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Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Cambodian ex-king returns from China

PHNOM PENH - CAMBODIA'S ailing former king Norodom Sihanouk returned home on Wednesday from Beijing where he spent nine months receiving medical treatment, officials said.

Mr Sihanouk and his wife were given a red-carpet welcome by family members, Prime Minister Hun Sen and other senior government officials upon arrival at Phnom Penh airport.

A smiling Mr Sihanouk, 88, pressed his hands together and kissed them in a traditional greeting to well-wishers before getting into a car that whisked him off to the royal palace.

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.

Prince Sisowath Chivan Monirak, deputy president of the Cambodian senate, told reporters Mr Sihanouk had kept his promise 'to come back for Khmer New Year' and that the ex-monarch's doctors 'had no problem' with his return to Cambodia.

The new year festivities, which start on April 14 and last for three days, are a popular time for families to get together. -- AFP
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Cambodia PM and ROTA officials inaugurate new school project

 There are 15,000 crowd and 200 government officials attend ceremony

 Essa Al Mannai: "The new Samdec-ROTA High Schools are built in line with our international commitment to provide quality education in countries which most need ROTA's assistance"

Doha, Qatar, 6 April 2011: The Prime Minister of Cambodia His Excellency Hun Sen joined Reach Out To Asia (ROTA) Director Mr. Essa Al Mannai, Cambodian government officials, 15,000 cheering community members and a team of ROTA representatives at the Inauguration Ceremony of the ROTA-funded new Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen- ROTA General and Technical High School in Vihear Suork, Kandal Province, Cambodia.

Emphasizing the ceremony's significance to the future of education in Cambodia, H.E The Prime Minister was joined by 200 government officials including The minister of Education and Ministry of Education representatives plus teachers, students and families as the local community celebrated the handover of ownership of the new Samdech High Schools.

"I have no doubt the new Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Se - ROTA General and Technical High School will become a centre of education excellence in the region. The old school - with primary, low secondary and high secondary schools in the same building - was overcrowded and running on a double shift System, the new ROTA school will cover the high secondary section which will reduce the pressure from the old school and all schools will be running on single shifts, accordingly the pressure on the teachers will be reduced and their productivity and teaching quality will be improved. The new schools are built in line with ROTA's international commitment to provide sustainable quality education in countries which most need Qatar's assistance," said Essa Al Mannai.

Located on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, the educational vision for Vihear Suork is to create an educational hub encompassing a secondary school, Vocational Training Institute and, in the long term, a University.?

Starting in July 2007, ROTA and its Cambodian partner the Monithapana Foundation and Monithapana Khasatch Kandal High School agreed plans to expand the old Vihear Suork Schools by building new primary, secondary and vocational schools. Recently renamed the Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen - ROTA General and Technical High School, the new name acknowledges the affection and respect the people of Cambodia have for H.E. The Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Construction of the new schools - which created temporary employment for 250 laborers and consultants, and long-term careers for 88 teachers and 18 school administration staff - began in 2009. Completed ahead of schedule in mid-November 2010, the new schools provide additional and improved access to primary and secondary education, as well as up-to-date technical skills, for 2,750 Cambodian youth each year.

With the potential to benefit more than 500,000 people in the surrounding community, the new Samdech High Schools campus boasts hi-tech science laboratories, fully equipped and multimedia enabled classrooms and a computer laboratory.

In addition, ROTA's commitment to Cambodia also provides consultancy to empower the school's administration, staff and children as they seek to identity income generation projects to increase the school's long-term financial autonomy and self sufficiency.

"Cambodia's 30-year struggle with civil war and socio-political unrest has left over 35% of the population living in poverty. ROTA's strategy enables children and youth to access primary and secondary education that is focused on local needs, thereby empowering communities with the tools to eradicate poverty by their own hands," said Essa Al Mannai.

The Samdech High Schools inauguration ceremony took place during a 5-day tour of ROTA projects in South East Asia by a team of ROTA representatives. During their stay in Cambodia, the ROTA Team visited a second project, the Kampot Traditional Music and Dance School in Kampot province. Founded in 1994, the school is unique in Cambodia as it provides cultural education focusing on traditional Khmer music, dance and vocational training to approximately 30 orphaned, disabled or vulnerable children, in addition to 170 students from the local community.

In partnership with the Khmer Cultural Development Institute (KCDI), ROTA supports the Kampot School management to integrate Cambodia's Policy on Alternative Care for Children and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into school policies.

"ROTA's work in Cambodia tackles two key challenges: providing access to education by funding construction of the Samdech High Schools, and helping the KCDI strengthen and improve its educational, administrative, financial, staff and student capacities," explained Essa Al Mannai.

Cambodia ranks among the poorest countries in the world (136th out of 179) and the country's 30+ year struggle with civil war and socio-political unrest has led to over 35% of the population living below the poverty line.

Barriers facing primary and secondary education in Cambodia include many children enrolled in school older than the recommended age (6 years), high number of primary school dropouts, numerous incomplete primary school buildings, low quality teacher training, lack of a sufficient core curriculum and widespread child labor.

"ROTA's mission in Cambodia is to achieve Qatar's contribution to the UNESCO Millennium Development Goals. It is important we never lose sight of quality and excellence, which is why the school has been constructed and equipped to the best standards, in line with sustainable global educational requirements," added Essa Al Mannai.


About ROTAReach Out To Asia is a non-profit organization launched in December 2005 in Doha, Qatar, by Her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, daughter of His Highness the Emir of Qatar. Operating under the auspices of the Qatar Foundation, ROTA is committed to providing high quality and relevant primary and secondary education, encouraging relationships among communities, creating safe learning environments and restoring education in crisis affected areas across Asia and around the world. ROTA envisions a world, where all young people have access to the education they need in order for them to realize their full potential and shape the development of their communities.

Further information on Reach Out To Asia can be found at:

About Qatar FoundationFounded in 1995 by His Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, Emir of Qatar, and chaired by Her Highness Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al Misned, Qatar Foundation is a private, non-profit organization committed to the principle that a nation's greatest natural resource is its people. The headquarters of Qatar Foundation are located within its flagship project, Education City. A fourteen million square-metre campus, Education City is home to numerous progressive learning institutions and centers of research, including branch campuses of six of the world's leading universities, plus a cutting-edge science and technology park. Qatar Foundation also works to enhance the quality of life in Qatar by investing in 'Education, Science and Technology and Community Health and Development'.

For further information please contact:
Krikor Khatchikian
Senior Account Manager
Cohn&Wolfe Public Relations, Doha, Qatar
Telephone: +974 4428 3177
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Growing Economy at a ‘Crossroads’: ADB

The Asian Development Bank said Wednesday Cambodia’s economic growth in coming years will reach up to 6.7 percent, driven by recovery in key sectors following the 2008 economic crisis.

The bank estimated Cambodia's gross domestic
 prdoduct to grow 6.5 per cent in 2011 and 6.8 in 2012

Peter Brimble, a senior economist for the Bank, said growth in 2010 showed Cambodia on a strong footing. But he warned the country is now at a “crossroads,” with economic drivers showing a lot of potential.

“The pressure is now on to intensify efforts at meeting the longstanding challenges of accelerating economic diversification and improving the general investment climate,” Brimble said in a statement.

Poulang Doung, an economist for the Bank, said Wednesday that the country’s growth derived from recovery in clothing exports and tourism that had flagged in 2009, as well as growth in agriculture.

“We think that Cambodian recovery is firming up, but the country remains heavily dependent on a few sources of driver growth that includes the agri-sector, garment, tourism, construction and real estate,” he said.

Cambodia’s economy still relies on the US and EU markets, especially for its garment exports, he said.

Garment export to the US grew from about $1.9 billion in 2009 to $2.2 billion in 2010, according the US Department of Commerce.

Tourist arrivals, meanwhile, climbed from 2.2 million to 2.5 million during the same period, bringing in a total revenue of $1.8 billion in 2010, Poulang Doung said. The agricultural sector grew by about 4.2 percent in 2010, thanks in part to an increase in rice production.

The Bank estimated Cambodia’s gross domestic product would grow 6.5 percent in 2011 and 6.8 percent in 2012, up from a growth rate of 6.3 percent last year.

Chan Sophal, an economist and president of the Cambodia Economic Association, said he expected growth over the next two years to reach up to 8 percent, thanks to strong improvements in many sections of the economy.

The country cannot depend only on rice, garments, tourism, construction and real estate, he said, but must invest in the production of vegetables and fruit, cattle, pork, poultry, and the production of consumer goods, like sugar or furniture.
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Thailand Uses Cluster Munitions Against Cambodia

A group that campaigns against the use of cluster munitions says Thailand used the outlawed weapons against Cambodia during border clashes in February this year.

The Cluster Munition Coalition, or CMC, says it carried out two inspections of areas in northern Cambodia that were shelled by Thailand during several days of fighting in February and concluded that Thailand did fire cluster munitions.

CMC director Laura Cheeseman says Thailand’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva admitted in a meeting this week that his country used the weapons.

The Thai ambassador claimed his country acted in self defense and in accordance with military codes.

Cluster munitions are small bombs that are typically packed 50 to 60 at a time into an artillery shell. On impact the munitions scatter widely and are meant to explode. But they have a high failure rate, which means many remain armed and lethal, and end up killing civilians often years later.

The CMC says this is the first use of the weapons since the global Convention on Cluster Munitions took effect in 2010. The treaty, signed by 108 countries and ratified by about half of them, bans countries from producing, stockpiling and using cluster munitions. Thailand was not one of the signers, while Cambodia has signed but not yet ratified it.

Heng Ratana is the director-general of Cambodian Mine Action Center, the government agency that is tasked with ridding Cambodia of landmines and bombs. He says when news of cluster munitions first arose in February, CMAC was concerned the issue would be highly politicized.

"But from the CMAC point of view it is a humanitarian issue, because we identify cluster on the ground and we were so worried about 4 to 5,000 families will return to their community and will be affected by cluster munitions on the ground," Ratana explains.

Ratana says CMAC has already taken steps to inform people in the shelled area about the dangers of cluster munitions.

"We already provide some cluster awareness to at least around 4,000 families who are affected by this cluster already. And we also provide posters on the trees and so on, or on the walls of schools to provide that kind of awareness in place as well. So we hope that this will provide good safety for them," Ratana said.

Meanwhile, the Cluster Munition Coalition says both Thailand and Cambodia should immediately agree that neither will use the banned weapons, and that both will sign the treaty.
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