development assistance, which was expected to be spent in 2010.

On a final positive note, Cambodia opened its own stock market earlier this year. At the time of its opening, there were no companies prepared to go public and this was largely indicative of Cambodia’s weak financial sector and a lack of confidence in regulatory bodies’ ability to enact and enforce corporate governance and accounting laws. However, three state-owned companies are in the process of preparing to list later this year and hopefully the establishment of its own stock market will bring stability to the Cambodian economy.

Geopolitical concernsCambodia’s close ties with neighboring China have proven to be unnerving for American leaders, as China attempts to expand its dominance in the area. In 2010, U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton visited Cambodia and warned of an overly intense dependence on China.

“I think it is smart for Cambodia to be friends with many countries… It’s like our relationship with other countries. You look for balance. You don’t want to get too dependent on any one country,” Clinton said.

U.S. concerns aside, friendly relations between China and Cambodia are evidenced by high level meetings between government officials. Last year, powerful CCP member Wu Banguo attended the signing of a contract between Cambodia’s largest mobile phone company, CamGSM, and the Bank of China in the largest financing project to ever take place in Cambodia. Wu Banguo was quoted as referring to Cambodia as a “reliable neighbor, friend and brother.”

In 2011, Zhou Yongkang, a member of the CCP’s Standing Committee Politiburo, traveled to Cambodia to talk economic and political cooperation.

Complicated relations with neighboring Thailand have proven to be dire enough to come to arms and it is worth continuing to observe how relations improve or deteriorate in the future. The conflict stems from a border dispute which has come to repeated fighting between both sides’ armies at a contested site. Furthermore, Cambodia’s appointment of Thailand’s former prime minister (who was charged with corruption-related crimes) as an economic advisor has accelerated tensions between the two countries.

Future outlook“In the next 20 years, I expect Cambodia will be one of the world’s best performers in terms of improved income and living standards, better infrastructure and a lifestyle on par with middle income countries,” Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen has said in an optimistic forecast.

At the 4th Cambodia Economic Forum held in February of this year, Prime Minister Hun Sen highlighted key areas the government hoped would expedite the modernization of Cambodia’s economy. The government’s strategies focused on figuring out ways to diversify the economy, reforming the nation’s SEZs, increasing investment in human capital, establishing the state’s place in industrial development and establishing the industrial sector’s position in the local and global economy.

Rising costs in China are turning eyes southward for new, inexpensive manufacturing hubs and less developed countries like Cambodia are stepping up to the plate. Cambodia is a particularly interesting investment opportunity, given benefits extended to it as a result of its development status and its simultaneous membership in the WTO. If the government can continue to effectively battle corruption and diversify its economic pillars, Cambodia could potentially rise from poverty and development aid to become a powerhouse in emerging Asia.
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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Thaksin leaves Japan, denies Cambodian trip plan

By The Nation

Former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who ended his six-day visit to Japan yesterday, said he had no immediate plan to visit neighbouring Cambodia, where a business interest of his is in doubt.

 The former premier, who was in the media spotlight last week for his high profile visit, left Japan for Macao after meeting with senior Japanese lawmakers and visiting areas hit by the March earthquake and tsunami.

Thaksin headed for Macao on his way back to Dubai, where he has lived in exile since being toppled by a military coup in 2006.

During an interview with Kyodo news agency, Thaksin denied a report he would visit Cambodia shortly.

He reportedly cancelled his plan to visit Phnom Penh after criticism in Thailand over personal business dealings involving oil and gas concessions in the overlapping area in the Gulf of Thailand claimed by both Thailand and Cambodia.

Thaksin's travelling has been controversial and could pose political implications for the government led by his sister Yingluck Shinawatra.

The opposition Democrat Party last week began an impeachment process to remove Foreign Minister Surapong Towichukchaikul from his post for abuse of authority in asking the Japanese to allow Thaksin a special visa to visit their country.

The former PM needed Thai government support as Japanese immigration laws prohibit entry to any foreigner who has been sentenced to more than a year in prison.

Thaksin was given a two-year term on a charge of abuse of power, but fled Thailand before serving his sentence.

The Democrats claimed Surapong, by supporting Thaksin's visa claim, helped fugitive Thaksin to avoid the court's ruling.

Surapong denied the allegation, saying that granting of a visa was the responsibility of Tokyo and his government had nothing to do with Thaksin's travels.
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Cambodian activists attending Climate Change/Social Change conference

By Viv Miley

With less than a month until the 2nd Climate Change/Social Change conference, around the theme “World at a Crossroads”, in Melbourne, the list of confirmed speakers and sponsors is growing.

The conference is being organised by Green Left Weekly, Socialist Alliance and Resistance at the University of Melbourne over September 30-October 3. It aims to promote recognition that in order to solve the global climate crisis, radical social change is required.

To tackle a crisis that threatens to make the Earth uninhabitable for the vast majority of humans and other species, those involved in the campaigns to change society need to unite.

As part of GLW’s coverage of this important conference, it will be profiling some of the activists from around Australia and the globe that will attend.

In this issue, we look at three women from Cambodia from Social Action for Change (SAC).

SAC is an independent team of Cambodians working to build, strengthen and support grassroots movements, workers and women activists in Cambodia by providing technical assistance and advocacy assistance for social, economic and political change.

Sao Sopheap
Sao Sopheap began working at Womyn’s Agenda for Change (WAC) in 2004, as part of the general supporting staff. She continued there until 2009 when the WAC was phased out.

In 2010, Sopheap worked as a technical assistant to support The Messenger Band — a grassroots musical group initiated by WAC made up of women working in the garment industry.

The aim of The Messenger Band is to compose and perform songs that reflect the daily lives and struggles faced by working people — and to advocate for better living and working conditions through their songs and performances.

Using original songs composed by women themselves, the group works with drop-in centres and other community institutions to provoke discussion around problems and issues faced by marginalised communities of women. These include women workers, sex workers, rural farmers, women living with HIV/AIDS and landless female-headed households.

The aim is to unite them and let them know they are not alone in their daily struggles to survive.

Sopheap is now working with SAC — an informal network created to support three community based organisations: Women’s Network for Unity, a sex workers group; the Workers’ Information Center, a garment workers group; and the Messenger Band.

Beside this work, she is also a local consultant for the McKnight Foundation to assist Cambodian grantees, which most of who work on natural resource management and indigenous rights.

Chrek Sophea
A former garment worker, Sophea had been working in a factory until 2005. Then, she began working for the Womyn痴 Agenda for Change (WAC).

In 2009, when WAC was phased out, Sophea began working for SAC.

Sophea痴 main role in the SAC is leading the healthcare campaign called "Pay or Die".

One of the major outcomes of this campaign was a documentary called Pay or Die about the health care system in Cambodia.

Pay or Die has been used to educate Cambodian exploited and poor about health issues, especially farmers, sex workers and garment workers.

Sophea is also a founder and member of the Cambodian Women's Movement for Social Justice (CWMSJ).

CWMSJ is an independent, voluntary initiative raising concern around women痴 issues, especially women's rights, the role of women in politics, the judicial system in Cambodia and demanding freedom of expression.

Sophea will be presenting a workshop on Climate Change & Health in Cambodia at the conference.

Ly Pisey Pisey started working as a young activist with the Womyn’s Agenda for Change in 2004. In 2007, Pisey was selected to participate in a four month Human Rights Advocates Program at Columbia University in New York.

Today, Pisey is passionately working for SAC. Her main role is working with the Women’s Network for Unity (WNU), a sex workers' collective advocating for the right to work and improve their livelihood.

Pisey also volunteers in other areas of civil society, such as land and gay rights networks.

Pisey will be presenting a workshop on on Climate Change and Sex Work at the conference.

[World at a Crossroads, the 2nd Climate Change Social Change conference, is organised by Green Left Weekly, Resistance and the Socialist Alliance and sponsored by the Office of Environmental Programs, Melbourne University.

It is co-sponsored by: Friends of the Earth (Melbourne),, Links International Journal for Socialist Renewal, Labour Party Pakistan (LPP), Sydney University Political Economy Society, Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM), Partido Lakas ng Masa (PLM -- Philippines), Australia-Asia Worker Links, Left Unity Adelaide, Adelaide Climate Emergency Action Network (CLEAN), Community Radio 3CR and Action Aid International.

Registration and other information, including the latest list of confirmed speakers, can be found at .]
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1st Chinese animal feed mill launches in Cambodia

PHNOM PENH, Aug. 28 (Xinhua) -- The first Chinese animal feed mill officially inaugurated here on Sunday, bringing the number of the same kind of factories in the country to five, said Cambodian Minister of Agriculture.

"The factory is a new achievement of good cooperation between the governments and the peoples of Cambodia and China," the minister Chan Sarun said during the inauguration of the Sichuan New Hope Agribusiness (Cambodia), situated in the Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone, some 18 kilometers west of the central Phnom Penh.

"The mill is very important to boost the development of the country's animal feeding industry," he said.

The minister said that currently the demand of animal feed is about 700,000 tons per year, but the four full-functioning factories can produce only 170,000 tons a year, so the rest is imported.

The Sichuan New Hope Agribusiness (Cambodia) would be capable to produce about 57,000 tons a year, so it would increase the supply of animal food locally and can reduce the reliance on the imports, he added.

Meanwhile, Jin Yuan, Economic and Commercial Counselor of Chinese Embassy to Cambodia, said that the inauguration of the factory reflected closer relation between China and Cambodia on trade and investment.

He added that China is the largest investor in Cambodia with the accumulative investments of more than eight billion U.S. dollars so far.

The Sichuan New Hope Agribusiness (Cambodia) is a joint-venture between China's New Hope Group holding 90 percent stake and Japan' s animal feed Sojitz Corporation owning the remaining stake, Deng Xiaohua, a manager of China's New Hope Group, said at the inauguration ceremony.

China's New Hope Group is one of China's largest animal feed producers.

The construction of the Sichuan New Hope Agribusiness (Cambodia) mill had been started early this year on the land of 33,500 square meters and completed last month, costing six million U.S. dollars.

The factory employs about 100 Cambodian workers.

"The mill has been equipped with sophisticated technologies and is capable to produce a good quality of animal food for pigs and poultry," he said.
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Local acts part of Cambodian celebration in Millersylvania

The fourth annual Cambodian Cultural Celebration will be held Sept. 10 at the Millersylvania State Park near Olympia.

Members of the South Puget Sound Cambodian community perform traditional and contemporary Cambodian music and arts. Traditional food is available for purchase.
Among the artists and performances will be Cambodian Classical and Folks Dance of Tacoma and the Cambodian Heritage Society of Seattle, Somleng Tro Khmer Musical of Tacoma and the Watanakpeap Dontrey band of Olympia.

The festival also offers hands-on Cambodian crafts instruction for kids, face painting, a look into the history of Cambodia, and artifact and costume viewings. Vendor booths feature Cambodian arts and crafts.

The festival runs 11 a.m.-4 p.m. at the park’s Environmental Learning Center, 12245 Tilley Road S., Olympia, off Interstate 5 at Exit 99 (Scott Lake).

The Discover Pass is not required for those attending the event.
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Buddhists celebrate new Temple in Elyria

ELYRIA - A community of Buddhists celebrated the opening of a new temple on the city’s north side with food, music, meditation and the joyous “Money Flower” procession Saturday night.

About 100 people from several states, mostly of Cambodian descent, took part in the ceremony as several Buddhist monks dressed in orange or brown robes looked on.

“I feel happy,” said templegoer Yenn Yon as she offered monetary support for the temple.

Families carried offerings of money in flower arrangements as they circled the temple, which is decorated with colorful panels depicting scenes from the life of the Buddha.
Born Nai, a Buddhist monk at the temple, said this is a very big moment for the Cambodian community in Northeast Ohio.

He said the temple was cramped at its smaller facility in Cleveland, so it purchased the former Grace Brethren Church building at 1305 Nash Ave. for $180,000 and sank additional money into renovations.

Temple member Bunrith Leng, a machinist from Middleburg Heights, said the temple members want to be good neighbors.

He said they have told nearby homeowners about their services, which involve music and chanting.

Among those attending the ceremony was Dave Hribar of Avon Lake, who said the new temple is larger and more family-friendly than the group’s former temple in Cleveland.

Today at 9 a.m., the temple will have a ceremony honoring the Triple Gem and observing the Five Precepts.

The Triple Gem consists of the Buddha, the Dhamma, or the teachings of the Buddha, and the community of Buddhists called the Sangha, according to Hribar.

The Five Precepts are to refrain from taking any life, refrain from stealing, refrain from sexual misconduct, refrain from false speech and refrain from taking intoxicants, he said.

The Cambodian Buddhists can be shy, but they are kind and welcoming, Hribar said.

“They’ve been through hell in this life,” Hribar said, referring to the terror wreaked on Cambodia by Pol Pot, leader of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia until his death in 1998.

An estimated 1.7 million to 2.5 million people - or about 21 percent of the Cambodian population - died under the Khmer Rouge.

Nai, the Buddhist monk, said his uncle was a casualty of the terror during the reign of Pol Pot.

One person who is wholeheartedly welcoming the temple to Elyria is David Arredondo, director of international student services at Lorain County Community College.

A number of Buddhists attending LCCC over the years have inquired about nearby temples, and Arredondo said the closest ones were in Cleveland before the Nash Avenue facility opened.

Nai said he will be attending classes at LCCC himself.

This weekend’s dedication is bittersweet. It comes a month after tragedy struck the fledgling temple when a 17-year-old member, Darryl Phoeur of Cleveland, drowned in Lake Erie on July 30 when he was apparently drawn into strong currents.

IF YOU GOWhat: Buddhist ceremony honoring the Triple Gem and observing the Five Precepts.

Where: Watt Buddhavacanarama, the Cambodian-American Buddhist Temple at 305 Nash Ave. in Elyria.

When: 9 a.m. today, followed by a luncheon at noon.

Contact Cindy Leise at 329-7245 or .
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Brangelina hire a therapist for their son, Pax

Vietkid is still having Vietcong gene to attack American Troops, doesn't matter where he's landing at, bad Gene

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s middle son has aggression issues.

Many of us would happily give a limb (or at least a few fingers) to earn a place in the Jolie-Pitt pack. The glamourous lifestyle, the glorious chateaux, the built-in play group. But it seems that at least one of Brad and Angie’s brood has been rebelling against his famous family, so much so that his parents have hired a therapist.

Pax Jolie-Pitt is couple’s second-oldest child, although he was the third to join the gang because he was adopted from Vietnam when he was three. Generally speaking, he seems to sort of fly under the radar — not as old as Maddox, not as sassy as Zahara, not as jaunty as Shiloh… but if the latest issue of In Touch is to be believed, Pax does have an identity of his own: The bully.

“He picks on Shiloh, and even his big brother, Maddox. He’s having a tough time getting along with his siblings,” a source tells In Touch, adding: “He’s having a difficult time with the constant schedule changes, and with the fact that people stare at him whenever he’s with his parents.”

The In Touch piece also mentions his traumatic early childhood in Vietnam as the possible root of Pax’s agression issues, which sort of makes sense. And then there’s the fact that the kid can’t leave his house without the attack of the killer paparazzi. I wouldn’t be surprised if all of the J-P kids end of with issues of some sort.

Anyway, always the proactive parents, Brange have hired a psychiatrist to join their travelling circus. At the very least I imagine he or she will suggest putting the kibosh on the war-themed b-day parties, and maybe have a word with Shiloh about that weird monkey she's always carrying around.
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Saturday, August 27, 2011

Assumption students and stuff bringing supplies to Cambodian sister school this fall

BELLINGHAM - The last time Assumption Catholic School teachers Betsy Gottschalk and Jill VonFeldt went to visit Assumption's sister school in Cambodia, there was no water, only a few books on the shelves, and charts on the walls were hand-drawn.

But when they venture there again this November, five years after their first trip, they expect to see a successful vegetable garden, students using a computer, the only well in the area and classrooms filled with students.

For the last six years, Assumption Catholic School has been raising money to help support Bellingham Community School No. 253 in Preah Vihear Province in northern Cambodia. The sister school is the creation of Ham Hayes and Gloria Harrison, who worked through the nonprofit organization American Assistance for Cambodia to open the first middle school in the region.

It officially opened its doors in 2006, the last time Gottschalk and VonFeldt were in Cambodia.

Assumption's parent-teacher organization pays for most of the salary of the Cambodian school's English and computer skills. But the support for the school goes beyond that; students and staff have helped raise money for the school to purchase a computer, install solar panels and dig a well for a vegetable garden.

After the first trip to Cambodia, Gottschalk and VonFeldt started small fundraisers to collect money for the school, which features five classrooms in a cement block building for nearly 130 students. But it wasn't until second-grade teacher Liberty Sponek started a vegetable garden at Assumption a few years ago that the biggest fundraising efforts for the sister school took off.

Every Sunday from spring through the school's fall harvest festival, produce from the school garden is sold at Assumption Catholic Church, with all proceeds going to support the "dream things" at the Cambodia school, Sponek said. The garden, which is part of the Whatcom County School Garden Collective, is planted, tended to and harvested by students and parents. So far, a slow Sunday brings in about $65, while on a good day, they may collect $300.

But Assumption's garden does more than raise money for the Cambodian school - it also provides a connection between Assumption and Cambodian students. When the Cambodian school added a well to its property, that enabled those students to create a vegetable garden to help provide food for the school.

"We can make that connection now because we're both digging in the dirt," Sponek said.

The main reasons for this year's trip are to bring 10 bikes and two computers and to assess the school to see what other items are needed. But this trip is also a chance for a few Assumption students to become student ambassadors to Cambodia.

"It's important for kids from here to meet people and see what's going on in other parts of the world," Gottschalk said.

As the sister-school relationship continues and more Assumption families get involved, Gottschalk hopes they can some day build dorms for teachers and students who must travel several miles to attend the Cambodia school, and maybe even pay for some Cambodian students to come to the U.S. to receive a college education.

"It's core to who we are as a Catholic school," said new principal Monica Des Jarlais about raising money for a sister school in Cambodia. "We teach students that Jesus is calling on us to make a better life and we need to look at what we can do to transform other people's lives. ... Students have a responsibility of going out and improving lives, both locally and globally."


Assumption Catholic School students, staff and families are raising money to support Bellingham Community School No. 253 in Cambodia and travel costs associated with students and staff bringing supplies to the school this fall.

Students will be selling hand-made crafts at the Bellingham Farmers Market on Saturday, Aug. 27. Items include garden art, windsocks and cards.

Produce from the school garden will be for sale from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. every Sunday at Assumption Catholic Church, 2116 Cornwall Ave., until Assumption Catholic School's Harvest Festival in mid-September.
Reach KIRA M. COX at or call 715-2266. Visit her School Days blog at or get updates on Twitter at

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Cambodia's rice export scheme sees good omen with Chinese investments

By Nguon Sovan

PHNOM PENH, Aug. 27 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia has seen a positive sign towards achieving its self-imposed target of one million-ton- rice exports by 2015 as the sector has been attracting a number of large investments from China.

In last August, the government launched the rice export policy in a bid to boost the exports of one million tons of milled rice by 2015.

"The main challenges to achieve this target are the shortages of sophisticated post-harvest technologies and capital to buy rice paddy from farmers," Kong Putheara, director of the Commerce Ministry's Planning and Statistics Department, told Xinhua in an interview on Friday.

However, the issues have gradually been broken through as a number of large Chinese firms have signed up to build a hi-tech rice processing plant and to purchase Cambodian rice for Chinese market.

Among those firms is the China Grain Reserves Corporation ( Sinograin) Guangzhou Branch.

The firm signed up on Aug. 16 to buy up to 200,000 tons of milled rice per year from Cambodia and has put its initial investment of 20 million U.S. dollars with a local T.T.Y Corporation to buy rice paddy from farmers to process for the exports to China.

And the China's Yunnan Overseas Investment Co., Ltd. signed a Memorandum of Understanding with a local Soma Group of Cambodia to build a high-tech rice processing plant to process rice for China.

Also, China Oil and Foodstuffs Corporation (COFCO) signed a deal with Cambodia's Angkor Rice this week to buy Cambodian rice.

"A lot of foreign investors have been looking at Cambodian rice potentials, especially China," said Putheara.

"Chinese investors have been leading investments in Cambodian rice sector for now," he said. "Moreover, I believe that China will also be the largest purchaser of Cambodian rice in the future. "

Besides China, he said the Philippines, Brunei, Senegal, Kuwait, Qatar, and Bangladesh has also approached Cambodia for rice purchase despite no deal signed yet so far.

Phou Puy, president of the Federation of Cambodian Rice Millers Associations, said Saturday that currently the country has had only a few modern post-harvest technologies and also had a few large-scale rice storage.

He added that the country's sophisticated rice processing plants are capable to process only about 200,000 tons of rice per year at the moment, so to meet the target of exporting 1 million tons a year by 2015, it needs to be invested other four or five times in modern rice processing plants.

"Therefore, Chinese investment in the rice processing plant is on the right time," said Phou Puy, who is also Chairman of the rice exporter Baitang Kampuchea Co., which invested in a modern post-harvest technology in Battambang province.

The company had exported nearly 20,000 tons of processed rice in the first half of this year, double rise compared to the same period last year.

Puy said the Baitang Kampuchea had also signed a MoU with a Chinese firm for the supply of 10,000 tons of milled rice to China per year and the exports will be starting from next year.

He said his plant is capable to process an average of 130,000 tons of rice per year.

Chan Sophal, president of Cambodia Economic Association, said on Saturday that European countries and China will definitely be the big markets for Cambodian good quality rice in the future.

Cambodian government has simplified procedures for rice exporters; however, the high cost of electricity and transport compared with its neighboring Vietnam and Thailand is still a concern for investors, he said.

Currently, Cambodia has about 35 rice exporters; the country had exported 80,442 tons of good-quality milled rice in the first half of this year, 369 percent increase from 17,144 tons at the same period last year, showed the statistics from the Ministry of Commerce.

However, this country can export only small amount of its milled rice so far due to the lack of sophisticated post- harvesting technologies, storage, and capital to buy rice paddy from farmers; therefore, most of the rice paddies have been sold to Vietnam and Thailand without recycling.

In a year, Cambodia lost about 600 million U.S. dollars from rice production that exported without recycling, Prime Minister Hun Sen said last year during the launch of rice export policy.

Chan Sophal said that the government's rice export policy would broaden and strengthen the foundation of economic growth while accelerating poverty reduction and improving the people's livelihoods through job creations when more rice post-harvest technologies have been built in Cambodia.

With a series of Chinese investment plans in the sector, it's believed that Cambodia will be able to achieve its target of exporting one million tons of milled rice by 2015.
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Friday, August 26, 2011

Lack of Research Among Academics a ‘Problem’: Lecturer

Cambodia’s higher education would do well to include more research and critical thinking demands on its professors, a university lecturer said Thursday.

         Peou Chivoin, a lecturer of media theory and research at the Royal University of Phnom Penh.

“When [academics] do research, it is like they are exercising and it requires them to think critically, thus boosting the overall quality of their abilities and work,” said Peou Chivoin, a lecturer of media theory and research at the Royal University of Phnom Penh. “When people conduct research, they get to know social phenomena and try to determine problems that arise and come up with solutions.”

In much of Cambodian academics, the focus is on teaching, but not on research, he said.

Peou Chivoin is a Fulbright scholar and a PhD candidate of sociology at the University of Melbourne, Australia.

“At universities in developed countries like the US, Australia or Singapore, they have already turned primarily to research,” he said. “That means professors have their own research projects and try to publish their work, whereas Cambodian professors only teach.”

Not only are they not researching, he said, but Cambodian lecturers and professors work more than one job, thanks to pitifully low salaries. That creates a problem, because research would mean less time spent earning money.

Government subsidies could help, but no such support currently exists. A lucky few are able to take on research through the funding of grants or other outside help.

The problem is then passed on to the pupils, he said.

“When most professors do not do research themselves, it’s a problem when they lead their students to do research,” he said. “So there must be strengthened institutions to ensure more attention is paid to research.”
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CAMBODIA: H&M investigates mass faintings at factory

H&M has said that it has not found any plausible causes for a series of mass faintings that have taken place in a Cambodian factory making its clothes.

The statements follow local press reports that a total 284 workers at an M&V International Manufacturing site fainted on Tuesday and Thursday. According to the reports, workers smelled something bad coming from the shirts.

A spokesperson for the retailer told just-style today (26 August) that it was aware of the incident and that the "government, local authorities and International Labour Organisation have done investigations and have not found any plausible causes so far".

The spokesperson said H&M has also carried out an initial probe, with local staff immediately visiting the affected factories for an inspection and interviews with workers, but said the cause is "difficult to establish".

It said it has partnered with external experts and is in "close contact with the Better Factories Cambodia and the Employer Association GMAC" to figure out the root causes and solutions to these "discomforting incidents".

Inneke Zelderust, co-ordinator of the Clean Clothes campaign, said this is not the first time that there have been mass faintings in a Cambodian garment factory, citing a similar situation at a Puma factory in April.

An investigation following that incident found that overtime, poor chemical storage and heat were the causes for the faintings.

Zelderust described as "nonsense" M&V's excuse in the local press that the faintings were a "psychological phenomenon."

She suggested that high inflation levels are eroding salaries so that workers are not earning a living wage. "Workers are foregoing meals and doing lots of overtime which is leading to low nutrition levels," said Zelderust.

Zelderust called for other brands to be "proactive" in investigating worker health and occupational health and safety in their factories following the incidents, suggesting that it might be difficult to "pinpoint one cause" driving these mass faintings. "Take these as indicators of a broader problem," she emphasised.

According to a report released last week by the ILO's Better Factories Cambodia initiative, while working conditions in Cambodian garment factories are continuing to improve, there are still persisting worries over discrimination, overtime and occupational health, and safety.
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Donor governments asked to review Cambodia aid if NGO law is passed

Human rights groups call on UK, US and Australia to apply pressure on Cambodia if severely restrictive draft law is adopted

Cambodia's PM Hun Sen is under fire from human rights groups over a proposed law requiring NGOs and associations to register. Photograph: Rolex Dela Pena/EPA

Human rights organisations are calling on donor governments to reassess their aid programmes to Cambodia if the country passes a law that can be used to muzzle local and foreign NGOs.

Ten groups have written to William Hague, the foreign secretary, Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, and Australia's foreign minister Kevin Rudd, sounding the alarm on a draft law now before Cambodia's council of ministers.

Human Rights Watch (HRW), Global Witness and others say the draft law, if passed in its present form, threatens to severely restrict civil society's right to freedom of association and expression.

"As such, the law will limit the ability of Cambodia's development partners to ensure that programmes reach their intended grass-roots beneficiaries," the letter says.

The letter urges the foreign ministers to make it clear to the Cambodian government that, if the proposed changes are adopted, they will reassess their aid programmes and urge multilateral aid agencies to review their assistance.

The key concern for human rights groups is a provision under the law which states that associations and organisations cannot operate in Cambodia unless complex registration applications have been formally approved by the government.

"The draft law will effectively authorise arbitrary decision-making by officials as it fails to adequately define terms or set clear guidelines, and it creates burdensome and expensive registration and reporting processes that will particularly disadvantage grassroots citizens' associations and groups," the letter says.

Phil Robertson, deputy director of HRW's Asia division, said the Hun Sen government was seeking to stifle the one clear source of opposition to the government, having reduced the opposition to rump status and cowed the international community.

"Hun Sen is growing increasingly sensitive to critical NGO voices which are working with local people facing dispossession of their land for commercial use for cash crops such as sugar cane," said Robertson. "There has been a plague of land seizures and it is an issue that goes to corrupt governance."

An estimated 30,000 people are driven from farmland or urban areas every year to make way for property developments or mining and agricultural projects.

The World Bank earlier this month suspended new lending to Cambodia in a dispute over the eviction of thousands of poor landowners to make way for a property development in the capital, Phnom Penh.

Two thousand people have been evicted already and another 10,000 face eviction to make way for the project in the Boeung Kak lake area. The development is led by China's Inner Mongolia Erdos Hongjun Investment Corp, an unlisted firm that has pledged to spend $3bn in Cambodia on property, metal processing and power generation, and which has close ties to Hun Sen. Robertson said the Cambodian government has since agreed to put back on the table an onsite resettlement plan, which showed that international pressure can work.

"The lesson is when push comes to shove, when development partners threaten to take action, that kind of thing makes the Cambodian government sit up and take notice," he said.

The Cambodian government recently suspended a local NGO, the Sahmakum Teang Tnaut, which has been working with communities affected by major projects in Phnom Penh, including the Asian Development Bank/USAid-funded railway rehabilitation project, and the Boeung Kak lake development.

The suspension, say human rights groups, shows how the Cambodian government may use the draft associations and NGO law if it is passed.

In other recent moves against critics, the government earlier this month closed down two newspapers reproachful of the Cambodian ruling party – the Water & Fire News, and the World News. Their publishing licences were revoked because of "a perceived insult to the ministry of information".

Five men have also been convicted of "provocation" for distributing pamphlets critical of the state. They revealed the Cambodian government's ties to the Vietnamese government and accused Hun Sen of selling land to foreign countries, calling him a "traitor" and a "puppet of Vietnam".

One of Asia's poorest countries, Cambodia receives between $50m and $70m a year from the World Bank. It is looking increasingly to China for aid and development. China is Cambodia's biggest source of foreign direct investment, with stated plans to spend $8bn on 360 different projects during the first seven months of 2011.
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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Cambodia's Bill to Limit NGOs Threatening Land Rights

If Cambodia passes a law to regulate NGO activity, what influence will it have on the work of land rights activists?

The Cambodian government is on its way to passing a law that critics say threatens the country's lively civil society groups and NGOs.

The third draft of the Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organisations (LANGO) would more tightly control the eligibility of civil society organisations and how they are run.

Even before the law's passage, the government seems to be already be exercising what it aims to accomplish.

The Al Jazeera's stream asks is civil society development in Cambodia at a crossroads?

This is the case with NGOs supporting land rights protesters who have spoken out against the proposed law, saying that it would give the government too much authority over their work.

"If the law is passed in its current form, everyone will lose out, from civil society to investors with an eye on Cambodia, but, above all, the Cambodian people in whose name NGOs and associations work," said Virak Ou, president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights.

LANGO requires all NGOs to register with the government but does not include an appeals process for denied applications. Without a guarantee of objectivity or an appeals process, some NGOs fear that they will be unjustly shut down.

"Ultimately," Ou said, "the fear is that the law may be used as a legislative weapon to stifle grassroots democracy and freedom of expression and association in Cambodia, in violation of the Constitution and the principle of the rule of law."

Some of these groups have been issued warnings and one organization was even suspended for five months.

Land evictions are a controversial topic in Cambodia, where many construction and economic developments are taking place. In Southeast Asia, Cambodia is seen as a model of development thanks to foreign investment from China and South Korea.

The Cambodian organisation, Sahmakum Teang Tnaut (STT), which supported land rights protesters, received a government letter to suspend its activities on ambiguous terms.

In a joint statement, 130 NGOs claimed the suspension lacked legal justification. They believe the government's move was a symbol of increased efforts to block NGO activity so that land development projects of private and foreign companies can go ahead with greater ease.

NGOs play an integral role in educating civil society of their rights. As Cambodia launches more controversial development programs, land rights disputes and forced evictions are on the rise. In the video above we discuss the issue including how human rights NGOs are working with citizens to launch campaigns to remain on their land and to protect their livelihood.
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51% of HIV-affected households in Cambodia live in hunger: UNDP

PHNOM PENH, Aug. 25 (Xinhua) -- Some 51 percent of the HIV/AIDS- infected households in Cambodia are living in hunger, said a new UN survey released here on Thursday, calling for more attention to the need for HIV-sensitive social protection mechanisms.

The survey on the Socioeconomic Impact of HIV at the Household Level in Cambodia is the largest and most comprehensive study ever conducted in Cambodia. It was produced by the National AIDS Authority and the United Nations in Cambodia.

It had been conducted on 4,172 households including 2,623 HIV- affected households and 1,549 non-affected households.

The study found that 51 percent of HIV-affected households reportedly suffered from hunger and not having enough food to eat, compared to 35 percent of non-affected households.

It said that stigma and discrimination happened more often on HIV-positive women than men. Some 23 percent of women reported experiencing verbal abuse as a result of their HIV status, compared with 16 percent of men, while seven percent reported experiencing physical threats or abuse as a result of their status, compared with four percent of men.

The report also found that 65 percent of people living with HIV epidemic being low self-esteem, 49 percent feeling ashamed of their status, while 47 percent felt they should be punished, and 16 percent reported having suicidal thoughts.

On the economic side, 27 percent of respondents said they lost their jobs or other source of income since being diagnosed with HIV, and it also decreased income for caregivers. Over 25 percent of the HIV-infected people have caregivers, and 18 percent of caregivers reportedly left their jobs.

It added that 65 percent of HIV-affected households had a least one loan.

In addition, the report predicted the national HIV epidemic would be responsible for an overall decline in GDP of 16.5 percent between 1993 and 2020. However, the report estimated high coverage of anti-retroviral therapy, up to 96.7 percent, successfully averted 21,497 labor force deaths between 2003 and 2009 and reduced GDP loses by 100 million U.S. dollars a year.

Currently, an estimated 75,000 Cambodian people in 60,000 households are living with HIV/AIDS, said the report.

"The report will be an important base for us to find ways to improve the livelihoods for the HIV-affected households," said Tia Phalla, vice chairman of the National AIDS Authority.
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Helping Hands: A fire truck for Cambodia

Summit resident holding fundraiser to buy and donate third rescue vehicle
By Kathryn Corazzelli

Doug Mendel stands next to Engine 633, which was graciously donated by the Red, White and Blue Fire District, in Prey Nop, Cambodia.

Since 1997, Summit County resident Doug Mendel has made 17 trips to Cambodia. His first, as a traveler for three days, got him hooked.

“I fell in love with the country: the people, the culture, the weather, food and crafts,” Mendel said.

On his third trip in 2001, Mendel spotted a fire station in Sihanoukville, a southern province of the country. A volunteer firefighter for the Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue at the time, Mendel realized the locals were responding to fires in flip-flops, T-shirts and shorts.

“I figured I could probably help them out,” he said.

So Mendel started collecting supplies and gear — bunker pants and coats, boots, helmets, gloves and suspenders. He was able to bring his first three boxes over in 2003.

Mendel kept his efforts up, and in 2005 earned his nonprofit status. The Douglas Mendel Cambodian Relief Fund was born. At the nonprofit's height, Mendel was helping six different fire stations with donated supplies and gear.

The first fire truck he delivered was in March 2006. Red, White and Blue Fire District donated it, and Mendel raised $18,000 to ship it. The truck went to Sihanoukville, where it lived for about six months before moving 20 miles north to a small town called Prey Nop. About once a year, a huge fire would break out in the town, and by the time the closest truck was able to make it from Sihanoukville, whatever had been on fire was gone. Right after the truck was transferred, a market with multiple stalls caught on fire. Because the vehicle was there, 100 stalls — and 100 families' livelihoods — were saved from going up in smoke.

In 2007, Mendel again donated a fire truck. He had one built in country before donating it to a station in a northeastern province.

The Cambodians love American fire trucks, Mendel said. They believe they're built better and are more durable.

“It's nice to see the firefighters using the supplies and gear I give them,” Mendel said. “It seems like they have more pride; that they know that somebody cares about them.”

An 18th trip

Two months ago, Mendel heard about a fire truck for sale in Fairplay — a 1977 American LaFrance 50-foot ladder truck, to be exact. The news captured Mendel's heart because there is currently only one ladder truck in all of Cambodia; in the capital Phnom Penh, which has a population of two million people. The extra vehicle would “help protect life and property.”

So Mendel, along with Red, White and Blue, are holding a spaghetti dinner fundraiser from 5-8 p.m. Sept. 8 at the Breckenridge firehouse on Main Street to help purchase the fire truck. He's hoping to raise $10,000, which would pay for the vehicle, and then a little bit extra in case he needs to foot the cost of shipping. Mendel has been working with Cambodia's Ministry of Interior to see if they will pay for shipment — which runs $16,500 — but he won't find out for another few weeks.

“If they don't pay for shipping, I'll just move on to the next project: raising $16,500,” Mendel said. “It's nice having a project that's so much bigger than myself.”

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U.S. and Cambodia Chamber of Commerce ink deal on trade loan guarantees

PHNOM PENH (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- The U.S. Export-Import Bank (Exim Bank) and the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC) inked the Memorandum of Understanding on trade loan guarantees to boost trade between the U.S. and ASEAN member countries, according to a statement released by the U.S. embassy here on Thursday.

The MoU was signed between the U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia, Carol A. Rodley and Kith Meng, the CCC's president, earlier this week.

The agreement between the two entities reflects an initiative under the U.S.-ASEAN Trade and Investment Framework Arrangement (TIFA), said the statement.

"Under the agreement, Exim Bank provides loan guarantees to underwrite the risk of nonpayment of medium- and long-term loans extended by commercial banks to ASEAN buyers of U.S. goods and services," it said.

The CCC will now join business chambers from Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam under this framework, it added.

In June 2009, President Barack Obama determined that Cambodia became eligible to receive financing for purchases of U.S. exports by its private-sector buyers under the Export-Import Bank Act of 1945.
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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Thai-Cambodian regional border meeting begins

BANGKOK, Aug. 24 (Xinhua) -- The Thai-Cambodian Regional Border Committee (RBC) meeting was kicked off on Wednesday at a hotel in Thailand's northeastern Nakhon Ratchasima province to discuss several issues including troop withdrawal.

The meeting was co-chaired by Lt-Gen Thawatchai Samutsakhon, Thailand's Second Region Army commander, and Cambodia's Fourth Region Army commander Lt-Gen Chea Mon together with Deputy Defense Minister Neang Phat.

Among the 15 agenda, troop withdrawal from the disputed area around Preah Vihear Temple would be raised for discussion.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague ruled on July 18 that both countries should withdraw their forces from the disputed area around the contentious ancient temple in a bid to create a provisional demilitarized zone, following Phnom Penh's request.

On this occasion, Cambodian representatives also congratulated the new Thai government led by Pheu Thai Party which assumed the office following decisive victory in the July election.

The two-day talks will focus on issues including national security, border peace, land development, environment and anti- narcotics measures.
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Cambodian dental nurses gain work experience in Western Isles

                    Pictured are�Ratana (left) and�Srey�Ny, outside Western Isles Dental Centre.

THE Western Isles Dental Centre is currently hosting two Cambodian Dental Nurses who are visiting for a month for work experience.
Srey Ny and Ratana both attended a course for dental nurses in Phnom Penh in Cambodia which was run by local dentist Kenneth MacDonald and senior nurse Carolyn MacDonald.

Srey Ny and Ratana both work in a large modern dental clinic run by Dr. Tith, and such was the competition to visit Stornoway for work experience that 30 staff had to take an examination to test their knowledge and language to select the best two for further training.

Mr MacDonald said: “The two nurses will be watching the procedures in the surgery and following the role of our senior dental nurses in the new Western Isles Dental Clinic.

“Srey Ny and Ratana are really enjoying the experience of working in the Western Isles Dental Clinic and are keeping a diary of everything they learn to take back to Cambodia. They find the temperature and food a bit harder to get used to but they tell their family and friends they are really happy in Stornoway.”

Kenneth MacDonald explained that the clinic in Phnom Penh where the girls work was the best managed practice he had seen as they have ‘ISO 9000’ quality management accreditation, use the same computer software as we do in the Western Isles, and provide the full range of dental treatments from oral surgery and implants to the latest cosmetic treatment.

Dr Tith realised the benefits of well trained staff and has sent most of his staff on the courses Mr MacDonald has been running in Cambodia. More recently, he decided to develop his senior nurses to be able to train their new staff.

Kenneth MacDonald initially went out to Cambodia to work in a Rotary sponsored clinic that provided care for orphans in Phnom Penh, but as he is the chief examiner with SQA and City & Guild for dental nurses he has more recently been asked to provide a training and mentoring role for dental staff and students providing care for orphans and the poor of Cambodia.

With the use of Skype and the internet, Kenneth is almost in daily contact with the staff at the charity’s clinics and able to give help and advice. He returns to Cambodia in November for four weeks to do further training and clinics.
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Vietnam assures stronger ties with Cambodia

Really?How strong would be strong enough for Yuon in this relationship? Yuon had no strong enough confidence to grab more land.  Yuon Tang Dung is asking Hor Namhong to support all Yuons who are living in Cambodia for a safe heaven.

PM Nguyen Tan Dung and Cambodian Deputy PM and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation Hor Namhong ( Image: VNA )

The Vietnamese Government will do its utmost to join efforts with Cambodia to develop bilateral ties in a deeper, more practical and effective manner.

The statement was made by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung during his meeting with Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation Hor Namhong, in Hanoi on August 23.

The PM said potential for co-operation between the two sides was great, especially in trade, investment, tourism, education and training, and the two sides needed to accelerate bilateral co-operation to gain benefits for both.

The two sides should continue to co-operate at the ASEAN forum, contributing to building a prosperous ASEAN community and with the Mekong River Commission to use the Mekong River’s water in an effective and sustainable manner, he said.

The two sides also needed to co-operate in the border marker programme, and help the Vietnamese community to reside legally in Cambodia, he added.

Deputy PM Hor Namhong highly valued the results of bilateral ties in all aspects, particularly trade and investment, assuring that the Cambodian Government will create all favourable conditions for Vietnamese businesses to engage in long-term investment in the neighbouring country.

Deputy PM Hor Namhong was on a visit to Vietnam to attend the 12th session of the Vietnam-Cambodia Joint Committee on Economic, Cultural, Scientific and Technological Co-operation, held in Hanoi on August 23.
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Cambodia Khmer Rogue leaders genocide trial delayed

Bou Meng, a survivor of the Khmer Rouge regime, cries at Choeung Ek 'Killing Fields' on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. File photo.

Testimony in the trial of four surviving Khmer Rouge leaders before a UN-backed war crimes court is unlikely to start this year, tribunal sources and observers said, marking another delay in proceedings against the elderly defendants.

The court had previously said it expected the presentation of evidence and witnesses in the case, the second to come before the tribunal, to begin in mid-2011 before it pushed that date back to October.

But its recent decision to order a psychiatric assessment on the former social affairs minister Ieng Thirith to determine her mental fitness for trial meant there is now little prospect of a 2011 start.

The behaviour of Ieng Thirith, whose sister suffered from schizophrenia, has been at times erratic. At a preliminary hearing in 2009, the Shakespeare scholar made headlines when she warned her accusers they would be "cursed to the seventh circle of hell."

Court spokesman Lars Olsen said late Tuesday that the court would "shortly" appoint national and international psychiatric experts. He said testimony could start once the court had ruled on Ieng Thirith's mental fitness and a number of other preliminary legal issues.

"At this point, it's not possible to say when that will be," Olsen said.

International prosecutor Andrew Cayley said he "sincerely hoped" the case would start this year because Cambodians and donors to the cash-strapped court needed to see progress.

"But we will see," Cayley said, conceding there "are serious factors influencing the start date which have to be addressed."

However Anne Heindel, a legal adviser at the genocide research organisation DC-Cam, said the chances of testimony starting this year were now "practically nil," echoing the opinions of some court staff not authorized to speak on the record to the media and other tribunal observers.

The four surviving leaders, aged 79 to 85, have denied charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity during the Khmer Rouge's 1975 to 1979 rule.

The other three defendants are: Nuon Chea, known as Brother Number Two, who was deputy to the late Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot; former head of state Khieu Samphan; and ex-foreign minister Ieng Sary.

On Monday, the court is to assess the medical reports on three of the defendants to determine their physical fitness to stand trial.

The tribunal estimated 1.7-million to 2.2-million people died in less than four years of rule by the Khmer Rouge, which emptied Cambodia's cities as it advocated a rural, agrarian society. The court said 800 000 of those deaths were violent with the rest attributed to overwork, starvation and illness.

In its first case, the court last year sentenced the regime's security chief, Comrade Duch, to 30 years in prison after finding him guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The verdict on his appeal is pending.
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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

China's security chief goes on tour - How is Asia reacting?

China's Politburo Standing Committee Member Zhou Yongkang arrives for a meeting in Kathmandu, Nepal, August 17, 2011. (Photo: Navesh Chitrakar / Reuters)
Over the past week, as I've traveled across Asia, I've discovered an unlikely partner in my continental peregrinations: China's security chief Zhou Yongkang. The senior Chinese envoy's travels have taken him to Nepal, Laos, Cambodia and Tajikistan. The final stop is Mongolia, where Zhou is expected to head on Tuesday.

In Zhou's wake, the narrative has tended to follow the same plot-line: first, China's state media proclaims “mutually beneficial cooperation” and “longstanding friendship” between Beijing and the local government. Then a raft of trade deals or bequeathing of military goodies is announced. Finally, an undercurrent of unease follows, with regional analysts wondering about China's growing economic and security might.
Last Saturday, Zhou was in Cambodia, where he met with Prime Minister Hun Sen. In addition to various mining, road-construction and farming deals, China has agreed to supply nearly $200 million in helicopters to Cambodia. Beijing is already the Southeast Asian nation's largest foreign investor, and Hun Sen, who has quietly evolved into one of Asia's longest-serving strongmen, has been vociferous in his support of China. His enthusiasm for Chinese largesse stands in marked contrast to his feelings toward Western donors who tend to attach pesky strings like human-rights commitments to their aid. The Phnom Penh Post quoted a local researcher worrying that “Cambodia will become subservient to China.”
Before that in Nepal, Zhou oversaw the signing of more than $50 million in trade and aid. Sandwiched between India and China, Nepal has turned into a kind of proxy ground tussled over by the two Asian giants. The Chinese delegation arrived just days after Nepal's Prime Minister had resigned. Political dysfunction, though, didn't stop the caretaker government from trying to profit from what China's 60-person delegation had to offer. During the Chinese security czar's stay, members of Nepal's Tibetan refugee community were warned against expressing any sentiment that might be considered “anti-China.” (Zhou's previous political duties have included serving on a Beijing committee that deals with Tibet; he helped oversee a crackdown on Tibetan activity in the southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan.)

Zhou's travels produced some consternation in India, which shares a long border with China and has skirmished with its northern neighbor over the contested boundary. On August 22, the Times of India reported that the Indian Army was considering the creation of a Mountain Strike Corps to counter a Chinese military build-up in Tibet, which borders India. Ultra-light howitzers and light tanks would possibly be stationed along parts of the 4,057-km Line of Actual Control, according to the Times. Despite such tough talk, however, it's unclear whether India is really willing to commit financial resources to a military expansion.

Luckily for China, the official reaction to Zhou's visit was far rosier in communist Laos. According to China's state-run news agency, Xinhua, Laos' President Choummaly Sayasone announced last week that “China has become a significant force in the international community and is playing a key role in promoting regional and global peaceful development, which reveals the vitality of socialism and greatly encourages the Lao people.” Socialist brotherhood doesn't get any better than that.
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Cambodia Town made official

Despite being 72 years old and living with the effects of a stroke, Chhang Song, a former Cambodian Information Minister, wasn’t a minute late in arriving to salute the recently installed Cambodia Town sign in Long Beach, California.

The Long Beach Public Works Department installs one of the first
two signs in Cambodia Town on Friday, July 8.

Wheelchair-bound, he gave a moving speech at the official unveiling of the sign on July 16, saying he was very proud and excited to be able to observe the historic event. The signs, which are visible along several streets and highways in Long Beach, are a visual representation of the resiliency and determination of the millions of Khmer currently living outside their home country.

“I wanted to say ‘thank you, Long Beach’. I wanted to embrace and thank the young men and women who made the birth of Cambodia Town possible in America,” Chhang Song says.

Having served the Cambodian government between 1970 and1975, Chhang Song was fortunate enough to have left the Kingdom bound for the United States, Virginia specifically, before the Khmer Rouge took hold of the capital in 1975. Obviously, millions of others weren’t so lucky. If being captured, murdered or put to work wasn’t one’s fate, fleeing the capital for refugee camps located near the border of Thailand was another.

Chhang Song delivers a speech at the official unveiling of the Cambodia Town sign in Long Beach, California.
Come 1978, thousands of those displaced fled to the US in search of some form of safety, security and the possibility of a better life, and Chhang Song was part of the effort to have these people rescued.

“We succeeded in having the Dole-Solarz Amendment passed by both houses of the US Congress in 1978,” says Chhang Song, who later moved to Long Beach to assist with the refugee resettlement. “By virtue of the Dole-Solarz Amendment, a total of 150,000 Cambodians who fled Pol Pot and lived in border camps in Thailand were processed for admission into the US.”

Chhang Song says the areas in which these Cambodians resettled were initially horribly depressed, though the community worked together to clear rubbish, organise self-help services and establish non-profit agencies and law offices. A new way of life was slowly becoming a possibility.

More and more Cambodian-run businesses popped up around the neighbourhood, including doughnut shops, car repairers, jewellery stores, restaurants, beauty salons, pharmaceutical clinics, fabric shops and supermarkets. Khmer culture also began to thrive with the construction of Buddhist temples, Khmer language centres and library programmes which focused on the Kingdom’s rich history.

Sithea San, a survivor of the Cambodian genocide who narrowly escaped the atrocities of the Pol Pot regime by crossing the landmine-riddled border into Thailand to settle in a United Nations refugee camp immigrated to Long Beach with her family in 1981. Upon arrival she spoke no English, yet went on to become fluent and graduate from high school in 1986. She then went on to tertiary study – a time which would change her own, and many others’ lives.

While studying for her bachelor of science in business management at California State University, Sithea San helped organise the first Cambodian Cultural Show through the college’s Cambodian Student Society. It was due to this event she says she developed a burning desire to continue to promote the development of a Khmer community in California.

“From these beginnings, my commitment to preserve and share my cultural traditions became the driving force for my work within and on behalf of the community,” she says.

While in the process of organising the Cambodian Cultural Show, Sithea San met her husband, Richer San, and in 2001 the pair was invited to attend a community meeting organised by the Cambodia Town Initiative Task Force. The meeting was intended to garner support for the establishment of the Cambodia Town Economic Development Project, both from members of the public and local politicians.

Now 44, Sithea San has been the chairperson of community-based organisation Cambodia Town Inc. since 2005, and says the establishment of the Cambodia Town Economic Development Project has been the most challenging experience of her professional life in the US, not least because of a complete lack of funding.

“There were no funds available to hire consultants or staff or for expenditure on publicity or public relations. This all-volunteer effort was built and funded from the ground up,” explains Sithea San, adding that the project also experienced strong opposition from certain sections of the Long Beach community.

“The critics … said the establishment of the Cambodia Town Business and Cultural District would result both in inter-ethnic gang wars between the Cambodian and other ethnic communities, and the isolation of the Cambodian community from the rest of the local communities in Long Beach,” she says.

Cambodia Town Inc. and its board members persevered, however, and spent countless hours lobbying elected officials and municipal staff, as well as leaders of other ethnic communities. Finally, after seven long years and with a 1000-strong crowd packing the council chambers, the proposed resolution of the Cambodia Town project was brought before the city council for approval on July 3, 2007.

Members of the council voted eight to one for the establishment of the Cambodia Town Business and Cultural District and the rest, as they say, is history.

While it did take four years and additional fundraising, in February of this year, Cambodia Town Inc. received approval from the city council to install the Cambodia Town signs. Come July 8 and the first two signs, erected on Anaheim Street, were installed, marking the district’s western and eastern boundaries. July 16 then saw a traditional Khmer ceremony take place, complete with blessings by Buddhist monks and a rendition of the Khmer Wishing Dance, while the remaining three posts were erected. And that’s not the end.
“We are currently collaborating with Long Beach city officials to install 14 additional signs marking the district’s northern and southern boundaries,” Sithea San says, adding that she anticipates the completion of the project by the end of this year.

It’s been a long process, one not yet done, but one that holds significance for thousands of Cambodians. In 2005, the US Census Bureau reported that the number of Cambodians residing in the US was 241,025. And according to Chhang Song, Long Beach is today believed to be home to some 50,000 of them, the highest concentration, he says, of Cambodian immigrants living outside Southeast Asia.

Chhang Song believes now that Cambodia Town, while being primarily a cultural district, will also attract businesses geared toward Khmer communities and facilitate exchanges between Cambodians, between Cambodians and other communities, and between America and Cambodia on a global scale. He says that due to this, Cambodia Town’s official existence will go on to make for meaningful economic, cultural and educational advancement for Cambodians living in the United States.

“I feel that, from this moment onward, cultural, business and other forms of trade and exchange will no longer remain the same for the Cambodians [in Long Beach].”
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Cambodian, Thai travel agents to meet as border row eases

PHNOM PENH, Aug. 23 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian and Thai tour and travel operators are scheduled to meet over the weekend to discuss ways to boost the two neighboring countries' tourism after being affected by continuous border dispute since 2008, the Chairman of Cambodia Association of Travel Agents (CATA) Ang Kim Eang said Tuesday.

The one-day meeting will be held on Aug. 27 in coastal Preah Sihanouk province, some 230 kilometers southwest of Phnom Penh, he said, adding that it will bring together 28 Cambodian tour and travel agents and 66 Thai travel agents.

"As military tension over the border conflict has eased and normalcy has returned to border, the two countries' travel associations want to create close connection to boost respective tourism," he said, "Both sides will promote each country's tourism destinations and seek partners for cooperation."

Thai tourists to Cambodia have constantly declined since the two neighbors have been involved in border dispute since July 2008 when Cambodia's Preah Vihear temple was enlisted by UNESCO as a World Heritage site, but Thailand claims the ownership of 4.6 square kilometers (1.8 square miles) of scrub next to the temple.

Since then, both sides have built up military forces along the border and periodic clashes have happened, resulting in the deaths of troops and civilians on both sides.

However, the border tension between the two countries has eased since the Pheu Thai Party won a landslide victory in the July 3 general election.

The latest statistics showed that Thai tourists to Cambodia had declined by up to 36 percent to 48,136 in the first six months of this year, compared with the same period last year of 75,695.
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Monday, August 22, 2011

Angelina Jolie inspired to adopt by Tomb Raider

By Bang Showbiz

Angelina Jolie was inspired to adopt by her role in 'Lara Croft: Tomb Raider'.

The actress played a daredevil archaeologist - based on the character from the popular 'Tomb Raider' video game series - in the 2001 movie and she has revealed it was the scenes she shot in Cambodia which convinced her to adopt her first child, son Maddox, from the Asian country.

She said: "A turning point in my life came when I made 'Lara Croft: Tomb Raider', in England. It also involved filming, partly, in Cambodia. I learned that the world is bigger than I thought it was and there were more important things than a film. I did not know much about Cambodia. I did not appreciate how beautiful it was and I had never met such open-hearted people."

Angelina - who went on to adopt two more children, son Pax from Vietnam and daughter Zahara from Ethiopia - also credits the film with helping her turn her back on her hard-partying behavior and live a healthier lifestyle.

She explained: "That film also helped me get in to shape. I smoked a lot, drank far too much, had way too much coffee and suffered from insomnia. The fitness coaches on 'Lara Croft' adjusted me. I had a certain amount of water, protein checks, vitamins, my cigarettes were taken away and I was not allowed to drink alcohol. As for that role, I was loud and insane. I had too much fire for everyday life, so fitted into Lara Croft's world perfectly."

Although Angelina had to fight robots and dodge booby traps in the adventure movie, the 36-year-old actress insists being a parent to Maddox, now 10, and his five siblings, Pax, seven, Shiloh, five, Zahara, six, and three-year-old twins Vivienne and Knox, is harder than being a Hollywood hero.

She said: "Once I became a mom, I realized it was far harder than being Lara Croft. I want my kids to appreciate how fortunate they are in life, compared with so many people who have nothing.

"If anybody ever tells me that I am a mother to them like my mom (Marcheline Bertrand) was to me, it will be a great compliment."

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