A Change of Guard

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Sunday 28 February 2010

Sihanouk's advisor rebuked the fake Ruom Ritt

By Khmerization
Source: RFI

Ruom Ritt, the childhood friend of ex-king Sihanouk, has re-entered the political fray against after absence from the political limelight for the past 5 years, reports Radio France Internationale.

Ruom Ritt, whom many people believed was Sihanouk himself, has published many critical and controversial articles about Cambodian political affairs in Sihanouk's monthly BMD bulletin and has disappeared from public controversy since 2005 after Prime Minister Hun Sen bitterly attacked him and challenged him to show his face in public. However, 2 weeks ago Ruom Ritt gave an interview to an online radio called World Khmer Radio in which he came out strongly in support of Mr. Sam Rainsy's border policies. However, the U.S-based Khmer-language Angkor Borei Newspaper claimed that the voice in the radio was a fake Ruom Ritt and it was actually the voice of Mr. Ngin Chhorn.

Prime Minister Hun Sen again bitterly attacked the fake Ruom Ritt and Prince Sisowath Thomico (pictured), Sihanouk's royal advisor, quickly informed the ex-king about the appearance of the fake Ruom Ritt. Ex-king Sihanouk immediately released a short statement vehemently denying that the voice on the radio was a real Ruom Ritt.

Prince Thomico was quick to set the record straight and came out to clarify the issue in an interview with Radio France Internationale. Prince Thomico said the real Ruom Ritt never gave an interview, he only write. He never have contacts with anyone, except his childhood friend, ex-king Sihanouk.

On the question of why the real Ruom Ritt didn't come out to personally denounce the fake Ruom Ritt, Prince Thomico said that Ruom Ritt is too frail and bedridden and he has no modern technology (internet) to listen to the interview, therefore it is possible that he didn't know about the latest controversy.

On the topic of members of the royal family entering politics, Prince Thomico abandoned his original belief that members of the royal family should be allowed to enter politics like any ordinary citizens. This time he said members of the royal family should not involve in politics in order to preserve the dignity and honour of the throne.

Click here to listen to the interview in Khmer (MP3)

Life in countryside by ALL ABOUT CAMBODIA [KJE]

Below is a response from the principal of Don Bosco Technical School in Sihanoukville to KJE's article about "Life in Cambodia". For those who don't know who KJE is, he is an American who is an ardent supporter of Mr. Hun Sen's leadership and policies. This article is also published at Ki-Media here. Please have a read.

Dear friend, I share with you my reflection on the article "Life in Cambodia" by ALL ABOUT CAMBODIA.

Dear friend, thank you for visiting the rural areas of Cambodia. I wish that more foreigners from NGOs, companies and other offices in busy Phnom Penh will do it.

Statistics are statistics and they help us to understand the results of any particular reality. First, they cannot be assumed as a total vision of the reality, but at the same time, they cannot be dismissed as an relative tool. Relative is of course the reactions of those who find statistics in favor or against their particular interests. Therefore, statistics are object of manipulation. Monitoring must come always from very neutral sources.

As educator of children and youth from farm communities since 1999, I am at the side of the farmers everyday and I know very well what is to live in a Cambodian farm. We know that 90 % of the Cambodians who live under poverty, are in rural areas. It is true, even if we want to underline the romantic point of view of a country life. Then, we have to meet the concept of poverty and how relative it could be.

Children from most rural areas have not access to education. Many of them walked for kilometers to attend a school that is rather not well furnished for education (have you studied in the classroom of a tropical country without a fan?) Then at midday children should walked kilometers back to look for that food you are suggesting is everywhere.

Farmers depend also from the jumping of prices in the market. They are particularly susceptible to harvest production (floods, dry season, typhoons like the last one of Kompong Thom, etc. can let them without that abundance of food.) It is enough you do a visit for farmer families in Kompong Thom now, the ones that suffer the consequences of the last typhoon.

Even if they live a peaceful rural life at the side of their pagodas (it is not true either in many other rural areas,) farmers are cut from the stream of telecommunications and then living in ignorance of what happens in their own country and world. You know that ignorance makes a population at the mercy of ambitions from rural powers.

Health is out of reach of farmers. Even if you suggest that the villagers you knew go to the nearest big town (Kratie?) there are villages too far and without proper roads, where a doctor is a very strain, far and expensive guy. Natural medicine is their health service and - with the due respect to ancient traditions - several natural practices are the main cause of death tolls, including that of the friendly mid-wife.

If Cambodia wants to reduce poverty, it has to attend urgently the rural areas: infrastructures, telecommunications, electricity, running water, schools and agricultural projects. In Phnom Penh there are enough funds to do so. However, to do so, we need that the air-conditioning-office officials and private employees from departments, NGOs (most of them settled in Phnom Penh) and companies, bring their so expensive (?) cars to the dirty roads of the villages of their country in order to proof how true statistics can be.

Greetings in the name of my children and young people from farms.

Don Bosco Technical School Sihanoukville
Secretary: 034 933 764 - Salesian Community: 034 63 63 551 - Communication Department: 097 96 75 042
www.donboscosihanoukville.org http://www.google.com/profiles/albeiror24.
Join donbosco1.ning.com

Jobs in Rhode Island: Census bureau hiring full time bi-lingual staff up to $17.50 per hour

Providence Business Headlines Examiner
February 27,
Providence Business Headlines Examiner
By Cheryl Phillips
U.S. Census bureau is hiring for many full time positions
U.S. Census bureau is hiring for many full time positions
(AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

Several jobs are available in Rhode Island with the United States Census Bureau. That might be good news for many Rhode Islanders since Congress just rejected a bill that would extend unemployment benefits for thousands of who are out of work in Rhode Island.

The U.S. Census Bureau is hiring several recruiting assistants in Rhode Island. According to the Census Bureau, it is preferable that the applicant be bilingual in English and at least one of the following languages: Arabic, Khmer (Cambodian), Italian, Laotian, Portuguese/Creole, Russian or Spanish.

These jobs come just in time for many, as unemployment benefits will begin phasing out for thousands of Rhode Islanders starting Monday. Congress failed to pass a temporary benefits-extension bill on Thursday.

A driver's license and use of a car is required for these positions. In order to apply, there is a testing session that will be scheduled. A valid form of identification is required in order to apply for the Census Bureau positions in Rhode Island. Pay will be up to $17.50 per hour, full time.

Sign up for a required 30 minutes testing session

Call a local census office between 8:30am - 5pm

Providence County census office: (401) 228-0900

Warwick census office at (401) 773-3010

The US Census Bureau has more information on job openings across the country as well as a sample test that you can take prior to the required testing session: http://www.2010censusjobs.gov/.

Cambodia aided to address climate change

Cambodia and a number of international organisations on February 27 jointly launched a multi-donor initiative to cope with climate change.

The initiative, called the Cambodia Climate Change Alliance (CCCA), received US$8.9 million in funding from various countries and international organisations worldwide.

The CCCA aims to help the Cambodian National Climate Change Committee to develop and coordinate policies on responding to the impact of climate change on agriculture and energy production and developing coastal areas in a sustainable way.

The initiative will raise the awareness of the Cambodian people on global climate change while providing senior government officials and representatives from social organisations with training and instruction on ways to deal with the threats posed by it.

At the launch ceremony, Cambodian Environment Minister Mok Mareth said the CCCA is a turning point in Cambodia’s roadmap toward mitigating the impact of climate change.

According to the United Nations, Cambodia is one of the countries that will suffer most from the first impact of global climate change.

In recent years, Cambodia has been hit by abnormally severe floods, droughts and storms, which occur more frequently than in the past.

Hun Sen strongly rebuked a Cambodian military and Thai-owned TV

Mr. Hun Sen during his visit to Cambodian troops in Battambang on 27th February.

By Khmerization
Sources: RFA and Kampuchea Thmey

Prime Minister Hun Sen has gone into a tirade against TV5, co-owned by the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and a Thai company, accusing it of failing to fulfill its duty of serving the army, report Radio Free Asia and Kampuchea Thmey Newspaper.

TV5, co-owned by a private Thai company and the Cambodian Defence Ministry, was given a license to broadcast programs related to the Cambodian defence and army, but recently it mostly broadcast music and entertainment.

In a speech during his visit to Cambodian troops in Battambang province on Saturday 27th February, Mr. Hun Sen ordered TV5 to stop using and displaying the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) name and its logo on the TV screen immediately. "Please take off the logo of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces. It is not necessary, just use the name TV5 only because it uses the RCAF's name but it didn't broadcast much about the army's works, so it should be taken off. I only allow Haeng (derogatory term for 'you') to use the name of TV5 only but (you) must delete the RCAF's name from the station. All the pictorials of the army will not be allowed to be shown any longer", Hun Sen said.

According to Kampuchea Thmey, Prime Minister Hun Sen was so enraged that TV5 fails to broadcast his speech and activities during his visit to Preah Vihear and Ta Moan Thom temples early this month. In the Bambambang speech, Mr. Hun Sen directly blamed and blasted Gen. Neang Phat, Secretary of State of Defence Ministry and director of TV5, for failing to run TV5 in accordance with its originally aims of serving the army. "Is it because Neang Phat wear too heavy military insignia that he forget to supervise this issue properly? " he said quoted by Kampuchea Thmey.

He chided Gen. Neang Phat for not doing a proper job after a good promotion. "I donned him with a lot of stars, but those stars are useless, they cannot perform their duty, so please sell all your share (of TV5) to Anh (derogatory term for 'me'). I will buy all the share because the TV is not reformed. It only broadcast my speech in the last few days, but before it never broadcast (my speech) at all, even if we went to visit the army, Vear (derogatory term for 'they') never broadcast my speech about the army, Vear never broadcast it at all, Ah Neung (derogatory term for 'that one'). So, I say that please don't use (the military logo) and when we return back (to Phnom Penh) His Excellency Tea Banh must examine this issue", Hun Sen declared.

Gen. Neang Phat, director of TV5, cannot be reached for comment. Defence Minister Tea Banh said the Defence Ministry will carry out Mr. Hun Sen's order.

Mrs. Chea Vannath, an independent analyst, said that a prime minister cannot order a TV station what to do. "No politicians or leaders can order any TV station what name they can or cannot use. If they write a letter in their capacity as private citizens, it is OK", she said.


Shared by S K MONOHA of Cambodia, France

Sam Sary was a Cambodian politician who participated in the so-called Bangkok Plot against Prince Norodom Sihanouk[1]. He was a son of Sam Nhean, a prominent politician in the 1940s and father of Sam Rainsy, presently a leader of the main Cambodia's opposition party. He was a close confidant of the then Prince Norodom Sihanouk but had a fall-out with the Prince when he was exposed in corruption, selling import licenses and a second time during his tenure as a Cambodian ambassador to London in 1958, for beating his impregnated female housemate. He was alleged to have beaten her so badly that she escaped to the protection of the London police. The scandal made headlines in the London tabloids and he was recalled to Cambodia and stripped of all of his duties. [2]He disappeared mysteriously in 1962, presumably killed by the government or CIA agents, whom he was working for.

Political life

Sam Sary was Deputy Prime Minister in Prince Norodom Sihanouk's Government in the 1950s. He made important role in seeking full independence for Cambodia, in helping the newly independent Cambodia avoid partition at the Geneva conference (1954), and in helping the King Norodom Sihanouk found the Sangkum Reastr Niyum (1955 onwards).
He was involved in election fraud and intimidations, Keng Vannsak recalled:
The evil genius behind the repression was Sam Sary--a bestial man. As an investigating magistrate in the 1940s, he had beaten suspects to death with his own hands. Then he went study in France. In 1955, he joined the Sangkum and became Sihanouk's closest aide ... After Sihanouk decided to use strong-arm tactics, Sary handed out money and arms to hire ruffians to come and break our meetings.

The Sam Sary Affair

In January 1958 Sam Sary was appointed by Norodom Sihanouk as Cambodia's ambassador to London, thus extricating him from a scandal involving smuggling of large quantities of high grade Cambodian pepper.[2] According to Time Magazine he brought an entourage of four woman who were his official wife, with their five children, including Sam Rainsy and three mistresses. Six months later Sam Sary was involved in another scandal when one of his female servants--Iv Eng Seng, who bore him a child went to the London police accusing him of severely beating her for "minor mistakes".[2] By other accounts her name was Soeung Son Maly and she used to date Saloth Sar (Pol Pot) later dumping him for more prosperous Sam Sary.[3] Sam Sary was recalled back to Phnom Penh, but not before he had put his side of the story to the British press. He admitted beating his servant,saying:
I corrected her by hitting her with a Cambodian string whip. I never hit her on the face, always across the back and the thighs—-a common sort of punishment in my country.
He argued his right to do so because
the embassy is "Cambodia in London."
After coming back to Cambodia Sam Sary became more and more anti-Sihanouk. Despite the risk of incurring Sihanouk's displeasure Sam Sary started a newspaper, openly critical of the Prince's policies. He tried to start his own political party but without success. His anti-Sihanouk activities were dubbed the Sam Sary Affairs.
Some commentators agree that Sam Sary worked with US Intelligence services, which he might have contacted in 1956 while visiting the US. On 13 January 1959 in speech delivered in Kampong Cham Sihanouk told his listeners that he knew about US intelligence plots to overthrow him. While this speech had not clearly implicated Sam Sary, a week after the speech was delivered he fled to Thailand. After a shadowy existence in exile he disappeared in 1962, probably put to death by his foreign paymasters.

Candle Light radio program on 26 February, 2010

Please listen to "Candle Light radio program" on 26 February, 2010 at http://tinyurl.com/ybcbuhr
Thank you,
Seng Vireak
SRP Cabinet Staff

Cambodia: Making Heroin Addicts Use Herbal Remedy

Men get ready to inject heroin in a slum area February 6, 2010 in Phnom Penh

Paula Bronstein / Getty Images

About 100 people — mostly local drug addicts — gathered at a pagoda in Phnom Penh in mid-February. A few drug users had brought their families for support, and they sat together on woven mats before a Buddhist shrine. The crowd put their hands together, bowed their heads and prayed. In a country where many drug addicts report being beaten, electrocuted and forced into military-style camps, the group prayer was organized to raise public awareness of their plight. In one prayer, Cambodia's drug users and monks chanted together, "We pray for drug users to have access to proper, community-based, voluntary drug treatment."

It isn't a prayer that's likely to be answered soon. Though the Cambodian government says its 11 state drug treatment centers are all voluntary, a report released by New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) last month says only 1-2% of drug users enter Cambodia's drug rehabilitation facilities by choice. A few days before the prayer ceremony, a 23-year-old heroin user, who had just fled from Cambodian police that morning, told TIME he feared being whisked away to one of the drug centers. Four months ago during a police sweep of a known drug hotspot, the drug user, who requested anonymity, watched a police officer accuse someone of hiding drugs in his cheeks. When the man opened his mouth, the policeman shoved an electric baton down his throat. "I thought it was flashlight at first, but it was shocker," the witness said. Later, when he was taken to the rehab center, he says he was separated from the others and hit repeatedly with a stick. If the police "look at you with a hateful look, they'll pull you aside, lock you up in a room and beat you," he says. (See pictures of the rise and fall of the Khmer Rouge.)

Cambodia would hardly be alone in forcing its drug users into camps where forced labor and exercise are considered treatment. Gordon Mortimore, a former consultant to the World Health Organization (WHO), UNAIDS and the World Bank on drug treatment programs, says these drug boot camps are "very much a Southeast Asia phenomenon" and that the punitive approach to addiction is "part of a societal attitude where drug taking is seen as danger to the community." According to a 2009 World Health Organization report, some 50,000 to 60,000 people are held in 109 Vietnamese detention centers for drug treatment for two years at a time. Thousands more drug users in Thailand are forced into treatment centers run by Thai armed forces, and HRW estimates that about 350,000 Chinese nationals end up in compulsory detox camps in China.

But while detention, physical abuse and forced labor are common across the region, Joe Amon, director of the health and human rights division at HRW, says Cambodia's treatment of drug users stands out for its brutality. "We were shocked by the ubiquity and severity of the abuses in the Cambodian drug detention centers we investigated," says Amon. "People described being beaten, whipped with electrical cables, receiving electrical shocks or raped." Nearly 2,400 individuals passed through Cambodia's drug treatment centers in 2008, a 40% increase from 2007. Estimates as to how many total drug users there are in Cambodia vary wildly, but aid workers and politicians agree the problem has grown more pronounced in recent years. The expansion of the drug centers, according to the HRW report, appears to be tied to cooperation with Cambodia's regional partners, especially Vietnam. Cambodia's neighbor to the east has pledged technical assistance to support a new compulsory drug center that would house about 2,000 drug users, according to the daily Phnom Penh Post. "A lot of this influence is now about economics," says Mortimore. "It's a big business. The drug treatment industry is a huge untapped market." (See the top 10 medical breakthroughs of 2009.)

In December, Cambodian authorities and Vietnamese experts ran a 10-day trial of at least 17 Cambodian heroin users of Bong Sen, an herbal detoxification remedy made in Vietnam. Cambodian authorities have stated the participants in the trial were volunteers, and that Bong Sen safely and effectively curbs the urge to use heroin. HRW, however, claims that participants were forced to take part in the trial. At an NGO that provides food and shelter for drug users, a 35-year-old HIV positive drug user also told TIME he was given no choice to join the Bong Sen trial after he was picked up in a police sweep. The heroin user took out a group photo taken after the trial's "graduation ceremony," showing smiling former heroin users flanked by Vietnamese experts in lab coats. Though he says he did not participate voluntarily, he says at the time he hoped the Vietnamese medication "would make us stop using." But as soon as he was back on the street, he returned to heroin. He pointed to two men nearby at the shelter, passed out after having shot up, and then to their two smiling faces in the photo. "All of them are using again."

The Bong Sen trial, however, had another worrying repercussion. In December, the Cambodian government asked Korsang, a local NGO that works with Cambodian drug users, to provide participants for the Bong Sen training program. The group refused to cooperate, citing lack of research ensuring the drug's safety. Two weeks later, the government refused to renew Korsang's license to run a needle exchange program, one of only two such programs in the country. In the weeks since their clean needle program stopped, drug users in Phnom Penh say it has become difficult to access sterile needles. The HIV positive drug user from the Bong Sen trial said he has been able to eke out money for new syringes, but he worries about others. "I see people pick up syringes off the ground and use them," he says.

Last year, Korsang gave out over 12,000 syringes, and if the group cannot resume handing them out, experts fear a fresh spike in Cambodia's dropping HIV rates. Cambodia is considered a fragile success story in the region, with HIV rates dropping from about 2% in 1997 to 0.8% a decade later. But ignoring one high risk group can derail even the best HIV plans. "When you don't have access to clean needles, you get a massive HIV epidemic," says Mortimore, the former WHO consultant, adding that in a drug using community when "HIV explodes, it jumps to the general population."

The relationship between voluntary drug rehab and lower HIV rates is already playing out elsewhere. In the last five years, Malaysia has shut down about half of its forced drug treatment centers. Though criminal law still penalizes drug use in Malaysia, according to Dr. Adeeba Kamarulzaman, the president of the Malaysian AIDS Council, more than 151 community-based drug centers have opened since 2006. While the 2009 WHO report found relapse rates of between 90-100% among drug users at detox centers in Cambodia and Vietnam, in Malaysia, these out-patient methadone clinics have over 70% retention rates. What makes this all the more important is that one in five Malaysian injection drug users is HIV positive, making it the core of Malaysia's HIV epidemic. Says Kamarulzaman: "The more people are on methadone, the less they will be injecting." The results? Malaysia saw the number of new HIV cases among injection drug users drop more than 40% drop in 2008, when compared to only four years earlier. (See TIME's AIDS covers.)

The United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) says it is working with the Cambodian government to develop a system of voluntary, community-based drug treatment centers. The program is only in its pilot phase, but Gary Lewis, the Southeast Asia regional representative for the UNODC, says the relatively small number of detainees here should make it easier for Cambodia to phase out its centers and adopt new approaches more quickly than its neighbors. The UNODC has been criticized by HRW for not being vocal enough in their condemnation of the government's centers, but the UNODC hopes that by engaging with the government it can steer treatment in a new direction, something closer to Malaysia's emerging community-based system than Vietnam's military one. "We need to not only to draw attention to the problem, but to also find a solution," Lewis says. "And we need to do this in a way which involves collaboration with the government."

It remains to be seen which direction the tug-of-war between Vietnam and the U.N. will take Cambodian drug policy, but right now, it's clear the current system is broken. One Cambodian drug user with HIV says he's been in and out of Cambodian treatment centers more than 10 times. Without better support, he knows he'll keep ending up back there. "I can never get help," says the gaunt drug user whose clavicle sticks out from his white v-neck t-shirt. "I want to stop; no one can ever help me out."

Saturday 27 February 2010

Vietnam provides internet system to Cambodian legislature

Mr. Heng Samrin, President of the Cambodian National Assembly.
Nhan Dan

A delegation of Vietnam’s National Assembly has worked with the Cambodian National Assembly Secretary General on the installation of an internet-connected computer system for Cambodia ’s legislative body.

During their visit to Cambodia from February 22-27, Deputy Head of the NA Office Nguyen Si Dung held talks with Cambodian National Assembly Secretary General, Leng Peng Long, on the project.

The US$300,000 project will be conducted in two phases and completed by late 2011.

For the first phase to be completed this year, Vietnam will provide an internet application server, computers and internet subscriptions to the Cambodian NA to make the parliamentarian agency connected to the worldwide internet.

During the second phase, Vietnam will help install an intranet system for the Cambodian NA to better disseminate information and guidelines among other agencies under its aegis.

Within the visit’s framework, Cambodian NA Chairman Heng Samrin gave a cordial reception for the Vietnamese delegation stating he was delighted at the ever developing co-operation between the two legislative bodies of Cambodia and Vietnam. (VNA)

Cambodia SKorea bilateral trade soars

Australia Network News

Cambodian exports to South Korea surged 391 percent in January compared with the same month last year.

Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency says the 4 point 3 million dollar rise comes amid an overall increase in bilateral trade between the two countries.

Korea Chamber of Commerce in Cambodia says rising demand from North America has also help spur the recovery in trade.

South Korea runs garment factories in the Kingdom, and Cambodia in turn imports raw materials for its primary export industry, so trade between the two is highly dependent on demand from the United States and Canada.

Last month rubber was Cambodia's largest export to South Korea indicating the Kingdom's intention to move into other export industries, particularly agricultural products.

Splendour in stone

Photo: Ranjini Manian

On an eternal vigil: The gateway to Angkor Thom.

The Hindu
Feb 27, 2010

The temples and statues of Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom still weave a mysterious spell across the centuries…

What to do over a three-day weekend? Angkor Wat's the answer! Just a hop across from Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur or Singapore.

As you come in to land at Siem Reap (pronounced Si-em-Ri-ep), views of Khmer houses on spindly legs, built to handle the summer monsoon, set amidst endless greenery, is your first aerial sight.

Angkor means “city of temples”, Wat means “monastery” said our guide, as we drove out of the luxurious Raffles Grand Angkor Hotel. Siem Reap, Cambodia's once-sleepy town, has become a huge tourist attraction as it is home to what is arguably the eighth wonder of the world. Wikipedia says Angkor comes from the word ‘nokor', which has its origin in the Sanskrit ‘nagara' or capital.

Embellished by time

I had heard of le Cambodge as a student in Paris, three decades ago, as Angkor was a French ‘discovery'; it has been fashionable for the French to visit always. But Indians have only recently realised our reflected glory in the bas-relief carvings of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana on the walls of the amazing Angkor Wat temple, which has stood, nay, been embellished by, the passage of time.

And what an immense chunk of time that is. It was as long ago as the 12th Century when the Hindu influence reached this far. The Vishnu in the Parikrama holds a conch and discus in his hands, yet his face (or is it the hairstyle?) resembles the Buddha more than the other avatars we know.

Here a Saraswati, there a Lakshmi, now Hanuman, then Brahma, and, of course, the ubiquitous Ganesh — they are all present in intricate detail on the walls within this grand structure whose dome represents Mount Meru. The reflection of these towers in the lily-filled water body in front is breathtaking and we marvel at the steep steps leading to the top which we negotiate in the spirit of cautious adventure.

Angkor Thom is the old big city (Thom means big in Khmer) close by and the gateway to it has a row of majestic Gods and Demons — 54 lined up on each side of the road, representing the legend of the Milky Ocean churned with Kalinga, the serpent, as a rope to bring forth the pot of Amrita or nectar of Immortality. We are awestruck by the gargantuan statues, many decapitated, some with modern cement heads in lieu of the lost ones, others left enigmatically headless.

A revelation

Next comes the Bayon temple inside Angkor Thom, built by Jayavarman VII, the Mahayana Buddhist king. Angkor Wat looked impressive as a structure right away when we drove in from Siem Reap airport, but Bayon looks like piles of stones until you climb in and upwards, when it reveals its true beauty.

What is the secret beauty that comes alive when we see 216 faces of Lord Avalokiteshwara? It is the smile, despite the rocky countenance, that weaves a spell, and at least one seems to be directed at you! Scrambling over the rocks, Tomb Raider style (the film was shot in these Khmer temples), we pose in front of one of the faces where a funny photo session ensues with our guide, our profiles seem to meet that of a face, Eskimo-style in this trick photo opportunity area.

Surprising familiarity

Cambodians seem to know more of Hindu mythology than we Indians do though they are 96 per cent Buddhist. The Tuk-tuk driver speaks of saving and exiling fathers, Vasudeva and Dasharatha, while talking of the lives of Krishna and Rama, with the ease of discussing current affairs. His English is tinted with an American accent and his small talk is dotted with these Hindu stories. How many auto drivers or city dwellers would know as many details or think it ‘cool' enough to speak of them, we wonder?

For all tourists, Tuk-tuks are a must-travel, the Old Market is a must-browse, Cambodian silk a must-buy and spa massages a must-have while you drink in the splendour of Angkor.

For us Indians especially, Indian Renaissance 2.0 is the need of the hour, along with our Web 2.0 capability,and a trip to Angkor inspires this deep driving desire.

The writer is Founder- CEO of www.globaladjustments.com.

Cambodia to test fire multiple BM-21 rockets

The BM-21 missile launchers which can fire up to 40 missiles at any one time.

By Khmerization
Source: RFI

After completing a two month military drill, Cambodia's artillery unit will stage a fresh military exercise to test fire BM-21 multiple rocket launchers which can fire up 40 rockets at any one time, reports Radio France Internationale.

Gen. Chhum Socheat, spokesman for the Cambodian Defence Ministry, said the test fire of BM-21 rocket launchers will take place near Kampong Chhnang Airport on 4th March and will last one hour under the auspices of Defence Minister Tea Banh. The test fire will involve launching 200 rockets firing from 10 BM-21 rocket launchers. According to the report, each rocket/missile cost from $1200-$3800 and has a range of 40 kilometres.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said on 24th February that this is just a routine military exercise and it is not done for the purpose of flexing Cambodian military muscles against any nation.

Gen. Chhum Socheat said this is the first time since 1998 that Cambodia has test fired BM-21 rockets. He said the Cambodian military has fired these BM-21 missiles against the Khmer Rouge during the last days of the civil war in the 1990s.

Sok An and the Anti-corruption Legislation

Deputy Prime Minister Sok An.

Op-Ed by Kok Sap

Constitution- Article 101 states" The functions of members of the Royal Government shall be incompatible with professional activities in trade or industry and with holding of any position in the public service."It seems clear that the laws forbid the public servants from involving in private businesses while in office.

The international donors and people want Cambodia National Assembly to pass the anti-corruption and graft law since 1993 Constitution went into effects. But to date such law has been held back despite the outcry from opposition and world donors. The impression is the anti -corruption law is still in the early elephant pregnancy and floating somewhere between Sok An plush office and the Mr. Yes Sir, the President of the Assembly, cabinet.

The opposition legislators asked for the copy but they were advised the legislation was still with the Council of Ministers office where Sok An's reign supreme.

This proves the government does not want this law to take effect while it is handled by the most corruptive person in the kingdom. According to the Global Witness Country for Sale and Family Tree reports, that person is the Napoleonic complex aliased Sok An,the CPP blood sucking eight hand avatar.

Because of marital relations with Sen's family this semi-dwarf avatar wields power tremendously and pulls strings on all ministers included PM Hun Sen and all generals. All dare not to mess with a barely 5 ft.4 man.
As a second generation migrant of Sino-Yuon descent, he connives his way through from a petit clerk to the prime minister highest confidant and protégé while his hands are in big businesses all the times.

Aside from his private lucrative ventures revenue, he receives self allotted big multiple salaries from government budget. His reputation speaks volume and most feared official in post Pol Pot era. Behind the curtain in party circle, he is amiable and more popular than his talking head boss, Primo Hun Sen.

From the internal sources, the eight hand avatar collects annual tribute from the officials whom he has assigned to greasy posts in government service.

Also note most of the foreign aids and assistance must go through Sok An office first. He actually runs Hun Sen's official and personal life days in and days out. Very rare for him to present at events and escort Hun Sen entourage. He is the most apparent designated interim PM when Hun Sen is not in town or decapitate.

On a monthly basis, imagine how much money this man received from his private entreprise within government control?

Most rooky ministers, Touristic and Gambling Authority, Land Mine Authority, ECCC and the Join Border Commission senior posts must pay due to Sok An to have posts. Since its creation, the Cambodia National Petroleum Authority and revenue collection duty is already given to Sok An.

Beside Sok An, do we know how many deputies are in the Executive Branch?

How many of them in the executive branch do not have professional activities in trade or industry?

Out of the three branches, it appears the Executive and Judiciary collaborates to downplay the Legislative branch.

In the essence, majority of the deputies from the ruling party are either incompetent or the accomplices to keep the chamber seats warm. This is how the buck gets stalled whether the anti-corruption and eastern border demarcation legislation. They are not there to be the people representation and defense.

No one can tell the difference to what extent of power for the individuals who hold dual roles in both the legislature and government.

In the book, the Constitutional Council shall examine and interpret laws and have the final say on laws. Unfortunately, up to this point, people hadn't heard from the Constitutional Council legal opinion or advisory on anything yet.

As it seems this body is no more than a rubberstamp for the Executive agendas. So in a nut shell, the Constitution is merely a piece of written laws without spirit and morality.

When a government abused laws, the unlawful runs the country.

Cambodian opposition leader faces new lawsuit

Sam Rainsy made a speech during one of the anti-government protests.

People's Daily News
February 26, 2010

Cambodia's opposition leader faced a new lawsuit Friday filed by the government for spreading false information and public document, a government lawyer said.

Ky Tech, a government lawyer said he had submitted a government lawsuit on Friday to a Phnom Penh Court against Sam Rainsy for his spreading false information and public document through website relating to border issues.

Sam Rainsy, was convicted by a provincial court late last month to two years in prison for his involvement in border markers removals and that the court found him guilty of destroying public property.

Sam Rainsy who is now in France was not available for comment, but his party's spokesman, Kim Sourphirith said the latest lawsuit was not a "surprise".

It is not yet known when the court will take action against Sam Rainsy.

Ky Tech said according to the laws, Sam Rainsy might face up to three years in jail for false information charge and 15 years for spreading fake public document relating to border issues.

Source: Xinhua

Cambodia to again sue opposition leader Sam Rainsy

Sam Rainsy (middle) leading one of the many protests against the government.

BBC News

Mr Rainsy says the charges are an attempt to silence the opposition

The Cambodian government has filed a new lawsuit against leading opposition figure Sam Rainsy.

The government accuses Mr Rainsy of forging public documents and spreading false information about a border dispute with Vietnam.

Mr Rainsy, who is living in exile, was given a two-year jail term last month for a political protest in which markers along the border were uprooted.

He could face up to 18 years in prison if found guilty of the latest charges.

"The lawsuit involves forging public documents and publicising disinformation related to the forgery of a map in order to manipulate the public over the border issue with Vietnam," government lawyer Ky Tech told the AFP news agency.

'Political tool'
In January, Mr Rainsy was given the two-year jail term in his absence for encouraging villagers to uproot the border markings.

He did not attend the hearing, saying in an e-mail believed to have been sent from France, that the case against him was politically motivated.
Map of Cambodia

"The court in Cambodia is just a political tool for the ruling party to crack down on the opposition," he said.

"I will let this politically subservient court prosecute me in absentia because its verdict is known in advance."

Cambodia and Vietnam officially began demarcating their contentious border in September 2006, in a bid to end decades of territorial disputes.

The 1,270-kilometre (790-mile) border has remained essentially unmarked and vague since French colonial times, with stone markers and boundary flags having disappeared, while trees once lining it were cut down.

Mr Rainsy's party accuses the Cambodian government of ceding territory to its larger and more powerful neighbour.

Vietnam helps build information system for Cambodian legislature

The Cambodian parliament.

The National Assemblies of Vietnam and Cambodia will soon kick-start a project to install network equipment for information processing and Intranet access at all agencies of the Cambodia National Assembly.

The agreement was reached at a working session between the two countries’ legislators during a visit to Cambodia from February 22-27 by a Vietnam National Assembly delegation.

In the first phase of the US$300,000 project funded by the Vietnam National Assembly, Vietnam will supply servers, computers and transmission lines to Cambodia this year and will complete the installation of equipment for the Intranet to support information processing between Cambodia’s NA agencies during the second phase one year later.

While in Phnom Penh, the Vietnamese delegation, led by Nguyen Si Dung, deputy head of the NA Office, was received by Cambodian National Assembly Chairman Heng Samrin, who praised the effective cooperation between the two legislatures.
Chairman Heng Samrin thanked the Vietnamese Party, National Assembly and Government for providing great assistance to Cambodia in its past struggle for national liberation and in its current process of national construction.

Journalists Reveal Horrors of Treatment of Women

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Srey Rath, a 15 year old Cambodian girl, wanted to earn money for her family by washing dishes in Thailand. Instead, the man who promised her the job sold her into a brothel, where fighting back just meant more beatings and rape.

Woineshet Zebene, a 13 year old girl from Ethiopia, was peacefully sleeping in her hut, when four men stormed in and kidnapped her. Battering and raping went on for two days until she finally escaped. Upon her return to the village, she was expected to marry one of her rapists, Aberew Jemma.

Dina, a 17 year old from Kindu, Congo, was returning home from her farm, when five militia men surrounded her. They told her, if she screamed, she will be dead. All five of them, one after the other raped her. When she was pinned down, one of the men forced a stick inside her.

What do all of these stories have in common? Oppression of women.

Whether it’s a mother killing her baby girl because she believes girls are unlucky, or a militia man thinking that he has the right to rape any woman he desires, tyranny towards females exists. The trick is not to only change the law, but to change people’s points of view through education.

Nicholas D. Kristof, NY Times journalist and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, former NY Times journalist and editor, portray in their new nonfiction book, Half the Sky, how, if given the opportunity, women can shine even in the darkest corners of life.

The title is part of an ancient Chinese proverb: Women hold up half the sky. I’m guessing the other half lies on the shoulders of men. When either side falls, it’s harder for those who are still standing. Just like the 13 colonies – ‘United we stand, divided we fall’.

The shock of statistics in each chapter is personalized with an individual story giving the whole book a more humane feeling. Photographs of women and girls throughout the book make reading their life trials feel as though they are right beside me.

Kristof compares oppression of women to slavery. Just like there was a beginning for equality with the Emancipation Proclamation, this could possibly be the beginning for emancipating women and girls worldwide. The quote in chapter two in Half the Sky cleverly analyzes slavery. “Although volume upon volume is written to prove slavery a very good thing, we never hear of the man who wishes to take the good of it, by being a slave himself,” said Abraham Lincoln.

Kristof came into a brothel in western Cambodia and pretended he was a customer. The woman pimp sold him a girl, Srey Neth, for $150 and gave him a receipt. What shocked me the most was when I realized over the weekend I found this amazing pair of shoes for $145, which I didn’t purchase. If I bought them I would have my shoes and a receipt, and Kristof bought a human being for almost the same price and has a receipt. I can’t wrap my head around the idea that I can buy a woman for $150 and own her.

Of course Kristof bought Srey Neth and another girl, Srey Momm, for $203 only so they can go back to their families. Unfortunately, buying them is the easy part. Because girls are usually dependent on drugs that pimps give them, they return to the brothels voluntarily..

Compared to the prenatal care in the U.S., where practically every inch is though out and planned even before the pregnancy, for many women in Africa becoming pregnant is a death sentence. One woman dies of childbirth around the world every minute.

Every person should read this book. It’s not only inspiring but also real because while reading I wanted some parts to be surreal. All these women, who survived rape, beatings, acid burns, fistulas, and more, and are still able to not give up and turn their horrific experience into strength - truly hold up half the sky.

Korea Expressway signs construction deal with Cambodia

Korea Herald

Korea's state-run Korea Expressway Corp. said Friday it has signed a $2.65 million deal with the Cambodian government to improve and build new roadways for the Southeast Asian country.

The clinching of the deal came after Korea Expressway, in a consortium with Korea's Sambo Engineering Co., submitted a proposal to the Cambodian government for a road project there in October last year, it said.

The project calls for the consortium to design and supervise the improvement of two national highways and one local road and the construction of a detour in the Southeast Asian country. Completion of the project, expected to begin next month, is slated for June 2013, the company said in a statement.

Friday 26 February 2010

Suthep downplays Hun Sen's planned visit

Hun Sen's visit to Preah Vihear temple on 6th February, 2010.

Published: 26/02/2010
Bangkok Post

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban on Friday downplayed concerns over the planned weekend visit of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen to Cambodian troops near the Thai border, saying security measures along the border was well-prepared.

Mr Suthep, who oversees national security, was respondnig to questions about a report in the Cambodian English-language newspaper the Phnom Penh Post that Hun Sen will visit his troops near the Thai border in Battambang province on Saturday, and that soldiers in Kampong Chhnang province will also conduct military exercises and will test launch BM-21 rockets on March 5.

He said it was perfectly normal for Hun Sen to travel wherever he wants within Cambodia. The government already had adequate security measures in place along the Thai-Cambodian border. There was no need for any other action.

"I don't believe that the test firing will threaten Thailand's security," Mr Suthep said. "The Thai army stands ready to protect our national sovereignty."

Hun Sen was earlier quoted as telling a Phnom Penh newspaper that the rocket tests were aimed at strenghtening the readiness of the country's military. The rockets had a frange of 40km, but the troops would normally fire them less than half the distance.

“We are not flexing our muscles – this is work to strengthen the abilities of the military in national defence,” Hun Sen said.

The Cambodian leader dismissed accusations that his trip is linked to the court verdict on the 76 billion baht in frozen assets of Thaksin Shinawatra, who he appointed as his adviser.

Hun Sen said that this weekend's planned visit is a "normal" visit to the soldiers and it should not be linked with anything happening in Bangkok.

Early this month, the Cambodian premier visited his troops stationed on the disputed Thai border around the ancient Preah Vihear temple, claiming that the visit is aimed at boosting the spirit of the Cambodian troops.

But he was denied entry by Thai authorities to the Ta Muen [Moan] Thom ruins, which are inside the Thai border in Surin province.[According to maps attached to the 1907 Franco-Siamese Treaty signed between Cambodia and Thailand, Ta Moan Thom temple was put well inside Cambodia.]

Thailand undaunted over Hun Sen's planned border visit: Suthep

The deployments of Cambodian tanks during Hun Sen's visit to Ta Moan areas in Oddar Meanchey on 8th February.

BANGKOK, Feb 26 (TNA) - Thailand's Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban on Friday downplayed concerns over the planned weekend visit of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen to Cambodian troops near the Thai border, saying security measures along the border have been well-prepared.

Mr Suthep, who oversees national security, commented following news reports of Cambodian English-language newspaper the Phnom Penh Post that Mr Hun Sen will visit his troops near the Thai border in Battambang province on Saturday, while soldiers in Kampong Chhnang province will also conduct military exercises and will test launch BM-21 rockets on March 5.

The deputy Thai premier said it is normal for Mr Hun Sen to travel wherever he wants, but the Thai government has already put security measures in place along the Thai-Cambodian border. He suggested there was no need for anything in addition.

"I don't believe that the arms test will threaten Thailand's security," Mr Suthep said. "The Thai army stands ready to protect our national sovereignty."

Mr Hun Sen was earlier quoted as telling a Phnom Penh newspaper that the rocket tests are aimed to strengthen the abilities of the country's military. Though the rockets are capable of travelling 40 km, troops would normally fire them at less than half the distance.

“We are not flexing our muscles – this is work to strengthen the abilities of the military in national defence,” Mr Hun Sen said.

The Cambodian leader, who earlier described Mr Thaksin as his true friend, appointing him adviser to the Cambodian government, however dismissed accusations that his trip is linked to Thailand's court verdict on the Bt76 billion (US$2.3 billion) frozen assets of his friend on Friday, saying this weekend's planned visit is a "normal" visit to the soldiers--do not try to link the problems in Bangkok on February 26 to my visit on February 27.”

Early this month, the Cambodian premier visited his troops stationed near the Thai border and the ancient Preah Vihear temple, claiming that the visit is aimed at boosting the spirit of the Cambodian troops.

But he was denied entry by Thai authorities to the Ta Muen Thom ruins which located in Thailand's Surin province for safety concerns as supporters of anti-Thaksin movement People's Alliance for Democracy were rallying not far from the renowned ruins.

[Viet and Cambodian] Govts to move ahead on border demarcation

Border Affairs Minister Var Kimhong.

Friday, 26 February 2010
By Meas Sokchea
Phnom Penh Post

CAMBODIAN and Vietnamese officials say they are pushing forward bilateral demarcation efforts on northern stretches of the two countries’ 1,270-kilometre shared border.

The state-run Voice of Vietnam radio station announced on Wednesday that army engineers in the Central Highlands province of Dak Nong were
gearing up for the planting of eight border markers on the frontier with Cambodia’s Mondulkiri province.

Prime Minister Hun Sen also announced Wednesday that, by the end of 2010, the government was hoping to finish the demarcation process for the 500-kilometre stretch of border running from the northernmost point of Ratanakkiri province into Kratie province.

“To the east we are searching to plant the [border] markers. This year [we] are trying to demarcate 500 kilometres [of the border], starting from where the Cambodian, Lao and Vietnamese borders meet down to Kratie province,” he said.

The demarcation of the border with Vietnam has been dogged by controversy in recent months, with the opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) alleging that four border markers in Svay Rieng province have been placed up to 500 metres inside Cambodia’s legal territory, as defined on French- and American-drawn maps.

Government officials deny the allegations, saying party president Sam Rainsy falsified public documents in order to demonstrate the incursions were real.

SRP spokesman Kimsour Phirith said that the party also planned to investigate the placement of border markers in other provinces, citing a lack of transparency in the placing of the Svay Rieng markers.

“It was mostly Vietnamese engineers who planted those posts – there was only one [official] from Cambodia who followed the Vietnamese experts,” he said, adding that the investigations would begin in Mondulkiri.

When contacted on Thursday, Var Kimhong, senior minister in charge of border affairs, did not give many details on the progress of the demarcation process in the northeast, but said they would be carried out bilaterally, with the involvement of both Cambodian and Vietnamese officials.

“We plan to finish planting demarcation posts in Mondulkiri according to the bilateral plan after we have a meeting in Ho Chi Minh City,” he said.
Mondulkiri provincial Governor Chan Yoeun and Kratie provincial Governor Kham Phoen could not be reached for comment.

A Lesson in Cambodian Cooking From Phnom Penh Noodle House Chef

Categories: Culinary Classes

credit: flickr.com/photos/tuey/

Cambodian food has a lot in common with Vietnamese, with familiar components like curry and basil and a balance of sweet and sour flavors. Chef Sam Ung, of Phnom Penh Noodle House, will teach a demonstration class through NuCulinary called Cambodian Favorites. The menu includes spicy beef with jalapeno and basil, Cambodian yellow curry chicken, shrimp salad with lime dressing, and for dessert, rice pudding with black-eyed peas.

Tues., March 2, 6:30-9:30 p.m.
Nisei Veterans Clubhouse Kitchen, 1212 S. King St., 932-3855.
$70. Sign up here.

Work in progress [for Ratana Plaza]

Photo by: Pha Lina
Construction continues at Shopping Mall-Ratana Plaza, a US$8 million development on Russian Boulevard in Phnom Penh. The Overseas Cambodia Investment Corporation, which is owned by Canadia Bank President Pung Kheav Se, will finish the shopping centre in the next six to nine months, OCIC Commercial Housing and Building Project Manager Sok Sambath said Thursday.

Ministers differ on Internet controls

Photo by: Rick Valenzuela
Suong Senghuot, a line supervisor for the Internet service provider WiCam, checks for data service on the corner of Monireth and Sihanouk boulevards.
Phnom Penh Post

SENIOR ministers on Thursday were in apparent disagreement over the extent to which the state-owned company Telecom Cambodia would be able to block access to individual Web sites if it were granted control of the country’s Internet exchange – a move both company and government officials are reportedly looking to implement as soon as possible.

An official from the company on Tuesday said it would seek to block access to Web sites deemed inappropriate for a range of reasons, a statement that drew fresh outcry from representatives of the private telecommunications sector, one of whom said it could be “very dangerous” for the government to filter online content.

However, Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith on Thursday said the government had not told Telecom Cambodia that it could play a role in blocking Web sites.

“I don’t know what authority they’re saying that under,” he said in reference to the Telecom Cambodia official’s comments.

“The government doesn’t have any policy on that.”

Under the centralisation plan, all Internet service providers (ISPs) would be funneled through exchange points run by TC, which has indicated it will charge for the service. Currently, two domestic Internet exchange points are run by private companies free of charge.

Khieu Kanharith added that although the government is capable of blocking access to Web sites, it has no intention of doing so, and that there are unresolved questions about whether censorship policies should be implemented.

“Who should decide what should be filtered?” he said. “We have the technology, but we don’t think it’s appropriate” to filter content.

However, Minister of Posts and Telecommunications So Khun said Thursday that the practice of monitoring and blocking online content would be entirely consistent with TC’s role in supporting the work of his ministry.

Referring to “inappropriate” Web sites, he said, “After we inform those Web site owners and they still don’t close their Web sites, we will tell TC, which [will have] the right to block Web sites,” he said.

A telecommunications industry representative who spoke on condition of anonymity said Thursday that the two officials’ contradictory statements could be taken as evidence that the MPTC was on the verge of overstepping its role, which is supposed to be that of a free market regulator. “The Ministry of Information is stating the law – only a judge has the authority to decide what can be censored, and they are upholding that,” he said.

So Khun did not fully endorse the statements made earlier this week by the TC’s deputy director, Chin Daro, who said the company would aim to block Web sites that featured pornographic content or material that is critical of the government.

“If any Web site attacks the government, or any Web site displays inappropriate images such as pornography, or it’s against the principle of the government, we can block all of them,” Chin Daro said. “If TC plays the role of the exchange point, it will benefit Cambodian society because the government has trust in us, and we can control Internet consumption.”

On Thursday, So Khun denied that TC would have the authority to block access to Web sites that were critical of the government, or that the government would want those Web sites blocked. “The government blocks only pornographic Web sites,” he said.

In any case, rights groups and private telecommunications sector representatives have expressed concern over the plan to funnel traffic through TC’s exchange point, with some painting it as a threat to freedom of information.

MPTC and TC officials have said that the proposal stems from national security interests and a desire to preserve cultural values, but some private sector representatives have countered that the government is attempting to mask an attempt to make money from Internet traffic.

Exports to South Korea soar as rubber begins to take off

Friday, 26 February 2010
By May Kunmakara
Phnom Penh Post

January’s 391pc rise in exports suggests exports are evolving

CAMBODIAN exports to South Korea surged 391 percent in January compared with the same month last year to US$4.33 million amid an overall rise in bilateral trade between the two countries, Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) figures showed Thursday.

Total trade was up 77 percent to $27.715 million. Imports from South Korea climbed 58.2 percent to $23.39 million as economic activity rebounded from the very low base at the start of 2009, when the economic crisis was at its height in the Kingdom. Last January, trade between the two countries declined 20 percent.

Korea Chamber of Commerce in Cambodia Chairman Nam Shik-kang told the Post Thursday that rising demand from North America – Cambodia’s main export market – likely helped spur the recovery in trade.

We have an opportunity to raise exports, but also investment and tourism.

South Korea runs garment factories in the Kingdom, and Cambodia in turn imports raw materials for its primary export industry, so trade between the two is highly dependent on demand from the United States and Canada.

KOTRA figures showed that dye was the main, and thread the third-biggest South Korean export to the Kingdom.

In turn, knitwear and textiles were the fourth- and sixth-largest Cambodian exports last month.

Natural rubber was by far Cambodia’s biggest export to South Korea last month, accounting for more than 50 percent of total bilateral exports at $2.357 million, a sign that the Kingdom is beginning to branch out in terms of export industries, particularly into agricultural products.

Cambodia is aiming to more than double land under rubber cultivation to 250,000 tonnes within the next five years as Vietnamese companies snap up land concessions, particularly in the east of the country.

Vietnamese firms Viet Loa, Dong Phu Snoul and Rubber Kontum are set to receive 21,000 hectares of economic land concessions for rubber plantations, it was announced in an annual industry meeting on February 10, the latest in a series of awards to companies from across the border investing in rubber in Cambodia.

Nam Shik-kang said Thursday he expected bilateral trade to rise 20 percent this year after declining 5.51 percent in 2009, although he said that logistical and electricity costs in Cambodia are “too expensive compared to neighbouring countries”. Cambodian exports rose 26.6 percent last year while imports from South Korea dropped 7 percent.

Neou Seiha, a senior researcher at the Economic Institute of Cambodia, said Thursday that Cambodia needs to correct the persistent trade imbalance with South Korea – a trade relationship Cambodia suffers with most countries in Asia – by competing in its free market.

“We have an opportunity to raise exports [to South Korea], but also investment and tourism” from the country, he said.

South Korea is the second-largest source of visitors to the Kingdom, behind Vietnam, according to Ministry of Tourism figures, although before the downturn it had been the top source.

South Korea saw overall imports overtake exports for the first time in a year in January as energy imports soared due to cold weather, according to figures released Thursday from Seoul.

Claims UN ignored Uighur deportation warnings

By Conor Duffy

Exclusive to ABC News, Australia

Fri Feb 26, 2010

The 20 Uighurs were taken to this safe house on December 17, 2009.

The 20 Uighurs were taken to this safe house on December 17, 2009. Two days later they were deported at gunpoint to China. (ABC News)

There are claims the United Nations' refugee agency (UNHCR) ignored repeated warnings about the imminent forced deportation of 20 Uighur asylum seekers from Cambodia to China last year.

The Cambodian government was condemned around the world when it deported the asylum seekers at gunpoint in December.

Two Australian women - joint Nobel Peace Prize winner Sister Denise Coghlan and Taya Hunt, a legal officer with the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) - represented the Uighurs for six months prior to their deportation.

The pair have spoken exclusively to AM.

Ms Hunt provided legal and humanitarian support to the Uighurs and is one of the few people to have close contact with them.

"[They were] very grateful for the assistance we were providing them and generally just a nice, calm group of people," she said.

"There was a pregnant woman in the group and her beautiful two children."

Ms Hunt says the first Uighur arrived in Cambodia in June and the rest in October.

She says the Uighurs began to feel unsafe and concerned they would be returned to China.

Under arrangements in Cambodia at the time, refugee status determinations were handled jointly by the UNHCR and the Cambodian government.

Ms Hunt says repeated warnings were given to the UNHCR that the Uighurs felt uneasy about their applications being processed by Cambodia.

"We were becoming increasingly concerned, as the Uighurs themselves were becoming increasingly concerned, and expressed that concern on almost a daily basis to the UNHCR," she said.

AM has information that the JRS communicated at least five warnings to the UNHCR.

An excerpt of a letter sent to the UNHCR from JRS on December 10 reads: "JRS's principal concern is that one or more of these applicants may be forcibly removed from Cambodia to China with an outstanding application for refugee status.

"Informing this concern is, firstly, the fact that Cambodia has historically provided uneven protection for registered asylum seekers; secondly, incidents this year which indicate that the Cambodian Government Refugee Office may not be able to objectively consider cases from China; and thirdly, Chinese-Cambodian political relations."

Ms Hunt says the warnings were ignored, and on December 17 the Uighur asylum seekers were moved to a jointly run UNHCR/Cambodian government safe house.

On December 19 the asylum seekers were moved at gunpoint, and a day later they were flown to China.

Ms Hunt says the JRS advised the UNHCR against moving the men to the safe house.

"Given that the vice-president was scheduled to visit Cambodia the weekend of the deportation or the weekend they were moved to the safe house, I think given the context and also that we had been advising the UN that the Uighurs felt unsafe, that they felt they were being watched, it was a serious error of judgment on the part of UNHCR," she said.

'Lambs to slaughter'

Sister Coghlan, who heads the JRS in Cambodia, says she was also against the move to the safe house.

"Because both the UNHCR and the government had told the people it was a safe house or had guaranteed it would be safe for them, it was like leading lambs to the slaughter," she said.

UNHCR spokeswoman Kitty McKinsey says the refugee agency believed the Cambodian government was acting in good faith.

"We were doing everything we could to support Cambodia," she said.

"But the essence is that it's the responsibility of states to provide protection, and we don't start with an assumption that countries can't fairly handle cases from one country or another."

Ms McKinsey declined to comment on whether the warnings from the JRS were taken seriously.

"It was Cambodia's responsibility to protect these people, but during this transitional phase we were working with Cambodia to help them and the point is that Cambodia did not complete the process," she said.

Ms Hunt, though, is also critical of the time it took for the asylum seekers to have their claims processed.

"We submitted in October that the applicant was at risk and accordingly that the UNHCR should hand down a decision on his case as quickly as possible," she said.

"It is very, very unfortunate that the UNHCR delayed handing down a decision on his case."

Full control

Ms McKinsey is adamant the blame for the deportations lies with Cambodia.

She says Cambodia had been gradually taking control of asylum applications and took full control two days before the deportations.

"We tried very hard to stop the deportation to China because we knew the dangers they could face," she said.

"We even had staff at Phnom Penh airport to physically try and stop the deportation, but unfortunately they left through the military airport which we didn't have access to."

Sister Coghlan believes there should be a thorough review of the way the claims were handled.

"These people were taken at gunpoint from the safe house and taken to a place belonging to the ministry of interior," she said.

"The next night they were deported to China on a VIP jet. One would have to say the joint processing of the Uighur cases was a complete catastrophe and a tragedy."

Cambodia now has complete responsibility for processing asylum claims and the JRS believes asylum seekers arriving from countries such as Burma, which has friendly ties with Cambodia, are also at risk.

'Abhorrent decision'

The Member for Melbourne Ports Michael Danby has criticised the decision of the Cambodian Government to extradite the Uighurs to China.

The decision has been criticised by MPs and senators in Canada and Italy.

Mr Danby says the decision shows a disgraceful disregard for the welfare of the 20 Uighurs.

"The extradition of 20 Uighurs to China, which will likely end with their execution, is anything but humane,' Mr Danby said.

"The political, cultural and social suffering of the Uighur are further entrenched when countries do nothing to protect their human rights. I condemn this abhorrent decision."

Cambodia has an eco project with bite

‘Cobra!’my Cambodian guide Leeheng yells. The warning comes just in time: I leap sideways as the oil-black snake slithers past and continues oblivious along the riverbank.

Village life: Local women get down to some planting Village life: Local women get down to some planting

By Graeme Green
26th February, 2010

I’d nearly trodden on another cobra earlier in the day but that – a mere two-footer – was a tiddler in comparison; the snake that just passed within easy biting range was two metres long and thick as a bodybuilder’s bicep. It was the kind of deadly, ‘isn’t she a beauty?’ monster Steve Irwin used to wrestle. The local ‘joke’ is that if one of these bites, you have just enough time to make one last phone call to your loved ones.

If you like plush hotels, then the jungle village of Chi Phat in Cambodia’s Cardamom Mountains isn’t for you. During my time here, I’m caked in mud, snacked on by mosquitoes and regularly watching leeches fall from my body, bloated on my blood. But for the committed traveller keen to genuinely get off the beaten track, this is an authentic slice of rural Cambodian life. The people in the village are welcoming and curious, the trekking through pristine jungle and meadows is a world away from mundane realities, and the big draw, which I’m here to test out, is a 57km mountain-biking trail that takes in an ancient burial jar site.

All this has a purpose: Wildlife Alliance is working on a reforestation project here to replace large areas of trees lost to logging; the Chi Phat Community Based Ecotourism Project provides alternative sources of income for locals (as guides, mechanics, chefs…) to reduce poverty and help stop illegal logging and hunting.

The riverside village has a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. In the mornings children walk or cycle to school along the muddy main road, calling out ‘hello’ as I pass; at night, people gather in bars to watch kick-boxing on TV or sit on porches talking with family and friends.

I stay with a local family in one of six homestays. Facilities are basic (the ‘shower’ is a barrel of cold water and a plastic saucepan) and the lack of a shared language makes conversation difficult but I spend a pleasant evening on the porch with my hosts, sharing their locally made rice wine, which has a hefty kick in any language.

The near-cobra experience aside, my two-day trek with local guides Leeheng and Sok is incredibly peaceful. The only sounds as we hike through dense wet jungle are bird calls and gibbons whooping in the trees. We camp overnight in hammocks, under a piece of tarp, before returning to the village, where Sok (below) cuts three coconuts down from the trees – we stick straws in and they’re good to go.

We start out early to beat the heat. Like most good fun, the mountain biking is diverse, adventurous and a bit dirty. The circuit follows old logging trails through jungle, open fields, grassy meadows and thigh-deep streams. At the top of Khnang O’Ampov mountain, we park and climb a slippery path, gripping on to overgrown vines. We’re halfway through a pitch-black tunnel when I realise the thick layer of sludge under my hands is made up of decades of bat droppings; I can hear the winged beasts flapping overhead. Emerging at the other end, Sok points out small coffins in a thin gap in the rock. Further down, perched on rocky ledges, are several mysterious ancient burial jars containing skeletal remains thought to be more than 500 years old, possibly Khmer heroes or royalty, though no one knows their exact origins.

The Chi Phat project is still rough around the edges – there were a few glitches with arrangements and local staff are still getting up to speed in terms of providing tourism services. The level of English spoken is also low, which is a real shame as the guides are unable to share their vast knowledge of the local area. All that should change with time, though, as more visitors come here for a raw, real experience of life in an unspoilt, little-known Cambodian village. One day travellers might even boast they were in Chi Phat before it became too touristy.

* Asia Adventures (www.asia-adventures.com) offers four-day packages to Chi Phat from Phnom Penh from £110 per person. Travellers can book homestays and activities at Chi Phat (www.mountain bikingcardamoms.com). To get to Cambodia, we used Expedia.co.uk (Tel: 0871 222 9483) which has return flights with Malaysian Airways from Heathrow to Phnom Penh from £574pp. For more on Wildlife Alliance, visit www.wildlifealliance.org

* Phnom Penh: Cambodia’s capital means dodging motos on the city streets, sampling fish amok (coconut curry) on the riverfront and walking alongside orange- robed monks in front of the Royal Palace. Check out the huge emerald Buddha in the Silver Pagoda’s treasure room.

* Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum: Phnom Penh’s Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum is housed in former school buildings that were used for detention and torture. Nearby, the infamous ‘killing fields’ are grim reminders of the atrocities committed under Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge.

* Angkor temples: A World Heritage Site, the massive temple complex of Angkor Wat is one of many archaeological sites worth checking out in the area. Angkor Thom, featuring large-scale face designs, and Ta Prohm, where parts of the Tomb Raider films were shot, are also must-sees.

* Tonlé Sap: The Tonlé Sap (Great Lake) is the biggest lake in Asia, covering up to 16,000 sq km during the wet season. It is home to traditional floating villages and the remote twitcher’s paradise, Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary.

* Kep: Unwind in this small, quiet seaside town, where there’s little to do but rest on the beach and scoff fresh seafood, washed down with a cold glass of Angkor beer.