A Change of Guard

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Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Supporters rally against man's deportation to Cambodia

DAVID M WARREN / Staff Photographer
Hov Ly Kol's friends and family rally against his deportation to Cambodia. His years in prison turned him around, they say.Read more:

By Michael Matza
The Philadephia Inquirer Staff Writer

Hov Ly Kol survived the "killing fields" of 1970s Cambodia and the crowded refugee camps of Thailand and the Philippines. In 1985, with his mother and a younger brother, he legally entered the United States as a refugee.
Barring a last-minute stay of removal, Kol, 35, will be headed back to Cambodia on Tuesday - deported for taking part in a robbery that ended in murder.

He is among about 50 Cambodian Americans across the nation awaiting imminent expulsion for crimes for which they have already served prison time, according to his supporters. Deportation, they say, is a second round of punishment that creates a "climate of fear and paranoia" in Cambodian American communities.

Authorities, however, say Kol and the others scheduled for imminent removal are precisely the "criminal aliens" that Congress targeted when it passed two laws in 1996 tightening immigration rules.

Kol served 12 years in Pennsylvania prisons for two house robberies in January 1995. In one, he acted as a lookout for another gang member who shot and killed a man. Kol pleaded guilty to third-degree murder and faced a maximum of 26 years behind bars. By law, he should have been deported immediately when he was paroled in 2007.

Although Cambodia has had an agreement since 2002 to accept deportees from the United States, it would not issue travel documents for Kol at the time of his release from prison, for reasons never fully explained. So federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement authorities released him back to his South Philadelphia neighborhood under intensive monitoring and supervision.

The delay in his removal while he remained free opened the door for community sympathy and support. There, his supporters say, he demonstrated that he had turned his life around by cleaning up playgrounds in his South Sixth Street neighborhood, volunteering with children, and providing for his mother and siblings, including his sister, Jeannette, 20, a Temple University student.

He was "young and dumb" when he committed his crime, his sister said. "I understand he committed a felony. But he did his time. And he came out changed."

At a rally Monday on Independence Mall, Kol's supporters portrayed him as a model for penal rehabilitation. They want the federal courts to review his case rather than impose a mandatory penalty.

Kol attended Taggert School and dropped out of Furness High School when he was arrested. For a quarter-century, he has lived in America. He speaks some Khmer, the language of Cambodia, but he will find daily life there extremely hard, said family friend Sopha Nguy, 28.

"I speak a lot of Cambodian," she said, "but if you sent me to live over there, I couldn't survive."

Nguy sat with Kol's mother, Sokhoeurn Kol, 55, at the demonstration, billed as "A Day of Action Against Deportation." It included a performance by AZI, a Cambodian American hip-hop group, and drew about 80 supporters.

This month, Cambodia issued the necessary travel documents. Kol was arrested and was transferred last week from a prison in York, Pa., to one on the West Coast to await deportation.

Instead of mandatory deportation, "there should be a process for individualized consideration of these cases," said Mia-lia Kiernan of Deported Diaspora, one of the organizers of the rally. "They're not terrorists. They've served their time. They've learned."
Contact staff writer Michael Matza at 215-854-2541 or mmatza@phillynews.com.

'Microphone' bomb kills four Cambodians

Sydney Morning Herald
August 31, 2010

A drunk Cambodian man accidentally detonated an old grenade that he was using as a pretend microphone, killing himself and three other men and wounding three women, police say.

The rocket-propelled grenade, a remnant of the country's decades of war, exploded on Sunday near a small gathering in Pursat province in western Cambodia, local police chief Pich Sopheap told AFP by telephone.

"The explosion occurred after a drunken man used an unexploded B-40 grenade as a microphone while he was singing and later hit it against a wooden stick," said Pich Sopheap.

The blast killed the 30-year-old man and three male farmers instantly, and critically injured three women who were chatting nearby underneath a raised house, he said.

Cambodia, one of the world's most heavily mined countries, is littered with unexploded ordnance from nearly three decades of civil war and the secret US bombing of the nation in the Vietnam War.

In May, five plantation workers were killed after their vehicle hit an old anti-tank mine in a former stronghold of the communist Khmer Rouge rebels.

Around 670 square kilometres still needs to be cleared of explosives, Prime Minister Hun Sen said in February.

US expels Cambodians

Tuesday, 31 August 2010
By Vong Sokheng and Brooke Lewis
Phnom Penh Post

Former permanent residents sent home after prison terms

AT least 10 Cambodians who have been legally living in the United States are expected to arrive in the Kingdom today after being deported. Officials said yesterday that this was in accordance with a controversial bilateral repatriation agreement reached in 2002.

All the deportees are former legal permanent US residents – but not full citizens – who have served prison sentences for aggravated felonies, a group of crimes that was expanded in 1996 to include some that were previously misdemeanours.

Rights workers have criticised the repatriation policy as needlessly strict, while voicing concern that those affected by it face challenges in adapting to Cambodian society.

Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said yesterday that he had received a letter from the Cambodian embassy in Washington last month informing him that 10 deportees would arrive in the Kingdom today, but noted that the number might have since increased.

Kloeung Aun, executive director of the Returnee Integration Support Centre, an NGO based in the capital, said local officials had informed him to expect 10 new arrivals sometime in September, but that he had not been given a specific date or details about their individual cases.

He said that the 10 expected arrivals were part of a group of almost 50 people waiting to be deported from the US.

“There are approximately 49 people currently being detained in America pending removal,” he said. Prospective deportees were detained while their travel documents were organised, a process that could take anywhere from a month to more than a year, he said.

The US embassy in Phnom Penh said by email that such deportations targeted not only Cambodians.

“Non-citizens who have been convicted of aggravated felonies are subject to deportation under US immigration law,” the embassy said.

“We also remain committed to helping the returnees successfully reintegrate into Cambodian society.”

But Kloeung Aun said yesterday that many deportees faced a struggle to reintegrate.

“It is difficult for a lot of people to come back,” he said. “Many people left as refugees at 5 or 6 years old, and some were born in Thai refugee camps, so they have never been to Cambodia before.”

He said that a total of 229 Cambodian-Americans, only two of whom were female, had been deported since the signing of the repatriation agreement in 2002, and that there were at least 14,000 more people at risk of deportation.

Sara Colm, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch, said yesterday that American immigration laws were “very strict in that many of the people being deported have committed very minor and nonviolent crimes”.

“Our overall concern is that the Cambodians who are being deported are in the US legally as refugees and permanent residents,” she said.
“And they’ve already been punished; they’ve already served a prison sentence.”

Cambodia rejects Thai tender of road funds

Tuesday, 31 August 2010
By Cheang Sokha

CAMBODIAN officials said yesterday that they would reject US$41.2 million in funding for a road project that Thailand reportedly pledged to resume last week as part of an effort to warm relations between the two countries.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong said Cambodia would not accept the loan, as it had already financed the road project independently.

“We have not requested this loan, and we don’t need this money,” Koy Kuong said. “We are using our own budget to construct this road and the project is well under way.”

Koy Kuong’s comments yesterday marked a change in tone from his remarks on the Thai loans the previous day; when asked about the subject on Sunday, he said Cambodia “welcomes all forms of donations without conditions attached”.

Thai Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaungsuban said last week that the aid, originally promised last August to extend National Road 68 up to the Thai border in Oddar Meanchey province, would be resumed in view of the countries now-normalised diplomatic relations, the Bangkok Post reported.

In November, Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered the cancellation of all Thai grants and loans in the diplomatic spat that ensued following Cambodia’s now-terminated appointment of fugitive former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra as an economics adviser.

Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs deputy spokesman Thani Thongphakdi said yesterday that he was unaware of Cambodia’s position on the funding, but that Thailand “stands ready to promote further bilateral cooperation with Cambodia”.

[Vietnam] Nation to sign judiciary agreement with Cambodia

HA NOI — Viet Nam and Cambodia should speed up negotiations for a civilian and trade judiciary assistance agreement to create the necessary legal framework for enterprises of the two countries to co-operate more efficiently.

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung made the statement while receiving Cambodia's Minister of Justice Ang Vong Vathana who has been on a six-day working visit to Viet Nam since August 27 at the invitation of Vietnamese counterpart Ha Hung Cuong.

Applauding the Cambodian Justice Ministry delegation's visit to attend the 65th anniversary of Viet Nam's justice sector, Dung expressed his pleasure at the co-operation in the judicial sector between the two sides.

He highly appreciated the outcome of the dialogue between the two ministries, saying that the signing of the agreement would lay the foundation for people and enterprises of the two countries to conduct trade co-operation projects and improve the understanding and mutual trust between the two nations.

Dung affirmed that Viet Nam was always willing to join hands with Cambodia in all sectors from politics, economics and culture to social affairs and justice.

Minister Ang Vong Vathana said that he and his Vietnamese counterpart had exchanged a lot of experience in the judicial sector such as building laws and training lawyers as well as discussing the contents of the assistance agreement and measures to boost co-operation in the future. — VNS

90 percent of Cambodia prostitutes sold by parents

The Inderground
Posted on 30 August 2010

A Christian missionary said recently that 90 percent of prostitutes in Cambodia are sold into this industry by their parents.

Ruth Elliott, a British missionary and head of Daughters of Cambodia, said the young girls feel a need to stay in the sex trade to support their families. Elliott first arrived in Cambodia in 2004, and formed Daughters of Cambodia, which has helped sex trafficking victims for six years, CBN News said.

Elliott says, “They live in the pit of hell. It’s the truth. And they experience horrendous trauma when they come out.” Elliott said God called her to this work when she was only 14 years old, saying, “[God] wanted me to go into the places that were worst and to facilitate healing the broken-hearted and setting the captives free,” CBN News said.

Elliott does her work by entering Cambodia’s brothels and asking the sex victims if they want to change their lives. If they are amenable, she invites them to her day-center which is located within the area, CBN News said.

She said change is possible when the girls learn new ways to earn a living. “We had to start small businesses, which are fair trade businesses, in order for the girls to exit the sex industry. For without another job, it is just impossible for them to leave,” CBN News said.

The girls are also taught important lessons for a healthy domestic life, noting, “Things like domestic violence prevention, conflict resolution skills, budgeting skills, this kind of thing. [Also] drug prevention,” CBN News said.

Daughters of Cambodia can have up to 60 girls at a time per program, who learn new skills to pay for food, rent and other necessities by selling products they make such as fashion accessories, clothes and furnishings locally and for export, CBN News said.

The emotional trauma from having been in the sex industry is also addressed. As a psychologist, Elliott counsels victims and trains counselors for this growing work. She also engages in evangelization, CBN News said.

Her ministry includes brothel owners and pimps noting, “We want everyone in the sex industry to come to our church because we believe in the power of Jesus to change everyone’s life,” CBN News said.

But the girls easily accept Jesus she says, noting, “They have never in their lives experienced love — unconditional love and acceptance. And many of them become Christians as a result of this,” CBN News said.

While the work can be dangerous, Elliott sees God’s protection and faithfulness in that they have never had any problems noting, “I believe the grace of God is on us,” CBN said.

On their website, Daughters of Cambodia posted one girl’s story. She was left by her parents to work as a maid in a wealthy Cambodian family home at the age of 14, but was not paid her salary and was fed twice daily. The husband made sexual advances, forcing her to run away, the website said.

Her parents were working in Thailand so she was left in the streets. A girl she met got her a job in a Karaoke bar, which turned out to be a brothel. In this way, she was coerced into prostitution, the website said.

The girl said, “I had little choice about who I had to have sex with because they were wealthy or threatened me… Customers often made derogatory comments to me; they did not care if I was crying… There was nobody willing to help me and I cried alone every night…I started to think I was crazy. I was often so depressed; I felt I had no worth or value and my life was cheap. I cannot describe the pain,” the website said.

At Daughters she said, “I find comfort and strength, the staff value me, I have close friends and I know many people here love me and care about me. And I can talk to people here if I feel bad. I feel loved,” the website said.

Surly neighbours should be ready to mend the fence

Tue, Aug 31, 2010
The Nation/Asia News Network

Thailand and Cambodia can restore ties knowing they are Asean members and can share economic benefits

One would not think that fence mending between Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen was possible considering the viciousness behind the Cambodian leader's attack on Abhisit last October.

Nevertheless, here we are at a possible reconciliation, and it should be welcomed. It's kiss and make up time for both sides. One may end up wondering what all the fuss was about in the first place.

Perhaps bygones don't matter anymore, now that the two countries have decided to move on from microphone diplomacy and restore bilateral ties at the highest level. The respective ambassadors have been reinstated. Essentially, this means that diplomacy is back on track.

Another positive development has been the release of three Thai villagers who were detained by Cambodian soldiers when they strayed across the border. They were simply foraging for forest products to make ends meet. Nevertheless, one wonders if the three would be released if the political atmosphere were not on the upswing.

The move towards diplomatic normalisation comes with the announcement that fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra is no longer working as an "economic adviser" to Cambodia. It was generally realised on both sides of the border that the position was a way of antagonising Thailand rather than assisting Cambodia and its economy in any meaningful way.

The ousted Thai leader, wanted on charges of corruption, likes to represent himself as a champion of the poor, and his appointment in Cambodia was supposed to be a testimony to that status. But the nature of his entry into this cross-border quarrel, as well as his departure, suggests that Thaksin was just a political pawn. But still, he was willing to play a part in the hypocrisy as it showed Thailand that he maintains powerful friendships.

The advisory appointment of Thaksin was simply Hun Sen's way of getting back at Abhisit for obstructing Cambodia's bid to put the 12th century Preah Vihear temple on the Unesco's World Heritage list, and holding the Hindu-Khmer ruins hostage to border demarcation. While in opposition, Abhisit had charged that the then government of Samak Sundaravej had violated the Constitution by endorsing Cambodia's bid to propose the temple for World Heritage status. The border map submitted to Unesco by Cambodia could help strengthen Cambodia's claim to disputed, overlapping territories, he argued. Since then, bilateral ties have been frosty to say the least.

Fortunately, it didn't take long for Hun Sen to realise that Thaksin had outlived his usefulness and that the only way forward was to accept the fugitive's resignation and get bilateral ties back on track. Thaksin should now realise that his departure from the Thai-Cambodia equation benefits the two countries.

A number of issues had to be placed on the backburner as the two sides carried on a lengthy spitting contest that essentially served no purpose. But beside the border demarcation, the two countries still have overlapping territorial claims in the Gulf of Thailand that need to be addressed. Potential investment benefits from natural gas and oil deposits await the two countries in the Gulf, but neither side will be able to move on this until the land issue is resolved.

We hope that the economic incentives will be enough to motivate the two sides to get back to the negotiating table. But we shouldn't hold our breath. Although the political situation in Thailand is improving, there exists a group of ultra-nationalists who are prepared to cause more violence if they detect one move from the government they don't like.

Moving bilateral relations forward should now be somewhat easier, at least with Thaksin out of the immediate equation. However, both sides will have to display maturity and courage to ensure that pending issues can be resolved with any degree of normalcy. Importantly, Thailand and Cambodia are both active members of Asean, and this fact should be paramount in their attitudes.

The two leaders are scheduled to meet face to face in early October. Both have learned the hard way that politicising foreign relations for domestic consumption serves no one's interest. Now let's hope they have the courage to do the right thing.

Monday, 30 August 2010 00:13

Monday, 30 August 2010
Daily Mirror, UK

When Xiaowan hydropower station sputtered to life this week in China’s south-west Yunnan province,

the Asian giant was able to lay claim to having the world’s largest hydropower capacity.

By Marwaan Macan-Markar

BANGKOK, Aug 27, 2010 (IPS) - After all the turbines in the Xiaowan hydropower station sputtered to life this week in China’s south-west Yunnan province, the Asian giant was able to lay claim to having the world’s largest hydropower capacity.

A "great leap forward" was how Liu Qi, deputy director of the National Energy Administration, described the expanding hydropower muscle of the country, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency.

"The rapid development of the hydropower industry is of great significance to optimising China’s energy structure and reducing carbon emissions," Sun Yucai, executive vice chairman of the China Electricity Council, said in the same report.

The 700,000-kilowatt scheme of the Xiaowan power station is expected to push China’s installed hydropower capacity to 200 million kilowatts, Xinhua reported. The country’s second largest hydropower project, which cost 5.86 billion U.S. dollars, can "produce 19 billion KW hours of electricity every year, it added.

This power station will receive water from another showpiece of Chinese power: the Xiaowan dam, the world’s tallest double-arch dam with a storage capacity of close to 15 billion cubic metres.

The Xiaowan is the fourth dam that the Chinese have built out among a planned eight cascades of dams in the upper part of the Mekong River - which the Chinese call the Lancang - that flows through the mountainous Yunnan terrain. The Xiaowan Dam began impounding the Mekong's waters in October 2009, nearly two decades after the Manwan, the first among these dams, started to harness the waters of the 4,660-kilometre-long river.

But China’s celebration of its dam-building feats, coming nearly 100 years after it built its first hydropower station near Kunming, the provincial capital of Yunnan, will not be shared by countries in the lower stretches of the Mekong, say activists.

Many downstream communities have been reporting erratic water levels in the Mekong and blame this on China’s construction of dams on the Lancang.

Following drops to the river’s lowest levels in 50 years, green groups and sections of the media blamed the Chinese dams – particularly the Xiaowan – for affecting the livelihood of riverine villages in Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.

A Chinese government effort in March to explain that these were due to a severe drought did little to ease the worries of villagers who depend ed on the river’s ecosystem and fish catch for an income.

Fishing is the main source of livelihood for the 60 million people living in the Mekong basin, and the annual income from fisheries in the lower Mekong is between two to three billion U.S. dollars.

"Many people living in the lower Mekong region will still believe that the filling of the Xiaowan dam reservoir contributes to a drop in the water level during the dry season," says Ame Trandem, Mekong campaigner for International Rivers, an U.S.-based environmental lobby. "It will remain so until the Chinese make public all the information related to its dam operations."

China’s offer of some information about its dams to the Mekong River Commission (MRC) is insufficient, she told IPS. "China has been taking positive steps to be cooperative by releasing some details. But it still needs to be willing to be more accountable and transparent, since local communities have not seen the information given to the MRC."

The MRC, an inter-governmental organisation whose members include Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, says China’s dams do not have the capacity to influence water levels all the way downstream, because much of the Mekong’s waters come from lower basin countries. "The MRC doesn’t anticipate that the Xiaowan dam will have a significant influence downstream on the lower Mekong," says MRC spokesman Damian Kean, echoing views that the Vientiane-based organisation aired when the Chinese dams were under fire early this year.

But "later on, as more and more dams come online, you are going to see a greater impact," he told IPS from the Lao capital. "All the lower Mekong countries want to see the right decision being made in this sector."

At the same time, China is well aware that the impact of its dams on the Mekong – which flows from the Tibetan plateau, through Yunnan, then passes Burma before snaking its way through the basin to empty out into the South China Sea in southern Vietnam – is not limited to the countries that share South-east Asia’s largest body of water.

Since July, Beijing has also had to contend with the U.S. government, which has been reviving Washington’s involvement in the region after the disengagement by the administration of George W Bush.

In fact, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s push for greater cooperation between Washington and the Mekong basin countries during a visit to Thailand in July 2009 spurred warnings from U.S. experts about the danger that China’s hydropower ambitions pose to other Mekong countries.

China’s dam plans will turn the Mekong into a "Chinese River", warned Richard Cronin, the South-east Asian head of the U.S.-based Stimson Centre, in Bangkok this month.

In an August article, the Washington-based ‘Foreign Policy’ publication urged the U.S. government to step into the fray. "Washington’s willingness to get involved in the Mekong River dispute could create an almost perfect counterweight to China’s strategy," wrote John Lee, visiting fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington D.C. For now, Beijing’s response to growing U.S. criticism is to pursue ‘soft power’ diplomacy, says a regional analyst. "China wants to assure governments in the lower Mekong that they have nothing to fear." -Blueplanet News

By Jonathan Manthorpe,
Vancouver Sun columnist
August 30, 2010

China has started to share information about its Mekong River dams with Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand. The countries have complained that the dams have afiected water flows, and are disturbing fish migrations and populations.
Photograph by: Chor Sokunthea, Reuters, Vancouver Sun

China has made a significant policy about-turn in response to a sharp contest with the United States for friends and influence in Southeast Asia.

After years of rebuffing increasingly anxious requests for information about its dams on the upper reaches of the Mekong River from countries lower down the river's course, Beijing has relented.

China's change of tack comes as Washington is moving to broaden its non-military engagement with Indochina.

Dozens of U.S. officials have been shuttling back and forth to the region promoting cooperative agreements since July last year when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton launched what is known as the Lower Mekong Initiative.

The aim is to take advantage of China's less than stellar reputation in Southeast Asia by offering development aid and assistance to Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Laos for whom the lower reaches of the Mekong River are a vital economic resource.

At the same time, the U.S. has signed the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation with the 10-nation club of regional countries, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. This treaty affirms U.S. commitment to regional peace, stability and involvement in ASEAN processes and institutions.

China is very much aware it has a public relations problem in Southeast Asia, in part because of its belligerent military activities and outlandish territorial claims in the South China Sea.

But for the countries through which the Mekong River flows much suspicion of China stems from its secrecy over its dam-building projects on its stretches of the 4,880 kilometre-long river, which it calls the Lancang.

In recent months there has been a crescendo in the always intense public criticism in the region claiming China's four dams on the upper Mekong are affecting water flows, disturbing fish migrations and populations, and are threatening the livelihoods of up to 70 million people.

But in June, China shifted policy and officials from the Mekong River Commission (MRC), created by a 1995 agreement between Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand, were invited to China's Yunnan province to look at two of the four dams. They are reported to have received detailed information about the operation of the dams and their effects on river flows.

The dams were the Jing Hong, already in operation, and the massive Xiaowan, one of the world's tallest dams whose reservoir will take up to 10 years to fill and which will hold 15 billion cubic metres of water, more than five times the capacity of the other three Yunnan dams put together.

China also invited the MRC to send officials to Beijing to discuss how China might play a fuller role in the commission's activities.

China and Burma, which its ruling military regime calls Myanmar, have always kept at arms length from the MRC.

Like all autocratic regimes, they try to avoid exposing their internal affairs to any outside scrutiny or influence, and have therefore only taken "dialogue partner" status with the commission.

China has, until now, been equally unforthcoming about sharing information with the MRC.

MRC officials have usually only learned when decisions have been made and ground broken about Beijing's dam-building plans on the 44 per cent of the Mekong than runs through Chinese territory after rising in the mountains of Tibet. And China has plans for at least another four dams on the Mekong to generate electricity and control floods.

Information about management of the completed dams has been equally hard to come by with China only recently giving detailed information about the wet season flows of water.

Now, apparently, China has indicated it will give information about the dry season flows too.

If China continues to openly share information about its dams and the life of the Mekong in its territory, it will do much to clear up a lot of disagreements and conflicting analysis about what is happening to the Mekong, which does not seem to be functioning as it has in past decades.

Most concerning are low water levels and their effects on such natural wonders as the Tonle Sap, the great lake in central Cambodia usually filled to overflowing every year by waters from the Mekong during the rainy season.

Fish from the Tonle Sap not only provide an incredible 80 per cent of the protein in the diet of Cambodia's 15 million people, the lake also acts as reservoir that feeds water back into the Mekong during the dry season and allows year-round cultivation and cropping in the delta region of Vietnam.

But the low volumes of water in recent years have frequently been blamed on China stemming the flow of the Mekong to fill the dam reservoirs feeding its hydroelectric schemes.

But MRC experts such as chief executive Jeremy Bird doubt this is so. He says he thinks prolonged drought in Southeast Asia is the most likely cause.

Australian author, historian and consultant on southeast Asian affairs, Milton Osborne, says the way the Chinese have tried to defend themselves against the charges by using misleading statements and information has damaged Beijing's cause.

Osborne points to China's regular response that it can't be held responsible for what happens on the lower Mekong, because only about 13 per cent of the water in the river at that point comes from China.

This, Osborne says, is nonsense because during the dry season, when the effects on features such as the Tonle Sap are most profound, at least 40 per cent of the water in the Mekong comes from China.


Attacking Poverty in Cambodia and India With Education And Bicycles

VOA News

Two young girls carry trays on their heads laden with snacks to sell at a Phnom Penh's railway station.

At a time when many school systems begin classes around the world, many poor children in some parts of the world may be staying home for any number of reasons. One, it seems, is a lack of transportation to get the children to a school that may not be near their homes. That's where a project called "Lotus Pedals" steps in in Cambodia. It is a program administered by Lotus Outreach International that, among other things, provides sturdy bicycles to a group of poor children so they can travel to their school.

Public secondary schools are few and some are a considerable distance from the students in Cambodia and India and Lotus Outreach says that is usually the greatest hurdle for children to continue their education. Spokesman for the program, Glenn Fawcett, Executive Director of Field Operations says there are usually more primary schools than secondary schools in some of these poor regions. So, he says, "when a student finishes sixth grade, they may find themselves faced with a trip of 2, 6, 8, 10, 30, 40 kilometers away from the nearest secondary school."

Mr. Fawcett adds that most parents don't have the resources to send their children those distances to school. The San Diego, California based Lotus Outreach International has scholarship programs "in a number of provinces right across Cambodia with 761 girls already in these programs." Those girls get bicycles to help them get to and stay in school, among other benefits of the scholarship programs. Mr. Fawcett says his organization concentrates on girls because girls are "far and away getting less educational opportunities than boys" in these regions.

Fawcett says the situation in India is very similar to that in Cambodia, but has additional problems, including a dropout rate of about 50 percent. He says the key to poverty reduction is just getting a basic education. That's why, he says, that in the most rural areas of India Lotus Outreach is working on "mobilizing communities and pushing the education authorities to provide the basic amenities for schools, such as toilets."

Secondary schools in India are, as in Cambodia, sometimes a long way from communities forcing families to keep their children at home. "In India," he says, "it's worse than in Cambodia because of the very traditional families will not send their girls out of their sight." In a Muslim district in India, Lotus Outreach has begun "the Blossom Bus", in which a parent chaperone rides the bus to deliver village girls to school each day, one way around the reluctance of parents to allow their girls to attend schools.

Why concentrate on educating girls? Mr. Fawcett says there are several studies that show that girls who continue their education will not only have an enhanced salary capacity, but are more likely to invest that income back into their own community. So, educating girls is a greater community resource and becomes a very powerful and strong thing. That, says Glenn Fawcett, is what educators call the "girl effect".

Khmer Krom regrets the opening of Voice of Vietnam Radio station in Phnom Penh

Mr. Thach Setha making a speech on 4th June 2010, during the 61st anniversary of the loss of Kampuchea Krom territory to Vietnam.

By Khmerization
Source: everyday.com

The Khmer Krom community in Cambodia has expressed regrets that the Cambodian government had refused permission for them to open their own radio station in Cambodia, but allowed Vietnam, a communist country which oppresses and persecutes Khmer Krom and which bans Khmer Krom people from listening to radios and watching TVs broadcasting from Cambodia, to open the Voice of Vietnam's representative office in Phnom Penh.

Mr. Thach Setha, president of Khmer Kampuchea Krom Community, said he wants the Cambodian government to give permission to Khmer Krom to open their own radio station in Cambodia, the same as the Cambodian government giving permission to Vietnamese community in Cambodia to open their radio stations. "I regrets very much what the Cambodian government had done to the Khmer Krom people. We want the Khmer Krom's voice to be heard here (in Cambodia). If they allowed the Vietnamese to have their radio in Cambodia, they must also allow the Khmer Krom to have our own radio as well to make it fair. In Vietnam, our (Khmer Krom) people were not allowed by the Vietnamese authority to listen to radio or watch TVs from Cambodia. They have banned our rights", he said.

The Voice of Vietnam's representative office was inaugurated by the visiting Vietnamese president Mr. Nguyen Minh Triet and Cambodian officials in Phnom Pneh on Friday, 27th August.

Road to Ta Moan temple opened for use

The Ta Moan Thom road when it was started on 9th September 2009.

By Khmerization
Source: everyday.com

A 9-kilometre long, $1.3 million road to Ta Moan temple has opened for use on Monday. The road, which is connecting Ta Moan temple with Banteay Ampil district in Oddar Meanchey province, has been built with funds from local donors raised through an appeal by CTN television network.

It was reported that Thai soldiers opposed to the construction of this road but Cambodian army overcame their objection until it is 100% completed. The construction of the road took one year to complete and was built by Cambodian Army Engineering Unit.

Mr. Neak Vong, commander of 42nd Battalion, said he is very happy because the road will make it easy for people to visit the temple as well as a quick mobilisation of troops should there be a need for troop mobilisation.

President of Human Rights Party summoned to court

By Khmerization
Source: DAP News

Mr. Kem Sokha (pictured), president of the Human Rights Party (HRP), has been summoned by the Phnom Penh Court to answer charges of breach of trust, document forgery and defamation brought on by 16 former employees of Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) in 2006 when he was the president of the centre.

The lawsuits were lodged by the 16 employees when they were laid off due to restructures and due the shortage of funds caused by the cut of financial supports from some backers.

Dr. Chhim Phalvirun, former deputy president of CCHR and current president of Institute on Population, accused that Mr. Kem Sokha had withheld part of their salary, forged their signatures and had intentionally destroyed the reputation of CCHR when he gave interview to a number of media and radios in Cambodia.

At the time of this article going to press on 30th August, Mr. Kem Sokha was unavailable for comment. However, Mr. Yem Ponharith, Secretary General of the HRP and MP from Prey Veng, said he had received the letter from Phnom Penh Court's prosecutor, Mr. Sok Roeun, requesting Mr. Kem Sokha to appear before the court at 2 pm on 6th September. He said he is trying to contact Mr. Kem Sokha who is on a visit to the United States. He said he will write to the court asking the court to delay the hearing as Mr. Kem Sokha might not be able to return on time for the court hearing on 6th September.

Mr. Sok Roeun, who is in charge of this case, cannot be reached for comment. However, a source close to the Phnom Penh Court, said the court plans to write to the National Assembly asking it to strip Mr. Kem Sokha off his parliamentary immunity to pave the way for the court to proceed with his case.

Mr. Cheam Yeap, chairman of the National Assembly's Finance and Audits Committee, said he had not received the court's letter yet, but said the parliament will proceed in accordance with the laws and the constitution when it received the request from the court, meaning it will proceed to lift Mr. Kem Sokha's parliamentary immunity.

Cheam Yeap cursed those who cursed Hun Sen

By Khmerizarion
Source: DAP News

Mr. Cheap Yeap (pictured), a senior MP from the ruling Cambodian People's Party and chairman of the National Assembly's Finance and Audit Committee, has cursed those who cursed Hun Sen, saying that they will be destroyed or killed by a lightning. Mr. Cheam Yeap said Prime Minister Hun Sen is a national hero who should not be insulted.

Mr. Cheam Cheap's curse followed the report by ASTV Manager Online, a TV owned by a Thai ultra-nationalist Mr. Sodhi Limthongkul, on 29th August that a Thai group calling itself Vishnu Lovers has performed a ritual ceremony in Vishnulok province by paying homage to King Nuresuan, a great 16th century Thai king who defeated the Burmese invaders and who ruled Cambodia from 1594-1595 when they ransacked the Cambodian royal capital of Longvek. During the who ceremony it was reported that the 50 or so participants bowed to the statue of King Nuresuan. After that, they replaced Nuresuan's statue with Hun Sen's picture and they stick it to a banana tree and cut off the banana tree and tossed it away to rid off bad luck. The report said that they participants cursed Hun Sen by saying that he is an ungrateful person to King Nuresuan who had saved and ruled Cambodians.

In response to the actions of these Thai ultra-nationalists, aided and abetted by Mr. Sondhi Limthongkul, Mr. Cheam Yeap said that these Thai people forgot that they were the invaders who ransacked Longvek and annexed many Cambodian provinces, including Kauk Khan (Sisaket), Surin, Nokor Reach Seima (Korat) etc. Mr. Cheam Yeap called these Thai ultra-nationalists as inhuman, barbarians, bastard jungle robbers and religion blasphemers who can't differentiate between bad deeds from good deeds and who dare to curse and insult Cambodia's hero, Samdech Hun Sen, who was respected by all Cambodians. He said if Mr. Sondhi and his group continue to insult Mr. Hun Sen he will meet with misdeeds and death like on 17th April 2009 when he was riddled with bullets during a failed attempt on his life.

Cellphones help Cambodian students to cheat

30 August 2010
By Dara Saoyuth
Phnom Penh

Standing in front of a school in Cambodia's capital Phnom Penh, Than Vichea read out answers over his cellphone to his sister who was taking national exams inside.

He was not alone. Even the police deployed outside schools to stop relatives providing answers to the more than 100 000 students who sat the tests last month could not prevent cheating in many of the exam centres.
"What would happen if they fail?" asked Than Vichea. "We have to think about our expenses for schooling, part-time studies and fuel costs, and especially our time."
Several students interviewed by AFP said they had bribed teachers to allow them to check notes they had smuggled into the exams, or answer sheets allegedly sold in advance by teachers outside the schools.
One said he had paid about $30 to teachers during two and a half days of exams so they would turn a blind eye to cheating and keep watch for school inspectors.
Others said they had bribed teachers to allow them to use their mobiles to phone relatives for help during the exams, the results of which will be announced on August 20.
"Besides copying answers from each other, candidates in my room could even make a phone call outside during the exams to get answers," said a female student who asked to remain anonymous.
"And when there was only one correct answer sheet, it was hard to pass from one to another. So those who use modern phones took a photo of that sheet and then sent it to each other via the Internet on their phones," she said.
After decades of civil war and the mass killing of educated people and intellectuals by the communist Khmer Rouge regime in the late 1970s, Cambodia is trying to restore its educational system. But it is a slow process.
"Our country was severely destroyed during the Khmer Rouge, so, as a child, we have started rebuilding," said Mak Vann, a senior official with the Ministry of Education.
"We have trained more teachers and up to now it's still not enough. We still lack educational tools, and more teachers need to be trained as well."
Cambodia's schools were obliterated under Khmer Rouge rule. The regime killed nearly two million people - including many teachers - as it emptied cities in its bid to forge a Communist utopia.
School buildings, documents and other educational resources were destroyed.
More than three decades later, a lack of infrastructure, human resources and educational tools, as well as low wages for teachers, are hindering efforts to improve standards in schools.
Not all students interviewed said there had been cheating in their exam rooms.
"In my room, it was very strict. We could not even look at each other during the exams. No cellphones were allowed," said one, Bun Keo Voleak.
But the apparent acceptance of bribes by many teachers reflects rampant corruption in general in Cambodia that is seen by many as a growing barrier to quality in human resources for the Southeast Asian nation.
Cheating and paying bribes are common during exams, but Rong Chhun, head of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association, said the problem appeared to have worsened this year.
"Weakness in the educational system cannot help our country to develop," he said.
Cambodia was ranked 158th out of 180 countries in anti-graft organisation Transparency International's index of perceived public sector corruption in 2009.
It was also ranked the second most corrupt Southeast Asian nation after Indonesia in an annual poll by the Political and Economic Risk Consultancy.
"Corruption exists and sometimes it seems to be open, such as teachers collecting money from students even in public class," said In Samrithy, executive director of NGO Education Partnership.
He said Cambodia was lagging behind neighbouring countries in terms of the quality of education.
"Allowing students to cheat is dangerous for their future because what they write for their teachers is not their real knowledge, so when they face a real situation, especially in a competitive job market, they will have problems."

Cambodia denies media's report on nuclear power plant

30 August 2010
Source: Xinhua

Cambodia Monday denied media's report that suggested the country might have deal with Iran to build a nuclear power plant.

Koy Kuong, spokesman of Foreign Ministry said Monday that Cambodia has not made any deal with Iran on anything related to nuclear power plant.

Koy Kuong made the statement following media's report that suggested during the recent visit to Iran. Hor Namhong, deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs might have discussed any issue on nuclear power plant.

Koy Kuong said, during the visit, there were only three documents were signed: cooperation in petroleum, economic cooperation and visa exemption.

Hor Namhong (pictured) made an official visit to Iran early this month.

Cambodia has earlier expressed its interest, for the future, to access a nuclear power plant in order to secure sufficient power supply, but stressed it would not be any time soon.

Since June, Iran has been imposed with new sanctions by the United States, European Union and the United Nations in a way to stop its sensitive uranium-enrichment program which they fear of nuclear weapons production.

But the Irani government had denied the charge, saying the program was only for a peaceful purpose.

Cambodian province seeks direct link with Phu Quoc

31 August 2010
Source: VNA

Phu Quoc Island

Cambodia's Kep Province is looking for an investor for a port that links it directly with Vietnam’s Phu Quoc Island, the provincial government has said.

Has Sareth, chairman of Kep Province, said the tourist port is expected to cost around US$20 million.

Kep Tourism Department director Tep Houm said the port will help take tourists to ideal resorts in Phu Quoc, which lies off the Mekong Delta’s Kien Giang Province, in around one hour and a half on ferry boats.

Phu Quoc is expected to receive 2-3 million visitors in 2020, with 35-40 percent of them foreigners, according to Vietnam Ministry of Transport.

Kep Province has also been a tourism hotspot in Cambodia. In the first half this year, the province received more than 409,600 visitors including nearly 50,200 foreigners, compared to around 277,000 visitors and nearly 5,000 foreigners during the same period last year.

Sareth said the province disagreed with Japanese investor Rotong Development Group about the location of the port.

The group wanted to build the port in downtown Kep where it is crowded and the water is deep but Kep officials want to put the port five kilometers away, as it would be convenient for the province’s further development.

Sokhom Pheakvanmony, a Cambodian senior transport official, visited the province last week, but has not made a decision on the port's location.

Tribunal Judges Near End of Civil Party Review

Monday, 30 August 2010
Kong Sothanarith, VOA Khmer | Phnom Penh
Source:VOA News
Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, ECCC.Photo:AP

Investigating judges are nearly finished reviewing some 4,000 applications for civil party complaints in an upcoming trial for Khmer Rouge leaders.
Tribunal officials say they expect the review process to be finished by next week. That will determine which complainants can participate in Case 002 when it goes to trial as early as next year.
The investigating judges have determined that at least 58 complainants are admissable, and they are continuing to review a total 3,988 cases.
“We will know within the week when all the decisions have been made,” tribunal spokesman Lars Olsen said Monday.
In a statement, the investigating judges, You Bunleng and Marcel Lemonde, said they considered civil party complainants “central” to the tribunal process.
Civil party representatives said the tribunal should admit the majority of the 4,000 applicants for the sake of victims.
But judges say the admissibility of the complainants will be defined by whether they are within the scope of the investigation.

Human Rights Party Looks to Grow Ahead of Polls

Men Kimseng, VOA Khmer | Washington, DC
Source: VOA News
Monday, 30 August 2010

Kem Sokha talks politics on VOA Khmer's 'Hello VOA' program Monday.Photo: by Im Sothearith

The minority opposition Human Rights Party held a convention in the US on Sunday, hoping to strengthen its appeal to US-Cambodians who are becoming less interested in politics back home.
The Human Rights Party, which holds three seats in the National Assembly, will seek to expand its reach in upcoming local elections in 2012 and in national elections in 2013.
At a party congress in Philadelphia, Penn., party president Kem Sokha told a gathering of supporters from the US, Canada and Europe that the party, though young, had seen an increase in support.
"The Human Rights Party walks on the right path, which is not only for rural people, the poor, the commoners, the vulnerable, but also for those who are in power, the rich, and those who already have happiness,” Kem Sokha said. “Our target is to help the weak and the poor, but we are not destroying those who already have happiness.”
The convention was only the second for the party since its formation in 2007. Since then, supporters have grown from four to 17 US states, said Keo Sambath, who was selected to head the party's North America branch.
The general level of interest in Cambodian politics among those who now live in the US is in decline, he said, but the party is looking to invigorate them.
“I want to make sure that our people [in the US] stand up,” he said. “They should not feel that Cambodia belongs to other people. I want to make sure that they go and help our country.”
Party officials said they will now seek to reach out further to the international community, mobilize more human resources and find more funding.
The congress brought in some new recruits, though some had little or no political background.
“I have never been with any political party before,” said Tep Sothy, a high school teacher from Chicago. “But when I saw the Human Rights Party, I knew that the leader was a good person. He has good morals and wants to find freedom for others. The party's name is also good for all people. These are the reason why I joined the party.”

Licadho Staffer Sentenced to Two Years for Leaflet Distribution

Monday, 30 August 2010
Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer | Phnom Penh
Source: VOA News
An activist for the Cambodian Women's Party, hands an election leaflet to a motorcycle taxi rider in Phnom Penh.Photo:AP

Four men including a human rights worker received lengthy jail sentences in Takeo province Monday, after they were found guilty of distributing leaflets allegedly insulting the former king and the government.
Leang Sokchoeun, a 28-year-old staff member of Licadho, fainted after hearing his guilty verdict and two-year prison sentence. He was taken to the provincial hospital in an ambulance.
Two other men, Thack Vannak, 34, a Vietnamese interpreter; and Thach Le, a 61-year-old motorcycle taxi driver, both received two-year sentences. A fourth man, a monk named Thach Kong Phuong, 34, who remains at large, was sentenced to three years in absentia.
All four are accused of distributing leaflets in Takeo province critical of the January holiday celebrating the ouster of the Khmer Rouge from Phnom Penh by Vietnamese forces. The January Seven holiday is politically devisive, with some hailing it as a day of liberation and others as a herald of a decade of occupation.
The court said police had provided evidence and witness testimony placing the men at the site of a leaflet distribution.
However, Am Sam Ath, a senior investigator for Licadho, said the decision was unfair and the evidence unclear. The sentencing appeared to be the result of “pressure from politicans or government officials,” he said.

New Effort Brings Latrines to Rural Cambodia

30 August 2010
Robert Carmichael | Phnom Penh
Source: VOA News
Cordell Jacks, who heads IDE Cambodia's water and sanitation program, stands next to one of the award-winning EZ Latrines that the charity hopes will help improve sanitation in rural Cambodia
Cordell Jacks, who heads IDE Cambodia's water and sanitation program, stands next to one of the award-winning EZ Latrines that the charity hopes will help improve sanitation in rural Cambodia.Photo: Courtesy: R. Carmichael
Dr Chea Samnang heads the department of rural health at the Ministry of Rural Development. The government wants 30 percent of rural households to have access to a latrine by 2015, and 100 percent by 2025. Dr Chea says that target is currently on track.
Dr Chea Samnang heads the department of rural health at the Ministry of Rural Development. The government wants 30 percent of rural households to have access to a latrine by 2015, and 100 percent by 2025. Dr Chea says that target is currently on

track.Courtesy: R. Carmichael

In Cambodia, a new effort is focusing on improving rural sanitation and health by providing toilets to households. A novel way of doing that seems to be paying off, literally.

Latrines – they are humble, necessary, and for the most part lacking in rural Cambodia. Five years ago just one in seven rural Cambodians had access to a toilet.

As in many developing nations, poor sanitation has a cost in Cambodia. In rural communities, where 75 percent of the population lives, most families have no toilets and relieve themselves in fields.

The result is untreated human waste, which can spread disease and death. Poor sanitation is one reason Cambodia has one of the highest child mortality rates in Asia. And, the World Bank says, the lack of toilets costs Cambodia $450 million a year in health care.

Government initiative

Dr. Chea Samnang heads the department of rural health at the Ministry of Rural Development. With the help of international donors, his office aims to provide 30 percent of rural homes, or 720,000 households, with latrines by 2015 – up from half a million now.

The government uses television advertisements and teams of workers sent to villages to explain the benefits of latrines. Chea says the program stresses three areas.

"One is to build toilet and use toilet by their own resources," Chea said. "Second one is hand-washing with soap after defecation and before eating. And the third message is we talk about the safe drinking water at home, and the safe storage of drinking water at home."

Role of IDE Cambodia

An agricultural development charity called IDE Cambodia has joined the effort and says it has found a way to get families to build toilets, and pay for them.

That sounds like a hard sell in a land where poverty is widespread. But Cordell Jacks, the head of IDE's water and sanitation program, says it works – thanks to the EZ latrine.

Knowing the biggest cost of a toilet is concrete, IDE designed one that mixes rice husks in the concrete, reducing the price. And modifications to the concrete slab that is the foundation of the toilet made it easier to install them.

Then IDE trained local entrepreneurs – typically people who already manufacture cement products – to make and market the latrines.

"Latrine producers will load up their trucks with these latrines, go into villages, market and educate about proper sanitation and hygiene, and will sell latrines door to door or at village meetings," said Jacks.

Cost factor
The cost - about $35 dollars, compared with up to $200 if a family tries to buy supplies and build a latrine using traditional methods. The entrepreneur pockets around five dollars, and there is no subsidy. Installing one is simple and speedy.

"The family will dig a hole in the ground, place the concrete rings, put the latrine together, and then put a structure – depending on what their income can afford – a superstructure on top of that," Jacks added. "And this can all be done in one day. It's completely revolutionized sanitation as an industry here in Cambodia.

Government joins IDE

IDE introduced the EZ Latrine, which won an international design award this year, in two provinces in December. Six thousand have been sold and IDE gets regular calls from would-be entrepreneurs wanting to get in on the action.

The Ministry of Rural Development works with IDE to take the EZ Latrine to other provinces.

Chea says latrines will be needed for an additional two million households to ensure 100 percent of the country has toilets by 2025. But Cambodia's poorest can not afford even the EZ latrine.

Chea says the ministry will help such families build dry-pit latrines, which cost only a couple of dollars.

"So we work with them. We try to make them understand that the defecation in the toilet is very useful to improve their income," Chea said. "So we let them to build the dry pit. And then starting from that one, if they understand that it is useful for their family then we can work with them further to improve their sanitation program."

IDE has begun a pilot program to help the poorest buy a latrine. Families pool one dollar a month, and each month the agent builds another latrine. Eventually everyone gets a toilet. Although the program is new, Jacks says the approach seems to work and gradually is helping Cambodia's rural communities fight disease and improve incomes – with the lowly latrine.

Confronting Cambodia's past at the Killing Fields

I remove my shoes and walk up the steps to the Buddhist stupa, a towering shrine that was built two decades ago next to the fields. I pass an altar of figs, flowers and incense sticks. I'm joined by a few other tourists, but no one says a word.
The sign at the entrance says: "Would you please kindly show your respect to many million people who were killed under the genocidal Pol Pot regime."
From 1975 to 1979, Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge leader, was responsible for the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians. In these fields, known as Choeung Ek, the Khmer Rouge executed and disposed of several thousand people.
Many of them had been interrogated, tortured and brought to the fields from Tuol Sleng, known as S-21, an old school that's now a museum a few miles away. Many of them were killed with farm tools - hoes, knives, shovels and hatchets.
I enter the memorial. Before me, on several levels, lie piles of human skulls. They stare back at me, some discolored, others showing the damage inflicted upon them during the executions.
At first, I am overwhelmed with sorrow and revulsion.
But then I ask myself: How else should we remember the genocide and memorialize the dead?
The Cambodians are still struggling with the best way to bring those responsible to justice. (In July, a United Nations tribunal convicted the first Khmer Rouge official of war crimes and sentenced to serve 19 years in prison. Four other former leaders await trial.)
But, at least at this memorial, the Cambodians have decided to confront the terrible past and resist erasing history.
Pran died in March 2008 after battling pancreatic cancer. He had worked hard to educate us about the Cambodian genocide. He had worked hard to encourage younger journalists like me.
So, as I leave the memorial, I say a prayer for Dith Pran, hoping he has finally found some measure of peace.
I say another prayer for his country. Despite Cambodia's beauty, I know it's one of the world's poorest countries, devastated by the killings.
As I leave the fields and walk out onto the city street, a girl approaches me. "Papa," she says in rehearsed English. "Give me one dollar, and I go away."
Then a man nudges his 2-year-old daughter, who is completely naked, toward me. She holds up her tiny hands in prayer, beseeching me. I turn away; I fear that if I give her money, more people will approach me.
She is silent, and in that silence, I hold back my tears. It isn't until I write these words a few months later that I begin to weep.
GETTING THERE: Access Phnom Penh on most major airlines, including Korean Air and Delta Airlines with a connection through Seoul, South Korea. American Airlines has flights with connections through Los Angeles and Hong Kong.
THE KILLING FIELDS: The Killing Fields site, known as Choeung Ek, is about 10 miles south of Phnom Penh, so you'll need to hire a taxi or motorbike to get you there. To enter the memorial, you're asked to donate $3. With that donation, you can get a guide to show you around, but I didn't find that necessary
. It's a small area and easily walkable. Steel yourself before you view the human skulls in the Buddhist stupa. In addition to the memorial, signs indicate where detention areas were located, and a visitors' center provides historical information about the Khmer Rouge and the Cambodian genocide.
Details: www.cekillingfield.com
Tuol Sleng, also known as S-21, is the former school where thousands of people were interrogated and tortured. It's now the Museum of Genocide. The most moving, and overwhelming, section contains hundreds of mugshots of the newly arrived. Details: www.tuolsleng.com
WHERE TO STAY, EAT: I enjoyed my stay at the colonial-style Raffles Hotel Le Royal (92 Rukhak Vithei Daun Penh; www.raffles.com). It was built in the late 1920s and has a lot of charm. I also received recommendations for Blue Lime, a more modern hotel with 14 rooms (42 Street 19Z; www.bluelime.asia).
The Foreign Correspondents Club (363 Sisowath Quay) has become a bit of a tourist draw, a multilevel complex with a cafe, restaurant, bar and shops. I had a decent chicken sandwich for lunch and an Angkor beer while looking out upon the Tonle Sap River, trying to do my best foreign correspondent impression.
WHERE TO SHOP: Phnom Penh was evacuated during the Khmer Rouge regime and became a ghost town. When people moved back, it became a city of drugs, prostitution and violence. Those problems have largely subsided in recent years - or at least are less than evident to the tourist. Still, it's odd to think there'd be good shopping here. Street 240 is known for its antique shops and boutiques. I liked Couleurs D'Asia (33 Street 240), which sells beautiful, traditional Khmer cotton scarves.
MORE TO DO: The National Museum (just north of the Royal Palace) is a gem. You'll find hundreds of artifacts and statuary from across Cambodia, as well as a courtyard with fountains full of koi. It's a good place to relax after viewing the horrors of the Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng. Details: www.cambodiamuseum.info
Tourist information: www.gocambodia.com and www.visit-mekong.com
Getting an electronic visa to Cambodia is easy and costs $25. Apply online at http://evisa.mfaic.gov.kh.

Thomas Huang: thuang@dallasnews.com

Begging is all they can do to get help for the land-grabbing they suffered

Villagers from Chi Khor district, Koh Kong province, are seen begging the authority to help resolve the land-grabbing dispute with the Heng Huy Company that lasted since long ago (Photo: Adhoc)

Monday, 30 August 2010

No date set for border talks with Thailand: Cambodian official

People's Daily Online
August 30, 2010

The Cambodian government said on Monday that there is no date has been set for the next border talks with Thailand.

Nem Sowath, chief of cabinet of Tea Banh, deputy prime minister and minister of national defense said that, as of Monday, no date yet has been set for the General Border Committee meeting.

Thai media has carried out reports citing the Thai government's statement as saying that the 7th General Border Committee meeting between Cambodia and Thailand would start on Sept. 8 in Bangkok, Thailand.

But Nem Sowath said Thailand has not sent any letter or intend for the meeting as it was reported.

However, he said, Cambodia is ready to hold talks at any technical level to help solve any remaining issues between the two countries.

The GBC is co-chaired by defense ministers from the two countries and the forum is designed to help solve any problems arising along the border of the two nations including transnational crimes, drug smuggling, security, terrorism among others.

Cambodia and Thailand has had border conflict just one week after Cambodia's Preah Vihear Temple was registered as World Heritage Site in July 2008.

Since the conflict started, military standoff has been on and off along the two countries' border and several military clashes have already been happened with recorded small causalities from both sides.

The International Court of Justice on June 15, 1962 ruled in favor to Cambodia, saying Preah Vihear Temple is belonging to Cambodia, but after July 2008, Thailand has claimed the surrounding land covering over 4.6 square km near the temple.

This border conflict has not been resolved yet.

Source: Xinhua

Time to Cool Down

The Washington Post

Washingtonians will remember this ferocious August for its unusual and disconcerting heat - a merciless string of 90-plus degree days - and an intemperate, nasty, heated public discourse. Meanwhile, human crises of biblical proportions are unfolding across the world: stunning floods in Pakistan, a molasses-pace rebuilding in Haiti, heartbreaking conflict in central Africa, droughts in parts of Asia. We badly need to bring down the temperature and refocus the agenda.

The political tone in Washington stands in jarring contrast to an interview I was reviewing with a wise Cambodian leader, Heng Monychenda. A former Buddhist monk who founded a non-profit organization, Buddhism for Development, Monychenda comes back again and again to the common-sense virtues of reason and compassion. Cambodia's challenges are far from Washington, but his counsel and insights ring true.
Buddhist tradition talks about a middle path; moderation and self-awareness are the prime objectives. Monychenda, who was a slave laborer under the Khmer Rouge and has spent decades working to resolve conflicts of all sorts, stresses the central Buddhist concept of satah, which is confidence or trust. If you don't trust each other, how can you work together? (Congress take note, please). His approach to building trust is to start with the family and the community and move up from there.

Monychenda argues that conflicts are not resolved unless people can live together afterwards. Legal proceedings rarely leave people talking to each other. His approach to conflict resolution aims to leave working communities. Communities in Cambodia torn apart by genocide and poverty have been able to come together behind common objectives. That's a hopeful example.

His organization, he stresses, is not focused on development for Buddhism; its purpose is not to raise funds for monks or temples or to make Cambodia more Buddhist, but "Buddhism for Development." Cambodia is 95 percent Buddhist and Buddhist values are indeed a large part of what makes Cambodia Cambodia. But the nation must be open to all religions, he says, and draw on all their wisdom and their engagement. He quotes Ashoka, the great 5th century ruler, who believed that by harming other religions one harms oneself. Monychenda admits that some Cambodian monks feel threatened by Christian missionaries, especially those who offer incentives for conversion like English classes and food (which appalls him). But he sees real benefits in a multi-faith society, and argues that it means people must know enough about each other to live in real harmony.
Monychenda argues that development, peace and human rights are so inextricably bound together that they should not be sliced into segments. So he also is looking to something that echoes the currently fashionable term: holistic and sustainable development. But he brings some welcome nuance: he argues for human development, not human resource development, because "if you look at a human as a resource, then they are like petroleum, and humans are more than petroleum." Cambodians use a term for development that suggests "super progress" and embraces change across the board.

The equivalent of "super progress" in the ancient language pali, is, he says, Bhavana. It conveys the essence of what wise and reasonable progress is about. It calls on four kinds of principles: physical Bhavana, moral Bhavana, cheta Bhavana, which means mental development, and banya Bhavana, which means wisdom development. In terms of daily life, physical development means economic development. Moral development concerns all of the social order, so "you could call it social development." Mental development relates to how you can control your own emotions. Wisdom development is the concept of education, intellect and IQ. Together the four dimensions form an integrated approach.

September is fast approaching and perhaps that will bring the temperature down. Students head back to the classroom, where one hopes they will focus on all four dimensions of development. Perhaps they can help bring the national agenda back to what really matters, which is the welfare of citizens cross our interconnected world. A reader in the British paper, the Telegraph, commenting on low charitable giving for the Pakistan flood, suggested that the poor response to the flood appeal for Pakistan "is because every school in Britain is on holiday." Let's hope for a September agenda that includes some pieces of Monychenda's sage counsel: trust, wisdom, reason, and compassion.

Katherine Marshall is a senior fellow at Georgetown's Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, a visiting professor and executive director of the World Faiths Development Dialogue.