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Friday, December 02, 2011

Cambodia Turns Increasingly to China: Analysts

"If there’s any country that could put pressure on Vietnam these days in support of the Hun Sen government, it’s China.”

Wu Bangguo, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) of China, second right, and Heng Samrin, president of the Cambodian National Assembly shake hands after exchanging documents on cooperation between NPC and the Cambodian assembly during their meeting at Beijing's Great Hall of the People, file photo.

Cambodia has increasingly turned to China for economic and political support, US analysts say.

Richard Solomon, a former US ambassador and assistant secretary of state, told an audience when he was one of the panelists at Berkley University in California that under Prime Minister Hun Sen Cambodia has become increasingly reliant on its relationship with China.

“So what will Hun Sen’s government do?” said Solomon, who is the president of the United States Institute for Peace. “They are primarily relying on the relationship with China for their economic development, and, I would assume, also for protection against pressures from Vietnam. If there’s any country that could put pressure on Vietnam these days in support of the Hun Sen government, it’s China.”

The recent development is a product of a long-standing Cambodian strategy, he said.

“Cambodia over the centuries has tried to maintain is independence and survival by maneuvering in this very complicated international environment,” he said.

That balance has proven difficult at times. Many Cambodians harbor resentment for a decade-long occupation that came after the Vietnamese ousted the Khmer Rouge. Cambodian farmers along the border have long complained of border encroachment by the Vietnamese, and critics of the government say it is too far under the sway of the eastern neighbor.

On the other hand, China supported the Khmer Rouge, who based their ideology on extreme Maoist principles. It has now become one of the largest donors to Cambodia, providing around $1 billion in aid last year. With that money, Cambodia has been able to build bridges, roads and other infrastructure, with fewer demands compared to Western aid, which can come with conditions.

“But China is not there as the great charity,” said Joel Brinkley, author of “Cambodia’s Curse.” “It wants something in return.”

China remains hungry for resources, and in Cambodia that means offshore oil and minerals.

Brad Adams, Asia director for Human Rights Watch, said the Chinese aid does not come with requirements for human rights, democracy or the rule of law. This can make it harder for other donors to exert influence over the country, he said.

“I still believe that the Cambodian government does not want to depend only on China,” he said. “The Cambodian people do not want that. They do not want to have only one country that they depend on.”

Nguon Nhel, vice president of the National Assembly and a senior member of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, declined to elaborate of the relationship, but he said Cambodia has worked to reintegrate with the world following the Khmer Rouge.
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Missionary travels to Cambodia with one rusty press to spread the Word

By Anna Flagg

One man is spreading as he travels the globe, however, isn’t your average missionary.

Inspired by printing press inventor Johannes Gutenberg, Comer spent the last two weeks of November in , helping to install the first web printing press in the country to be used for printing Bibles. Comer says he hopes to share the Gospel with those who have never experienced it.

Comer married his wife, Sharon, at age 20 and went into the printing business soon after, starting in Waco. The couple has since traveled to Ghana, Africa, Kurdistan, Iraq and Sri Lanka doing missionary work.

Toward the end of the Comers’ most recent four-year stint in Sri Lanka, they were contacted by John Dupree of Bethany Press, a company that partners with Christian publishers. Dupree contacted Comer to discuss the installation of a printing press in Cambodia and Comer accepted.

After locating, buying and inspecting the press, Comer spent two weeks overseeing its installation in a print shop that is little more than an open barn with no air conditioning

Luckily for Comer, due to the amount of rust on the machine, the import duty to get it into Cambodia was low.

“The press is pretty simple, and electronically it is not very sophisticated,” Comer said. “It’s perfect for a Third World country.”

The press, he said, will be used primarily to print Bibles. In charge of the project will be a team of Cambodian workers that has been printing books for 15 years.

The team is hoping to get the necessary text and begin printing today.

So far, only two editions of the Bible have been available in Cambodia, first in 1920 and then in 1953. Many of these were not distributed, and the translations were difficult to understand. The Cambodian government does not allow Bibles to be imported, mainly for economic reasons. However, the government does allow the use of the printing press. Comer says that a terrible event in Cambodia’s history led to the resurgence of Christianity in the country.

Under the leadership of Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge took control of the country in 1975 in a bloody revolution that resulted in the deaths of more than 3,000,000 Cambodians. The Communistic Khmer Rouge did not allow religious freedom. The revolution, and its ghastly death toll, continues to haunt the country. From this, Comer said, Christianity got a second chance.

“They are getting saved through a spiritual hunger,” he said. “The country was so desolate and desperate that a spiritual hunger rose up.”

But the Khmer Rouge passed, and though a prime minister now rules the country, which now includes more than 500,000 Christians in the population, only 10 percent of the citizens own a Bible.

American missionary is responsible for starting dozens of churches in Cambodia, and the people consider him one of their own. Hyde has a network of churches and pastors, and he plans to help distribute the Bibles printed on the new press.

The Comers said they witnessed the power of the gospel in northern Iraq in 2005. The couple met a man named Saman, a former terrorist who converted to Christianity after finding a small booklet, “The Book of Luke,” in the clothing of a man he had shot.

Comer said he remembered Saman asking, “How could anyone say to love your enemies? Only God could say to love your enemies.”

The Comers believe the story of Saman shows the transformative power of Christian Scripture.

The couple currently reside in Waco as the directors of the local . Their current project is a series of books called “The Life of Jesus,” a compilation of the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in chronological order, to allow people to read Jesus’ story in a clear format.

So far, the “Life of Jesus” books have been translated into Arabic, Spanish and Hindi. Their mission is to spread the gospel by handing them out to indigenous people who may not have access to the Bible in their native language.

To find out more about the Samaritan Foundation, visit the website.
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New Zealand to fund landmine clearance in Cambodia

New Zealand Campaign Against Landmines

For immediate release

New Zealand to fund landmine clearance in Cambodia

Annual Mine Ban Treaty meeting underway in Phnom Penh

(Phnom Penh: 2 December 2011) The New Zealand Campaign Against Landmines (CALM) welcomes the New Zealand government’s decision to provide US $1.05 million (NZD $1.3 million) to clear landmines in north-west Cambodia. New Zealand announced the funding contribution today in Phnom Penh during an annual meeting of state parties to the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty.

“This is a significant and most welcome contribution of funds that will save lives,” said Mary Wareham, CALM Coordinator, who is attending the Phnom Penh meeting. “It sends a strong message that New Zealand is committed to matching its political support for the eradication of this weapon with practical financing.”

The head of the disarmament division of New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Dr. Joan Mosley, announced the contribution during the Eleventh Meeting of States Parties of the Mine Ban Treaty, a major diplomatic meeting that is being held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia from 27 November until 2 December. New Zealand’s demining contribution is part of a larger contribution of US $2.5 million (NZ $3.27 million) for a three-year agricultural development project in heavily mine-affected Odtar Meanchey province. The mine clearance funded by New Zealand will be conducted by the Halo Trust, a British demining organization.
Cambodia is one of the most mine-affected countries in the world. According to Landmine Monitor, there are approximately 44,000 survivors of landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) in the country. An extensive mine action program established in 1992 has resulted in a dramatic decline in the number of new mine victims, but lives continue to be lost. There were at least 286 Cambodian mine, ERW, and cluster munition remnants casualties in 2010.

Representatives from approximately 100 countries, including New Zealand, are attending the Mine Ban Treaty’s Eleventh Meeting of States Parties in Phnom Penh. A total of 158 countries have joined the Treaty, most recently South Sudan on 11 November 2011. The Mine Ban Treaty comprehensively prohibits antipersonnel mines and requires their clearance and assistance to victims. The meeting is reviewing a range of treaty compliance issues, including the threat posed to the emerging norm by new landmine use in countries including Israel, Libya, and Myanmar (Burma).

CALM is providing a donation of US $1,200 to Jesuit Service Cambodia that will be used for the construction of accessible housing for landmine survivors and mobility devices such as wheelchairs. The donation includes funds raised by an online Trade Me auction of bags made from local materials by women landmine survivors in Kandal Province, Cambodia.

In October 2011, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon. McCully, confirmed that New Zealand is providing a total of $2.8 million for mine clearance project in the West Bank (Occupied Palestinian Terriorities). McCully also confirmed that a long-standing contribution of New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) military personnel serving in the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) in New York was terminated in 2011.

CALM is a long-standing member of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), 1997 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, and is a sister campaign to the Aotearoa New Zealand Cluster Munition Coalition (ANZCMC). Both CALM and the ANZCMC are governed jointly by a working group comprised of the following groups: Amnesty International Aotearoa NZ, Caritas Aotearoa NZ, Christian World Service, Engineers for Social Responsibility NZ, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War NZ, National Council of Women NZ, National Consultative Committee on Disarmament, Oxfam NZ, Peace Movement Aotearoa, Soroptimist International NZ, United Nations Association NZ, United Nations Youth Association NZ, UNICEF NZ, and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Aotearoa.

For more information, see:
• CALM website –
• Landmine Monitor 2011 Cambodia -
• 11MSP website - Read more!