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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Hun Sen Denies Breeching Ban on Land Concessions

Khek Chan Raksmey of Boueng Kak holds a protest sign as she participates in a rally to ask King Norodom Sihamoni to help release of villagers including her mother in front of Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, Monday, June 11, 2012. The villagers were arrested when they tried to rebuild their homes on the land where their old houses were demolished by the developers, and were sentenced to two years and half in prison by Phnom Penh Municipality Court late last month. Phnom Penh's Boueng Kak is a lake area the government awarded to a Chinese company for commercial development, including a hotel, office buildings and luxury housing. A banner reads: "Please help villagers of Boeung Kak."

Prime Minister Hun Sen has denied media reports he violated his own ban on economic land concessions, saying he only signed contracts that had been agreed upon prior to his decision.

Local media have reported in recent days Hun Sen’s signature on multiple land concessions, which are at the heart of a growing problem of rural landlessness and unrest.

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, Hun Sen has signed concessions on more than 65,000 hectares of land since declaring a ban on May 7. The concessions include land in protected wildlife parks.

Hun Sen appeared to be reacting to reports in English-language newspapers that detailed the land concessions, including in wildlife parks in the provinces of Mondolkiri, Oddar Meanchey and Preah Vihear.

Hun Sen signed seven separate land concessions on June 7, totaling 44,460 hectares, according to documents, which was added to around 21,000 hectares he signed off on in May and June.

Hun Sen said in a public speech he had already agreed to those before declaring his ban.

However, Ou Virak, head of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said land concessions in national parks are illegal no matter what and should not have land concessions granted within their boundaries. “He cannot grant [land] in reserve areas,” Ou Virak said. Read more!

Cambodia: 27 Die in 29,510 malaria cases in first 5 months

PHNOM PENH, June 26 (Xinhua) -- Some 29,510 malaria cases were reported in Cambodia in the first five months of this year, claiming 27 lives, according to a report of the country's National Center for Parasitology, Entomology and Malaria Control on Tuesday.

The report showed that the number of malaria cases declined by 11 percent compared with the same period last year, while casualties remained the same.

Char Meng Chuor, director of the center, said that the decline was thanks to regular awareness campaigns by health officials and the distribution of mosquito nets to the disease-prone groups of people.

Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease. In Cambodia, the disease is often found in the rainy season and mostly happens in border provinces, as well as forest and mountainous provinces.
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Program tackles 'hidden hunger' in Cambodia

By Tara Carman, Vancouver Sun

University of B.C. researchers are spearheading a unique program aimed at ending chronic malnutrition among women and children in rural Cambodia.

Rural Cambodians tend to get around 80 per cent of their calories from rice, which is widely grown as a cash crop, explained Judy McLean of UBC's faculty of land and food systems, who is leading the study with colleague Tim Green.

This over-reliance on rice has meant people don't get enough animal protein and nutrient-rich vegetables, which are key sources of vitamins and minerals, McLean said. These deficiencies, particularly common in women and children, can result in anemia and make children less resistant to potentially fatal respiratory and gastrointestinal illnesses. Such deficiencies also reduce children's ability to learn, she said.

"You're more likely to get sick and [the illness] will be more intense ... and of longer duration."

Nutrient deficiencies are sometimes referred to as "hidden hunger" because the people are not starving, but lacking in high-quality food, McLean said. "It's not that acute sort of 'TV' hunger we talk about. It's ... this ongoing deficient diet."

To combat the problem, the UBC researchers are teaming up with the non-profit Helen Keller International to measure the impact of creating fish ponds and home gardens, where families can grow nutrient-rich vegetables such as sweet potatoes.

The study involves 900 households, many headed by women, randomly divided into three groups: one that will grow high-nutrient fruits and vegetables, one that will have fish ponds and a control group.

Fish are an excellent source of protein, iron, essential fatty acids and nutrients. McLean said she expects the ponds to be especially beneficial because local residents consume the smaller fish whole.

"By doing so, you get more of the vitamins and minerals that are in ... the internal organs, in the eyes, in the livers, in their skeletons."

The UBC team will take blood samples from participants before and after the study, which is expected to last 30 months and cost $2.9 million. The bulk of the cost will be drawing the blood and shipping it to Canada and Germany, where researchers will measure the nutrient levels, McLean said. This is what makes the work unique, she added.

"We want to be able to go out at the end of this and inform the food security and nutrition community in the world whether or not this works," she said. "So much money has been thrown at things without that answer, without a rigorous design."

The study will be funded by Canada's International Development Research Centre and the Canadian government. The team is also working closely with Cambodian government officials, who will be in a position to continue the projects if they prove beneficial, McLean said.

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