Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Boom time hits Cambodia, but some are crying

Boom time hits cambodia that make the rich are become richer and richest

Men work at a construction site in Phnom Penh January 27, 2008. After decades of war and upheaval, including the Khmer Rouge "Killing Fields", Cambodia is enjoying an unprecedented boom, its economy expanding at around 10 percent annually for the last five years. Picture taken January 27, 2008.To match feature CAMBODIA-PROPERTY/ REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Men work at a construction site in Phnom Penh January 27, 2008. After decades of war and upheaval, including the Khmer Rouge "Killing Fields", Cambodia is enjoying an unprecedented boom, its economy expanding at around 10 percent annually for the last five years.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Booming time won't make any different to the poor only tear can tell why they are become poorer and poorest

Land grabbing , Eviction, Poverty always happened to the poor while the rich look at them and laugh

Suharto’s Death Announced

29 January 2008.

The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 545

“An Indonesian senior police official reported that former President Suharto, who had been in power with an iron fist for 32 years in Indonesia, died on 27 January 2008 in Jakarta, at the age of 86 years.

“A Jakarta district police official, Mr. Dicky Sondani, told the press that the former president died at 13:10 local time. Dr. Mardjo Soebiandono, the head of the medical team, assessed Suharto’s health condition shortly before his death as very serious. The Indonesian media networks immediately changed their TV broadcasting programs to transmit live from the hospital, showing one of Suharto’s daughters crying.

“The Indonesian former president was suffering from multiple diseases, including of the heart, the lung, the kidneys, and the digestive apparatus. During the last three weeks that Suharto was suffering serious conditions, his burial place had been openly prepared. The Indonesian Air Forces have arranged five airplanes in Jakarta, to bring Suharto’s coffin and his relatives to central Java, where his body will be buried.

“Suharto had been toppled by mass street protests in May 1998 at the end of his political career. He used to be considered the Father of the Development of Indonesia, but he was also found to be the most corrupt leader in the world. According to certain evaluations, Suharto and his family have amassed between US$15 and 35 billions. The attempts to bring him to court failed many times due to his poor health. Now a week of official mourning was declared, and the Indonesian national flag was lowered to half-mast in front of the president’s office.

“Suharto, who was the Father of the National Development of Indonesia, was also an atrocious commander during 1965 and 1966, wiping out the Indonesian communist party and its alleged alliances, causing the death of 500,000 to 1 million people. As a ruler, who cracked down on his political opponents, he crushed also separatist uprisings and occupied East Timor, which led to the killing of one third of the citizens of East Timor.

“Shortly after the announcement of Suharto’s death, his body was sent to his house in a Jakarta municipality. The Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Vice President Jusuf Kalla had paid a condolence visit to Suharto’s family in the afternoon of 27 January. Suharto’s body will be buried on 28 January in the central part of Java.”

Koh Santepheap, Vol.41, #6256, 28.01.2008

Heng Pov’s hearing delayed

Left: Heng Pov taken back to jail; Right: Kim Daravuth brought to court on wheelchair (Photo: Bunnak, Koh Santepheap newspaper)

Heng Pov awaiting the heating, Kao Sopha (L), his lawyer, is sitting next to him (Photo: Bunnak, Koh Santepheap newspaper)
Kim Daravuth pushed by his wife to the hearing (Photo: Bunnak, Koh Santepheap newspaper)

The court case about Heng Pov shooting Kim Daravuth, the director of the EdC branch in Chak Angre and crippling him until now, was delayed by the tribunal to another time, based on the request made by Heng Pov and his lawyer. On 28 January, Heng Pov was brought to the Phnom Penh municipal court, and Kim Daravuth, the victim, was also brought in by wheelchair by his relatives. During the hearing, Heng Pov asked to delay the court decision because he just found a new defense lawyer who did not have the chance to study his case, or to meet to discuss the case with him yet. Kim Daravuth was shot on 23 November 2005, when he went to fetch his child from the Chaktokmouk school. Unknown assailants shot him and crippled him until now.

How Would You Use Cell Phones to Bring Web2.0 to Cambodia (or other places without fast Internet)?

Beth's Blog

My colleague Vicky Davis, Coolcat Teacher Blog, has put this question out to her network, in a brilliant post called "How would you use cell phones to bring Web2.0 to Cambodia?" I just have to quote her in a few places:

When you complain about your student teacher ratios, look at everyone gathered around the computer in this lesson!

Cambodian bloggers (such as Mam Sari profiled in Beth's blog post) are dedicated, but would you do as Mam Sari does to update his blog?

"He has set up a blog and has a Facebook profile, but to update them he has to ride his motorbike an hour into Phnom Penh. "

She's asking her network to one or two of the following:

Contribute the $10 -- If her school raises the most, the Sharing Foundation will give her $50,000 additional for the school. (She has already raised $19,000 with bloggers and facebook contributors.)

Answer Beth's Questions: (If you write a blog post, use the tag bethkanter_cambodiacampaign)
What advice would you offer to Mam Sari about incorporating computer instruction on a REALLY slow connection and with one computer connected to the Internet?

Are there any web resources or books that you think I should send over to him to read?

Dream a little dream with me, if we had a fast Internet connection, what are the possibilities?

Answer the twitterpoll by replying in twitter @coolcatteacher the answer to this question, "

How would you do web2.0 in rural cambodia with cell phone connection?"

I'll summarized the responses because I think this might be valuable information for ngos too. In fact, I'm going to ping a few colleagues ... Katrin Verclas sent me this useful link!

There has already been over $20,000 for the Sharing Foundation's America's Giving Challenge raised through the unselfish giving of over 700 people like Vicky Davis. If you have not yet donated $10 (or more) to this important cause, there is only 72 hours left to donate and change a Cambodian child's life and maybe help us get a faster Internet connection!

Arnold teen helps create charity

Wendi Winters - For The Capital
Arnold resident Emily Schwartz, 16, demonstrates the Web site for SPEAKCambodia, a charitable organization she helped to create.
WENDI WINTERS . For The Capital
January 28, 2008

What 16-year-old Emily Schwartz lacks in stature, she makes up for with her big heart.

Last summer, the 4-foot-11-inch Key School junior traveled to Cambodia with 14 other teens from around the country. They were enrolled in Putney Student Travel's month-long Global Awareness Program focusing on world issues. The youngsters were led by University of California, Berkeley PhD candidate, Rak Sam, who is fluent in Khmer, the official Cambodian language.

Global Awareness is one of Putney Student Travel's five service-oriented programs involving summertime travel abroad for youth offered by the 57-year-old, family-run corporation that's headquartered in a recycled cow barn in Putney, Vt.

Instead of sightseeing and shopping, throughout their stay, the youth immersed themselves in the day-to-day life of Cambodia's impoverished and orphaned citizens. They worked side-by-side with non-governmental organizations on community service projects designed to specifically tackle women's and children's health and education problems.

Each summer, Putney sponsors approximately 1,300 U.S. teens as they travel to experience the less glamorous side of the real world at more than 50 community service projects scattered around the globe. The trip to Cambodia, which was sandwiched between 2 days of orientation and 2 days of debriefing at a Yale dorm, will cost $7,790 in Summer 2008 - including air and ground transportation, lodging and food.

"I wanted to do something community-service-based," the straight-A student said. "I researched online and this seemed like a good one. My big sister, Sara, now a freshman at George Washington University in D.C., had done a community service project in Montana. That got me thinking. In Cambodia, we spent our first 3 days in Phnom Penh, the capital, followed by 5 days in Kompong Chhnang province, another 10 days in Phnom Penh and our last 4 days in the town of Siem Reap."

The group worked in 3 orphanages and a children's home, a free clinic called the Angkor Hospital, and at the country's Women's Media Center, which provides information to Cambodians about women's issues.

"People walk hours to get to a hospital," Emily observed. At Angkor Hospital, at least, there were places for families to stay, a gardening center and classes were offered about health care and nutrition.

The teens also helped out at the Cambodian Living Arts organization. Emily explained: "During the reign of the Khmer Rouge, its leader, Pol Pot, tried to kill all the educated people and the artists. Dancers, singers, sculptors, painters and potters were rounded up and murdered. When this group finds a 'master' who survived the purge, they're given stipends to teach the arts to a new generation. Many of the surviving artists hid out in faraway villages or the jungles. Students get stipends, too, so parents can afford to give up a bread-winning child."

The trip had its challenges. The hospital was battling an outbreak of Dengue Fever, transmitted by mosquitoes, and two teens in the group became ill. They had a rotten week, but survived. Cambodia's severely malnourished children and elderly often die.

When the teenagers emerged from their sobering trek through that war and famine devastated country, it became the first Putney group to immediately make plans to help the people they'd met.

"We were surprised how much damage was caused by Pol Pot's genocide," said Emily. "Years later, people are still living on 10 cents a day. The stories of the kids got to me and the others on the trip."

Before leaving Cambodia, the teens huddled and decided they had to find a way to help out some of the children they'd met. "The kids had more impact on us than we did on them," mused Emily. "It's amazing to see the drive and desire they have to learn."

Any funds they collect, the teens will give to Cambodia Living Arts and to fund college scholarships to University of Phnom Penn. $250 pays a student's tuition, room and board for an entire school year.

T-shirts could be ordered quickly and cheaply there, so they drafted a quick design and plunked down several hundred dollars for 500 screen-printed T-shirts. They toted the shirts back to the U.S. in their bags and raised $3,000 from their sale.

During the 36-hour plane trip home, the teens set up a nonprofit organization called SPEAKCambodia. "SPEAK" is an acronym for Students Providing Education Access for Kids.

In the U.S., another 500 T-shirts were donated, featuring a similar design. Through a Web site run by one member, Rebecca Luberoff of Massachusetts, the youngsters are selling the shirts for $20 apiece. The Web address is www.speakcambodia.org. Most of the photography on the site was created by Emily.

Though most of the teens are seniors, the plan is to continue fundraising and speaking to peers through their college years. Each summer, they will divide and disperse the funds they've raised.
Using many poignant photos she took on her trip, Emily made her first presentation to a rapt audience at Indian Creek High School on Dec. 12. Math teacher Roy LeDesma invited her to speak.
On Feb. 15, Emily is reprising her talk at Key School at 9:30 a.m. in the school's
Multi-Purpose Building. This isn't all Emily is up to. She's on the board of Key School's Students for Social Change and is a member of the charitable, country-wide student-run organization Raising 4 Reasons. She helps her mother, Leslie Schwartz, organize the annual ALS Artisans Boutique, which raises funds to conquer Lou Gehrig's Disease. Emily tutors other kids at her school and is a Sunday school teacher at Beth Shalom Temple in Arnold.

She also volunteers each weekend in the 5th Floor Joint and Spine Unit at Anne Arundel Medical Center. "I make ice packs and wheel people to and from their rooms," she explained.

Next summer, she'll travel with another Putney Student Travel group - to work among AIDS-stricken women in Malawi.

Emily ultimately wants to be a nurse "focusing in public health. I want to become bilingual in Spanish and work in a free clinic."

Hun Sen vs. The U.N

Details are Sketchy
January 29, 2008

Last week Prime Minister Hun Sen threatened to boot the United Nations from Cambodian soil if it couldn’t learn to mind its manners. Keeping with the trend, today the Prime Minister chastised the U.N.’s human rights office for gratuitous spending on such unnecessary items as human rights in Cambodia.

Prime Minister Hun Sen continued a public campaign against the UN’s human rights office Monday, saying the international body should stop spending money in Cambodia.

“The UN should take all this budget to victims in areas such as Kenya, Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, or other countries facing crises, rather than wasting money in Cambodia,” Hun Sen said.

“He rides in airplanes and stays at hotels; where does the money come from?” Hun Sen said. “This money is more than a salary. This money is still the UN’s money, and we are also a member of the UN that must also pay membership dues to the UN. We have a duty to appeal for saving the budget, to be spent in other areas, rather than having Yash Ghai traveling to Cambodia.”

It warms the cockles to know that Hun Sen respects Cambodia’s duty as a U.N. signatory to “save the budget.” It would be a lot better, though, if the prime minister had the same amount of concern for Cambodia’s growing legion of dispossessed. After all, that’s why the U.N. is complaining.

On the trail of his family's hero


For nearly a year Cary Turner has told the story of U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Joseph Hargrove -- of how he was left behind on the small Cambodian island of Koh Tang in 1975 and of the years it took before his family began to learn the truth.

And for almost that long, Turner has been telling people that he wants to watch the members of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) team when they excavate his cousin's suspected gravesite -- just to make sure they do their job, just so the family knows every effort was made.

Now, after months of planning and fundraising, he is there, having arrived in Cambodia on Jan. 16.

Before he left, Turner admitted that he was nervous about making the trip -- nervous about the potential of camping out on the island, of not knowing the language or the culture, and of simply being taken out of his comfort zone.

"I'm getting a little bit stressed, a little anxious," he said. "I've been talking the talk and now it's time to walk the walk."

Fortunately, he said via satellite phone last week, things are going better than expected.
"We're in pretty safe here," he said. "It's a beautiful place."

Helping assuage those earlier feelings of nervousness, he explained, was the meeting he had with the U.S. ambassador to Cambodia after arriving.

"He said he was pleased with what I was trying to do for my family. He was supportive of me, and that really made me feel good," Turner said.

The next piece of good news, he continued, was when he, Ralph Wetterhahn (the author of "The Last Battle: The Mayaguez Incident and the End of the Vietnam War") and their Cambodian companions decided that rather than camp out on the island, they would just sleep on a fishing boat anchored off the coast.

But the most reassuring part of the trip has been the contact they have made with the JPAC team.

"Everything's going better than I would have hoped," Turner said. "JPAC's welcomed me with open arms."

Not only, he continued, have they allowed him to watch their excavation efforts, they have even let him get a little bit of hands-on experience with some of the more basic shovel and screening work.

"They're letting me help, so I help a little bit and then get out their way because I know they're just being nice," he said.

And while the team didn't start with the site identified as Hargrove's, he feels sure that when they get there, every care will be taken -- an especially comforting thought since it's unlikely that he will be able to stay in Cambodia long enough.

The team's deployment is expected to last into March. Turner is planning on staying until at least the end of the month.

"I have all confidence that if there are any remains to be found, they'll find them," he said. "Even if I have to leave before they excavate all the sites, I have peace of mind."

Regardless of what happens next, though, he is pleased that he at least had the opportunity to take his quest this far -- and he hopes he will be coming home with M-16 and M-60 shells from where Hargrove and Marine Pfc. Gary L. Hall and Pfc. Danny G. Marshall made their last stand.

"All the effort that's been put forth, this is what it's all about. I'm just glad I'm able to do it," he said.

Gail Hargrove, Joseph's widow, also is thankful for what Turner's been able to do.

"I was real excited to hear from him (last week)," she said. "I'm thrilled that he's over there. I'm thrilled that he made it safely. It's made me feel good how JPAC has responded to him."

By Matthew Whittle

MN Skater Comes Home To Win National Medal

Oakdale-native Michael Chau and his 11-year-old partner Tracy Tanovich ended up in second place in the Pairs Junior Nationals.

A Minnesota family is still basking in the glow of victory after 17-year-old Michal Chau skated away with a silver medal.

ST. PAUL (WCCO) ― The U.S. Figure Skating Championships wrapped up at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul on Sunday.

However, a Minnesota family is still basking in the glow of victory after 17-year-old Michal Chau skated away with a silver medal. And it wasn't an easy feat for his family to get him to the medal podium.

"It was unbelievable. It was great. I couldn't ask for any more, especially the way we skated and the way we ended up," said Michael.

Oakdale-native Michael and his 11-year-old partner Tracy Tanovich ended up in second place in the Pairs Junior Nationals.

"It was a great experience for us. We weren't intending to have a placement, just a nice, solid skate. And we did get the silver medal, which is great and we're excited," said Tanovich.

So is Michael's family, who saw an exhilarating performance. "I haven't seen him at the Nationals. This is the first time and in his hometown," said Thyna Chau, Michael's father.

"I'm so proud of him. He's very independent. He loves skating, he has so much passion skating. And he works hard. He has a good work ethic, and he's wonderful." Michael's family fled to Minnesota from Cambodia 27 years ago.

"I think this means a lot because they struggled when they were younger. And I think it's great to kind of see their son, who was their age when they were struggling, come up and do something for himself," said Michael.

However, that hasn't come without some life-altering changes. "I moved away when I was 12.

They had me down in Florida. And I think they did a really good job picking who I was going to be with, who was going to train me and who was really going to take care of me," said Michael.

And their sacrifice is paying off. Michael is staying in Minnesota this week to spend time with his family and friends, before he heads back to Florida to continue his training.

Cambodian PM urged to attend parliament

ABC, Radio Australia

A parliamentary committee in Cambodia has requested the prime minister, Hun Sen, attend parliament to answer questions directly.

Mr Son Chhay, an opposition MP who also the chairs the 5th Committee of the parliament, has submitted the written request to the prime minister.

The letter calls for answers on issues including the implementation of the four-angle economic policies, revenue collection from Angkor Wat, land disputes, corruption and human rights.

Hun Sen hasn't been to Parliament during question time throughout the third term of government, which is due to expire soon.

The constitution and parliamentary internal regulations stipulate that the prime minister is supposed to attend question time every Thursday morning.

A senior advisor to the PM says the request is ridiculous and has queried the motives behind it.

Boom time hits Cambodia, but not all are smiling

January 29, 2008 Tuesday

PHNOM PENH - AFTER decades of war and upheaval, including the Khmer Rouge 'Killing Fields", Cambodia is enjoying an unprecedented boom, its economy expanding at around 10 per cent annually for the last five years.

But the breakneck growth, fuelled mainly by garment manufacturing, tourism and real estate development, is turning its once-sleepy capital into a building site and forcing many ordinary Khmers from their homes.

'I will move only when they pay me enough to find another place to live,' said 49-year-old Ngay Tun, a fisherwoman living on Boeung Kak, a 120 hectare city-centre lake about to be drained and filled in to make way for a housing project.

'I worry about it every day, that they are going to come suddenly in the night to kick us out,' she said, paddling a small wooden boat through floating banks of morning glory.

While the outlook for the garment industry and tourism appears solid - especially while the US dollar, Cambodia's de facto currency, continues to fall - the same cannot be said for real estate, where prices are spiralling to dizzy heights.

Figures from Bonna Realty, a leading estate agent, suggest the price of prime Phnom Penh land doubled last year to US$3,000 (S$4,296)/sq m - compared to less than US$500 in 2000.

By contrast, land in Bangkok's downtown Silom district is US$5,000/sq m, while Ho Chi Minh City, the hub of neighbouring Vietnam's red-hot economy, prices can be as high as US$15,000.

'There is a debate about whether there's already a bubble,' World Bank country economist Stephane Guimbert said.

'On the one hand, clearly the market was very depressed until a couple of years ago because there was little security and stability. But on the other hand, it's surprising that prices are increasing so fast,' he said. In one of the first signs of overheating, annual price inflation has spiked to more than 9 percent in the last year, almost double its level in the preceding five years, and anecdotal evidence points to big upward pressure on wages.

Missing billions come home?At the top of the market, prices are being driven by huge foreign-funded ventures such as 'Gold Tower 42", a US$300 million South Korean apartment block which, at 42 storeys, will be three times higher than Phnom Penh's current tallest building.
Even though it will not be ready until 2012, Cambodia's super-rich are already snapping up some of the 360 units on offer at US$2,150 a sq m, only a shade cheaper than Ho Chi Minh City.

But such prestige projects are the tip of the iceberg, and foreign funding accounts for only a fraction of the boom, analysts say.

The domestic financial services industry is growing fast - private sector lending by Cambodia's 20-odd banks grew 60 per cent last year - but remains too small to be funding projects to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Instead, analysts say, much of the funding is Cambodian cash stuffed into mattresses, locked up in gold, or squirreled away in anonymous offshore bank accounts for years.

'There are a lot of people in this town who are fantastically wealthy,' said Trent Eddy, director of Phnom Penh-based Emerging Markets Consulting. 'The banks are not doing mortgage lending for the sort of stuff that's driving up prices.'

The most popular theory on the streets of Phnom Penh is that a global banking clean-up after the Sept 11, 2001 attacks smoked out billions of dirty Cambodian dollars sitting quietly in bank accounts in Singapore, which encouraged its repatriation.

With few other investment options, and a steadily improving regulatory and legal framework - not to mention political stability under ex-Khmer Rouge strongman Hun Sen - real estate is the obvious choice for the prodigal loot, so the theory goes.

Hype marketEven though the economy remains one of Asia's smallest, with a GDP of around US$6.5 billion, the hype is such that international portfolio investors have been looking into setting up domestic real estate funds, mainly in the hotel sector.

US property services firm CB Richard Ellis is also hoping to get in on the action with the opening of a Phnom Penh office in the next few months.

The prospect of revenues from off-shore oil and gas by 2010 reaffirms the view of outsiders that the economy is only heading in one direction, and that rapid urbanization and demand for better housing from Cambodia's 13 million people must follow.

Chinese Dams Threaten Cambodian Eco-Systems

PHNOM PENH (AFP)--Cambodia's two largest dam projects threaten to flood huge swathes of protected forests, a conservation group has said, urging reform in the country's burgeoning hydropower sector.

International Rivers Network, in a report released late Monday, said that the Kamchay and Stung Atay dams, which seek to provide much-needed electricity to the country, will instead wreak havoc on local communities and slow development.

The US-based group targets in particular Chinese investment in the sector, which it said is powering forward through close ties between Cambodia's government and Beijing, unchecked by public scrutiny.

The projects highlight the "growing interest in large-scale hydropower dam development by Cambodian decision makers backed mainly by Chinese project developers and financiers," the group said.

"Chinese investment in Cambodia's hydropower sector is threatening some of the country's most precious eco-systems and the livelihoods of thousands of people." Funded largely by a $600 million Chinese aid package, the Kamchay Dam is located entirely inside Cambodia's Bokor National Park and will flood 2,000 hectares of protected forest, the group said.

Once completed in 2010, it will also force local residents from the area, stripping them of their livelihoods, and could threaten downstream tourist sites, International Rivers said.

Protected forests in Cambodia's Cardamom mountains will also be submerged by the Stung Atay Dam, which is expected to come online in 2012, and four others currently under consideration.

"Cambodia's free-flowing rivers and abundant natural resources are invaluable assets," said Carl Middleton, Mekong program coordinator with International Rivers.

"Poorly conceived hydropower development could irreparably damage these resources and undermine Cambodia's sustainable development." Only an estimated 20 percent of households have access to reliable electricity in Cambodia, one of the world's poorest countries.

Spiraling utility prices, driven by this lack of supply, are a major obstacle to attracting foreign investment, and the government has struggled to find a way to bring down the cost of power.

International Rivers urged Cambodia to seek alternate power sources, or adopt international standards within its own utilities sectors.

"Cambodia has many choices for meeting our electricity needs, including renewable and decentralized energy options that must be explored" said Ngy San, deputy executive director with the NGO Forum on Cambodia.

CCC Judges, the opening of the third plenary session of judges in Phnom Penh January 28, 2008

Co-investigating judges of the Khmer Rouge tribunals, Robert Petit (R) of Canada and Chea Leang of Cambodia, attend the opening of the third plenary session of judges in Phnom Penh January 28, 2008.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Co-investigating judges of the Khmer Rouge tribunals, Marcel Lemonde (R) of France and You Bunleng (L, back to camera) of Cambodia, talk during the opening of the third plenary session of judges in Phnom Penh, January 28, 2008.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Hun Sen to UN: Spend Rights Money Elsewhere

By Chun Sakada,
VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
28 January 2008

Audio in Khmer - Listen (MP3)

Prime Minister Hun Sen continued a public campaign against the UN’s human rights office Monday, saying the international body should stop spending money in Cambodia.

“The UN should take all this budget to victims in areas such as Kenya, Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, or other countries facing crises, rather than wasting money in Cambodia,” Hun Sen said.

The latest row comes on the heels of a December visit by Yash Ghai, an envoy for the UN secretary-general, who was highly critical of the government’s rights efforts.

Hun Sen said Monday UN member states should not have to finance trips by Ghai.

“He rides in airplanes and stays at hotels; where does the money come from?” Hun Sen said.
“This money is more than a salary. This money is still the UN’s money, and we are also a member of the UN that must also pay membership dues to the UN. We have a duty to appeal for saving the budget, to be spent in other areas, rather than having Yash Ghai traveling to Cambodia.”

Ghai rankled officials in December when he said weak rule of law and ongoing theft of land from the disenfranchised could cause people to rise up against the government.

Human Rights Party President Kem Sokha said Monday that Hun Sen should solve rights abuses and land grabs and solve murders for which no culprit is ever found.

“If he does not want the UN human rights envoy to come to Cambodia, and he regrets the fact that money is wasted, he should solve human rights violations in Cambodia,” Kem Sokha said.

Eng Chhay Eang, secretary-general of the Sam Rainsy Party, said Monday Hun Sen should worry more about the increasing price of goods and fuel and rising unemployment.

“The problem over the UN should not be an issue to bring a headache, whether it has enough money in protecting human rights in Cambodia,” he said.

Cambodia still needs funding for “strengthening human rights mechanisms,” said Thun Saray, director of the rights group Adhoc.

10-Year-Old Folk Singer Bridges Cultures

By Nuch Sarita,
VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
28 January 2008

Audio in Khmer - Listen (MP3)

Bosba Panh, whose repertoire includes Bob Dylan as well as traditional Khmer music, recently packed a concert hall in Phnom Penh. Chaktomuk Hall’s capacity is 570 seats, but Bosba Panh brought in 700 people.

Her music is increasingly gaining attention, as she strums a guitar and sings in cafes and halls for Westerners and Cambodians alike.

Bosba Panh, 10, whose father is Khmer and mother is Lao, put out the album “Phnom Penh” in 2006 and established her own music company, La Compagnie Bosbapanh, when she was 8 years old.

“Bosba confirms her talent as a classical singer in exploring the cultural richness of her country and in making famous international songs her own,” said Muoy You, director of Seametrey Children’s Village, a school, who attended the performance at Chaktomuk Hall. “She sang of the beauty of Cambodia, love and peace, liberty and freedom.”

Opera Singer Nurtures Cambodian Voice

By Nuch Sarita,
VOA Khmer Washington
28 January 2008

Audio in Khmer - Listen (MP3)

In a land covered with karaoke clubs, with singers in every home and videos on every television, Cambodia’s only traditionally trained opera singer stands singularly apart.

Trained in Moscow, Italy and Berkeley, Khuon Sethisak, has been back in Cambodia since 2001 and has since worked steadily to bring opera to Cambodians—and help them sing.

Khuon Sethisak, who tenor voice is rich and powerful when he sings but a little quiet when he speaks, said Cambodia’s singers need help to learn how to protect their voices, and encouragement to join international venues and events.

Past singers have not had access to international venues, he said Monday, as a guest on “Hello VOA.” “I want the world to know the voice of Khmer singers,” he said.

Cambodians need to work on the craft of singing and need to nurture the talent they have and keep training their voices, he said.

Meanwhile, he said, he hopes to make opera accessible to all.

“Opera is a world inheritance,” he said. “An opera singer can sing until he’s 70 or 80 years old.

It’s not just for the old or rich. To learn opera is to sing, act, to behave. Opera is good to instill morality in society.”

Thailand Picks New Prime Minister After 15 Months of Military-Backed Rule

By Luis Ramirez
Bankok28 January 2008

Thailand's governing coalition in parliament has chosen former Bangkok governor Samak Sundaravej as the country's new prime minister. Mr. Sundaravej is a close ally of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a military coup in 2006. VOA's Luis Ramirez reports from Bangkok.

Seventy-two-year-old Samak Sundaravej is controversial for many people in Thailand. They accuse him of running in general elections last month as a proxy for former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Despite being forced from office, exiled, and banned from politics, Mr. Thaksin remains popular, especially among Thailand's poor.

Mr. Samak's People Power Party fought election fraud charges in the Thai Supreme Court this month and won, clearing the way for the party to form a coalition government with five other parties. Made up of Mr. Thaksin's allies, the PPP won the most seats in the lower house of parliament. On Monday, parliament voted to select Mr. Samak as the new Prime Minister.

Mr. Samak says that having served five times as a cabinet minister and three times as a deputy minister, he has the political credentials to lead the country. He is known for being gruff and outspoken. He tells VOA he is not Mr. Thaksin's puppet.

"Somebody would want to put that on me, but you see it's not that," Samak said. "The media asked me, 'are you a nominee of Mr. Thaksin?' I asked back the reporter, 'is the word nominee a bad word?' In this country 'nominee' is a good word."

The new prime minister says he is in regular contact with Mr. Thaksin, who has been watching events closely from Hong Kong. Mr. Samak has said he wants to bring the former Prime Minister back within the next few months.

Analysts say that for now, whether Mr. Thaksin returns is a relatively minor question to many people. Thailand's economy has stagnated since the military coup under an interim government that analysts say is widely regarded as inept. Political science professor Thitinan Pongsudhirak says many people are now looking to Mr. Samak to work quickly to jumpstart the economy before his coalition government falls apart.

"There are a lot of expectations right now in Thailand," Thitinan said. "People are fed up with the military, with the coup. People want answers. They want their expectations to be met. Some people want to go back to the policies under Thaksin. But overall, we want some performance."
Thitinan notes that Thailand has never had a coalition government that lived out its full term.
He says the biggest danger now for the Samak-led coalition is to move the economy forward in ways that will not lead to another coup.

Thailand has had 18 military coups since it transitioned from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy in 1932.

The latest, in September 2006, came after months of protests against Thaksin Shinawatra's government, which critics accused of corruption and abuse of power. His populist policies, however, drew the support of Thailand's urban and rural poor who now want to see that agenda resumed.

Ensuring history's right on both sides is key to better ties

Bangkok Post
Tuesday January 29, 2008


One of the keys to closer ties between Thailand and Cambodia lies with the Thai-Cambodian Association that was set up a year after the 2003 riots.

And for the association, a way to prevent violence recurring is to create a proper understanding of Thai-Cambodian history. Trying to correct history textbooks is a good way to start.

But five years on, there hasn't been much progress on this front even though academics from the two countries have met frequently to discuss the textbooks.

''What is different in the textbooks [about Thai-Cambodian history] is that the two countries write history differently,'' Dhonburi Rajabhat University vice-president Prayoon Songsilp said.
Ms Prayoon said it might be wise if the two countries studied each other's history more and softened the words used in textbooks.

The future is also encouraging as Thailand is helping Cambodia design a curriculum for the Thai language at the bachelor's degree level at the University of Cambodia in a task expected to be completed next year, she said.

Allowing Cambodian students to learn Thai in universities also shows that the Cambodian government is more open about education these days, she said. In the past the Phnom Penh government feared Thai influence, she added.

The Thai-Cambodian Association has also launched more than 30 projects _ mostly in arts and culture, literature and student exchanges, Foreign Ministry spokesman Tharit Charungvat said.

''We believe that Cambodian people have a better attitude towards these projects,'' he said, citing the good response from Cambodian university students who know the Thai language who have been invited to visit Thailand. ''They know Thailand better,'' he added.

Bangkok has taken Thai movies and songs to Cambodia to show to Cambodians and the two countries also have cooperated to produce dictionaries as well as projects on reading and writing the Thai language for students at the secondary to university level

Curing the Dengue Fever

In an advanced and highly communicative age like ours where music of all geographical origins can be easily obtained, it would be unconventional to call any form of music a lost art. After all, throughout the centuries, music has had the ability to be documented in a variety of forms. Even before audio recording, artists have been able to record their works on paper through the use of theoretical notation. Without it, all the Beethovens and Mozarts of the world would be vastly under-appreciated. However, with some historians holding the belief that the legality of music in a country holds little importance, there may be some relevant events that your school’s required history books may have neglected to tell you. The events of Pol Pot’s short-lived but highly effecting political party, the Khmer Rouge, have been documented in-depth, yet an important event that occurred on April 17th, 1975, often goes overlooked. After the Khmer Rouge took over Phnom Penh (the capital of Cambodia), they banned and removed all artists (including musicians) from the city. Legendary songwriters such as Ros Sereysothea and Sinn Sisamouth were lost; the only reasons their names may not ring a bell is because of the Khmer Rouge’s order of banishment. Otherwise, both would likely have been acknowledged as prolific influences. The same can be said for numerous other Cambodian musicians, most artists whose works have unfortunately been lost due to the regime’s overpowering incentives.

It takes a lot of courage for an artist of American descent to revive a type of foreign music lost in the lingering effects of a sensitive political event. For brothers Zac and Ethan Holtzman though, they found Cambodian pop music to be an art too rousing to be forgotten. After a visit to the country in the late ’90s, both of them fell in love with the music they were exposed to there. Expecting something entirely exotic, they were treated to a sound that actually remained rooted in several influences of Western descent. Cambodian pop music, as it turned out, was just as accessible as its American counterpart, with sentiments of surf-rock, alternative folk, and psychedelia being prevalent. With that in mind, the Holtzman brothers returned to Los Angeles with a plan to form a band that would echo their love for Cambodian music. Searching Long Beach’s Cambodian music scene for musicians with similar intentions, they found Nimol Chhom, a vocalist who was practically aready a superstar in Cambodia. Her soaring vocals allowed her to play for the king and queen before joining the Holtzman brothers. After enlisting bassist Senon Williams (also in Radar Bros), brass player David Ralicke, and drummer Paul Smith, it marked the beginning of Dengue Fever.

There are several reasons why I consider Dengue Fever to be one of the most eclectic and original sounding acts on the indie scene today. The most glaring explanation arguably comes in the vocals of Chhom; they are constantly invigorating in being that, even when the lyrical content is strictly in Khmer, her ability to express authentic human emotion is a talent that is universally recognizable. Her vocals can simultaneously give off the impression of being both frailly intimate and ardently empowering. The other reason is the form of exotically stimulating instrumentation that the six-piece conveys, with various forms of guitars, brass, keys, and rhythm being impeccable representations of quality Cambodian music. Being that Cambodians were listening to American radio stations during the Vietnam war, the influences spanning from surf music and psychedelic rock to Motown and soul are not surprising. All are represented well on the group’s third full-length album, Venus on Earth. Released this past Tuesday, all 11 tracks represent the group’s most successful release yet, even ahead of the extremely impressive Escape from Dragon House. We can only hope that, if all historical works represent similarly great quality , the album can help ignite a Cambodian music revival.

In relevance to their past two full-length releases, Venus on Earth is a continuation of Dengue Fever’s enjoyable blend of surf-rock, alternative folk, and psychedelia. The only aspect that appears slightly differing in comparison is Chhom’s increased use of English, though it neither detracts or increases the amount of enjoyment or exotic flair the band conveys. The suavely seductive “Woman in the Shoes” shows off Chhom’s use of English and Khmer, with English being exclusively used during the chorus. “Close to me, holding hands at the bottom of sea,” she sings over a swanky bass line and several sets of brass, “Close to me, I hold you tight until you can’t breathe.” Though it is not the most ambitious or instrumentally complex song on the album, “Woman in the Shoes” is easily my favorite simply due to its enthralling melodic capacity and slick use of brass and guitar. Chhom’s vocals don’t hurt either, as she gives one of the best vocal performances I have heard all year on Venus on Earth. “Tiger Phone Card” is one of the band’s more accessible tracks, sung entirely in English by Chhom and Zac Holtzman as a duet. In simplest terms, it makes its mark as a worldly love song with superbly executed guitar solos and vocal harmonies being wildly impressive. “Seeing Hands” and “Clipped Wings” are more demonstrative of the band’s instrumental prowesses, though it appears to trade overall infectiousness for structural ambitiousness. It provides for superb variation on Venus on Earth, an album that is most certainly one of the most impressive of the year so far.

No justice, no peace

Details are Sketchy
January 28, 2008

Prompted by the recent assault of a CPP lawmaker by his security guard, IPS resurveys the country’s eviction problem and notes the growing frustration of those newly landless.

At the beginning of January, Ros Sovann was just another private security guard one sees standing outside fancy restaurants and the homes of the rich in Phnom Penh. By month end, the 28-year-old had catapulted from obscurity to become the symbol of rage spreading through Cambodia over land grabbing.

Ros’ transformation took place shortly before midnight on Jan. 13 in front of a house in the Cambodian capital, owned by Chin Kim Sreng, a 70-year-old parliamentarian from the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP). Sometime close to 11:30 p.m., Ros brutally attacked Chin with a steel pipe as the latter had got out of his luxury car to open the gate of his house, say reports in the local press.

But Ros was not finished, despite his beatings leaving Chin bleeding and with open head wounds, added an account in the Khmer language ‘Rasmei Kampuchea’ newspaper. He had then got into Chin’s car and crashed it into the gate.

This wasn’t a crime of opportunity. After his arrest, Ros Sovann admitted to police that he took a job as a security guard with the sole intention of getting next to rich and powerful parliamentarians in order to exact his revenge. Nor is it likely that Ros Sovann is an isolated case. Over the last few years, the government has evicted tens of thousands of urban and rural poor. Ros Sovann is simply the first who unleashed his anger on the leaders of the country. He is unlikely to be the last.

The truly sad part is that Ros Sovann probably could have been placated with what the average law maker spends on karaoke in a month, if not less.

Cambodian Photos Shed Light on Poverty

This photo, part of an exhibit by Trevor Wright, shows a young child chewing on a stalk of sugar cane. Wright's photo exhibit "Life at the Cambodian Garbage Dump," is located on the 4th floor of the HFAC.

By Jenica Stimpson - 28 Jan 2008

Trevor Wright, a BYU student and media arts major, served his mission in Cambodia and was intrigued with its people. He decided to go back last summer with the Cambodian Children's Fund (CCF) to serve the people he had grown to love. For three months he taught English to impoverished children and helped make their lives a little easier through the aid that the Children's Fund provides.

While serving in Cambodia he took documentary-like pictures of children at the dump. Families are driven to the dump in poverty and struggle through life as garbage pickers who find and sell whatever they can in hopes of earning enough money to survive. Children must help support their families by rummaging through the garbage each day.

"Through my photos, I like to capture the moments, situations and feelings of the individuals so that we can develop a greater understanding of human beings," Wright said. "Because of this experience in Cambodia, I have decided to minor in international development."

Wright's photos are currently displayed in the 4th floor west hall of the Harris Fine Arts Center.

Wright first became interested in photography while in high school and was influenced by his dad. As he grew older he became especially interested in documentary-type photos. He is planning on making a documentary film on the founder of CCF, Scott Neeson, in the near future.

Hollywood film executive Scott Neeson founded the CCF when he traveled to Cambodia in 2003 and witnessed the desperate needs of young children. After working in the film business for 26 years, he now resides in Phnom Penh, Cambodia year-round.

According to the CCF Web site, the organization has three separate facilities where 300 children receive nutrition and housing, medical treatment, dental services and vaccinations. The children are also involved in an educational program that includes local language reading and writing, classes in English, social sciences and math. They also attend evening classes where they learn traditional Khmer music, dance and drama.

"Through these photos I hope that other people will fall in love with Cambodia like I have," Wright said. "I hope that these photos will give an insight that these people are individuals just like you and me."

An Internet Lesson in a Rural Cambodian Village: And Then You Wait ...

I launched a bloggers campaign and Twitter Wall of Fame as part of the Sharing Foundation's America's Giving Challenge. (To learn more about the Sharing Foundation, see this article) I've been reaching out to my network, and Vicky Davis is one of the people I turned to for to ask for help with the from her network of wired educators.

Yes, I hope they will contribute the $10 so we can win the $50,000 (which will certainly help us make improvements to our computer school and the Sharing Foundation's many other programs), but I am also want feedback about how to improve a computer program in a rural village in a developing country with really slow Internet. I know it is difficult without being there ..

The Sharing Foundation's Computer School was opened in 2006. Computer classes are held every morning utilizing donated laptops and desktops (that are hand-carried over by Dr. Hendrie on her quarterly trips) Students, picked by lottery, come daily for six weeks to learn word processing, spread sheets, and Internet use, on our one, slow connection, acquiring a useful skill for future employment. Computer education groups repeat on a rotating basis.

I observed Mam Sari, our head English teacher (and computer geek) teach a Google search lesson and captured video above. Mam Sary gets on the Internet via his cell phone connection which costs the Foundation roughly $28 per month. It's slow, but he is able to teach a lesson to the students about how to find supplementary materials for their school assignments. One of the students asked if Google was the best search engine. Mam Sary said, 'Yes, Google is the best." This is amazing because during my last trip in 2004 when I taught ESL, these students gave me a blank stare when I mentioned the words computer and Internet.

As I mentioned, the cell phone connection is really slow. I loved how Mam Sari introduced this to his students. He said, "type in your search term, click on search, and then you wait." Since we only have one Internet connection, all 15 students were huddled around the computer. Mam Sari did not waste this time, he engaged them in a discussion about the content they were searching. (The bad health effects of smoking)

Mam Sary also received several of the video cameras Jay Dedman and Ryanne Hodson brought over to Cambodia last July donated by Doug from the video blogging community. (Jay and Ryan not only created this fantastic video about the Sharing Foundation's projects, but have also donated and asked other video bloggers to support the cause.) Jay and Ryanne taught him how to use the camera and I helped him again a month later when I was there.

That is Mam Sari. He attended the Cambodian Bloggers Summit with me. We participated in a small group role play exercise. Our group was assigned to "Social Media." First we discussed the definition of the term. It became clear that social media in Cambodia means "any media that can solve social issues."

Mam Sari was thrilled to learn about the Web2.0 and is very interested incorporating some of the ideas into his instruction, but unfortunately our very slow Internet connection doesn't make it easy. He has set up a blog and has a Facebook profile, but to update them he has to ride his motorbike an hour into Phnom Penh. The connection is to slow for blogger or Facebook to load.

If we had a better Internet connection (very expensive to get high speed Internet in our rural village), we could do more. For example, English lessons on Skype with students in US, post some of the videos created with the cameras on Youtube, use his digital tape recorder to create podcasts, student blogs, etc.

So, my question to Vicky's network is:

What advice would you offer to Mam Sary about incorporating computer instruction on a REALLY slow connection and with one computer connected to the Internet?

Are there any web resources or books that you think I should send over to him to read?

Dream a little dream with me, if we had a fast Internet connection, what are the possibilities?

There has already been over $19,000 for the Sharing Foundation's America's Giving Challenge raised through the unselfish giving of over 650 people like Jay Dedman, Ryanne Hodson, and Coffee with Doug. If you have not yet donated $10 (or more) to this important cause, there is only a few days left to donate and change a Cambodian child's life and maybe help us get a faster Internet connection!

Thailand backtracks on Preah Vihear claims

Details are Sketchy
January 28, 2008

Thailand’s top brass today began trying to salvage the diplomatic snafu that erupted last week over Preah Vihear.

The Defence Ministry yesterday rushed to retract statements made by a spokesman that Cambodia had “made up” history in a bid to claim the Hindu temple of Preah Vihear for Phnom Penh’s unilateral benefit.

Top brass were urgently calling counterparts across the border yesterday to clarify statements made on Thursday by ministry spokesman Lt-General Pichsanu Puchakarn.

The military statement on Thursday was a surprise. Pichsanu said Cambodia had created a new boundary in order to claim sovereignty of the entire area and was campaigning for international support for this.

He condemned Cambodia and demanded diplomats lodge an official protest with Phnom Penh.
Yesterday the ministry changed its tune. Supreme Command civil-affairs chief Lt-General Plangkul Klahan and Foreign Ministry spokesman Tharit Charungvat said the previous day’s statement was incorrect.

Tribunal Judges Prepare for Trials

By Mean Veasna,
VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
28 January 2008

Khmer Rouge tribunal judges said Monday they were preparing for upcoming trials, seeking ways to improve on internal rules governing the operation of the courts.

“Our court is getting close to the trial stage. Therefore this plenary session has a clear and urgent agenda, such as observations on ways to improve internal rules related to the management of procedures in the court,” said judge Kom Srim, chief of the tribunal Supreme Court Chamber and head of the session.

Twenty-four of 25 judges were prepared to adopt several key amendments to the internal rules of the tribunal, he said.

Some changes are necessary now that the trials are progressing, especially with the arrests now of five Khmer Rouge leaders, said trial chamber judge Sylvia Cartwright.

“There remain many different legal, judicial, administrative and financial issues to be resolved,” she said.
The internal rules were the sticking point for the formation of the tribunal, and even though they have now been adopted, critics worry the tribunal will run out of money.

Pol Pot artist links past to present with "Art of Survival"

Mon Jan 28, 2008

PHNOM PENH Jan 28 (Reuters Life!) -- Cambodian artist Van Nath's talents saved his life in the 1970s, when he was forcibly put to work painting pictures of Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot.

Now the artist, one of a handful of remaining survivors of the regime's notorious Tuol Sleng prison, hopes his latest works will expose the reality of Pol Pot's rule to a new generation.

On show at Phnom Penh gallery Meta House as part of the "Art of Survival" exhibition, his paintings of prison life are aimed at helping visitors deal with the trauma of the Khmer Rouge's 1974-1979 rule, when an estimated 1.7 million people were executed or died of starvation, torture or disease.

But they also hold a mirror up to the present, said Van Nath, throwing the treatment of Khmer Rouge officials currently on trial for crimes during Pol Pot's rule, including "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea, who has been linked to Tuol Sleng, into sharp relief.

"If I compare the prison where I was to Nuon Chea prison, it is very different. The prison at the Khmer Rouge court is very good. It has televisions, electricity, mattresses and they have enough food to eat," he told Reuters."

At the prison where I was, I was in handcuffs 24 hours a day with no food and no medicine. Now even with today's good prisons, prisoners can still ask to be released on bail. They complain that they cannot stay there. But what about me and the nearly 20,000 people who were imprisoned at Tuol Sleng?" Van Nath said.

An estimated 17,000 to 20,000 Cambodians were crammed into Tuol Sleng, also called "Security Prison 21" or "S-21" under the Khmer Rouge, a black-shirted communist guerrilla movement who declared war on modernity after overrunning Phnom Penh in 1975.

They were ousted four years later by a Vietnamese invasion.

Of the tens of thousands accused of betraying the regime at Tuol Sleng, only a dozen are known to have made it out.

The plain three-storied high school building, in a quiet quarter of the capital, is now a public memorial site and museum.

It draws thousands of visitors every year, as do the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek, about 15 kilometres (9 miles) out of the capital, where the remains of many of Tuol Sleng's victims are buried in mass graves.

But some worry the country has not yet processed the trauma of the Pol Pot years, even as high-profile trials of former officials, including Tuol Sleng's former governor, Khang Khekh Ieu, or "Duch", make their way through a United Nations tribunal.

This is where artists such as Van Nath can contribute, said Metahouse gallery owner Nicolas Mesterharm.

"The young generation we work with knows a little bit, so we try to educate them and we try to bring young and older artists together," German-born Mesterharm told Reuters.

"We try to address that issue of genocide and the Khmer Rouge atrocities through art within the society that has not learnt yet to speak openly about what happened 25 years ago," he said.

A number of international documentaries and films, such as the 1984 Oscar-winning "Killing Fields", have brought the country's violent past to international audiences.

And several memoirs written by survivors of the regime sell at tourist sites such as Angkor Wat in the country's north, and Phnom Penh. But book sellers often say they have not read the English-language stories themselves.

For many young Cambodians, like student Sar Sayana, exhibitions such as the Art of Survival give a more accessible window to the past.

"It is important that these artist know what happened and that they made this exhibition so that others can know all about it too," she said, walking through the gallery.

(Reporting by Chantha Lach, Editing by Gillian Murdoch

Cambodia's biggest hydropower dams serious threats to people

Mon, January 28, 2008

The construction of Cambodia's first and second biggest hydropower dams pose serious threats to eco-systems and the livelihood of thousands people in southwest of the country, an environmental conservationist report said Monday.

Under an aid package of $600 million(Bt18.6 billion) from China, Cambodia is constructing the Kamchay Dam with an installed capacity of 180 Megawatts (MW) the biggest in Cambodia in the southwestern Kampot Province and the 120 MW Stung Atay Dam in Pursat Province.

The Kamchay Dam developed by China's largest hydropower developer, Sinohydro Corporation, is located wholly within the Bokor National Park and will flood 2,000 hectares of protected forest, according to a research report by the US-based conservationist International Rivers.

The project, to be completed by 2010, denied access to nontimber forest products to local residents, for whom many is an important source of income, and potentially a negative impact on a local tourist resort downstream of the dam, it said.

The Stung Atay, constructed by Yunnan Corporation for International Techno Economic cooperation, will be completed by 2012. The dam will flood a substantial area of the Central Cardamom Protect Forest, the report said.

"Cambodia's free flowing rivers and abundant natural resources are invaluable assets, the health of which are vital to the wellbeing of Cambodia's rural population," said Carl Middleton, Mekong Program Coordinator with International Rivers.

"Poorly conceived hydropower development could irreparably damage these resources and undermine Cambodia's sustainable development."

At present, only 20 percent of households in Cambodia have access to electricity. It is expected that the soaring demand for electricity will increase to more than 900 from the 212 MW in 2002.

The government has many hydropower projects under feasibility study, including the Sambor Dam to be built in the mainstream of the Mekong River in Kratie Province with a capacity of 465 or 3500 MW depending on the design and size of the reservoir.

The Sambor Dam, if built, would block major fish migrations and could decimate the income of tens of thousands of subsistence and commercial fishers. The dam also threatens the habitat for the endangered Irrawaddy Dolphin, around which a thriving local tourism industry has grown.

The Ministry of Industry, Mine and Energy estimated the country has the potential to generate approximately 10,000 M, of which more than 50 percent will come from the Mekong mainstream.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong told an investment conference in Tokyo recently that his country has a great potential to generate electricity supplies for the region. Apart from Laos, Cambodia could be the "battery of Asia", he said.

The report recommends that Cambodia adopts international best practices in electricity planning, including the findings of the World Commission on Dams, which is widely recognised to be the international standard for energy and water planning.

"Cambodia has many choices for meeting our electricity needs including renewable and decentralised energy options that must be explored," said Ngy San, Deputy Executive Director with the NGO Forum on Cambodia.

by Supalak G Khundee

The Nation

Cambodia plans to buy more electricity from Vietnam


PHNOM PENH, Jan. 28 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Monday that his country was planning to purchase more electricity from Vietnam to meet its ever rising demand.

"I requested the Vietnamese side to supply Cambodia with more electricity," he told a school opening ceremony in Svay Rieng province neighboring Vietnam.

The proposal was made during his visit with Vietnamese official, he said, without elaborating the detail.

"I told our minister of industry, mine, and energy to hold talk with the Vietnamese side to buy 200 megawatts of electricity per year in the new plan. We used to buy only 80 megawatts a year from Vietnam, but this was far from enough," he said.

Power price remains high in Cambodia. The demand in capital city Phnom Penh annually increased by 25 percent, according to official source.