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Friday, October 07, 2011

Chilliwack shares knowledge with Cambodian leaders

By Jennifer Feinberg - Chilliwack Progress

Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz chats informally with Cambodian Ministry of the Interior official Ev Bunthol (right) during a reception at city hall Thursday.

Chilliwack has been sharing its economic and agricultural expertise with two struggling communities in Cambodia.

A Cambodian delegation arrived in Chilliwack Oct 4., and spent four days touring local success stories on the economic development front.

CEPCO president John Jansen, the lead Chilliwack rep, travelled to Cambodia twice so far, and officially hosted the visiting delegates this week with City of Chilliwack.

"What we wanted to demonstrate on the tour is what is possible in their own communities," Jansen said.

The Cambodian delegation got to explore a state-of-the art dairy farm, a busy greenhouse, an innovative poultry farm, a large manufacturer and some world-class show gardens.

"Farming is one of their big challenges," Jansen said. Environmental sustainability and gender equality are a couple of other goals, along with updating their agricultural tools.

The Cambodian economy is 60 per cent driven by agriculture, but the farming practices haven't changed in decades. The poverty level is so extreme it's measured by what people earn and how many calories that can buy.

Jansen learned that $2 a day can buy the equivalent of 1500 calories, but 27 per cent of the people can't even afford that.

"Cambodia used to be one of the largest exporters of rice, but now they are net importers. So there are lots of issues."

Some of the delegates were from the Municipality of Kampom Cham, while others hailed from the Municipality of Takhmao.

Ev Bunthol, deputy director general in Cambodia's Ministry of the Interior, told The Progress he was surprised by several things he saw in Chilliwack.

"I was surprised by how well the city is managed, by the living standard of the people, and the good heart of the people," he said.

He expressed appreciation for the support and knowledge extended by the City of Chilliwack to the Cambodian people, through the FCM program.

But what was most impressive was learning about Chilliwack's agricultural practices, the Cambodian rep said.

"The seasonal use of land resources and livestock raising methods leads to better production," he noted. "The way agriculture is run here is based more on technology."

The tour was part of a capacity-building mission launched by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities with SIDA funding. Chilliwack was specifically chosen by FCM to be part of Municipal Partners for Local Economic Development (MPED) program.

The delegates also got a tour of UFV's Trades and Tech Centre, RCMP scenario training at PRTC, Tourism Chilliwack, Heritage Park and City Hall.

"They're trying to match up cities to help some developing countries with economic development," said Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz. "John is really into agriculture and innovation. It's both his passion and his expertise, and he taking it to the next level with this program."

Gaetz said when Jansen toured the country the first time to choose program participants, he saw fallow land, and thought the issue was water. So he started talking about irrigation.

Then he found out the real obstacle to crop cultivation was the land mines buried underground.

"From our perspective, we wouldn't even think of that," Gaetz said.

Modernization of Cambodia is slow to be realized on different fronts, but family values and an entrepreneurial spirit are still strong in the places he visited, Jansen said.

"And that was good to see," he said.

Jansen said he was honoured that Chilliwack was chosen for this project among applicants from across Canada.

"We've been given a tremendous opportunity to help out a nation that has gone through so many struggles, so if we can assist in even a small way, it's worth it."
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China-ASEAN friendship car rally arrives in Cambodia

PHNOM PENH (Xinhua) - Thirty-four cars in China-ASEAN International Touring Assembly and China-ASEAN Journalist Rally arrived here on Friday afternoon to mark the 20th anniversary of China-ASEAN relations.

Some 34 racing cars from China, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Laos and Vietnam have participated in the race.

"The event is to strengthen good cooperation between China and ASEAN member states and to mark the 20th anniversary of China- ASEAN relations," Vath Chamroeun, secretary general of National Olympic Committee of Cambodia, said on Friday.

Cambodia has no car to join the rally this year, just an observer.

"We don't have the car to join the event, but we are pleased to host the event as it will build closer cooperation between Cambodia and China and other ASEAN member states," he said. "It's also a chance for Cambodia to promote its tourism destinations."

He said that next year, Cambodia would send cars to join the event.

The rally entered Cambodia on Friday afternoon and will leave the country on Saturday morning for Laos.

The friendship car race has begun from China's Nanning on Sept. 20 through Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Cambodia, and Vietnam for a total distance of 10,000 kilometers and will expect to return to Nanning on Oct. 12.

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Cultural survivors: Angkor Dance Company preserves the traditions of Cambodia

Angkor Dance Courtesy, The Angkor Dance Company
 Flower petals scattered in welcome and nodding headdresses of gold offer no hint. Yet the dancers of the Angkor Dance Company, which performs on Monday at Rutgers-Newark, are lucky to be alive. These practitioners of a serene and beautiful art form are the children of people who survived the Cambodian genocide of the 1970s.

With unflinching brutality, the Khmer Rouge government sought to erase Cambodia’s centuries-old culture by slaughtering anyone with an education. Wearing glasses was enough to get you killed, much less knowing the elaborate, ceremonial dances associated with the Royal Court. Historians estimate that in only four years 90 percent of the country’s artists and intellectuals were murdered with bullets and pickaxes.

Today, however, the ancient dances through which Cambodia’s gods and goddesses bestow blessings upon the earth have returned. They flourish not only at the Royal University in Phnom Penh, but also among immigrant communities like the one in Lowell, Mass., where the Angkor Dance Company is based.

“To me, the story is so much bigger than just presenting another ethnic dance,” says Marisa Pierson, senior program coordinator at the Institute on Ethnicity, Culture and the Modern Experience, the outreach group at Rutgers-Newark that is showcasing the troupe as part of a daylong symposium. “It’s all about the survival of culture against unimaginable odds. And these people have done it.”

Tim Thou, the father of Angkor’s current board president, Linda Sou, began learning folk dances during the years he spent in refugee camps in Thailand and the Philippines. His grandmother, Katna Poeu, had been a classical dancer in Cambodia’s Royal Ballet, and also survived to immigrate to the United States. With her help, volunteers began learning the classical repertoire, piecing together a movement code that includes as many as 5,000 steps and gestures. Then they passed this information to their children.

Beginning in the 1990s, Angkor was able to import master teachers from Cambodia along with musical recordings and the elaborate costumes and jewelry required to perform excerpts from the “Reamker,” Cambodia’s version of the “Ramayana.” A dance master from the Royal University, Phousita Huy, now serves as the troupe’s artistic director. Still, the reconstruction work is not complete.

“We still don’t know all of the moves,” says Sou, who is 28 and has been dancing since the age of 3. “Our master has told us we’ve probably learned about 3,000 of them.”

That’s enough, however, to enact the legend of Moni Mekhala and Ream Eyso, dueling divinities believed to cause thunder and lightning; or to portray an excerpt from “Reamker” featuring the valiant Hanuman and his army of monkeys. Angkor’s repertoire also includes folk dances depicting life in the Cambodian countryside.

Monday’s events begin with an afternoon lecture and demonstration, where audience members can practice some of the steps themselves. Over the weekend, the Newark Museum is offering free admission and guided tours of its Asian Art Galleries in conjunction with the dance concert.

Pierson says that since the Institute on Ethnicity, Culture and the Modern Experience began presenting dance in 2004, the program has expanded considerably. “Every year we try to add something to make it more exciting,” she says.

Angkor Dance Company
Where and when:
Lecture and demonstration in the third floor Dance Theater of the Paul Robeson Campus Center, 350 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Newark, Monday at 2:30 p.m.; performance in the Bradley Hall Theater, 110 Warren St., Newark, Monday at 7 p.m.
How much: Free. Visit

Robert Johnson:
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Fewer Young Journalists Mean Thinning Ranks

Cambodian journalists gathered at a media conference in Cambodia, file photo.
While there are fewer reports of physical attacks on journalists in recent years, Cambodia’s media environment has recently lost several senior reporters to natural causes.

These veteran journalists have taken with them the institutional knowledge about the country and its politics that take years to build. These losses are worrying in an environment that is already under pressure, said Pen Samithy, president of the Cambodian Club of Journalists, as a guest on “Hello VOA” Monday.

Last week, two journalists, Or Phirith, 60, a senior reporter for Radio Free Asia, and Lay Sokhom, 49, of the Kampuchea Thmey newspaper, both passed away.

Or Phirith died of natural causes, Lay Sokhom after suffering a traffic accident two months ago.

The two deaths came shortly after the death of Reach Sambath, a veteran reporter, teacher and spokesman for the Khmer Rouge tribunal, in May.

“These are big losses for us,” Pen Samithy said.

The loss of such reporters comes with declining interest in the younger generations to pursue journalism, he said.

While there are some institutions that provide training and workshops to working journalists, Pen Samithy said, there are a low number of graduates coming out of school, especially compared to the numbers who seek public relations jobs in companies, NGOs, embassies or television.

At least eight journalists in Cambodia have been killed with confirmed motives since 1992, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Of those, nearly a third were covering corruption. The last one, Khem Sambor, was murdered just weeks ahead of the last national elections in 2008.

Even so, journalists today face the threat of long jail terms under a much-criticized criminal defamation law, making the prospects for a new graduate considering journalism less attractive.

However, Pen Samithy said professional can protect journalists from harm.

“Once our reporting is accurate, we’re not worried,” he said.

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