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Tuesday, February 07, 2012

PTTEP eyeing Burma, Cambodia

PTT Exploration and Production (PTTEP) sees opportunities for growth in Burma and Cambodia, said Anon Sirisaengtaksin, the firm's president and chief executive officer.

He said this yesterday at the International Petroleum Technology Conference (IPTC), hosted this year by Thailand. The seminar, which began yesterday, is a forum for businesses to exchange knowledge on the development of petroleum exploration and production technology. Given the decline in petroleum sources worldwide, new technology is needed to explore potential new sources.

Burma has high potential for petroleum production, Anon said. PTTEP has long invested in petroleum exploration and production in the country, and will soon be granted concessions to explore two more fields there.

PTTEP is investing US$2 billion (Bt62 billion) from 2011 to 2013 to build an oil rig and to produce petroleum in Burma's M9 field, and to install a 300-kilometre-long natural-gas pipeline to link the site with its existing pipelines in Kanchana-buri. Starting next year, this will enable it to deliver 240 million cubic feet per day of natural gas to Thailand and another 60 million cubic feet per day to Burma.

The company is also waiting for the government to complete negotiations with Cambodia on the countries' overlapping maritime claims. Anon said PTTEP would spend Bt600 billion to expand petroleum exploration and production business in Asean, Australia, Africa and North America.

Pailin Chuchottaworn, president and chief executive officer of PTT, said of PTT Group's overseas investments between 2012 and 2016, 50 per cent would be conducted by PTTEP, with priority given to upstream businesses.

PTT Group has investments in all Asean countries and East Timor.

Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An is attending the IPTC seminar and will visit PTT's gas-separation plant in Map Ta Phut, Rayong.

Pailin added that if the two countries could solve their overlapping maritime claims, it would bring tremendous benefits to both countries, and give Thailand access to a new petroleum source.
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People & Places: Buckhunger fundraiser to benefit needy in Cambodia

By DANNA SUE WALKER World Staff Writer

From Tulsa to Cambodia with love might be the motto for a fundraiser that Garden Deva will host from 3 to 8 p.m. Saturday at its shop at 317 S. Trenton.

Ren Barger (left), Marilyn McCulloch, Blake Biery and Joe Nurre will join a fundraiser Saturday for Buckhunger at Garden Deva. TOM GILBERT / Tulsa World

People & Places: Buckhunger fundraiser to benefit needy in Cambodia
Former Tulsa restaurateur John Phillips, who has lived in Cambodia for more than three years, opened the door to Buckhunger in December 2011 and provides free, hot and nutritious meals each day to more than 200 street children in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Garden Deva's outdoor artwork will be draped with Cambodian flags to promote the work of Buckhunger.

"It saddened me beyond belief to see these kids sifting through garbage for something to eat," Phillips said from Buckhunger's storefront location. "We began by providing complete food service training - including a small monthly salary - to 22 unemployed and unskilled youths who now do all the food preparation, cooking, serving and cleaning."

Phillips has financed all of Buckhunger's activities to date, but with little success in generating a steady flow of contributions, the soup kitchen's future is in peril.

"We cannot allow that to happen," said Garden Deva's Lisa Regan. "When I learned about what Johnny created, I was moved to do whatever I can to help him continue his work."

The afternoon's activities will feature food and wine provided by the Garden Deva and local chefs - Aaron Snoddy of the Chalkboard, Sam Bracken of the Canebrake Resort and Tim Inman of Stonehorse in Utica Square - and music provided by local musicians Susan Herndon, Dianna Burrup, Marilyn McCulloch and Jay Lesikar.

Herndon, Burrup and McCullouch sing and write their own material, and Lesikar is an up-and-coming pianist on the Tulsa music scene.

The event will also feature auction items, including gorgeous hand-woven silk scarves flown to Tulsa from one of Phnom Penh's local markets expressly for this event.

Event organizers will be showing photographs of Buckhunger, as well as street scenes and historical images of Cambodia, a tiny country of 14 million people bordering Vietnam, Thailand and Laos.

"Cambodia is still struggling to overcome the devastating effects of the Pol Pot genocide of 40 years ago," Phillips said. "It's a country where 80 percent of the population are farmers living on less than $2 a day."

Poverty is widespread throughout Cambodia, and thousands of children are left to fend for themselves. At Buckhunger, diners are first led to a hand-washing station to promote good hygiene and then are seated at one of the facility's stainless-steel tables, where the staff of 22 provides each with a hot meal and a glass of chilled jasmine tea. For many, it is their only meal of the day.

All proceeds from the sale of items during the fundraiser will go directly to Buckhunger, and all donations are 100 percent tax deductible. In addition, Garden Deva has generously offered to donate 10 percent of sales from the afternoon to Buckhunger.

"It costs about $25 to feed two children for one month," Phillips said, "but we desperately need a steady stream of donations to continue our work."

Buckhunger's objective is twofold: to feed Cambodia's hungry children and elderly while providing training in food service for unemployed Cambodian youth.

Buckhunger's certified food-service training program for unemployed, unskilled Cambodians teaches them food handling, preparation, sanitation and commercial food practices. All students receive daily English lessons from a certified English teacher, a uniform and study materials. Many also receive full room and board.

The private, nonprofit organization exists entirely on donations. For more information, visit
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Cambodia's inquisitive children are an inspiration

The Khmer Rouge killed the teachers first. Now the country wants to be educated again, says Robert Leveson

Children at The House of Peace in Santepheap, Cambodia
'Dignified and optimistic': children at The House of Peace in Santepheap, Cambodia Photo: Robert Leveson

"I don’t fear ghosts. I fear bad people.” No, this was not the film set of The Sixth Sense and I am not Bruce Willis, although we do share similar follicular features. This was Siem Reap, Cambodia, in the days before Christmas, when expectation had yet to give way to indulgence. And this was no place for indulgence, either. It was and still is a home to children – The House of Peace, Santepheap.

I first became aware of it while working in Singapore, a nation that has conquered many of Asia’s demons with discipline, order and a series of well-placed mops. A colleague who was passionately involved in “a project” made it known to me, yet in truth, I had barely registered much before bidding farewell to the Merlion, Singapore’s mascot, with one of those handy packs of tissues and heading back to Britain. But slowly, almost imperceptibly, it echoed through my mind until I found myself wedged into a low-budget aeroplane seat on my way to volunteer.

For most, this part of Cambodia is synonymous with Angkor – the ancient temple complex created in the glory days of the Khmer empire. It bestrode a beefy part of South East Asia briefly, ascending for a couple of centuries before peaking in the 12th. When the French unearthed Angkor’s ruined monuments in the early 1800s, its future as a tourist hot-spot of genuine magnificence was assured.

In more recent times, construction on a more modest and unremarkable scale has gathered pace along the road to its weathered Southern Gate. And just before the crowded ticket booth, there is a sharp right turn on to a dusty red road, which bounces you all the way to a place that, I must confess, I found equally moving.

I am a teacher by profession, and it was a service I was asked to provide for a group of about 30 secondary-school children over two weeks in December. They live in large huts, one each for the boys and girls. Below the girls’ accommodation, there is a long table where meals are shared and thanks are given for their basic, healthy food. On either side of the sleeping quarters, there is space to play and wash. In the front section, near the entrance gate, there stands a fruit tree.

Beyond the boys’ hut, a volleyball net hangs over a desolate space where many improvised ball games are played. It is on the veranda that the lessons take place, with the children (and teacher) dragging out their tables to sit and be educated. And that’s it. This is life.

Since there aren’t enough schools for children to attend in Cambodia, they are taught in half-day shifts. That sad fact was caused by the genocidal rule of the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s. The haunting spectre of the past clings to the basic organs of society here, squeezing them mercilessly as it dances across the land.

Not only are the children of Santepheap orphaned, abandoned or impoverished – “childhood” for many is a time to hunt for bottles, wander barely clothed and wide-eyed, or sell postcards and trinkets to tourists who remind them they should really be at school – but also the ghosts of the past linger greedily in their shadows, stealing what should be a precious time of growth.

Though the nation was mercilessly victimised, the people I met – especially the kids – were remarkably dignified and optimistic. They put my tendency to find fault and impediment in endeavours to shame. Take my irrepressible tuk-tuk driver. He, like many others, would often sit for hours waiting for me to stumble through a museum or temple with my trademark Clouseau-esque articulation and agility. Did he complain or succumb to the frustrations of boredom? Perhaps, but while in my company, he chose instead to smile and tell me about his work with deaf and blind children. He once showed me an encased pile of skulls beside an elaborate graveyard and proceeded to explain how he was “the only one of me left”, referring to the demise of his family 30 years ago. They killed the teachers first, he said. And as if to reverse the trend, everyone I met seemed to want to educate or be educated.

A co-worker of mine, with whose words I opened this feature, once told me passionately that her “dream” was to be a teacher. How far I felt from the UK at that moment. Always questioning and investigating, she endeavoured to teach me some local lingo and praised my pitiful pronunciation. The owner of my guest house would often lead me to the library and select useful books on history and exploring the treasures of Angkor. People in the park would stop and practise their English on me, informing me in the process about orphanages and poverty in a non-invasive fashion. Taken to extremes, I was once shown how to pour water and even the celebrated skill of peeling a banana. Gladly, I gathered that I had been doing both correctly for years. Much of this I have experienced in south-east Asia before, but never with such resonance.

But it was the children who impressed me the most. Nothing was too much trouble – even when they were clearly tired or perplexed by one of my rather naff comedy routines. Their expertly choreographed dance show (which they perform every Sunday) was genuinely entertaining. Their approach to learning was inquisitive and industrious.

In their spare time, one fixed his bike, another adjusted his belt with my hole-punch. Not in 14 years of teaching have I ever received a more genuine “thank you” than when I gave one of my students my Changi Airport souvenir pen, since hers was constantly running out – she spent the whole day trying to give it back.

I was also reminded of the insidious culture of “health and safety” back home when my inquiries as to the wisdom of allowing a boy to climb a tree and whack fruit with a stick above our heads were met with a succinct reply: “You want to go up, too?”

A donation to Santepheap is always welcomed but if you have some spare time, a visit as a volunteer is of guaranteed benefit to all concerned.

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