Thursday, 31 July 2008

Cargill, school board partner in ESL classes for employees

The London Free Press

Thu, July 31, 2008
By JENNIFER O'BRIEN

Twelve years after arriving in Canada from Cambodia, Sorem Vann is starting to smile in English.

Four years after arriving in Canada from Sudan, so is Parmino Pul.

Well, they're starting to smile while speaking English.

Yesterday, the two were among 13 employees to complete an English as a Second Language course at a London meat-processing factory with hundreds of workers whose first language isn't English.

The class was a result of a partnership between the Thames Valley District school board and food giant Cargill.

"This has been something special here," said teacher Sara McCreery. "It's been so great. I've seen all of (the students) blossom and their confidence just grow."

Though 85 people signed up for the free courses, only 13 completed the first 14-week session, said Cargill training co-ordinator George Foley.

He said some employees -- stakeholders, as the company calls them -- didn't qualify for the recent sessions, which only addressed four of five ESL levels available on site.

"Hopefully ,we will offer it again," he said.

The students agreed.

"I have learned lots of words and how to pronounce them," said Vann, a mother of two, who arrived here from Cambodia in 1996.

"I have wanted to learn English for a long time now."

It was the need to work that kept Vann from continuing English classes after she arrived.
She got a job at Sun Valley Foods, the former Cuddy Foods plant, which recently took on the name of its newest owner, Cargill.

With more than 60 per cent of the plant's staff of 900 having a mother tongue other than English, Cargill is known in London as a place where Vietnamese and Cambodian newcomers can get work without knowing English.

Like others, Vann said she has been able to communicate easily at work, speaking Cambodian most of the time.

While the need to work prevented her from taking English lessons so long ago, this year it was that same job that gave her the chance to do so.

Pul, who speaks Dinka as a first language, hasn't been here quite as long, but with five children who have mastered the language of his new country, he wants to catch up.

Cambodian opposition parties complain to king over election

Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — Cambodian opposition parties have filed a complaint to King Norodom Sihamoni against election officials for allegedly preventing one million people from voting in last weekend's poll.

The opposition Sam Rainsy Party, Human Rights Party, and Norodom Ranariddh Party told the king that one million registered voters were cut from the rolls by National Election Committee (NEC) officials.

"This act is an intentional mistake which is committed by election officials," the parties said in the joint letter, relased late Wednesday.

"This is a serious mistake committed by NEC officials at all levels which prevented at least one million people from voting," the letter said, asking the king to find a way for them to cast ballots before the announcement of official election results.

Prime Minister Hun Sen's ruling Cambodian People's Party has claimed a landslide victory in Sunday's election, saying it captured at least 90 of the 123 seats in parliament. Final results of the poll are expected in September.

More than six million out of 8.1 million eligible voters cast ballots in the poll.

European Union election observers have said only about 50,000 could not find their names registered when they attempted to vote.

The NEC has denied opposition allegations that voters were left off the rolls on purpose.

International monitors said earlier this week that the election was flawed and did not meet key standards, despite a more peaceful campaign and improvements in the electoral process.
The opposition parties have rejected the results of the election and demanded a re-run of the poll.

Opposition rejects results of Cambodian election

Radio Australia

In Cambodia, several opposition parties have rejected the results of last weekend's elections, saying the vote was rigged in favour of the ruling Cambodian People's Party.

However, a protest rally held by the opposition failed to gather many supporters... and international monitors say while there were serious problems with the conduct of the election, there was not enough evidence to discredit the CPP's landslide victory.

Presenter: Liam Cochrane Speakers: Mu Sochua, candidate for Sam Rainsy Party; Martin Callanan, head of the EU election monitoring team in Cambodia

(SFX disgruntled voters)

COCHRANE: The passion was there but not the numbers. Four opposition parties had called on all citizens who were denied the chance to vote in Sunday's national elections to come forward and make their complaints heard. Thousands were expected, but only about three hundred people arrived at the Sam Rainsy Party headquarters in central Phnom Penh. They told of how their names had been removed from voter lists, even though many had cast a ballot in last year's commune elections. Outside the headquarters, frustrations spilled over.

(SFX shouting & traffic noise)

Sam Rainsy Party leader, Mu Sochua, took up a megaphone and began berating a group of onlookers who she accused of intimidating the public.

SOCHUA: In front of the party headquarters, what do we see. We see the village chief, we see the people in plain clothes but with their walkie talkie. We recognize these people. These people are part of the military, part of the police that have been trying to intimidate, to threaten the people for too long. This is enough, this is way too much. We cannot accept this culture. This is a culture of threat, of intimidation. We are going back to a culture of the Khmer Rouge type control of the people. That is not acceptable.

COCHRANE: Whatever the reason, the poor turnout was a major blow to the opposition parties, undermining their rejection of the election results.

But the concerns over the election conduct do have some merit, according to European Union election monitoring team, the largest group of international observers in Cambodia.

Martin Callanan, is the head of the EU election observers. He said the EU's overall assessment was that the election failed to meet a number of key international standards, despite a lower level of political violence than in previous years.

MARTIN: But of course you have to look at the whole campaign environment. The overwhelming dominance in the media by the ruling party we have a very detailed analysis of this. The fact that it was very difficult in some areas for opposition parties to campaign. Their activities were restricted. The fact that the CPP as the party in power controls all the local election administrations as well. They put up a lot of artificial barriers in place of opposition parties. They used the State's resources. So it was very difficult for there to be a genuinely fair competition.

COCHRANE: Callanan said that at least 57 thousand names had been wrongly removed from voters lists in an audit before the election, but said it was impossible to tell how many other names disappeared. The opposition Sam Rainsy Party says the number was as high as one million people, but there was no way to independently check that figure. The National Election Committee has downplayed the missing names, saying that any complaints about the voting lists should have been lodged before the election.

However, Martin Callanan from the EU, says the problems with the election would not be enough to change the sweeping success of the ruling Cambodian People's Party, or CPP, which won around 60 percent of the votes and around 90 of the 123 seats in Parliament.

MARTIN: For a result like that to be overturned, then there would have to be substantiated evidence produced of very large amounts of electoral malpractices. But so far the evidence that we've seen has been on a very limited scale, which doesn't to say that the evidence doesn't exist but all I can go on is what I've seen and from the evidence I've seen so far there isn't enough evidence to say that the result, on the scale it was, would have been effected materially if these anomalies hadn't taken place.

COCHRANE: It's unclear what the next move might be for the opposition parties in Cambodia. Early results suggest the Sam Rainsy Party might have won around 26 seats but the others barely registered, with FUNCINPEC on track for just two seats, the Norodom Rannaridh Party another two seats and the Human Rights Party led by Khem Sokha in line for three seats. This means that, for the first time, the ruling Cambodian People's Party, led by Prime Minister Hun Sen, will not need a coalition partner to form government. Liam Cochrane for Radio Australia, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Cambodia establishes 14-member official delegation for Beijing Olympics

www.chinaview.cn

Special report: 2008 Olympic Games

PHNOM PENH, July 31 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia has established a 14-member official delegation for the Beijing Olympics scheduled to open on Aug. 8, according to the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia (NOCC) Thursday.

The delegation, headed by Tourism Minister and NOCC President Thong Khon, also includes two officials, one secretary, one team leader, two swimmers and their coach, two marathon athletes and their coach, one doctor and two youths attending the Olympic Summer Camp.

The members will leave Phnom Penh for Beijing respectively on Aug. 6 and 7.

NOCC Secretary General Mea Sarun told reporters that during the Beijing Games, Cambodia aims to enhance the athletes' skills and the country's participation level of the international games.

Cambodia first attended the Olympics in 1959, then quitted for a long time due to civil war. It resumed its participation in 1996 to attend the Atlanta Olympics and later sent delegations to the Sydney Games in 2000 and the Athens Games in 2004.

Editor: Jiang Yuxia

Judges preparing for first trial on genocide in Cambodia

International Herald Tribune
The Associated Press
Published: July 31, 2008

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: Cambodian and international judges are making final preparations to begin the trial of the former commander of a Khmer Rouge torture center who is charged with crimes against humanity, a tribunal official said Thursday.

The trial of Kaing Guek Eav, 65, alias Duch, who headed the notorious S-21 prison and torture center, is scheduled for late September, said Helen Jarvis, a spokeswoman for the United Nations-assisted tribunal.

The trial is a key step in Cambodia's long wait for justice for atrocities committed during the Khmer Rouge rule in the late 1970s. Some 1.7 million people perished.

"To have the director of that institution on trial for crimes committed will be of enormous importance in understanding the Democratic Kampuchea regime," Jarvis said, referring to the Khmer Rouge's official name at the time.

The prison in Phnom Penh was the Khmer Rouge's largest torture facility, and has now become the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum.

About 16,000 men, women and children are believed to have been held there. Only 14 are thought to have survived.

The tribunal has been set up under Cambodia's court system, which follows the French model in which case files are handled by investigating judges before being handed to other judges for the actual trial.

The five judges who will try Duch's case include three Cambodians and one Frenchman, Jean-Marc Lavergne, who took up their positions in July. A fifth judge from New Zealand, Silvia Cartwright, is to arrive in Cambodia later this week, Jarvis said.

Duch is one of five suspects being held for trial. The others are former top lieutenants of late Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, who died in 1998.

They are former head of state Khieu Samphan, former chief ideologist Nuon Chea, ex-Foreign Minister Ieng Sary, and his wife Ieng Thirith, who served as the Khmer Rouge social affairs minister.

They face charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Veteran missionary has a soft spot for orphans

Ginalyn Pearson gives one of the children from a Cambodian orphanage a piggy-back ride during her mission trip in May. Pearson became an orphan herself at age 7. Submitted photo
Bothell-Reporter.com
JOSHUA HICKS, Reporter
Published: July 30, 2008

Ginalyn Pearson spent most of her spare time playing with children when she visited a Cambodian orphanage as part of a mission trip in May.

If there was a connection, it’s because she’s been in their situation. The 24-year-old Philippines native became an orphan at age 7, along with her sister.

Two years passed before a Bothell couple adopted the girls.

“It has a lot of effect on me,” Pearson said. “Whenever I go to an orphanage, some of the memories come back.”

That, she says, is why she can’t seem to pull herself away from the kids.

“I know it’s important,” Pearson said. “They don’t have family, so I like to just play with them. I took every opportunity I could before we had to leave.”

Pearson is no stranger to mission trips. She’s participated in five of them since 2001.

She went to the Philippines on two occasions to work with hearing-impaired communities in that country during her high-school years, and she later provided humanitarian services in Cambodia after completing a six-month discipleship-training program through Youth With A Mission (YWAM) in Hawaii.

Pearson also spent her Thanksgiving break in 2005 helping with relief efforts in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast.

“That was really hard because of what I saw,” she said. “There was so much garbage and devastation, and it was really close to home. Usually, you see that kind of thing overseas.”

Pearson’s most recent mission trip brought her to the rural Cambodian village of Banan with a group of students from Oregon’s Northwest Christian University, where she was attending school.

Team leader Elizabeth Seybold credits Pearson with determining the group’s destination.

“She had contacts from her first trip to Cambodia, and she had spoken volumes about that experience,” Seybold said.

The missionary group helped organize recreational, educational and worship activities for youths in Banan.

Members of the entourage slept on tile floors and coped without running water or air conditioning in the tropical heat.

“All we wanted was something cold to drink,” she said. “It was very different from life here in the U.S. — very tough — but we survived. It made me really thankful for what I have and the blessings I’ve received in my life.”

Pearson’s trip included tours of Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh, as well as the Angkor Wat temple and several historic places associated with the Khmer Rouge regime, which killed an estimated 1.5 million people during its time in power.

Among the troubling sites she saw were a genocide museum, a torture prison and the notorious Killing Fields, where the Khmer Rouge buried its victims.

“We saw a lot of creepy torture devices, and there were bones and pieces of clothing from the people who were buried,” she said. “It’s heartbreaking to know that so many people lost their lives. I think it’s sad how humankind can be so cruel.”

The missionaries put that harshness behind them as they visited the orphanage to spend time with kids and deliver suitcases packed with hygiene supplies, games and crafts.

Seybold claims Pearson quickly distinguished herself as one of the most enthusiastic team members.

“Gina never sat around,” she said. “She constantly sought out people to interact with, and she helped out in any way she could.”

“I’ll never know how much of an impact we made, but some of the kids were crying when we left,” Pearson said. “The people there don’t normally show a lot of emotion.”

Pearson returned home to learn that she had landed work as a teacher with the Highline School District. She earned a degree in education from Oregon’s Northwest Christian University last spring, and used part of her graduation money to pay the $2,600 it cost to participate in her latest mission trip.

She claims it won’t be her last.

“I just know there are a lot of people in need out there, and I have a big heart for them,” Pearson said.

Girls rescued from Cambodian Brothels, a photographic showcase

Rocklin&Roseville Today
Wednesday, July 30, 2008

SACRAMENTO – "Now We Have Hope," a photographic showcase aimed at raising awareness concerning child prostitution, will be displaying photographs taken by girls rescued from Cambodian brothels during a special exhibit that begins on Aug. 9 during the Second Saturday Art Walk. “Now We Have Hope,” the event’s title and message, came from a young girl saved from a brothel and portrays the lives of these young women through the lens of hope and restoration.

Patris Studio at S12 will be hosting the inaugural exhibition of "Now We Have Hope," which features 40 photographs taken by these young women. The studio is located at 1200 S Street in Sacramento.

At the conclusion of the exhibit on Sept. 6, about a dozen of the photographs will be auctioned at an event beginning at 7 p.m. at the gallery. Proceeds from the auction will support Agape International Ministries, a Rocklin-based organization that operates rehabilitation centers and other programs in Cambodia.

The goal of the exhibit is to raise awareness concerning child prostitution as well as raising funds for the ministry to expand. Currently, there are many other cities in Cambodia which are desperately asking Agape International Ministries to set up rehabilitation centers. “These photographs are providing a way for us to see inside the lives of these young girls and view the world through their eyes,” said Renee Burkhalter, Agape International’s Director of Development. “This event provides an opportunity for the community to be a part of solving the problem of child prostitution that is rampant in Southeast Asia.”

Randy Snook, a local artist, author and Professor of Photography at Sierra College in Rocklin, visited one of Agape’s rehabilitation centers in Cambodia and taught the young girls how to take photographs using cameras donated by Hank & Tina Dreschler and Jeannette Kamalski.

“Teaching these girls to utilize photography as a form of self-expression was a fabulous experience” Snook said. “Their perspective and personality is definitely felt in each of the shots.”

The owner of the gallery is donating the space for the exhibit.

“These photographs are extraordinary and I am honored to feature them in my gallery and educate Sacramentans about the dire circumstances these young girls face,” Patris said. Patris is the founding member and executive director of S12, Sacramento's premier art venue for weekly art classes, art events, art exhibits and much more. About Agape Ministries: Agape International Ministries was founded in 1989 and focuses on the holistic rehabilitation of the victims of child prostitution. This includes attending to their physical, medical, and emotional needs as well as providing a high school education and vocational training. Rahab’s house, a sub-section of the ministry, concentrates on preventing prostitution. It is located in a former Cambodian brothel and acts as a neighborhood center, dedicated to combat the acceptable nature of prostitution as well as financially aiding families who otherwise may have had to sell their daughters in order to buy rice.

Don Brewster, a former pastor at Adventure Christian Church, and his wife, Bridget, are currently in Cambodia working with Agape to provide a safe haven for these young girls. For more information, please visit
www.aim4asia.org

Cambodian election turnout 75%

The Manila Times
Thursday, July 31, 2008

PHNOM PENH: Turnout in Cambodia’s weekend election was a “good figure” at 75 percent, the country’s election committee said Wednesday, amid opposition rejections of the results and demands for a re-vote.

More than 6 million out of 8.1 million eligible voters cast ballots in Sunday’s election.

Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party has claimed a landslide victory, saying it captured at least 90 of the 123 seats in parliament.

Although turnout fell from the 83 percent who voted in the country’s previous poll in 2003, Tep Nytha, secretary-general of the National Election Committee (NEC), said there was still good voter participation.

“Generally, when the number of voters casting ballots is 70-percent up, it is a good figure. In some countries, the percentage of voters is only around 60 percent,” he said.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy has estimated that one million of the registered voters were cut from the rolls and has demanded a re-vote.

But European Union election observers have said only about 50,000 could not find their names registered when they attempted to vote.

The NEC has denied opposition allegations that voters were left off the rolls on purpose.

International monitors said Tuesday that the election was flawed and did not meet key standards, despite a more peaceful campaign and improvements in the electoral process.

-- AFP

Photo Exhibit Sheds Light on Child Prostitution in Cambodia

Children in Cambodia
myopolis Lincoln
Posted by: agapeinternational

“Now We Have Hope,” a photographic showcase aimed at raising awareness concerning child prostitution, will be displaying photographs taken by girls rescued from Cambodian brothels during a special exhibit that begins on Aug. 9 during the Second Saturday Art Walk.

“Now We Have Hope,” the event’s title and message, came from a young girl saved from a brothel and portrays the lives of these young women through the lens of hope and restoration.

Patris Studio at S12 will be hosting the inaugural exhibition of "Now We Have Hope," which features 40 photographs taken by these young women. The studio is located at 1200 S Street in Sacramento.

At the conclusion of the exhibit on Sept. 6, about a dozen of the photographs will be auctioned at an event beginning at 7 p.m. at the gallery. Proceeds from the auction will support Agape International Ministries, a Rocklin-based organization that operates rehabilitation centers and other programs in Cambodia.

The goal of the exhibit is to raise awareness concerning child prostitution as well as raising funds for the ministry to expand. Currently, there are many other cities in Cambodia which are desperately asking Agape International Ministries to set up rehabilitation centers.

“These photographs are providing a way for us to see inside the lives of these young girls and view the world through their eyes,” said Renee Burkhalter, Agape International’s Director of Development. “This event provides an opportunity for the community to be a part of solving the problem of child prostitution that is rampant in Southeast Asia.”

Randy Snook, a local artist, author and Professor of Photography at Sierra College in Rocklin, visited one of Agape’s rehabilitation centers in Cambodia and taught the young girls how to take photographs using cameras donated by Hank & Tina Dreschler and Jeannette Kamalski.

“Teaching these girls to utilize photography as a form of self-expression was a fabulous experience” Snook said. “Their perspective and personality is definitely felt in each of the shots.”

The owner of the gallery is donating the space for the exhibit.

“These photographs are extraordinary and I am honored to feature them in my gallery and educate Sacramentans about the dire circumstances these young girls face,” Patris said. Patris is the founding member and executive director of S12, Sacramento's premier art venue for weekly art classes, art events, art exhibits and much more.

About Agape Ministries:

Agape International Ministries was founded in 1989 and focuses on the holistic rehabilitation of the victims of child prostitution. This includes attending to their physical, medical, and emotional needs as well as providing a high school education and vocational training. Rahab’s house, a sub-section of the ministry, concentrates on preventing prostitution. It is located in a former Cambodian brothel and acts as a neighborhood center, dedicated to combat the acceptable nature of prostitution as well as financially aiding families who otherwise may have had to sell their daughters in order to buy rice.

Don Brewster, a former pastor at Adventure Christian Church, and his wife, Bridget, are currently in Cambodia working with Agape to provide a safe haven for these young girls. For more information, please visit www.aim4asia.org

Thailand, Cambodia to follow up 'success'

The Bangkok Post
Thursday July 31, 2008

NSC asked to support border agreements

THANIDA TANSUBHAPOL & WASSANA NANUAM

The National Security Council (NSC) is to meet with other agencies to follow up on agreements made at the assembly in Siem Reap on the border conflict between Thailand and Cambodia.

But no date for the talks has yet been set, according to Foreign Ministry spokesman Tharit Charungvat.

The Foreign Ministry yesterday invited 11 Bangkok-based diplomats whose countries are members of the United Nations Security Council and envoys of nine members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to a briefing on the outcome of the Siem Reap meeting last Monday between Foreign Minister Tej Bunnag and Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong.

Cambodian ambassador to Thailand Ung Sean reported the meeting's outcomes to other envoys.

The briefing was aimed at convincing Security Council members to back efforts by the two countries to resolve the border row over 4.6 sq km of overlapping territory between Kantharalak district in Si Sa Ket province and the Cambodian province of Preah Vihear.

Thailand and Cambodia agreed to reduce the number of troops in the area as a step towards a military withdrawal, to hold a meeting of the Joint Boundary Commission (JBC) to demarcate the border line, to clear landmines around Preah Vihear temple and to seek to avoid armed confrontation.

Thailand's deputy foreign minister co-chairs the JBC, together with Cambodia's Senior Minister Var Kim Hong, who is in charge of border affairs.

But there is no deputy foreign minister, and that could delay the meeting.

''There might be a problem in Thailand resuming JBC talks, as it does not have a deputy foreign minister to lead the meeting,'' Mr Tharit admitted.

Supreme commander Gen Boonsrang Niempradit said the Foreign Ministry was the key agency in solving the problem with Cambodia and the armed forces would support its efforts.

With the proclaimed success of the talks in Siem Reap, Gen Boonsrang indicated that there was no need for another meeting of the Thai-Cambodian General Border Committee, which is chaired by the respective defence ministers, in the near future.

Cambodia: Prince Loses Appeal In Embezzlement Case

AP Associated Press
2008-07-31

PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA: Cambodia's highest court upheld a guilty verdict against an exiled former prime minister on embezzlement charges Wednesday (30 July), effectively barring him from returning home to resume his political career.

Supreme Court Judge Chhim Sophal upheld a lower court's ruling last year that found Prince Norodom Ranariddh guilty of breach of trust and sentenced him to 18 months in prison. The lawsuit was filed by the prince's former colleagues in the royalist Funcinpec party, which he once led.

The ruling will make it difficult for Ranariddh, a once-influential national figure who is the son of former King Norodom Sihanouk, to stage a political comeback. Ranariddh was co-prime minister of the country from 1993-97.

His supporters say the lawsuit and ruling were politically motivated.

The Funcinpec party, which ousted Ranariddh as president in October 2006, sued the prince accusing him of embezzling some US$3.6 million from the sale of the party's headquarters in August that year.

Funcinpec cited the prince's alleged incompetence and frequent absences from the country as the reason for his ouster from the party.

In March 2007, a municipal court judge sentenced the prince _ who has been living in exile since before his removal from Funcinpec _ in absentia. It also ordered him to pay US$150,000 in compensation to the party.

After his ouster, Ranariddh formed the Norodom Ranariddh Party. The party took part in last weekend's parliamentary election and unofficial results, show it winning two seats in the 123-seat lower house of parliament.

His party issued a statement Wednesday saying the prince was innocent and condemning the final ruling as "senseless and unjust."

"The ruling was politically motivated. We are now looking for ways to bring him back to Cambodia," Muth Chantha, the party spokesman, said without elaborating.

Ranariddh served as a co-prime minister with Prime Minister Hun Sen before the latter toppled him in a two-day armed clash in 1997.

Under Cambodian law, he will be barred from running for public office unless he serves at least two-thirds of his jail term or receives a pardon from King Norodom Sihamoni, his half-brother.

Ranariddh is currently believed to be living in Malaysia.

(By SOPHENG CHEANG/ AP)

Cambodia's ruling party forms coalition, but says royals are out

The Earth Times
Wed, 30 Jul 2008
Author : DPA

Phnom Penh - Cambodia's ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) has ordered the leader of its coalition partner, the royalist Funcinpec Party, to stand down, but will retain the coalition structure, government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said Wednesday. He said the CPP would form a coalition after Sunday's landslide victory, which sees the CPP take at least 90 of 123 seats - 64 more than it's nearest rival, the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP).

Funcinpec plummeted from 26 seats to just two on latest preliminary estimates, but despite the CPP dominance, axing a coalition which has existed since the first democratic elections in 1993 would potentially cause deep political instability.

"Opposition figures who want to join the government have to do so Wednesday or lose out, and we know many do," Kanharith said. "The CPP also orders that current Funcinpec leader Keo Puth Rasmei and his wife Princess Arun Rasmei resign and Nek Bhun Chhay take over."

Bhun Chhay, an army general with the reputation of being a military bulldog, a love of former king Norodom Sihanouk but no royal blood, will be the first non-royal leader of Funcinpec.

After UN-organized elections in 1993, current Prime Minister Hun Sen forced the victorious Funcinpec into forming a coalition with him, but the UN then dictated that half the police force and army should be Funcinpec, as well as numerous government positions.

The CPP retains that coalition to avoid instability, and because it says it is incompatible with the opposition SRP, which snared at least 26 seats at Sunday's polls and is the second most popular party in the country. Funcinpec was expected to comply.

Asia's next tiger?

Business Spectator
31 Jul 2008

Martin Hutchison

Cambodia’s ruling party won re-election in an imperfectly democratic ballot July 27. Corrupt, impoverished, with high population growth and poor infrastructure, the country might seem a basket-case. Yet with Vietnamese backing and nearly 10 per cent annual economic growth since 2000, it may be turning into another Asian Tiger.

Cambodia is neither very democratic nor very well run. Its leader Hun Sen was backed by Vietnam when it overthrew the Khmer Rouge in 1979, and he has been prime minister since 1985. Cambodia ranks at number 162 on Transparency International’s 2007 Corruption Perceptions Index, well below the threshold at which normal business becomes difficult. For example, a sale of land to foreign investors in 2007 seems to have benefited mostly the ruling elite.

Like its neighbour Vietnam, Cambodia is suffering an imported inflation problem due to rising food and fuel costs. The government’s solution has been to cease reporting the country’s consumer price index “to avert the possibility of disorder and turmoil".

Nevertheless, there are signs of progress. Cambodia has enjoyed economic growth of more than 10 per cent a year since 2000, led by its main export industry, garments. Its annual population growth has declined from 2.3 per cent in 2000 to 1.8 per cent, facilitating rapid economic growth by reducing the strains that high population growth places on education and infrastructure.

Cambodia’s public sector absorbs only 12 per cent of gross domestic product, its budget and payments are close to balance, and it expects to open a stock exchange in 2009.

Foreign investment is the key, as it has been in Vietnam, where it totalled 65 per cent of GDP in the first half of 2008. Cambodia permits 100 per cent foreign ownership in most sectors, and foreign investment is expected to double in 2008 from $US2.7 billion in 2007 (30 per cent of GDP), with China and South Korea the leading investors. Corruption and a lack of public sector transparency stand in the way. But with rapid growth in Vietnam, greater prosperity in Thailand, its other neighbour, and the US market open to its exports, Cambodia could be set to become an 'Asian tiger' in its own right.

Cambodian Prince Ranariddh loses case at Supreme Court

www.chinaview.cn
2008-07-30

PHNOM PENH, July 30 (Xinhua) -- The Cambodian Supreme Court on Wednesday announced its verdict to uphold the judgment of the Appeal Court for the case of breach of trust over selling of the co-ruling Funcinpec Party's headquarters by Prince Norodom Ranariddh.

"We uphold the judgments of the Appeal Court which sentenced the prince to 18 months in jail and compensation of 150,000 U.S. dollars to the Funcinpec Party over the case breach of trust," said Khim Pon, president of the council of judges.

The prince was sentenced in absentia as he has been in overseas political exile for more than a year.

"The court is biased and has injustice," said Muth Chantha, spokesman for the prince's Norodom Ranariddh party (NRP).

Ranariddh established NRP after he was ousted from Funcinpec as president in 2006. Funcinpec then sued him for breach of trust over selling the party headquarters. The prince later left the kingdom and has stayed in Malaysia ever since.

Ranariddh intended to be a parliamentarian as NRP has won some seats at the National Assembly according to the preliminary results of Monday's polling of the general election. But Cambodian law will prevent him from doing so, because he has received sentence to serve.

Muth Chantha didn't give comments about the prince's next step.

Editor: Sun Yunlong

Flawed system sullies Cambodia's election

UPI Asia Online

By Lao Mong Hay
Column: Rule by Fear
Published: July 30, 2008

Hong Kong, China — Cambodia held a general election on Sunday, and while the National Election Committee was still gathering the election returns, Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party already announced it had won 91 out of 123 seats, 18 seats more than in the last election and way ahead of its nearest rival, the Sam Rainsy Party, which had secured 26 seats.

The Sam Rainsy Party and three other parties that also won seats, according to the same announcement, quickly joined forces on Monday to denounce the results, charging that they had been “manipulated and rigged” by the ruling party. They cited “illegal and fraudulent practices” relating to “deletion of countless legitimate voters' names and artificial increase” in votes for the ruling party due to “illegitimate voters.”

The ruling party’s victory and the denouncement of it by the four non-ruling parties have come as no surprise. In fact this victory had been widely predicted even months before the polls. Some have cited the economic growth achieved over recent years by the ruling party and the electorate’s unity behind it in the face of Thailand’s recent encroachment on Cambodia as the main factors contributing to the win.

In fact, the ruling party’s victory should be attributed to the system of government it put in place when it was a full-fledged communist party in the 1980s. To this system was added a democratic veneer in 1993 when the country theoretically embraced parliamentary democracy, but it has remained basically intact and in firm control. The ruling party has utilized this system to get itself re-elected over and over since its defeat in the U.N.-organized election in 1993.

The ruling party has controlled all the state apparatus – including the National Election Committee, the judiciary, security forces, civil service and educational institutions – since the communist days. It has manned all important posts with its members, so that the state apparatus and the party apparatus are but one.

Such fusion can be seen in the proximity of the offices of the party, police stations and administrative offices, whose respective buildings are located next to one another in many provinces, districts and communities. Almost all village chiefs and heads of groups in villages are also members of the ruling party. All party cadres from top to bottom enjoy high social status, impunity and material benefits gained through illicit means.

Several months before the election, the ruling party was able to successfully tempt with such privileges thousands of members of the opposition parties, including some senior members of the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, to defect to it. The ruling party has proved very successful in enrolling members, so much so that just before this election one of its senior members claimed that his party had nearly 5 million members, and this out of just over 8 million voters in the country.

Through this extensive apparatus, the ruling party has been able to maintain firm control of the population. Members of each household must be registered in a police-issued family book and a residence book, and grassroots party officials must know each household and its members’ activities. Local party cadres who are also local officials can mobilize and induce the population to support the ruling party. They can also deny rival parties and even civil society organizations access to the population without prior permission. They can prevent, using force if need be, public meetings and training seminars organized by those parties and civil society organizations.

The ruling party has had a virtual monopoly and control of all the media, especially radio and television, on which the overwhelming majority of people depend for news and other information. It has been making use of this media year in year out, while its rival parties are deprived of it. Some press with limited circulation is freer, but the majority of newspapers are run by members or supporters of the ruling party, and it is rare that commercial companies dare put advertisements in newspapers known to be affiliated to any rival party.

The ruling party has been able to secure overwhelming resources for elections when it is in command of state resources and has a lot of support from private companies that seek favors for their business. Thanks to all these resources it has been able to buy votes though building social projects and giving hand-outs during election campaigns, and to fund other election expenses.

The ruling party has enjoyed all these privileges since there is no anti-corruption mechanism in place to take action against it. Furthermore, the National Election Committee also placed under its control has imposed no limit on donations to political parties and their expenses in elections campaigns. Nor has it verified and made transparent the accounts of all political parties. This system only favors the ruling party.

Last but not least, the police and courts of law which the ruling party also controls have acted more promptly and more diligently in criminal cases in which members of the ruling party are victims and members of opposition parties are suspected offenders than vice versa. Some months prior to the election, they showed only apathy toward reported threats and intimidation of activists of non-ruling parties, destruction of their signboards, and even the killing of some of them.

The system of government and social control which the ruling party has put in place and firmly controls leaves little room for free and fair competition among political parties, or for free choice among the electorate. This largely contributed to the outcome of the election, if it had not already determined it prior to the polling day. It also contributed to producing the irregularities which the four parties have used to claim that that election was manipulated and rigged by the ruling party.

--

(Lao Mong Hay is a senior researcher at the Asian Human Rights Commission in Hong Kong. He was previously director of the Khmer Institute of Democracy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and a visiting professor at the University of Toronto in 2003. In 1997, he received an award from Human Rights Watch and the Nansen Medal in 2000 from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.)

Father who allegedly abducted girl to Cambodia is back in Sweden

Maria Elfversson with her daughter, Alicia, 6, who is missing and believed to be in Thailand.


Norwegian native Torgeir Nordbo (pictured) is believed to have brought Alicia to Thailand. He has been charged with abduction in Sweden.

M&G Asia-Pacific News

Stockholm - A man wanted by Interpol over allegedly abducting his six-year-old Swedish daughter arrived Tuesday in Sweden after being deported from Cambodia, police and local media said.

The girl, Alicia Elfversson, arrived Friday in Sweden with her mother and aunt who for the past year have been looking for the girl.

Alicia was reported missing on June 4, 2007, after her father, Torgier Nordbo, picked her up for a routine visit to see relatives in Norway.

Nordbo, who has business interests in Thailand, was later tracked to Cambodia. The 47-year-old was detained last week by Cambodian police.

He now faces charges in the child's hometown of Gothenburg, western Sweden

Rate of Cigarette Smokers in Rural Areas Is Higher than in Cities

Posted on 31 July 2008
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 571

“Phnom Penh: The World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control has become the first health treaty; it entered into force on 27 February 2005. To support this treaty, the Royal Government of Cambodia ratified it on 15 November 2005.

“According to a summary report for Cambodia about the use and the monitoring of tobacco, the percentage of smokers and the tendency to smoke cigarettes among men and women, at the age of 20: 53.9% of the men, and 6% of the women are smoking, while in general, more people in rural areas are smoking cigarettes than in cities.

“The same report continued to say that men at and over 40 smoke a lot of cigarettes; the age bracket of women with a high rate of smoking cigarettes is from 40 to 49. People start to smoke on the average from the age of 20. For tobacco a smoker spends approximately US$35.80 per year, and the annual expense of a family with cigarettes smokers is US$69.44 in Cambodia.

“A family in Phnom Penh, smoking cigarettes, spends 2.5% of their income, while in rural areas, a family spends 2.9%. In a family, one smoker spends about US$3 per month on average to buy cigarettes, and smokers smoke many cigarettes, starting from five minutes after getting up in the morning.

“Mr. Mom Kong, director of the Movement for Health in Cambodia, said that tobacco is an industrial crop which is planted in some provinces, such as Kompong Cham, Kandal, Prey Veng, and Kratie. About 90% of all tobacco plantations are in Kompong Cham. About 17,000 hectares are planted with tobacco, to produce cigarettes and for other uses, such as for [hand] turned cigarettes, and tobacco to be smoked in pipes.

“Mr. Mom Kong added that there are more than 200 types of cigarettes, including local cigarettes and cigarettes imported from foreign countries, which are sold on the markets. There are different types of cigarettes, from France, China, Japan, England, the United Sates of America, Singapore, Thailand, and Indonesia. He continued that [hand] turned cigarettes are used most, by 29% of the smokers, following by Khmer cigarettes at 24%, and then Parrot Cigarettes at 14%. Parrot Cigarettes is the most popular cigarette brand in the cities. Smokers in rural areas smoke local cigarettes, because their income is lower and cigarettes from foreign countries are expensive.

“Mr. Mom Kong mentioned that to be successful in controlling the use of tobacco, the Royal Government should draft anti-tobacco laws soon. These laws should be in accordance with the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, and should have clear regulations to prohibit the tobacco industry not to interfere with this policy, recognizing the strategic role of advertisements for marketing, and of the promotional efforts by the tobacco industry, aiming to promote addiction to nicotine. To counter the marketing strategies of the tobacco industry, presenting advertisements to all citizens, the Royal Government should introduce a total ban on tobacco advertising immediately, as well as stop sponsorships by the tobacco industry to protect the citizens, especially the youth.”
Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.7, #1706, 30.7.2008
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Opposition Offers Money for Proof of Rigging

Mu Sochua, deputy secretary- general of the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, calls out to supporters in Phnom Penh Wednesday.

By Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
30 July 2008

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy offered money to voters who could help him prove Sunday's elections were rigged, as he led a rally at his party headquarters in the capital Wednesday.

More than 300 people gathered at the headquarters, under the watch of a large number of armed intervention, military and traffic police, who also positioned a water-cannon on Sotheros Boulevard outside the headquarters.

The Sam Rainsy Party won 26 seats in Sunday's election, according to National Election Committee preliminary figures, but he has contested the results.

Sam Rainsy said at the rally he was attempting to collect from voters proof they had used an illegal administrative form, No. 1018, for voting. He offered $50 to anyone who could prove they voted with the form, even though their names were not on the voter registry.

Opposition votes were taken by NEC "bandits," who conspired to ensure a Cambodian People's Party victory, Sam Rainsy said.

NEC Secretary-General Tep Nitha said the national election body had issued form No. 1018 a day before the election to people who were on voter registries but did not have photo identification, which is legal under election regulations.

Suth Dyna, deputy secretary-general of the Norodom Ranariddh Party, said Wednesday his party supported the Sam Rainsy Party's call for form 1018. His party was also preparing documentation to complain over election results, he said.

Ruling Party Reaches Out to Old Partner

By Mean Veasna, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
30 July 2008

The ruling Cambodian People's Party was seeking a partner in its ruling government Wednesday, and officials said it would reach out to its old partner, the fractured royalist party Funcinpec.

CPP officials said Wednesday they would not allow some members of the royal family to join the government, but they would be amenable to adding other members of the party, as the next government faces a potential deadlock after Sunday's vote.

"I met with [Funcinpec Secretary-General] Nhiek Bunchhay yesterday, and I reported to Samdech Hun Sen, and Samdech prime minister will discuss with the party," government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said, adding that the coalition could include one party, like Funcinpec, or two.

The overture follows a unified censure of Sunday's polls by four main parties: Sam Rainsy, Human Rights, Norodom Ranariddh and Funcinpec. Analysts say the four parties can keep the government deadlocked if they refuse to be sworn in to the National Assembly within 60 days.

Keo Puth Reaksmey, president of Funcinpec and son-in-law to former king Norodom Sihanouk, and Sisowath Sirirath, second vice president of Funcinpec, would not be acceptable to such a coalition, because they protested the election results, Khieu Kanharith said.

Keo Puth Reaksmey is currently a deputy prime minister, and Sisowath Sirirath is a government adviser. Keo Puth Reaksmey could not be reached for comment Wednesday, and Sisowath Sirirath declined to comment.

Nhiek Bunchhay confirmed the negotiations took place and said Funcinpec was of two opinions.
"I think if we join the coalition, we will gain standing," he said.

But a coalition depends on a decision by Funcinpec's permanent committee, he added.

The CPP claims to have won 90 seats in this election, compared to just 51 in 1993, far more than the number needed to form a single-party government or pass important legislation on its own.
Funcinpec fell to just two seats Sunday, following 58 seats in 1993, 43 in 1998 and 26 in 2003.

Even if Funcinpec has two seats, they can join a government as a partner of CPP, said Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections.

"But the question is how strong Funcinpec will be in the government," he said.

Court Upholds Ruling on Exiled Prince

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
30 July 2008

Khmer audio aired 30 July 2008 (0.99 MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 30 July 2008 (0.99 MB) - Listen (MP3)

The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday to uphold a prison sentence and fine against Prince Norodom Ranariddh on charges of breach of trust, for the sale of the Funcinpec party headquarters in 2006.

Prince Ranariddh, who lives in exile, and whose self-named party appears to have one two seats in the National Aseembly, faces an 18-month prison sentence and $150,000 fine if he returns to Cambodia.

Supreme Court Judge Khem Pon said Wednesday the court was denying a request to drop the charges against the prince, upholding decisions by Phnom Penh Municipal and Appeals courts.

The Appeals Court verdict was "fully valid," Khem Pon said in the decision, which was reached by a five-judge panel after deliberations Wednesday morning.

The charges stem from the $3.6 million sale of Funcinpec's headquarters in northern Phnom Penh when Prince Ranariddh was president of the party.

Party officials say he sold the headquarters without consulting them and further claim he kept some of the profits for himself.

Prince Ranariddh has said the decision against him was made by politically biased courts.

CPP Could Be Secure in Big Win: Analyst

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
30 July 2008

The Cambodian People's Party apparent landslide victory in Sunday's parliamentary election could spell difficulty for future political competition, a leading social analyst said Tuesday.

The CPP claims to have won 90 seats in the election, leaving 26 for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, three for the Human Rights Party, two for the Norodom Ranariddh Party and two for Funcinpec.

The vote was a "strong" turnout for Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has learned from prior losses and has taken precautions to serve people's interests in a way they can accept, said Chea Vannath, an independent social commentator.

Issues like peace, stability and the growing economy likely helped the CPP in this year's polls, she said.

If the CPP does indeed come into power with 90 seats when official numbers are released, it will mark a sharp turn-around from a loss in the Untac-sponsored 1993 elections. Those results were not accepted by the CPP and led to a coalition government with two prime ministers that terminated in a coup in 1997. Since then, Hun Sen has been squarely in power.

Chea Vannath said the government will now need to spend the next five years of its mandate working on poverty in urban areas, education, healthcare and the economy, in a country reliant on $600 million in foreign aid each year and where 35 percent of the rural population lives under $0.50 per day.

If the government is able to tackle these issues, it will be hard for other parties to mount any competition in the next election, Chea Vannath said. With those issues addressed, it would take a "serious phenomenon" like war or rampant inflation to favor opposition in the future, she said.

Still, even with only 26 seats, the opposition party can maintain a watchdog role, maintaining some balance in the National Assembly and working toward the development of the country, she said.

Day in Picture

A Cambodian money exchanger counts U.S. currency at a shop on the street in Phnom Penh on July 28, 2008.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

A vehicle moves past a portrait of Queen Norodom Monineath, the wife of former King Norodom Sihanouk, at the royal palace in Phnom Penh on July 28, 2008.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Foreign tourists walk in front of a portrait of Queen Norodom Monineath, the wife of former King Norodom Sihanouk, at the royal palace in Phnom Penh on July 28, 2008 .REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

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Sacravatoons " The Victory "

Courtesy of Sacravatoon at http://sacrava.blogspot.com/

Russian paedophile freed after serving 6 months in jail

Samleang Seila, director of Action pour les enfants Cambodge © C. M

Cambodge Soir
30-07-2008

The Sihanoukville Municipal Court decision to release a man who abused three minors is under question.

Nikita Belov, age 26, disappeared immediately after his release.He might have already left the country. The Russian received a three year jail sentence after being found guilty of "indecent acts" on two teenagers of 13 and a seven year old. He spent only six and a half months in jail. Two days before he was released he had to pay US$ 500 to the Court and US$ 250 to each of the victims.

Sihanoukville

According to Samleang Seila, director of the NGO Action Pour les Enfants (APE) in Cambodia, the decision of In Manith, the judge, works against the protection of victims. The NGO complained to the Ministry of Justice : “to release on bail a convicted individual and to suspend his sentence is a negative stance towards potential offenders,” said Samleang Seila. Cambodian criminal procedures provide for three cases in suspending a sentence : if the offender is very old, sick or if he is the only breadwinner of an underprivileged family, “and M.Nikita Belov did not fit into any of these categories”, added Samleang Seila.

Sihanoukville Municipal Court officials claim that they do not make any “complacent decisions” in dealing with foreign paedophiles.

Norodom Sihanouk against Thaksin’s projects in Koh Kong

Koh Kong Island © C. M.
Cambodge Soir
29-07-2008

Thailand’s ex prime Minister plans to build a large tourist resort on the Cambodian island of Koh Kong.

The King-father is against this development project in Koh Kong, he indicated in an official release on his website. Thaksin and business partners from the Arabian peninsula back the project.

“ Our great neighbour, Thailand, has been eying Koh Kong for a long time” asserted Norodom Sihanouk. He added: “I myself had to fight hard against Thai expansionism” between the 1940s and 1960s.

The ex-Prime Minister—still facing legal proceedings in his home country—is compared to a “Croesus”, “ extremely wealthy” and as having “ colossal financial resources.

Thaksin Shinawatra’s project was revealed in April by the weekly newspaper Matichon . The Bangkok post revealed in its May 1 issue that the ex-head of government would like to turn Koh Kong into “a new Hong Kong”.

Hun Sen, the Cambodian prime Minister agreed to the project during a round of golf with Thaksin Shinawatra in Phnom Penh early April.

The Thai opposition also criticizes the Koh Kong project, accusing the Samak government of siding with Cambodia on the Preah Vihear dispute, to promote the ex-prime Minister of Thailand personal business interests.

Illegal cattle endanger border area

(30-07-2008)

HCM CITY — Hundreds of cattle are brought into Viet Nam from Cambodia every day, at the risk of exposing the population to possible diseases as most are believed to be not thoroughly quarantined, officials have warned.

The high demand for red meat in urban areas is in part to blame for the surge in smuggling, according to Pham Van Son, head of the My Quy Tay Commune’s People’s Committee in Long An Province.

He says that most cattle imported from Cambodia are shipped to big cities like HCM City and adjacent areas.

"It is hard to manage the number of cattle in the area since people trade them as their assets all the time," Son says.

The southwest border area, especially Tri Ton and Tinh Bien Districts of An Giang Province, has the biggest market for smuggled cattle.

Most cattle transported to Viet Nam from Cambodia are bought at low prices from family farms unable to raise livestock due to a drought and lack of grass this year, according to Binh Co, a resident near the Tinh Bien border.

More and more people are lured by the high profit margins of VND200,000 – 250,000 (US$12.50-16.30) from smuggling an animal.

Smugglers usually drive small herds of cattle on foot or larger herds by boat past the border at night.

Others take advantage of the government’s policy on free goods exchange at border gates to import cattle.

Upon being discovered, smugglers tell border agents they had fed the herd in neighbouring fields and were driving them home, Binh says.

Smugglers began to expand operations to border areas like An Giang or Dong Thap Provinces – places with sporadic market management.

An official from Long An Province’s Animal Health Agency admits that the situation is out of control.

Animal Health Agencies do not have the right to hold cattle if they are healthy, which is an advantage for smugglers, says Duong Minh Phi, deputy director of Long An Province’s Animal Health Agency.

Given the current influx of imported cattle, Phi says he is not sure if all of them are really healthy. — VNS

Fuel smuggling over border continues

VNS
30-07-2008

MEKONG DELTA — Smuggling of fuel from Viet Nam over the Cambodian border continues despite the recent petrol price increase.

The fuel price in Cambodia increased to US$1.5 per litre, VND5,000 (US$0.3) higher than that in Viet Nam.

Most of the smuggling take place at night and sometimes during the day, usually by motorboat. Canvas covers hide the plastic containers that contain the fuel, police said.

In Kien Giang Province, some smugglers pour fuel in nylon bags and lay them onboard to transport them more conveniently.

During the flood season, smugglers often take advantage of the local terrain to escape the control of the anti-trafficking force.

Deputy PM quits Thai coalition

Suwit, second left, says he is leaving in protest at government policies [EPA]

Al Jazeera
Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Thailand's deputy Prime Minister has pulled his party out of the country's ruling coalition.

Suwit Khunkitti said his Puea Pandin Party was protesting against the misguided policies of the government, including the handling of an ongoing border dispute with Cambodia.

The move does not mean that the ruling coalition will be unable to govern, but the pullout is another blow to the struggling administration of Samak Sundarajev, the Thai prime minister.

Samak is facing daily demonstrations demanding his government resign with protesters claiming that the government is interfering with corruption charges against former Thaksin Shinawatra, the former prime minister, who was ousted in a 2006 coup.

Protesters have also accused the government of trying to change the military-backed constitution to cling to power. Samak has denied the allegations.

Commenting on the border dispute with Cambodia, Suwit said he was concerned about the "sovereignty of Thailand" but did not elaborate.

Both countries have stationed soldiers near the disputed Preah Vihear temple since July 15, although they agreed in principle on Monday to move the 800 Cambodian troops and 400 Thais stationed in the area.

Border tensions intensified earlier this month after Unesco, the United Nations' cultural body, approved a Cambodian application to have the 11th century temple designated a World Heritage Site.

Exports to Cambodia hit potholes in Mekong Delta

A steel shop in HCMC.

Thanhnien
July 30, 2008

Businesses have complained of the excessive cost of transporting export goods from Ho Chi Minh City to Cambodia because of the appalling condition of the roads in the Mekong Delta.

The excessive costs discourage domestic firms who want to expand their business into the neighboring country, they said.

Hoang Hai, a car driver who delivers goods from HCMC to Mekong Delta’s border provinces of An Giang and Kien Giang, said the road, Highway No. 80, was very rough.

It takes eight hours to drive 290 kilometers from HCMC to Tinh Bien border gate in An Giang Province, and 10-11 hours to Ha Tien border gate in Kien Giang Province, which is 340 kilometers, he said.

Vehicles on the highway can average 65-70 kilometers per hour so if the highway was better it would only take four hours to travel to Tinh Bien and five hours to Ha Tien.

Traffic is held up repeatedly by construction work along the highway, Hai said, adding many vehicles also got bogged in the worst sections.

Twelve bridges on Highway No. 80 are in danger of collapsing, restricting vehicles over 20 tons from using them, according to Road Management Zone No. 7.

The bridge problems hit exporters hardest putting transport fees for one ton of iron from HCMC to Tinh Bien border gate up to VND700,000 (US$42), steel and iron exporter Hong Phuc Ltd.’s Nguyen Thien Chi said.

Trucking firms said they were cautious about delivering goods to Mekong Delta because the rough roads damage their trucks.

Drivers said they usually drove in fear that they’d hit a big pothole caused by last years flood, but the upgrade for No. 80 is still waiting for Ministry of Transportation’s instruction.
Canal hidden dangers

An official from a domestic steel exporter, Hoang Dung, said the volume of exported construction materials to Cambodia would increase when dredging was done on Vinh Te Canal, which leads to the Tinh Bien border gate in An Giang Province.

An Giang Province has begun a VND2 billion ($119,000) dredging project in the canal.

They expect to clear it by next month so vessels over 500 tons can use the waterway.

At present only barges of 250 tons and less can use it, because there are many submerged rocks and snags.

In addition canal loading fees of VND75,000 per ton ($4.50), push the cost of transport up, impacting export business’s competitiveness.

An investor, who wanted to be anonymous, has agreed to help the provincial authority build a port on the canal to speed up shipping.

An Giang Province Custom Office bureau director Le Viet Thai said infrastructure at border areas had improved at a snails pace over the past five years.

Thai said it was also time that the eight ton rated Huu Nghi Bridge on Vinh Te Canal was upgraded.

Election win fuels fears for Cambodian democracy

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — The landslide election victory of Cambodia's ruling party puts the country under one party-rule and risks damaging its fragile democracy, rights groups said Wednesday.

Prime Minister Hun Sen's party claims it swept 90 of 123 seats in last weekend's parliamentary elections.

The result is expected to usher Hun Sen, who has ruled for 23 years, to a new 5-year term and give his party total domination of the lower house — a result that human rights groups are calling dangerous for democracy.

"We have long feared that the country was heading toward becoming a one-party rule," said Thun Saray, a prominent human rights activist and head of election monitoring group Comfrel.

"The election results are only confirming our fears. The power of the ruling party is now so great that no one can challenge it."

Cheam Yeap, a senior ruling party member, dismissed the criticism, saying his party is not a "dictatorship."

The ruling party will use its victory to strengthen, not weaken, democracy and the rule of law "to win more support and trust from the people."

Official results from the election are expected later this week. But few dispute the tally issued by the CPP, which appears to have cemented a two-thirds majority in the lower house and increased its presence from the 73 seats it held in the outgoing chamber.

Hun Sen's government has often been accused of corruption, human rights abuses, curtailing people's rights to peaceful protests and forcibly evicting poor citizens off their land so that it can be used for commercial development. The government has dismissed the accusations.

Independent Cambodian election monitoring groups say the opposition Sam Rainsy Party appears to have won 26 seats — a two-seat gain from the 2003 polls — and back the ruling party's tally of 90 for the ruling CPP.

Hun Sen has been at the center of Cambodian politics since 1985, when he became the world's youngest prime minister at age 33. He has held or shared the top job ever since, bullying and outfoxing his opponents to stay in power.

Sunday's voting was the fourth parliamentary election since the United Nations brokered a peace deal for the country in 1991, a process meant to end decades of civil unrest that included the 1975-79 genocidal reign of the Khmer Rouge.

Martin Callanan, the head of an EU election monitoring team, said Tuesday that the elections fell short of international standards because of biases in favor of the ruling party. But he said alleged vote irregularities would have to be on a very large scale to invalidate the result, which is that Hun Sen's party "clearly has a very large majority."

Doctor sees need, brings medical skills to impoverished region

Media Credit: Kaitlin Johnson
The Northern Light
7/29/08

Walking among the crowd that gathers daily outside the office at Children Surgical Centre there are some graphic sights. Children sitting in their mothers' arms display their empty eye sockets. Young men's burns bubble over with rancid pus. There are women wearing scarves to cover their melted faces; the acid victims.

Doctor James J. Gollogly strides through the crowd with impatient energy. He hollers at a Khmer nurse who hovers in his wake.

"Have you prepared the samples yet? They have to be sent to Belgium! This is very important now," he says with a smile fixed on his face. The more frustrated he gets, the wider his smile grows.

Gollogly - or Dr. Jim as everyone calls him - is founder, CEO and head surgeon of CSC, located outside Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Each day he and his team of local surgeons provide free treatment to impoverished Cambodians. Each year they save hundreds of lives and improve the lives of thousands.

CSC is an Alaskan non-governmental organization. Gollogly is an Alaskan doctor. He spent 20 years in Fairbanks, Alaska, teaching part time at UAF.

Gollogly decided to take a six month sabbatical to do volunteer work with the Red Cross in 1992 and was asked to come to Cambodia. Initially he rejected the request.

Cambodia was ravaged after years of political instability following first the American-Vietnam War and then the Khmer Rouge's genocidal communist regime in the late 70's. After the Khmer Rouge was ousted, they continued to terrorize the country in guerilla style warfare for the next decade. The country had only semi-stabilized recently, at the beginning of the 90's.

"I said; 'look guys, I'm British. I had nothing to do with your war. I don't have anything to do with cleaning up your mess.' When I said volunteer, I meant Africa," Gollogly said.

He reconsidered and went to Cambodia, although his first day there made him wish he hadn't.

While he was sitting bored in a meeting, people outside began to shout. Three land mine victims had arrived in the back of a trailer. One had lost part of an arm, the other had a head wound and a third looked fine but was obviously in shock. Gollogly was asked to operate immediately on the boy who had lost his arm. He amputated below the elbow and stabilized the boy.

It was noon so the local staff left for lunch. Before following, Gollogly decided to check on the other victims. The head wound boy had disappeared but the third was still lying in the trailer covered in blood. Shrapnel had punctured an artery and no one had noticed. Gollogoly tried to revive him, but the boy died.

Gollogly returned to the amputee. What he saw was shocking.

"There was no one around him. He was dead on the table," he said.

The boy had choked on his own vomit and died.

"I thought; 'what kind of hell hole is this?'" Gollogly said.

He spent the next six months performing surgeries and training local doctors. When he left however, there was no one to replace him and the local team fell out of practice. Cambodia was still in desperate need of qualified surgeons.

With the help of contacts he'd made during his time with the Red Cross, Gollogly began to conceptualize CSC. He returned to Cambodia in 1998 and opened the center.

At first CSC focused on treating land mine victims, however, as Gollogly saw need for other types of medical care, his center expanded.

CSC has grown into one of the most respected hospitals in Cambodia. Gollogly's team includes plastic surgeons, ophthalmologists, and physiotherapists as well as frequent visiting specialists. Gollogly is the only orthopedic surgeon in Cambodia.

CSC is a bright point in Cambodian health care. It provides food and transportation to rural patients and is involved in many rural outreach programs. The staff is well trained and supervised by Gollogly.

One 5-year-old girl arrived at CSC with a large tumor growing from her face. The tumor had grown so large that it swallowed her face and Jachriel, the child, couldn't eat except through a tube. Her parents had already sold all their farmland at a much reduced price to pay for treatment at a government hospital. After their money had been bled dry, someone suggested they try CSC.

Gollogly authorized free chemotherapy for the girl and sought more advanced treatment in Hong Kong. After hospitals in Hong Kong determined that any attempt of surgery was too risky, Gollogly found room for the child at Cambodia Acid Survivor Charity - another of his clinics - where Jachriel can live out the rest of her life.

"She's 5 years old. She understands when people point at her and what they say about her. She pulls a blanket over her face. At CASC she can get some privacy," said Gollogly.

He employed Jachriel's father as a maintenance man at CSC. This gives the family a source of income and allows her mother to spend time with her.

Gollogly predicts Jachriel will not live long. The child asked to have her tube taken out so she can taste food while she's alive. Gollogly says that she will slowly starve to death. Her family is now impoverished as they have sold their home.

Many families share Jachriel's story, said Gollogly. They go to the government hospitals and loose everything they own and when money stops, so does treatment. Then they have no where to turn, except towards Dr. Jim.

Cambodian opposition supporters rally against election results

Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy (left)

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — About 300 supporters of Cambodia's main opposition party rallied in Phnom Penh on Wednesday to protest the results of the weekend election and to demand a re-run of the poll.

Prime Minister Hun Sen's ruling Cambodian People's Party has claimed victory in the Sunday poll, saying it captured at least 90 of the 123 seats in parliament, giving it more than a two-thirds majority.

"We cannot accept the results of the election. Please cancel the results of the election and hold a re-vote," opposition leader Sam Rainsy told the crowd gathered inside his party headquarters in the capital.

Sam Rainsy has estimated that one million out of 8.1 million registered voters were cut from the rolls, although European Union election observers have pegged that figure at 50,000.

"It is very unjust," Sam Rainsy said to the cheering crowds, adding that he will file complaints against National Election Committee (NEC) officials.

Dozens of police were deployed along the streets near Sam Rainsy Party headquarters to prevent a public demonstration. The party's deputy secretary general Mu Sochua stood at the entrance, shouting over a loudhailer that the election was "not free and unfair" and urging people to join the rally inside.

NEC secretary general Tep Nytha denied the opposition allegation that one million people had been denied a vote and said there was no law that permitted a re-run of the entire election.

"The case that one million people could not vote because their names had been disappeared from voting lists is not correct," he told AFP.

International monitors said Tuesday the election was flawed and did not meet key standards despite improvements in electoral processes.

EU monitor says Cambodian election biased in favor of ruling party

International Herald Tribune
The Associated Press
Published: July 29, 2008

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: Cambodia's recent elections failed to meet international standards because of biases in favor of the country's ruling party, the European Union said Tuesday.

The criticism came the day after Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's ruling party claimed it had won a landslide victory in parliamentary elections. The results were expected to usher in a new term for the premier who has ruled the country for 23 years.

Martin Callanan, the head of an EU election monitoring team, said all aspects of organizing Sunday's polls were "dominated by the Cambodian People's Party," which allow "accusations of lack of impartiality to be made," he said.

Callanan said there was bias during the election campaigns, citing "a widespread use of state resources," including the use of government-registered vehicles by ruling party officials.

He also said the party dominated the media coverage "which was not consistent with international standard on free and equal access to the media."

But Callanan declined to characterize the election as unfair despite allegations of widespread vote rigging from smaller parties, including the main opposition Sam Rainsy Party. They have called on the international community to reject the results.

Tep Nitha, the election committee's secretary-general, declined to comment on the issue.

in a joint statement Monday, four small parties including Sam Rainsy, said Hun Sen's party won through "illegal and fraudulent practices." They cited the National Election Committee's alleged removal of tens of thousands of legitimate voters from electoral lists to prevent them from casting ballots for other parties.

They also accused the electoral body of acting as "a tool for the CPP to organize a sham election and present a facade of democracy."

Khieu Kanharith, the spokesman of the ruling party, dismissed the allegations of fraud.

Callanan said his team will release its final findings on the election in October.

The CPP has claimed a landslide victory with up to 91 seats in the 123-seat National Assembly, which is the lower house of Parliament. Official results are expected in a few days.

Hun Sen has been at the center of Cambodian politics since 1985, when he became the world's youngest prime minister at age 33. He has held or shared the top job ever since, bullying and outfoxing his opponents to stay in power.

Sunday's voting was the fourth parliamentary election since the United Nations brokered a peace deal for the country in 1991, a process meant to end decades of civil unrest that included the 1975-79 genocidal reign of the Khmer Rouge.

Hun sen insists Thais must pull back first

By The Nation, Agencies
July 30, 2008

Army chief says withdrawal will take time; govts still trying diplomacy

Phnom Penh -Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen placed the ball firmly in Thailand's court over the Preah Vihear issue, saying it was up to Bangkok to decide on withdrawing troops from the border.

Speaking to reporters in Phnom Penh, Hun Sen indicated that Thailand would have to pull out first.

"For us, there is no problem at all. The issue is that it is up to Thailand to decide to act. For us, [we are ready] any time," he said.

"The problem is the timing and how long it will take the Thai side to get a political decision from the government."

His comments came one day after Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong and his Thai counterpart Tej Bunnag held talks on Monday in Siem Reap with a handful of top military officials from both countries.

The two countries agreed in principle to a redeployment of troops from the area near the 11thcentury Preah Vihear temple, where thousands of soldiers have been facing off for two weeks. After about 12 hours of talks, the foreign ministers said they would ask their governments to redeploy the troops.

Although the territorial dispute was not solved, the two sides agreed to continue to use "utmost restraint" to avoid an armed confrontation and to continue discussions on a bilateral basis.

Thailand's Army chief confirmed that any withdrawal from the border area would take time.

"The resolution from the meeting between Cambodia and Thailand [on Monday] will help relieve tension and improve the situation," Anupong Paojinda said by phone.

"Reducing the troops at the border, however, needs an order from the government first."
But Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej sought to reassure the public, telling reporters: "The Foreign Ministry is talking to the military. Everything is fine."

"Both sides are convinced that the bilateral mechanism is still there for us to utilise," said Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Tharit Charungvat.

Prior to the Siem Reap meeting, Cambodia had appealed to both Asean and the United Nations Security Council to intervene in the border row. More than 1,500 troops from the two countries have been dispatched to the area.

"We carry pens and pencils," said Tharit. "We cannot speak for those who carry guns and weapons."

But Tharit claimed the Foreign Ministry had received assurances from the Thai military, which has a tendency to act independently of the government in Thailand, that they would avoid a confrontation at all costs.

"They confirmed that they said the first gunshot will not be from the Thai side, and if there is a first gunshot they will not immediately respond but investigate the source first," said the Thai foreign ministry spokesman, who attended the Siem Reap meeting.

‘Cambodian troops ready to withdraw from Thai border’

Daily Times
Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Cambodian PM says Thai troops will have to pull out first

PHNOM PENH/BANGKOK: Cambodian troops are ready to withdraw from a disputed border area, but Thailand will have to pull out first, said Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday.

“For us, there is no problem at all. It is up to Thailand to decide to act. For us, (we are ready) any time,” Hun Sen told reporters in Phnom Penh, adding, “The problem is the timing and how long it will take the Thai side to have a political decision from the government.” His comments came one day after the two countries agreed to consider a redeployment of troops from the area near the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple, where thousands of soldiers have been facing off for two weeks. The soldiers have been mobilised since July 15 around a small patch of land near the temple, which sits on a mountaintop overlooking the Cambodian jungle.

The ruins of the Khmer temple belong to Cambodia, but the most practical entrance begins at the foot of a mountain in Thailand, and both sides claim some of the surrounding territory. Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong and his newly appointed Thai counterpart Tej Bunnag held talks on Monday in Siem Reap with a handful of top military officials from both countries. After around 12 hours of talks, the foreign ministers said they would ask their governments to re-deploy troops. The International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that the Preah Vihear temple belonged to Cambodia. Cambodia had asked the UN Security Council to take up the latest conflict over the temple, but suspended its request to allow the current talks to proceed. Both sides have toned down their rhetoric after US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice voiced concern about the conflict and called for a peaceful resolution.

Thailand: Meanwhile, Thailand said on Tuesday it might be weeks before it could re-deploy troops from the disputed border zone. The Thai army commander responsible for the border area confirmed that any withdrawal could be delayed. “The redeployment process takes time and it needs to pass a high-level process first,” Major General Kanok Netrakasana told reporters.

Still, both countries agreed that the 12-hour talks in Cambodia’s Siem Reap had served to defuse tension surrounding the border issue. “The resolution from the meeting between Cambodia and Thailand will help relieve tension and improve the situation,” said army chief Anupong Paojinda, adding, “Lowering the troops at the border, however, needs to receive an order from the government first.” afp

Cambodia, Thailand continue troop withdrawal talks

30/07/2008

Cambodia and Thailand have shown willingness to withdraw troops deployed along their disputed border.

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen says his country's troops are ready to withdraw, but indicates Thailand will have to pull out first from the disputed patch of land near the ancient Preah Vihear temple.

He says the problem is the timing and how long it will take the Thai side to have a political decision from the government.

His comments came as a Thai foreign ministry official said the government in Bangkok may ask parliament for approval before withdrawing troops, which could delay the process by several weeks.

Thailand's army chief confirmed that any withdrawal from the border area would take time.

Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej says the foreign ministry is talking to the military about the matter and everything is fine.

High-level talks on Monday discussed removing up to 1,500 soldiers from the temple area and ending the two-week long dispute.

Produced by Radio Australia and Australia Network

Quest for freedom and justice has no end

A. Gaffar Peang-Meth, Ph.D., is retired from the University of Guam, where he taught political science for 13 years.

July 30, 2008

Nobody likes to be criticized, especially when criticism touches on national pride. Yet, it has been said, justified criticism provides room for improvement; unjustified criticism speaks volumes about its author's values and worth.

I am reminded that my recent columns on Cambodia "rattled" many, even though anyone can read much of a similar nature on the Internet. My former students of politics would recall my lectures on how existing freedoms, if not cherished and defended, are hard to regain. They should remember a Chinese proverb I often quoted, "Great souls have wills. Feeble ones have only wishes," and Edmund Burke's words, "All that is needed for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing," as I encouraged action.

I am not writing in this space to sell a political or ideological point of view, although I have my own political and ideological preferences and have expressed them. My intent is to share ideas and provoke thought, for that's how knowledge grows. If ideas and thoughts lead to positive action for society, that's not a bad thing.

Cambodia's July 27 national elections have ended. Some have applauded the outcome; others see the outcome in dark terms.

Eric Pape's "The Rule of Murderers and Thieves," in the July 23 Newsweek Web exclusive should give readers pause; Chhan D. Touch's July 24 "Why you should not vote CPP," (Premier Hun Sen's ruling Cambodian People's Party) on the Internet outlined three "simple reasons ... a Vietnamese puppet: personal gain, fear, and ignorance."

At the same time, the Thai-Cambodian conflict, which put two armies at a standoff over the ownership of the ancient Temple of Preah Vihear, awarded to Cambodia by the World Court in 1962, clouded the emotionally charged Cambodian election. Interestingly, the Singapore Straits Times reported, Singapore foreign minister George Yeo told a news conference after the Association of South-East Asian Nations' annual security meeting, "It was not a problem, even a few weeks ago. It suddenly became a problem." This, in itself, is a topic worth dissecting.

Like it or not, the flawed Cambodian elections put "elected" leaders in government to lead the country. While Albert Einstein's words should be remembered, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result," we know that in most nation-states in the world the common goals of government are to maintain the country's independence and sovereignty (including Preah Vihear and Koh Tral for Cambodia); security (the order and the security for citizens); and economic and social well-being of all citizens (the promotion of individual and general welfare). How to get the newly elected leaders to achieve these goals?

Last week, I quoted Burma's dissident leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who advised those feeling "hopeless and despairing: 'Don't just sit there. Do something.'"

"Change does not roll in on wheels of inevitability," civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. declared. Change "comes through continuous struggle. And so we must strengthen our back and work for our freedom," he told African-Americans. "A man can't ride you unless your back is bent." African-Americans' fight for change continues today.

There is a Khmer proverb that says, "Live with cow, sleep like cow; Live with parrot, fly like parrot." Such is the power and influence of the socialization that shapes and molds man's behavior, a process that begins at birth and ends only in death.

Being human, we all think. As with most things, however, it is the quality of the thought that matters. I have written about the Foundation of Critical Thinking that posits, "all thinking is not of the same quality," and the "quality of our life and that of what we produce, make, or build depends precisely on the quality of our thought," and "the quality of everything we do is determined by the quality of our thinking."

"To think through," the Foundation advises, we need to "ask essential questions" on "what is necessary, relevant, and indispensable to a matter at hand."

"A mind with no questions is a mind that is not intellectually alive," asserts the Foundation.

I also wrote about Tim Hurson's book, "Think Better," that posits, "Every brain, regardless of its intelligence quotient (IQ) or creative quotient (CQ), can be taught to think better; to understand more clearly, think more creatively, and plan more effectively." Thus, people can learn.

Hurson advises: even when an answer "seem(s) so clear, so obvious, so right," -- as there are Cambodians who think Premier Sen and the CPP's corruption and repressive rule destroy Cambodia -- we should not settle on these answers but "keep asking new questions ... resist the urge to answer, the urge to know ... (because those) who 'know' ... don't need to learn because they already have the answers.

This brings me back to Suu Kyi's call on people to develop a "questing mind" that not only questions but also seeks answers.

The quest for freedom and justice has no end.