A Change of Guard

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Tuesday, 30 November 2010

SRP MPs sent a letter to Heng Samrin, request for create a special committee of NA

Nov. 30, 2010: SRP MPs sent a letter to Heng Samrin, President of the National Assembly, request for the creation of a special parliamentary committee to investigatie the deaths of stampede victims in Koh Pich Bridge on Nov. 22, 2010.

Please open the attachment file in Khmer.
SRP Cabinet

The relic of Don Bosco will cross the former Khmer refugee camps this Thursday

Don Bosco workshop in Sihanoukville prison (right) and
Don Bosco Childrens' Fund help Khmer children (below).

By Albeiro Rodas

Last November 17 a curious guest arrived by plane from Seoul to Bangkok and visited all the Don Bosco schools in the Southeast Asian kingdom where the Salesian educational community has been working for underprivileged children and youth since the 1930s. It was a transparent urn showing a sleepy priest with a rather calm face and containing the relic of Don Bosco, who died in Turin, Italy on January 31, 1888. Thousands of young people from different places of Thailand went to see, touch, sing and celebrate the coming of the urn in its long journey by the five continents until 2015, the date that will mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of John Bosco from a family of peasants in a then impoverished north of Italy.

December 2 the urn with the relic of the renowned 19th century educator will leave Thailand to enter Cambodia. The urn will cross a very meaningful place in its journey: the former refugee camps along the Thai border where Don Bosco came to answer the urgent needs of children and youth in the troublesome decade of the 1980s. The already extinct six technical schools in sites 2, 8, Sok Sann and B are in the memory of several men and women who were at the time children and youth and got the opportunity to learn something while waiting the end of the war.

After crossing the Aranyaprathet - Poipet International gate, the relic will travel all the Thursday by seven provinces of Cambodia, from west to Phnom Penh, stopping for two hours in Battambang where the relic will be greeted by the Don Bosco educational communities, religious and official authorities. That same day, near one thousand students, teachers and past pupils will travel from Sihanoukville to the capital for the program that will last until Saturday, when the relic will travel back to Bangkok and from there to Manila in its world journey.

A movie of Don Bosco was doubled in Khmer language by the Don Bosco Audiovisual Center and it will be shown in the school on Thursday evening. On December 3 the Cambodian authorities, leaded by Im Sethy, Minister of Education, Youth and Sport, will pay a visit to the compound of the Don Bosco Technical School in the Phnom Penh Themy District where the relic will be honored.

Ask the program in English or Khmer to Kru Sambo - socialcomm@donboscosihanoukville.org
Notice: This is an official press release to the Cambodian media from donboscokhmer.org. It can be published, completed, modified or ignore. If you do not want to get updates about this issue in your email, feel free to reply with 'please remove me from your contact list' You can contact DBFC for interviews or more information by calling 097 96 75 042 (Albeiro Rodas)

'No punishments' over Cambodian stampede

A relative prepares coffins with the bodies of Thong Vanna, 35, (L) and her son Ly Hin, 10, who died in a bridge stampede, at their funeral at a temple in Phnom Penh November 24 , 2010. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Mon Nov 29 2010
ninemsn News, Australia

Cambodia's prime minister says that no one will be brought to justice over a festival stampede last week that left more than 350 people dead, but admitted the government was at fault.

"Nobody will be punished for the incident," Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Monday after the worst tragedy in Cambodia for decades.

"The incident that happened was the responsibility of the government," he said, describing it as "a historical lesson that we must remember".

The country's annual water festival ended in tears last Monday after crowds panicked on a narrow crossing leading to Phnom Penh's Diamond Island, one of the main event sites, and 351 people were left dead in the ensuing chaos.

"They have accused us of inability. We must accept this because of the deaths," Hun Sen said at the inauguration of a new government building in the capital.

"We were careless," he added. "This was a joint mistake that nobody expected."

Hun Sen said any criticism from the opposition of the government's handling of the stampede was aimed at "political gain".

Despite the dramatic end to this year's festival, the three-day event will go ahead as scheduled next year, the premier said.

Also on Monday, the government announced the findings of the official probe into the stampede.

The crush was the result of a combination of factors, said Prum Sokha, who sits on a government committee investigating the tragedy.

There was a "jam of people walking in opposite directions on the small bridge", causing some to faint, he told reporters.

Then rumours rippled through the crowd that the suspension bridge "was collapsing" and "that people were being electrocuted", he added.

"That made people panic and then the stampede happened," the secretary of state of the interior ministry said.

His comments back up the committee's preliminary findings, which were released last Wednesday.

Prum Sokha added that suffocation was the main cause of death among the crush victims, the majority of which were women. Some also died of internal injuries, he said, ruling out any deaths from electric shocks.

Hun Sen has described the stampede as Cambodia's worst tragedy since the Khmer Rouge's 1975-1979 reign of terror, which killed up to a quarter of the population.

The festival, which marks the reversal of the flow between the Tonle Sap and Mekong rivers, usually draws millions of visitors to the capital to enjoy dragon boat races, fireworks and concerts.

A national day of mourning was held on Thursday, led by an emotional Hun Sen who wiped away tears as he lit incense and laid flowers at the foot of the bridge.

From white cloth to precious gems: Cambodian women challenge gender stereotypes and defend against HIV

December 1 is World AIDS Day. Image courtesy of NAT.
November 30, 2010
By Meghan Lewis

An ancient Khmer proverb says, “A man is gold; a woman is a white piece of cloth.” Gold can get dirty or be dropped in the mud, but it can be polished and become as shiny as new; if white cloth is dropped in the mud, it will be forever stained, soiled, and ruined. This is a sad reflection of how Cambodian society traditionally views female sexuality. The silencing and shaming of female sexuality means that women often lack their sexual rights and autonomy.

As the world marks World AIDS Day on December 1, Cambodia is often hailed a success as one of the only countries in the world to halt and reverse the spread of HIV from a peak of 2.8 percent in 1998 to an estimated 0.7 percent in 2010. However, harmful gender stereotypes like the one above threaten to undermine efforts and contribute to a second wave of the epidemic.

One woman familiar with today’s realities in Cambodia is Duong Sopheaktra, whose inviting smile and infectious giggle hide a world of pain and disillusionment. Pheaktra grew up in war-torn Cambodia. Her father was away from home fighting, and she was raised by an abusive stepmother who beat her and did not give her enough to eat. The family lived far away from the nearest school, and subsequently Sopheaktra stopped going to school and worked on the family farm.

Sopheaktra tells the heartbreaking story of how her stepsister sold her virginity when she was 17 years old. “There was an old man waiting for me, and my stepsister told me to greet him saying that he was her uncle. I had a meal with them and after that I suddenly became sleepy and asked my stepsister to go back home. So she told the man to take us home by car.

“When I woke up my body was naked, and there was a man holding me. I realized that my future was finished at that time. I was very upset, unable to say anything; I just let my tears come out with the pain in my mind.”

Feeling worthless and ashamed that she had lost her virginity, Sopheaktra left home and did not tell her father what had happened. Like many women in the same position, Sopheaktra did not have many options.

“I found work as a beer seller. The wage was very low, though, and I could not afford to pay bills and send money home to my father, who was very ill. I decided to do the second job – whenever there was a customer who wanted to sleep with me, I would agree if the price was acceptable because I really needed the money to support my living costs.”

Sopheaktra's stepsister sold her virginity when she was 17 years old. Photo courtesy of the author.
Extreme poverty and low education levels are the main forces driving women into commercial and transactional sex work in Cambodia. This takes place in a variety of settings from brothels and streets to karaoke bars and beer gardens. There is an HIV prevalence of 14.7 percent among direct sex workers, and they often report pressure from clients to have sex without condoms. In some cases clients will offer to pay more for unprotected sex. To women living in poverty this can be hard to refuse. According to a 2007 report for Pharmaciens Sans Frontiers, 20 percent of entertainment workers were infected with sexually transmitted infections every month - indicating low condom use.

In a culture that promotes men’s rights to sexual pleasure and silences female sexuality, sexual violence is endemic. Sex workers are commonly referred to as srey koach (broken women), and are viewed as “spoiled.” As a consequence of this dehumanisation they frequently endure harassment, rape, and violence from a variety of perpetrators. Rape at the hands of clients is a common experience for most women working in the entertainment industry. Sopheaktra was not spared this ordeal.

“Sometimes customers took me to have sex without paying me and even threatened to kill me. When working in a restaurant, some customers cursed and mocked me and even hit my head with glass. Every time I recalled the pain I suffered, I asked why my life was full of sorrow and I just wanted to take poison to end this life because I could not understand.”

According to Amnesty International, rape in Cambodia goes largely unreported due to a number of reasons. Even though sex work in Cambodia is not illegal, the Cambodian Law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Exploitation is often used by police to harass and blackmail sex workers. Consequently, sex workers who are raped do not trust the police. Furthermore, there is a general lack of confidence that the perpetrator will be convicted, and the shame that rape survivors feel often prevents them from reporting the crime.

It is not only sex workers who suffer such experiences of gender inequality. The majority of married women in Cambodia face the reality that their husbands will have extramarital sexual relationships with paid and unpaid partners. Men are more likely to use condoms with paid partners, but many do not use condoms consistently with unpaid partners. The result is that married women account for 43 percent of new HIV infections, according to a 2008 survey by Cambodia’s National Centre for HIV/AIDS, Dermatology, and STD. Domestic rape is against the law in Cambodia, but it is common and is rarely reported to authorities due partially to a widespread lack of understanding from both wives and husbands about sexual rights within marriage.

Sopheaktra has become a peer educator and facilitates discussions, support, and workshops for fellow entertainment workers. Photo courtesy of the author.
Out of her great sorrow, Sopheaktra has found incredible inner strength and the motivation to help others in her situation. She has risen from depression and has become a role model for other entertainment workers. Through hard work and determination, Sopheaktra has become a peer educator and facilitates discussions, support, and workshops for fellow entertainment workers. She challenges harmful gender stereotypes and breaks taboos by talking candidly about sex, sexually transmitted diseases, and HIV. By talking about these subjects, she tells me, Sopheaktra hopes that other sex workers will be better equipped to negotiate safe sex with clients, and will not feel ashamed to seek sexual health treatment or report abuse.

The work that Sopheaktra does is invaluable to her peers and is much needed in communities where commercial sex is so readily available. But in order to meaningfully tackle the issues, it is not going to be enough to empower women and enlist them in the response. It is imperative that men share this responsibility and challenge prevalent male attitudes, not only to prevent a second wave of the epidemic, but to work toward a more gender equitable society.

Prominent female politician Mu Sochua is working hard to promote equality in Cambodia. She has led the influx of thousands of women into government positions, though change remains slow in the male-dominated society. One of Mu Sochua’s early ministerial acts was to launch a gender equality campaign to rewrite the Khmer proverb as “A man is gold; a woman is a precious gem.” This new version of the proverb represents women and men as equally valuable and challenges the belief that a woman’s actions will stain her forever.

About the Author:
Meghan Lewis is the Policy, Advocacy and Communications Officer for the Khmer HIV/ AIDS NGO Alliance and works to reduce discrimination against marginalised groups in the response to HIV and AIDS. She has been a key actor in the formation of Cambodia’s first LGBT group, Rainbow Community Kampuchea (RoCK), a group of local and international LGBT volunteers working together towards a future free from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. She has published articles based on public health and human rights in Cambodian newspapers as well as international newsletters and websites including Purple Sky Network and Key Correspondents.

Meghan was born in South Africa and grew up in Kwa-Zulu Natal before moving to the UK in 1997. She studied Education at the University of Brighton and has been living in rural and urban Cambodia since 2008. Throughout her personal, academic and professional life, her primary passion has been to try to reduce the inequalities that exist in so many areas of society and work towards a future where opportunities are accessible to all people regardless of ethnicity, economics, gender or sexuality.

CCHR Report - Business and Human Rights in Cambodia - Constructing the Three Pillars

Dear all

The Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) today, 30 November 2010, releases a report titled "Business and Human Rights in Cambodia: Constructing the Three Pillars". The report, which is an output of CCHR's innovative Business and Human Rights Project, analyzes business and human rights in Cambodia through United Nations Special Representative John Ruggie's "Three Pillars" framework.

Please find attached a concise summary of the report in English and Khmer and the full report in English.

Should you have any questions about the report or CCHR's Business and Human Rights Project please do not hesitate to contact us.

All outputs by CCHR are available on our website www.cchrcambodia.org and the CCHR hosted Cambodian Human Rights Portal www.sithi.org

Thank you and kind regards

[Thai] Border memos panel seeks more time

The president of the Thai parliament, Mr. Chai Chidchob, is a Khmer Surin.

Published: 30/11/2010
Bangkok Post

The joint House-Senate committee scrutinising the three Thai-Cambodian Joint Boundary Commission memorandums will ask for another 90 days to complete its work, panel secretary Ratchada Thanadirek said on Tuesday.

Ms Ratchada said a letter would be submitted to to Paliament President Chai Chidchob seek the extension to allow the committee to look into the three memos in full detail.

Representatives of all agencies concerned would be invited to give information to the committee because the documents on hand did not provide enough details.

Members of the committee would also travel to the border area to gather first-hand information, she added.

The joint committee reviewing the memos, comprising seven senators and 23 MPs, was initially given until Dec 1 to complete its job, she said.

Ms Ratchada said at this stage Thailand was not at a disadvantage because it was still in the stage of negotiation and surveying the area.

The people could rest assured that the parliament was duty-bound to protect the national interest and should not worry, she said.

The parliament agreed to set up the committee on Nov 2 when about 2,000 yellow-shirts of the People's Alliance for Democracy rallied to show strong opposition to the memos tabled for endorsement.

The PAD is concerned parliament's endorsement of the Thai-Cambodian memos, signed last year and in 2008 by the JBC, would result in a significant loss of territory to Cambodia.

PAD co-leader Sondhi Limthongkul said his group would rally on Dec 11 at Makkhawan Rangsan Bridge on Ratchadamnoen Avenue if it was not satisfied with the committee's review.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya had reaffirmed the three JBC memos would not affect Thai sovereignty as it kept the territorial dispute between Thailand and Cambodia over the Preah Vihear temple on a bilateral, rather than a multi-lateral, level.

The Koh Pich tragedy and Hun Sen’s crocodile tears

Op-Ed by Khmerization
30th November, 2010

"His sadness, condolences and mourning seem too genuine and instantaneous. However, to seasoned and veteran political observers.... His grief is fake and his tears are crocodile tears."

Three days after the Koh Pich Bridge stampede tragedy, Prime Minister Hun Sen has been seen around the world’s television screens as having cried uncontrollably for the first time.

To the novice observers of the current Cambodian political affairs, this is an extraordinary scene for a strongman who has been described as having a heart of steel, who is well-known for his brutality and arrogance, to look like a broken man for the first time in his life. His sadness, condolences and mourning seem too genuine and instantaneous. However, to seasoned and veteran political observers of Mr. Hun Sen’s political career and his political maneuverings, Mr. Hun Sen had put up an excellent show to fool the Cambodian people and the world. His grief is fake and his tears are crocodile tears.

The above rationale has been proven correct by his speech on Monday. Seven days after the tragedy and four days after he had put up a public show of emotions, Mr. Hun Sen turned around and declared that no one was responsible for the tragedy and that no head will be rolled. And adding insult to injuries, he had rejected the resignation of Mr. Kong Sam Ol, who is the chairman of the National and International Festival Committee, the body responsible for organizing and managing the Water Festival that caused the stampede.

With the magnitude of the tragedy described as the world’s worst crowd disaster in 4 years, one would have expected that some sort of accountability and culpability be apportioned. Yet, despite an admission of a ‘joint mistake’ and ‘joint responsibility’, Mr. Hun Sen arrogantly declared that no one will be sacked and punished because it is an unforeseen accident occurred because of a ‘carelessness and negligence’ of the government.

Mr. Hun Sen’s admission of a ‘joint mistake’ and ‘joint responsibility’ because of a ‘carelessness and negligence’ of the government is an admission of guilt and wrongdoing and therefore the onus is on the government and Mr. Hun Sen personally. For a tragedy of this magnitude which is a ‘joint mistake’ and ‘joint responsibility’ of a government, the buck stops here with the government and the head of the government, that is to say the government and the whole cabinet must resign, starting with Prime Minister Hun Sen first.

There seem to be a cover up at the highest level to the investigation and the cause of the tragedy. The committee, set up immediately after the tragedy to investigate the cause of the stampede, hastily concluded its investigation in just one day and publicly released its findings exactly one week later. Despite eyewitness accounts of about 30-odd people having been electrocuted, the government denied the claims and the investigation concluded that swaying bridge was the cause of the panic which led to the stampede.

In the West, the investigation into the tragedy of this magnitude will take months, even years, to complete. All evidences will be examined and witnesses interviewed and no stones will be left unturned.

The investigation into the Koh Pich Bridge stampede lacks substance, lacks transparency and credibility. It is doubtful if even 20% of the 8,000 witnesses, that was the number of people who got stuck on the bridge, were interviewed. There is no sign of physical evidences had been examined and analysed and there is no sign of autopsies being performed on the corpses to determine the causes of deaths.

People must remember that Koh Pich Island and Koh Pich bridge are owned by Mr. Hun Sen’s wife and his children and Canadia Bank, which Mr. Hun Sen’s family is the majority shareholder. As a result, Mr. Hun Sen and his family had to be personally and directly responsible for this tragedy also.

By admitting that the tragedy was a 'joint mistake’ and a ‘joint responsibility’ of the government and with mounting evidences pointing to carelessness and cover up at the highest level, the buck stops with Mr. Hun Sen. And to show that his grief and emotions are genuine and in respect to the souls of 351 dead and 329 wounded in the stampede, Mr. Hun Sen and the whole of his cabinet should do the honorable thing and resign.

Senior Cambodian prosecutor arrested by new anti-graft body

Monsters and critics
Nov 30, 2010,

Phnom Penh (DPA)- Officials from Cambodia's fledgling Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) have arrested a senior provincial prosecutor on unspecified charges, national media reported Tuesday.

It marks the first known arrest of a public official by the ACU, which was launched earlier this year to tackle pervasive corruption in public life.

The Cambodia Daily newspaper said Top Chan Sereyvuth, the senior prosecutor in Pursat province, was arrested early Monday.

ACU head Om Yentieng, who led the operation, refused to disclose the grounds on which the prosecutor was being held.

Top Chan Sereyvuth was last year named in media reports as being involved in a long-running land dispute case that was mysteriously moved to his court in Pursat from another province where he had previously worked as a judge.

The head of an organization that was contesting the land told media at the time that Top Chan Sereyvuth was to receive 2 hectares of land once the case was resolved.

Global graft monitor Transparency International ranks Cambodia among the world's most corrupt nations.

It took the government 15 years to promulgate an anti-corruption law, whose eventual passage followed years of pleading from donors who annually give hundreds of millions of dollars.

One recent survey found that Cambodians regard the judiciary as the most corrupt institution in the country.

Hun Sen rejected Kong Sam Ol's resignation over Koh Pich Bridge stampede tragedy

Queen Sofia of Spain, right, watches Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Palace Kong Sam Ol, left, demonstrate how to use a rural water pump during a tour of a local village in Siem Reap province northwest of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Friday, Feb. 22, 2008.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

By Khmerization
Source: Kampuchea Thmey

Prime Minister Hun Sen said he had rejected the resignation of Mr. Kong Sam Ol from his position as chairman of the National and International Festival Committee, saying that it is not his fault that 351 people have died from the stampede on Monday 22nd November.

Mr. Hun Sen said that immediately after the stampede, Mr. Kong Sam Ol, who is also Minister of the Palace, had tendered his resignation as the chairman of the National and International Festival Committee but he told Mr. Kong Sam Ol that it is not his fault and that the Koh Pich tragedy was an unforeseen accident. He said he had asked the minister to remain and continue in his position as chairman of the National and International Festival Committee.

Mr. Hun Sen's revelation had come amid calls for recriminations and some heads to be rolled in the wake of the world's worst crowd disasters in 4 years. The oppositions and the civil society have strongly called for the resignations or sackings of officials directly linked to, or directly responsible for, the Water Festival and the stampede, particularly the Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema and Phnom Penh Police Commissioner Touch Naroth.

WikiLeaks to release more than 1,000 documents from U.S Embassy in Cambodia

WikiLeaks releases embassy cables

Photo by: Sovan Philong
Prime Minister shakes hands with US Ambassador Carol Rodley before leaving for the ASEAN-United States Leaders’ meeting in New York in September.
Phnom Penh Post

Nearly 800 documents from the United States Embassy in Phnom Penh are part of a massive leak of American diplomatic cables by the website WikiLeaks, the first installment of which was released on Monday.

WikiLeaks has pledged to release the documents in its possession gradually over the coming months and no documents related to Cambodia were part of the first batch released. According to an index of the cables, however, there are 1,010 Cambodia-related documents in the WikiLeaks archive, including 147 classified as “confidential” and five termed “secret”.

The US has condemned the leak, which comprises more than 250,000 documents from 274 diplomatic outposts and the US State Department, branding it a threat to security and America’s relations with its allies.

“Wikileaks disclosure of classified information is an irresponsible attempt to wreak havoc and destabilise global security. It potentially jeopardises lives and global engagement among and between nations,” Mark Wenig, spokesman for the US Embassy in Phnom Penh, said in an email.

“Given its potential impact, we condemn unauthorised disclosures and are taking every step to prevent security breaches.”

Wenig declined to comment on the substance of the Cambodia-related documents.

“As a matter of policy, the department of state does not comment on allegedly leaked documents,” he said.

“I can certainly state, however, that our relationship with Cambodia is based on mutual respect and shared goals, and that we are proud of how far our relationship has come.”

According to a classification system laid out in an executive order signed by US President Barack Obama last year, disclosure of documents labelled “secret” could cause “serious damage” to US security, while documents labelled “confidential” could cause “damage”, in the assessment of US officials. Thousands of cables in the WikiLeaks stash are also labelled with the tag “noforn”, which means they are not to be shared with foreign nationals, though it is not yet clear how many Cambodia-related documents are labelled this way.

In addition to the cables from the embassy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia-related documents in WikiLeaks’ possession have also originated from other embassies including those in Beijing, Hanoi and Bangkok, as well as from the US missions in Geneva and at the United Nations in New York. WikiLeaks had released only 226 of its 251,287 so-called “Cable Gate” documents as of yesterday, pledging on its website to release the rest “in stages over the next few months”....read the full story in tomorrow’s Phnom Penh Post or see the updated story online from 3PM UTC/GMT +7 hours.

Tragedy a ‘joint mistake’

Photo by: Pha Lina
About 200 monks and nuns line up yesterday at Diamond Island’s north bridge for a traditional blessing on the seventh day of mourning after last week’s deadly stampede.
Phnom Penh Post

Government authorities have announced the conclusion of their investigation into the causes of last week’s lethal stampede on Diamond Island, saying no officials will be held to account for an incident that was described as a “joint mistake”.

Announcing the results of the inquiry, Deputy Prime Minister Sok An backed up preliminary findings that the incident was triggered by mass panic related to the swaying of the bridge leading to the island.

“There is no sign of terrorism or that criminals arranged this in advance. We can say that it was caused by a stampede,” said Sok An, who headed the committee investigating the Diamond Island tragedy.

The Kingdom’s annual water festival ended grimly last Monday after crowds panicked on a narrow bridge leading to Diamond Island, one of the main festival areas.

Sok An said the official toll from the ensuing stampede stood at 351 dead and 395 injured, and that all missing people were now accounted for.

He described the tragic incident, which has unleashed a wave of grief across the nation, as “a huge experience” for the government and vowed that the authorities would learn from it.

He said the majority of victims died from “compressive suffocation”, dismissing multiple eyewitness reports that some were electrocuted by wiring that had come loose from the bridge railings.

About 4 million people from across the country flocked into the capital over the course of the three-day celebration, Sok An said.

Prum Sokha, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Interior, said people started panicking after rumours spread through the crowd that the bridge was about to collapse and that people were being electrocuted.

“According to eyewitnesses interviewed, the incident was caused by the crowds of people walking in opposite directions on the bridge,” he said, which caused many people to suffocate.

“People started getting scared and then panic caused the stampede,” said Prum Sokha, who also sat on the investigation committee.

During the water festival in 1994, he said, 11 people were killed in a similar incident at the Royal Palace.

Prime Minister Hun Sen also announced that given the accidental nature of the tragedy, no officials would be personally held to account, dismissing opposition demands that key individuals be forced to resign.

“Nobody will be punished for the incident,” Hun Sen said at the inauguration of the new Ministry of Social Affairs building in Phnom Penh.

“Our biggest mistake is that we wrongly evaluated the situation,” he added. “It was a joint mistake which led to the incident ... It was unexpected and [we were] careless ... and did not prepare any protection measures in advance.”

In the wake of the tragedy, criticism has begun to mount about the government’s handling of the event. Opposition leader Sam Rainsy, now living in self-imposed exile, told Australian radio last week that the government should hold to account those most responsible for the incident.

“This again is reminiscent of the killing in the past, but I think these killings could have been prevented. So we have to find out the responsibility of those in charge of organising the festival and handling the crowd,” he said.

But Hun Sen said any criticism from the opposition of the government’s handling of the stampede was motivated purely by “political gain”.

Kong Sam Ol, chairman of the Permanent Committee for Organising National and International Festivals, tendered his resignation after the stampede, but Hun Sen said he refused to accept it on the grounds that Kong Sam Ol could not have foreseen what would happen....read the full story in tomorrow’s Phnom Penh Post or see the updated story online from 3PM UTC/GMT +7 hours.

Disputed border set to reopen [and Preah Vihear temple to be re-opened to Thai tourists]

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Tourists at the Preah Vihear temple head to the pagoda during the temple’s second anniversary as a World Heritage Site last July.
Phnom Penh Post

Cambodia and Thailand have begun a coordinated withdrawal of troops from Preah Vihear temple in preparation for the reopening of the temple’s international border crossing next week.

The crossing has been closed since July 2008, when the disputed temple was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, triggering a military build-up along the border.

Sao Socheat, deputy commander of Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Military Region Four, said troops started pulling back to their bases about 30 kilometres from the temple on Sunday, in line with an agreement with Bangkok.

“The armed forces of Cambodia and Thailand [started] being withdrawn from the frontline in front of Preah Vihear temple on Sunday and they destroyed the trenches before they left,” he said.

“Withdrawal is good for both sides and more tourists will visit temple after the gate is opened.”

Hang Soth, secretary general of the Preah Vihear National Authority, said the border gate at the disputed temple would be reopened in the first week of December, allowing tourists to once again access the temple from the Thai side.

Colonel Veerachon Sukondhadhpatipak, deputy spokesman of the Royal Thai Army, confirmed the border would be reopened, but said he was unsure of the exact schedule for the troop withdrawal.

“At the policy level, it has been agreed,” he said.

Thani Thongphakdi, deputy spokesman of the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said he was “not aware” of any decision regarding the border crossing.

Since its closure in mid-2008, periodic clashes between Cambodian and Thai soldiers have resulted in the deaths of at least seven troops on both sides. Since then, tourists have been restricted from entering the hilltop temple from inside Cambodia, preventing a larger influx of visitors from Thailand, which boasts better access to the temple.

Analysts say the reopening of the border could mark a significant step forward for the fraught relationship between the two countries....read the full story in tomorrow’s Phnom Penh Post or see the updated story online from 3PM UTC/GMT +7 hours.

Cambodian Probe Into "Suspension Bridge Stampede" Rules Out Government Apathy

Ethnic Vietnamese relatives pray for victims near the site where hundreds of people stampeded during a water festival in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Sunday, Nov. 28, 2010.
Heng Sinith / AP Photo

29th November, 2010

(RTTNews) - The probe into last week's major stampede on a suspension bridge near the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, has concluded that no one could be held responsible for the tragedy which claimed around 351 lives and injured several hundred people, reports said on Monday.

Information Minister Khieu Kanharith told reporters in Phnom Penh that the stampede was "an unexpected accident" which could possibly be blamed on inexperienced security officials who allowed revelers to proceed in both directions through the narrow footbridge.

The incident occurred as several thousand Cambodians converged on Diamond Island near Phnom Penh on the last day of the "Water Festival," a major event in the Southeast Asian nation's social calendar.

Panic set in after a music concert on the Island which was preceded by a boat race on Tonle Sap river.

Kanharith added that the construction firm, which built the suspension bridge over the Tonle Bassac River would be asked to build another bridge in time for next year's "Water Festival."

On whether the government intended to take action against any particular official for alleged negligence, the Minister replied in the negative.

"Because it's impossible. Usually you can control when a situation becomes hostile, but here [Prime Minister] Hun Sen made it clear, everybody wanted to enjoy [themselves]," Kanharith said.

Further buttressing the point, he said video footage clearly showed the crowd ignoring repeated pleas by security personnel not to cross the bridge.

Nonetheless Kanharith acknowledged that the stampede may have been due to authorities blocking a second entry point and their slack response.

It is said to be the biggest human tragedy witnessed in the South-East Asian nation since the cold-blooded mass killings carried out by the Pol Pot-led Khmer Rouge regime in the seventies.

Around two million people are said to have attended this year's festivities.

The "Phnom Penh incident" has been dwarfed only by the 2005 stampede in Iraqi capital, Baghdad, which claimed the lives of over 1000 Muslim Shias.

by RTT Staff Writer

For comments and feedback: contact editorial@rttnews.com

Student to help Cambodian orphans

Malvern Gazette, UK
Monday 29th November 2010

A STUDENT from Malvern is planning to work with orphans in Cambodia next year.

Melissa Thomas, 17, a Hereford Sixth Form College student, hopes to volunteer on behalf of Outreach International at an orphanage in Siem Reap for a month from June 2011.

The former Chase High school student will be joined by classmate Matthew Neale, also 17, of Ross on Wye.

She said: “I aspire to work with children when I'm older so I believe that going to Cambodia would be the greatest experience to have before I go to university.”

The pair are looking for donations from individuals or organisations to raise £2,000 each to support their trip, with £400 from each going directly the orphanage.

They will be teaching the children English, supporting them in their daily life and play, as well as helping them to raise money through their favourite pastime of dancing.

For more information, visit outreachinternational.co.uk

Border casinos look to be a rising gamble [Cambodia's casino to be in competition with Vietnam's gaming mega-resorts]

THE partial opening of Ratanakkiri province’s first casino on Friday suggests all is well with Cambodia’s expanding gaming industry.
The latest casino to open on the Vietnamese border puts the Kingdom’s total number of gaming venues close to 30, second only to Macau in the region with 33. Meanwhile, NagaWorld in Phnom Penh announced an 83 percent rise in net profit for the first half of the year.

However, on Cambodia’s main gaming frontier – the Vietnamese border, site of the new Try Pheap Mittapheap Casino Entertainment Resort in Ratanakkiri Province – casino investments look increasingly to be a huge gamble. Winn Casino in Svay Rieng province was forced to close its doors at the end of September due to a drop in custom with officials citing the economic crisis for the closure, but this explanation seems overly simplistic.

Tourist arrivals from Vietnam saw the largest growth of any country to Cambodia in the first eight months of this year at just less than 42 percent on the same period in 2009, government data showed. Meanwhile, during the first six months of 2010, NagaWorld’s revenues increased 7 percent, according to a company report. So although many more people have visited Cambodia, especially from Vietnam, gaming venues on Cambodia’s border with Vietnam are struggling to attract gamblers. That makes the prospects for Ratanakkiri’s new casino less than favourable.

As the first casino in the area, Try Pheap Mittapheap can expect to corner the market but then, with Cambodians not permitted to gamble legally, it will have to rely on an influx of visitors from Vietnam. But the largest threat to Cambodia’s casino industry lies within Vietnam itself. While Cambodia is building $3.5 million casinos in Ratanakkiri Province, Vietnam is developing a number of multibillion-dollar gaming resorts such as the Ho Tram Strip in Vung Tau close to Ho Chi Minh City and a $2 billion development in Lang Son in the Northern Highlands.

At the moment, these developments will only compete for international gamblers as Vietnamese, like Cambodians, are barred from betting in their own country. However, speculation is mounting Vietnam will soon partially legalise gambling for its own citizens.

Reports this year have talked of Sheldon Adelson, CEO of the world’s largest casino company Las Vegas Sands, courting Vietnamese government officials and calling for the legalisation of gambling in Vietnam, a necessary condition, he has said, for his proposed casino resort.

Although Cambodia’s border casinos aim for a lower-spending clientele, the possibility of legalised gambling in Vietnam would surely decimate the industry on the Cambodian side of the border.

Hun Sen’s government: A Government without Accountability and Responsibility

By Pang Sokheoun

Practically, it hardly hopes to find any justice in our society while the gangs of the suspects and criminals are controlling the power. These people have no sense of accountability and responsibility at all except the greed for power and money.

It seems that these incompetent, criminal, unaccountable, and irresponsible politicians always use our people’s lives for their political experiment and yet they try to avoid any accountability and responsibility brought against them at all cost in order to shamelessly cling to power as long as they can.

Most politicians in our country, especially, from the ruling party have always bragged about accountability and responsibility, but the reality is otherwise. In practice, we have only a government of no accountability and no responsibility. Instances are too many.

The Killing Fields

Only five criminals; Ieng Thirith, Ieng Sary, Khieu Samp, Noun Chea, and Duch, are brought to trial while many others have died and are still walking free and even holding high positions in Cambodia like Hun Sen, Heng Samrin, Chea Sim, Hor Nam Hong, etc. For instance, Hun Sen is considered as having involved in many crimes during the Khmer Rouge regime. As we know, he was a former deputy commander of one of the three regiments in region 21 of the Democratic Kampuchea’s army based in Memot. We may understand that he would not be promoted to that rank if he was not a good, committed, trusted, and brutal member of the Khmer Rouge.

K5 Plan

It was known as the indirect massacre or killing of our people after the Khmer Rouge regime. It happened under Hun Sen’s rule in 1980s. According to the report from the relief group, Medecins sans Frontieres, Hun Sen was responsible for the death of 200,000 Cambodians as leader of Cambodia’s Vietnamese communist puppet regime from 1984 to 1989.

1997 coup d’état

The coup left hundred people killed, wounded, and detained. In addition to those killed and wounded in the fighting, there were more than 40 people might have been extra-judicially executed according to Amnesty International’s report on 23 October 1997. And we know it was the gangs in the Cambodian People’s Party who started the coup and committed the crimes.

1997 grenade attack

It was attacking on the peaceful demonstrators which left between 16 to 20 people killed and 150 injured according to FBI report published on 24 November 1998. The attackers were identified as Hun Sen’s bodyguards. So who should be held responsible for this crime if not Hun Sen and his followers?

Actress assassinations and acid attack

The most important cases are related to the assassination of beloved actress Piseth Pilika, nationalist singer Touch Srei Nich, and the acid attack of beautiful, young actress Tat Marina. The suspects who involved in the crimes committed on Piseth Pilika and Tat Marina are known, ie. Bun Rany Hun Sen and Svay Sitha’s wife. The whole country know that Hun Sen had personal affair with Piseth Pilika, He made her his mistress and then she was assassinated in the day light.

The assassinations of politicians, rights activist, and journalists

In 2003, Monk Sam Bunthorun, President of the Country Buddhist Meditation Center of Oudong and Om Rathsady, Senior Advisor with FUNCINPEC, and Chu Chetharith, the reporter of Ta Prum radio were all shot. Former Presidents of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia (FTUWKC), Chea Vichea and Ros Sovannareth, were both killed in similar attacks in 2004. Hy Vuthy, President of FTUWKC for Suntex Garment Factory was killed in 2007. All the cases are thought to be politically motivated and it is the ruling party that suspected to be involved in these bloody killings in order to secure its power and interests.

Koh Pich Tragedy

It was actually a preventable incident if the government was committed to serving the people. It happened just on the 100-meter Koh Pich bridge where there were many government security forces deployed. But it was our people’s bad luck to have this government and they died in this preventable incident.

These politicians think these killings are just like a normal daily accident in the country. The fact is that all the above mentioned cases, except for the Killing Field even with its limited indictment, all the responsible, criminals and suspects have not been investigated, arrested, and brought to justice. Practically, it hardly hopes to find any justice in our society while the gangs of the criminals and suspects are controlling the power. These people have no sense of accountability and responsibility at all except the greed for power and money.

It seems that these incompetent, criminal, unaccountable, and irresponsible politicians always use our people’s lives for their political experiment and yet they try to avoid any accountability and responsibility brought against them at all cost in order to shamelessly cling to power as long as they can.

Justifiably, Hun Sen clearly said today at the opening of a new government building referring to the Koh Pich tragedy that: "No one will receive punishment for this incident. It is just our carelessness. We have to learn a lesson from this for solving such problems in the future."

However, I think that this does not depends on what Hun Sen said, but it depends on the will of our people because they may not let’s their lives to be suffered and experimented any longer and Hun Sen´d better watch out from now on.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Cambodia PM says no one responsible for stampede

Cambodian Buddhist monks and other mourners look at Diamond Gate bridge
A preliminary investigation found that the swaying of the bridge near Phnom Penh triggered a panic

Related stories

Related stories

Cambodia's prime minister says no one will be punished over a festival stampede in which 351 people died.

"The incident that happened was the responsibility of the government," said Hun Sen, describing it as "a historical lesson that we must remember".

The country's worst tragedy in decades happened last Monday when revellers at the annual water festival panicked on an overcrowded bridge.

Some people were crushed, while others fell into the river and drowned.

The majority of victims were women, and questions have been raised over who is to blame for the disaster.

Hun Sen said that no state officials were responsible, and described calls for senior government figures to step down as politically motivated.

But he admitted that the government was at fault.

Recent stampedes

* Jan 2005 - Up to 300 Hindu pilgrims die on way to temple in India's Maharashtra state
* Aug 2005 - More than 1,000 Shia pilgrims die in Baghdad in panic over possible suicide bombing
* Jan 2006 - At least 364 pilgrims die in annual Hajj pilgrimage in Mina, Saudi Arabia
* Sep 2008 - More than 220 die at Hindu temple in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India

"The incident happened because of carelessness and we didn't expect this thing to happen," he said during the opening of a new government building in the capital.

"The biggest mistake was that we had not fully understood the situation."

Officials say a full report on the incident will be issued in the coming days.

A preliminary investigation has found that the swaying of the Diamond Gate bridge near Phnom Penh triggered a panic.

Between 7,000 and 8,000 people are thought to have been on the narrow bridge at the time.

A committee set up to investigate the disaster found that many of those on the suspension bridge were from the countryside and were unaware that such structures often swayed, local media reported.

Hun Sen has described the stampede as the country's biggest tragedy since the Khmer Rouge era in the 1970s, which left an estimated 1.7 million people dead.

Cambodian PM Hun Sen says no one to be punished from stampede accident

PHNOM PENH, Nov. 29 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen said Monday that no one to be punished from stampede accident that occurred last week in the country.

Delivering speech at a newly-constructed building for Ministry of Social Affairs, Hun Sen said "no one is deserved to be punished for this accident," but the whole of them.

He said the main cause of the accident was the "under- estimation and the carelessness to the situation."

On the last day of a three-day water festival, 351 people died and 395 others injured by the stampede occurred at Diamond Island Bridge in Phnom Penh.

Hun Sen said the water festival will be celebrated as usual in the following years despite such accident, saying it is the national event, while at the same time, the island known as Diamond Island will be developed as planned without any change.

But, he said, his government will take strong measures and all necessary precautions to avoid a repetition of the accident.

He also said the government will use the island for one of the venues for the upcoming meeting of more than 100 political parties which is set for Dec. 1-4, 2010.

The roughly more than 100-hectares of Diamond Island is being developed into residential and commercial area, now one of the most attractive spot for happy goers in Phnom Penh both day and night.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said his government was trying utmost efforts on the day of accident to help the victims on the spot and to avoid mass chaos or panic from the public gathering in the whole city on the day.

He called this year's gathering for the water festival was a " sea of people", referring the largest ever number of people in the country's history.

With 395 injured people are still in hospitals, Hun Sen expressed his apology to the victims and the people, and urged all doctors to treat them well and if necessary for those in critical condition, to send them abroad, the government will hold responsible for the cost.

However, in his concluding speech, Hun Sen expressed his second time of tear drop following the event and questioned himself why he was so emotional with the dropping tears while he is known to have an "iron heart".
Editor: An

'No punishments' over deadly Cambodian stampede: PM

Cambodians pray with offerings near the Diamond Gate bridge

PHNOM PENH (AFP)— Cambodia's premier said Monday that nobody will be brought to justice over a festival stampede last week that left more than 350 people dead, but admitted the government was at fault.

"Nobody will be punished for the incident," Prime Minister Hun Sen said after the worst tragedy in Cambodia for decades.

"The incident that happened was the responsibility of the government," he said, describing it as "a historical lesson that we must remember".

Cambodia's annual water festival ended in tragedy last Monday after crowds panicked on an overcrowded bridge leading to an island that was one of the main event sites.

"They have accused us of inability. We must accept this because of the deaths," Hun Sen said at the inauguration of a new government building in the capital.

"We were careless," he added. "This was a joint mistake that nobody expected."

A total of 351 people lost their lives, the majority of them women, and questions have been raised over who is to blame for the tragedy.

Authorities have said a full report on the incident would be released in the coming days.

Initial findings from the investigating committee suggest the stampede occurred after rumours rippled through the crowd that the suspension bridge to Phnom Penh's Diamond Island was about to collapse.

"The tragedy started with our wrong assessment of the situation," said the premier, who has described the stampede as Cambodia's worst tragedy since the Khmer Rouge's 1975-1979 reign of terror, which killed up to a quarter of the population.

The three-day festival, which marks the reversal of the flow between the Tonle Sap and Mekong rivers, usually draws millions of visitors to the capital to enjoy dragon boat races, fireworks and concerts.

A national day of mourning was held on Thursday, led by an emotional Hun Sen who wiped away tears as he lit incense and laid flowers at the foot of the bridge.

Cambodian PM says no one will be punished for holiday stampede that killed 351

By: The Associated Press
Posted: 29/11/2010

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia - Cambodia's prime minister says that no one will be punished for last week's holiday stampede that left at least 351 people dead.

Hun Sen (pictured) says that many people have to share responsibility for not anticipating the problem that caused the Nov. 22 tragedy, but that rescue efforts were adequate.

Hun Sen said Monday: "No one will receive punishment for this incident. We have to learn a lesson from this for solving such problems in the future."

Preliminary findings by an official investigation committee found that the natural swaying of a suspension bridge provoked fears that it would collapse, leading to panic and a stampede as people tried to escape.

‘No one to be punished’ for stampede: PM

Cambodian police officials examine the bridge where at least 330 people died in a stampede in Phnom Penh. A stampede in the Cambodian capital has left more than 340 people dead and hundreds injured after panic erupted at a water festival that had attracted millions of revellers.
(AFP/Tang Chhin Sothy)

Monday, 29 November 2010
By Sam Rith and David Boyle
Phnom Penh Post

Prime Minster Hun Sen has said no one will be punished for the Diamond Island stampede that claimed more than 350 lives, although he conceded the incident was the “joint” responsibility of the government.

“I would like to clarify to all citizens that no one will be punished from this incident,” he said, blaming the stampede, which he had called the worst tragedy since the Khmer Rouge, on carelessness and failure to correctly evaluate the situation.

He conceded the government had to accept accusations that they had been incapable of handling the situation, describing it as “a historical lesson that we must remember.”

Hun Sen also vowed to continue the development of Diamond Island as a housing and commercial real-estate site and confirmed a meeting of the International Conference of Asian Political Parties on December 2 would still go ahead, as would next year’s water festival.

Each Dead from Stampede Receives at least $12,000- Cambodian PM

People look at pictures of victims of a Cambodian festival stampede posted on a billboard outside the Calmette hospital in Phnom Penh on November 23. The death toll from the stampede soared above 450 as an initial investigation pointed to overcrowding and fears of a bridge collapse as the likely cause.
(AFP/Hoang Dinh Nam)

29th November, 2010
Xinhua Web Editor: Xu Leiying

Each of 351 people killed during a stampede at Diamond Island bridge on Monday night last week has received the cash donation of at least 12,000 U.S. dollars, said Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday.

So far, 3,771 U.S. dollars from the King, the government, Cambodian Red Cross, and the owner of the Diamond Island has already been donated to each family of the dead, Hun Sen said during the inauguration of the office of the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veteran and Youth Rehabilitation on Monday.

"And at least another 9,000 U.S. dollars will be donated to each corpse through their families," he said, adding that the donations were raised by the foundations of Bayon TV, CTN ( Cambodian Television Network), and donated from China, Malaysian investors, and Vietnam.

"I would like to thank our compatriots from all walks of life for their generous donations to help the dead and the injured in the stampede," he said. "And also thank to foreign countries."

The government has negotiated with ACLEDA Bank to open bank accounts for the families of the dead to deposit the cash donation in order to avoid any robbery, said the premier.

He said that for the 395 injured, they get free treatment and if they are critical and cannot treat in the country, the government will pay for them to get treatment outside the countries such as to Vietnam or Thailand.

The stampede tragedy on Monday night at Diamond Island's Dianmond Bridge killed at least 351 people and injured 394.

Primary investigation found that the swinging of the bridge is the cause of the accident. The bridge is a kind of suspension one, but people were not aware of it and when it (the bridge) swung, some people thought it was collapsing and burst out shouting and the crowded people on it began to push each other back and forth and causing fatalities.

The dead were from suffocation, stampede and drown and no any evidence found about terrorism or electrocution.

And the official result of the investigation will be released this evening by the committee on Koh Pich (Diamond Island) Casualties to conclude the case of Koh Pich Casualties, said Hun Sen.

Cambodia's Water Festival from Nov. 20 to 22 is the largest annual festival in the Southeast Asian nation, around three million Cambodians, especially those from rural areas converged to the city to enjoy the regatta.

Thais claimed Khmer Royal Ballet derived from Thai traditions

Khmer Royal Ballet dancers dancing the Apsara Dance.

Kingdom defends its ballet

Monday, 29 November 2010
By Buth Reaksmey Kongkea
Phnom Penh Post

The Cambodian government last week condemned statements made by members of Thailand’s Yellow Shirts that the origins of Khmer Royal Ballet were derived from traditions in Thailand.

The statements were reported on the website of Thai television network ASTV nearly two weeks ago and quoted Yellow Shirt members as saying that “both music and dance of [the Khmer Royal Ballet’s] modern forms are of Thai characteristics”.

Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said the statements were unreasonable and baseless.

“We think that this statement has shown the bad dignity and culture of these Thai extremist groups, which aim at insulting, creating polluted environments and lying about national and international issues to people in the world.”

In 2003, the Khmer Royal Ballet was proclaimed a masterpiece of oral and intangible heritage by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation. This international distinction, according to UNESCO, honours “the most remarkable examples of oral traditions and forms of cultural expression in all regions of the world”.

The National World Heritage Committee issued a statement last week to help explain why the Khmer Royal Ballet was its own cultural artefact, and not based in Thai traditions.

It said the Khmer Royal Ballet started at “the beginning of the Christian period and continued to be performed during Angkorian, post-Angkorian periods up to the present time, as depicted on galleries of ancient Khmer temples and architecture”.

Cambodia and the Yellow Shirts, who support current Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, have quarreled for several years over border demarcations, particularly over land near the Preah Vihear temple complex, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Nationalist Party plans to change its name back to Norodom Ranariddh Party

Prince Ranariddh spoke to reporters while flanked by loyal officials.

By Khmerization
Source: CEN

A party officials said the Nationalist Party is planning to change its name back to the Norodom Ranariddh Party on 11th December in a party congress to be held at the Tuol Kork Centre.

Mr. Pen Sangha, spokesman for the Nationalist Party, said on 27th November that the planned name change will not affect the future alliance or merger with the Funcinpec Party.

The Norodom Ranariddh Party was formed in 2006 after Prince Norodom Ranariddh was ousted as president of the Funcinpec Party in a party coup led by party Secretary General Nhiek Bunchhay. The party changed its name to the Nationalist Party after the 2008 election after Prince Ranariddh agreed to leave politics in an exchange for his safe return to the country and after he was appointed as privy councillor to the king.

Mr. Pen Sangha said that, in a letter dated 24th November to party president Chhim Siekleng, Prince Ranariddh had agreed for his name to be used as a party name after the Constitutional Council earlier ruled that any parties that change its name will lose all parliamentary seats they have won during the elections. He, however, has not made up his mind whether to return to lead the party as requested by party members. But, the prince had rejected many requests to return to lead both the Funcinpec Party and the Nationalist Party in the past.

Preah Vihear temple gate will be re-opened to Thai tourists in December

Hundreds of Thai troops were sent to occupy the temple surrounding areas in 2008.

By Khmerization
Source: CEN

Cambodian border military officials said border gate to Preah Vihear temple will be opened on 5th December, after diplomatic relations between the two countries had improved.

Border crossing and gate to Preah Vihear temple had been closed after Thai troops invaded the temple surrounding areas on 15th July 2008, a week after Unesco inscribed Preah Vihear temple as a world heritage site.

The same military official said Cambodia agreed to re-open the border crossing because the bilateral relations between the two countries had improved and after Thailand had agreed to redeploy troops in the areas by cutting troop number in the occupied Wat Keo Sekha Kirisvarak pagoda to the most minimum number.

Before the Thai occupation in 2008, Preah Vihear temple can only be accessed from the Thai side of the border. However, after the occupation, the Cambodian government had built roads and now the temple can be accessed from the Cambodian side also.

The re-opening of the border crossing at Preah Vihear temple came after Cambodia had reached an agreement with Thailand to exempt visas for tourists who visit either countries for less than 14 days. The visa exemption will start from 16th December.

Anti-government leaflets accused Hun Sen of orchestrating the massacre on Koh Pich

Buddhist monks place incense sticks during an official mourning ceremony on Thursday at Phnom Penh's Diamond Gate bridge, site of a stampede late on Monday which left nearly 350 people dead.
(AFP/Hoang Dinh Nam)

By Khmerization
Source: RFA

Hundreds of anti-Hun Sen leaflets have been scattered and distributed in Banteay Meanchey provincial capital of Sirisophorn City on Friday night 26th November, offering condolences to the victims of the recent stampede as well as denouncing and accusing the Hun Sen government of planning the stampede on Koh Pich Bridge which killed 351 and wounded 395 people. "We offer the condolences to the families of the victims of the shocking tragedy which happened on 22-23 November that caused the deaths of more than 500 people and wounded many others during the Water Festival. We, who are patriots and democrats, are very sad and regret the loss of many lives", said the leaflets.

The leaflets then went on to denounce and accuse the Hun Sen government of planning the stampede. "We condemn the Vietnamese puppet government of Mr. Hun Sen and the animal communists who have devised the plan to kill the people. This is not an incident, but it was the Vietnamese plan to kill the Cambodian people", added the statement.

The leaflets went further by saying that many of the dead were poisoned and electrocuted with cables deliberately hidden on the bridge with the aim of killing the people. "If there is no deliberate poisoning of the people and no electric cables planted by the police and military police (who served the Vietnamese and Vietnamese spies disguised as Khmers), there won't be as many people who have been killed by electrocution as we have seen", continued the statement.

Banteay Meanchey provincial authority said it is investigating to find the source of the leaflets. Mr. Ouk Keo Ratanak, spokesman for the Banteay Meanchey Provincial Authority, said those leaflets were brought from Phnom Penh. "According to the information we received from the motor taxi driver, the person who distributed the leaflets dressed as a Buddhist monk, but we don't know if he is a real monk or not. When he arrived (in Sirisophorn City) he got of the motorbike and continued his journey to Svey Chek village. Now we have deployed the police force to catch him to find out if he is a real monk or fake monk", he said.

Mr. Ouk said people are very angry with the leaflets because they are in the process of going through the mourning period for the stampede victims as well as trying to donate the money to help the bereaved families when the leaflets are distributed.

Boy who fled Cambodia's 'Killing Fields' returns as US naval commander

US Navy Commander Michael Vannak Khem Misiewicz who left Cambodia and his family 37 years ago to escape the Khmer Rouge

As a boy in Cambodia Michael Misiewicz fled the civil war with the Khmer Rouge. Now 37 years later he is about to return to the country of his birth as commander of US warship.

Ian MacKinnon in Hua Hin,
Thailand 28 Nov 2010

The guided missile destroyer USS Mustin, with a complement of 300 crew, is due to dock in the south-western port of Sihanoukville later this week.

As a boy in Cambodia Michael Misiewicz fled the civil war with the Khmer Rouge. Now 37 years later he is about to return to the country of his birth as commander of US warship.
US Navy Commander Michael Vannak Khem Misiewicz who left Cambodia and his family 37 years ago to escape the Khmer Rouge.

It will be the first time Commander Misiewicz, 43, has set foot on home soil since he left in 1973.

"I have been fighting a lot of emotions about coming back to my native country," he said by ship-to-shore telephone. "To know that I have relatives there who have wanted to see me for decades . . . I don't know if I will be able to hold back the tears." Commander Misiewicz, who was born in Vannak Khem, left Cambodia as the fighting between the Khmer Rouge and the US backed regime of Lon Nol intensified.

His father had arranged for him to be adopted by a woman at the US embassy who was leaving for home as the situation in Cambodia grew more perilous.

While studying at naval college he began to learn more to of the atrocities committed by the ultra-Maoist Khmer Rouge when an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians perished in the "Killing Fields", of torture, starvation or disease.

He had heard nothing from his parents or four siblings since he had bid his mother a tearful goodbye and assumed the worst about their fate under the murderous Khmer Rouge.

What he did not realise was that his mother and four siblings had managed to escape Cambodia in 1983, four years after the fall of the Khmer Rouge, and had settled in Texas.

Years of searching by the rest of the family finally bore fruit when he received a telephone call from his brother out of the blue.

But the joyous reunion was tinged with sadness with the news that his father was executed by the Khmer Rouge in 1977 and an infant sister had died, probably from malnutrition.

The USS Mustin will dock in Sihanoukville on Friday for four days when he and the crew will connect with Cambodians during naval exercises and community outreach work.

"I've been so blessed to have these opportunities and I feel honoured and privileged to come back," he said.