Monday, 20 July 2009

A heart-to-heart chance encounter

Kris Nelson, left, and her granddaughter Emily Brown met Ratha Pang and her son, Soksamnang "Lucky" Vy, both of Cambodia, at a rest stop. Both children have had surgeries to repair holes in their hearts. After that chance encounter, Nelson went on a humanitarian tour of Cambodia. (Photo Contributed)

Press-Telegram Long beach
By Greg Mellen, Staff Writer
Posted: 07/19/2009

Sometimes it takes only a chance encounter to alter a life path. Sometimes it's just an alteration of your regular routine. Call it fate or destiny or karma or just chance.

Kris Nelson, 46, doesn't yet know where her chance encounter will lead, but she feels fundamentally changed and determined to do something with the insight she has gained.

Having just returned from a trip to Cambodia she never would have conceived of before, Nelson is back at her job as an operations manager in Orange County. She's filled with stories about the trip, the sights, sounds and the other touristy news. But because her vacation was a "humanitarian tour," it gave her profound feelings of not only appreciation for life in the United States, but duty to help others.

It all started when Nelson was driving her infant granddaughter, Emily Brown, to Las Vegas. Emily was fussing in the car seat, so Nelson decided to pull over to a rest stop.

"I had never stopped at a rest stop — ever," Nelson says.

While Emily toddled around in a grassy area, an Asian woman approached with her infant son. The woman pointed to a scar on Emily's chest that peeked above the neckline, then showed a similar scar on her son's chest.

The woman was Ratha Pang, a Cambodian brought to the United States by a Long Beach nonprofit that arranged for her boy, Soksamnang "Lucky" Vy, to have surgery.

Emily was born with two holes in her heart, or a ventricular septal

defect. It is an easily corrected defect, although it does require open heart surgery.
For Emily, the surgery was routine. For Soksamnang, who was born with a dime-sized hole in his heart, the chance for life-altering surgery was a miracle. Soksamnang lives in a hut in a village outside Phnom Penh and had no access to that level of health care.

But his cousin is David Kem, who volunteers with the Hearts Without Boundaries nonprofit, and that opened the door to the boy having the surgery.

After meeting Pang and Soksamnang, Nelson says she was surrounded by an entourage of Cambodians who were accompanying the boy home from his surgery.

"I thought, `This is really weird,"' Nelson recalls.

Nelson was forming instant friendships, from pantomiming about the scar, Emily's "boo-boo art" as the family calls it.

"David said it was destiny that we met," Nelson says.

After the encounter, Nelson and Kem stayed in contact. She had planned a trip to Bhutan and when it fell through, Kem suggested a humanitarian tour to Cambodia, where she could not only see the famed Angkor Wat temple complex and other sites, but visit Soksamnang, another girl, Davik Teng, who received surgery thanks to Hearts Without Boundaries, and deliver rice and necessities to villages in the countryside.

The trip to parts of Cambodia that most foreigners never see was touching for Nelson.

She said she was amazed by the spirit of the people.

"They are the most genuinely happy people," Nelson says. "They have a happiness in their soul."

Nelson also saw how she could make a difference. Although she said she has often thought about helping others, the enormity of need would often overwhelm her.

Now, with Soksamnang and Davik, Nelson says she sees a way to help - and it's meaningful and it's personal.

Nelson says she realizes, "If you can help one person, no matter where they are, it can make a difference."

Although she is still sorting through the flood of memories and emotions, Nelson says she is committed to help "Lucky" and Davik.

"My help for me is peanuts," Nelson says. "But to know $30 is a month's pay over there, it can make a big difference."

And it sprung from the most random of meetings., 562-499-1291

Ex KRouge guard describes life under jail boss

Photo issued by the Extraordinary Chamber in the Courts of Cambodia shows Him Huy, a former deputy battalion security guard at the Khmer Rouge's notorious Tuol Sleng prison. Him Huy wept in court Monday as he described how he feared his prison boss, Kaing Guek Eav, standing trial at the war crimes tribunal. (AFP/Tang Chhin Sothy)

Mon Jul 20, 2009

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AFP) – A former guard at the main Khmer Rouge torture centre wept in court Monday as he described how he feared his prison boss standing trial at Cambodia's UN-backed war crimes tribunal.

Him Huy, 54, was giving evidence against Khmer Rouge prison chief Duch, who is accused of overseeing the torture and execution of around 15,000 people held at Tuol Sleng prison, also known as S-21.

"I did not dare criticise him (Duch). I was afraid I would be killed... Even when I saw him riding a bicycle towards me, I would find a place to get away from him," Him Huy told the court.

"Frankly, when I see him it reminds me of the moment I worked with him. I was afraid of him. I did not dare look into his face. Even now I'm fearful of him," he said, weeping.

At the start of his testimony Thursday, the former guard recounted how he killed a prisoner in 1977 at Choeung Ek "killing field," under orders from either Duch or the prison chief's now-deceased deputy, Hor.

He told the court Monday that Duch carried a pistol with him at all times and that the boss "was rather gentle when he spoke, but he was very firm and meticulous."

Him Huy said also that he believed the jail chief had the power to release inmates, contradicting Duch's claims that he was under orders to have all prisoners killed.

"At S-21, nobody ordered him (Duch). It was only him that ordered other people," Him Huy said.

The 66-year-old Duch, whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav, has accepted responsibility for his role governing the jail and begged forgiveness near the start of his trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

But he has consistently rejected claims by prosecutors that he held a central leadership role in the Khmer Rouge, and maintains he never personally killed anyone.

Led by Pol Pot, who died in 1998, the Khmer Rouge emptied Cambodia's cities in a bid to forge a communist utopia. Up to two million people died of starvation, overwork, torture and execution during the 1975-1979 regime.

Four other former Khmer Rouge leaders are currently in detention and are expected to face trial next year at the court, which was formed in 2006 after nearly a decade of wrangling between the UN and the Cambodian government.

Cambodia set to award Total oil exploration rights

Reuters - Monday, July 20

PHNOM PENH, July 20 - Cambodia's government is drawing up an agreement to give France's Total rights to look for oil in its offshore block 3 in the Gulf of Thailand, officials said on Monday.

A provisional agreement was reached last week when Prime Minister Hun Sen was in Paris.

"Hun Sen told the French prime minister that Cambodia had decided to award block 3 to the French company, Total, for oil drilling after lengthy consideration," Prak Sokhon, a senior government official who was in the delegation, told reporters.

Te Duong Tara, director general of the Cambodian National Petroleum Authority , told Reuters: "We are still working on the details before an official announcement is made."

Cambodia does not yet produce oil. Chevron Corp is the operator of Block A in the Gulf of Thailand but is unlikely to produce oil before 2010 at the earliest.

PM tells France he will not fuel tension at Thai border

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Prime Minister Hun Sen’s grandson leads the premier down to the tarmac after running up the red carpet to greet him and first lady Bun Rany upon their arrival from Europe on Sunday.

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Prime Minister Hun Sen and his wife arrive Sunday in Phnom Penh.

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 20 July 2009
Vong Sokheng

In lunch meeting with President Sarkozy, Hun Sen said he will not allow border issue to expand 'into other areas', official says.

PRIME Minister Hun Sen has promised French President Nicolas Sarkozy that he will not provoke tension at the Thai-Cambodian border, a Council of Ministers official said Sunday.

Speaking to reporters at the airport upon the premier's return, Prak Sokhon, secretary of state at the Council of Ministers, said Hun Sen had promised the French government that he would not provoke "civil war or tension" or "allow for an enlargement [of the dispute] into other areas" as he sought to bring "justice" to the Cambodian people in the matter of the Preah Vihear temple dispute.

Prak Sokhon said Hun Sen also told Sarkozy during an official lunch that he considered the start of the trials of former Khmer Rouge leaders to be a positive development, though he said the country should also focus on issues of peace.

"It was the highest level of lunch discussion between the leaders of the two countries that we have ever had in France," Prak Sokhon said. "The French president, prime minister and minister of foreign affairs ... agreed to increase cooperation."

A few dozen government ministers and secretaries of state were present at Phnom Penh International Airport to welcome Hun Sen and his wife, Bun Rany.

Though Prak Sokhon was tight-lipped about details of the trip, he said Hun Sen had attended the opening of the Bastille Day military parade on Tuesday.

Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told the Post Sunday that officials hope bilateral cooperation between Cambodia and France will grow stronger following the visit.

"Our foreign policy is to promote bilateral cooperation in order to bring development to our country," he said.

Fabyene Mansencal, first secretary at the French Embassy in Phnom Penh, could not be reached for comment Sunday.

Criticism of eviction mounts

Photo by: Christopher Shay
Two Group 78 residents look on as other residents dismantle their homes Thursday in advance of Friday’s eviction.

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 20 July 2009
Post staff

Group 78 residents, rights groups accuse govt of deception, threats.

TWO days after Friday's eviction of the Group 78 community, former residents said they were struggling to rebuild their lives in their new homes, with many accusing the government of having conducted an intimidation campaign to force them from their valuable Bassac riverfront property.

"Our 12 family members are now living in a small rented room," said Sim Nhim, 60, adding that she had lived in Group 78 for more than 25 years. "We have no choice but to live here because [the government] demolished our homes."

She said she believed none of the residents had wanted to leave Group 78 but that the threat of an overwhelming police presence on eviction day "intimidated people into tearing down their own homes".

"We have empty hands, so we could not resist the authorities," she said.

Kheng Soroth, another former resident, said Sunday that City Hall had duped him into leaving his large house in Group 78 and that his family had been forced to take shelter in a squalid rental apartment.

"It is difficult for me to survive now because I have no money to buy a house," he said.

At dawn on Friday, police in riot gear marched into what remained of Group 78, a community that once held more than 80 families. A convoy of trucks carrying scores of demolition workers rolled in close behind them.

By Friday afternoon, the four holdout families had left, and workers in matching red T-shirts had finished dismantling Group 78, leaving only a few wooden poles poking out of the mud.

Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun has said that municipal officials want to develop the Bassac riverfront site to make it more attractive to tourists. But many residents said they had occupied their land since the 1980s, which, if true, would allow them to apply to become the legal owners of their respective plots.

In stark contrast to claims from residents, Mann Chhoeun said Friday that all Group 78 residents had agreed to let the government tear their homes down.

"Today, we evicted people without violence, because all the residents agreed to have their houses torn down," he said, adding that City Hall would give books, food and gifts to the families.

Though the eviction was nonviolent, residents and observers said the government's previous verbal threats combined with Friday's show of armed force intimidated the residents into leaving their homes and prevented last-minute negotiations from taking place.

Compensation questions
According to an independent property valuation conducted by Bonna Realty Group, the 260-metre-by-45-metre plot of land next to the Australian Embassy is worth more than US$15 million, or about $1,300 per square metre.

On Friday morning, the six families who had previously refused to accept government compensation met with Mann Chhoeun and discussed potential packages. While their community was being torn down, the families agreed to accept government money, though one family told the Post that City Hall tricked them into leaving their home.

Three families will receive $20,000, while two families agreed to accept $9,000, said resident Kheng Soroth.

But Kheng Soroth said City Hall reneged on an agreement made with his family. He said Mann Chhoeun promised his family $20,000 during the negotiations. After the home was demolished, however, he was told he would get only $8,000, which he said Sunday he expects he will never receive.

Resident Hem Many said she hoped one day to get back at municipal officials responsible for the destruction of her home.

"In the future, if I become rich or a high-ranking officer, I will demolish the former high-ranking officers' houses so they will know how it feels when they meet that situation," she said.

If i become rich... i will demolish the former high-ranking officers’ houses.

Local NGOs and international rights organisations strongly condemned the Group 78 eviction, while embassies and donors released a joint statement Thursday night calling for a moratorium on evictions until a better mechanism for resolving land disputes is put in place.

The statement - from six embassies and five international organisations - did not call any of Phnom Penh's previous land evictions illegal, nor did it mention Group 78 specifically. It did say that Cambodia's policies and practices "do not make effective use of the procedures and institutions allowed for in Cambodian law".

The group's choice to release the statement right as the community's houses were being dismantled and its refusal to condemn the Cambodian government in harsher terms were criticised by some civil society groups.

Dan Nicholson, a coordinator at the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE), said the statement was "completely irrelevant" for Group 78. David Pred, director of Bridges Across Borders Southeast Asia, said the statement would "ring hollow" if it was not "backed up by real consequences".

Others said they approved of the statement, and Naly Pilorge, director of the rights group Licadho, said she hoped it would be "the basis for discussions with government and relevant government institutions to put in place mechanisms to resolve land disputes and procedures to relocate people".

ASEAN readies rights body

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 20 July 2009

DELEGATES to the 42nd ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in Phuket are expected to approve the terms of reference for a long-awaited regional rights body, paving the way for its formal establishment at ASEAN's annual summit in October, officials said Sunday.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said the ASEAN Human Rights Body (AHRB) would be addressed before the end of the summit on Thursday, but he could not confirm Chinese state media reports that the body would be approved today.

"There will be a lot of issues discussed in the meeting, and the terms of reference for setting up an ASEAN Human Rights Body will also be one of those issues," he said.

"An official representing [Cambodia's] Human Rights Committee is participating in [the meeting]."

A draft proposal for the AHRB was adopted by the foreign ministers of the bloc's 10 member states during its annual summit in Thailand in early March, in line with the ASEAN Charter adopted in November 2007.

At the time, local rights groups said the body as constituted would "not operate effectively" due to the presence of government-appointed officials on the commission.

It also said the body would be "purely consultative" if it was not given a mandate to conduct fact-finding missions, publish findings and enforce its rulings.

Although under ASEAN Charter rules, member states pledge to "promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms", the goal appears to conflict at times with some core principles, including consensus decision-making and "non-interference in the internal affairs of ASEAN Member States".

Thun Saray, president of the local human rights group Adhoc, said the most important thing was for the body to have a mandate to protect - not just promote - human rights.

"We see political will from some governments in ASEAN, but there are some problems of the consensus principle in the working process of the ASEAN members. They have to compromise a lot," he said Sunday.

The new AHRB terms of reference have not been made public, Thun Saray said, though he added that he had heard of positive changes in the document.

He said "some ASEAN countries" had agreed to appoint independent experts to sit on the body rather than government appointees, which could improve its effectiveness.

"If we have independent experts on human rights in this body, perhaps it could make some difference," he said.

Sara Colm, a Human Rights Watch researcher, said the group was keen to see more "direct confrontation" of ASEAN members over human rights issues, particularly in the case of Myanmar. She described the AHRB as a "positive step".

"Having any sort of mechanism can be helpful [as] an advocacy tool, as a way to push [governments]," she said.

"If states aren't pushed, they don't really have to abide by the charter."

Om Yentieng, director of the Cambodian Human Rights Committee, said from Phuket that he was too busy to comment Sunday.

Diplomat calls for end to GW funding

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 20 July 2009

THE Cambodian ambassador to the United Kingdom has called for international donors to withdraw their funding of global corruption watchdog Global Witness until it adopts a more "responsible" attitude.

"For far too long Global Witness has been getting away with presenting totally false information as facts," Ambassador Hor Nambora said Friday in a statement from London.

"It's time the international community made a stand against Global Witness by refusing to fund the organisation and banning visits by its representatives."

Hun Sen visited the UK to attend the graduation of his son in Bristol on Thursday.

The ambassador's comments followed the release of a statement Wednesday by Global Witness calling on the British government to revoke the visa of Prime Minister Hun Sen, citing "mounting international criticism over increasing levels of institutionalised corruption, repression and human rights abuse in Cambodia".

"Hun Sen's regime has presided over a process of grand corruption which has seriously undermined poverty alleviation in Cambodia, but Europe and the UK continue to welcome him and his entourage," Global Witness campaigner Eleanor Nichol said in the statement.

Global Witness has been a persistent thorn in the government's side, making headlines in June 2007 when its "Family Trees" report - alleging widespread involvement of senior government officials in illegal logging - was banned in Cambodia. The organisation's staff have been barred from the country since 2005.

HRP votes to proceed with SRP merger if conditions are met

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 20 July 2009
Meas Sokchea

At its first national convention, Human Rights Party officials listed three conditions, including that the resulting party assume a new name.


The Cambodian People’s Party won an overwhelming majority of National Assembly seats in last year’s elections: 90 out of 123 seats.The Sam Rainsy Party won 26 seats, while the Human Rights Party, which was founded in 2007, won just three seats.

THE first national convention of the Human Rights Party voted Sunday to push forward with plans to merge with the Sam Rainsy Party, increasing the chance that a newly named opposition party will challenge the ruling Cambodian People's Party in the 2012 commune elections.

- The decision to work towards the merger, however, was contingent on three stipulations:

- that the resulting party would have a new name
- that the new internal party structure would be jointly decided by the SRP and HRP
- and that there would be term limits for the party president.

HRP President Kem Sokha said at a press conference at HRP headquarters that any merger would need to involve a true marriage of the two parties, drawing a distinction between that and a disguised defection to the SRP.

For this reason, he said, the new party should have a new name.

"If the SRP does not want a new party, it means they do not want to merge," he said. "They only want others to defect to them."

Despite previous divisions between the HRP and SRP, Kem Sokha said he believed the parties could no longer afford to be divided, saying only a united front would be able to defeat the CPP.

The resulting party should be a real merger... not a defection to the SRP.

"If we really have the will to merge, we will not be divided. In other countries, democrats merge and can win an absolute majority," he said.

The HRP president said he would not challenge a move to nominate SRP President Sam Rainsy as the party's candidate for prime minister.

Sam Rainsy could not be reached for comment Sunday, but SRP spokesman and lawmaker Yim Sovann told the Post that the SRP would welcome any parties that wanted to join the SRP.

He said changes to the structure of the party would need to be made by the entire party.

"We need to ask our supporters to decide," he said.

Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said Sunday that the CPP did not care about the proposed SRP-HRP merger, arguing that the new party would not pose any threat to CPP control of the National Assembly.

"We are not surprised that they may merge. It could increase their votes ... but it will not affect our victory," he said.

"The CPP is strong. We have internal unity and new blood from SRP and HRP. What the SRP and HRP may do, we already did a long time ago."

Rehabilitation 'boot camps' take aim at rising meth use

Photo by: Georgia Wilkins
Patients participate in daily exercises at a DARAC drug rehabilitation centre in Phnom Penh.

None of these existing centres come up to even the minimal requirements of treatment or rehab.

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 20 July 2009
Mom Kunthear and Georgia Wilkins

A new brand of middle-class meth users are winding up in private detox clinics, described by some as effective and by others as inherently abusive of patients.

DURING the three years that he used methamphetamine, Khem Samnang grew to hate his parents and others around him who criticised the changes in his demeanor. They said drug use had transformed him from a likeable boy to one who was increasingly sullen, dishonest and isolated.

Shortly after he first began using the drug, he turned to selling presents that had been given to him by his parents - a watch, other pieces of jewellery, a motorbike - to fund his habit. He said he spent about US$5,000.

"I wanted to know how the drug tasted. That's why I agreed with my friends to use it," said Khem Samnang, now 19, in a recent interview.

Like a growing number of young people trying to find their place among Cambodia's new urban elite, Khem Samnang developed an addiction to meth, officially labelled Cambodia's "most used" drug by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime in June.

For the past month, he has been residing in the Drug Addict Relief Association of Cambodia (DARAC), one of Cambodia's private, boot-camp-style rehabilitation centres, where he was taken by his parents so he could break his habit. Living in a compound with 29 other addicts, he now adheres to a rigorous schedule of exercise and study designed to take his mind off drugs.

"They have to stay in the centre for three months and are not allowed to go outside," said Meas Sovann, the director of the centre. "I am afraid that their friends will come and meet them and ask them to use drugs again."

Rehab centres like DARAC, which is located in Phnom Penh Thmey district and treats mostly meth users, began to sprout up around Cambodia in 2004, when the use of meth tablets and crystal meth began to increase as the drugs were transported with greater frequency via the Mekong River.

The centres, many of which strive to marry traditional counseling with military-style discipline, have been criticised by rights groups and other civil society actors for their treatment methods.

"None of these existing centres come up to even the minimal requirements of treatment or rehab," said Graham Shaw, a technical officer with the World Health Organisation (WHO).

"We have no idea what the relapse rate is, and so no idea about whether the centre is working."

Meth drug of choice
According to the 2009 annual report from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, 1,719 drug users were admitted to government-operated centres in 2007, marking a 58-percent increase over 2006. The report, which did not include 2008 data, stated that most of those admitted had been using meth.

Shaw expressed concern that those becoming more prone to addiction are part of a new group of middle-class users, about which little is known.

"Barely any research has been done on this group. We're not sure what their risk factors are, or to what extent they are moving from smoking to injecting, which poses an HIV risk," he said.

The UN report did not include the total number of rehabilitation centres, though the National Authority for Combating Drugs recently reported that there were 14 in the Kingdom.

Since its founding in 2005, DARAC has treated nearly 1,000 people, Meas Sovann said. He added that patients also receive language and computer lessons and can learn other skills such as "motor repairs and make-up".

DARAC charges a $100 fee from its patients, though Meas Sovann said many don't pay anything because they are unable to.

"Some parents give me $100 for taking care of their child, and some do not give me anything, but I get some donations from the government and other people to support them," he said.

Involuntary detention
Though centre directors and some former patients said in recent interviews that the centres get results, they also acknowledged that patients are in many cases involuntarily detained.

Hang Choeun, president of the Drug Addict Relief Treatment-Education-Training Association (DTA), also located in Phnom Penh Thmey district, said this was the case for many of the 55 addicts currently staying there.

"People who stay here were arrested or forced by my centre or by their parents," said Hang Choeun, who also works as a police officer.

Shaw said the issue of involuntary detention was particularly important because the number of meth users is likely to rise in the near future.

"As the global economic downturn affects more and more families and the stress of daily life increases, young people will turn to different escape mechanisms to feel good and energetic," he said, adding that arbitrary imprisonment had led to many of the centres becoming "dumping grounds for undesirable people".

But Chea Chanserey Buth, 17, a drug addict staying at DTA, said he did not feel like a prisoner.

"It does not feel like a jail even though I have to stay in a room with many people. We are not prisoners," he said.

Like Khem Samnang, Chea Chanserey Buth was sent to the centre by his parents after he started to sell gifts they gave him - including a necklace and watch - to buy crystal meth.

"I spent the money that my parents gave me for studying and sometimes sold things they bought me," he said. "I spent more than $1,000 in the two months I used the drug."

Government responses
Phnom Penh Municipal Police Chief Touch Naruth said Thursday that municipal police were under orders to take drug users found on the streets or elsewhere to government-operated rehabilitation centres.

"We always get criticised or accused by NGOs of child rights violations, but actually we just want to take them and train them to become good people," he said.

Prime Minister Hun Sen last month was praised for a speech in which he referred to drug users as victims, suggesting a more progressive government stance towards addiction. He also announced plans for a new rehabilitation centre in Kampong Speu province.

Shaw said he believed the centre's success would depend on whether it could get away from the current boot-camp model and become more "community-based" by adopting a "health response rather than a law-enforcement approach".

Speaking generally of the Kingdom's drug rehabilitation centres, he said, "We still have a long way to go."

Funeral: Hundreds pay respects to governor

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 20 July 2009


Hundreds attended the funeral of Preah Vihear provincial Governor Preap Tan at his Phnom Penh residence Sunday. Preap Tan, who had served as governor since 1999, suffered a stroke on July 8 and died Saturday after being on life support for several days in a Ho Chi Minh City hospital, his assistant said. "Hundreds of officials and people from all the provinces and the capital are attending Preap Tan's funeral," assistant Bun Tharom said Sunday. "They have paid respect to his body and prayed for his good luck in the next life." Along with Prime Minister Hun Sen, Preap Tan, 57, took part in the 1978 revolt against Democratic Kampuchea. He later attained the rank of three-star general. Prum Sokha, secretary of state for the Ministry of Interior, said a successor to Preap Tan had not yet been chosen.

Mine casualties up in June

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
A CMAC deminer works on a land-mine clearance project in Battambang province in this April file photo.

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 20 July 2009
Sam Rith

Injuries and fatalities have been in decline this year but rose 17 percent last month over June 2008 with 21 total casualties.

THE number of people injured or killed by land mines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) this past June was 17 percent higher than last year's figure, according to a recent report from the Cambodia Mine/UXO Victim Information System (CMVIS).

The report, released Thursday, stated that of 21 total casualties, 12 people were injured, two lost limbs and seven were killed.

Heng Ratana, director general of the Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC), said the June figures were a deviation from the long-term decline in casualties in recent years, though he noted that figures from month to month were unpredictable.

"It [the number of casualties] is irregular ... because the mines are in the ground, no one knows where they are," he said.

The report stated that there were 150 casualties between January and June this year, a 13-percent decrease compared with the same period last year.

Heng Ratana said his officers continued to respond to emergency calls from citizens to clear mines that they have found, which he said helps to reduce the number of casualties.

"If we did not have forces to respond to emergency calls, the number of casualties would be greater," he said.

He noted that the provinces most affected were Battambang, Pursat, Pailin, Banteay Meanchey, Oddar Meanchey and Preah Vihear.

Net Nath, a CMAC deputy manager in Battambang, said nine people have died in that province so far this year and that 39 have been injured by land mines or ERW.

He said his officers have been trying to reduce the casualty rate by making residents of the province more aware of the risks there.

Reported run-in with loggers gives tourists a scare in Ratanakkiri

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 20 July 2009
Chrann Chamroeun

Rights group worker says officials concerned about tourism initially covered up incident in which more than 30 travellers were threatened.

POLICE in Ratanakkiri province have yet to locate a group of men who on July 12 threatened to kill more than 30 domestic tourists following a confrontation in which the tourists happened upon the men as they were loading illegally felled timber onto trailers, Soy Thav, the police chief for Ratanakkiri's Lumphat district, told the Post Sunday.

I am telling my men to cooperate with local police... so that future tourists will not be afraid to visit.

"We are now investigating the case, and we know the identity of one member of the group who is a member of the provincial police," Soy Thav said.

He added that he planned to inform the Ratanakkiri provincial police chief about the suspect in an effort to bring the man and his accomplices in for interrogation.

The tourists were on their way to visit Katieng waterfall in Lumphat district when they encountered the group of five to six men as they were loading timber onto their trailers, said Pen Bonnar, provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, who added that the men accused the tourists' guides of driving recklessly.

Later that day, the men, who were "carrying axes, stones and poles to attack [the tourists]", caught up with the group and "threatened to kill them and damage their vans", Pen Bonnar said.

He added that the threat prompted the tourists to cut their trip short and return to Phnom Penh. Local police escorted them on the return trip, he said.

Tourism concerns
Local officials said they were worried that news of the incident could harm the local tourism industry.

"This is a very big concern for the tourism site, and I have already requested that the district police deploy more officers to the commune to increase security," said Nget Vitou, deputy director of the provincial tourism department.

Though the incident occurred more than a week ago, Pen Bonnar said he believes reports of it did not surface immediately because tourism officials attempted to cover it up. He said area residents told him that the provincial tourism department "wanted to hide the incident to avoid a negative impact on the tourism industry".

On Sunday, however, Nget Vitou acknowledged that the incident could have turned violent.

"This is the first time that there has been a serious threat against tourists in that resort," he said. "I am telling my men to cooperate with local police in the search for the attackers in order maintain security and safety, so that future tourists will not be afraid to visit."

Kingdom records five more swine flu cases

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 20 July 2009

THE Ministry of Health recorded five more cases of the influenza A(H1N1) virus, commonly known as swine flu, last week, bringing the total number of confirmed Cambodian cases to 14.

Four Americans who live and work in Cambodia fell ill after returning from a trip to Bangkok. They tested positive for the virus Wednesday.

Also Wednesday, an Irish man was stopped at Phnom Penh International Airport after showing flu-like symptoms, and test results the following day confirmed that he had contracted the virus, said Ly Sovann, the deputy director of the Health Ministry's Communicable Diseases Control Department.

"We have had 14 cases of swine flu in Cambodia, but nobody has died. We will continue to monitor swine flu at the airport and border crossings" he told the Post Sunday.

He said "all people coming from abroad or living in Cambodia" should call the 115 hotline "if they have a fever, cough or have breathing difficulties".

Nima Asgari, a public health specialist at the World Health Organisation in Phnom Penh, said all H1N1 cases have so far been imported from other countries, though he added that domestic transmission of the virus was inevitable

"It's a matter of time. It will come to Cambodia," he said.

"It doesn't matter if you have ironclad border control."

The threat of a global flu pandemic will be discussed at the annual ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in Phuket, Thailand, which opened Sunday.

Thailand has reported the largest number of H1N1 cases in the region, with 4,057 confirmed cases and 24 deaths.

Govt OKs $12m project to redo Kandal Market

A vendor sells fruit and vegetables Sunday at Kandal Market. Stall owners will be required to relocate for three years during construction of the new market complex by PPMD & Rootiz.

We don't want to keep vendors out of business for too long.

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 20 July 2009
Kay Kimsong

Vendors to be relocated for three years during first phase of construction, says joint-venture developer PPMD & Rootiz

KANDAL market is the focus of a US$12 million redevelopment that has been approved in principle in a joint venture between a South Korean company and local firm PPMD, the project's director said Sunday.

Chan Sophal of the joint venture PPMD & Rootiz told the Post that the project has been approved by Prime Minister Hun Sen and Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng on condition that the firm and the vendors reach agreement.

"We already have some capital for the investment, and we are negotiating with the market vendors," Chan Sophal said. "This is a key stage, and once agreement is reached, we can get the project under way."

Kandal Market has two sections: a wooden market, which is the focus of the development, and a single-storey concrete structure to which this project does not apply at this stage.

Chan Sophal said 90 percent of the vendors in the wooden market are keen on the project, and the firm is working to get the remaining 10 percent on board. He said the new eight-storey building would retain the public market on the ground floor, and vendors would keep the position and space that they now hold.

"We are not going to build it in the style of a modern shopping centre such as Paragon or the Sorya centre," he said.

PPMD & Rootiz would improve the market design, he said, and would build offices and apartments on the upper floors. Chan Sophal said the firm hopes to earn a return within five years from office and flat rentals.

It will take three years to construct the first three storeys, with the remaining five floors completed in the second phase, he said.

"We don't want to keep vendors out of business for too long," he said, adding that the company would find an alternative place for vendors during phase one of construction.

The chief of Kandal Market's committee, Sun Dany, said he was not involved in the deal between the company and the vendors.

"As long as the vendors and the company can reach an agreement, the investment will go ahead," he said. He added that a number of Kandal Market's 874 vendors and 495 mobile-stand sellers are not keen on the proposal.

The company said it has also approached vendors in the concrete section of the market, but most of those are not interested in redevelopment. Several of these vendors said the purported benefits were unclear, and before signing up, they want a clear message from the government assuring them their businesses will be protected.

"We plan to voice our concerns to Samdech Hun Sen so that he is aware of these challenges," a footwear vendor said Saturday on condition of anonymity.

South Korean company Rootiz & Geeco set up PPMD & Rootiz earlier this year. PPMD holds 30 percent of the company, with the rest owned by Rootiz.

Govt to buy 60K tonnes of China salt

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 20 July 2009
May Kunmakara

CAMBODIA imported 10,000 tonnes of salt from China last week to offset a domestic production shortfall, a local industry representative said Sunday.

Ly Seng, director of the Kampot-Kep Salt Production Association, said last year's production was washed out by heavy rains in Kampot, the Kingdom's main salt-producing area.

A first batch of 10,000 tonnes came from China's Guangdong province last week, he added.

"We imported 10,000 tonnes to meet current demand, but we plan to import a total of 60,000 tonnes," said Ly Seng. "Last season we were able to produce just 30,000 tonnes."

Ly Seng said annual demand is up to 120,000 tonnes which peaks in the December-to -arch prahok season when the Kingdom's famous fish paste - which requires huge amounts of salt - is made.

"Importing salt costs around US$100 per tonne, so this will cost $6 million," he said. "Financially we couldn't afford to import the entire requirement in one go, but we have the money to do so with 10,000 tonnes monthly."

Chhun Hinn, director of Kampot's Department of Industry, Mines and Energy, said he worked with the Kampot association on solving the salt shortage because it is the key salt-producing area in Cambodia.

Ly Seng said the country's fast-growing population means demand for salt is rising. His association manages 4,447 hectares of salt flats in Kampot and neighbouring Kep province, but he said that figure will likely rise by 200 hectares this season.

"So I am hopeful that next season our salt yields will improve," he said.

10-megawatt hydropower plant set for Oct launch

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 20 July 2009
May Kunmakara

CHINA'S Sinohydro Corporation said the smaller of two hydropower plants under construction is almost complete and will start supplying power to the national grid in October.

The plant, at Kamchay Dam in Kampot, will link to the provincial Electricite du Cambodge base station.
"We will distribute 10 megawatts to the EdC station in Kampot this year," said company representative Kim Sovan.

Beijing-based Sinohydro was awarded a 40-year concession to develop the two plants, he said, for a combined planned cost of US$280 million.
The 10MW plant is in the same compound as a larger 180MW plant also being built, he added.

"The 180MW hydropower plant is now 25 percent complete," said Kim Sovan, adding that the facility was scheduled to go online at the end of 2011.

No timetable for interbank market

An ANZ Royal employee works in Phnom Penh.

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 20 July 2009
Nguon Sovan

Central bank says there is no hurry to develop formal interbank lending, as informal lending has developed, but private banks say such a mechanism would help develop financial sector

THE director general of Cambodia's central bank declined Thursday to give a timetable for the establishment of an interbank market, saying the National Bank of Cambodia still needed to develop negotiable instruments in the absence of government treasury bonds or other government securities.

"We are not sure what kind of instrument will be issued to use in the interbank lending market, or when it will be delivered," Tal Nay Im said.

Interbank lending enables banks facing a temporary liquidity shortage to borrow from other banks, usually from overnight to one year.

In an interbank market, banks use negotiable instruments issued by the central bank as security when borrowing from each other. The central bank also sets target rates for interbank lending.

Tal Nay Im added that domestic banks had already set up an informal interbank market, taking pressure off the central bank to develop a formal mechanism. "We needn't form an interbank market, in fact, because interbank lending forms by itself," she said.

However, representatives of leading banks told the Post a formal system for interbank lending would be welcomed.

ANZ Royal CEO Stephen Higgins said the development of negotiable instruments to help establish a proper, functioning interbank market would be "another good step forward in the development of Cambodia's financial markets".

"While there is some interbank lending at the moment, this is fairly limited, and not in a form that would be typically seen in a normal interbank market," he said.

An interbank market would make the financial system more efficient by allowing banks to maintain lower liquidity levels as they would have confidence to borrow large amounts of money at short notice to cover unexpected cash outflows, he added.

ACLEDA Bank President and CEO In Channy said the bank already had lending arrangements with four other banks and some microfinance institutes, but that a formal market would strengthen Cambodia's banking sector.

"Currently, in some banks cash is abundant and some have enough cash, but some have little cash," he said. "So an interbank market will allow banks with a lot of cash to lend to banks with little cash, reducing the reliance on cash from overseas patrons."

Phan Ying Tong, country head at Cambodian Public Bank, or CampuBank, said his bank had no interbank lending arrangements.

"The initiative to form the interbank market is good because everywhere in the world central banks have established interbank markets," he said. "At the same time, it would improve confidence among banks."

Cambodia's push for filmmaking raises spectre of past censorship

Ron Livingston and Thuy Nguyen appear in a still from the 2007 film Holly, shot in Cambodia and tackling the issues of child trafficking and prostitution.

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 20 July 2009
Mark Roy

NOT since the days of King Sihanouk has there been such a prolific film industry in Cambodia.

And the opening of the Cambodia Film Commission (CFC) last Thursday was a true gala, with film stars mixing with ministers, ambassadors and filmmakers, all buoyed by the prospect of a centre to professionally train local film crews.

But what kinds of films will these well-trained film crews be making?

Though King Sihanouk wrote and directed more than 30 feature movies, it is one thing to film in the Kingdom when you are the king and quite another when you are a foreigner shooting around a sensitive topic.

Guy Jacobson, writer/producer of the 2007 film on child sex-trafficking Holly, said by email from Colombia on Saturday that his experience of making a film in the Kingdom was "not a good one".

"This is very unfortunate, as Cambodia is such a beautiful, amazing country, and the Khmer people are some of my favorite in the world," Jacobson wrote.

"As a film location it is beautiful, authentic and interesting."

But the producers of the film were forced to pay officials major sums of money every day for the right to continue shooting, he said.

"As foreign filmmakers it seems that the only role of the film office, police, and other officials was to extract money from us on a daily basis - without delivering on any of their promises," Jacobson said.

"Due to this treatment our budget more then doubled. Basically we were blackmailed and had to pay bribes a few times a day."

However, it may have been the film's tough topic that landed the filmmakers in hot water. The production company Priority Films has taken a firm stand on child trafficking and prostitution, producing two documentaries about the subject, as well as its 2007 feature film.

Photo by: MARK ROY
Cambodia Film Commission CEO Cedric Eloy appears at the launch of the commission last Thursday.

CFC chief executive Cedric Eloy said Holly faced problems from the beginning because the Ministry of Fine Arts and Culture did not grant approval to make the film.

"But they went ahead and shot anyway," Eloy said. "So the producers had to pay an enormous amount of money to shoot the film undercover - which spells disaster for any production company."

But the government had the right to exercise censorship, he said.

"Cambodia has the right to protect its own morals and culture - just as any country does," Eloy said.

Chief executive of Cambodian film company Kmy Films, Mariam Arthur, said that although graft is an obstacle in the minds of overseas filmmakers, the existence of the CFC should help to allay these fears.

The lack of trained crews also had to be addressed, she said.

"They could make movies 100 percent better here without spending an extra dime - the training is even more important than the equipment," Arthur said.

"The CFC will help build the film infrastructure necessary for the industry to flourish."
Eloy said the first aim of the CFC is to train highly professional film crews to international industry standards.

"Secondly, it will attract foreign film crews to Cambodia, hosting them and helping them find the right people to set up their project," he said.

The third goal is to help authorities facilitate the shooting and involve all the relevant ministries, Eloy said.

"Today Cambodia is one of the lower-cost destinations for the film producer," he said. "For example, for film sets, you can build your house or set for one-tenth of what it would cost in Western countries."

Ministry of Fine Arts and Culture Secretary of State Chuch Phoeurn said the CFC had been set up to attract more filmmakers, both local and international, to invest in film in Cambodia.

"We made the film commission to prevent problems happening in our film sector," he said.
Chuch Phoeurn said the ministry wants films to attract more tourists.

"It really helps our country to increase foreign tourists - and if films are made in our country then they will know about us, and they will come and visit," he said.

Eloy said in terms of permits, it is easier to secure a location in Cambodia than a similar one in Vietnam or Thailand.

But in terms of subject matter, is Cambodia still a conservative destination for the filmmaker?

"If there is a production company that wants to make a film in our country, the film commission has to check that the scenario of the story will not impact on our country," Chuch Phoeun said.

So the Holly experience poses the question: What types of films will the ministry approve?


Reassessing the evil of the Khmer Rouge as a politics of genocide

Francis Deron says the Khmer Rouge was a regime founded on mass murder. PHOTO SUPPLIED

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 20 July 2009
Anne-Laure Porée

French journalist says the Khmer Rouge trials represent the first ‘authentic’ judgment of a communist regime led by 'mass murderers'

Duch's trial is a publishing opportunity. Le Procès des Khmers Rouges, 30 ans d'enquête sur le génocide cambodgien could be translated as "Khmer Rouge trial, 30 years of investigation on the Cambodian genocide".

The author, Francis Deron, is a French journalist who wants this book to counter "a view that tends to give Pol Pot and his right-hand men a less-grim place in the twentieth century". "For my part," the author says, "I don't see that these men are anything else than mass murderers". Clearly, Francis Deron believes it was genocide.

The trial in Cambodia should help review this history even if it is "impossible to penetrate all the mystery of the Democratic Kampuchea".
According to Francis Deron, the main thing is that "this is the first authentic trial of a communist regime" and will probably remain the only one possible for such a form of governance that the author considers as "an imposture".

This book notes the gap between the young Cambodian generation and the people who lived under the Khmer Rouge regime and attempts to link past and present.

In the first chapter, the author leads the reader from Phnom Penh on July 20, 1962, to Battambang in 2008. The chronologies spread in the different chapters support this return to the past.

The book focuses on S-21, its former director Duch, on the most responsible Khmer Rouge leaders and on the movement's history, from origins to Pol Pot's death in 1998.

It presents information to aid understanding of the challenges of the trials.
This book is aimed at the general public.

It compiles information from other books written on Khmer Rouge history, like those of David Chandler, Philip Short, Nayan Chanda's Brother Enemy, Elizabeth Becker's When The War Was Over, Norodom Sihanouk's Prisoner of the Khmer Rouge and stories from survivors.

Articles and interviews are referenced, too. Compared with the existing books, the most effective parts of Deron's book are his own reports, which bring something very personal in the text.

Among the most interesting examples: the story of his report within the nationalist Khmer resistance on the Thai border in July 1985 or the profiles of the Khmer Rouge leaders in which he melds historical details to field reports.

Police Blotter: 20 Jul 2009

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 20 July 2009

A man who stabbed a 14-year-old girl to death in broad daylight on Tuesday as she rode her bicycle to buy food near her home in Kampot's Dang Toung district, was captured by police on Wednesday. The killer was identified as Kang Phos, 27, an uncle of victim Ghan Chan Than. After his arrest, the perpetrator told police that his niece had cursed at him after he jokingly crashed his bicycle into hers. The suspect added that he found his niece's language so offensive that, in his blinding rage, he couldn't help stabbing her 11 times.

A group of spoiled youngsters, aged from 13 to 23, were arrested on Thursday for plotting to fight in front of Phnom Pros Hotel in Kampong Cham town. Police said that the adolescents reside in Kampong Siem district's O'Svay commune. The suspects, however, maintained their innocence. Spoiled 22-year-old Lun Chan Cham Reoun claimed that his group only stopped in front of the hotel after his vehicle got a flat tyre.

Busy exchanging sweet words with his newfound girlfriend as she sat on his motorbike behind him, a young motorist drove so carelessly that he failed to see a traffic sign reading "Slow Down" and violently crashed into it. The incident took place on Thursday along National Road 5, in Kampong Chhnang's Ksam commune. Traffic wardens identified the driver as Reth Vey, 25, who resides in Baribaur district's Ponlei commune.

A man was arrested on Thursday for breach of trust and kidnapping after he carried off a 19-year-old woman to Siem Reap for five days to have sex. The arrest came following a complaint by 37-year-old Keo Mara, the victim's father, who resides in Kampong Cham province's Kampong Siem district. He alleged that Rado, 23, conned him out of two motorcycles and then absconded with his daughter to the tourist hub.

Anti-human trafficking authorities and district police searched a house on Thursday in Sen Sok district, where a local man was accused of imprisoning his wife. The suspect, Meas Sameoun, 42, who works as a security guard for a private company, has been detained for questioning. Neighbours told police he always locked up his wife when he was away from home, which drove her to mental illness.

The Phnom Penh Post News in Brief

In Brief: Lao Sinath knocks out Phal Sophat

Monday, 20 July 2009
Robert Starkweather

Lao Sinath scored a decisive second-round knockout over Phal Sophat Saturday at the Bayon TV boxing arena. With Phal Sophat against the ropes early in the second round, Lao Sinath landed a left elbow to the temple to score the first of two eight counts. Seconds later, Lao Sinath ended the fight with another sharp elbow. Both fighters hold titles at 63.5 kilograms. Saturday's non-title fight was their first meeting.

In Brief: Van Chanvey beats Bheut Bunthouen

Monday, 20 July 2009
Robert Starkweather

In an explosive opening to the eight-man lightweight tournament, Van Chanvey stopped Bheut Bunthouen in the third round Sunday at the CTN boxing arena. Blasting away with elbows in the third, Van Chanvey opened up a long, deep gash under the right eye of Bheut Bunthouen, then smashed him in the head with a knee, prompting Bheut Bunthouen's corner to throw in the towel.

In Brief: Kao Roomchang outpoints Vung Noy

Monday, 20 July 2009
Robert Starkweather

In the second lightweight tournament match of the day, Kao Roomchang scored a knockdown with an overhand right in the second round against Vung Noy on his way to earning a decision victory Sunday at the CTN boxing area. The two lightweights stood toe-to-toe for most of five rounds, with Vung Noy cutting Kao Roomchang in the first with an elbow. But Kao Roomchang came charging back through the next four rounds, landing haymakers and beating a scrappy-but-overpowered Vung Noy around the ring.

In Brief: Sam Ournluorng is Kun Khmer Champion

Monday, 20 July 2009
Robert Starkweather

In the final showdown of the second season of Kun Khmer Champion, the CTN reality boxing series, Prey Veng's Sam Ournluorng flattened Siem Reap's Puy Neurn in the fourth round to win by TKO. Puy Neurn held up well in the early rounds, but as the Siem Reap native started to tire, Sam Ournluorng started landing power shots cleanly. The first eight-count came from a solid head kick in the fourth. Somehow, Puy Neurn beat the count, but then seconds later, with Puy Neurn exhausted and his hands held low, Sam Ournluorng turned his lights out with a straight right hand.

Beyond AIDS: Health crises plague developing countries

A grandmother holds an IV bottle on a stick at the general hospital in Battambang, Cambodia. (Jay Mather)
The San Francisco Chronicle

Joel Brinkley
Sunday, July 19, 2009

Phnom Penh, Cambodia --

Ask any foreign medical officer what has been accomplished here in the past few years, and he most likely will say: We defeated HIV/AIDS in Cambodia.

Prodded and funded by foreign governments and private groups, Cambodia has reduced the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the general population from more than 3 percent to just under 1 percent - a major public-health victory.

But that accomplishment masks a darker truth that afflicts poor populations in Cambodia and most of the developing world. Health policy in this country is determined by the priority or caprice of officials in Geneva, Washington or Berlin - not Phnom Penh. That has given this country a health policy that appears patently absurd.

"Everybody talks about AIDS," complained Dr. Sin Somuny, executive director of Medicam, which represents 117 health care providers in Cambodia. "It affects .09 percent of the population. Well, diabetes now affects 10 percent of the population. But no one talks about that. Funding for diabetes is 25 to 30 times less."

That makes no sense. How can it be?

International donors "want to give money to the big thing of the moment," acknowledged Dr. Michael O'Leary, director of the World Health Organization office in Phnom Penh. "Right now, it's influenza," better known as swine or bird flu.

Beat Richner, a Swiss doctor who runs five children's hospitals across the country, puts a positively uncharitable spin on that analysis.

"They care about bird flu because a bird may fly to California," he told me. "But a mosquito flies only 120 meters." Hence the dearth of funding in Cambodia for malaria or dengue fever, two mosquito-borne illnesses.

"Infectious diseases, infectious diseases," Somuny said, shaking his head. "If you care about the lives of the people, it should not just be infectious diseases."

"You know, beggars can't be choosers," said Dr. Paul Weelen, another WHO official in Cambodia. "Donors set the agenda for what is done in these countries."

Cambodia spends almost $200 million a year on health care services for its 13.4 million citizens. Foreign donors and charities provide about 40 percent of that, giving them outsize influence over health policy. (Per capita, most Western states spend almost 1,000 times more.)

A few years ago, Cambodia's Health Ministry told international donors that it had an urgent priority: to establish a primary health care system - doctors, hospitals and health clinics - to serve citizens nationwide. The Khmer Rouge killed all the doctors and destroyed the health care facilities during its reign 30 years ago.

The donors were largely unresponsive. So, largely with its own money, Cambodia built dozens of hospitals and health clinics. I visited several. Signs and stickers show that international aid groups did provide some equipment and infrastructure. But these are Cambodian operations, as they should be. Still, the hospitals are so underfunded that it's a wonder they can do anything at all. Nurses are poorly trained, underpaid, overworked - and, as a result, often indolent. Doctors might earn $200 a month, so they sometimes demand under-the-table payments before they will treat patients.

In Battambang hospital one day this month, patients lay on straw mats they had brought from home, placed on top of wood slats in rusty white-enamel bed frames. Ten miserable patients lay unattended in the emergency room. The nurses' station was empty, but a green door at one end was cracked open. Inside, three women lounged on beds, snacking on bananas and rice cakes. I knocked.

"Just a minute!" one of them shouted as she jumped out of the bed and frantically pulled on her white nurse's coat.

In private hospitals, adequately paid and supervised, Cambodian doctors and nurses provide superb care.

No one expects the international community to pick up responsibility for funding Cambodia's hospitals. But if the foreign donors at work in Cambodia and in dozens of other poor nations made an effort to direct their money to the nations' priorities, they might save millions of lives.

Joel Brinkley is a professor of journalism at Stanford University. To comment, e-mail


THOK KHMER LAE KHMER Rungmanee Mekhasobhon Ban Phra Arthit Publishing, 288 pp, 175 baht ISBN 978-6115360031

Insight into past and present Indo-Chinese border disputes focuses on social, economic, political and cultural implications
Bangkok Post

Published: 20/07/2009

For Thais following the brouhaha early this year over disputed border territory with Cambodia, and other nationals studying the country's present and past, there is no better time than now to pick up new literature on the country situated east of Thailand.

Rungmanee Mekhasobhon's book focuses on Cambodia since the Vietnamese-backed forces of Heng Samrin recaptured Phnom Penh from the Khmer Rouge on January 7, 1979. Some weeks after her book was launched at a book fair here, Francis Deron's book, presenting the case why there has to be a trial of the ageing Khmer Rouge, was launched in Paris on April 17, 34 years after the fanatics tortured, killed and starved people to force a new start. Late last year, a trio of Thai reporters well-versed in Indo-Chinese affairs brought out a book on the border problems that wandered through social, economic, political and cultural aspects.

Not forgetting the Thai angle as Thai reporters should not, Rungmanee credits the advisers in 1989 of then Prime Minister Chatichai Choonhavan with being catalysts towards peace in Cambodia. She backs that up by pointing to the agreement they obtained from the two major players in the Cambodian dispute: Prince Norodom Sihanouk, nominal leader of the tri-partite Cambodian coalition with the Khmer Rouge as its backbone, and Hun Sen, head of the Vietnamese-backed government in Phnom Penh that most of the world did not recognise.

Among these advisers was MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra, now the governor of Bangkok, who in those days was well known for his thoughts and writings on Cambodia.

But many in the foreign ministry in Thailand and other member states of Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), notably Indonesia, may be a little disappointed that there was no mention of a process that went on earlier which was also necessary.

After the second fall of Phnom Penh in 1979, it took another three years for Thailand, with Singapore's support, to put together a coalition of Khmers, which included groups led by Prince Sihanouk, free-style Son Sann and the Khmer Rouge, as well as to win them recognition at the United Nations (UN) for another 11 years until a peace agreement involving the coalition and Hun Sen's group was signed in Paris.

Without the so-called Jakarta Informal Meetings I and II (better known as JIM I and JIM II), France would not have hosted the Paris International Conference on Cambodia, and no formal peace agreements would have been signed.

However, Rungmanee does excavate another hardly known Thai angle that shows the country's skill in turning challenge into opportunity for itself and the region. In a recent interview with Gen Pattana Akkanibutr, she finds out that he and two others were sent out to China in June 1979, in the wake of conflict between China and Vietnam, the former teaching the latter a "lesson" for expelling Chinese boat people so furiously. He was then Col Pattana, Head of Intelligence, Joint Directorate, Supreme Command Headquarters.

That one of the other two was the then Col Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, at the time head of an army operation unit in charge of Cambodia, should provide an answer for anyone still wondering why his name was so sacred among Khmers on the coalition side. Also important to the Cambodian question was the instruction for the colonels to ensure that China keep up pressure on Vietnam.

The colonels were led by Lt-Gen Pin Kesorn, director of Military Operations, Supreme Command Headquarters. All three were ostensibly "on holiday" in Hong Kong and China.

Other highlights of the book include an interview conducted in November 1979 by Yodthong Thabtiewmai with Heng Samrin in Phnom Penh and another in 1989 by Sondhi Limthongkul, then director of the Manager Group, conducted with Prime Minister Hun Sen, also in Phnom Penh.

Rungmanee notes that Yodthong's interview with Heng Samrin, which the weekly Thai Nikorn of which she was editor-publisher carried, took place at about the same time as Pol Pot emerged out of the darkness to talk with a select group of Japanese correspondents. That interview is also reproduced in Rungmanee's book.

Rungmanee says she conceived the idea for this book while writing Khon Song Paendin, for which she was awarded the best book prize for 2009 by the Ministry of Education. The new book begins with an incident many reporters reporting Cambodia or border issues since the mid-1970s may have forgotten, and will be a refresher for them, though perhaps not such a pleasant one, especially for those given to vivid memories that turn into nightmares.

But there are also moments of light relief in the book, notably the descriptions of how Cambodians enjoy life at the seaside, and the first tour of Cambodia by the Songs for Life group "Caravan", thanks to Kraisak Choonhavan, then adviser to his prime minister-father.

With both books, Rungmanee has shown how someone who started off as an investigative reporter such as herself stands in good stead of going on to become an author of a book. Not only does she seem to have kept all her notebooks and tapes, she has also kept in touch with her sources and updated her material with recent interviews, as well as refresher visits to Cambodia, retracing the journeys she took those many years ago.

She seems ready to write more about this country, but joins at least this reviewer in observing that some aspects are better left unsaid.

Relate Search: THOK KHMER LAE KHMER, Rungmanee Mekhasobhon's book

Cambodian police seize 61 home-made guns

Asia-Pacific News
Jul 20, 2009

Phnom Penh - Cambodian police seized 61 home-made guns during a sweep of the southern province of Kampong Cham, national media reported Monday.

Provincial police chief Noun Samin said officers confiscated the weapons from hunters, gang members and gun makers during searches of villages along the Mekong River last week, the Cambodia Daily newspaper reported.

He said the guns used compressed air to fire ball bearings, and while the weapons did not look extraordinarily dangerous, they were powerful enough to fire shots through sheet metal.

Eight gun makers were briefly detained for questioning and warned they could face charges if caught making more weapons, Noun Samin said.

Despite efforts by the government, the United Nations and international aid groups to disarm ordinary Cambodians, civil wars in the 1970s and 1980s made guns and explosives commonplace in the South-East Asian country.

Struggling to Understand – Faced with Different Reports and Opinions – Sunday, 19.7.2009

Posted on 20 July 2009. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 621
The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 621

This time, we bring an assortment of reports, opinions, and references to other sources, and invite our readers to join into weighing them. Even a clear separation of information about facts and about opinions is not easy. And if one tends to trust – at least – clear figures, the famous warning by the Second World War time British Prime Minster Winston Churchill is a reminder to be cautious, as he said: “The only statistics you can trust are those you falsified yourself.”

During the week, we mirrored:

“Moneaksekar Khmer – Khmer Conscience – which had been an opposition newspaper for more than 10 years, stopped its publication, and this newspaper can no longer be purchased at the newspaper stands in Phnom Penh since 10 July 2009… Moneaksekar Khmer halted its publication in exchange for the order from Mr. Hun Sen to government lawyers to withdraw 18 complaints, related to 18 articles previously published by Moneaksekar Khmer, which the government claims are inciting and provoking friction among the Cambodian People’s Party, and the complaints were brought to the court as criminal complaints. Because of these complaints by the government for alleged disinformation, the editor-in-chief wrote letters of apology to Mr. Hun Sen and to other leaders of the Cambodian People’s Party, surprisingly with the promise to support the government policy under the leadership of Mr. Hun Sen, and Mr. Dam Sith agreed to stop the publication of Moneaksekar Khmer.”

The report closed with these words:

“The spokesperson of the Council of Ministers, Mr. Phay Siphan, said that Mr. Dam Sith decided himself to close Moneaksekar Khmer. He said, ‘He did it for his personal reasons, and no one forced him to close Moneaksekar Khmer.’”

Then we mirrored that the Phnom Penh Municipality had prepared almost 700 uniformed personnel to evict the residents of Group #78 on 17 July 2009, if they do not agree to move out, accepting the compensation offered, leading to a solution (?) of the problems:

An Issue Dragging on for Three Years Ended by Removing the Houses of People of Group 78.

And a Deputy Governor of the Phnom Penh Municipality, Mr. Mann Chhoeun, denied that there were evictions of poor people. He said that critics just disrespect the Phnom Penh Municipality unreasonably, as people had agreed to accept the solutions proposed by the municipality.

Among those ‘unreasonable critics’ were also the following – we repeat some sections form the Saturday edition of the Mirrors:

“Development partners have appealed to the Cambodian government to stop evictions using force against citizens living in disputed locations in Phnom Penh and in other places in the country, until proper and transparent mechanism to solve land disputes and a broad resettlement policy have been organized.

“The Australian, Bulgarian, Danish, German, and US embassies, the World Bank, the United Nations, the European Union, the Asian Development Bank, and the Swedish Development Agency released a joint statement on 16 June 2009 with this appeal.

“The statement said that development partners have seen that land disputes are challenging the development in the country, and they call on the government to adopt proper and transparent systems to clarify land ownership by focusing on people living in cities, and to recognize all citizens’ equal rights, and to protect them. Development partners are prepared to help support the creation of a national policy instruction that will guarantee that evictions and resettlements are made following legal procedures and evictees are properly compensated.

“The World Bank and some development partners have worked closely with the government on secure land ownership in Cambodia. The government was praised for providing more than one million land ownership certificates to people, as this provides the opportunity to promote economic growth and to alleviate poverty…

“International experience shows that secure land ownership is quite important to ensure economic growth and poverty alleviation, and the appropriate implementation for resettlements is a key to create an effective system of land control and of provisions that will protect all citizens’ rights.

“Development partners would like to express their commitment again to cooperate with the government to help solve land problems with justice and morality, and they would like to ensure that the rights of poor people will be advanced and protected.”

The Cambodian Human Rights organization LICADHO reported about the final eviction of the remaining Group 78 residents, and has also, under LICADHO Videos, a documentation of the demolition team, arriving in the dark hours of the early morning. [Links to different LICADHO videos can be found here - Group 78 Evictions (17 July 2009 – mistakenly named as 17 April 2009)].

But even such evidence has been questioned – the following appears almost as a desperate act of defense when no other arguments are left: two famous and popular Cambodian comedians and their groups – Chy Koy and Krem – staged a number of TV plays since June, to ridicule anti-corruption NGOs, after a Clean Hands Concert, where the US ambassador had called corruption one of the main obstacles to the development of Cambodia.

The comedians accused critical NGO workers and journalists of staging fake evictions and scenes of poverty to motivate their foreign donors to provide money – with the main purpose to criticize the government. Anti-Corruption NGOs were said to be money hungry, making up stories about actually non-existent corruption – all on government controlled TV stations – saying that reports about socio-economic conflicts are made up so that some foreigners interested in money to stay in expensive hotels exploiting Cambodian women get funding.

The LICADHO website has many additional links to videos, and their Photo Albums are also worth to receive visits – LICADHO must have made tremendous efforts to “fabricate” these “fake” evictions during the last couple of months. Please see for yourself.

Please recommend us also to your colleagues and friends.

Ministers meet after Jakarta attacks

Monday, July 20, 2009

Asian foreign ministers met on Sunday ahead of the continent's biggest security dialogue, under the shadow of the Jakarta bomb attacks and North Korea's nuclear programme.

A proposed regional rights body that critics say will lack teeth to tackle violators such as Myanmar is also on the agenda at days of talks culminating in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum.

The 27-member forum, which includes Asian nations, the EU and the United States, meets on the resort isle of Phuket on Thursday with a debut appearance from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The fight against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan as well as tensions between Thailand and Cambodia over an ancient temple on their border are also on the long list of security problems facing Asia.

But Friday's twin suicide bombings at hotels in the Indonesian capital which police said left nine people dead have unexpectedly thrown the Southeast Asian terror network Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) back into the spotlight.

Indonesian police Sunday confirmed JI as having carried out the attack, which has shattered years of calm in ASEAN's most populous member nation.

The group carried out the 2002 Bali bombings which left more than 200 dead.

'It remains for all of us to work vigorously in future to prevent terrorist acts,' Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said after meeting counterparts from the 10-member ASEAN in Phuket on Sunday.

'At the beginning of our meeting, all of us expressed condolences to the Indonesian government and people and especially to the bereaved families,' Kasit said.

Kasit meanwhile defended an unprecedented new regional rights body as ministers prepared to endorse its terms of reference on Monday, despite admitting that it would involve compromises on military-ruled Myanmar.

Myanmar, ASEAN's most troublesome member since joining the bloc in 1997, has stirred up fresh international outrage by putting democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi on trial over an incident in which an American swam to her lakeside house.

Leaders of the bloc are set to launch the rights watchdog in October but critics say it will be powerless to investigate or punish abuses such as those by Myanmar but also by communist Vietnam and Laos.

'It is important to make this human rights body credible, but at the same time take into account the real situation in ASEAN member countries,' Kasit said.

Shortly before he spoke, Myanmar authorities detained around 20 members of Aung San Suu Kyi's party as they headed back from events to mark the anniversary of her father's death in 1947.

Myanmar also showed its defiance of foreign opinion earlier this month by refusing to allow UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to visit the opposition leader when he visited.

Meanwhile hopes of any resolution to the tensions over North Korea's nuclear programme dimmed after the communist state's foreign minister declined to attend the ARF and sent a roving ambassador instead.

US State Department officials said they expected the showdown over North Korea's nuclear and missile tests and political repression in Myanmar to be among the leading topics that Clinton will discuss when she arrives.

Regional tensions have soared since the North quit six-nation talks on nuclear disarmament and vowed to restart its atomic weapons programme in the wake of its recent defiant nuclear test and missile launches.

Foreign ministers from the other five parties - the US, Russia, China, Japan and South Korea - will all be in Phuket.

But Bridget Welsh, an associate professor of political science at the Singapore Management University, said the ARF's role in containing North Korea would be 'very limited'.

'ASEAN countries (in particular) will not be able to do more than express their concern,' Welsh said.

Thousands of troops and police threw a ring of steel around Phuket to prevent a repeat of anti-government protests which derailed a key Asian summit in the coastal city of Pattaya in April.

Keep extraneous issues out of the Asean meeting

Editorial Desk
The Nation (Thailand)
Publication Date: 19-07-2009

Thailand as the host and chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) should not allow any domestic controversies to dilute the substance of the Asean Ministerial Meeting in Phuket next week. Foreign ministers of Asean and their dialogue partners will have a series of discussions on the transformation of the group into a real legal-based regional community and many other important issues such as the deadly virus type-A (H1N1) pandemic and the ongoing global economic crisis.

Asean is in the process of becoming a community. Its charter came into force in December last year, and its economic, political-security and social communities are being established. The group aims to be a caring organisation, and terms of reference for the human-rights body are to be adopted by the foreign ministers during the Phuket meeting. The establishment of the mechanism will be officially announced at the 15th summit in October in Thailand.

The Asean Ministerial Meeting and Post Ministerial Conference in Phuket this week is also important for a high-profile dialogue partner like the United States, since Washington will sign in the Instruments of the Accession and Extension to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia, a founding document of Asean, to foster the US role in the region.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will call a sideline meeting with Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam on Mekong-basin development and cross-border issues, suggesting a significant move by the US in the sub-region under the Asean footprint. Clinton will also take the opportunity to address US concern over political developments in Burma, notably the ongoing trial of opposition leader Aung San SuuKyi.

Every move during the Phuket meeting is significant and important for the future of Asean and its members. Nothing should overshadow the meeting.

Thailand took the position of rotating chairman of the group last year, and officials at the Foreign Ministry are already aiming high for many remarkable turning points in Asean. The group was born in Bangkok in 1967 as an ad-hoc grouping, and Thailand hoped that it would turn into a legal-based international organisation in its native Bangkok last year.

The Asean charter really came into force with Thailand's chairmanship, but unfortunately the announcement could not be made in the Kingdom due to political difficulty after the airport closure by the protesting People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), of which the current foreign minister Kasit Piromya is an active member and the Democrat Party a major supporter. The charter's announcement was scheduled for the 14th Asean summit due in Chiang Mai in December but was made at Asean headquarters in Jakarta instead.

Thailand's domestic political problems have hurt Asean again since then. The PAD's enemy red-shirt movement took revenge on the Democrat-led government by disrupting a major Asean summit with partners from Asia and the Pacific in Pattaya in April, storming into the meeting venue.

Internal political conflict is not over yet. The government has not given up its attempts to hunt down its foe former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, and Thaksin's supporters are not giving up either. The red shirts keep up anti-government protest.

They say they will not stage any protest in Phuket to disrupt the Asean meeting, but nobody believes them since Thaksin has called on them to take action against the meeting to discredit the government.

The military has stepped up restrictions and security measures to control the whole of Phuket island during the Asean meeting. Security is so tight as to disturb local people and tourists. The military has set up a lot of checkpoints on the island and will keep all unregistered vehicles off the island. The atmosphere in Phuket is almost like that in the restive South, where troops pop up everywhere hunting for insurgents.

The red shirts have not moved yet, but the opposition has begun to use the Asean event to campaign against the government. Pheu Thai spokesman Prompong Nopparit on Tuesday petitioned Clinton via the US Embassy accusing Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's government of having no legitimacy to administer the country.

The government will not sit still and will take the opportunity of the Asean meeting to move against Thaksin, with Kasit in the chair informing his Asean counterparts of his government's stance on Thaksin and asking them to block Thaksin's movements.

The foreign minister used the forum of the Non-Allied Movement in Egypt to move against Thaksin, meeting his counterparts from Malaysia and Montenegro to verify recent reports of the presence of the deposed premier in those countries. Thaksin claims he holds a Montenegrin passport and has stopped over in Kuala Lumpur with the protection of the Malaysian special branch.

Kasit may repeat his performance during the Asean meeting and thus provoke Thaksin's supporters to retaliate. If both sides spoil the Asean forum for their own political gain, the meeting will be overshadowed by a domestic issue. If the retaliation is strong, it could turn into violence and disrupt the meeting.

The best way is for the government to concentrate on the substance of Asean and not try to bring Thaksin or anything related to Thaksin to Phuket.