Monday, 12 January 2009

Monks get Elephants off the airwaves

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Khouth Sophak Chakrya
Monday, 12 January 2009

The popular rock opera has been banned from broadcast

CAMBODIA'S Council of Ministers called last week for a suspension of any further television broadcasts of the rock opera Where Elephants Weep pending changes to the script and a meeting between the national epic's writer and director, and the Kingdom's Supreme Sangha, or council of monks.

The Council of Ministers met on Tuesday in response to complaints that the opera contained scenes deemed offensive to Cambodia's Buddhist community.

Phay Siphan, spokesman and secretary of state for the Council of Ministers, told the Post Thursday that the council supports the opera but has prohibited its broadcast on television and demanded the writer and director appear before the Sangha to answer specific concerns over content.

"We sent the results of our meeting to Prime Minister Hun Sen, and we are waiting for his reply," Phay Siphan said.

"Our government knows well that Buddhism is the state religion, and we will protect and promote it. But we also support and encourage [the opera's] global performance in order to promote our culture internationally [but with] improvements to some of the verse and scenes in the story," he added.

The opera premiered in preview performances in Lowell, Massachusetts, in 2007. It debuted in Cambodia on November 28 and ran successfully through December 7 before airing on local television in late December.

" We sent the results of our meeting to Prime Minister Hun Sen. "

But Cambodia's Sangha complained in a December 30 letter to the Ministry of Cults and Religion that the show dishonoured the Buddhist religion and asked that it be banned from future stage performances and from national television, and that the cast and crew apologise.

American playwright Catherine Filloux, who wrote the opera, and musical composer Him Sophy told the Post last week by email that opera organisers were working with marketing managers and relevant government ministries to resolve the situation. Him Sophy added Thursday that opera officials were working on explanations for specific concerns raised by the Sangha.

Elephants is a post-Khmer Rouge take on the Cambodian classic Tom Tiev, telling the story of a Cambodian-American man who becomes a monk in order to find his Cambodia roots.

The Sangha took exception to several scenes in the opera but expressed particular concern to a scene in which an actor [Michael Lee] "left the monkhood and slept with a woman, but a moment later put the robe back on to be a monk again", the complaint letter stated.

Capital Kindergarten


The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Post Staff
Monday, 12 January 2009

Kindergarten students of Don Bosco Tuol Kork play after class last week. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered Phnom Penh Municipal Governor Kep Chuktema not to allow the sale of any preschool building in the capital. “Kep Chuktema has to tell all local authorities to look after all kindergartens, do not sell or exchange the land with this or that company because you want money,” Hun Sen said.

Region targets illegal wildlife trade

A Cambodian pangolin.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Georgia Wilkins
Monday, 12 January 2009

Officials meeting in Bangkok resolve to tackle trade of endangered species regionally

LOCAL officials have welcomed a renewed multilateral effort to combat the thriving illegal wildlife trade that is threatening to push several of the region's endangered species into extinction.

At a three-day workshop in Bangkok that ended Friday, senior police investigators from Southeast Asia, China and the United States outlined what they claimed to be the first stage of a strategy to dismantle organised crime syndicates responsible for the poaching and selling of pangolins (endangered scaly anteaters), leopards and tigers for their skin and body parts.

The meeting, co-organised by the Asean Wildlife Enforcement Network (Asean-WEN), focused on these three species, considered some of the most highly prized within the lucrative black market, a press release stated.

"Pangolins and big cats (and derivative products) are in high demand and among the most profitable contraband trafficked by criminal syndicates involved in the illegal trade in protected species - a black market estimated by INTERPOL to be worth in excess of US$10 billion annually," the Asean-WEN statement said.

It added that the workshop resolved to help "locate, gather evidence against and arrest the criminal ring leaders behind the illegal wildlife trade".

Chheang Dany, deputy director of the Wildlife Office at the Forestry Administration, told the Post Sunday that the collaboration was a welcome step in opening up dialogue between countries in the region on an issue that risked being neglected.

"So far, there is no common database of animal numbers in the region, nor any sort of strategy in place to counter this problem," he said.

He stressed, however, that although it was a common issue, real change would need to come from individual governments, with those more economically capable taking the lead.

"Countries must take their own initiatives too," he said.

Flood of Funcinpec defectors continues

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Vong Sokheng and Neth Pheaktra
Monday, 12 January 2009

ANOTHER 35 members of the Royalist party Funcinpec announced plans to join the ruling Cambodian People's Party last week. Pou Sothirak, former Cambodian ambassador to Japan, was the highest-ranking Funcinpec member to defect.

Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith confirmed the defections Sunday, noting that the members included civil servants, police officers and soldiers.

"We accepted their request to join with the CPP, and the list was announced in the Khmer-language newspaper Kampuchea Thmey," Khieu Kanharith said.

Lu Laysreng, deputy president of Funcinpec, speculated in an interview with the Post Sunday that the defecting members might have chosen to leave because they believed they would have greater job security with the CPP.

"Funcinpec has opened the door for those who do not want to stay with the party," Ly Laysreng said. "They have the right to join the CPP."

Koul Panha, executive director of the election monitor Comfrel, said those who left might have done so because of doubts about Funcinpec's prospects in future elections.

In addition, they might also have decided that the party has little power in the current coalition government because of the influence of the CPP.

Lu Laysreng said only 10 percent of more than 1.2 million Funcinpec supporters have defected to the CPP. He said most local supporters would not switch their allegiance to the ruling party. What's more, he said, he believes "members who left the party will return to their old house".

7NG ups compensation offer

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Two of Dey Krahorm's remaining 120 residents sit in their slum house last week.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chhay Channyda
Monday, 12 January 2009

Eager to relocate the remaining 120 families at Dey Krahorm, developer 7NG has offered more compensation but not as much as residents want

DEY Krahorm developer 7NG raised its offer of compensation for those agreeing to leave their houses, but declared they would not match the amount requested by the slum's defiant residents.

"This morning, they offered us an additional US$5,000 [taking the total cash compensation to $15,000] and another water tank," resident representative Chan Vichet said, adding that people have asked for between $30,000 and $60,000.

"The $15,000 is not a definite price for us to leave Dey Krahorm. We can still negotiate," he said. "But we do not expect to get what we are asking for."

After the last eviction deadline passed on December 30, residents met on multiple occasions with representatives of developer 7NG and resident officials to renegotiate compensation, seeking an increase from the previous offer of $10,000 plus a sum of 770,000 riels ($188.22).

Srey Sothea, 7NG company chairman, told the Post Thursday that $15,000 is just a base offer but the company could give more.

"We cannot make an equal offer to each family. We can give them more than $15,000, but not up to $30,000," he said, calling the current offer "generous" considering most residents' standard of living.

Srey Sothea said that peaceful negotiation could not go on indefinitely because he knew that some people at the site would not leave regardless.

"Negotiation is limited because we have negotiated for four years. No later than this month or next month, the authorities will take legal action. We respect the law," he said.

Residents have complained about various acts of violence by 7NG employees during the last couple of months, claiming that residents have been beaten and property destroyed. Company officials have denied such claims.

By the end of December, Chan Vichet estimated that about 120 families out of the original 1,465 were still living at Dey Krahorm, many in fear of arrest for defying eviction orders.

Bunn Rachana, monitor at the Housing Rights Task Force, called on authorities and the company to continue peaceful negotiations with the residents.

"Fair and just compensation is [only achieved] when both sides can happily enjoy the benefit of development," Bunn Rachana added.

Protests planned by Khmer Krom

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Neth Pheaktra
Monday, 12 January 2009

KHMER Krom ethnic minority members are planning demonstrations in Cambodia and Vietnam to protest against the detention of former monk Tim Sakhorn by Vietnamese authorities, activists said Sunday.

Khmer Kampuchea Krom Human Rights Association's chief executive, Ang Chanrith, said the demonstration would be held in the near future but declined to give a date.

Yoeung Sin of the Khmer Krom Monks Association said he will join the protest, claiming the detention was a violation of human rights. Both activists said they weren't afraid to demonstrate, but will seek permission from the Interior Ministry for the rally.

Stall owners protest 'profiteering' B'bang investment company

In an increasing trend throughout the country, companies such as the Kim Hoc Heng company are buying out markets to repair and sell back to shop owners at an inflated price, leaving many stall owners with nowhere to sell except the street.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Titthara
Monday, 12 January 2009

Vendors at a market in Battambang claim that an investment company repairing the market is forcing them to sell and buy back their stalls

THOUSANDS of vendors from Battambang's Mong Russei market have reacted with anger to an investment plan they claim will force them to move to a new market at substantial personal expense, market officials told the Post Thursday.

According to Reun Ra, the market's representative, tensions began after Chiv Battambang Cheak (CBC), which plans to develop the site, set up a fence around the market on December 31.

"CBC built a fence [around the market] and told us to move to the new market. Then, they ordered us to buy a new shop while they repaired this one," she said.

"They did this without telling sellers, who have the right to know because they have rented this market from the district governor since 1992," she added.

Yim Sary, a vendor, said he was told they would be required to sell and buy back their stalls during the move at a profit to the company if they wished to return to their regular selling spot.

"We rent the market from the district governor now and do not earn enough money to invest such capital. Now, they want us to buy a new shop and give our old shops to them, and after they finish construction they will sell them back to us, but we are not crazy," he said.

Reun Ra said the new market has only 100 shops compared with 500 at the old one, forcing vendors to compete with each other if they want space.

"We really haven't got money to buy the new shop. They want to increase poor people's standard of living, but it will decrease their standard of living instead," she added.

'It's up to the company'

Long Som, governor of Mong Russei district, blamed vendors for not cooperating in discussions about the investment, and said investors should be left alone to do what they have been given permission to do.

"We invited [vendors] to come to the provincial office to negotiate the problem, but they did not come and said we wanted to close the market," he said.

"It's up to the company who comes to invest in this market. We are not responsible. We have never got any money from the vendors," he added.

Chiv Kok Cheak, director of CBC, denied that vendors would be required to sell and buy back their stalls.

"[The vendors] don't understand our plan," he said.

"At first, there were 460 vendors who agreed to move, but later I don't know why they changed their minds," he added.

Don't discriminate at Dey Krahorm

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by David Pred
Monday, 12 January 2009

Dear Editor,

We were dismayed to read about the blatant discrimination exhibited by municipal authorities in the article "Artists' relocation prioritised" [January 8, 2009]. The article reported that recent moves to evict Dey Krahorm residents are being "sweetened" by offering the "most celebrated residents" of the community more expensive city-centre relocation housing. According to the article, the non-famous residents will have to settle for a compensation package worth around US$10,000 or distant alternative housing at Damnak Trayoeng.

The article neglected to include the views of these other residents of the community, who have roundly rejected the 7NG company's offer to them as unacceptable.

It is clear that Dey Krahorm's artist community, which includes popular musicians and comedians, presents a big problem for municipal authorities and 7NG, who seek to clear the residents out of the area to make way for commercial development. Needless to say, the image of forcibly removing the likes of Kong Nai from his Dey Krahorm home would not be a public relations score for the municipality.

After all, the Royal Government of Cambodia reported to the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on December 2, 2008, that "in Cambodia, people have the rights to live in their home with law protecting them from eviction." The Government's State Party Report continues:

If eviction is required, the government pays just and equitable compensation for that as stated in Article 44, paragraph 2 and 3 of the Constitution of Cambodia. "The right to confiscate possessions from any person shall be exercised only in the public interest as provided for under law and shall require fair and just compensation in advance" [Para 528].

These legal protections must apply indiscriminately to all Dey Krahorm homeowners, not just the artists. The current residents of Dey Krahorm lawfully possess their property. They have either lived there for many years or they purchased their land from previous residents, and thus have valid claims of ownership under the Land Law.

Moreover, Dey Krahorm land was granted to the community as a Social Land Concession in 2003, following Prime Minister Hun Sen's welcome announcement to provide secure land tenure and to assist in the onsite upgrading of 100 inner-city poor communities each year until all of Phnom Penh's urban poor communities have secure land tenure and full basic services. Dey Krahorm was to be among the first urban poor communities to become beneficiaries of this plan. The intention to provide secure land tenure and onsite upgrading to the Dey Krahorm community was reiterated just last month in the government's report to the UN Committee. The report identified Dey Krahorm as a land-sharing project intended to "help the communities to build houses on their legally owned land" [Para 537].

Despite the strong support of the community and the 2003 endorsement of the prime minister, the onsite development plan has yet to come to pass.

While the community has demonstrated unambiguous claims to their land, the 7NG company has not. In light of the community's clear rights, 7NG's alleged lease could not have been lawfully granted without the express permission of all the homeowners. It is important to clarify that this is not a case of the government taking land in the public interest. It is a case of a private company seeking to acquire prime city-centre real estate, valued a year ago at more than $44 million, by coercing the poor people who own that land to swap it for flats they have built outside the city. Therefore, any eviction of Dey Krahorm residents, as opposed to a good-faith purchase offer, would be illegal.

It is a welcome development that the 7NG company and the municipality have offered the artists of Dey Krahorm a fairer deal including alternative city-center housing where they "can work as usual", but this must be extended to all residents regardless of their profession, talents or social status.

The "few hundred holdouts" of Dey Krahorm are hard working citizens of Cambodia. Like the artists, their jobs and small businesses are also based in central Phnom Penh, making relocation to distant Damnak Trayoeng unfeasible. They are entitled to be treated with the same respect and concern as their celebrity neighbors. This means offering them a price for their house that they can accept.

David Pred
Bridges Across Borders Southeast Asia

Natalie Bugalski
Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions

Police Blotter: 12 Jan 2009

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Lim Phalla
Monday, 12 January 2009


Mom Ton, 27, was arrested on January 9 for killing two people with acid in January 2008. Mom Ton attacked Thai Srey Thim, 3, and Thom Saroeun, 46, in Dambaeuk Khpuos commune, Angkor Chey district.


Tuoch Ba, 35, was killed and his niece severely injured after being run over by a truck in Kampong Trabaek village in Prey Veng province on January 8. The victims had been walking to visit relatives. The truck driver fled the scene and remains unknown.


A 72-year-old Malaysian man, Chanj Chee Tut, is still missing after falling into the Tonle Sap river near Wat Phnom on January 9. The man was attempting to get off a tour boat. Police are still looking for his body.


A 22-year-old National University of Management student was arrested on Friday for stealing a motorbike at the campus in Wat Phnom. Kheang Ramy used a fake parking slip to cheat the parking lot controller.


Two Stung Treng provincial police arrested a man for allegedly importing over 20,000 pills of methamphetamine from Laos to Cambodia on January 8. Ly Kimnguon, 37, was arrested at Sekong bridge in Sre Po village, Sreah Russey commune, Stung Treng district. Kimnguon allegedly planned to sell the pills in Phnom Penh.


Koth Kith, 54, was arrested for killing an 81-year-old with a long blade. Som Um was cut in eight places on January 9 in Koth Nhor's house in Chamroeun Phal village. Police have been unable to determine the motive behind the murder, but it is understood both Kith and Um stayed in Nhor's house the night before.

Cambodia: Japan Pledges More Money For Khmer Rouge Tribunal

PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA: Japan will give an additional $21 million to the Cambodian genocide tribunal trying the surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge, officials said Sunday (11 Jan).

The U.N.-backed tribunal is tasked with seeking justice for the atrocities committed by the communists during their four years in power in the late 1970s. The Khmer Rouge's radical policies caused an estimated 1.7 million deaths.

Japanese Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone pledged the money Sunday during a two-day visit to Cambodia, said Ieng Sophallet, a spokesman for Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The tribunal operates under both Cambodian and international law with Cambodian and foreign staff. It is under the joint administration of Cambodia and the U.N., which operate under separate budgets.

Japan's contribution is for the U.N. side of the operation.

The tribunal is mostly funded by donations from foreign donors and faces a budget crunch. The $56.3 million that was originally earmarked ran out because the tribunal had to recruit more staff and expand its work.

Japan is already the biggest contributor to the tribunal, having previously given more than $21 million for the U.N.'s operation. France, Germany and the United Kingdom are other big donors.

"Japan plays a very important role," said tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath. "The funds will be used transparently."

The pledge came two days after Cambodian judges denied paying kickbacks to government officials to secure jobs on the tribunal.

The judges were responding to a complaint filed by lawyers for Nuon Chea, one of five former senior Khmer Rouge leaders due to be tried by the tribunal on charges of crimes against humanity and other offenses. Allegations of corruption were first raised two years ago but were never publicly resolved.

The kickback dispute could further delay the tribunal's much-postponed first trial, which was slated to begin early this year. (AP)

MySinchew 2009.01.12

Cambodia indefinitely delays launch of stock market

People's Daily Online
January 12, 2009

Cambodia's much-touted stock exchange market has been delayed indefinitely due to the worsening global economic slowdown, said English-language daily newspaper the Phnom Penh Post on Monday.

Its launch was originally scheduled for September, with the South Korean Exchange providing funds and technical support.

As Cambodia's economy, one of the region's most vibrant, slowed to single-digit growth last year, the exchange's future was put in doubt, said the paper.

"Cambodia has been affected by the global financial crisis, especially in terms of real estate and garment exports. Therefore, the plan to open our own stock market has been postponed, and no specific schedule is set for it," Mey Vann, director of the Department of Finance Industry of the Ministry of Finance and Economy, was quoted as saying.

"We can't push to form the stock market, as our economy doesn't have a solid foundation yet due to the impact of the crisis," he said.

"Now we will focus our efforts on establishing our economy," he added.

Cambodia enjoyed consistent double-digit economic growth rate from 2005 to 2007, which fueled the government's ambition to upgrade its financial and capital market, and the establishment of a stock exchange market was just one of its many plans in this regard.


Cambodian premier says he will attend ASEAN summit

The Earth Times

Mon, 12 Jan 2009
Author : DPA

Phnom Penh - Cambodia's prime minister will attend next month's summit of the Association of Sout East Asian Nations (ASEAN) in neighboring Thailand despite hinting last week he would boycott the meeting, media reports said Monday. Prime Minister Hun Sen said last week that attending this year's series of ASEAN meetings would be too costly and time consuming, but Foreign Minister Hor Namhong told The Phnom Penh Post newspaper that the premier definitely would attend.

"I would like to confirm that Prime Minister Hun Sen will attend the ASEAN meeting in Hua Hin, Thailand, from February 27 to 28 and March 1," Hor Namhong said.

The meeting was originally scheduled for mid-December 2008 but was postponed and relocated due to ongoing domestic political turmoil in the Thai capital, Bangkok.

Tensions between Thailand and Cambodia have been simmering since July last year when a border dispute at an ancient Hindu temple erupted into a brief military skirmish.

Cambodian rice exports to rise by 1 mln tons in 2009

CCTV International News
Source: Xinhua
01-12-2009 09:36

Cambodia's exports of rice will increase by over 1 million tons in 2009 over the 2 million tons or so in 2008, English-language newspaper the Cambodia Daily on Monday quoted Premier Hun Sen as saying.

Total rice production for the 2008 to 2009 harvest will reach 7 million tons and over the next few years, rice exports will reach 3 to 4 tons annually, he was quoted as saying.

More irrigation and education of farmers are needed to continue expanding rice exports, he added.

"Cambodia has the ability to compete and push farmers to plant more rice," he said, adding that Thailand and Vietnam collectively export 10 million tons of rice per year.

Meanwhile, Cambodian Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Chan Sarun on Sunday said that by 2015, rice exports of Cambodia could reach 8 million tons.

Bombs discovered in Phnom Penh: the police present the alleged “brains” behind the operation

Phnom Penh (Cambodia), 10/01/2009. Press conference held at the National Police headquarters concerning the January 2nd bombs. The police revealed the face of Som Ek, presumably responsible for the operations© Vandy Rattana

By Duong Sokha

No suspects to present to the public but instead, so-called evidence of the guilt of at least one person out of four arrested after three expl osive devices were discovered on Friday January 2nd near the Ministry of Defence and the premises of television channel TV3 in Phnom Penh. At a press conference held on Saturday January 10th, Cambodia's national police deputy general commissioner Sok Phal revealed the name of the man said to be the brains behind the operations, a 48 year-old former soldier, arrested in Poipet on January 7th.

Leading a group of “bandits in the woods”

All four suspects will not be questioned before Monday January 12th but one of them, thought to be the group leader, confessed to having formed illegal forces with a view to destabilise the government. The national police deputy general commissioner reported that this might not be his first deed. He is also said to have plotted the explosion of a small bomb on July 29th 2007 near the Khmer-Viernamese Friendship monument in Phnom Penh. Five suspects were arrested days following the explosion and sent to jail. The man, from Kampong Cham, was also condemned to a three-year prison sentence in 2003 after being charged with using false documents when he was employed by the Ministry of Defence.

The plot instigator was reported to be called Som Ek but used a variety of names to disguise his identity – no less than 11 other names according to the police – and is allegedly the leader of a small group of “bandits in the woods” committing all sorts of crimes, from kidnappings to organised armed robberies on the national roads of Cambodia, and hiding in the forests of the Mondolkiri and Koh Kong provinces. Photos of Som Ek posing in the forests among his henchmen, all clad in military uniforms, were presented to the press.

The January 2nd operation

“By planting these devices, their aim was to bring attention to the group in order to become known abroad. By giving their movement publicity in the media, Som Ek's idea was to get funds from foreign countries to finance their operations. The pictures they took of themselves in the forests were equally to be used with the same logic and meant to widely circulate”, Sok Phal explains, adding that Som Ek started fomenting his plan back in October 2008 with three other accomplices in Thailand. He is said to hold Thai citizenship, also his wife's nationality.

According to the police, Som Ek chose three henchmen to plant on the roadside explosive devices not equipped with a detonator. The deputy commissioner, however, observed that the three suspects arrested as part of the investigation might not be directly involved, and therefore refused to reveal their identities. “We still have doubts as to their actual guilt...”

A movement aimed at following in the footsteps of the CFF?

Som Ek and his followers are said to have founded the “National Khmer Liberation Front”, the logo of which is a tiger, according to the police official. The former soldier, a member of a fighting group in the 1980s, finally entered the Ministry of Defence in 1993 not long after the signing of the Paris Peace Accords.

According to biographical elements revealed by Sok Phal, Som Ek spent a year in the United States and made several trips to Malaysia, Thailand and Myanmar, always keeping in mind the same preoccupation: “learning how to make explosive devices”. And according to research led by the police, the man might have been a former active member of the supposed movement of sedition entitled the “Cambodian Freedom Fighters” (CFF) dismantled in January 2005 when its leader was arrested in the United States. “Som Ek's confession indicates that their movement might have some connections abroad... Like the CFF, in a way!”, the deputy commissioner pointed out.

Among other things, the police presented as evidence a scale model, that of a radio-controlled helicopter.

The police official stressed that the authorities did not consider this group as a dangerously threatening. He argued that its members would not be able to overthrow the government and estimated that they only acted in their own interest since their activities did not go beyond the line of highway crime. Still according to him, the group is not known to have ties with any political party. The deputy commissioner promised that the police would do their best to dismantle the network, said to spread as far as to the provinces of Kratie and Battambang.

2008: 73 Factories Closed and 64 Opened - 20,000 Workers Were Dismissed and 10,000 Found New Work

Posted on 11 January 2009
The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 594

“In Cambodia 73 factories were closed in 2008, making nearly 25,000 workers unemployed. But 64 new factories opened, absorbing 10,000 new workers. The export of garments to international markets declined by 2%, which has created general concern. Difficulties will last 3 to 6 months further, but officials said that there will be no serious effects on the garment sector.

“The president of the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia [GMAC - the web link has, under "Members" a detailed database with information about all GMAC members], Mr. Van Sou Ieng, said in a press conference in the evening of 7 January 2008 at the Hotel Le Royal, that more than 60 garment factories closed in 2008, causing around 25,000 workers to loose their employment. The export of garments to international markets dropped by 2%, while before, he expected that it would drop by between 5% and 7%. Therefore, the global financial crisis affected this sector very little. He added that Cambodia might face difficulties from 3 to 6 months, and in 2010, we can hope again. In every of the previous years, this sector grew by 15% to 20%.

“A secretary of state of the Ministry of Labor and Vocation Training, Mr. Oum Mean, reported to Kampuchea Thmey on 9 January 2009 that 73 factories closed and 24,397 workers had lost their work. However, in the same year, 64 new factories had opened, absorbing 13,000 workers by now. The number of workers might further increase, because newly opened companies are in the suburbs. Thus, recently unemployed workers will continue to work at new factories, and most of them have skills because of several years of experience. Some workers go to work for factories in special zones located near their home villages or towns, like in Svay Rieng and in other areas.

“There are different number given, because some of the closed factories were not among the members of the GMAC.

“Mr. Oum Mean went on to say that more than 20,000 workers will find jobs in new factories. While the world faces a financial crisis which affects big countries, such as the Untied State of America and Europe, Cambodia is also affected, because those big countries are garment importing countries from Cambodia. While citizens of those countries meet difficulties, they will cut down their expenses, and this affects the buying orders, ‘but we are not strongly affected, because the Cambodian economy depends on agriculture as the basis – even though before, the prices of fuel had increased and the prices of goods followed the market prices and general needs.’

“Coming from the ministry in charge of observing working condition, Mr. Oum Mean said, as the world faces a financial crisis causing common effects, that Cambodia, which exports garments to international markets, is also concerned, including the Royal Government, workers, and employers. ‘We have to join efforts and be patient, so that our factories remain stable and develop, because many countries recognize that the working conditions in Cambodia are acceptable according to international standards. When we export our goods with the labeled “Made in Cambodia,” both Europe and the United States of America always agree to buy them, since they know that these goods have quality, and our workers get enough benefits. We have to continue maintaining this reputation well.’

“He did not prohibit to have protests or demands by workers, but before doing something, they must be wise to avoid to act inappropriately affecting the fate of all, because when factories close, also employers loose, though they are owners, since the factory is a rice pot for all.

“Regarding the above problems, the president of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia, Mr. Chea Mony, mentioned some numbers in the morning of 9 January 2009, that in 2008, there were 27,000 workers who lost their work, and 26 factories closed.

“However, in 2008, all together 37 factories closed, but it was not because they were bankrupt - but it was because they relocate their factories to new locations in the suburbs, and they just changed their factory names. Another reason was that some factories lost their money in speculation. Also, because of the global financial crisis, some factories that were affected were run by Korean owners, such as the Woosu CNS Factory, the Chantechay Factory [phonetic] which suspended their work, also the Cambohenshare Factory [phonetic - 'Cambo Hansae'?] suspended its work, and also the Tay Factory [phonetic]. Some factories suspend their work for 2 or 3 months; so workers will not wait and go to work at other factories.

“Mr. Chea Mony added that while workers face unemployment, ‘we will help them according to the law. When factories close, they have to settle final payments for their workers according to the law. … The government is also responsible to solve problems of unemployment of workers. Some workers turn to find jobs in Thailand, but we help workers, according to the law, in order to help them to stay in Cambodia.’

“Mr. Van Sou Ieng said after the end of the 26th council plenary session of the ASEAN Federation of Textile Industries on 7 January 2009, that buyer orders will be finished by February and March 2009, and there is no buying order for May and June 2009. Buyers offer only US$3 for 1 shirt while before, they offered US$4. Big companies agreed to loose US$2 or US$3, but from May to June buyers must offer US$4 again. As for small factories, they might close, because they cannot stand the loss.

“Mr. Chea Mony agreed with Mr. Van Sou Ieng, who said that big companies are less affected while small factories are more seriously affected, because they produce their garments for big factories. But he did not agreed with what Mr. Van Sou Ieng said, that the buyers from international markets are lowering their price offers; this would be impossible, because each buying contract contains clear agreements. Mr. Chea Mony asked Prime Minister Hun Sen to kindly take action with officials of relevant ministries regarding corruption which affects the garment sector. He asked also the head of the Royal Government to reduce the prices of goods at the markets, which affect the living standard of workers who earn small salaries.

“The president of the Cambodia Workers Labor Federation of Trade Union Mr. Vong Sovann, expressed his concern in the morning of 9 January, that some factories were closed for good, and buying orders dropped in 2008. Bur only small factories having 200 or 300 workers were closed. Some factories closed in the city but opened in the suburbs, and some new factories do not have enough workers.

“Mr. Vong Sovann added that his union will provide more broad educational information about the economy for workers, so that they understand the present economic situation, and what causes demonstrations and strikes. ‘We will try to explain to workers to be patient and to solve problems through negotiations. As a result, in late 2008, demonstrations and strikes declined, which showed that workers became more knowledgeable.’

“The president of the Cambodia Labor Union Federation, Mr. Som Oun, said in the morning of 9 January 2009 that 64 new factories had opened and 73 factories had closed, including factories sub-contracted by bigger factories, and some of the factories do handicraft work. There were only around 20 factories [of those closed?] exporting garments by themselves. The number from GMAC and the numbers from the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training are not in line with each other, and GMAC did not give a number of new factories. The number of factories closed was comparable to 2007. Workers loosing their employment go to work for other factories; therefore, the number of unemployed workers was not so high. Some unemployed workers of some factories returned to their homes to help harvest paddy rice.

“Mr. Som Oun said that some factories do not have enough workers. Obviously, a shoe factory in Kandal’s Ang Snuol district asked him to help recruit up to 2,000 workers, because this factory added another big building, and now the workers have to eat their meals in the factory.

Therefore, he did not worry that workers are unemployed, ‘We still have buying orders from the United States of America and from Europe, because, according to the International Labor Organization, Cambodia is the country in the region which best respects working conditions. Buyers from the United States of America wait until the new president takes his position in the middle of this month, then they will continue buying.’”

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.17, #4791, 10.1.2009
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Saturday, 10 January 2009

A female voice from my trip

The New York Times

January 10, 2009
By Kassie Bracken

The videos taken on my Cambodia trip were taken by Kassie Bracken, a young woman who is a staff videographer for the Times. I thought that it would be interesting to get her perspective, since she hasn’t been to the region before and since she is the same sex as the girls we interviewed in the brothels and not all that much older. Here’s Kassie’s take:

I’d never been to Southeast Asia before, nor had I ever stepped foot in a brothel. I suppose the word summoned up grainy red images of numbered young girls for sale, but I don’t know that I really knew what to expect.

Each brothel we visited had a completely different energy and vibe, but for the most part, all of the girls seemed young - the majority looked to be in their teens. They were all tiny in stature too, which only made them seem even younger. Nick has asked me for my reflections in part to get a female perspective - and this is difficult to put into words when I think about the moments we were in the presence of these girls. I didn’t see sexy or feminine, I saw adolescent energy, and that trumped anything else.

Outside of one brothel a staunch mama-san never made eye contact with Nick and looked past him, calculating the street as they spoke. I was surprised that she continued speaking to us, knowing that it wouldn’t lead to a sale. Behind her, young girls mechanically reapplied lipstick and mascara over and over again under red lights. One woman’s face will stay with me – she kept circling lipstick around her lips with a desperation. She’d put the cap on and then open ten seconds later and do it again.

Later that night we also spoke with a younger mama-san, heavily made up in a strapless cocktail dress with multiple gold rings and bracelets and long pressed-on nails. She and said she could fulfill a request for a virgin girl with a few days’ notice, and never lost her flirty smile when she spoke. When we walked away she kept smiling and as we turned our backs she smashed three full beer bottles into the street behind us.

At both of those brothels, the girls had a deadness in their eyes that I sort of didn’t want to contemplate for fear that I would become completely depressed about the world. But at the karaoke shacks I was struck by the youth and energy in the laughter of some of the girls with whom we spoke. The mood seemed lighter and I generally couldn’t tell who the mama-sans were. For brief moments I would completely forget why we were there, and just see the enthusiasm ofteenage girls talking to what probably appeared to them to be two odd Westerners. Then it would hit me that like all of the other young women we’d met, they would have to offer sex to the next man who wanted to pay two dollars. No matter what he looked like, smelled like, or his physicalmanner. It’s difficult to imagine where I would be mentally and emotionally under those conditions.

I think in general, I felt emotionally abstracted from the girls in the brothels, in part because I never directly interacted with them and let Nick handle the conversations. And in a weird way, I think I didn’t feel comfortable speaking. I had this weird feeling that to speak was to somehow expose an inexplicable inequity - namely all of the choices I’ve had in my life in a world where many women by virtue of their gender have close to none. I felt that to speak to them would somehow solidify that they were selling their bodies and I was not.

There was an older – by older I mean, maybe 20? Maybe 30? — woman in a brothel in Poipet where Nick had conducted a sit-down interview with the mama-san. During the course of the hour we were there, the woman had had sex with six men, for a total of perhaps 15 – 18 dollars. She was beautiful – high cheekbones and a slightly square face, thick black hair and dark eyes – but she also looked like a tired woman at work. As we were about to leave she looked me in the eye - we just sort of looked at each other and took one another in – and then she smiled at me. I smiled back, awkwardly. At the moment, I didn’t know why I felt nervous, but I think now it’s because it was one of the only moments of mutual vulnerability - albeit brief and innocuous - I felt on the entire trip.

I’d like to think I am a fairly strong person, but in meeting Long Pross and hearing her tell her story, I wondered if I could ever match her strength. Long Pross was the woman we did a video about who had been abducted in her Cambodian village and sold into forced sexual slavery.

She’d been beaten regularly, electrocuted, and had gotten pregnant twice. She kept resisting her customers. When after a painful abortion she’d begged for a week off, the mama-san gouged her eye out with a metal shard. During the interview she sat with Sina Van, who’d also suffered sexual slavery and who seemed like a big sister to Pross – Pross very rarely looked up during the interview, and Sina would hold her and touch her hair as Pross told her story.

It’s been a week since Cambodia, and I am thinking about it every day, and talking to friends willing to listen, just telling them what I saw. I’ve always thought that the concept of selling one’s body is a tricky one – I’ve read a lot of comments on Nick’s blog saying that it’s not the worst thing these women could be doing, given the extreme poverty in Cambodia, and that he is overplaying the abuse angle. Ultimately, I wonder most not about the reality of a young girl in a sexual act with a paying stranger, but I wonder about the impact on that girl’s future – will she be able to be vulnerable to another human - will she be able to experience love?

And I think about the end of Nick’s interview with Pross. Sina was attempting to make Pross smile by saying “when we get your eye fixed up and get you beautiful again, we’re going to find you a husband.” When I watch Pross’s expression in the video footage I see light in her eyes forthe briefest moment - then it’s gone. It’s the moment from the trip that haunts me the most.

–Kassie Bracken

This Hyphenated Life / 30 years after revolution, Cambodia is blossoming with tikkun olam

By Marco Greenberg, This Hyphenated Life

recently returned from spending Hanukah in Cambodia, a place so remote that even Chabad has not yet ventured there.

How can a country known for man at his very worst - genocide, land mines, sex trade, acid throwing etc. - be a source of hope and inspiration?

Looking back at my whirlwind trip last month, which included a meeting with the country's young and personable king, as well as Khmer Rouge survivors, former street children and even local Muslims, an answer begins to emerge.

Amidst the squalor and heart-wrenching beggars (Cambodia is still one of the poorest countries in Asia), Phnom Penh is bustling with throngs of smiling people - often three and four on one moped.

It's especially remarkable that a city which had all its residents forcibly evacuated to the country side by the world's most radical communist regime in the mid 70s, is now home to an uptick in foreign trade and investment, a real estate boom, gentrified French colonial buildings with hip new restaurants, and even a recent glowing profile in the travel section of the New York Times.

While veteran western visitors barely recognize the place, from my newbie perspective, Phnom Penh has retained its indigenous charm and has not yet been overrun by crass commercialism. A sign that reads 'KFC coming soon' is a warning that?s about to change.

In the meantime, speaking of signs, you have to look hard to find any outward evidence of Jewish life. In total I spotted one Zim container, one homemade Israeli flag proudly flying among a row of flags along the Mekong River, and a pair of loud Hebrew speaking tourists (I'm being redundant).

Seriously, it's hard not to see the country from a very Jewish perspective. It starts with our shared experience of mass murder.

January 11th marks the 30th anniversary of the overthrow of Cambodia from the brutal forces of Pol Pot - although I was reminded that he and his troops continued to haunt the country from the periphery basically until his death in 1998. Countless comparisons to the Holocaust have been made before and for good reason.

If you haven't heard it, add the name, Tuol Sleng to Auschwitz, Bergen Belson, etc. It was the notorious prison and torture center set in a former high school in the middle of an ordinary suburban neighborhood and more than the swaying palm trees and barbed wire remain.

Not the polished floors and multimedia video displays that you'll find at Yad VaShem and the Holocaust Museums, instead clearly underfunded and understaffed with bullet marked walls, cracked tiles, shackles, and pictures of the familiar yet haunting stares of the victims.

You don't need to go to museums to hear the stories. "My father was a math teacher and for that he was murdered by the Khmer Rouge," said our tour guide as he took us through the amazingly beautiful historical ruins of Angkor Wat. A wonderful Cambodian woman returning to visit her native country, told us how her younger brother and father disappeared and that she ate rats to survive before fleeing to the US.

Yet, like Israel after the Holocaust, something special is starting to emerge out of the ashes and there is much more to the link between our peoples than genocide.

If there was an international capital for Tikkun Olam (repairing the world), aka a lab for social entrepreneurship in '08/09, this is it. Here's a glimpse of what I saw:

- Eat at Friends (and scores of other cause related restaurants and shops) and have gourmet like cuisine cooked and served by former street children.

- Visit the country's first dormitory for women college students built by author and MIT Professor Alan Lightman and his Harpswell Foundation (I'm honored to be on their advisory board).

- Meet a Cambodian ex-pat who is providing much needed psychological counseling to a country with only a handful of mental health professionals.

- See T-shirts and bumper stickers urging protection for Cambodia?s children from horrific cases of pedophilia.

- Sit in a newly constructed mosque, as we did, speaking to Cham Muslims (one of the most persecuted groups under the Khmer Rouge) who are shunned by the Islamic world for embracing a moderate religious practice that would make most of us think of Reform Judaism.

Make no mistake about it, this progress is both nascent, and given the country's history and continued challenges, precarious too.

My wife and I joined five others, who are much more active than we are in helping turn Cambodia around, in an hour long meeting at the royal palace with the gracious and impressive King of Cambodia. When leaving he made a point of both thanking us for our support and expressing "the need your continued help."

While I didn't have the chance to explain the significance of the Hanukkiah we gave to King Sihamoni as a gift, later in the day I was able to play the role of Jewish emissary.

'Nes Gadol Haya Sham' (A Big Miracle Happened There) I wrote in Hebrew on the white board for students at the Harpswell Foundation's dormitory, using the familiar motto of Hanukkah.

These young women were screened and selected for their intelligence, ambition and leadership abilities. They arrived from poor rural areas and only a year or two ago first saw running water, let alone a computer, and are now ranked at the top of their respective classes at the country?s most prestigious universities.

'Nes Gadol Haya Sham' these 35 young Cambodian women enthusiastically repeated.

Public Statement on Bomb Plot in Phnom Penh

Cambodian Action Committee for Justice & Equity (CACJE)

Public Statement on Bomb Plot in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Please see full statement in attacehment

Statement on Bomb plot in Phnom Penh.pdf


CACJE's Media Network

Fewer human deaths from virus even as it spreads among poultry

The Punch, Nigeria
By Agency Reporter
Published: Sunday, 11 Jan 2009

With the arrival of winter, H5N1 avian flu is on the rise again in Asia and Egypt.

The outbreaks are part of an annual trend: Cases peak between December and March each year in birds as well as humans.

Children have died from it recently in Indonesia and Egypt, and a Cambodian teenager tested positive but survived.

Only 30 human deaths have been confirmed by the World Health Organization this year. That is well below the 59 recorded last year and the peak of 79 recorded in 2006. All 30 deaths this year occurred in only four countries: Vietnam, China, Indonesia and Egypt. No large family clusters, like those found from 2005 to 2007, have been confirmed. Indonesia may have had more flu deaths than it has acknowledged. Its health minister said in June that she ”wanted to focus on positive steps by the government” and would not announce all confirmed deaths. There were several family clusters of fatal respiratory diseases this year, according to Indonesian news reports, but all were officially attributed to other causes.

New poultry outbreaks have been found recently in Kandal province in Cambodia, Jiangsu province in eastern China, rural parts of Hong Kong, Bangladesh and West Bengal and Assam provinces in India.

Although there have been no human deaths in India, poultry outbreaks appear to be increasing rapidly, as are reports of villages driving off cullers because they are not being paid for their birds. In other countries in this situation, human cases have usually followed.

India does not vaccinate poultry.

Cambodian PM will join ASEAN summit: spokesman

Agence France-Presse

PHNOM PENH - Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen will attend a regional summit in neighboring Thailand next month despite an earlier statement that he may not go, a government spokesman said on Sunday.

Hun Sen said last week it would be costly and difficult for him to attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meeting, recently moved from the Thai capital to the seaside town of Hua Hin.

"He (Hun Sen) did not say he would not join, but he had some difficulty. However, after discussions, he feels sure he can go," spokesman Khieu Kanharith told AFP.

The summit was originally set to be held in Bangkok in December but was moved first to the northern city of Chiang Mai, then delayed and moved again to the coast in late February as political turmoil engulfed Thailand.

Thailand currently holds the rotating chairmanship of ASEAN, which groups it with Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam.