Wednesday, 12 March 2008

The Deadly Puffer Fish

Informative Post
March 12th, 2008
by C.Olvera

The puffer fish is a delicacy in Japan and a single serving can cost more than a $100. It tastes great, but could it kill you? There are 120 different species of the Puffer fish, which is also known as globe fish, swellfish and blowfish. The general name for the fish in Japan is fugu. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration states that the puffer fish can “produce rapid and violent death”.

Chefs must get a special license from the Department of Health in order to serve the puffer fish. In order to get this license they have to pass a written exam, prepare the fish using their technique and then eat it. Only 25% pass the test. I assume that if they die, they don’t pass.

What makes the puffer fish so poisonous? The fish contains a neurotoxin called tetrodotoxin. If the fish is not prepared properly and too much of this poison is ingested the end result is not good.

Even if Chefs are careful and take special care in preparing the puffer fish it could still cause numbness in the tongue or lips when eaten. More serious effects include headaches, nausea, vomiting and paralysis of the face and extremities. The most severe effects include acute paralysis, respiratory distress, convulsions, cardiac arrhythmia, speech impairment and death. The effects happen quickly and death can occur within one hour.

In September of 2007 a 23 year old man and a 13 year old boy, both from Cambodia, died after eating the puffer fish. The Takeo province governor banned the trade of the fish to prevent anymore deaths.

Despite the danger, the demand for the puffer fish continues to increase. There is actually a threat of the fish becoming extinct. So why are so many people willing to risk death just to eat this fish?

No cash but plenty of comment

Echo The Northern Rivers
By Rudi Maxwell

At Tuesday night’s Lismore City Council meeting a motion by Cr Ros Irwin to donate $80 to a female Cambodian local government politician for a bicycle had insults flying across the chamber.

Speaking against the motion Cr Graham Meineke called the suggestion “absolute nonsense” and said charity should begin at home.

“This is the sort of donation that should come from Rotary or the Lions Club,” Cr Meineke said.

“If we approve this, what next? Wheelchairs for female casualties of the civil war from the Republic of the Congo? It’s a silly move and if Cr Irwin had not said to me privately that she was not standing for re-election in September I would suggest she was doing this for the publicity.”

Cr Jenny Dowell said she was so insulted by Cr Meineke’s insinuations about Cr Irwin that, although she hadn’t originally been going to speak on the motion, she felt compelled to.

“To suggest that Cr Irwin is moving this motion to score political points is insulting,” Cr Dowell said. “My general feeling is that all issues should go through the budgetary process but in this case it’s a token amount of $80 that will make a real difference.

“Let us not forget that in Cambodia there are people racked by pain, torture and war and if we can help the democratic process there we should.”

Cr John Hampton said he thought it was a political donation and didn’t understand why it should go to a woman and not a man.

In her right of reply Cr Irwin claimed women in Cambodia didn’t have the same level of access to transport as men and said a bicycle would enable the politician to visit her constituents.

Cr Irwin’s motion was defeated 7/5 (Crs Irwin, Dowell, Tomlinson, Ekins and Swientek for).

Terror trio lose appeal in Cambodia

Mar 12 2008

One Cambodian and two Thai men have lost their appeal against life prison sentences after the Cambodian Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s decision convicting them of conspiring to commit terrorist acts, including one plot against the British Embassy.

Today’s Supreme Court’s ruling was the last legal avenue for Sman Ismael, a Cambodian Muslim, and Thailand’s Abdul Azi Haji Chiming and Muhammad Yalaludin Mading, whom the Phnom Penh Municipal Court had sentenced to life behind bars in December 2004.

The lower court convicted them of helping Hambali, one of Asia’s top terrorist leaders, plan attacks on the US and British embassies in Cambodia.

Cambodia's top court upholds life sentences for Islamic militants

Thai national Abdul Azi Haji Chiming (R) is handcuffed with Cambodian Sman Ismael
Thai nationals Muhammad Yalaludin Mading (2nd R) and Abdul Azi Haji Chiming (R)

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — Cambodia's Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld life sentences for three Muslims convicted of plotting terror attacks against the British embassy and a UN agency in the capital Phnom Penh.

Cambodian Sman Ismael and Thais Abdul Azi Haji Chiming and Muhammad Yalaludin Mading were sentenced in 2004 to life in prison by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court for plotting attacks here between 2002 and 2003.

Despite persistent criticism of the prosecutions from rights groups, a five-judge panel ruled that evidence proved the three had helped Islamic militant Hambali, an alleged key member of the Al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) network, to plan the strikes.

Hambali, whose real name is Riduan Isamuddin, reportedly spent several months in Cambodia before being captured in Thailand in 2003. He was later handed over to US authorities and is now being held at the US military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

"There is enough evidence to prove that the three men facilitated Hambali's group in preparing terror attacks," said judge Khim Ponn, adding that the group had intended to strike the British embassy and the UN children's agency UNICEF.

Hambali, an Egyptian and a Malaysian were tried in absentia in Cambodia and sentenced to life in prison in 2004 for their roles in the planned attacks, which Khim Ponn said were intended "to cause the loss of many lives."

All three imprisoned men have repeatedly denied the charges against them, with Sman Ismael saying after Wednesday's hearing that the court only used "evidence written on a piece of paper by the United States" to find him guilty.

"I am not a terrorist. I had no plan to kill people," he added.

The trio's lawyer, Kao Soupha, told AFP that there were no witnesses to prove that his clients were conspiring with international extremists, adding that the court's decision was "unacceptable."

Speaking in Thailand, the wives of the two Thai men protested the decision, accusing the court of trying to curry favour with the Americans.

"Our husbands went to Cambodia to work as religious teachers, hoping that they could earn more money than in Thailand," said Asisa Haji Chiming, 33, who has three children with husband Abdul.

"But they were accused of being terrorists and planning to stage attacks," Asisa told AFP in Yala province in the Muslim-majority south of Thailand.

"We have closely monitored the case for five years with high hopes that they would receive justice and be freed, but we think the Supreme Court has delivered a verdict just to please the US."

Asisa and Muhammad's wife, Parida, 42, said they plan to petition to have their husbands moved to Thailand to serve their sentences, so they can ask for a royal pardon for the two men.

JI has been blamed for the October 2002 bombings in the Indonesian resort of Bali that killed 202 people.

Washington has lauded Cambodia for its role in the US "war on terror," with the country's leaders earning praise from top American police and military officials seeking better co-operation with Cambodia's government on anti-terror efforts.

Island man cuts deal in child porn case

William Constable committed sexual assaults on children overseas for nearly 14 years, according to court records. Barnstable Police Department

By Hilary Russ
March 12, 2008

BOSTON — Wearing an orange inmate's jumpsuit and looking haggard, William "Howe" Constable of Nantucket pleaded guilty yesterday in U.S. District Court in connection with allegations he videotaped himself raping young girls overseas for nearly 14 years.

Constable, 54, is scheduled for sentencing June 10. He would get 25 years if Judge George O'Toole Jr. accepts the plea deal defense lawyer James Michael Merberg worked out with prosecutors, according to court documents.

Constable, a native of Providence, R.I., formerly served as an assistant coach of the Nantucket High School sailing team. He had been a self-employed contractor on the island for the past two decades.

The case came to light only after Constable left his camera at the Comfort Inn on Route 132 in Hyannis, where he stayed in October 2007 after missing his ferry back to the island. A hotel worker looked at images on the camera to try to identify its owner but instead found the shocking images.
A hotel lawyer called the police, who were there when Constable returned in a taxi to retrieve his camera. Constable's cottage in Madaket, near the western tip of the island, was searched and dozens of DVDs, videos and two camcorders and two computers were seized.

The video images, as described by federal prosecutors in court documents, are heinous. On the camera Constable left behind at the hotel, for instance, special agents found 40 videos and 500 still images. At first, he told police some of the "old-fashioned" images, which he had recorded on trips to South Asia, might offend them, Assistant U.S. Attorney Dana Gershengorn said in court.

In eight electronic folders on that camera, all the girls pictured with Constable appeared to be under the age of 8, according to investigators' estimates. Several screamed and cried while he penetrated them. One moved away, but Constable flipped her on her back. One girl appeared to scream but there was no audio. Another girl appeared to be 4 to 5 years old.

In one video, Constable pushes down on the abdomen of a girl, about 7, who has a rag in her mouth.

The vast majority of girls — Constable admitted there were about 30 — appeared to be younger than 12 years old and he had paid to have sex with them, Gershengorn said.

Constable told police at the time that he knew his behavior was illegal but that he "had a problem," Gershengorn said. He also told investigators he was trying to "recreate the moment" with his videos.

His travels were mostly to Thailand and began as far back as 1993 and continued, with the exception of one or two years, until 2007. For about the last five years his trips were to Cambodia and Vietnam.

Federal laws prohibiting so-called child sex tourism weren't passed until Constable had already been involved for a full decade. And though the evidence, which was not disputed in court by Merberg, makes Constable a poster boy for world-traveling pedophiles, he was not charged under the newer statutes, which were passed in 2003 and called the Protect Act.

"Criminal laws are typically not retroactive," said Marc Perlin, associate dean of Suffolk University Law School. It's a fundamental matter of fairness, he said, that a law must first exist before someone can be accused of violating it.

Trying to prosecute 10 years of Constable's behavior under one statute and seven years of the same behavior under another could have "muddied the waters," Perlin said.

Under the Protect Act, federal agents have arrested 67 people on child sex tourism charges, 47 of whom have been convicted, according to a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman.

Constable pleaded guilty to seven counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, which has a 30-year maximum sentence and a 15-year minimum mandatory sentence. He also pleaded guilty to one count of possession of child pornography. He still faces child pornography possession charges in Nantucket District Court.

Three people were in court yesterday to support Constable, who waved meekly to a woman as he left court in shackles. One of the trio, who declined to give his name, said he had just come to support the family, which is well-respected on Nantucket.

If O'Toole accepts the plea deal, Constable would be nearly 80 when released from prison. He would be on probation for life and have to pay restitution and a fine of $50,000, according to court documents.

"One mistake by Mr. Constable results in basically a lifetime sentence," said Barnstable Police Detective John Murphy, who investigated the case locally along with Detective Jason Laber and Nantucket and federal investigators. "I'm happy he made that mistake."

Sacravatoons : " ECCC's Funding Crisis "

Courtesy of Sacravatoon:

Dangue Fever continue to kill children in Cambodia

A mother prays over her child, suffering from dengue fever, at Phnom Penh's Kantha Bopha VI hospital in this July 4, 2007 file photo. Rapid urbanisation has helped to fuel the spread of dengue fever to more than 100 countries, as the mosquitoes which carry the disease find fertile breeding grounds in cities. Picture taken July 4, 2007.To match feature DENGUE REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea/Files (CAMBODIA)

Cambodian Supreme Court upholds life sentence of 3 convicted terrorists

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) - One Cambodian and two Thai men lost their appeals against life prison sentences Wednesday after the Cambodia's Supreme Court upheld their terrorism convictions.The Supreme Court's ruling was the last legal resort for Sman Ismael, a Cambodian Muslim, and Thai citizens Abdul Azi Haji Chiming and Muhammad Yalaludin Mading.
All three were sentenced to life behind bars in December 2004.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court had convicted them of conspiring to commit terrorist acts by helping Hambali, one of Asia's top terrorist leaders, plan attacks on the U.S. and British embassies in Cambodia.

Announcing his ruling, Supreme Court Judge Khem Pon, who presided over a five-judge panel, said the three men «helped facilitate preparation for a terrorist attack» on the embassies.

He said the lower court had rightfully convicted them for «conspiring to commit attempted murder in a terrorist act.

Hambali, an Indonesian whose real name is Riduan Isamuddin, reportedly spent several months in Cambodia in 2002.

He tried to use the country as a base from which to launch regional terror attacks, and is said to be a key leader of the regional Jemaah Islamiyah terror network.Hambali was captured in Thailand in 2003 and later transferred to the U.S. jail at Guantanamo Bay.

Sman Ismael helped arrange a Cambodian visa for Hambali and organized his travels in the country, an Appeals Court judge said in 2006 in a ruling rejecting the trio's first appeal.

The two Thai nationals _ Abdul Azi Haji Chiming and Muhammad Yalaludin Mading _ bought telephones and made other arrangements for Hambali, according to the 2006 ruling.

Kao Soupha, the Cambodian lawyer representing the three men, on Wednesday called the final ruling «totally unjust,» saying the courts have shown «no evidence whatsoever» linking the men to the alleged terrorist plot.

He said he plans to seek clemency from Cambodia's King Norodom Sihamoni for his clients.

Terror plotters' life sentences upheld

March 12, 2008
Article from: Reuters

CAMBODIA'S Supreme Court has upheld life sentences for three Muslims convicted of plotting terror attacks against the British embassy and a UN agency in the capital Phnom Penh.

Cambodian Sman Ismael and Thais Abdul Azi Haji Chiming and Muhammad Yalaludin Mading were sentenced in 2004 to life in prison by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court for plotting attacks here between 2002 and 2003.

Despite persistent criticism of the prosecutions from rights groups, a five-judge panel ruled that evidence proved the three had helped Islamic militant Hambali, an alleged key member of the theJemaah Islamiyah (JI) network, to plan the strikes.

Hambali, whose real name is Riduan Isamuddin, reportedly spent several months in Cambodia before being captured in Thailand in 2003. He was later handed over to US authorities.

"There is enough evidence to prove that the three men facilitated Hambali's group in preparing terror attacks," said judge Khim Ponn, adding that the group had intended to strike the British embassy and the UN children's agency UNICEF.

Hambali, an Egyptian and a Malaysian were tried in absentia in Cambodia and sentenced to life in prison in 2004 for their roles in the planned attacks, which Khim Ponn said were intended "to cause the loss of many lives".

All three imprisoned men have repeatedly denied the charges against them, with Sman Ismael saying after today's hearing that the court only used "evidence written on a piece of paper by the United States" to find him guilty.

"I am not a terrorist. I had no plan to kill people," he added.

The trio's lawyer, Kao Soupha, told AFP that there were no witnesses to prove that his clients were conspiring with international extremists, adding that the court's decision was "unacceptable".

JI has been blamed for the October 2002 bombings in the Indonesian resort of Bali that killed 202 people.

Washington has lauded Cambodia for its role in the US "war on terror", with the country's leaders earning praise from top American police and military officials seeking better co-operation with Cambodia's government on anti-terror efforts.

Dengue Fever: Vintage Cambodian Pop Remixed

Kevin Estrada / Dengue Fever's new album is called Venus on Earth.

Listen Now

Fresh Air from WHYY, February 25, 2008 - During the Vietnam War, American and British pop music was broadcast in Vietnam on the U.S. Armed Forces Radio Network. Those broadcasts reached neighboring Cambodia, as well. And there, the sounds of Western radio inspired a hybrid of American pop and traditional Cambodian styles.

At that time the king of Cambodian music was Sinn Sisamouth. He and his singing partner, Ros Serey Sothea, had many hits, singing in the traditional style backed by music that sounded like psychedelic surf rock. But when the Pol Pot regime took over in 1975, most of the Western-influenced musicians were killed. The music was banned and recordings destroyed.

Decades later, brothers Zac and Ethan Holzman — a guitar-playing singer-songwriter and a keyboardist, respectively — discovered that vintage Cambodian pop and decided to create a band inspired by the music. They found a Cambodian singer with a beautiful voice who had recently moved to L.A. and formed a group they called Dengue Fever. The band's catchy, often dark instrumentations — along with singer Chhom Nimol's Khmer-language soprano vocals — are a compelling mix.

Dengue Fever's first record was mostly covers of Cambodian pop. Their new CD, Venus on Earth, is an all-original album.

Bush Presses For More Help In Afghanistan

Los Angeles Times
March 12, 2008

NASHVILLE, TENN. — President Bush said yesterday that North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies must "make the hard decisions" necessary to secure peace in Afghanistan and promised to press for increased contributions of troops and money next month to battle a resurgent Taliban and Al Qaeda. Mr. Bush also cited political and security progress in Iraq, as he portrayed the two wars as part of a mission to defeat terrorism that will be passed on to his successors.

Speaking at Opryland, Mr. Bush said that since an American troop build-up in Iraq last year, "sectarian killings are down, Al Qaeda has been driven from many strongholds it once held. I strongly believe the surge is working and so do the Iraqis." As the fifth anniversary of the Iraq invasion approaches next week, Mr. Bush fervently described the twinned elements of his foreign policy in a speech to the annual convention of the National Religious Broadcasters.

He presented them as a fight of good against an evil equal to the genocidal campaigns of World War II and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, declaring freedom, "God's gift to all humanity."
"We undertake this work because we believe that every human being bears the image of our Maker," Mr. Bush said. "That's why we're doing this."

D1 heads power plant investors

Bangkok Post
Wednesday March 12, 2008


A coalition led by Dragon One Plc (D1), 124 Communication and foreign investors expects to generate returns of seven billion baht over the next two years from its new coal-fired power plant in Pailin, Cambodia. Jrarat Pingclasai, the D1 chief executive, said the project, worth around $500 million or 20 billion baht, would produce 350 megawatts of coal-fired power.

D1 and 124 will take 20% each in the project, with the remaining 60% held by an international energy company.

The initial investment if the project is 2.8 billion baht, with revenues expected at seven billion baht per year. Power will be sold to the Electricity Generation Authority of Thailand under a 25-year contract.

Mr Jrarat said the Cambodian government would offer the consortium a 99-year lease for the project at a relatively low cost.

D1 will invest in the project through its new Dragon Power subsidiary. Mr Jrarat said D1 expected to receive steady revenues of 1.4 billion baht per year from the project.

He said D1 was also studying the possibility of setting up an industrial business zone in Pailin on some of the 10,000 rai of land to be leased from the Cambodian government for the power plant.

''Thai manufacturers who are looking to shift production plants to other countries should consider the Dragon Pailin [industrial zone] project, given that it is only 300 kilometres from Bangkok,'' Mr Jrarat said.

''The Cambodian government also currently offers better options for foreign investment than the Thai Board of Investment.''

Mr Jrarat said Dragon Pailin would require an initial investment of 500 million baht, and would leverage infrastructure to be built to support the Dragon Power plant.

Revenues could reach 10 billion baht per year for the industrial zone project within three years.

Mr Jrarat said that for holding company D1, revenues by 2010 would come equally from three segments: Dragon Power, Dragon Pailin and IT services.

D1 is projecting investment this year of 200 million baht, to be financed from rights offerings and warrants. Mr Jrarat is the largest single shareholder at 18%.

The company reported 2007 net losses of 138 million baht on revenues of 430.77 million, down from profits of 59.84 million on revenues of 667.13 million the year before.

Shares of D1 closed yesterday on the SET at 0.68 baht, down three satang, in trade worth 4.63 million baht.

Funding crisis threatens Khmer Rouge trials
By Rob Sharp in Phnom Penh
Wednesday, 12 March 2008

The historic effort to bring to justice the leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime responsible for the deaths of 1.7 million Cambodians is under threat from a massive shortfall in funding.

A top official at the UN "crimes against humanity" tribunal told his Cambodian legal staff yesterday that more than 200 of them faced redundancy unless funds are found to pay them within the next six weeks. While it is hoped that the UN and the Cambodian government can bail them out in the short term, the news is the latest in the long line of upsets that have blighted the process.

Helen Jarvis, chief of public affairs at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, who attended the meeting, confirmed that the court's director of the office of administration, Sean Visoth, told Cambodian staff "to hold their breath". "He explained to people that they will get salaries for March, and we expect April but until something comes in, nothing can be guaranteed after that," said Ms Jarvis. "There is a race against time, we are on a cliff edge, it's not normal. But we have laid on the line our achievements. We have laid out what we need. The situation is there for everyone to see."

The trials – which include the prosecution of the Tuol Sleng prison interrogator Kaing Guek Eav, known as "Duch", and "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea – are being jointly handled by legal teams selected by UN and Cambodian officials.

The Cambodian government and the UN are currently waiting for the results of a joint bid for funds made at the UN office in Geneva at the end of January.

If the bid is successful, it would see the tribunal tripling its budget from $56m (£28m) to $170m. The principle donors to the tribunal so far have been Japan, followed by France, Germany, Britain and Australia. However, senior sources at the court say it is extremely unlikely that the full $144m requested will be granted, as they claim the tribunal has been dogged by delays, poor management and allegations of corruption.

Rupert Skilbeck, a British barrister who administrates the international defence team, said: "Our main concern is that if the funds are not provided ... then this will cause a delay in the trial process. It makes it difficult to run a court when half the court are worried they are not receiving their salaries."

The co-prosecutor Robert Petit added: "The funding problem is this: the whole thing was badly designed. The resources that were thought to be needed were not grounded in the reality of these courts and these cases. The numbers that were put forward were estimates. Of course, a lack of funds could jeopardise the trials or make them very difficult to accomplish. But I am sure the Cambodian government, having signed an agreement to see this through to the end, will find funding as a stop gap. That would be a good sign of commitment."

Mr Petit added that one repercussion of the tribunal's budgetary shortfall was that funds had been relocated away from areas where they were needed, such as maintaining transparency.
He said the judges leading the tribunal investigated the allegations against the defendants in secret. Mr Petit added: "I don't think we have done a very good job of outreach, and we need to coherently explain to people what is going on. In my opinion it's a fundamental part of what we are doing. There's no budget for it; and we've asked for more money for that."

Those also facing trial include the former foreign and social affairs ministers Ieng Sary and Ieng Thirith, along with the former head of state Khieu Samphan. The first public trial, that of Duch, is not expected to begin until October.

JPAC to hold arrival ceremony on Friday

Tuesday, March 11, 2008
The Honolulu Advertise

The Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command at Hickam Air Force Base will conduct an Arrival Ceremony at 9 a.m., Friday in Hangar 35, Hickam AFB, to honor fallen U.S. military personnel whose identities remain unknown.

There will be three flag-draped transfer cases. Two of the cases are associated with the Vietnam War: one from the Lao People's Democratic Republic and one from the Kingdom of Cambodia. The remaining case is associated with a World War II loss in Palau.

Following the ceremony, the remains of these fallen service members will be transported to the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command Central Identification Laboratory where the forensic identification process begins. Once identifications are established, the names will be announced following the notification of next-of-kin.

Preah Vihear by John Vink

Courtesy of Carl Parkes -- FriskoDude

The Khmer temple of Preah Vihear has been in the news lately, due to it's magnificent but unfortunate location on the Thai/Cambodian border. The temple was legally awarded to Cambodia in 1962, but it's almost impossible to reach from the Cambodian side, so almost all visitors arrive from Thailand. Magnum photographer John Vink recently visited the temple and posted a few images on his website, including one of the viewpoint that emphasizes the amazing cliffside location. But you can't save images from his site, (some kind of technological wizardry), so I've included the sample above.

I visited Preah Vihear (aka Preah Viharn) many years ago on a TAT press trip, and was delighted to see the infamous lintel which depicts Vishnu churning the sea of milk, which was stolen several decades ago and sent off to a museum in Chicago, then returned to the temple and remounted in it's original position. A few weeks ago, I spotted a letter to the editor in the Bangkok Post that described the hellish journey from Phnom Penh to Preah Vihear. Read The Backroad to Preah Vihear.

Built between the 10th and the 11th century, this Angkorian temple dedicated to Shiva lies on a cliff along the disputed border between Cambodia and Thailand, although a 1962 ruling of the International Court of The Hague specifies that the temple indeed lies in Cambodian territory. The recent attempt by Cambodia to have the complex being recognised by UNESCO as World Heritage, sparked a renewed claim by Thailand to modify the border. The first visit of the new Thai PM Mr. Samak Sundaravey to Cambodia seems to have calmed things down. Meanwhile tourism is booming, nearly exclusively through the easier access from the Thai side, and some days up to 300 visitors visit the site.
John Vink at the Preah Vihear World Heritage Site

Suspect Says Child Sex Charge False

Reuters/Alexander Trofimov leaving a court in Phnom Penh after a hearing Tuesday.
The Moscow
The Associated Press

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia -- Russian businessman Alexander Trofimov denied charges that he sexually abused a young girl at his trial Tuesday in Cambodia.

Trofimov is accused of debauchery, a Cambodian legal offense covering sexual abuse of children that is punishable by 10 years to 20 years in jail.

Police arrested the 41-year-old man in October on allegations that he had sexually abused as many as 19 girls since 2005. The trial covers only one offense.

Testimony concluded Tuesday, with presiding judge Ke Sakhan setting Friday for announcing the verdict.

The alleged victim, a 14-year-old girl, testified that Trofimov had sex with her in September last year.

She claimed that she received $100 out of $1,000 the Russian man had allegedly paid a broker to bring her to him.

Trofimov denied the charge. "I have never seen her or committed any sex acts with her," he said through a translator. He urged the court to release him.

Trofimov runs a company that in late 2006 received permission from the Cambodian government to develop Koh Puos, or Snake Island, off the coastal town of Sihanoukville, into a tourist resort.

Phal Vannara, a 34-year-old Cambodian man, is charged with conspiracy in the abuse for his alleged role in procuring the girl for the Russian. He is being tried along side Trofimov.

The grottiest place on Earth
Sydney Morning herald

It's not often you find somewhere so grotty that you're moved to take a photo of it.

I've taken plenty of snaps of beautiful mountains, boring sunsets, and accidental close-ups of my own face, but I've only rarely thought it necessary to take a picture of something on pure dirtiness alone, just so I can prove it really exists when I get home.

But that was the case when I saw this scene while wondering through the Indian town of Agra. India-wise, Agra's not exactly head-and-shoulders above the rest in the grottiness stakes, but it says something when you've been in the country a solid month and are still amazed at just how disgusting a place can look.

It says so much about the contradictions of India that a place could be home to both one of the most beautiful structures in the world, and also the most disgusting about two kilometres away.
So to Agra, I bestow my Golden Garbage Can award.

It was this story that got me thinking about the dirty, disgusting cities of the world. Naples might be known for its great pizza, but it's also known for its ridiculous garbage problem, something no doubt exacerbated by the local mafia's control over the garbage disposal. The result is that, for all its good points, Naples is a bit of a hell-hole.

But that's the thing about grot - it doesn't have to be a bad thing. In fact, I think a bit of grot goes a long way. Grot shows that a country or a city has soul. I'd much rather hang out in, say, Phnom Penh than Singapore, or Cairo than Dubai. And anyone who's visited the sub-continent will know that although you have to hold your breath every now and then, the payback is enormous. (I was in Jodhpur once, and was about to step over a reeking open drain when I saw another tourist holding his nose as he did the same thing. "Ah, the smell of India," he said as he hopped across.)

So don't take the Golden Garbage Can as too much of a slight.

London may not be grotty in the "bits of garbage lying around the place" sense, but try giving it the old thong test. (Work with me here.) Spend a day walking around the city in thongs, and then take them off. You'll see a nice white mark where the straps have been sitting, while the rest of your foot will be black. It's almost as bad as Oxford St.

In China, you can pretty much take your pick for grotty spots (although Linfen was named by Time in its list of the 10 most polluted places on Earth). Smog seems to hang low over every city, while rubbish often lines the streets.

Cambodia has the same problem, although on a much smaller scale. The pavements of Phnom Penh are cracking, while Siem Reap is strewn with the sort of detritus that comes with a lot of tourists and very little infrastructure. Fortunately, the temples of Angkor are kept spotlessly clean.

Uganda's bulging at the seams with grot, although in quite a lovable way. Strolling around Kampala is like stepping back into a much dirtier version of the '80s, clothing included. The markets are full of as much trash as they are treasure, but that's what the place is all about.
In Europe you would assume a certain level of cleanliness, but you don't always get it. Barcelona is a prime example. While the city centre is kept relatively tidy, step outside of that and you'd think you'd entered a war zone. And my mate who once went swimming in the harbour must have had a few too many Estrellas.

Greece is pretty similar. Athens is an ancient city, which still seems to have an ancient plumbing and garbage disposal system. The place was heaving with trash when I was there, but you still couldn't help but love the place.

Another city that's pretty rough on the eye is Lima, particularly anywhere outside the tourist zone. While the Miraflores area is all spruced up and Westernised, the rest of it is smog-affected, dirty, and generally falling apart.

Jackson's Sadie Thompson has school in Cambodia named in her honor

The new school in Cambodia is a tribute to Jim Thompson's mother, Sadie Thompson.
Photo by: Courtesy to the Ledger Dispatch

Jim Thompson and his sister, Hazel Joyce of Sutter Creek, hold up a picture of their mother, Jackson resident Sadie Thompson at a school in the village of Proa Chum, Cambodia. The school is dedicated to her by her son. Photo by: Courtesy to the Ledger Dispatch

Ledger Dispatch
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
By Scott Thomas Anderson

On Dec. 8, 2007, a group of Cambodian children gathered in the early morning light at the center of their village and happily waved flags. The new school that was being opened for them was more than just a necessity, it was a symbol - a glimpse at a future not dominated by staggering poverty and hardship, but rather hope through education.

The opening was made possible by the generosity of an American man named Jim Thompson, and it was done as a tribute to the woman who'd taught him everything he knew about caring and compassion.

Before moving to Amador County in 2000, Sadie Thompson had traveled the world. Her husband, the late Jim Thompson Sr., was in the U.S. Navy and then worked in international business. The taste for foreign living was never lost on her son Jim, who's spent most of his adult life living in Asia. Today, Jim's international transportation and storage business, Crown Worldwide, is headquartered in Hong Kong and has offices in more than 50 countries.

Sadie's life, on the other hand, has been quieter lately. She lives in Rollingwood Estates in Jackson and spends a great deal of her time with her daughter, Hazel Joyce of Sutter Creek. Joyce said that, despite some health problems, the feisty 90-year-old still makes a strong impression on those who meet her. "My mom's a unique person," Joyce explained. "She's made a lot of friends since moving up here. She's very upbeat and positive. It's hard to explain, but people just tend to remember her.

"Jim has always agreed, and that message was about to be shared with a village full of children who had never met anyone in the Thompson family. When he recently opened a new office for his company in the Cambodian city of Phnom Penh, his wife, Sally, toured the dire situation in the out-lying countryside. It was eventually brought to the Thompsons' attention that the village of Proa Chum needed a real school for its children, and that the area where what few classes were taught lacked an actual bathroom - which kept many young girls from showing up. The Thompsons wanted to help create a safe and secure place where the kids from Proa Chum could better their chances for the future through education. Jim contacted the Cambodian government and agreed to provide the funds for the school. His only condition was that it be named in his mother's honor.

With the aid of a professor from the Royal University of Phnom Penh, Hun Sen Proa Chum Primary School was built in four months. On the day it opened, Joyce, along with a representative from Cambodia's prime minister and 1,500 other people were on hand. "The experience was so emotional, so overwhelming, that it's hard to put into words," recalled Joyce. "The idea that my brother would do this to honor my mother was amazing. And for me to share that day just provided a memory that I'll hold forever."

After a large picture of Sadie was shown to those gathered, Jim addressed the children. According to Johnson, they hung on his every word. "The only way for the children to escape the devastating poverty is to get an education; and that's what he stressed to them," she said. "For the girls who don't, they're often forced into prostitution. In Cambodia, the problem with AIDS and children being sold into prostitution has been well-documented by the media. It's horrific, and that's why Jim emphasized to the kids of Proa Chum to stay in school and use education as their way out."

The goal of helping children is something Joyce is very familiar with herself. She's currently on the board of Amador's Operation Care, which helps women and children who are the victims of abuse. She said both she and her brother's commitment to making a positive difference can be directly attributed to the role Sadie played in their lives. "There's certainly a connection between what Jim did in Cambodia and her," she said. "Anything about being good and trying to care for people, we learned from our mother."

Cambodia vigilant for chemical, nuclear weapon imports

PHNOM PENH, March 12 (Xinhua) -- The Cambodian government has remained committed to preventing any chemical or nuclear weapons smuggled into the country, said English-Khmer language newspaper the Mekong Times on Wednesday.

"The government still continues to prevent the import of chemical and nuclear weapons to keep peace and stability, while countries around the world are facing threats of terrorism," said Em Sam An, secretary of state at the Interior Ministry while addressing a National Awareness Workshop of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) here on Tuesday.

Cambodia cooperates with several other countries on weapons control and has held a strong stance on the issue since 1993, he said, adding that the country has destroyed over 190,000 weapons since then.

"The Interior Ministry has prohibited the circulation of chemical weapons and cut down on the level of weapons in the country with positive results from the crackdowns conducted by the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces," he said.

Cambodia ratified CWC in July 2005, becoming the 170th member of the convention.

Editor: Jiang Yuxia

Visitors to Cambodia prisons hit up for bribes: report+

Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Macro World Investor

PHNOM PENH, March 11-(Kyodo), Visitors to prisons in Cambodia are required to pay bribes to prison guards to gain access to inmates, a Cambodian human rights organization said in a report released Tuesday.

The report by LICADHO said, "In order for families to visit a family member in prison, they are usually required to pay a bribe to the prison guards."

It said that the bribe can range from 2,000 riel (about $0.50) to hundreds of dollars depending on the particular prison guard and the perception of wealth of the family.

"Families and visitors are regularly denied access to their loved ones if they are unable to pay these bribes," the report said.

Often, even if the bribe has been paid, the visit will be heavily monitored by prison guards to make the prisoners fearful of telling their families about the true conditions in the prison, it added.

LICADHO, established in 1992, is a nongovernmental human rights organization, and its prison researchers make four visits each month to 18 out of 26 prisons throughout Cambodia.

The report, titled "Prison Conditions in Cambodia: 2007," said prison officials regularly take most, if not all, gifts of food, personal hygiene products and supplies for their own use. Families are often unaware of this practice and continue to give gifts.

Repeated attempts to reach prison officials for comment on the report were unsuccessful.

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt may wait for baby number 5 on the French Riviera


by Vicki Hyman/Star-Ledger Staff
Tuesday March 11, 2008,

Another baby, another continent for Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. E! Online reports that the couple are eying the French Riviera for the birth of their yet-to-be-acknowledged baby (or babies, as E!'s "The Hum" blog advances).

The couple, currently in Austin, Texas, while Pitt films "Tree of Life" with Sean Penn, are clearing their schedules so they can take root in the South of France for the delivery and postpartum recovery, a source tells website. They spent weeks in Namibia for the birth of their daughter, Shiloh, in 2006. (Jolie adopted a son, Maddox, from Cambodia, before she met Pitt; the two have also welcomed Zahara, from Ethiopia, and Pax, from Vietnam.)

"They want to be in France by summer," a source tells E!, although Pitt's publicist says she wasn't aware of the planned move. The Hum also says the couple is expecting twins.

New Mekong herring is less than an inch long

Picture by Heok Hee Ng.

Practical FishKeeping

The Mekong River drainage has yielded a new genus and species of miniature river herring to science.

Tyson Roberts describes Minyclupeoides dentibranchialus from the Mekong River drainage in Cambodia in the latest issue of the Raffles Bulletin of Zoology.

The new species is a member of the subfamily Pellonulinae, and is distinguished from other members of the subfamily in the near total lack of scales, numerous (25–27) teeth on the maxilla, and only a single scale bearing a lateral line pore on the sides of the body at the level of the shoulder.

Minyclupeoides dentibranchialus is substantially smaller than any of the four pellonuline herring species (Clupeichthys aesarnensis, Clupeichthys goniognathus, Clupeoides borneensis and Corica laciniata) found in the Mekong River drainage: mature individuals are no larger than 2.2 cm standard length.

The genus is named after its small size (from the Greek minys, meaning small and clupeoides, a herring genus) and the species after the heavily toothed gill rakers (form the Latin dent-meaning teeth and branchus, meaning gills).

For more information, see the paper: Roberts, TR (2008) Minyclupeoides dentibranchialus, a new genus and species of river herring from the Lower Mekong basin of Cambodia (Teleostei: Clupeidae: Pellonulinae). The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology 56, pp. 125–127.

Thais to start projects with neighbour

March 11, 2008
Asia Property Report

by Robert Carry

Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej has announced that his Government is to initiate a series of ´productive bilateral cooperations´ which will see the two nations implementing a series of projects on energy, infrastructure and business.

The pledge came after the PM´s visit to Cambodia, during which he met with the country´s leader Hun Sen. Samak said Thailand´s assistance to Cambodia would be of benefit to both countries, particularly the highway 68 construction project, which is set to receive a budget on top of the Bt1.4 billion (US$43.7 million) already earmarked for the road.

The highway is set to link Thailand´s Surin province to Cambodia´s Siem Riep, and seen as an opportunity to boost tourism in both regions. According to the Thai premier, other projects set to be kicked off include a coal-fired power plant on Cambodia´s Koh Kong. Samak also revealed that discussions were held on what to do about border demarcation on overlapping zones, an issue he believed could be turned into a ´win-win situation´ by developing the disputed regions as tourist attractions.

Russian is found guilty at Cambodia’s largest-ever paedophilia prosecution

Russia IC

Cambodian court found Russian businessmen Alexander Trofimov guilty in sexual assault of a 14 year old girl.

At the hearings Trofimov claimed that he was not guilty and had never seen the girl. The girl testified that she had sex with Trofimov in September last year.

She said she received $100 out of $1,000 that Trofimov paid to a broker to bring the girl to him.

Trofimov could face from 10 to 20 years in prison. The verdict is to be announced on Friday.

Tanayong plans to open 12 hotels in five years

March 10, 2008 Monday
Nation Multimedia Group

The Nation

Managing director Kavin Kanjanapas said the company intended to acquire and build a deluxe brand of hotels and resorts.

The mission is to increase the portfolio to ten hotels and resorts in five years within Thailand - focusing on Chiang Mai, Koh Samui, Chiang Rai, Kanchanaburi, Phuket, Krabi, Khao Yai, Rayong and Bangkok - and three locations outside Thailand: Luang Prabang in Laos and Phnom Phen and Siem Reap in Cambodia.

Tanayong has appointed InVision Hospitality, a hotel consultant firm, to create the brand U Hotels and Resorts. U Hotels and Resorts will have a maximum 100 rooms and in some cases will include a residential element. The first property is under construction and is scheduled to open by the middle of this year. U Chiang Mai will be a low-rise building with 41 rooms located in the heart of the city on Rajdamnoen Road.

Tanayong has appointed Peerasak Pongarayakul, design director of SPA+A, to bring out the company's vision and brand philosophy through the architecture and interior design for all U hotels and resorts.

"We chose to work with InVision Hospitality based on their exceptional track record and the expertise of the team. U Chiang Mai Hotel is the first in a series of new hotels that we are planning to add in Thailand and in the region at both resort and city locations. We are looking forward to expanding our presence as a leader in niche and deluxe hotels," Kavin said.

As a result of the 1997 financial crisis, Tanayong entered into a reorganisation process between 2002-2006, with new paid-up capital that rose to Bt5.8 billion and a new shareholder structure, with international strategic shareholders, including Dubai Investment Group.

Kindness all around her

Davik Teng, 9, thanks Chi Nguyen, 11, for money she donated to help Davik get her heart surgery. Nguyen, who suffers from leukemia, decided to use the money in her piggy bank, $50, to help Davik. The pair met for the first time Friday at Sophy s Restaurant in Long Beach. (Jeff Gritchen/Staff Photographer )

Davik Teng has received aid from an unexpected source.

By Greg Mellen Staff Writer

LONG BEACH - The plaintive eyes of the girl in the poster spoke to Chi Nguyen. When the fifth-grader at Lincoln Elementary read about the plight of Davik Teng, a 9-year-old girl from a remote Cambodian village who needed heart surgery, Nguyen knew she had to reach out.

Now, here's what you need to know about Nguyen. She suffers from leukemia, which she says is now in remission, so she has had her own series of life hurdles to overcome.

Here's what else you need to know. Nguyen is a Vietnamese native who moved to the United States as a 7-year-old. She shares a cramped apartment with her mother and stepfather in a struggling neighborhood near Cherry Avenue and 10th Street. When her family moved to the United States, they had to leave her older brother, Trung, now 17, behind.

But one look at Davik staring out from a poster in Sophy's Restaurant touched Nguyen. Maybe she sensed their shared burdens and obstacles. Or maybe she just wanted to do something nice for someone else, someone she saw as less fortunate.

"I wanted to help her so badly," says Nguyen, with perfect English diction and grammar.

"I said, `Mom, she's poorer than us; she needs our help,"' Nguyen recalls. "She said `Fine, but you have to make your own money."'

So Nguyen, 11, emptied her piggy bank. She did extra chores for her mom and relatives to make cash. And, when Tet, Vietnamese New Year, arrived in February and she received traditional gifts of money from relatives in red envelopes, she added that to the cache as well. In all, she raised $50 for Davik.

Nguyen said she was particularly moved when she learned that because of a hole in her heart, Davik couldn't run and play like other children.

"When I was in the hospital I couldn't move either," says Nguyen, who said she was bedridden for a while during her treatments at Miller Children's Hospital in Long Beach.

Nguyen and Davik met for the first time recently at Sophy's. The next day, they went to a McDonald's restaurant with a play area. Although they speak different tongues, they share the universal language of play.

"She seems shy, but she's very nice," Nguyen said of Davik.

The warmth of Nguyen's spirit was no surprise to those who know her at Lincoln Elementary School.

"I'd like to say I'm shocked, but I'm not," says Shani rae Erickson, Nguyen's teacher. "She has this kind of old soul."

Erickson shares a special affinity with her pupil, as the teacher is a cancer survivor. Although Erickson said cancer is not something either tends to advertise, they share a kinship and understanding of each other.

"She's just adored by everyone," Erickson says of Nguyen. "You meet her and she just stays with you - and it's not because of the leukemia."

When contacted by a reporter about Nguyen, Erickson asked what the child was doing. Nguyen hadn't told her teacher about her philanthropy.

"I tell you what," Erickson said. "I'll match her $50 and maybe we can get something started."
Those who brought Davik to the United States for her surgery hope Nguyen's gesture can help start something between communities.

Nguyen's homeland of Vietnam and its people have feuded for centuries with Cambodia. For several Cambodian adults, Nguyen's effort is a revelation, devoid as it is of any sense of the arbitrary nature of nations and history.

"We adults could learn so much from these children," says Lakhena Chhuon, vice president of Hearts Without Boundaries, the Long Beach nonprofit that brought Davik to the U.S. for her surgery.

"For this little girl who is Vietnamese to help a Cambodian is wonderful," says Peter Chhun, founder of Hearts Without Boundaries. "I think it sets a good example for adults. Maybe it will bring the Vietnamese and Cambodian communities closer together."

Davik's surgery is scheduled for March 20. It is the same day Nguyen and her family board a plane for Vietnam where they will be reunited with Trung and hopefully be able to bring him to the U.S.

"I'll be on a plane, but I'll pray for Davik," Nguyen told Chhun.

The prayers will be going both ways.

People interested in helping Hearts Without Boundaries pay for Davik's expenses in the United States can make tax-deductible donations to Hearts without Boundaries, 744 Redondo Ave., Long Beach, CA 90804 or by calling 818-640-6191.
Organizers can also be reached by e-mail at or

Groups Lament Attacks in Hun Sen Speeches

By Chiep Mony, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
11 March 2008

Khmer audio aired March 11 (1.47MB) - Listen (MP3)

In recent speeches, Prime Minister Hun Sen has blasted both his coalition partner and the opposition party.

Party officials said this week they were not worried the speeches would hurt them in the upcoming national election, but at least one rights worker said the speeches were disappointing in their negativity.

Over the past month, Hun Sen has publicly mocked the Sam Rainsy Party, especially following defections of party members to the CPP.

On March 8, speaking during a groundbreaking ceremony in Pursat province, Hun Sen not only criticized Sam Rainsy, but also Funcinpec, the government coalition partner, for defections.

In addition, Hun Sen warned Funcinpec last week not to campaign on a platform that a vote for Funcinpec was a vote for the CPP. If you want Hun Sen as prime minister, he said, you vote CPP.

Prince Sisowath Siriwath, a high-ranking member of Funcinpec, denied the party would campaign this way, adding that he was not worried the prime minister's speeches would hurt the party's popularity.

Eng Chhai Eang, secretary-general of the Sam Rainsy Party, said Hun Sen's criticism reflected his fear of a loss of power. Such speeches attacked the "main rival" of the ruling party, the opposition, he said.

The speeches marked a negativity ahead of the campaign that should be avoided, one leading rights worker said.

Kek Galabru, president of Licadho, said that she did not want to see politicians criticize each other. Rather, she said, they should inform voters of the principals of the party.

The Sam Rainsy Party and Funcinpec should still be considered competitors against the CPP, as both have seats in parliament, said Koul Panha, executive director of Committee for Free and Fair Elections. Voters could change their minds about parties, so the CPP must be cautious about the two, he said.

Cambodia has 57 political parties, but only 44 of them have registered at the Interior Ministry, Lt. Gen. Khieu Sopheak, Interior Ministry spokesman, said, five more than in the last national election.

Pedophile Case Opens Against Beach Tycoon

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
11 March 2008

Khmer audio aired March 11 (0.97MB) - Listen (MP3)

Phnom Penh Municipal Court said Tuesday it will rule Friday on whether Russian business tycoon Alexander Trofimov is guilty of debauchery, as one of Cambodia's widest-sweeping pedophile trials opened.

Trofimov, 41, denied one charge of debauchery in Phnom Penh court, where he is accused of paying for sexual acts with a 14-year-old girl. He faces similar accusations from a number of other alleged victims in Sihanoukville, where he was leading the $300-million development of Snake Island, off the southwest coast.

Trofimov said in a public hearing that lasted six hours that he was innocent of the debauchery charge, and he denied knowing the alleged victim or paying for sexual acts with her.

The girl told the court that Trofimov had four sexual encounters with her at his house in Sihanoukville.

Prosecutor Sok Kalyan said at the close of the hearing Trofimov was guilty and should pay $200,000 in compensation for the girl.

Trofimov's lawyer, Ouch Sophal, called for a re-investigation of the case, saying the evidence was not clear.

Cambodia's anti-trafficking law provides for 10 to 20 years in prison for debauchery charges.

Administration Seeks Input on Reforestation

By Win Thida, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
11 March 2008

Khmer audio aired March 11 (858KB) - Listen (MP3)

The government made a step toward repairing some of its lost forest cover Friday, adopting a sub-decree to help individuals, communities or even businesses apply for tree replanting.

Lim Sokhun, secretary of state for the Ministry of Agriculture, said this week the sub-decree aims to promote sustainable forests and help the environment.

Areas that can be nominated for replanting include those that are damaged by blight, disease, fire, illegal logging or typhoon.

Any individual or group can submit an area for reforestation, but they must be a Cambodian national and must live near the suggested area.

Cambodia has lost wide swaths of forest due to illegal logging since the 1990s.

Officials Meet to Bolster Weapons Ban

By Seng Ratana, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
11 March 2008

Khmer audio aired March 11 (995KB) - Listen (MP3)

National officials joined representatives of the Japanese government and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons Tuesday, for three days of discussions on maintaining a chemical weapons ban.

Cambodia signed the Chemical Weapons Convention in 2005, pledging not to produce, transport or store chemical weapons.

The three-day workshop was aimed to support Cambodia's efforts to follow the Convention.

"In a world where we face an ever-present threat of chemical terrorism, the [Convention] plays an important twin role in both the disarmament and non-proliferation of chemical weapons based on its stringent verification regime," said Em Sam An, secretary of state for the Ministry of Interior and vice chairman of the National Chemical Weapons Authority, speaking at the opening of the workshop.

Cambodia's economic stage meant a limited chemical industry now, said Magda Bauta, a leading representative of the OPCW. But rapid economic advances in Cambodia and the region, she said, meant "it will be not too long from now that chemical industries will be established here, which need to be monitored and regulated through a licensing and reporting system."

The transport of chemicals through Asean was likely to increase in coming years, she said, making the role of customs and border security agencies even more important.

Em San An said after the opening ceremony that Cambodia was committed to fighting terrorism in the region, and he reminded reporters that the US had used chemical defoliants in the 1970s with its war in Vietnam.

Many chemicals were dropped from US war planes in Cambodia's northeast, he said, damaging the forests and rivers.

Women Should Brave Politics, Leaders Say

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
11 March 2008

Khmer audio aired March 10 (6.93MB) - Listen (MP3)

Two women leaders urged more women in Cambodia to be brave in politics, pointing to US presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton as an example.

Pok Nanda, director of the Organization for Women's Prosperity, and Thida Khus, head of the development group Silaka, both train women across Cambodia and promote leadership.

They joined "Hello VOA" Monday to discuss women in politics, including Clinton, who is in the Democratic primary race against Sen. Barrack Obama.

"She has the full ability to be a presidential candidate," Pok Nanda said.

"She will beat Obama," Thida Khus said.

Such political developments in Cambodia may still be far off.

Hundreds of thousands of women work jobs at garment factories, which is detrimental to their education, which was "the burden of the government" to rectify, Pok Nanda said.

More women need to be added to the National Assembly, Thida Kus added, in order to help decide national policy and other important decisions.

Cambodia's construction boom leaves the poor behind

By Ker Munthit
Wednesday, Mar 12, 2008

"The government swept us away because they regarded us as very unpleasant for their eyes." Chhom Et, former Phnom Penh slum dweller

An old hospital was razed to make way for Phnom Penh's tallest building -- a 42 story twin condominium tower. A garbage-strewn slum became prime real estate after police evicted its dwellers to a parched rice field outside the capital.

Cambodia is experiencing a construction boom fueled by foreign investment, particularly by South Koreans, and buying and selling among the country's few nouveaux riche -- while leaving the poor majority behind.

Shopping malls and tall apartment buildings are sprouting up, transforming the capital's landscape that once bore the charm of colonial French-styled villas, but resembled a ghost town at the fall of the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime nearly 30 years ago.

Political stability and robust economic growth of nearly 10 percent have lured investors to the real estate market that has seen prices surge over the last few years -- though they are still lower than in neighboring Vietnam or Thailand.

"Cambodia was sleeping for many years and now it's waking up," said Claire Brown, managing director of Britain-based Claire Brown Realty, who began buying and selling property in Phnom Penh two years ago.

"Everybody wants to get a piece of the action," she said by phone. "The time to get in is now because soon it's going to be too late."

Prime city land prices have tripled over the last two years to US$3,000 per square meter. Those kinds of returns have drawn rich and middle-class Cambodians, as well as those living abroad.

"In buying and selling land, they could get profit 100 or 200 percent a year, if they make the right bet on the right location," said Dith Channa, the sale manager of CPL Cambodia Properties Ltd, a Phnom Penh-based real estate agency.

But the soaring real estate market is also widening the gap between the rich and the poor.

"Phnom Penh city is getting modern every day -- of course for the wealthy," said Chhorn Et, a former slum dweller now living with hundreds of others in a village in the middle of rice field about 20km from the capital.

"The government swept us away because they regarded us as very unpleasant for their eyes," said the 34-year-old woman who scavenges for discarded cans and bottles to sell for a living.

The flourishing property market is also happening in the shadow of problems of land rights disputes that, in recent years, have often pitted the poor against wealthy developers with links to the Cambodian political establishment.

"We're moving toward possibly about 10 percent of the population owning 90 percent of the land in Cambodia," said Naly Pilorge, director of the nonprofit human rights group Licadho.

That could fan social and political unrest, she and others have warned.

The biggest projects are being funded by South Korean investors and companies, which have been the leading investors in Cambodia following the resumption of diplomatic ties between the two countries in 1997. Investment and tourists from South Korea have surged following a 2006 visit to Cambodia by former president Roh Moo-hyun.

World City Co Ltd, a South Korean company, is investing US$2 billion to build a "satellite" urban complex called Camko City on a 120 hectare area on the northwest side of Phnom Penh. The project, the single biggest foreign direct investment in Cambodia to date, will include residential, commercial and public facilities -- villas, condos, trade and financial centers, office buildings, shopping centers, hotels, schools and hospitals.

Meanwhile, at a busy corner leading up to the city's landmark Independence Monument, an old government hospital has been torn down to make way for a 42 story condominium and shopping complex worth about US$250 million. That's going to dramatically change Phnom Penh's skyline, where the tallest building now is a 15 story hotel.

It is going to be the first luxury residential building and tallest structure in Cambodia, said Kim Tae-yeon, chairman of Yon Woo Inc, a South Korean developer.

Kim said the towers will have about 500 units of apartments, office space and retail shops with price tags ranging from US$112,000 to US$1.8 million a unit.

Construction will start next month and take three-and-a-half years to complete, but Kim said nearly half of the units have already been bought.

In recent years, Siem Reap, a northwestern town near the famed Angkor Wat ruins, has also seen a frenzy of hotel and guesthouse construction for the growing numbers of tourists.

Thrilled with the boom, Prime Minister Hun Sen has said it has been made possible by the political stability he has brought. In a recent speech he warned that if he is not re-elected in July elections, property prices could nosedive.

"It was a threat, a dirty trick to gain votes," said Son Chhay, an opposition party lawmaker.

Son Chhay and some human rights workers, including Pilorge of the human rights group Licadho, believe that the boom is partly fueled by people laundering money from illegal logging, drug trafficking and tax evasion by plowing the cash into the real estate market.

"This is not going to be healthy for the Cambodian economy," Son Chhay said.

There are also concerns that the rapid price gains are creating a property bubble that will eventually pop.

Eric Sidgwick, senior economist at the Asian Development Bank office in Phnom Penh, said the real estate market has been "driven by a combination of genuine demand for business-related and residential construction," as well as a growing population, increased urbanization and speculation.

Still, there were "reasons to be concerned about the recent increase in real estate prices and the dangers of further inflating a speculation-led bubble," he said in an e-mail.

He declined to comment about any possible link between money laundering and the property market boom.

Meanwhile, poor residents like Chhorn Et, the former slum dweller who was moved outside the capital, are left to cope with a stark reality in their new village, which has no running water or sewage system.

Although each family has been given a small piece of land, they complain of the lack of means to support their livelihoods. They have to travel daily to the capital to do odd jobs as motorbike taxi drivers, construction workers or scavenge for bottles and cans to sell to buy food.

Many of them are too poor to afford a latrine and have to use a nearby rice field as a toilet, said 37-year-old Mom Somaly, a mother of five children.

Pointing to a distant land-for-sale sign, she said: "Soon they may not even have a field to use as toilet any longer."

Russian man denies child sex abuse charge during trial in Cambodia

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia -- A Russian businessman accused of sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl in Cambodia denied the charge Tuesday, despite the child's testimony that he paid her for sex last year.

Alexander Trofimov, 41, is accused of debauchery. If convicted of the child sex offense, Trofimov could face from 10 to 20 years in prison.

Police arrested Trofimov in the coastal city of Sihanoukville in October on suspicion he had sexually abused up to 19 Cambodian girls since 2005. Tuesday's trial, held in the capital, Phnom Penh, considered only one of those allegations.

Judge Ke Sakhan said he would announce a verdict Friday.

The teenage girl testified that she and Trofimov had sex in September last year. She said she received $100 out of $1,000 that Trofimov paid to a broker to bring the girl to him.

Trofimov, who has lived in Cambodia for more than three years, denied the charge.

"I have never seen her or committed any sex acts with her," Trofimov told the court. He urged the court to release him.

Phal Vannara, a 34-year-old Cambodian man, is charged with conspiracy in the sexual abuse for his alleged role as the broker. He is being tried alongside Trofimov.

Trofimov runs a company that in late 2006 received permission from the Cambodian government to develop Koh Puos, or Snake Island, into a tourist resort