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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Hun Sen Calls for More Talks on NGO Law

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, center, and his wife Bun Rany alights from a plane as they arrive at the Ngurah Rai airport in Bali, Indonesia, file photo.

The Cambodian government on Wednesday took a step back on a controversial law to regulate NGOs, with Prime Minister Hun Sen saying in a public speech he wanted the Ministry of Interior and local NGOs to continue discussions that would make the law “acceptable” to all.

The draft law has come under continued criticism from international and local NGOs, who say it will stymie their work and expose them to arbitrary legal measures if enacted.

But Hun Sen also made it clear that the draft law would not be dropped altogether.

“If there is no agreement in 2012, it must wait until 2013,” he said at a graduation ceremony in Phnom Penh. “And if it is not until 2013, it will not die,” he said.

While some groups have said the law is altogether unnecessary, others have said it needs further revision to ensure that small associations can form, that registration not hamper the work of NGOs and that it not leave groups who dissent with government positions open to closure or other legal repercussions.

A US Embassy spokesman told VOA Khmer Wednesday the US has not changed its position on the draft law and that the government should “refrain from passing any new law that restricts rather than enhances the important role of civil society in Cambodia.”
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K-Pop romances resonate with Cambodian readers

By Oum Vannak and Sun Narin

A wave of Korean cultural influence from fashion and beauty to the music industry is taking an ever-increasing hold of Cambodia’s young pop consumers.

Korean novels, translated from the original Korean language to Khmer language, have soared immensely in popularity amid this trendy culture wave.

Usually about 150 to 200 pages in length, these novels have catchy titles – almost always dabbling in the topic of love and romance. Some recent titles have included “Your handsomeness grabs my spirits” and “Fall in love with me, girl”.

These pop novels tend to depict young, budding love and play on the exciting and fast-paced romantic imagination of young adults.

Hom Rattana, a student at the University of Law and Economics, said that she’s been reading these romantic novels since her first year of high school.

“The novel has impacts on young people’s mindsets, because it encourages them to have a longing for a certain sweetness and affection from their partner. It makes me want the romantic partner I’m reading about,” she said.

“Khmer novels usually have a lesson at the centre of them, but we aren’t learning much from these Korean novels besides one depiction of love,” Hom Rattana added.

She said that because of this central theme of love and romance, and especially because of the fun and interesting writing style this creates, she prefers these K-pop romance novels to Khmer novels. She finds herself wanting to follow-up on the characters’ stories because they are the same age as Hom Rattana, and like herself, university students.

Heng Solida, another K-pop novel enthusiast, said that most readers are girls, as the novels put a strong focus on playing up to female sentiments.

“The novels use great language and funny phrases to keep me emotionally entertained,” she said.

It’s pretty clear that as young Cambodians, we probably don’t always have the disciplined habits of taking time out of our day to read. This brings us straight to the television. But, the rise of K-pop novels has been challenging the stereotype of youngsters in front of the TV screen as of late, as youth are choosing novels over their favourite programming.

Sok Chanphal, a writer and lyric composer, said that these novels keep readers interested with their fun language, and are missing any messages of importance.

“Some writers just write for the sake of writing. As the writer, we should include a message for the readers because it can help society,” he said.

Ly Chanda chooses not to read K-pop novels because he believes, too, that they lack a message.

“As young Cambodians, we should know what messages are good and what messages are bad. We have to understand that these novels are only for entertainment, and have little to do with real life.”

Vrek Danita, a university student, used to read K-pop novels but now finds them a waste of time.

“It brings teenagers into an imagined world. High school girls who like to read these kinds of books will want to try to have the same kind of lover, and then they’re set up for failure. On top of that, females are portrayed as inferior to their male counterparts.”
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Two Thai spies jailed in Cambodia withdraw Appeal complaint

PHNOM PENH, Dec. 28 (Xinhua) -- The two Thai "Yellow-Shirt" activists jailed in Cambodia for espionage appeared in the Court of Appeal on Wednesday to withdraw their complaint against the verdict of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court of First Instance.

The pair are Veera Somkwamkid, one of the leaders of the People 's Network against Corruption and a high-profile activist in the Thailand Patriot Network, and his secretary Ratree Pipatanapaiboon.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court of First Instance, on Feb.1, convicted Veera and Ratree of illegal entry, unlawful entry into military base and espionage and sentenced them to eight years and six years in jail respectively.

In later February, the two Thais lodged an appeal against the verdict.

Speaking before the Court of Appeal on Wednesday, the pair said they decided to withdraw the complaint without reason explannation.

Meanwhile, the Appeal Court Judge Samrith Sophal agreed the withdrawal and said that the duo could seek Cambodia's King for royal pardon after they have served two thirds of the jail term.

The duo's appearance in the Court of Appeal was just a day before the visit of Thai Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul to Cambodia.

Speaking to reporters at a short break at the Court, Veera said in the prison, he has been given good care from the guards and inmates, adding that he missed his homeland very much.

Veera and Ratree were arrested on Dec. 29, 2011, along with five others including Democrat Party Member of Parliament Panich Vikitsreth, after they illegally entered Cambodian territory to observe border demarcation process.

The five were released in late January after Cambodian court suspended their sentences of nine months in jail.
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