Friday, 15 May 2009

Cambodia's tourism numbers drop

Ell Lavy, a motorised rickshaw driver at Angkor Wat whose income has dropped almost one-third as the numbers of tourists visiting Siem Reap declined in the first quarter of 2009. [ABC/Robert Carmichael]

Australia Network News
Robert Carmichael

The number of foreign tourists visiting Cambodia has dropped in the first quarter of 2009 as the global economic crisis cuts the number of people travelling.

Overall the number is down just 3.5 percent to 622,000 which is better than the government had feared.

Cambodia has for a decade, relied on the expanding tourist trade as one of its pillars for economic growth.

A record 2.1 million people visited the country last year.

Our correspondent Robert Carmichael says tourists from richer countries such as Japan and South Korea have dropped by a third to around 100,000 visitors in the first quarter of this year.

Short term visitors from neighbouring Vietnam are now making up Cambodia's tourism numbers.

Tourism worker Ell Lavy, a 25 year old driver of a motorised rickshaw around the temples of Angkor Wat, says his monthly earnings have dropped from $US100 dollars to just $US70.

Mr Lavy says he used get two or three tourists a week but now he is lucky to have one.

Cambodia's Tourism Minister Dr Thong Khon says the government is targeting countries that are less affected by the global slump.

The Cambodian government is trying to revive tourist numbers by trying to boost short-haul flights from within the ten member ASEAN nation states, China, Japan and South Korea.

Dr Thong Khon says the global crisis has seen Cambodia downgrade its estimate of tourist arrivals for 2015 by around one fifth to 4 million visitors.

Cambodia investigates UN Khnmer Rouge tribunal staff

Australia Network News

Robert Carmichael

The Cambodia government has announced it's investigating foreign court staff at the Khmer Rouge tribunal for corruption.

It comes after a long-running dispute with the United Nations over corruption allegations on the Cambodian side of the court.

The Cambodian government and the United Nations have had a difficult relationship in setting up and running the Khmer Rouge tribunal.

The relationship between the two partners worsened this week after a government spokesman said Phnom Penh had collated files on all foreign United Nations staff and was monitoring them for corruption.

It has caused an outcry with one foreign lawyer describing the move as "childish and thuggish".

The government back-pedalled a little on Thursday, saying it wasn't actually monitoring foreign staffers, just investigating claims that some had committed unnamed "misdeeds".

The United Nations has said those claims should be handed over to it for investigation.

Amazing story of prayer and survival

RIPPLE/Leanne Cloudman Siv Ashley, survivor of the Khmer Rouge invasion of Cambodia in the 1970s tells her story and shares her beliefs on the importance of prayer.

By Leanne Cloudman

Staff reporter

If ever there was a hero in our midst, one of them would have to be the petite fireball, Cambodian refugee, now US Citizen, Siv Ashley. With a quick laugh and a quicker wit, she moved her audience from laughter to tears with the gut-wrenching stories of her survival and most of her family’s horrific deaths at the hands of the Khmer Rouge toward the end of the Vietnam war.
Ashley’s father moved the family to Phnom Penh, the capitol of Cambodia when she was very small. He would take goods into the city to trade for things the family needed. When he returned he would tell stories about someone named Jesus Christ. “The country was very poor,” Ashely said. “We did not have books or t.v. or education. The stories my father told of a man who walked on water and was able to feed 1,000’s with very little were amazing to me.”

After he would tell the stories and teach the children to pray, he would remind them how important it was that all of what he had told them remain a secret. They could tell no one that they prayed to God and knew about Jesus Christ.

“We were poor,” said Ashley. We didn’t have stoves or t.v.’s. We slept on the ground, but we were happy and it was a peaceful life.”

Phnom Penh fell to the Khmer Rouge on April 17, 1975. In Dec. 1975, Pathet Lao overthrew the Cambodian government.

“When we saw the soldiers marching down the street, my little brother and I thought it was a parade,” said Ashley.

“My father came running down the street toward us. He took out his knife and chopped off all my hair so that I could pass for a boy and he told me to remember prayer and Jesus.”

Ashley and her entire family were removed to “the camps.” They were all separated and sent to different places. “We worked so hard,” she said, her voice breaking. “The small children worked in the rice fields from the time the sky got a little pink until dark. My little brother couldn’t work so hard or so fast and the soldiers beat him very bad. I think they broke his back. I begged them to let me do his share of the work.”

During the four-year reign of terror, the Khmer Rouge by way of execution, starvation and forced labor caused the deaths of an estimated 2 mil. Cambodian people.

Instilled in Siv at a very young age was the faith her father held onto until his horrific end at the hands of soldiers.

“We ate things you could not imagine, just to survive,” she said. “And I prayed.”

After her first escape attempt, she was caught along with others and returned to the camp. She remembered them lining up the adults and shooting them. Then the children were forced to dig a big ditch. She wasn’t aware until much later that the ditch would be used as a mass grave.

First her grandmother died, then her Aunt, the Aunt’s baby, then all her older brothers and sisters. “After my mom died, my father just didn’t want to live anymore.”

“When my father died,” she said, “I had nothing. I was in such despair and then I remember my father’s words and I prayed.”

When she could not find her little brother and was told he had died as well, things became even worse. She joined another escape attempt and made it Thailand to a refugee camp. There, through what she believes was God’s mercy, she was reunited with her one Aunt who had survived.

In 1979 she and what was left of her family were adopted by a family from Ashe County. “Of all the places and people,” she said smiling, “They chose my family out of 80,000 people. Pappy Sweet and Ina Ruth.”

Ashley related her first experience with snow. “We were terrified,” she said. “We hid under the beds because we thought the sky was falling.”

The story continues and when Siv Ashley finishes her book, maybe all will be able to read the entire story.

Siv lives happily now in Hamptonville with her husband and two children and is an active member of Swan Creek Baptist Church. But she promises she will never forget, nor let others forget how important prayer can be. “It can save your life,” she says.

CAMBODIA Church leader shares reasons to rejoice during Easter season

Monsignor Enrique Figaredo, apostolic prefect of Battambang

May 14, 2009

BATTAMBANG, Cambodia (UCAN) -- This Easter season, Cambodians have reason to rejoice and look forward to a future full of hope, says the head of the Church in Battambang.

In his Easter message, Spanish Monsignor Enrique Figaredo, apostolic prefect of Battambang, one of three Church jurisdictions in Cambodia, notes that Easter this year was celebrated at the same time as the Cambodian New Year -- when Cambodians look forward to renewal in their lives.

The Easter season, which celebrates Christ's resurrection, began on Easter Sunday on April 12, and will end on Pentecost Sunday on May 31. Cambodians celebrated their New Year on April 13-14.

Monsignor Figaredo, 49, says that the ongoing trial of those thought to be responsible for war crimes during the Khmer Rouge era (1975-1979), would allow the nation to conclude a traumatic part of its history and move on to a new future.

Another reason for rejoicing, he cites, is the irrigation project in Tahen, just east of Battambang, that will allow farmers to harvest rice twice a year and also plant more vegetables, as well as provide a more reliable source of water.

Following is Monsignor Figerado's Easter message:

When we want to talk about LIFE, in capital letters, we are talking about moving on from a mediocre or weak situation to a full life. Easter means this: changing to a more real life, rooted in divine solidarity. Easter makes us understand God's proximity and makes our lives closer to God -- a life that overcomes death.

In our cultural settings, which are always diverse, we have many ways of dealing with contradictions -- our own and those we come up against in life.As Christians, we have a faith experience that helps us to appreciate the cultural context and meaning of the symbols and readings of the Easter season.

In Cambodia, we are very fortunate in that when we celebrate Easter, it's very close to the time when we celebrate the Cambodian New Year, where change and moving on to a new life are celebrated. According to Cambodian tradition, the angels come down from heaven to bless families, their lands, their homes, their villages and entrust the people with new light for the coming year. It's a new step in life. Water is an essential symbol in this path to a new life.
In this Cambodian New Year and Easter time, in our context, we have three main reasons to celebrate our step to a more real life.

We are in the middle of a trial about the genocide caused by Pol Pot and his allies. This trial will conclude an era in Cambodian history and invite us to move on. We have had to wait 30 years for this. Life in Cambodia is still so politicized and self interest continues to motivate people in power such that any justice from the trial may not impact much on peoples lives now, but at least we will be able to look towards the future with some healing of past hurts and injustices.

Today there is no justice. But at least, in my opinion, because of this trial we won't have to look back with shame at the past. We will be able to remember it with less pain and look to the future with more strength and less fear, because we can hope that those who act with impunity now will be brought to justice in the future.

Cambodian New Year brings blessings for all and gives us strength in this time of global economic crisis that is also affecting our local economy, and Cambodian social life. As always, the "little ones," the poor, who here in Cambodia are 95 percent of the population, suffer in silence, losing their jobs and opportunities for progress, and readjusting their lives according to the new international market situation that is affecting the very small Cambodian economy.

The blessings of the Cambodian angels give us strength to face this new situation that demands readjustments in our new lives. One reality is that many young people who moved to the city for work, now have to go back to the countryside. Today in Cambodia we need to create local economies in small villages and towns where the majority of the population lives.

In Tahen, we have undertaken a river project that talks to us about LIFE. The project provides new opportunities in response to people's needs -- to plant rice twice a year and the cultivation of more vegetables and gardens. It also means improved hygiene and an increased capacity to take care of the environment. This project has been initiated thanks to the solidarity of ordinary people who have chosen to put "a drop of hope" into the lives of the Tahen people ("A DROP OF HOPE" project).

This is the Easter story alive in Tahen today. The grandmothers, the old people, talked to me about their happiness in seeing how the river bed has been enlarged. They see a future for their children and grandchildren now. They have been through everything: war, the Pol Pot era and injustice. And today they witness new possibilities for their families. They have gone through their own long "Passion," and today they are happy because they see that coming generations will have what they could not have -- solidarity in order to have life.

These three symbols -- the lively and joyful celebrations of the Cambodian New Year; the trial of the genocide of the Cambodian people that creates a precedent in future efforts to seek justice; the river project which will bring an abundance of water and which was developed out of solidarity with others -- all root us in hope and gives us strength for LIFE.

Officials Deny Judicial Student Bribery

By Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
14 May 2009

Senior officials, students and two professors at the Royal Academy for Judicial Professions denied on Thursday VOA Khmer reports of widespread bribery in the seating of the nation’s judges.

Numerous students at the academy told VOA Khmer they will have to pay tens of thousands of dollars to unnamed senior officials in order to pass exams and be seated in courts across the country.

VOA Khmer is currently airing a multi-part series on judicial corruption.

“The broadcasting of VOA is unbalanced,” Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan told reporters Thursday, at a press conference where six students and two professors also denied the reports.

Cambodia’s courts continually face charges they are corrupt and biased toward rich businessmen or powerful government officials. Critics say the deep-rooted corruption of the courts threatens the country’s stability.

The allegations of the students, who all spoke on condition of anonymity out of personal security concerns, come as the Khmer Rouge tribunal wrestles with its own allegations of kickbacks.

US Envoy To Hold Tribunal Talks

By Kong Sothanarith, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
14 May 2009

Clint Williamson, the US ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues, is scheduled to arrive in Cambodia next week to hold talks with the government on the beleaguered Khmer Rouge tribunal, officials said Thursday.

The Cambodian side of the UN-backed special court is facing a budget crisis, its funding withheld by donors and the UN over lingering allegations of kickbacks and mismanagement.

Three rounds of talks between a UN legal envoy and Deputy Prime Minister Sok An failed to reach an agreement on how the court should handle allegations that Cambodian staff pay substantial kickbacks to senior officials in order to work at the court.

A government spokesman said Williamson would meet with Sok An May 22.

US-Cambodians To Discuss Tribunal Options

By Men Kimseng, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
14 May 2009

Cambodians living in the US who feel they are victims of the Khmer Rouge will gather in Arlington, Va., later this month to discuss their right to file testimony at the UN-backed court in Phnom Penh.

The Khmer Rouge tribunal has mechanisms built into it that allow victims to file suits and have representation at proceedings as “civil parties.”

The tribunal is currently undertaking its first trial, of the regime’s chief torturer, Duch, while four other senior leaders remain in detention and await their own atrocity crimes trials.

Organizers expected up to 30 participants from Washington and neighboring states as far away as Pennsylvania.

“Some people will attend this event for the first time because their past suffering is too deep to bear any more,” Yap Kimtung, president of Cambodian Americans for Human Rights and Democracy, told VOA Khmer by phone. “They will have to speak out and give it as a testimony to let the outside world know.”

The gathering in Virginia is one of those initiated by the Applied Social Research Institute of Cambodia and the Asian Pacific American Institute at New York University.

At each meeting participants discuss searching for indigenous conceptions of justice and reparation, contextualize psycho-emotional consequences of Khmer Rouge trauma, and hear explanations about Khmer Rouge tribunal procedures.

“The main purpose of our workshop is to encourage the Cambodian community in the US and outside of Cambodia to participate in and understand the Khmer Rouge [tribunal] process, and to encourage them to demand justice,” Leakhena Nou, founder of the Applied Social Research Institute, told VOA Khmer. “It has now been 34 years, and they should not be quiet about what they have been through. According to my research, Cambodians overseas and in the country have mental wounds and need healing.”

She said she felt compelled to help because there have been no efforts by the Cambodian government to involve overseas participants.

Khmer Rouge tribunal officials say the court has received more than 3,000 complaints and civil party applications—a relatively small number compared to the number of victims of the regime.

Opposition Pushes Defamation Suit Against Hun Sen

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
14 May 2009

An opposition lawmaker and her lawyer say they will continue a defamation suit against Prime Minister Hun Sen, following overtures by court officials to find a compromise without a hearing.

Mu Sochua, a National Assembly representative for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, alleges that remarks made in a speech by Hun Sen last month, alluding her as a “strong-leg,” were sexually discriminating and disparaging.

Hun Sen has countersued both Mu Sochua and her lawyer, Kong Sam Onn. Mu Sochua said Thursday she would not drop her suit, despite calls from Phnom Penh Municipal Court to settle the matter.

“I would like to clearly stress that I do not need to negotiate, and I do not need to withdraw the complaint,” Mu Sochua told VOA Khmer Thursday. “I believe in my lawyer 100 percent, and he will not do wrong.”

“We have not withdrawn our complaint against Prime Minister Hun Sen, and we still continue to sue,” Kong Sam Onn said.

Hun Sen’s lawyer, Ky Tech, maintains that the premier’s “strong-leg” speech did not mention anyone by name.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court prosecutors have two months to decide on the complaints, and they have called both parties in for questioning.

Serial sex offender surfaces in Cambodia

Submitted by SHNS on Wed, 05/13/2009

By SAM STANTON , Sacramento Bee

Jack Louis Sporich was living an idyllic retirement, splitting his time between a luxury condo in Sedona, Ariz., and a sprawling home he was having built in a tourist mecca in Cambodia.

The 74-year-old retired engineer appeared to have escaped his past, which included his classification as one of California's most dangerous sex offenders, one who authorities suspect may have molested more than 500 young boys over the years.

Now officials say Sporich -- who won his release from California's Atascadero State Hospital in May 2004 without spending a single day in treatment -- may have struck again.

He has been charged in Cambodia with indecent acts against minors in a case involving four young Cambodian boys, according to an official in Phnom Penh whose organization helped investigate Sporich.

Cambodian news accounts of his arrest indicate Sporich denied the allegations, which included the claim that he lured the children -- ages 9 to 13 -- to his home with toys and candies. The Cambodia Daily reported that he also attracted youngsters by dropping dollar bills in the street.

He was arrested Feb. 2 and remains in custody in the tourist town of Siem Reap, according to Seila Samleang, executive director of Action Pour Les Enfants-Cambodia. APLE-Cambodia is a nongovernmental organization that works closely with Cambodian police to target foreign pedophiles who exploit youngsters in that country, and Sporich had been under investigation by the group.

Samleang said the charges are misdemeanors punishable by a prison sentence of one to three years. Sexual exploitation of children has been a problem for years in Cambodia, where the age of consent is 15.

Todd Melnik, the defense attorney who won Sporich's release in California, said he knew nothing of the Cambodia charges. An e-mail to Sporich this week seeking comment did not receive a response.

Sporich is no stranger to charges of sex with children.

He spent nine years in prison after his conviction in Ventura County, Calif., on seven counts of lewd acts upon children under 14. Then, he was committed to Atascadero State Hospital as a "sexually violent predator" deemed too dangerous to be released upon completion of his sentence.

David Lehr, a Ventura County defense attorney who originally prosecuted Sporich, said he may have had as many as 500 victims, and that he typically befriended boys through their parents and offered to take them on camping trips.

The parents frequently would pay Sporich for his gas and the time he spent on the trips, Lehr said last week.

"If I had to pick from a list of former and current SVPs (sexually violent predators), he would be, by far, the first one I would be most concerned about," Lehr said in an interview for a series of stories in the Sacramento Bee about sexually violent predators.

Sporich was released from Atascadero in May 2004, after two juries were unable to agree on whether he would re-offend, and he immediately moved to Arizona, where the only requirement he faced was that he register as a sex offender once a year.

He is not listed on the current sex-offender registry maintained by the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

Sporich's case was highlighted in the Bee's series, which revealed that it was far easier for offenders to win release from Atascadero by refusing treatment than by undergoing the lengthy treatment program designed to prevent them from reoffending.

Since the treatment program began 13 years ago, 17 offenders have won release by undergoing all or some of the required programs, and none has reoffended, the state says.

By contrast, 155 others -- including Sporich -- have been released through court orders.

After the Bee's series, lawmakers introduced a number of proposed improvements to the system and voters later overwhelmingly approved Proposition 83. That measure increased prison sentences for habitual and violent offenders and did away with the requirement that sexually violent predators be allowed a trial every two years. Instead, they now can petition annually for a hearing, but the burden of proof is on them to convince a court they no longer pose a threat.

In an interview for the Bee's 2006 series, Sporich said he felt remorse for his actions and complained that California had violated his civil rights by committing him to Atascadero for 39 months after he had completed his prison sentence.

Family members say that in recent years Sporich married a 23-year-old Southeast Asian woman with several small children and that he had begun building a large home in Cambodia.

June Caine, Sporich's older sister, said he met the woman, a waitress, overseas after leaving her a $100 tip. Caine said the family had known for years of Sporich's past and had hoped he would seek treatment.

"I don't want him out anymore," she said. "I think he's sick, and he's never going to get well. I don't want this to go on."

(E-mail Sam Stanton at sstanton(at)

(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service,

Must credit Sacramento Bee

CAMBODIA Catholics remember Khmer Rouge victims amid war-crimes trial

Bishop Emile Destombes (center) celebrating Mass on May 7


May 14, 2009

KOMPONG THOM, Cambodia (UCAN) -- As the U.N.-backed trial of former Khmer Rouge leaders continues in the capital, Catholics gathered to remember a bishop, priests and laypeople killed by the brutal regime about 30 years ago.

About 40 people from across Cambodia came together on May 7 for a special Mass at Taing Kauk, 100 kilometers north of Phnom Penh, a place Cambodian Catholics call Memorial Place or Land of Hope. Here they prayed on a day specially dedicated to remembering all the Catholics who died during the Khmer Rouge's reign of terror which ended in 1979.

Bishop Emile Destombes, apostolic vicar of Phnom Penh, said in his homily that they were there to remember Khmer Bishop Joseph Chhmar Salas, former apostolic vicar of Phnom Penh, and all the priests, brothers and sisters who died during the religious persecution then.

Bishop Destombes gave thanks to God for their missionary work, which laid the foundations of the Catholic Church in Cambodia. "We have to continue this mission," to be "witnesses of Jesus" in Cambodia, he said.
You Prakort, younger sister of Bishop Joseph Chhmar Salas, tells the storyof her brother’s death at the hands ofthe Khmer Rouge at a memorial serviceon May 7 at Taing Kauk Parish. Behindher is a picture of her brother

Om Lan, 63, a Catholic living in Taing Kauk, told UCA News he was very proud of Bishop Salas. "Because of him we have a Catholic community here," he said.

According to Father Gnet Viney, a Khmer priest, the local Church chose this place as a memorial site as it is closely connected with the lives of Bishop Salas and some priests. They were forced to leave Phnom Penh Khmer when Khmer Rouge soldiers marched into the city on April 17, 1975, and eventually came to the Taing Kauk area.

According to You Prakort, a younger sister of Bishop Salas who also attended the memorial, the new arrivals in the area faced immediate discrimination by the local people. She said the Khmer Rouge forced her brother and his priests into hard labor by working in the fields. Bishop Salas later died from a combination of exhaustion and malnutrition, she said.

The prelate reportedly died in Taing Kauk in September 1977 at the age of 39.

In the Land of Hope compound, the church has erected a cross dedicated to Bishop Salas and reconstructed the hut where he and his priests used to live and celebrate Mass, said Father Viney.
Bishop Emile Destombes, apostolic vicar of Phnom Penh, blesses what used to be the bed of the late Bishop Joseph Chhmar Salas

Thirty years after the Khmer Rouge's reign of terror, alleged surviving leaders of the regime are now being tried for crimes against humanity by a joint U.N. Cambodian government court.In his Easter message, Monsignor Enrique Figaredo, apostolic prefect of Battambang prefecture, said the trial will conclude an era in Cambodian history. "Any justice from the trials may not impact much on peoples' lives now, but at least we will be able to look toward the future with some healing of past hurts and injustices," he said.

"We can hope that those who act with impunity now, will be brought to justice," he added.

Police Blotter: 14 May 2009

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Cheang Sokha
Thursday, 14 May 2009

A 40-year-old Kandal man was arrested in Kandal Stung district Saturday for the drunken assault of his wife and her sister. Sao Pov returned home drunk after work and started beating his wife and sister-in-law and burning personal effects such as clothing and his children's school materials. Police said he was sent to court.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court handed down a seven-day prison sentence to four men arrested by authorities Tuesday on charges of gambling at a private betting house. Ros Samnang, Ros Chamnan, Sreng Mao and Chhit Nara told police that they were not the owners of the Tuol Tumpong home, but had merely turned up to bet with friends on soccer.

A 15-year-old male was arrested Sunday for the attempted rape of a 5-year-old girl in Koh Thom district, Kandal province. The youth told officers at the district police station that he decided to try to persuade the child to have intercourse with him after getting aroused by porn movies he had watched on his mobile phone that day.

Police said the death of a New Zealand man at his rented home in Wat Phnom commune on Wednesday was a result of natural causes. Stuart Jon Pinker, 49, was found by his wife of four years, Chea Vichra, 29, when she returned home inebriated that night some hours after his death. The woman told police she had been back to the house earlier in the day after visiting her hometown, but finding the door locked, went to drink at a friend's house.

Phon Nop, 21, was arrested by police in Siem Reap province Friday where he had fled after violently assaulting a neighbour in his home district of Samrong Tong in Kampong Speu last December. Police said the arrest was in accordance with a warrant issued by the provincial court on the charge of attempted murder. Phon Nop told police that he and a friend had struck Chey Srouch over the head with an ax several times in a bid to kill him because the victim had accused Phon Nop of stealing his oxcart.

Wire and leaf sculptures imitiate shape of smoke

Meas Sokhorn at the Chinese House.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Zoe Holman
Thursday, 14 May 2009

MEAS Sokhorn loves to smoke. He sits on the floor of the airy gallery at The Chinese House, fingering his lighter and packet and contemplating the sleek rattan structures suspended from the ceiling as they turn and shift in the breeze.

"I always smoke when I am in a bad mood, and it makes me feel happy," he said. "I breath in and out and watch the shapes of the smoke, and its like a cool wind coming through me and making me calm and relaxed."

The movement he describes is the title of his latest exhibition, "Exhale", a series of large sculptures crafted from wire and leaves, based on the shifting smoke forms produced by the artist's regular nicotine meditations.

"The inspiration for [the works] came from the movement of cigarettes," said Meas Sokhorn. "Every time I have a cigarette, I watch the smoke curl and intermingle, and think the smooth shapes flow like a dream."

"All the forms are symbolic of the movement of the smoke. It's something that you can't catch, and it does not belong to you," he added.

Like cigarette smoke and the sense of transformation that it generates in Mea Sokhorn, his creations also twist and alter in their appearance.

"It's like a kind of metamorphosis, the feeling and the way the smoke shapes change into something new," he said.

Yet the sculptures, one of which was nominated for the Singapore Art Prize in 2008, are also symbolic of intangible personal experiences.

"Memories and experiences come to me when I'm smoking, like love and the moments you connected with, the sensations of happiness you had, the opportunities you let pass," he said. "Like trying to catch smoke or squeeze mud in your hands, these things, even if they might be the best thing that you ever had, are not solid. In this way, [the exhibition] is very personal."

Meas Sokhorn's pursuit of these transient forms and experiences has produced an organic and evolving body of work.

"I love nature and rustic materials, and I just started forming the straws into organic shapes and seeing where the lines went," he said. "I did not prepare, but just followed the lead of the lines. Just like going somewhere on a trip when you have forgotten the map."

"Exhale", a project of JavaArts, opens at The Chinese House at 6:30pm today and runs through May 24.

Hip-hop culture takes root

French dancer and choreographer Sebastien Ramirez

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Stephanie Mee
Thursday, 14 May 2009

The Phnom Penh Hip-Hop Festival marks new cultural movement in Cambodia

Hip-hop culture has always been about expression through art such as music, dance, visual arts or fashion, and in recent years Cambodian youth has become particularly responsive to this form of self-actualisation.

The Phnom Penh Hip-Hop Festival, which kicks off this Saturday, aims to broaden the awareness of hip-hop culture in Cambodia and give Phnom Penh's youth the opportunity to explore the diverse artform through workshops, films and performances with multi-talented international and local artists.

"In 2001, there wasn't really much of a hip-hop scene here," said Nico Mesterharm, director of Meta House, who made the idea of the festival a reality, along with Alain Arnaudet, cultural attache and director of the French Cultural Centre (CCF).

"I saw the first [Cambodian] hip-hop CD in a store in Phnom Penh in 2002, and I saw it as the beginning of something big," said Mesterharm.

The CD he refers to is the debut album of Prach Ly, a Cambodian-born artist who grew up in Long Beach, California, amid poverty, crime and the growing popularity of hip-hop.

Prach Ly recorded Dalama: The End'n' is Just the Begninnin in his parent's garage in the US in 2000. Over pulsating hip-hop beats, and rhythmic instrumentals, Prach Ly rapped about genocide in Cambodia and the brutal aftermath of the Pol Pot regime.

Little did he know that his self-produced album would make its way to Cambodia, where it would become a No 1 hit on the radio and in pirated CD sales, sparking a hip-hop movement.

"In the beginning, people here would take beats and lyrics from the US, and often just change the lyrics into Khmer," said Mesterharm. "A few years ago artists started experimenting with Cambodian lyrics. At first it was just imitating what was happening in the US, but now it has evolved into a unique Cambodian trend; they have invented their own styles."

I saw the first [cambodian] hip-hop CD in a store in Phnom penh in 2002.

Alain Arnaudet of the CCF agrees that hip-hop has gradually evolved into a real cultural movement in Cambodia.

"With this festival, we hope to ... showcase some of the masters of hip-hop dance and choreography who are an example of success," Arnaudet said.

Quest for identity
The festival kicks off with a dance performance by the French dance company ACCRORAP at Chenla Theatre, followed by 10 days of films and dance performances centred on the quest for identity and voice through the various mediums of hip-hop culture.

Two workshops will also be held during the festival, where local performers will work with international dancers and choreographers to produce a fusion of dance styles.

One such collaboration will be between internationally renowned dancers and choreographers Niels Robitzky (aka Storm) and Raphael Hillebrand from Germany, and 20 young dancers from Tiny Toones, a Cambodia-based sociocultural dance training centre that reaches out to at-risk children.

"Hip-hop in Cambodia is a very recent movement, so I'm trying to teach the kids the basic steps, rhythms and philosophy of hip-hop. I want to pass on this positive energy and give them the skills to develop their own styles," said Hillebrand.

Storm echoes this sentiment.

"These kids have good hearts, and if we can give them the fundamentals, then when we leave they will still work on the skills we gave them and continue to develop, and that is the most important thing."

French dancer and choreographer Sebastien Ramirez, who combines b-boy dance styles with the spirit of Capoeira, is collaborating on a joint dance project with Phnom Penh classical dancer "Belle" Chumvan Sodhachivy.

Fusion of styles
Although predominantly trained in traditional Khmer dance, Belle looks forward to creating something new.

"Hip-hop and classical Khmer dance are quite different, in that classical dance is very slow and has strict rules, while hip-hop is much faster, stronger and open," she said. "I'm enjoying working with Sebastien very much because it is giving us the opportunity to be creative and think [about] how we can combine these two very different dance styles."

All participants seem to agree that hip-hop culture has the potential to open up doors for youth in Cambodia, and can offer a way of life that is both healthy and rewarding.

The founder of Tiny Toones , KK, hopes that the festival will show that hip-hop is not a bad thing for Cambodia.

"For example, if a kid is writing out lyrics, then he or she is learning to spell," he said. "I also want the kids to see that they don't have to hide their lives. They can aim for their goals, and it doesn't really matter where you come from or what your family background is."

The Phnom Penh Hip-Hop Festival starts this Saturday at Chenla Theatre and will continue with films and performances through May 24, ending with a hip-hop jam at Wat Botum.

Korean developer to provide on-site training for local students

Students will receive on-site training at the Phnom Penh Tower through an agreement with the construction company.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Nathan Green
Thursday, 14 May 2009

Construction and engineering students from the National Technical Training Institute will be exposed to new building techniques through an agreement signed with the construction company behind a new skyscraper development in Phnom Penh.

AMCO Constructions Co, a member of South Korea's Hyundai Motors Group, signed an agreement with the institute April 29 that granted its students access to the Phnom Penh Tower building site.

The 22-storey office building on Monivong Boulevard is owned by Korean company C&D Global. Construction began in December 2008 and is scheduled to be completed in 2011.

Sherk Hee-wang, AMCO's on-site director, promised in a statement to do his best to teach the students the latest construction and engineering techniques.

Yok Sothy, deputy director at the institute, thanked AMCO for opening up the site to the institute's students.

The National Technical Training Institute is a state-owned educational institute under the direction of Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training. It was officially opened in December 1999, before which it was known as Preach Kossomak Technical and Vocational Training Center.

Khmer Krom demonstration

khmer krom demonstration
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Youth issues must be addressed to end crime

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Tong Soprach
Thursday, 14 May 2009

Dear Editor,

I am writing in response to your story in The Phnom Penh Post: "Royal mugging raises fears" on Friday, May 8, 2009.

I would say that crimes such as muggings and bag-snatchings happen every day. Many victims not only lose their [valuables], but also suffer serious injury or death when they are pulled from motorbikes. Most of perpetrators are young, middle-class men.

I would like to share my experience from several years of working with and researching the behaviour of middle-class youth in Cambodian society. There are main six factors leading young people become involved in criminal activities:

- They are hopeless over their future, so it's easy for them to fall prey to peer pressure.
- In the last decade, many public places where young people recreated were sold. Now, there is limited space for youth, such as a few parks, the RUPP (Royal University of Phnom Penh) football field and inside the Olympic Stadium. Where do young people play?
- Middle-class youth today are much more materialistic and exposed to beer-gardens, karaoke clubs, bars, nightclubs, discotheques, massage parlours, hotels, guesthouses and brothels, some of which are located next to schools and universities. This leads to a troubled environment which young people come to enjoy rather then go to school. The question has to be asked: Who designs these environments? Young or old people?
- The government and many donors overlook middle-class youth, who are also a high-risk group in society. There are only a few small youth centres run by NGOs through sexual and reproductive health, and life-skills programs . These centres are not enough for middle-class youths.
- Old people prejudge young people negatively after seeing their attitudes, so youths do not allow their elders to give any advice.
- Young people get no warmth from their parents, who are working hard and have much less time to talk with their children; especially some fathers who are enjoying themselves with new things such as another lover. They are not role models for their children. Sometimes parents use rough words and abuse their children, and this leads to broken families.

In order to address these issues, we, at the moment, would greatly appreciate if the government would close down all kinds of gambling establishments to help address the issue of social security.
However, I think the arrest and re-education of youthful offenders is not enough.

Tong Soprach
Phnom Penh

Brig. Gen. Baker of Huntington laid to rest at Arlington

Members of the honor guard walk alongside the coffin of Brig. Gen. David Baker, who was buried on Wednesday at Arlington National Cemetery. (PHOTO BY VIOREL FLORESCU / May 13, 2009)

May 13, 2009

ARLINGTON, Va. - In 1972, a wounded U.S. Air Force pilot named David Baker was wheeled into a Viet Cong prisoner of war camp in the jungles of Cambodia, badly wounded and awkwardly bundled in a makeshift bicycle litter.

His six fellow American POWs in the camp didn't give the 25-year-old Huntington resident much chance to live. A bullet had nicked a major artery in his leg. A U.S. medic who was a prisoner at the camp concluded that a blow to the injured limb could cause a fatal hemorrhage.

But survive he did, long enough to see freedom again. Long enough to see his kids grow up.

Yesterday, the five surviving Americans who had been held prisoner with Baker, including one who flew half way around the world to be there, assembled at Arlington National Cemetery for the funeral of their POW comrade.

"A man who would not die in 1972, where we would have had to bury him in a POW camp, has died," said the former medic, retired Army Capt. Mark Smith, who lives in Bangkok. "When you have prayed for someone like that, when you've loved someone like that, then when they do die, you come."

Smith was among more than 200 people who, along with Baker's wife, Carol, and sons, David Jr., 38, and Christopher, 30, followed the horse-drawn caisson that bore Baker's flag-draped coffin through Arlington's tree-shaded rolling hills, where Baker was laid to rest.

The military honors awarded him included a "missing man formation" flown by F-15 jets. F-15 fighters had been Baker's favorite military planes, and the formation's four jets appeared suddenly, shattering the quiet of the Virginia spring afternoon, before one streaked upward into a cloud-studded sky.

Baker, - who survived eight months of captivity before being freed in a prisoner exchange, then resumed a military career that took him to the upper rungs of the Air Force before he retired in 1997 as a brigadier general - died at 62 on Jan. 29 of heart failure at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.

His son David Jr. said his father had battled circulatory problems related to the gunshot wound for the rest of his life.

During the funeral, held at Arlington's Old Post Chapel, retired Maj. Gen. Donald Shepperd eulogized Baker as "a good husband, father, brother and friend," whose toughness allowed him to survive a year of harsh interrogation by the Viet Cong, then return home to his family and military career.

Baker Jr. had been so young when Baker was shot down over Cambodia on June 17, 1972, that he did not recognize his father when the two were reunited at Kennedy Airport eight months later.

Baker said his father did all he could to re-bond with his family, and resumed a military career that saw him become the only Vietnam-era POW to fly missions over Iraq during the Gulf War. Shepperd said one of the most enduring images of the Gulf War - the burned-out Iraqi tanks and other military vehicles that littered the road leading back to Baghdad - had been created by the deadly handiwork of fighter pilots flying under Baker's command.

Baker went on to serve in the Pentagon as a vice director of operational plans to the Joint Chiefs. "I think all of us were very proud of Dave's success in the military," Smith said.

Vietnam assists Cambodian fish farmers


The An Giang aquaculture breeding development centre will send its experts to the Tuol Krosang fish farm in Cambodia’s Kandal province where the “fry” are reared, to provide technical assistance and develop a new variety of fresh water fish.

According to the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Processors (VASEP), this is part of a socio-economic development programme between An Giang province in the Mekong Delta and Kandal province to develop high quality varieties of fish to meet market’s demand and increase Cambodian fishermen’s incomes.

At the start, the An Giang centre will provide Tuol Krosang with 200,000 chub fish fry for breeding. By 2011, the centre will have trained 30-50 Cambodian technicians in methods of raising baby fish. In 2008, Kandal provincial seafood department assisted its An Giang partner to purchase 10,000 breeding catfish of natural origin to produce new generations with improved genes.

At the same time, the An Giang seafood department provided Kandal with equipment to carry out research and train technical staff.

At present, Vietnam’s aquatic products dominate 80 percent of Cambodia’s market.