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Saturday, October 29, 2011

1st Fashion Week kicks off in Cambodia

Cambodia on Friday evening launched the first ever Fashion Week 2011, aimed at boosting the country's fledgling fashion industry, said Ellen Jones, the event' s public relation manager.

The Cambodia Fashion Week 2011, running until Saturday next week, would highlight global fashion trends, featuring international and national designers and introducing up and coming designers from Cambodia and across the region, providing designers with opportunities to network with buyers and potential investors, she said.

The event includes invitation-only runway shows, exclusive parties, a fashion exhibition and more, at selected venues across Phnom Penh, capital of Cambodia.

The CFW 2011 is being hosted by the Cambodia Fashion Council. It will direct 10 percent of all proceeds to fund scholarships for Cambodian youth pursuing careers in the fashion industry, according to the press release.

It is expected to attract over 2,000 participants from across the Asia and South East Asia region, it will be by far the biggest fashion event to be held in the Kingdom, it added.

Em Riem, painter and designer at X-M Design-Cambodia, said, "it 's the largest and most impressive fashion show I have ever seen in Cambodia."

"In recent years, Cambodia's fashion industry has been mushrooming -- clothes with most famous brands around the globe are available in most shops in Phnom Penh," he added.

Sun Sreymom, a model and trainer at Saphor Fashion Training School, attributed the growing fashion industry to Cambodian people's better living conditions.

"Now, most urban Cambodians, especially among teenagers, have begun to look at up-to-date fashions and expensive clothes," she said.
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Singapore, S.Korea airlines to launch flights to Cambodia in winter season

PHNOM PENH, Oct. 28 (Xinhua) -- Two new foreign airlines, Tiger Airways Singapore and South Korea's Eastar Jet, will launch their regular flights to Cambodia in this winter season, from November to March, a senior official at Socit Concessionaire d'A roport (SCA), the operator of Cambodia's airports, said on Friday.

The Tiger Airways will start its daily flights between Singapore and Phnom Penh, capital of Cambodia, by A320 (180 seats) and one flight a week from Singapore to Siem Reap, Cambodia's largest cultural tourism destination, Emmanuel Menanteau, Chief Executive of SCA, said during a press briefing on the promotion of the winter season flights schedule.

He said the Eastar Jet is due to operate four weekly flights for the winter season between Seoul and Siem Reap with a B-737 ( 149 seats).

Including the two airlines, there have been 23 airlines operating regular flights at Cambodia's airports, said Emmanuel.

Cambodia has three international airports, one is Phnom Penh International Airport, another is Siem Reap International Airport, and the other is Sihanoukville International Airport. So far, only two airports have been in full operations as the Sihanoukville International Airport has no plane landing due to the low number of passengers to the area.

According to the passenger records by the SCA, in the first ten months of this year, the Phnom Penh International Airport had received 1.47 million passengers, up 11 percent compared to the same period last year, and the Siem Reap International Airport got 1.39 million travelers, up 14 percent.
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Two Rivers: The Chance to Export Power Divides Southeast Asia

The Irrawaddy River, which flows north to south through the heart of Myanmar, is a commercial and cultural lifeblood for millions of residents.

Jeff Smith
Published October 25, 2011

The Mekong and Irrawaddy rivers, though unconnected and hundreds of miles apart, are both integral to life in Southeast Asia, supporting millions of people and more than 1,200 species of animals, including freshwater dolphins and-in the Mekong-giant catfish.

Now, in an energy-hungry age on the continent, the rivers share another distinction, as wellsprings of financial temptation for the struggling countries that rely on their flow, Laos and Myanmar (Burma). Both countries are grappling with decisions on whether to build massive hydropower dams on the two significant rivers. The projects could put fragile ecology and associated livelihoods at risk, but the dams could help the two countries reap billions of dollars by exporting the megawatts to China and Thailand, two neighbors with rapidly growing energy demand.

For now, it looks like the two nations are taking different paths. In Laos, the government appears to be going ahead with the $3.8 billion Xayaburi dam on the Mekong River-despite opposition by environmental groups, some international donors, and some neighboring countries. In Myanmar, meanwhile, the government shocked many observers last month when it announced it would suspend work on the $3.6 billion Myitsone dam project on the Irrawaddy River. The decision came without notice to its Chinese partner, and just weeks after Myanmar's power minister was adamant the project would go forward. Some observers both within and outside Myanmar are skeptical the suspension will hold.

A Region's Changing Flow
The dams, if completed eventually, would be the first on the mainstreams of the lower Mekong and the Irrawaddy. But China has been building a series of dams on the upper Mekong.

Energy demand has been rising exponentially as the region becomes more prosperous. The money could transform the poorly developed economies of Laos and Myanmar, although many worry the revenues would just enrich the elite.

Scientists and environmentalists are concerned the dams will displace thousands of people, and damage river ecology and the livelihoods of people along the river. They are concerned the dams will lead to additional projects that could have even more devastating impacts.

The dams on the upper Mekong and on the Mekong's tributaries are already triggering changes in river flows.

There are longstanding plans to build as many as 11 additional dams on the Mekong in Laos and Cambodia. Researchers project that if all those dams were built, the impact on wetlands and migratory fish such as the endangered giant catfish could be disastrous.

In addition, 30 percent of the protein sources in Laos and Cambodia would be at risk, according to an environmental assessment (pdf) done for the Mekong River Commission (MRC), an international cooperative body that aims to manage river uses sustainably.

Many poor people living along the Mekong subsist on a diet of rice, fish paste, and some vegetables.
(Related: Video on the Mekong giant catfish)

Diana Suhardiman, a research scientist for the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) in Vientiane, Laos, said the issues are complex, with "formal political/environmental agendas, vested interests, desire for economic growth, all mixed up and contextualized into one single dam development." (Suhardiman was speaking about Laos's planned Xayaburi, but Myanmar's Myitsone reflects similar conflicting interests.)

IWMI is one of 15 nonprofit research centers collectively known as the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, funded by 60 governments, private foundations and international organizations.

Potential Financial Gains Immense

Laos and Myanmar stand to benefit immensely from hydroelectric plants.

Laos-long referred to as a potential "battery" for the region-would primarily sell power from the 1,260-megawatt Xayaburi to neighboring Thailand. If Laos eventually moves ahead with all six of its planned foreign investor-financed dams on the Mekong, it could generate more than $2.5 billion a year in revenue, according to estimates.

Myanmar's suspended Myitsone project was envisioned to have a capacity of 6,000 megawatts, nearly the size of the largest hydroelectric plants in the United States and Russia.

Myanmar was under contract with the state-owned China Power Investment Corporation to sell 90 percent of Myitsone's power to China and reap an estimated $500 million of revenue a year. There also was an agreement between the two countries for six additional large dams in the region.

But the economic costs could be steep as well. Although there is no similar analysis of the potential impact of Myitsone, this issue as it pertains to the Mekong River has been studied intensively.

Losses from the damage to the fisheries and agricultural industries on the Mekong could reach $500 million a year if planned dams are completed, according to the environmental assessment done for the Mekong River Commission (MRC). The lower Mekong strategy began during the Cold War, when the United States, Soviet Union, and China similarly envisioned large hydropower dams for economic development. However, costs, water management disputes, and conflicts such as the Vietnam War impeded the plans. (A 1,070-megawatt hydropower plant recently was completed on the Nam Theun River in Laos with the backing of the World Bank and Asian Development Bank.)

In 1995, the Mekong River Commission, originally a United Nations body but now an independent international oversight organization, was reformed with an agreement that its four member countries-Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam-would discuss the 12-dam Mekong River plan before any decisions were made. But the MRC has no legal authority.

Laos earlier paid heed to the process and opposition by such neighboring countries as Vietnam. But the Laotian government apparently has chosen to ignore the MRC's April consensus to delay a decision on Xayaburi.

Laotian energy ministry officials didn't respond to a query. In July, a letter leaked to the environmental organization International Rivers revealed that the government told its Thai partner that the study process had been completed. Construction work at the dam site has been proceeding for months, says International Rivers, a nonprofit that works to protect rivers and the people who live along those rivers.

Complex Environmental Impacts

The Mekong has been researched extensively, but the impacts of large hydroelectric development can be complex. The potential for damage depends on the location of the facility in the river system, said Tira Foran, a research scientist who has studied the Mekong for years and is now with the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Research Organization in Canberra.

Hydropower dams redistribute river flows; dry season flows generally increase, and monsoon peak flows generally decrease. Theoretically that can lead to better flood control in the wet season, and benefit irrigation during the dry season. But a hydropower operator's first priority is to produce electricity, not to prevent floods or irrigate dry season crops.

Researchers project that dams and the changing water flows on the lower Mekong will have significant, negative impacts on river ecology. Preliminary research indicates the impact on migratory fish is potentially catastrophic and unlikely to be mitigated by fish ladders and other technology.

Foran and other researchers also note the Tonle Sap wetlands area in Cambodia-which bulges in size during the wet season-may be threatened. The Tonle Sap is one of the most bountiful inland fisheries in the world. During the monsoon season, the Mekong River swells and exerts such a force of water that the Tonle Sap tributary reverses direction and floods the lake.

Similar conclusions have been made for the Myitsone in Myanmar, with devastating impacts predicted for many species of migratory fish.

In Myanmar, a Case of Unity

Activist groups long have opposed dam building on Southeast Asia's main rivers.

Opposition in Myanmar came from an unusually passionate discourse in a country that has had a civilian government since early this year, but where a military junta remains in firm control.

The Irrawaddy has a special place in the hearts of the Burmese and in their folklore. One local legend describes the Irrawaddy being formed by water poured from two gold cups by a great spirit sitting in the Himalayas. (The Irrawaddy starts at the confluence of two smaller rivers fed from the Himalayan region.)

The Burmese tested the boundaries of a limited democracy by speaking out against the dam, holding art and photo exhibitions, and circulating a petition to stop the dam. Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who was freed from house arrest last year, has spoken out against the project.

In a surprise turn of events last month, President Thein Sein, in a letter to parliamentarians, suspended work on the Myitsone, saying the government would respect the wishes of its people.  He added the project could damage the natural beauty of the area, the livelihoods of local people, and agricultural plantations.

Other factors besides public pressure may have been at play as well.

An environmental impact assessment commissioned by the Chinese power company and recently released concluded such a massive project wasn't needed.

Fighting has been intense between the Myanmar army and an ethnic Kachin army in the region, according to reports by the Kachin News Group. Some Burmese observers note there may have been concerns that the Chinese were exerting too much power over Myanmar's affairs; there may be hopes that the West will ease sanctions against the country.

(The United States already has made signals it may do so not just because of the Myitsone suspension but because Myanmar has released some political dissidents, has relaxed its control over the media, and has made other "welcome" gestures that signal "a trend toward greater openness," a U.S. State Department official said in a briefing this month.

Whatever the motive or combination of motives, Burmese see the dam suspension as a milestone.

"Irrawaddy has become the first issue on which the government, opposition and the people have become united since the 1962 coup," Yangon journalist Ye Naing Moe wrote in an email. "It could be public pressure or it could be the so-called new civilian government's effort in seeking legitimacy. Anti-Chinese sentiment could be a part of it as well. Anyway, the decision to suspend Myitsone dam has encouraged Myanmar people to keep pushing forward and has taught the government that being loved by the people is good."

Ye Naing Moe traveled to the area in late 2009 with a group of journalists to document and photograph the

Irrawaddy as it was before the dam was built. Their efforts were made into a photo book called "Sketch of a River: Irrawaddy," which was published recently as part of an art and photo exhibition.

Uncertain Futures

It's unclear what will happen next in Laos and Myanmar.

Activist groups hope that Laos reconsiders its decision.

"The decisions now are being made without knowledge but with politics," said Pianporn Deetes, Thailand campaign coordinator for International Rivers.  "They forget that livelihoods and food security of millions are at stake."

In Myanmar, hundreds of Chinese and Burmese construction workers have left the area but some remain, according to the Kachin Development Network Group. Fighting between the ethnic Kachin army and the Myanmar army has continued, the Kachin News Group has reported.

More than 2,000 people living near the dam site already have been relocated to "model villages," according to the government's New Light of Myanmar newspaper. Aung San Suu Kyi in August said 12,000 people had been relocated.

An ethnic Kachin, who asked that her name not be used because of security concerns, said she has heard from villagers that they can't grow anything on their soil because it is covered with rocks or gravel, and they feel separated from their homelands. But she said she doesn't know whether they will try to go home.

Deetes of International Rivers said there's a window of opportunity to pressure the government to be more transparent and to consider more responsible development and environmental standards. The Burmese people also hope for greater openness.

"People want the transparency because they are not sure how much they will benefit from the project," Aung Htun U, a consultant, said in an email from Yangon. Like many, he's skeptical the Myitsone dam project is dead for good.

This story is part of a special series that explores energy issues. For more, visit The Great Energy Challenge.
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Cambodia's unrealized promise

By Ou Virak

PHNOM PENH - Twenty years ago this week Cambodia entered a brave new dawn. The four Cambodian factions that had fought a protracted civil war since the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime in 1979 came together with signatories from 18 countries in Paris to sign the Agreement on a Comprehensive Political Settlement of the Cambodia Conflict, otherwise known as the Paris Peace Agreement. It was a document that promised the Cambodian people peace, stability, democracy and human rights after decades of war and hardship.

The RGC has made some laudable achievements since signing the Paris Peace Agreement. It presided over the ultimate disintegration of the Khmer Rouge after more than three decades of war, slaughter and widespread suffering; it established the Khmer Rouge Tribunal in an attempt to provide justice to the victims of the genocidal regime; it signed various international human-rights covenants and treaties; it oversaw Cambodia's entry into the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN); and it has achieved a fair degree of economic prosperity and development.

In the fields of democracy and human rights, however, its accomplishments are less clear. Prime Minister Hun Sen's government has routinely flouted many of the covenants it has ratified; further entrenched a pervasive culture of corruption and impunity, allowed the wealth gap between the elite and vast majority of poverty-ridden Cambodians to widen alarmingly, and waged a sustained legislative and administrative campaign to control every aspect of the Cambodian people's lives, showing scant regard for the rule of law, democratic institutions and human rights and freedoms.

Freedom of expression in Cambodia has been steadily squeezed, with those wanting to speak openly and protest peacefully increasingly stifled by legislative and judicial means. Leveraging its strong parliamentary majority won at the 2008 polls, the governing Cambodian People's Party (CPP) has passed and continues to pass restrictive laws that play to its political advantage. The courts, which are under total executive control, often act as anti-democratic enforcer, implementing draconian measures under a legislative veil of legitimacy.

For example, the Penal Code, which came into force in December 2010, maintains the dissemination of "disinformation" and defamation as criminal offenses punishable by prison terms. These codes have since been used to silence human-rights activists and others who question or criticize the RGC's personalities, policies and actions.

Limiting freedom of association has recently been given government priority. The latest - and most controversial - law in this legislative campaign is the pending Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organizations (LANGO), which is set to impose mandatory registration requirements on all non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and community-based organizations while allowing for arbitrary administrative sanctions, including suspension and closure.

The forthcoming Law on Trade Unions, as currently drafted, also threatens to deal a serious blow to the right of freedom of association in Cambodia, imposing onerous registration processes and reporting obligations on groups of employees.

Under both laws, groups must register their activities and the very act of forming associations without official approval will be deemed illegal. Recent events, including the suspension of an NGO involved in monitoring a government compensation program and the official harassment and intimidation of other watchdog and advocacy NGOs, suggest that such laws are part of a wider effort to erode democratic space and silence civil society.

Without a viable political opposition, Cambodia now functions as a veritable one-party state. Sam Rainsy, the eponymous leader of the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, is in exile fleeing a raft of politically-motivated criminal charges. Kem Sokha, head of the Human Rights Party, has also come under legal threat. It is not inconceivable that the next general election in 2013 could be contested without the leaders of the two main opposition parties.

Hun Sen outlined his intention "to make the opposition group die" in a speech earlier this year and later pledged to arrest a government critic whose comments about the Arab Spring were perceived as an attempt to foment a similar popular uprising in Cambodia.

Rather than limiting the space for opposition voices, the RGC should ensure that the government's ongoing development is shared by all, with social development prioritized as much as economic development. An increasingly educated and technology savvy new generation can play its part, as young people take advantage of opportunities that their elders were deprived of by the grim demands of the Khmer Rouge's brutal regime.

A rising professional class envisions Cambodia as a high-tech, educated, prosperous country playing a leading role in ASEAN. Under the current regime and restrictions, it's a democratic vision that risks going unrealized.

There is much that the international community can do. While the RGC contends that the implementation and protection of democracy and human rights is a sovereign issue not subject to international interference, the 18 other signatories of the Paris Peace Agreement - as well as the United Nations (UN) - are legally bound to protect and promote democracy and human rights in Cambodia.

These parties can use their economic and political leverage to ensure that the long-suffering Cambodian people can at long last enjoy the democracy and human rights that were promised to them two decades ago.

All stakeholders in Cambodia's future - the RGC, the signatories to the Paris Peace Agreement, the UN, the donors and the people of Cambodia - should use this anniversary as an opportunity to ensure that their substantial commitment and investment is not squandered.

Ou Virak is president of the Phnom Penh-based Cambodian Center for Human Rights.
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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Angelina Julie unwittingly purchased land from Khmer Rouge offial accused of crimes against Humanity, report says

Angelina Jolie has long been a champion for the impoverished nation of Cambodia, from which she adopted her first son Maddox in 2002. But a new report says the actress may have purchased land in the country to operate a foundation in her son’s name from a former official of the Khmer Rouge, the communist party that committed mass murder in the country in the 1970s.

According to interviews with Cambodian officials and documents obtained by Global Post reporters Douglas Gillison and Phann Ana, Jolie’s associate Mounh Sarath purchased 225 acres for approximately $25,000 from a man named Yim Tith in 2003. The land was for housing for Jolie and staff and other purposes, including a ranger station and an educational center for the locals.


In 2005, when Jolie was granted Cambodian citizenship and allowed to own land herself, she sought to transfer the land into her name.

In 2009, Yim Tith was charged with crimes against humanity by international prosecutors working with the United Nations and the Cambodian government in Phnom Penh, which alleged that he participated in eliminating government officials between 1977 and 1979.

According to the Global Post reports, Yim Tith allegedly had control over an area of Cambodia where 600,000 died as a result of the Khmer Rouge misrule.

“He is wanted for crimes against humanity,” Gillison told Fox411. “His job was to eradicate all the local officials and he oversaw operations of the prisons and execution sites across that part of the country. These were brutal places and things were very bloody. He had effective control over all these crime scenes.”

The Global Post reporters, working with The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute, spoke with Yem Yorn, chief of Samlot’s Meanchey commune, near where Jolie has her Cambodian base.

He confirmed to the Post that Yim Tith sold the land to Jolie’s intermediaries.

Jolie’s camp did not respond to calls and emails for comment; Gillison said that despite repeated attempts to reach out to the actress for the story, he never heard back from her camp either.

Gillison is not sure Jolie knew of Yim Tith’s crimes when she purchased the land in 2002, but that after the 2009 charges against him, it would have been hard for the actress to be unaware, given how much time she devotes to Cambodia.

“These crimes happened in the 1970s, and it is not clear to me anyone suffered as a result of her actions,” Gillison told Fox411. “While she may have known or should have known this individual is who he is, he had not been charged when this deal went down in 2002, and the charges weren’t brought until 2009.”

Jolie began the Maddox Jolie foundation in 2003 as a community development organization in Cambodia’s Battambang province. According to the foundation’s official website, its goal is “creating peace and stability in all communities by planning and implementing interventions that prevent negative environmental changes. Working with impoverished rural villagers and local governments to alleviate food insecurities and increase access to primary healthcare and education.”

Since the land transaction was made nearly a decade ago, there is little Jolie could do now to make amends for buying the land from a known criminal.
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Archaeologists says statues unearthed at Cambodia’s Angkor Wat are biggest in 8 decades

By Associated Press

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Archaeologists at Cambodia’s famous Angkor Wat temple complex say they have unearthed the largest Buddhist statues there in eight decades.

Ly Vanna, an artifacts expert for the government’s Apsara Authority that oversees the site, said Thursday the two stone statues found at Ta Prohm temple were headless but the larger one if complete would stand about 10 feet (3 meters) tall. He says the statues are believed to date from the 12th century and are the biggest discovered since the 1930s.

Saurav Ray of the Indian embassy says the statues were found by workers carrying out the Archaeological Survey of India’s 10-year, $4 million restoration project. Angkor’s rehabilitation follows decades of neglect due to civil war.
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Ex-king Sihanouk returns to Cambodia

PHNOM PENH — Cambodia's ailing former king Norodom Sihanouk returned home on Thursday from Beijing where he spent nearly three months receiving medical treatment.

Sihanouk and his wife, accompanied by their son King Norodom Sihamoni, were given a red-carpet welcome by family members, Prime Minister Hun Sen and other senior officials upon arrival at Phnom Penh airport.

A smiling Sihanouk, who will turn 89 on October 31, pressed his hands together in a traditional greeting to well-wishers before getting into a car that whisked him off to the royal palace.

"The health of his majesty has been good," Sihanouk's personal secretary Prince Sisowath Thomico told AFP, adding that the former monarch may stay in Cambodia for "many months" this time.

Sihanouk has suffered from a number of ailments in recent years, including cancer, diabetes and hypertension.

One of Asia's longest-serving monarchs, the revered king abruptly quit the throne in October 2004 in favour of his son, citing old age and health problems.

Despite abdicating, Sihanouk remains hugely popular and tens of thousands of Cambodians are expected to flock to the palace on Sunday to mark the 20th anniversary of his return to the country from exile after years of civil war.
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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Khmer Rouge defendant says he won't testify

(AP) PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — One of four former leaders of Cambodia's Khmer Rouge regime to be tried for genocide next month gave notice Wednesday that he will not testify.

Ieng Sary, the regime's 86-year-old former foreign minister, notified the U.N.-backed tribunal that he will not testify or submit to cross-examination. The tribunal is seeking justice for an estimated 1.7 million people who died of starvation, exhaustion, lack of medical care or execution under Khmer Rouge rule in the late 1970s.

Ieng Sary's Cambodian lawyer, Ang Udom, said his client would cooperate completely with the trial but planned not to testify in order to help the proceedings move faster.

The trial of Ieng Sary and three former colleagues on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, religious persecution, homicide and torture is scheduled to begin Nov. 21.

Ieng Sary has the legal right to remain silent, but his decision will hurt efforts to have the trial help illuminate the dark chapter in Cambodia's history.

"It is a fundamental human right that any defendant in criminal proceedings has the right to remain silent, and cannot be compelled to testify against himself," said Lars Olsen, a tribunal spokesman.

Testimony by former Khmer Rouge prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, the tribunal's first defendant, shed light on the group's atrocities. He was sentenced last year to 35 years in prison for war crimes, crimes against humanity and other offenses, mostly in connection with his supervision of a torture center from which an estimated 16,000 inmates were taken to be executed.

On Monday, lawyers for another defendant filed a complaint accusing Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen of interfering in the proceedings.

Two lawyers for Nuon Chea, the No. 2 Khmer Rouge leader, alleged in the criminal complaint at Phnom Penh Municipal Court that Hun Sen and others in the government had blocked some witnesses from testifying and interfered with the defendants' right to a fair trial.

The lawyers on Wednesday filed a motion with the tribunal seeking to have the start of the trial put off until the criminal complaint is heard. The tribunal issued no immediate reaction to the request.

Previous similar challenges on side issues have failed to affect the proceedings.

Keo Ramy, a spokesman for Cambodia's Cabinet, said the government has not interfered in the tribunal's work and that Nuon Chea's lawyers are just carrying out a delaying tactic.
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130 workers faint in Cambodia

PHNOM PENH: At least 130 garment workers were hospitalised Monday in Cambodia’s Kampong Speu province as they fainted after inhaling insecticide, Xinhua reported Tuesday.

The incident occurred at a garments factory in Samrong Tong district, some 50 km from capital Phnom Penh.

"The accident happened due to the carelessness of the factory’ s management," said Chuon Mon Thol, president of Cambodia’s confederation of trade unions. "They sprayed pesticides in the factory just a few hours before the workers entered the factory hall to work, so the smell caused them to fall ill."

The workers felt fatigue, dizziness and nausea.

Keo Pisei, the provincial police chief, who said the victims were now stable and some had left hospitals, confirmed Tuesday that the mass fainting occurred due to the smell of the pesticide.
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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Officials from 10 countries meet in Cambodia to discuss Millennium Development Goals

SIEM REAP, Cambodia, Oct 25, 2011 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- Approximately 50 government officials and civil society representatives gathered here on Tuesday to discuss ways to accelerate the attainment of the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

Speaking during the opening session of the three-day Advocacy Training Workshop for Least Developed Countries, Cambodia's Minister of Planning Chhay Than said that among the least developed countries, Cambodia is a leading one in its active work to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

"The workshop is to find ways to accelerate the governments' efforts to achieve the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals and to identify the needs of the poor and vulnerable people in order to fight poverty effectively," he said.

He said that in the last decade, Cambodia has seen a success in fighting against poverty by reducing the poverty rate of at least 1 percent a year. By the end of 2010, the poverty rate has declined to 25.8 percent.

He added that the GDP per capita is 830 U.S. dollars in 2010, up 8.5 percent compared to that in 2009.

The UN's Millennium Development Goals focus on extreme poverty and hunger eradication, universal primary education, gender equality and women empowerment, child mortality reduction, maternal health improvement, HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases combat, environmental sustainability and developing a global partnership for development.

The 10 countries attended the workshop are Cambodia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, and the Philippines.

The workshop was organized by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission of Asia and the Pacific.
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Malaria death toll in Cambodia down 22% in 9 months

PHNOM PENH, Oct. 25 (Xinhua) -- Malaria had killed 64 Cambodians during the first nine months of this year, 22 percent decline from 82 deaths at the same period last year, said health officials on Tuesday.

From January to September this year, some 43,991 cases of malaria had been reported, up 15 percent from 38,321 cases during the same period last year, Char Meng Chuor, the director of the National Center for Malaria, said in a press briefing on the mosquito net distribution campaign on Tuesday.

He said that Cambodia is committed to eradicate the death of malaria by 2015. With this target, Cambodia needs the total budget of 131 million U.S. dollars.

Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease. In Cambodia, the disease is often found in rainy season and mostly happens in border provinces, forest and mountainous provinces.
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Robert Pattinson - Robert Pattinson Helps Cambodian Charity

Robert Pattinson is auctioning off a private screening of the latest 'Twilight Saga' movie, which he hopes will raise money to build a home for young girls in Cambodia.

Robert Pattinson has arranged for a private screening of the latest 'Twilight Saga' movie to be auctioned off for charity.

The British actor - who stars as vampire Edward Cullen in the movie franchise - has organised a bidding war for a viewing of 'The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1' which will take place in Los Angeles on November 17, the night before the film officially opens.

Profits from the sale of the private screening will go to the GO Campaign, which is raising money to build a permanent home for PAGE (Program Advancing Girls Education), an organisation helping to educate teen girls in Cambodia.

PAGE - which is run by Cambodian monks in Siem Reap - currently houses 12 girls in a rented facility and the new facility hopes to accommodate 20 girls.

The auction will coincide with the GO Campaign's fourth annual GO GO Gala which will be hosted by Ewan McGregor at the London Hotel in Los Angeles.

Last year, Robert donated a set visit to 'Breaking Dawn' to the same charity which raised $80,000.
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Monday, October 24, 2011

UN urges Cambodia not to meddle

The United Nations has 'strongly urged' the Cambodian government not to meddle in the work of a UN-backed Khmer Rouge court after a judge quit, citing political opposition to two new cases.

'The Legal Counsel strongly urged the royal government of Cambodia to refrain from statements opposing the progress of cases 003 and 004 and to refrain from interfering in any way whatsoever with the judicial process,' said UN under-secretary general for legal affairs Patricia O'Brien in a statement on Thursday.

The high-ranking UN official was speaking after meeting Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An in the capital, Phnom Penh, amid mounting concern over political pressure on the tribunal.

German judge Siegfried Blunk resigned on October 9 claiming repeated government statements opposing two possible new cases linked to the 1975-1979 Khmer Rouge regime effectively made his position untenable.

The shock departure of Blunk, one of two judges responsible for issuing indictments, has rocked the court and prompted observers to call for UN action against long-standing allegations of government meddling.

Phnom Penh has strongly denied interfering but Prime Minister Hun Sen - himself a former cadre - has made it clear he wants the court's work to end with the current second trial, even saying further cases were 'not allowed'.

Court monitor Randle DeFalco, a legal adviser to the Documentation Centre of Cambodia, which researches Khmer Rouge atrocities, cautiously welcomed O'Brien's comments, the UN's strongest reaction yet to the court controversy.

'It's a step in the right direction,' he said.

'But an inquiry still appears necessary to restore public confidence in the court,' he added, noting that Blunk's resignation raised questions over whether the court's investigating office has been properly carrying out its duties.

In a media release after the meeting with O'Brien, the government said both parties had 'reiterated their strong support' for the Khmer Rouge tribunal, which has cost more than $US100 million ($A98 million).

Sok An also urged both sides not 'to be distracted by intense speculation, pressure and interference from the media and other outside parties', it said.

The tribunal's controversial third and fourth cases involve five ex-regime members who are accused of an array of crimes, including mass killings and forced labour.

Their cases are officially still under consideration but critics said Blunk and his Cambodian counterpart were failing to investigate them fully in the face of government objections and they were widely expected to be dismissed.

The court, made up of Cambodian and international legal officials, was set up in 2006 to provide some justice for the nation traumatised by the deaths of up to two million people under the communist movement's reign of terror.

It has so far completed just one trial - jailing Kaing Guek Eav, a former Khmer Rouge prison chief, last year for 30 years for overseeing the deaths of some 15,000 people. The case is now under appeal.

A second trial involving the regime's four most senior surviving leaders - including Brother Number Two' Nuon Chea - is expected to start hearing testimony next month.

A lawyer for one of the accused in that case, ex-social affairs minister Ieng Thirith, told the court on Thursday her client suffers from dementia and should not have to face trial.

Judges are expected to rule on the elderly woman's mental fitness in the coming weeks.

Led by Brother Number One' Pol Pot, who died in 1998, the Khmer Rouge wiped out nearly a quarter of the population through starvation, overwork or execution in a bid to create an agrarian utopia.
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Kidnap Victim Released Unharmed, Father Says

So Ath No was recovering from his ordeal and would not speak to reporters, So Phon said.

So Ath No, the 49-year-old son of a senior government official, was released by kidnappers in the predawn hours Monday, nearly two weeks after his abduction.

The kidnappers had originally asked for a $1 million ransom from his father, So Phon, who is an undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Interior.

So Phon said Monday he had paid no ransom and did not know the reason his son was released.

So Ath No was taken by four men from his home in Phnom Penh’s Russey Keo district on Oct 8. He was released around 1 pm in Tuol Kork district and took a motorcycle taxi home, So Phon said.

So Ath No was recovering from his ordeal and would not speak to reporters, So Phon said. He said he wanted to thank the kidnappers for releasing his son unharmed.

It remains unclear whether police have any leads in the kidnapping. Kiet Chantharith, a spokesman for the national police, said he had not been informed of So Ath No’s release.

Other police officials were not available for comment.
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Khmer Rouge defense files suit against Hun Sen

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Defense lawyers in Cambodia's Khmer Rouge genocide trial filed a complaint Monday accusing Prime Minister Hun Sen of interfering in the proceedings.
Two lawyers for Nuon Chea alleged in a criminal complaint at Phnom Penh Municipal Court that Hun Sen and others in the government had blocked some witnesses from testifying and interfered with the defendants' right to a fair trial.
Previous similar challenges on side issues have failed to affect the proceedings.
Keo Ramy, a spokesman for Cambodia's Cabinet, said the government has not interfered in the tribunal's work and that Nuon Chea's lawyers were just carrying out a delaying tactic.

Nuon Chea, the No. 2 Khmer Rouge leader, is to go on trial with three other defendants late next month. The U.N.-backed tribunal is seeking justice for an estimated 1.7 million people who died of starvation, exhaustion, lack of medical care or torture during the communist Khmer Rouge's 1970s rule.

The four defendants have been indicted on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, religious persecution, homicide and torture.

Hun Sen has publicly chided and threatened the tribunal several times, saying it should not extend its prosecutions beyond the four people to be tried next month and one who has already been convicted. He says more trials could be divisive and even lead to civil war. Many believe, however, that Hun Sen fears his political allies could face indictment.

Some human rights groups accuse the U.N. of bending to Hun Sen's will at the cost of true justice.

Earlier this month, Siegfried Blunk — the tribunal's German judge responsible for indictments — resigned, alleging that government interference in the investigation of new cases could give the impression he was bowing to pressure.

Blunk defended his record, blaming government pressure for the lack of new cases. He cited Cambodia's information minister as saying in May that if investigating judges wanted to probe new cases, "they should pack their bags and leave."
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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Cambodia Needs to Adopt Independent Judiciary

Cambodia Needs to Adopt Independent Judiciary, Democratic Pluralism -- UN Expert

New York, Oct 23 2011 10:10AM

Despite progress in the 20 years since the Paris peace agreements ended decades of fighting in Cambodia, much still needs to be done to fulfil the promise of the accords, including instituting an independent judiciary and a fully pluralist democracy, a United Nations expert warned on Sunday.

"Cambodia has undeniably progressed over the past 20 years, with peace and stability bringing enormous dividends in terms of wealth and development," Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia Surya P. Subedi in a message marking today's 20th anniversary of the accords that ended the war with the Khmer Rouge, whose 1975-1979 regime is estimated to have killed up to three million people in what is widely recognized as genocide.

"Institutions have been established and laws writt
en. However the challenge remains in the implementation of many of these laws and proper functioning of these institutions," he said, calling for the vision of the peace agreements to be turned into reality for all Cambodians.

"The independence of the judiciary needs to be anchored in fundamental laws on the judiciary, which have been awaiting adoption since 1993 and the pluralist democracy in the country needs to be deepened and strengthened, particularly as Cambodia enters two election years," he stressed.

Last week Judge Siegfried Blunk, international co-investigating judge on the UN-backed tribunal set up to try those accused of the worst crimes under the Khmer Rouge regime, resigned, citing repeated statements by senior Government officials opposing progress on two cases concerning senior Khmer Rouge members suspected of responsibility in the deaths of thousands of people.

Yesterday UN Legal Counsel Patricia O'Brien met with Cambodia's Deputy Prime Minister Sok An in Phnom
Penh, the South-east Asian country's capital, and urged the Government to refrain from interfering in any way with the tribunal, officially known as the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC).

"Impunity needs to be addressed for the crimes of the Khmer Rouge period as well as for crimes committed since then, and the right to freedom of association, expressly mentioned in the agreements, needs to be carefully protected and nurtured if Cambodia is to remain on the right road," Mr. Subedi said in his message.

"As we mark the 20th anniversary of the agreements, all parties should reaffirm their commitment to the full implementation of the agreements so that their vision and legacy may become reality."

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Cambodian village has disturbing reputation for child sex slavery

SVAY PAK, Cambodia (CNN) -- Svay Pak has a disturbing reputation. The village outside Cambodia's capital of Phnom Penh is known as a place where little girls are openly sold to foreign predators looking for sex.

One of the girls who was sold into the sex trade told CNN that before she could read she was working in a brothel.

"I was about 5 or 6 years old," she said. "The first man said to me, 'I want to have sex with you.' At the time I didn't know what to do. No one could help me."
Dozens of girls have had the same experience in her neighborhood.

She says she was approached by a man while playing outside. He asked her to come over and talk to him and before she knew it she was alone and being asked for sex. Some of the girls were actually sold into the sex trade by their own parents.

Many were housed with other girls her age in what looked like a cell. The room was pink had thick walls and no windows and was about 7 feet long by 7 feet wide. There were several rooms just like it stuffed into a building that had a gate over the front door and bars on the bathroom window. The brothel she lived in specialized in pre-pubescent girls.

The young girls were sought after by the foreign men who came to the area for one reason, they knew they could find young girls for sale.

"At the beginning they talked to me gently but when they raped me, they also beat me up," the former sex slave said, her head bowed and tears rolling from her eyes uncontrollably.

She is now 18 and no longer trapped in a terrible and painful life. Three years ago she found a safe haven after Don Brewster and his wife moved in to the neighborhood and began operating a rehabilitation center for child sex slaves.

"I really think it's an evil -- I mean there is no understanding it. The girls, I mean, they're in such pain and suffer so greatly and it is obvious to the man that's raping them," Brewster said.

Brewster says things have changed in Svay Pak in the past several years. It used to be girls hung out in the open beckoning from behind barred windows to the men who walked by. Pimps no longer descend on every foreign man who shows up in the neighborhood offering to sell them virgins. While it is changing there is still a nasty underbelly in the area but travelers have to go looking for it now. The sex trade has gone underground but it is still there.

"If you just look on the surface you would say that doesn't happen but just yesterday we rescued a 5-year-old girl here in Svay Pak," said Brewster, who works with Agape International Missions.

But the situation is changing there slowly now that there is a place that provides a secure environment for children to just be children.
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Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar rice to trade in Thailand

By Sameer Mohindru

HO CHI MINH CITY (MarketWatch) -- The Thai government's procurement of rice from growers well above market prices is expected to result in at least 2.5 million metric tons of the grain from Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar to find its way into Thailand's granaries and trade, industry officials said.

On Oct. 7, Thailand started procuring domestic rice from growers at THB15,000/ton, around 40% above market rates. Barely any procurement has taken place due to severe floods but is likely to gather pace in the next few months as waters recede.

Traders and industry officials point out that due to Thailand's porous borders, rice from neighboring countries will also be moved into Thailand to take advantage of the higher prices. This will push up inventories in Thailand, world's largest exporter and push up global prices.

There is a large price differential between Thai and Cambodian rice, even though the quality is similar and many traders are now trying to bring in rice from across the border, said Christophe Cousin, managing director, Prasert and Sons, a Pathumthani-based international rice brokerage in Thailand.

It is usual for around 1.0 million tons of Cambodian rice to be transported across the Thai border every year for more remunerative export prices, and now with the government offering even better rates, the trans-border movement will at least double in volume, said Chookiat Ophaswongse, former president of Thai Rice Exporters Association.

Cambodia's ordinary white rice is being traded around THB7,000/ton, less than half of the Thai government's procurement price. Corresponding prices of rice in Laos are between THB6,000-THB7,000/ton. Rice in Myanmar is even cheaper between THB4,500-THB5,000/ton.

At least 500,000 tons of rice from Myanmar move across the border annually to neighboring countries including Thailand as part of informal trade and it is possible that Thai traders make more purchases this year due to high price differential, said Tin Htut Oo, a senior adviser in Myanmar Rice Industry Association.

Analysts and industry officials participating in a global rice conference here said that Thai government policy has loopholes because the grain will be procured and stored by the millers on its behalf. Earlier this month, government said that it has set a stringent criteria to ensure only the domestic crop of the latest harvest is procured.

However, private executives point out that due to unscrupulous millers and gullibility of lower-level bureaucracy not only rice from neighboring countries but also previous year's Thai harvest will be passed on to pocket the price differential.

Millers will blend large volumes of rice from neighboring countries and previous Thai crops and register them in the name of local farmers resulting in a huge government stockpile, a slowdown in exports and tightened global supply, said Chookiat.
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Friday, October 21, 2011


The worst floods in Cambodia for more than a decade, that have killed 247 people, mainly from drowning, and displaced more than 100,000 families, could worsen, Christian Aid warned this week.

‘With heavy rains set to continue it is feared the people of Cambodia will suffer even more,’ said Katja Leven, Christian Aid’s country manager for Cambodia

‘The situation will worsen further when neighbouring Thailand and Vietnam open their dams to ease their own floods.’

‘A major concern is food security. Now and in the longer-term there’s the risk of severe food shortages due to rice fields being submerged,grain stores swept away and the December harvest being lost,’ said Katja.

Already thousands of homes and usually safe places such as open patches of high ground, schools and pagodas have been flooded.

Flood waters in the provinces around the Tonle Sap Lake is continuing to rise, and whilst the Mekong river water levels have begun to drop they are expected to remain high for the next few weeks.

Nearly three-quarters of the country is thought to have been affected, and it’s the poorest who have been hit the hardest.

Most of the communities affected by the floods are in rural areas which are still difficult to access, where people are largely dependent on subsistence agriculture, mainly rice farming and fishing, for survival.

Provincial authorities estimate that up to 60 per cent of the rice crop may have been destroyed.

Another major concern is sanitation, many people do not have access to safe drinking water and many wells are contaminated with flood water.

Local organisations funded though Christian Aid, DCA and the ACT Alliance are distributing food and providing safe water to the worst affected communities.
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UN Warns Officials To Stop Remarks Opposing Tribunal Cases

O’Brien also “expressed concern” over the developments at the court and called on government leaders and others to “respect and support the integrity and independence of the [tribunal] judicial process,” the statement said

U.N. Under Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, Patricia O'Brien, center, shakes hands with Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An prior to a meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Oct. 20, 2011. O'Brien was expected to meet with Cambodian government officials over the working of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) and recent resignation of the ECCC judge Siegfried Blunk, who expressed dissatisfaction over the interference from the government.

The UN’s top legal representative has warned Cambodian officials to cease public statements in opposition to two cases before the Khmer Rouge tribunal.

Patricia O’Brien, UN undersecretary-general for legal affairs, met with government officials Thursday night to discuss UN concerns in the wake of the resignation of international investigating judge Siegfried Blunk.

Blunk said Prime Minister Hun Sen, Foreign Minister Hor Namhong and Information Minister Khieu Kanharith had all made statements demonstrating government opposition to cases 003 and 004, creating an atmosphere in which he would be perceived as biased, no matter his judgment on the cases.

In a meeting with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last year, Hun Sen said those cases at the court were “not allowed.”

Blunk’s resignation has fueled widespread speculation that the court is under political pressure not to fully investigate the cases, which would require the indictment of five more Khmer Rouge leaders, an act Cambodian officials have warned could destabilize the country.

O’Brien “strongly urged the royal government of Cambodia to refrain from statements opposing the progress of cases 003 and 004 and to refrain from interfering in any way whatsoever with the judicial process,” the UN said in a statement following Thursday’s meeting, which included Council Minister Sok An, who oversees the court for the government.

O’Brien also “expressed concern” over the developments at the court and called on government leaders and others to “respect and support the integrity and independence of the [tribunal] judicial process,” the statement said.

The court is in the midst of preparations for its largest, and second, trial to date, in which jailed former leaders Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan, Ieng Sary and Ieng Thirith are charged with atrocity crimes that include genocide. The court is expected to open a major hearing in that case in November.

In its own statement after Thursday’s meeting, the Council of Ministers made no mention of the warnings on cases 003 and 004 or of Blunk’s resignation and his concerns for perceived political interference at the court.

However, Ek Tha, a spokesman for the Council of Ministers, denied any government officials had interfered with the tribunal’s work.

“We let the court work to fulfill its duty in conformity with legal procedures,” he told reporters.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan said the two sides had not “deeply” discussed the two controversial cases.
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UN Legal Chief Wraps Up Visit to Cambodia’s Tribunal

U.N. Under Secretary-General for Legal Affairs Patricia O'Brien smiles during a meeting with Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, October 20, 2011.
 The head of the United Nations’ Office of Legal Affairs wrapped up her visit to Cambodia’s troubled Khmer Rouge tribunal on Friday with strong words for the Cambodian government, which has long spoken out against two of the court’s investigations. But there was no mention of whether the U.N. would investigate the conduct of one of the court’s key offices that has been criticized by observers and survivors.

Patricia O’Brien’s visit to Phnom Penh came after German investigating judge Siegfried Blunk quit earlier this month citing political interference.

Late Thursday O’Brien said she had strongly urged Phnom Penh to stop making statements opposing the progress of two of the four main cases, known as Case 003 and 004. She also called for authorities to refrain from interfering in any way with the judicial process and reminded the government that it is obliged to cooperate fully with the tribunal.

Over the past year Cambodian ministers have publicly spoken out against the court’s final two cases.

Ou Virak, the president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR), and a survivor of the Khmer Rouge, which killed his father welcomed O’Brien’s statement - in part.

“I thought the statement was concise enough, but my problem with it is that it referred to political statements by the government, by government officials. I think it doesn’t go far enough," he said. "We need to make sure that the U.N. is pushing for complete independence of the court, and therefore not just statements being made public, but any sign of interference by the government should be unacceptable - and that to me is what was missing.”

Court observers and survivor groups have criticized the conduct of the tribunal in recent months, arguing that judges were politically pressured to undermine their investigations into Cases 003 and 004.

O’Brien’s statement did not mention whether the United Nations would investigate what had occurred at the Office of the Co-Investigating Judges - the arm of the court lead by Blunk and his Cambodian counterpart You Bunleng.

Ou Virak, the president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR), is among those who have called for an independent investigation.

He said he and other Cambodian observers met with O’Brien on Friday and told the U.N. legal chief that the court must build public confidence.

“The court needs to provide this confidence by properly investigating, by putting into place the necessary mechanism to ensure there’s no such things in the future. But the problem is they have to address all these allegations including the allegation I think made lately by the resignation of Judge Blunk,” Oy said.

Virak said he was not encouraged by O'brien’s willingness to order a probe.

Instead, he says, the conversation from the U.N. side focused on reasons not to investigate.

U.N. spokesman Lars Olsen said Friday that O’Brien had gathered information so that the U.N. can decide “what action, if any, would be appropriate.”

Earlier this week the tribunal announced that Case 002, against the four surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge, would start in late November.

And on Thursday the court heard arguments over whether defendant Ieng Thirith, the former social affairs minister, is fit to strand trial.

Medical experts say Ieng Thirith has dementia, and her legal team says she is not fit for trial. That is opposed by the prosecution and lawyers for civil parties.

The tribunal is expected to rule on Ieng Thirith’s fitness for trial in the coming weeks.
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Cambodian PM's Visit to China Fruitful: Commerce Minister

The visit of Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen to China's Nanning to join the 8th China-ASEAN expo and investment and business summit has brought Cambodia with humanitarian aids and closer ties on politics, trade and investment between Cambodia and China, concluded Cambodia's Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh on Friday.

During his stay in Nanning, the capital city of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Prime Minister Hun Sen had met with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao to discuss ways to further strengthen and expand the bilateral cooperation, Prasidh told reporters at Phnom Penh International Airport upon the prime minister's return from China.

He said that Hun Sen informed Wen about the worst floods that have hit Cambodia since August and killed 247 people as well as damaged about 10 percent of agricultural crops this year.

In response, Wen expressed deep sympathy over the loss of life and crops and he pledged to provide an additional 1.5 million U.S. dollars to help Cambodian flood victims.

Last week, China donated the emergency flood relief aids worth 50 million yuan (7.8 million U.S. dollars) and the aids included medications, medical supplies, mosquito nets, blankets, towels and other relief materials. The supply had been airlifted by two planes to Cambodia over the weekend.

"This is thanks to the good relations between Cambodia's and China's leaders," said Prasidh.

In the meeting, both premiers also promised to strengthen cooperation in all regional and international forums.
Hun Sen thanked China for fully supporting Cambodia's candidacy for the non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in next year vote.

The two premiers also pledged to boost the bilateral trade volume to 2.5 billion U.S. dollars in 2012, Prasidh said, adding that the trade between the two countries this year is expected to reach 2 billion U.S. dollars, up from 1.44 billion U.S. dollars in 2010.

"We foresee that milled rice and garment products will be the key products to boost Cambodia's exports to China," he said.

On the investment side, Wen promised to encourage more Chinese companies to Cambodia, said Prasidh, adding that China's investment in Cambodia in 2010 was 694 million U.S. dollars, the largest investor in Cambodia.

During in China's Nanning, Hun Sen also met with the management of the China Development Bank and the governor of China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. On Friday morning, he joined the 8th China-ASEAN expo and investment and business summit.

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U.S., Royal Cambodian Navies Head to Sea for CARAT 2011 Exercise

SIHANOUKVILLE, Cambodia | U.S. and royal Cambodian navies began their 2nd annual Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Cambodia exercise Oct. 20, with a pierside opening ceremony at the port of Sihanoukville.

"Last year marked an important step forward in the relationships between the U.S. and Cambodian Navies," said Rear Adm. Tom Carney, commander, U.S. Navy's Task Force 73. "This year, for the first time, a ship from the U.S. Navy, one of our newest destroyers, will be getting underway with royal Cambodian navy ships for a series of at-sea events."

During the week-long exercise, Sailors and from both countries are participating in training exchanges ashore on topics as diverse as maritime domain awareness, vessel boarding procedures, dive and salvage operations and various maritime symposia. U.S. Navy Seabees are joining royal Cambodian armed forces engineers in renovating a public health clinic and drilling water wells at a local school, while U.S. Navy and Cambodian divers conduct pier inspections and remove hazards to navigation. Additionally, several friendship-building events are planned, including band concerts at public parks and schools in Phnom Penh, and community service projects, receptions and sporting events between forces of both nations.

At sea, both U.S. and several royal Cambodian navy ships will conduct communication drills, division tactics, surface gunfire drills and more. Participating U.S. aircraft include the P-3C Orion, and the SH-60 Seahawk.

Approximately 400 U.S. Sailors are participating in CARAT Brunei 2011. Two U.S. ships, guided-missile destroyer USS Kidd (DDG 100) and the dive and salvage ship USNS Safeguard (T-ARS 50), are participating.

CARAT is a series of annual, bilateral maritime exercises between the U.S. Navy and the armed forces of Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand.
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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Cambodia PM leads businessmen to join 8th China-ASEAN expo in Nanning

PHNOM PENH, Oct. 20 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday led a group of senior officials and businessmen to attend the 8th China-ASEAN expo and investment and business summit in China's Nanning, which runs from Oct. 21 to Oct. 26.

Srey Thamrong, a minister attached to Prime Minister Hun Sen, told reporters at Phnom Penh International Airport before departing for Nanning that senior officials accompanying the premier including the Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh, Secretary General of the Council for the Development of Cambodia Sok Chenda Sophea, Finance Secretaries of State Aun Porn Moniroth and Ok Rabun and businesspeople totaling 250 people.

At the airport, the premier was seen off by other Cambodian high ranking officials and Charge d'Affairs of Chinese Embassy to Cambodia He Leping.

Hun Sen would hold talks with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao Thursday afternoon and then meet with the management of the China Development Bank and the governor of China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, said Thamrong.

He said that the 8th China-ASEAN expo has been attended by exhibitors from China and ASEAN countries totaling 4,600 booths. Also, there are exhibitors from Japan, South Korea, France, Canada, Finland and Nepal.

Some 75 Cambodian companies have their products displayed in 90 booths in the expo, he said.

"The event is very important to promote Cambodian products to the globe and to attract more Chinese investors and investors from ASEAN countries to Cambodia," he said.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Hun Sen will return to Cambodia on Friday afternoon.

This is Hun Sen's sixth time to attend the China-ASEAN expo held in China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.
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Cambodia hears reparation list for Khmer Rouge victims

New York, Oct 20 : Lawyers representing 4,000 victims of Khmer Rouge atrocities on Wednesday presented a wish list for reparations to the United Nations-backed tribunal in Cambodia that is trying four former political leaders of the regime accused of crimes against humanity.

The tribunal, known officially as the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), was set up under an agreement signed in 2003 by the UN and the Government, and is tasked with trying those deemed most responsible for crimes committed under the Khmer Rouge between 1975 and 1979 during which as many as two million people are thought to have died.

Former leaders of the Democratic Kampuchea, the Khmer Rouge-controlled communist organization – Defence Minister Ieng Sary, head of State Khieu Samphan, Social Affairs Minister Ieng Thirith and Nuon Chea, also known as Former Brother Number 2 – are currently on trial for genocide and crimes against humanity.

This is the first time victims participate as civil parties in an international criminal trial and are entitled to request “moral and collective” reparations in the event of conviction.

“Reparations have to be satisfactory for civil parties. Reparations have to alleviate their pain and grief,” said international lead co-lawyer Elisabeth Simonneau-Fort. “It is our duty to be ambitious… If we are not ambitious, we cannot represent our civil parties.”

Among the reparations listed were the establishment of a national remembrance day, providing health services for elderly victims, and supplying vocational training to victims of forced marriage and their children. There was also a request to provide legal counsel to help ethnic Vietnamese who had been forcibly deported by the Khmer Rouge to obtain Cambodian nationality.

According to the UN Assistance to the Khmer Rouge trials (UNAKRT), lawyers focused on the importance of preserving the memory of the Khmer Rouge period so younger generations can understand the significance of that time period in the country’s history.

Senior assistant prosecutor Vincent De Wilde D’Estmael supported the reparations requests, saying that civil parties “are the voice of all of the victims who remained voiceless during the regime of the Democratic Kampuchea” and encouraged the parties in court to do everything possible to ensure their requests are accepted.

But defence attorney Michael Karnavas said the list was beyond the scope of the tribunal. “It would appear highly commendable and aspirational, but it is something the Government should be doing,” he said. “I’m not convinced that the court is capable to grant those reparations requests.”

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Thai PM Appeals for Unity as Floods Threaten Capital

"We are still very concerned because there is still a mass of water that's coming down from the north..."

Thai monk watches flood Waters pushing Into Sai Mai Temple, which is north of Bangkok.

Thailand Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is calling for all political factions to unite as soldiers and workers struggle to shore up dikes protecting Bangkok against raging floodwaters.

Hundreds of soldiers and volunteers heaped sandbags into breaches in dikes protecting industrial and housing estates north of the capital Wednesday. A government warning identified several districts that could be inundated because of "complications" in the operation of the dikes.

An army lieutenant, Chainarong Duanram, warned that a sewage treatment pond in one estate was threatened. "Behind us is the sewage pool for the (Bang Kadi) industry estate. The waste water treatment pond will overflow if water comes in from the canal, then it will enter the area of the factories,'' Duanram.

He said if the pond is flooded, the sewage will flow into the factories.

Yingluck toured affected areas by helicopter Wednesday, and afterward told reporters she cannot handle the crisis by herself. She urged opposition parties to set aside politics and cooperate with her government to restore people's morale.

Former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who was defeated by Yingluck this year, did not respond directly to her appeal, but he warned that the capital is still at risk from the nation's worst flooding in 50 years.

"We are still very concerned because there is still a mass of water that's coming down from the north, and, you know, as you know it still rains, and also high tide will come back in about couple of weeks time," Vejjajiva stated.

Bangkok Governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra had declared the crisis largely over on Monday. But he said Wednesday he is still very worried. "This is more difficult to manage. I cannot be optimistic. I have to make all possible preparations and hope for the best," he said.

Despite its problems, the government Wednesday announced a donation of almost $100,000 in flood relief for neighboring Cambodia, which has been equally hard-hit. The floods, have also deluged Vietnam, Laos and the Philippines, killing more than 700 people across Southeast Asia.

Yingluck's government has been working to repair relations with Cambodia following a series of border clashes that killed 28 people this year.

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China's top political advisor visits former Cambodian King

Jia Qinglin (L), chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, shakes hands with former Cambodian King Norodom Sihanouk (C) in Beijing, capital of China, on Oct. 19, 2011. (Xinhua/Xie Huanchi)

BEIJING, Oct. 19 (Xinhua) -- China's top political advisor Jia Qinglin visited former Cambodian King Norodom Sihanouk in Beijing on Wednesday and greeted him on his 90th birthday, which falls on Oct. 31.

Jia, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, conveyed birthday greetings from President Hu Jintao and other Chinese leaders.

Calling Sihanouk a long-time and good friend of the Chinese, Jia praised Sihanouk's outstanding contribution to promoting China-Cambodia friendship, as well as his firm support for China.

"It is a steadfast policy of the Chinese government to consolidate and develop the China-Cambodia traditional friendship," Jia said.

He said he believes that under the care of the Cambodian royal family, with joint efforts of the two countries and peoples, China-Cambodia friendly ties will be full of new vitality.

Sihanouk said he regarded Jia's visit and the greetings of President Hu and other Chinese leaders as the highest honor China has awarded him.

The Cambodian people will never forget the unselfish support from the Chinese people during Cambodia's difficult times, he said.
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Cambodia’s Golden Age of Cinema, Told on Film

Chou Davy, a young French-Cambodian filmmaker. “It’s a very big honor for me because it’s said to be the biggest film festival in all Asia.”

Chou Davy is a young French-Cambodian filmmaker, whose grandfather, Van Chann, made movies in Cambodia in the 1960s and 1970s.

Following in his grandfather’s footsteps, Chou Davy has now had his first feature-length documentary shown at an international festival in Busan, Korea.

Chou Davy’s parents fled to France in 1973, and the young man returned to Cambodia for the first time in 2009.

He stayed for almost a year, training Cambodian students to produce movies, one of which, “Twin Diamond,” screened at the Lux Cinema in Phnom Penh. He also organized a film exhibition called “The Golden Reawakening,” in the capital, before returning to France for a short time.

The following year, he returned with a film crew. For a month, the team shot a documentary, “The Golden Slumbers,” which was screened at the Busan International Film Festival last week.

“It’s a very big honor for me because it’s said to be the biggest film festival in all Asia,” he told VOA Khmer in a recent interview. “I am so pleased, because it is my very first feature film and have this chance, that this film is selected to this very important festival. Also I’m very proud that Cambodia is represented there because it’s introduced there in Busan as a Cambodian film.”

The film chronicles the “Golden Age” of Cambodian cinema, which began in the 1960s but was extinguished when the Khmer Rouge took power, in 1975. The story of that period is told through the recollections of three film directors—Ly Bun Yim, Yvon Hem and Liv Sreng—and one of the period’s famed actresses, Dy Saveth.

“The film is not only the testimonial interviews of the survivors,” Chou Davy said, “but is also dealing with the present of Cambodian cinema. What has become of the cinemas that have been shut down and now transformed into different places, such as karaoke [clubs] and restaurants?”

As he researched the film, Chou Davy learned how the directors and actress survived the Khmer Rouge and how they moved on after many hardships. The film represents the first time their stories have been told.

“Those stories of their lives and all the regret and everything, some of them didn’t express those feeling for a very long time,” Chou Davy said. “So that was also something very moving for me and very strong.”

More than 400 films were produced during Cambodian cinema’s halcyon days. Only 35 survived. In his search, Chou Davy found that many of the films had survived in the memories of their former producers and stars, and in the memories of those who had watched them. On the street, he would look for Cambodians of a certain age, in their fifties or sixties, and he would ask them if they had watched films before the Khmer Rouge.

“All of them would start to tell me the stories that they really loved, telling me the story from A to Z,” Chou Davy said. “And it was like the film was just shown the day before, even if they hadn’t seen it for 40 years. That was something very strong and very magic, that the cinema brought so much joy to the people that they could never forget.”
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Thai government donates 6 million THB to help flood victims in Cambodia and Vietnam

BANGKOK, 19 October 2011 – The Thai government has contributed three million THB to Cambodia and Vietnam each, to support flood relief efforts in the neighbouring countries.

Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul recently handed the cash donations together with letters of condolence from Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to Cambodian ambassador You Aye and Vietnamese ambassador Ngo Duc Thang.

In the letters, the Prime Minister stated that the disaster was a challenge that had never happened before and had caused immense damages. On behalf of the Thai government and people, Ms Yingluck vowed to stand side by side with the two countries in the face of the catastrophe and expressed hope that Asean and other friendly nations would render their hands in solving the situation.

The deluge in Cambodia has killed 247 people and affected 1.2 million others while 2.4 million rai of farmland has been damaged. In Vietnam, 43 people were killed and over 70,000 houses damaged while over 300 square kilometers of rice fields have been under floods. The deluge is regarded as the severest in several decades in Southeast Asia. Read more!

Monday, October 17, 2011


SHAH ALAM, Oct 17 (Bernama) -- Human Resource Minister Datuk Dr S. Subramaniam said Malaysia will hold talks with Cambodia to resolve the ban the Cambodian government has imposed on the sending of domestic help to Malaysia.

He said the government was willing to hear views from the Cambodian government on ways to improve the welfare of Cambodian maids working in Malaysia.

"At my ministry level, we will look at all the processes to see how we can improve the existing system to improve supervision as to the welfare of foreign workers, specifically domestic help," he said in commenting on the ban imposed by the Cambodian government on Friday following reports of a few cases of abused involving Cambodian maids working in Malaysia.

Dr Subramaniam said the abuse cases were a "one rotten apple spoils the whole barrel" situation because only about one per cent of registered maid employers in the country were found to have acted cruelly against their maids.

Earlier, he had handed over offer letters to 39 school leavers from around the Klang Valley to pursue studies under the ministry''s MYSKILLS programme.



The progamme, launched in June, to date has provided study opportunities to 2,590 school leavers from throughout the peninsula.

According to Dr Subramaniam, graduates of the programme could earn good incomes working as welders, cooks and mechanics.


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Cambodia Worries about long-term flood fallout

KRATIE PROVINCE, 17 October 2011 (IRIN) - Severe flooding across Cambodia poses serious risks to the country's food security, according to NGOs.

Flooding has spread across 17 of Cambodia's 24 provinces, killing 247 people, forcing the evacuation of more than 34,000 households, and destroying some 200,000 hectares of rice fields, which comprise nearly 10 percent of the country's harvest, according to the National Committee for Disaster Management (NCDM) [ ], a government agency.

It said flood damage, including destruction of more than 1,000 schools and some 2,400km of roads, would exceed that caused by devastating floods in 2000, which cost US$161 million in damage.

Leh Smah, 62, said a third of residents in his community, Chhoer Teal Plun Village in Kratie Province in the northeast, had lost large parts or all of their rice harvest.

The 20kg rice sacks donated to affected families by the Red Cross will last a week, he said. "Soon they will be out of food again and will have to purchase food on credit unless they receive more aid."

More than 80,000 families have received aid, according to the NCDM.

Francis Perez, head of Oxfam in Cambodia, said flood relief varied by province, with robust assistance in most areas but there were still "huge pockets where emergency response has been very inadequate".

The southeastern province of Prey Vey in particular, he said, had received far less flood relief than other provinces and some communities were facing food shortages.

The longer-term impact of the flooding remains uncertain but, says Rosaleen Martin, a spokesperson for the UN World Food Programme, there are widespread concerns over food security.

Prime Minister Hun Sen announced last week that the government would create a $100 million fund for relief and rehabilitation but no details have been given on how this money would be managed.

The Agriculture Ministry says it plans to distribute rice seeds to flood-affected communities to help offset losses from destroyed crops.

In a move to stabilize rice prices, which began to rise because of the flood, government authorities released 120MT of government-stocked milled rice on to the market on 16 October.

A spokesperson for the UN Disaster Management Team in Cambodia said the group was drafting a proposal for an emergency fund that would include assistance for emergency relief and the rehabilitation of destroyed fields.

Oxfam's Perez said that because of losses to their rice harvest, farmers would likely turn to borrowing, which is commonly done at usury rates "that drive people into a risky cycle".

Health risks
Health officials say the flooding had prolonged the dengue fever season: 54 children have died from the disease in the first nine months of this year, compared with 28 in 2010, according to the government's National Dengue Control Programme.

Dengue outbreaks are spurred by heavy rain, which forms pools that harbour the eggs of mosquitoes carrying the disease.

Other health risks associated with flooding include water-borne diseases spurred by damage to toilet and drinking water facilities, as well as respiratory infections and measles.

The UN and a number of NGOs were coordinating with government agencies to provide water purification tablets, ceramic water filters and jerry cans for safe water storage.

Nima Asgari, a public health specialist with the World Health Organization in Cambodia, said no signs had yet emerged of disease outbreaks in affected communities.

The main task for health officials is to restore emergency health services, including assisted birthing, to affected communities.

The UN Children's Fund is releasing funding for rural government health offices to form mobile teams to travel to families cut off from regular healthcare access because of the floods, said Richard Bridle, the group's country representative.
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Despite Ban, Cambodian Maids Still Being Sent to Malaysia

Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen signed an order in recent days that bars recruitment firms from sending domestic workers to Malaysia after numerous reports of abuses.

But a prominent rights group says the ban was quickly violated when at least two firms sent more women abroad on Monday.

Rights groups have been pressuring Phnom Penh for months to combat the abuse of Cambodian maids working in Malaysia.

Last Friday Prime Minister Hun Sen promised to take action.

On Saturday he signed an order banning Cambodian recruitment firms from sending domestic workers to Malaysia.

Rights groups welcomed the ban. Maid placement agencies condemned it.

But on Monday, Naly Pilorge, the director of rights group LICADHO, says that two firms sent at least 25 young women to Malaysia on the early morning flight from Phnom Penh.

“I mean Friday and Saturday I was encouraged, but after my colleagues reported that at least 25 women were seen leaving to Malaysia this morning, it’s clear to me that the authorities, the companies are defying this ban," said Pilorge. "So no, I’m not encouraged.”

For months opposition legislators in Cambodia have highlighted serious abuses against domestic workers in Malaysia.

Pilorge believes the government has banned the flow of migrant workers now, in part, because officials worry that Washington may downgrade its human trafficking status, putting it at risk of losing U.S. foreign aid.

The 2011 State Department Trafficking in Persons report said that Cambodia has made no improvements to identify or protect trafficking victims.

Around 300,000 young people enter Cambodia’s job market each year, but there is no paying work available locally for most.

That is why tens of thousands cross - legally and illegally - into Thailand and Malaysia each year seeking employment.

At least 30,000 Cambodian women are employed as domestic workers in Malaysia.

Many more men and women work or are trafficked into other jobs such as factories and plantations or suffer in slave-like conditions on fishing vessels and brothels.

Pilorge estimated around 3,000 Cambodian women aged 18-24 leave for Malaysia each month.

“What happens in reality is that documents are falsified, lies are said to families, to girls, recruiting agencies are detaining girls, indebting them - all these criminal acts just to meet the quota of being able to send 3,000 girls and women to Malaysia,” said Pilorge.

Just last week Cambodian police raided a recruitment firm and freed 35 underage recruits. That firm has since been closed - the first time a Cambodian labor company has been stripped of its operating license.

Pilorge says the ban is a start, but only that.

“A ban is just a temporary bandage. What really needs to happen is that no Cambodian women are sent to Malaysia until proper safeguards and other mechanisms are put in place to protect domestic workers and other Cambodian workers,” added Pilorge.

Late Monday, Malaysia’s The Star newspaper quoted the Malaysian foreign minister as saying his country will offer Cambodia an apology should the allegations of torture and abuse be found true.
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Saturday, October 15, 2011

Aid Arrives for Flood-Swamped Thailand, Cambodia

Thai soldiers pile up sand bags to make flooding barriers in Pathum Thani province, central Thailand Friday, Oct. 14, 2011. .Help is starting to pour into Thailand and other parts of Asia where rising floodwaters are swamping entire communities and threatening to overrun even more.

United States Marines arrived in Bangkok Saturday with equipment, sandbags and other relief supplies. The U.S. ambassador to Thailand, Kristie Kenney, said the Marines will work with the Thai military to battle floodwaters that have hit 61 of Thailand's 76 provinces.

Officials say almost 300 people have died in Thailand, most of them north of Bangkok, in and near the ancient temple city of Ayutthaya.

Much of Ayutthaya remained under water Saturday, driving some residents, and their pets, to the rooftops of homes to stay dry. In less affected areas, where water was only waist deep, relief crews in boats distributed supplies to stranded residents.

A Dutch volunteer, Edwin Wiek, said many people in Ayutthaya have no electricity, food or water; others are sick and have no means of getting out.

Workers at the Bang Pa-in industrial center in Ayutthaya province tried to keep out rising water but had to abandon the effort Saturday. News reports say the complex hosted more than 90 manufacturers of auto parts, electronics, garments and plastics.

Thais who doggedly stayed by their homes on Koh Kred Island tried to make their way through floodwaters that were chest- or neck-high.

Aid from China arrived Saturday in Cambodia, where flooding and landslides have killed 247 people. A Cambodian government spokesman said the relief supplies will go to hospitals in the hardest-hit areas.

Torrential rains and flooding are also being blamed for deaths in Vietnam and the Philippines.
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