Beauty Pageant for Landmine Victims Scrapped

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Posted by Katelyn Beaty on August 11, 2009

Cambodia's government says the contest makes fun of the disabled. The founder says he's only trying to humanize them.

by Elissa Cooper

The Cambodian government last week banned the Miss Landmine beauty pageant, slated for Friday in the capital city of Phnom Penh.

Government officials initially supported the contest but changed their view, saying the contest would damage “the dignity and honor of people with disabilities." Besides the view that beauty pageants inherently objectify their participants, many people believe Miss Landmine mocks the disabled. (The contest logo is a one-legged female outline sporting a crown with a danger sign in the background.) In Miss Landmine Angola 2008, women took turns walking and posing on the catwalk, many of them supported by crutches.

Norwegian film director Morten Traavik launched Miss Landmine after a 2003 visit to the country of Angola in southern Africa. Civil war had recently concluded, and many landmines remained in the ground, causing injuries. When some children asked him to judge their own beauty pageant held in an alley, Traavik combined the idea of a pageant with raising awareness and support for landmine victims — or survivors, as the Miss Landmine manifesto prefers to call them.

UNICEF ranks Cambodia as the third most landmined country in the world. An estimated 4 to 6 million landmines remain in the ground 30 years after the military conflict between Cambodia’s former Communist regime, Khmer Rouge, and Vietnam. According to the Halo Trust, Cambodia is home to an estimated 25,000 amputees.

In both Angola and Cambodia, more women applied to participate than the organization could handle. Cambodia’s contestants are in various stages of life, ranging in age from 18 to 48, and including wives, widows, and mothers. In addition to vying for a custom-made prosthetic leg and other prizes, contestants are photographed wearing designer dresses and jewelry. The pictures are aesthetically tasteful and featured in art exhibits.

It helps, too, that the women themselves want to participate in Miss Landmine. Cambodian contestant Song Kosal, 24, told The Phnom Penh Post, “Even though we are disabled, we also have the right to be beautiful, to participate in society's activities, and to have equal rights with non-disabled people.”

Traavik finds in Miss Landmine a “. . . need for and joy of being seen, appreciated, taken seriously and — something so simple — not being patronized by neither bigoted neighbors nor well-meaning aid workers.”

But Lim Mony, an officer with the Cambodian human rights group Adhoc, sees the contest itself as inherently patronizing. "The [women] are disabled, but being taken to participate in a contest like that — it's not right. It is as if they are being made fun of," she told The Phnom Penh Post.

People can still vote for Miss Landmine Cambodia online, and Traavik once spoke of holding a global Miss Landmine pageant in 2015. Will people support it? Should they?
READ MORE - Beauty Pageant for Landmine Victims Scrapped

Cambodia Rice Sales to Vietnam Ahead of Forecasts

Source: Reuters

Hanoi, Aug 12 - Cambodia has sold more than 1 million tonnes of rice to neighbouring Vietnam in the first half of this year, beating Vietnamese industry forecasts for the whole of 2009, a Vietnamese newspaper reported.

The increased sales from Cambodia, plus a bumper summer-autumn crop, will help Vietnam reach a record export volume of 6 million tonnes this year, Vietnam Food Association Deputy Chairman Nguyen Tho Tri told the Saigon Economic Times newspaper.

The Industry and Trade Ministry has an even higher forecast of 7 million tonnes for Vietnam rice exports this year, from 4.65 million tonnes shipped in 2008.

"The rice volume poured in quickly, having exceeded 1 million tonnes at the end of June because many Cambodian firms switched sales to Vietnam from Thailand," Tri was quoted as saying in an interview published late on Tuesday by the newspaper, which is run by the Ho Chi Minh City Industry and Trade Department.

Cambodia's rice production increased to 7.2 million tonnes for the 2008/09 season from 6.7 million in 2007/08.

Tri said demand for rice remained strong because the United Nations had called on countries to give food aid to many African countries facing serious food shortages.

"If they join the aid, they would choose Vietnamese rice due to its cheap price," he said. But he added that the economic crisis had slowed aid flow to Africa.

Rice prices in Vietnam softened slightly this month as the summer-autumn harvest has been peaking, industry reports show.

Five-percent broken rice prices have eased to 6,700-6,800 dong (37.6-38.2 U.S. cents) per kg, free-on-board without packing, against 6,750-6,800 dong in the last week of July, the Vietnam Food Association said.

The association has ordered 21 members to start buying a combined 400,000 tonnes of husked rice from Monday at a price of at least 3,800 dong per kg of paddy to stop price falls while export demand is slow.
READ MORE - Cambodia Rice Sales to Vietnam Ahead of Forecasts

Japan commits to assist Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam

HANOI, Aug. 12 (Xinhua) -- Japan remains strong commitment to providing assistance to the Development Triangle Area of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam (CLV), the Lao newspaper Vientiane Times reported Wednesday.

The commitment was made by Ishikane Kimihiro, deputy head of the Southeast and Southwest Asian Department of Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the third CLV-Japan working level meeting held in Vientiane.

The meeting was to review the implementation of cooperation activities funded by Japan and draw up future direction to attract more direct investment of Japan to the triangle area, said the newspaper.

Kimihiro said that his country's assistance would contribute to stability and prosperity of the CLV countries in particular and that of Asia in general.

Japan has so far provided 20 million U.S. dollars for development related to the triangle, said Ya Seng, an official from Lao Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The development triangle area is located in the border areas of the three CLV countries that share many common factors. These include untapped natural resources, potential for economic development and similar socio-cultural conditions.

Editor: Lin Zhi
READ MORE - Japan commits to assist Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam

Khmer Rouge official wants 'harshest punishment'

Chieng Kea, 56, a Cambodian farmer from Koh Thom district, Kandal province, poses for a photograph in front a portrait , top center, of his younger brother who was former Khmer Rouge prisoner, displayed at Tuol Sleng genocide museum, formerly the regime's notorious S-21 prison, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2009. Under the command of Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, who headed the prison, up to 16,000 people were tortured and later taken away to be killed during the Khmer Rouge's 1975-1979 rule. The chief of the Khmer Rouge's main torture center, being tried by a U.N.-backed tribunal on genocide charges, asked the Cambodian people Wednesday to give him "the harshest punishment." (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)


PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — The former chief of the Khmer Rouge's main torture center, being tried by a U.N.-backed tribunal on genocide charges, asked the Cambodian people Wednesday to give him "the harshest punishment."

The statement from Kaing Guek Eav, who headed the notorious S-21 prison in Phnom Penh, came as a widow wept before the court, demanding justice for the death of her husband and four children during the communist regime's reign of terror.

"I accept the regret, the sorrow and the suffering of the million Cambodian people who lost their husbands and wives," the defendant told the tribunal. "I would like the Cambodian people to condemn me to the harshest punishment."

Kaing Guek Eav — better known as Duch — is being tried for crimes against humanity, war crimes, murder and torture. Up to 16,000 people were tortured under his command and later killed during the Khmer Rouge's 1975-1979 rule. Only a handful survived.

Duch (pronounced DOIK) later became an evangelical Christian and worked for international aid organizations after the ouster of the Khmer Rouge.

He noted Wednesday that Jesus Christ was stoned before his death by crucifixion.

"If Cambodians followed this traditional punishment, they could do that to me. I would accept it," he said.

Duch is the first of five senior Khmer Rouge figures scheduled to face long-delayed trials and the only one to acknowledge responsibility for his actions. His trial, which started in March, is expected to finish by the end of the year.

During Wednesday's court session, Bou Thon, 64, said her husband was a driver at the Khmer Rouge's Industry Ministry when he was accused of being a traitor and sent to S-21. She was assigned as a cook.

Her husband and four children vanished, and Bou Thon said she believed all were killed at Choeung Ek, better known as the Killing Fields, outside Phnom Penh where S-21 prisoners were dispatched for execution.

With tears in her eyes, Bou Thon said she tried to forgive and forget but could not.

Duch, asked by the judge to speak about the Khmer Rouge killings, said they were "like the death of an elephant which no one can hide with only two tamarind tree leaves."
READ MORE - Khmer Rouge official wants 'harshest punishment'

Vietnam and Cambodia to boost co-operation on construction

Vietnam and Cambodia should continue to strengthen co-operation on land management, urban planning and construction in order to make a contribution to consolidating and promoting the two countries’ fine friendship.

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung made the statement while receiving Cambodian Senior Minister of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction Im Chhun Lim in Hanoi on August 11.

Vietnam wishes to effectively implement the agreements signed between the two governments on speeding up trade ties, especially investment by Vietnamese investors in Cambodia, PM Dung affirmed.

This not only brings economic benefit to both, but also develops the existing fine friendship between the two nations, he added.

The Vietnamese PM expressed pleasure at the development of bilateral ties in all fields as well as the results of talks between the Cambodian Minister and Vietnam’s Minister of Construction, Nguyen Hong Quan, as well as the Minister of Natural Resource and Environment Pham Khoi Nguyen.

Vietnam will provide personnel training in construction for Cambodia, and exchange experience in legislation on land management and construction, PM Dung said.

For his part, Minister Im Chhun Lim pledged to support Vietnamese construction investors in Cambodia and create favourable conditions for Ho Chi Minh City’s Construction University and Architecture University to open training branches in Cambodia. (VNA)
READ MORE - Vietnam and Cambodia to boost co-operation on construction

K.Rouge jail chief asks for 'strictest' punishment

Duch says he never personally killed anyone during the brutal 1975-79 regime

PHNOM PENH — The Khmer Rouge's main jail chief told a war crimes court Wednesday he would like the "strictest level of punishment" -- even death by stoning -- for his crimes against the Cambodian people.

Duch, whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav, is on trial for overseeing the torture and execution of about 15,000 people at Tuol Sleng detention centre in the late 1970s.

The 66-year-old told the UN-backed tribunal that the country "can condemn me to whatever the highest level of punishment is" after his likely conviction.

"If there is a Cambodian tradition -- like it existed in the past when people threw rocks at Christ to death -- Cambodian people can do that to me. I would accept it," said Duch, who converted Christianity in the 1990s.

Duch has previously accepted responsibility for his role governing the jail and begged forgiveness 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 says he never personally killed anyone during the brutal 1975-79 regime.

"I will accept without challenges... all judgments which will be made by this chamber, the judgment of my role as the chairman of S-21 and all the crimes committed there," he said.

"I am humble before the Cambodian people, I accept all of these crimes and would like the Cambodian people to condemn me to the strictest level of punishment."

"My life is just one life and cannot compare to those lives which were lost during the period," he added.

Led by Pol Pot, who died in 1998, the Khmer Rouge emptied Cambodia's cities in a bid to forge an agrarian utopia, resulting in the deaths of up to two million people from starvation, overwork and torture.

Speaking of those who lost family members, Duch said, "I accept their regret, their sorrow and their suffering."
READ MORE - K.Rouge jail chief asks for 'strictest' punishment

Vietnam treasures ties with Cambodia

August 12, 2009

Vietnam always attaches importance and gives top priority to strengthening and developing its traditional friendship and comprehensive co-operation with Cambodia.

Hoang Binh Quan, Member of the Party Central Committee and Head of the Party Central Committee’s Commission for External Relations, made the statement at meetings with Cambodian leaders during his three-day visit as a guest of the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP).

Mr. Quan paid a courtesy visit to Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni, and met CPP Chairman and Senate President Chea Sim, CPP Vice Chairman and Prime Minister Hun Sen, CPP Honorary Chairman and National Assembly Chairman Heng Samrin, and Chairman of the CPP’s Standing Committee and National Assembly Second Vice Chairman Say Chhum.

Mr. Quan kept his hosts informed of the situation in Vietnam after three years of implementing the 10th National Party Congress’s Resolution.

King Norodom Sihamoni and Cambodian leaders said they are delighted at progress in the traditional friendship and comprehensive co-operation between Cambodia and Vietnam .

They pledged to do their utmost to lift bilateral ties to a new height under the motto of “good neighbourliness, traditional friendship, long-term and comprehensive co-operation” as agreed upon by senior leaders of the two countries.

During the visit, Mr. Quan held talks with his Cambodian counterpart, Yos Son, to brief each other of the situation for their respective Parties and nations.

The Party officials also discussed a range of measures to boost their bilateral relationship as well as regional and international issues of mutual concern. (VNA)
READ MORE - Vietnam treasures ties with Cambodia

Joint plans needed with Cambodia: PM


HA NOI — Viet Nam and Cambodia need to promote co-operation, share experiences and support each other in the fields of land management, urban planning and construction for the development of both countries, said Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.

Prime Minister Dung made the statement while receiving the Cambodian Senior Minister of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, Im Chhun Lim, in Ha Noi yesterday.

Dung said he was delighted at the development of relations between two countries in all fields and the outcome of talks held between the visiting Cambodian Senior Minister and Vietnamese Minister of Construction Nguyen Hong Quan and Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Pham Khoi Nguyen.

He stressed the need for relevant ministries and agencies of Viet Nam and Cambodia to join efforts to implement agreements reached between the two sides.

Viet Nam would help train human resources for Cambodia in the field of construction and share legislative experiences in land management and construction with Cambodia, said Dung.

He stressed that Viet Nam wished to effectively implement agreements signed between the two Governments in boosting investment and trade between the two countries, particularly investment activities of Vietnamese businesses in Cambodia.

Lim thanked Viet Nam for its assistance to Cambodia in the fields of construction, land management and urban planning.

He committed to support Vietnamese businesses operating in the field of construction to do business in Cambodia as well as create favourable conditions for the HCM City University of Civil Engineering and University of Architecture to open branches in Cambodia. — VNS
READ MORE - Joint plans needed with Cambodia: PM

Taiwan military: 1,000 found alive after typhoon

Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou speaks at Chishan evacuation centre in Kaohsiung county, southern Taiwan August 12, 2009. Typhoon Morakot, which ravaged Taiwan over the weekend, has killed 63 people across the island. REUTERS/Pichi Chuang

Taiwan troops evacuate survivors in Shiaolin, Tainan county, southern Taiwan, following floods caused by Typhoon Morakot. Taiwan's military on Wednesday began a helicopter rescue of more than 700 people who were found alive in three villages flattened by landslides, a senior military officer told AFP. (AFP/Taiwan Military News)

Rescuers help a man at Chishan evacuation centre, Kaohsiung county, after he was evacuated by military helicopter from a landslide-affected village in southern Taiwan following Typhoon Morakot, August 12, 2009. REUTERS/Stringer

In this image released by the Taiwan Military News Agency, a soldier carries a survivor out of a helicopter after he was rescued from the flooded village of Namaxia following Typhoon Morakot, Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2009, in Kaohsiung County, southern Taiwan. Police said Wednesday that there is no way to know for sure how many people remain buried in the catastrophic mudslide that struck a remote mountain village in Taiwan over the weekend when the typhoon lashed the region. AP Photo/Taiwan Military News Agency)

In this image released by the Taiwan Military News Agency, survivors sit in a helicopter after fleeing from the flooded village of Namaxia following Typhoon Morakot, Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2009, in Kaohsiung County, southern Taiwan. Police said Wednesday that there is no way to know for sure how many people remain buried in the catastrophic mudslide that struck a remote mountain village in Taiwan over the weekend when the typhoon lashed the region. (AP Photo/Taiwan Military News Agency)

In this image released by the Taiwan Military News Agency, soldiers and survivors unload provisions after arriving at the flooded village of Namaxia following Typhoon Morakot, Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2009, in Kaohsiung County, southern Taiwan. Police said Wednesday that there is no way to know for sure how many people remain buried in the catastrophic mudslide that struck a remote mountain village in Taiwan over the weekend when the typhoon lashed the region. (AP Photo/Taiwan Military News Agency)

By PETER ENAV, Associated Press Writer

CISHAN, Taiwan – Rescuers have found nearly 1,000 people alive in the area around three remote villages devastated by Typhoon Morakot, which pummeled the island over the weekend, Taiwan's military said Wednesday.

Most of the survivors were found Tuesday, but relief operations spokesman Major General Hu Jui-chou said a few dozen more were spotted Wednesday in Shiao Lin, the tiny community destroyed by a catastrophic mudslide early Sunday morning.

Hu told reporters 500 survivors had been found in Min Tzu, 200 from Chin He, and 270 from Shiao Lin.

Army helicopters were ferrying survivors to safety in Cishan, the hardscrabble town in the southern county of Kaohsiung that is serving as a focal point for relief operations.

However, heavy rains were wreaking havoc with rescue operations and by early afternoon only a few dozen flights had arrived at the makeshift landing zone on the ground of Cishan Junior High School. That compared to more than 100 on Tuesday.

Morakot, which means "emerald" in the Thai language, struck the Philippines, Taiwan and China and left at least 93 people dead, most of them in Taiwan. It dumped as much as 80 inches (two meters) of rain on the island before moving on to China, where authorities evacuated 1.5 million people and some 10,000 homes were destroyed.

A major concern for relief officials remained Shiao Lin, cut off from the outside world since Sunday's mudslides.

Video taken by TV station ETTV showed the village buried in tons of mud and rubbles, with only two of its structures left standing. The only sign of life in the village, the ETTV video showed, was a sodden cat hiding in a crack under the rubble.

Luo Shun-chi, 36, who escaped from Shiao Lin shortly after Sunday's mudslide, told The Associated Press that he did not know how many of his fellow villagers remained alive.

He said that between 500 and 600 people were in Shiao Lin at the time of the disaster — far fewer than the 1,300 people listed in Taiwan's population registry.

Taiwan's National Fire Agency has said 100 people were under the mud in Shiao Lin, but didn't offer any evidence to back up that claim.

Luo said that whatever the Shiao Lin death toll, he was never going back.

"The place is finished," he said. "There is no way I could return."

The official death toll from Morakot stands at 63 in Taiwan, while authorities say another 61 are missing. That figure is mostly people killed from flooding and does not include residents of Shiao Lin and its surroundings.

Outside of Taiwan, Morakot also claimed 22 lives in the Philippines. After pummeling Taiwan, Morakot slammed into China's Fujian province, bringing heavy rain and winds of 74 miles (119 kilometers) per hour, according to the China Meteorological Administration.

Authorities ordered 1.5 million people to leave the area, sending them to schools, government offices, hospitals and the homes of relatives, where they will remain until the rain stops and waters recede, the Civil Affairs Ministry has said.

Morakot damaged or destroyed more than 10,000 homes and flooded over 1 million acres (400,000 hectares) of cropland, the ministry said. It said direct economic losses have been estimated at 9.7 billion yuan ($1.4 billion).

The heavy rains triggered a massive landslide in Pengxi, a town in Wenzhou city of eastern China's Zhejiang province, destroying seven three-story apartment buildings at the foot of a mountain late Monday, an official surnamed Chen from the Pengxi government told The Associated Press.

Xinhua reported that an unknown number of residents were buried in the landslide, though Chen put the number at six. All were pulled out alive but two later died of their injuries, he said.
READ MORE - Taiwan military: 1,000 found alive after typhoon

Cambodia's foreign ministry welcomes reduction in Suu Kyi sentence

Wed, 12 Aug 2009
Author : DPA

Phnom Penh - Cambodia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has described the reduction of the sentence handed down to Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi as "a good signal," and said Myanmar is moving towards democracy, local media reported. Foreign affairs spokesman Koy Kuong told the Phnom Penh Post newspaper that the junta's decision to reduce the sentence of three years hard labour in prison to 18 months under house arrest showed Myanmar's military government is keen on democratic reforms.

"It is a good signal for the situation that Aung San Suu Kyi only got a sentence of 18 months' house arrest," Koy Kuong said. "Myanmar has gone through many steps [and] is on the way to democratization."

Koy Kuong would not comment further, saying the matter is an internal affair for Myanmar, a fellow state in the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Phnom Penh had previously said Suu Kyi was innocent and should be released.

A prominent local human rights activist in Phnom Penh said the Cambodian government's U-turn is probably because it is cracking down on its own citizens with a flurry of lawsuits this year against opposition politicians, media workers and civil society representatives.

"It is very difficult for the Cambodian government to say anything about [Suu Kyi's trial] because the same could be said about the Cambodian government," said Ou Virak, the president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights.

Aung San Suu Kyi was arrested in May after US citizen John Yettaw swam to her lakeside home where he stayed for two nights. The junta said that was a breach of Suu Kyi's house arrest terms.
READ MORE - Cambodia's foreign ministry welcomes reduction in Suu Kyi sentence

Cambodia: Collaboration is Needed

Eve BlossomFounder, Lulan Artisans
Posted: August 11, 2009

Since last December, I have been following the impact of the economic downturn in the Southeast Asian countries where I have worked for almost two decades. The deep recession quickly affected developing countries, even countries such as Laos and Cambodia, who are less tied to the financial sectors of the economy.

During my trip last week to Cambodia, I saw firsthand just how hard hit the country is -- worse than anything I had seen reported. Since the mid-1990s, Cambodia has had many apparel factories open and a substantial number of jobs created, with more than 90% of Cambodia's exports from the garment sector. But due to the recent decrease in consumer buying worldwide, there is a fall in the demand for goods. Garment factory after garment factory in Cambodia have closed, and many others have greatly downsized. It is estimated that 70,000 jobs have recently been lost. Most of these workers are women between the ages of 18-26; and without these jobs, they are in serious trouble. Majority of these women come from villages and are the primary earner for the family, sending money back every month for their families and communities.

These rural communities rely on family members working at urban factories for their food, housing, education and health care. With a lack of employment in the villages, women are forced to look for alternative work in the city. The problem is that there is no other work.
Economic options for these women are bleak. Many end up in the sex trade or migrating illegally, where some fall prey to human trafficking. Official reports of migration are approximately 200,000 but many believe that the actual number is higher. According to the World Bank, more than 200,000 people in Cambodia may drop back into poverty this year alone due to the economic crisis, with the potential of hundreds of thousands more if the downturn continues.

The good news is that many groups, including large international brand-name apparel companies, non-profit organizations and international institutions, such as the International Labor Organization, are already in Cambodia. They are all concerned and interested in helping with this situation and what is needed is a collaborative effort. If all these organizations could come together and agree on what roles to play, the best initiatives to create and to act quickly, we could possibly stop the job losses and hopefully regain some of the 70,000 jobs lost.

The long-term outlook for Cambodia in regards to the apparel industry is good. Its competitiveness and past performances make it a sound investment for a collaborative initiative. Nonprofits could assist in education and health care. Apparel companies, in partnership with other organizations, could cover minimum salaries and training programs for future skills. And since bank lending has tightened, trade finance groups could help with cash flow for garment companies.

But the time is now. Every month a woman is out of work and has no salary, she is pushed into a more difficult economic situation. And once entering the sex trade industry, few women leave. Service programs to help sex workers rehabilitate and train for other work currently fail at very high rates.

Many see the results of human trafficking and want to get involved; but more importantly, the focus should be on empowering the mechanisms to prevent it. It may seem obvious but supporting and training women for vocational work is not just an economic engine for the country but a deterrent from the cultural and community destruction that trafficking creates. And prevention and sustainable jobs is the key.
READ MORE - Cambodia: Collaboration is Needed

Cambodia Trade with S. Korea Drops 22 pct in First 5 Months


Web Editor: Cao Jie

Trade volume between Cambodia and South Korea dropped 22.6 percent in the first five months of this year, a sign that the global economic crisis continues to grip both countries, local media reported on Wednesday.

Trade volume between Cambodia and South Korea dropped 22.6 percent in the first five months of this year, a sign that the global economic crisis continues to grip both countries, local media reported on Wednesday.

Total volume through May reached 114 million U.S. dollars, down from 147.27 million U.S. dollars over the same period last year, the Phnom Penh Post quoted Lee Hyoung-seok, deputy director general of the South Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency, as saying.

Lee said that South Korea's principal export products to Cambodia included textiles, motor vehicles, consumer electronics and chemical products, while Cambodia's main exports were garments, agricultural products and timber.

"We are seeing a decline in volume because demand has fallen ... (leading) many manufacturers to reduce production," Lee said, adding "I forecast that for the rest of the year, bilateral trade will continue to fall at a similar rate, though things may improve next year."

Lee added that trade volume between the two countries reached 294 million U.S. dollars last year.

Thon Virak, deputy director of the International Trade Directorate at the Ministry of Commerce, declined to comment, according to the Post, saying he did not have bilateral trade figures.

But Kang Chandararot, president of the Cambodia Institute for Development Study, said that a stabilizing South Korean economy may gradually stimulate commerce as the year progressed.
READ MORE - Cambodia Trade with S. Korea Drops 22 pct in First 5 Months

Court postpones extradition hearing of convicted Russian paedophile

Submitted by Mohit Joshi
Wed, 08/12/2009

Phnom Penh - The Appeal Court in Phnom Penh has indefinitely delayed the extradition hearing of a Russian businessman convicted of sexually abusing underaged girls in Cambodia, according to media reports Wednesday.

Businessman Alexander Trofimov, whose real name is Molodyakov Stanislav, was heading a 300-million-dollar tourist resort development in southern Cambodia when he was arrested on child sex charges in September 2007. A Cambodian court sentenced him to 17 years in jail.

Trofimov is wanted in Russia on similar charges.

Chuon Sunleng, one of three Appeal Court judges assessing the case, told the Cambodia Daily newspaper that police in the southern town of Sihanoukville, where Trofimov is in jail, had failed to bring him to court.

"The summons had already reached the prison, but I don't know how this (absence) happened," he was quoted as saying.

Provincial prison director Heng Huon said Trofimov had asked not to be sent to the hearing in Phnom Penh as he didn't have a lawyer, the report said.

Trofimov has reportedly been allowed out of jail by Heng Huon several times to inspect the island resort development. (dpa)
READ MORE - Court postpones extradition hearing of convicted Russian paedophile

A gathering of the displaced

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Representatives from communities involved in land disputes present petitions at the National Assembly on Tuesday morning

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 12 August 2009
Cheang Sokha

Citizens from across the Kingdom converge on the capital to file complaints over what they say are unfair land concessions.

ABOUT 300 Cambodians from 19 different provinces converged on the capital Tuesday to lodge complaints with a variety of government institutions in the hope of securing official intervention in land disputes across the country.

Several villagers told the Post on Tuesday that they had travelled to Phnom Penh because they want the government to cancel economic land concessions that they claim have stolen community land and sapped local resources.

Villagers emphasised that the purpose of their visit was to seek a solution, not to vent anger. "We are not here to protest - we have come to ask for government help," said 51-year-old Mom Sakim from Kratie province.

She claimed that 110 families in her district were involved in a dispute with a private company over a 1,000-hectare land concession.

"We stopped believing that local authorities would help us, so we decided to come to Phnom Penh, and we hope that the government will not ignore this matter," she said.

Villagers separated into several groups of about 40 to 50, then went off to file thumbprint petitions with the National Assembly, Prime Minister Hun Sen's Cabinet, the Council of Ministers, the Ministry of Interior, the National Authority for Resolving Land Disputes, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and the Ministry of Environment.


"We don't oppose development projects, but their implementation should benefit both companies and residents," Mom Sakim said, adding thatmany development projects near her community had infringed upon local farmland.

Seng Sok Heng travelled to Phnom Penh from the northwestern province of Oddar Meanchey. He said he has participated in similar events in the past, but that this is the largest gathering of displaced landowners he has ever seen.

"Joining together to raise these concerns is a good method for us to inform our leaders about our problems," Seng Sok Heng said. "Every year, more and more people are facing land disputes. The impact on local communities continues to increase."

Am Sam Ath, monitor for the local rights group Licadho, said that land disputes are one the most pressing issues for poor Cambodians today, both rural and urban.

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Villagers petitioning against land disputes implore guards to allow them into the Ministry of Interior on Tuesday morning.

"The government needs to make a final ruling on these matters," Am Sam Ath said. "Individual disputes may get resolved, but overall, the cases just keep piling up."

Chan Tong Yves, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Agriculture, said that before granting land concessions, the ministry studies the proposed location, conducts environmental-impact assessments, and holds talks with local and community leaders.

"Normally, local villagers always claim that [land concessions] impact them negatively, while the company claims that nothing will happen," he said.

"There is no reason to believe that all villagers who live near these concessions are negatively impacted. We will have to go back and look at each case on an individual basis."

According to a ministry report from November 2008, some 65 companies had received government land grants comprising 895,176 hectares.

Seng Sok Heng estimated that about 100 people nationwide have been arrested in cases related to land disputes, and that one purpose of Tuesday's gathering was to urge the release of those prisoners.

The villagers plan to hold the press conference today to publicly express their concerns to the government.
READ MORE - A gathering of the displaced

Court upholds jailed publisher's conviction

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Khmer Machas Srok publisher Hang Chakra enters the Appeal Court on Tuesday morning.

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 12 August 2009
Meas Sokchea

Lawyer pledges to take case to Supreme Court after Court of Appeal rules that opposition journalist should remain jailed.

THE Court of Appeal on Tuesday upheld the June ruling against Hang Chakra, publisher of the opposition-aligned daily newspaper Khmer Machas Srok, who was sentenced in Municipal Court to one year in prison and fined 9 million riels (US$2,187) for defamation and publishing false information.

During the three-hour hearing, Judge Seng Sivutha pressed Hang Chakra to reveal his paper's sources for articles that said, among other things, that Deputy Prime Minister Sok An wanted to become the prime minister, and that officials in his office were guilty of corruption.

Hang Chakra refused to identify his sources, saying the move was justified under the Kingdom's 1995 Press Law. Municipal Court Judge Din Sivuthy had tried Hang Chakra under the 1992 UNTAC Criminal Code, which carries more severe penalties than the Press Law.

When Seng Sivutha asked him why he published the articles in question, Hang Chakra insisted that the articles were factual.

"I published them because this information was clearly sourced," he said. "I have real sources for this information, and under the Press Law, I don't have to reveal them."

Choung Chou Ngy, Hang Chakra's lawyer, condemned the Appeal Court's decision, arguing that his client should be released immediately. He vowed to take the case to the Supreme Court.

He said he believed Seng Sivutha focused too much on whether the articles were factual, adding that he instead should have assessed whether they had "created turmoil for the country", which he described as the only justifiable condition for a defamation and false information conviction.

Suong Chanthan, the government lawyer who has pursued the case against Hang Chakra, argued in court that the articles, published in April and May, had negatively affected the reputations of high-ranking officials.

He said the jailed publisher should have revealed his paper's sources.

"This is not real publishing," he said before the court. "We need to know clearly the source of the information."

Kek Galabru, the president of the local human rights group Licadho, attended the public hearing and said afterwards that the decision was preordained because Hang Chakra had been tried under the UNTAC Criminal Code.

"The court should've used the Press Law," she said.
READ MORE - Court upholds jailed publisher's conviction

Govt flips stance on Suu Kyi

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 12 August 2009
Sebastian Strangio

Official says commuted verdict a sign of democratic Myanmar.

GOVERNMENT officials have hailed the outcome of the trial of Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, claiming the reduction of her sentence was a "good sign" the country was moving in a democratic direction.

On Tuesday, a court at Yangon's notorious Insein Prison found Suu Kyi guilty of breaching her house arrest and sentenced her to three years in prison and hard labour, a punishment the head of the ruling junta commuted to 18 months' house arrest.

Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the commuting of the sentence by Myanmar head of state Than Shwe showed the country's military government was keen to enact democratic reforms.

"It is a good signal for the situation that Aung San Suu Kyi only got a sentence of 18 months' house arrest," he said. "Myanmar has gone through many steps [and] is on the way to democratisation."

Koy Kuong did not wish to comment further on the trial on Tuesday, saying it was Myanmar's "internal affair" and had been handled in accordance with the country's laws.

Koy Kuong's comments mark a conspicuous U-turn in the government's position on the issue, which previously held that Suu Kyi was innocent of the charges against her and should be released.

The 64-year-old Nobel laureate was arrested May 3 after sheltering an American man who swam to her lakeside home in Yangon, an incident authorities called a breach of the terms of her house arrest.

"[We hope] Mrs Suu Kyi will be found innocent of these accusations, and that she will not receive any additional punishment, because she has been punished already," Koy Kuong told the Post on May 18.

Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, said that the government reversal was likely due to its awareness that the Suu Kyi trial "ran parallel" to the current situation in Cambodia - in particular, the recent spate of defamation and disinformation lawsuits filed against government critics.

"It's very difficult for the Cambodian government to say anything about [Suu Kyi's trial] because the same could be said about the Cambodian government," he said.

"The Foreign Ministry must be careful not to have its arguments reflect back on Cambodia."

He added: "At the end of the day, it is beneficial for the people in power to see the status quo [upheld]."

The government's response has also flown in the face of local opinion on the verdict.

Soe Thiha, the leader of a group of Myanmar activists living in Phnom Penh, condemned the verdict, saying it was a clear attempt to keep Suu Kyi out of sight during elections scheduled for 2010.

"I was optimistic [about] the outcome, but I think that the military are very afraid of her," he said. "They were desperate to keep her under control for next year."

Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Yim Sovann agreed, saying Suu Kyi had done "nothing wrong" and had been targeted out of fear. He called on the junta to bring its behaviour into line with the "democratic trends" sweeping the world.

International outrage
The verdict against Suu Kyi, who has spent 13 of the last 19 years in detention since the junta refused to recognise her National League for Democracy's landslide victory in elections in 1990, has also drawn a spate of criticism from the international community.

British Premier Gordon Brown said he was "saddened and angry" at the verdict in the "sham trial" and called for the UN Security Council to impose a worldwide embargo on the sale of arms to the junta.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said new sanctions had to hit the junta where it hurt, especially in the trade of wood and rubies. Australia also called for tougher sanctions, expressing dismay at the "spurious" conviction.

In a statement released Tuesday, the EU presidency vowed to impose additional sanctions on the military regime.

"The EU will respond with additional targeted measures against those responsible for the verdict," the presidency said in a statement on behalf of the 27-nation bloc.

"The EU will further reinforce its restrictive measures targeting the regime of Burma/Myanmar, including its economic interests."

READ MORE - Govt flips stance on Suu Kyi

US man sent to court for more investigation into child sex claims

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 12 August 2009
Chrann Chamroeun

An American national was sent to Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday following his arrest on suspicions he sexually abused five underage girls, officials told the Post on Tuesday.

Keo Thea, director of the municipality's bureau of anti-human trafficking and juvenile protection, said the case had been sent to the court for further investigation into the claims of indecent acts against minors under the age of 15 years.

"We have now found five girls who said they were abused," he said, adding that the man had also overstayed his visa.

Harvey Alexander Johnson, 57, was arrested Sunday at his rented house in Phnom Penh's Boeung Kak commune following complaints and accusations that he abused at least 10 underage girls, Keo Thea said.

Samleang Seila, country director of anti-paedophile NGO Action Pours Les Enfants, said Monday his group tipped off the police and had suspected the man of sex crimes since mid-2007.

He said Johnson's activities as an English teacher and private tutor had raised suspicions after many girls were seen gathering at his house.

"His technique was very smart. His idea was to win the girls' parents' trust by collecting them to learn English at his home for free and by supporting them with study materials," Samleang Seila said.

"I warmly welcome the fact that the police have done their duty to keep arresting foreigners who are involved with child sex offenses, to ensure Cambodia's good reputation."
READ MORE - US man sent to court for more investigation into child sex claims

Govt defends its record against EU criticisms

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 12 August 2009
Sebastian Strangio

THE Ministry of Foreign Affairs has responded to European Union claims that a recent series of defamation lawsuits is undermining freedom of expression, arguing that the government is "more than ever" committed to the promotion and protection of basic rights.

In a statement Tuesday, ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said the government viewed human rights "from a comprehensive and long-term perspective".

"While individual rights, freedom of expression and a culture of debates are taking deeper roots in Cambodia, we must recognise that the exercise of these rights and freedoms ... must be within the rule of law," the statement said.

It also claimed that the recent defamation and disinformation verdicts were intended to protect individuals' "right to dignity", and were taking place "in compliance" with the law.

The statement came following a Friday meeting between EU representatives and Ouch Borith, a secretary of state at the Foreign Ministry, in which the Europeans expressed concerns that recent lawsuits could have "serious consequences for civil society's willingness to engage in democratic debate".

A classified terms of reference from the meeting, approved by the EU's 27 members, also stated the government had shown "disregard" for speech protections in place for elected political representatives.

Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Yim Sovann said the response from the Foreign Ministry was unconvincing, coming the same day as opposition publisher Hang Chakra had his appeal against a disinformation conviction thrown out by the Appeal Court.

"The reality [in Cambodia] is different," he said, noting that "even the junta in Myanmar" called itself democratic.

"Checks and balances are very weak. The judiciary is run by the ruling party. No other democratic country has a system like this."

But he said the EU, a major aid donor, could force the government into making reforms.

"If there is pressure from the international community, I think they will change," he said. "This country cannot live on its own."
READ MORE - Govt defends its record against EU criticisms

Asian women at risk of HIV from spouses

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 12 August 2009
Nathan Green

Bali, Indonesia

MILLIONS of women in Asia are at risk of contracting HIV from men who engage in unsafe sex, UNAIDS said in a report released on Tuesday.

More than 90 percent of the 1.7 million women living with HIV in the region are thought to have contracted the virus from their husbands or long-term partners, the report said. Fifty million women are currently in long term-relationships with men who sleep with men, buy sex or inject drugs.

"The sexual behaviour of married men jeopardises not only their own lives, but the lives of their partners," Nafis Sadik, the UN secretary general's special envoy on HIV/AIDS in Asia, said.

The report called for HIV prevention programmes targeting men who have sex with men, injecting drug users and men who buy sex to be "scaled up" and expanded to reach out to long-term intimate partners.

"HIV prevention programmes focused on the female partners of men with high-risk behaviours still haven't found a place in national HIV plans and priorities in Asian countries," Dr Prasada Rao, the director of the UNAIDS regional support team for Asia and the Pacific, said. Governments need to integrate AIDS programmes into sexual and reproductive health services and reach out particularly to rural and semi-urban women, Rao said.

Last year, women accounted for 35 percent of all infections in Asia, up from 17 percent in 1990. In 2006, 47 percent of people living with HIV in Cambodia were female, up from 37 percent in 2002.

Dr Jay Silverman, director of violence against women prevention research at the Harvard School of Public Health, praised the report, saying "Bringing HIV and reproductive health together is incredibly important."

The report, "HIV Transmission in Intimate Partner Relationships in Asia", was released at the International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific in Bali, Indonesia.
READ MORE - Asian women at risk of HIV from spouses

Vendors from Tonloab to return to PM's home

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 12 August 2009
May Titthara

MARKET vendors involved in a land dispute in Takeo province said they plan to assemble in Phnom Penh today to renew protests in front of Prime Minister Hun Sen's Takhmao home.

The vendors say they were deceived into leaving their stalls by the owners of the Tonloab market, who then sold off the stalls to others at higher prices.

About 130 of the vendors walked the 30 kilometers to Phnom Penh on August 1 to lodge a protest with Hun Sen's office. They returned home after receiving assurances that the government would broker a solution, but since then nothing has been resolved, the vendors said.

Men Chana, a market vendor, said the protesters were trying to organise the rally without raising too much attention, over fears that they might be denied the right to assemble.

"We are coming back to Phnom Penh quietly because we are afraid the authorities might ban us as they did before," she said.

"We will be arriving one by one to stay with relatives, and we will gather [today] in front of the prime minister's house," Men Chana said.

She added that this time the protesters would not return home until they are granted a meeting with Hun Sen.
READ MORE - Vendors from Tonloab to return to PM's home

Duch rebuts torture claim

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 12 August 2009
Robbie Corey-Boulet

THE KHMER Rouge tribunal heard further claims on Tuesday that Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, participated in the interrogation and physical abuse of Tuol Sleng detainees - an accusation promptly denied by the prison chief.

Sam Meth, 51, said Monday that he worked as a guard at the prison and saw Duch personally beat a detainee with a rattan stick. On Tuesday he stood by previous statements to investigators in which he said Duch kicked and threatened detainees.

Prosecutor Anees Ahmed read from the November 2007 statements describing interrogation sessions Sam Meth said he witnessed at the "special prisons" he was tasked with guarding.

"Sometimes [Tuol Sleng senior interrogator Tuy] interrogated, and if he was unclear, then Duch came in and asked the prisoner, 'Are you going to talk to us or not?' Then Duch would kick the prisoner once or twice and say, 'Soon you will know,'" Sam Meth said in the statement.

Duch responded by saying that staff at Tuol Sleng did not deviate from strictly defined roles, and that he, as chairman, was not involved in interrogations.

"In the role of the leadership, I could not spare my time to involve [myself] in those interrogations even if I wanted to do so," he said.

Sam Meth also said on Tuesday that Duch inspected prisoners' quarters, but he backed away from his earlier claim that Duch visited the site daily.

"If he wanted to grasp the understanding of the case, he would come," he said. "Or when he was available he would just walk through ... inspecting the prisoners' rooms."

Duch, who has testified that he rarely visited Tuol Sleng, cited just three visits to interrogation rooms: two to that of Tuol Sleng senior interrogator Pon and one to that of Tuy.

Duch later agreed "in principle" with the testimony of Tuy Teng, a guard who described executions at the Choeung Ek killing fields.

"When the prisoners fell over, [the executioners] removed the handcuffs," Tuy Teng said in a statement that was read aloud. "Then they also used knives to finish killing them, but I don't know if they cut open their bellies or cut their throats. I just saw that, after the killings, they took away palm leaf blades stained with blood."
READ MORE - Duch rebuts torture claim

Thai arrested for insulting icon

Photo by: Photo Supplied
Thai national Sorlavon Kamsorn stands with police holding the Angkor Wat carving that authorities say he disrespectfully placed on the ground near his toilet.

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 12 August 2009
Thet Sambath

A THAI national was sent to Banteay Meanchey provincial court on Tuesday for insulting Angkor Wat temple and illegally entering Cambodia, provincial police said.

Thirty-nine-year-old Sorlavon Kamsorn was arrested on Sunday in Banteay Meanchey province's O'Chrov district after police discovered a cement representation of Angkor Wat that Kamsorn had placed outside a toilet, Banteay Meanchey provincial police Chief Hun Hean said Tuesday.

"He was arrested because he put the cement picture of Angkor Wat temple outside his toilet and stepped on it every day," Hun Hean said.

"He told us he put the picture there because he loves Angkor Wat, but if he loves Angkor Wat, why would he put a picture of it outside his toilet?"

Nuth Ly, O'Chrov district police chief, said villagers reported Kamsorn's odd lavatory decoration to local police, who subsequently arrested him and confiscated the picture as evidence.

Hun Hean suspected that Kamsorn's placement of the picture was part of a plot to sabotage Cambodia's archeological prestige.

"His action coincides with the visit of foreign experts to the conference about the conservation of Banteay Chhmar temple. That proves his malicious intentions," the police chief said.

Chuch Phoeung, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, said Tuesday that such insults would not be tolerated within the Kingdom's borders.

"These kinds of foreigners shall be punished according to the law. If they stay in Cambodia and they do something unacceptable, they must be prosecuted," he said. "I can't say how serious the punishment will be. That depends on the legal process."
READ MORE - Thai arrested for insulting icon

ASEAN urged to help in border row

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 12 August 2009
Sam Rith and Vong Sokheng

NATIONAL Assembly President Heng Samrin has called on ASEAN to help resolve the border stalemate between Cambodia and Thailand, an official said.

Cheam Yeap, a CPP lawmaker, said Heng Samrin requested that ASEAN intervene in the ongoing dispute on August 3, during the opening remarks at the 30th meeting of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA), held from August 2 to 6 in Pattaya, Thailand.

"[Heng Samrin] said that ASEAN should not keep quiet. It has to help countries that have disputes with one another, including border disputes," said Cheam Yeap, who also participated in the AIPA.

Following the AIPA, the Cambodian delegation was invited to stay in Thailand for two more days by Thai National Assembly President Chai Chidchob. During these meetings, Heng Samrin emphasised that the two countries needed to respect each other's laws and the ASEAN constitution, Cheam Yeap said.

Var Kimhong, Cambodia's chief border negotiator, said on Tuesday that talks had stalled. "Nothing has changed so far," he said. "We can't do anything right now because there is no approval from the Thai National Assembly."
READ MORE - ASEAN urged to help in border row

Saigon Trading Group signs deal for red corn

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
A farmer in Kampot province this week holds kernels of red corn.

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 12 August 2009
Chun Sophal

Farmers in Battambang and Kampong Cham provinces will have a new market for little-produced crop with $1-million export agreement to deliver 5,000 tonnes

Tauch Tepich Import Export company said Tuesday that it had inked its first agreement with Saigon Trading Group (SATRA) to supply 5,000 tonnes of red corn, worth US$1million, to the Vietnam-based company this year.

Tauch Tepich, director of the import-export company, said he hoped the deal would open more doors.

"We hope that the export of red corn to Vietnam will provide opportunities for Cambodian farmers to win wider markets for their agricultural products," he said.

According to the agreement signed last week, Tauch Tepich will begin supplying red corn to SATRA, at $200 per tonne, this month and continue through the rest of the year.

Tauch Tepich said Tuesday that the company will transport its first installment of 700 tonnes through two international border crossings in Trapaing Thlong and Phnom Da, both in Kampong Cham province.

Future exports are to be trucked to Vietnam each week until the balance of the agreement is reached, Tauch Tepich said, adding that if the process goes smoothly, his company could see continued cooperation with SATRA.

Tauch Tepich said Cambodia is well-suited to produce red corn, and that his company is capable of delivering an additional 5,000 tonnes next year if additional agreements are struck.

He added, however, that many farmers choose not to produce red corn because of a lack of appropriate markets and export options.

Tauch Tepich said his company had purchased the red corn from Cambodian farmers in several districts of Battambang and Kampong Cham provinces, with cooperation from the Baitong community, led by Phu Puy, president of the Battambang Chamber of Commerce.

Yang Saing Koma, director of the Cambodian Centre for Study and Development in Agriculture, said Tuesday that Cambodia lacks markets for the crop every year, and that if proper agreements existed to export it, more farmers would be willing to invest in the crop.

Corn farmers generally see low profit margins because of the expense of importing quality seeds, Yang Saing Koma said, adding that private companies as well as the Ministry of Agriculture should provide more opportunities to farmers by preparing production plans and supplying seeds.

"I think that the export of red corn is a good step to assist our farmers in meeting market needs," Yang Saing Koma said.

The export agreement with SATRA follows an announcement by the Ministry of Agriculture in June that South Korean company KOGID Cambodia will invest $150 million to grow and process corn for animal feed to be sold overseas.

Cambodian farmers planted about 141,264 hectares of red corn, with a total production output of 561,584 tonnes, in 2008, according to figures from the Ministry of Agriculture.

Ministry figures also showed that total corn production last year was 611,865 tonnes from 163,106 hectares of land, principally in Battambang, Pailin, Kampong Cham and Kandal provinces.
READ MORE - Saigon Trading Group signs deal for red corn

SRP official implores police to find killers

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 12 August 2009
Chrann Chamroeun

SAM Rainsy Party Member of Parliament Yont Tharo filed complaints with the Ministry of Interior and the Phnom Penh Muncipal Police on Tuesday, imploring them to investigate his son's murder after a traffic accident on Sunday.

Yont Thauron was shot and killed outside a noodle stall near Wat Botum park just minutes after an argument that ensued after his car collided with several motorbikes.

The gunmen, who witnesses said were members of the police department, also seriously wounded three of Yont Thauron's friends.

Witnesses at the crime scene said that after the traffic accident, Yont Thauron and his friends exited their vehicle and ordered the motorbike drivers around them to kneel down and apologise, leading to a furious argument.

"Although my son made a mistake in behaving pridefully, he was unarmed and should not have been killed," Yont Tharo said.

Municipal Police Chief Touch Naruth said that police had already identified the attackers and were working to apprehend them as quickly as possible.
READ MORE - SRP official implores police to find killers

Building a life from the soil

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
One of Bou Vun’s employees at the Sugar Cane Vun Farm in Kandal province transports cut cane from the fields. Bou Vun purchased the 5-hectare farm in 2007, and he says he has plans to double in size and production in the coming year.

The Phnom enh Post
Wednesday, 12 August 2009
Soeun Say

Keen on securing a future for himself and his wife, sugarcane farmer Bou Vun put all the money he had into a small plot that is now paying sweet dividends

After a year of marriage and nearly two decades of living with his parents, Bou Vun left home to start his own family and find the means to support them.

He settled on the idea of farming sugarcane. In 2007, he purchased a small agricultural plot in Prek Ampil commune, Sa Ang district, Kandal province, and, with US$25,000 from his personal savings, the young entrepreneur founded Sugar Cane Vun Farm.

"I have no certificate or degree in agriculture for growing sugarcane. I have only the experience of working directly with my father for more than 19 years," he said.

The farm began with just three employees. Now, Bou Vun manages a staff of 12, who earn about $50 to $70 per month, depending on experience.

Covering 5 hectares of land about 50 kilometres outside Phnom Penh, the farm grows two types of sugarcane to satisfy a steady demand among local residents as well as among markets in Phnom Penh, Bou Vun said.

The two varieties, red and yellow, are seasonal, he explained. Red cane grows during the rainy season, and yellow during the dry. The cane seeds come from Cambodian producers, and the farm spends between $1,500 and $2,000 per hectare on seeds.

Production cycles for each variety - from planting to harvest - take between six and eight months, Bou Vun said.

Once harvested, Bou Vun's sugarcane is sold to clients mostly in the capital, in numerous bazaars including the Russian Market and Kandal Market.

"In the rainy season, we can sell sugarcane for between 7,000 riels and 8,000 riels per bunch. But in the dry season, prices go up to between 10,000 riels and 12,000 riels," he said.

The life of a sugarcane farmer is not an easy one, Bou Vun said. It requires a determined focus every day.

"We work under a hot sun and in heavy rains. If you want to do this type of work, you must be prepared to work hard every day and pay attention to the smallest details," he said.

The farm's profitability fluctuates, Bou Vun said, who earns on average $3,500 to $5,000 per hectare each year.

"I am hoping to double this when I expand my business to 10 hectares in the coming year," he said.

Bou Vun says it is the steady demand for sugar cane, as well as the opportunity to produce something locally grown, that pushes him to expand.

"I want Cambodian people to use Khmer products, grown and made by Khmer people, just as I do with my sugar cane," he said. "Cambodians must support Khmer products instead of using those from neighbouring countries such as Vietnam and Thailand, which are often grown by using chemical fertilisers." he said.

Bou Vun acknowledges that his business lacks the sophistication, marketing and technical innovation of others.

"My business still lacks some things, but I constantly look for ways to improve quality and to find new markets," he said.

Sugar Cane Vun Farm currently produces up to 200 bunches of sugar cane each day, but Bou Vun would like to see this number reach 1,000 bunches daily.

He has called on the government and NGOs to support local agricultural producers by implementing educational programmes to improve farming techniques.

Most importantly for Bou Vun, however, are improvements to rural irrigation systems that would prevent sugarcane farms from flooding.

But expansion requires capital, and in order to move forward, Bou Vun says he will need a bank loan. He worries, however, that current interest rates are too high.

"I just want a chance to borrow money to improve my business in the future," he said.
READ MORE - Building a life from the soil

Millicom seals sale of Cambodia operations

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 12 August 2009
Seth Meixner

TELECOM operator Millicom International Cellular SA announced Tuesday the sale of its Cambodia operations for US$346 million in cash to its in-country partner, Royal Group.

The transaction, which is expected to be completed in late 2009, is comprised of Millicom's 58.4-percent holdings in CamGSM, Royal Telecom International and Cambodia Broadcasting Services, a company statement said.

"We are delighted to reach agreement on the sale of our Cambodian operations to our local partner, the Royal Group," Millicom President and CEO Mikael Grahne said in the statement.

"We are very proud of having played an important role in the development of the leading mobile operator in Cambodia and are very confident of the continued success of Mobitel and its people within the Royal Group," he added.

In the statement, Royal Group Chairman Kith Meng thanked Millicom as "a great partner over the past 14 years in Cambodia".

"Royal Group is acquiring a sound business with significant opportunities before it."
READ MORE - Millicom seals sale of Cambodia operations

Trade with Korea drops 22pc in first five months

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 12 August 2009
Nguon Sovan

TRADE volume between Cambodia and South Korea dropped 22.6 percent in the first five months of this year, a sign that the global economic recession continues to grip both countries, a Korean trade official said Monday.

Total volume through May reached US$114 million, down from $147.27 million over the same period last year, said Lee Hyoung-seok, deputy director general of the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency.

Lee said that South Korea's principal export products to Cambodia included textiles, motor vehicles, consumer electronics and chemical products, while Cambodia's main exports were garments, agricultural products and timber.

"We are seeing a decline in volume because demand has fallen ... [leading] many manufacturers to reduce production," Lee said.

"I forecast that for the rest of the year, bilateral trade will continue to fall at a similar rate, though things may improve next year."

Lee added that trade volume between the two countries reached $294 million last year.

Thon Virak, deputy director of the International Trade Directorate at the Ministry of Commerce, declined to comment Tuesday, saying he did not have bilateral trade figures.

But Kang Chandararot, president of the Cambodia Institute for Development Study, said a stabilising Korean economy may gradually stimulate commerce as the year progressed.

"We may see a slight recovery in trade with Korea by the end of the third quarter because their economy seems to be weathering the crisis better than others," Kang Chandararot said.
READ MORE - Trade with Korea drops 22pc in first five months

Avant-garde blaze new trails

Photo by: Qin Ga
Qin Ga's image The Miniature Long March.

Engaging with history is simply about knowing our identity. History is not only war and the Khmer Rouge...

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 12 August 2009
Erin Gleeson

A rare residency in China prompts artists to investigate and reflect on their shared history

In 2002, with no sponsorship and nothing to sell, Chinese curator Lu Jie and artist Qiu Zhijie set out to reinvigorate the avant-garde through a project called The Long March.

The project was established as a contemporary art collective based in Beijing, whose first endeavour in 2002 was called "A Walking Visual Display".

It aimed to retrace the historical Long March - the 10,000-kilometre retreat, between 1934 and 1936, of China's Red Army from Kuomintang forces - and include artistic performances and displays at 12 sites along the route.

Today, the historical Long March continues to provide a metaphorical framework for a range of projects.

A commercial element was added when a prominent gallery, The Long March Space, opened in Beijing's art district.

In early 2008, when The Long March Space's commercial endeavours were being criticised as contradictory to its avant-garde undertakings, Lu Jei, together with Australian curator Zoe Butt, began a project to map the cultural landscape surrounding another historic trail.

In doing so, Lu Jei reminded China that there is more to the world than China and the West. Specifically, there is a part of Southeast Asia that overlaps a complex and continuing history with China, some of which can be explored or mapped.

The Ho Chi Minh Trail
A supply route created during the Vietnam War, the Ho Chi Minh Trail formed a vast network of passageways across the borders of China, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

There are fraught, interconnected, influential and overlapping histories in this region.

Long March Space invited 11 artists, curators, writers and arts managers from Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, New York, Seoul, Hangzhou, Beijing and Phnom Penh to collaborate in a curatorial and artistic residency at Long March Space in Beijing for the month of July. From Phnom Penh, Vandy Rattana and I were invited.

As residents of the host countries on the Ho Chi Minh Trail, our requirement was to share perspectives as well as engage in lectures, film screenings and etymological investigations, as well as studio visits and presentations by leading Chinese artists and thinkers.

Together, we produced hundreds of hours of thought, both recorded and transcribed. We also initiated an ongoing archive of songs, films, texts, a glossary, artwork and interviews that broaden our collective memory of this shared history.

To enliven the content and significance of this uniquely discursive residency model, I interviewed both the Ho Chi Minh Trail project director Zoe Butt and the Cambodian resident Vandy Rattana.

Photo by: Erin Gleeson
Cambodian resident artist Vandy Rattana contributes to the multilingual glossary of key words. Here he describes the word "memory" in Khmer

Zoe, why did you and Lu Jie begin the Ho Chi Minh Trail Project?
ZB: The motivation for the project is to understand that knowledge is critical to the production of culture.

A particular geographical pathway indicates a shared history between China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. The Ho Chi Minh Trail project stresses the importance of remembering lesser-known histories and learning from our neighbours.

The Ho Chi Minh Trail project is ongoing. How do you see the contributors from these countries engaging with each other in the future? Specifically, how do you see Cambodian artists contributing?
ZB: I think it's important to understand that this project is considered educational. The knowledge produced in July serves as a foundation for how this project will manifest in the future, outside of Beijing.

This could be that artists from the region who visit Phnom Penh share the methods of their practice.

In return, it is hoped that Cambodian participants begin to share their thoughts on why they do what they do and how they think it matters.

Contemporary art practices in developing countries often emerge without a formal education, such as in Cambodia. I find that in the absence of theory, there is little self-reflexivity and scant critical exchange. Why are these things important?
ZB: The diversity of Asia lies in its stories, in the cultural traditions and myths that are handed down.

Tradition is something that is alive and undergoing constant innovation. In the modern world it is critical this is articulated, because the West dismisses tradition as a symbol of the past far too easily.

Rattana, in light of Zoe's answers, why do you do what you do and why does it matter?
VR: I make photographs. Firstly, I make photographs for myself; it is natural to me.

Secondly, I do it to show the human condition. Whether my photographs are conceptual or documentary projects, my goal is to show life and invite people to examine life.

At this time it is important to create images because in Cambodia we lack an archive. Documentation is both a reflector and creator of history. We need documentation to help us understand the changes from generation to generation.

I want my pictures to have the smell of my mother's food and the sound of my father's stories.

Was the residency beneficial for you?
VR: A Khmer proverb says you can hear something a thousand times and you don't know it, yet if you see it with your eyes just once, you know.

It is important to travel and see with our own eyes. We talked for one entire month about history and artistic practice in a professional and critical learning environment.

We had a diverse combination of people who were very honest, so we increasingly understood the situation in each country.

After spending so much time with both emerging and established Chinese artists, is it useful to compare their backgrounds and practices to those of emerging Cambodian artists?
VR: Yes, we can learn by comparing.

When I visited the Buddhist Institute, a venerable monk shared with me a Khmer proverb: Knowledge is like a sword, and morality is like its sheath. This means knowledge is dangerous unless it is protected.

Morality comes from our parents who pass it down; very simple rules help us to establish our own morals.

We cannot shout or run around while older people are talking, our gestures and speech should be appropriate for different situations.

I think about this often. It has both good and bad implications.

For example, we have kind mannerisms that are sincere and generous, which can spread to others, but when teachers ask us if we have any questions, we don't, because we were not encouraged to question.

The Chinese government understands the influence contemporary art can have on the economy and also its significance for history.

The government started to encourage artists; they developed academic art schools to train people in a professional and critical way.

As a result, the Chinese artists and professors have more knowledge than the Cambodian artists - not only about art, but also general education. China is also a voracious reading culture, whereas Cambodia is not.

Even though the young Chinese artists have so much knowledge, in many ways I feel that China has the sword but not the cover.

There needs to be a balance, and neither Cambodia nor China has it.

Knowing that the international art community is now inviting Cambodia to participate, what advice do you have for artists and cultural workers in Cambodia?
VR: Artists need to get themselves ready for integration because people around the region are trying to learn from each other now.

We have a very important and complicated history, and artists need to be able to articulate this. Currently they don't know it. It's not only them, it is the Cambodian school system, too.

As the system is unlikely to change, my appeal to artists is to read more, think more and research what was going on, and think about its significance. I think learning history does not need to result in making art about history or politics.

This is not the idea. Engaging with history is simply about knowing our identity. History is not only war and the Khmer Rouge, it is also changes in the way we dress or the way we speak.

There are many elements to it. It's a question of personal identity more than national identity.

Don't try to be someone else and do not be scared about money.

Artists should be searching for themselves and more knowledge, not money. Money may come later, after we work hard and stay honest with ourselves.

This is the best way because it is sustainable.
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Aung San Suu Kyi Sentenced to 3 More Years in Prison

Rights activists hold portraits of Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a protest in front of Burmese embassy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia (file photo).
August 12, 2009

Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been sentenced to 18 more months of house arrest. The sentence drew condemnation from foreign governments and human rights groups.

Security forces surrounded Insein Prison in Rangoon Tuesday as the verdict was handed down. The court sentenced Aung San Suu Kyi to three years in prison. But in a move that demonstrated the supremacy of the ruling military, the home minister shortly announced that the country's top general, Than Shwe, had ordered the sentence commuted to one-and-a-half years under house arrest.

The 64-year-old has been imprisoned at Insein since she was charged of violating her house arrest in May when American John Yettaw swam to her lakeside house and stayed there for two days. Shortly after the verdict, she was returned to her home.

Critics say the charges against Aung San Suu Kyi were fabricated and her punishment aimed at preventing her from participating in elections scheduled next year.

Debbie Stothard is coordinator of the rights group Alternative Asean Network on Burma in Bangkok. "Because of international pressure, they [the military government] made it a lighter sentence but it doesn't change the fact that Aung San Suu Kyi has been unjustly detained for more than 14 years already," said Stothard.

In a statement Tuesday, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he was "saddened and angry" at the verdict and called the sentence "purely political." The European Union, Australia and France have also condemned the sentence.

Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy won elections in 1990 but the military never allowed it to govern. State-owned newspapers Tuesday warned supporters of the Nobel Peace laureate against riots and said only the law could decide who is qualified to run in the election.

Bo Kyi, secretary of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners in Burma in Mae Sot, Thailand, says the sentence could spark anti-government actions. "I expect more domestic pressure," Bo Kyi said. "People in Burma are really angry and they want to show their desire for release of Aung San Suu Kyi. Therefore, the military regime is also afraid of mass mobilizations."

In September 2007, government forces violently ended anti-government marches led by monks across Burma.

Western governments including the United States and Britain have imposed sanctions on Burma's government. The pressure has yet to result in reforms in the isolated state or brought Aung San Suu Kyi's freedom. Her conviction on Tuesday brought new calls for tougher sanctions.

John Yettaw was sentenced to seven years in prison, including four years in hard labor for immigration offenses and for "swimming in a non-swimming area." Two women who live in the house with Aung San Suu Kyi also were convicted and sentenced to three years, which was reduced to 18 months.
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3 dead, 26 missing in South China tropical storm Goni

Monday, August 10, 2009

HAIKOU, Aug. 9 (Xinhua) -- Three fishermen were confirmed dead and another 26 missing from more than ten maritime disasters caused by tropical storm Goni in south Chinese island province of Hainan, local officials said Sunday.

Two fishermen were killed and another three missing when their fishing boat " Qiongdanzhou 00301" was wrecked at the Yangpu Port, while one fisherman died and another was missing after " Qiongdanzhou 52153" sank in the sea near Danzhou City, said Xu Zhuang, secretary general of the Hainan provincial government.

Four crew members on a Cambodian vessel were still missing off Dongfang City. Eleven fishermen lost contact with the control center after encountering Goni Friday at the Beibu Bay in the south of Guangxi Province.

Besides the 19 missing, another seven crew members on the freighter "Changxing 68" were missing at Qiongzhou Strait, said an official with the Hainan marine search and rescue center.

"The following 24 hours are very crucial for the rescue," Xu said.

More than 100 vessels have been deployed to comb through disaster scenes and helicopters are being used to locate the missing crewmen, he said.

Goni landed in south China' Guangdong Province Tuesday. It left China at 5 p.m. Sunday.

Editor: Li Xianzhi
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Property Rights for the Urban Poor in Cambodia

The Wip Talk

by ChristineRobinson

It was two in the morning when we first heard the loudspeakers. My friend was annoyed thinking the noise was coming from people partying late, but we later learned something very different was happening. I got up early that morning to eat breakfast before a long day at the Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng. Walking downstairs, I saw about a hundred people outside our hotel in Phnom Penh including press, local police, and the Cambodian military.

The Dey Krahorn eviction underway in Phnom Penh. Photograph by Sarah Grime.

I rushed outside and found a member of my group. He explained that the slum down the street, Dey Krahorn, was being forcefully evacuated by the military and police. A barrier kept us from getting too close, and a green fence had been put up along the perimeter. We saw trucks coming out of the slum carrying what I thought was junk, but later realized were whatever possessions the people could salvage from their houses.

We stopped to talk to Kevin Knight, who works in a different slum with an NGO. He told us that the development company 7NG, along with the ruling party in Cambodia, the Cambodian Peoples’ Party (CPP), were responsible for the evictions. Dey Krahorn was located in a prime location in downtown Phnom Penh and worth an estimated US$44 million.

Kevin explained that the 150 families living in the slum had been negotiating with 7NG in the weeks prior to the evictions. The company offered each family US$20,000 or an apartment in a resettlement site named Cham Chao, located at least 16 kilometers from the center of Phnom Penh.

At first this seemed like a reasonable offer, but what I failed to realize is that the residents of the slum had livelihoods, access to water and education, and other things that the city center offered. The majority of people living in Dey Krahorn made a living as street vendors, so if forced into a location with a reduced population they would lose their incomes.

The truth of what was happening just a few hundred yards away was finally settling in. Why was all of this happening here, I wondered, and why now? I learned that because of all of the foreign investment in the area (including our hotel), land prices had dramatically increased. According to the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO), slum evictions are not a new phenomenon in Cambodia. The country is suffering from a classic case of the rich getting richer while the poor get poorer.

According to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Cambodia, “The eviction was carried out in the middle of the night, with bulldozers, tear gas, rubber bullets, batons, and workers equipped with sticks and axes contracted to demolish the houses… The residents were thrown onto the street to watch their homes being destroyed.” A friend of Kevin’s who had been inside the slum when the eviction started described a woman collapsing in front of her house and bulldozers that continued to plow into her, sending her to the hospital with injuries.

After speaking with Kevin and other foreigners in the area, I realized how much the past really does influence the present. In order to understand what is happening in present day Cambodia, it is necessary to look to history, especially the period immediately following the Khmer Rouge.

When the Khmer Rouge came into power they wanted to make everyone in the society equal, which meant destroying money, books, private possessions, and land titles. During the period from 1975-1979, the cities of Cambodia were cleared out as the people were made to live and work in rural areas. After the fall of the Khmer Rouge in 1979, the people came flooding back into the cities. Since all of the land titles had been destroyed, people grabbed whatever they could, and the cities, especially Phnom Penh, became home to thousands of “squatters”.

Not everyone I spoke with explained the situation in the same manner. Some were sympathetic to the residents of Dey Krahorm, while others believed the government and 7NG were taking the required actions for the city to further “develop”. I was told by several people that the majority of the residents in Dey Krahorn had legal rights to their land. Some families were “squatting” illegally, but according to the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE), around 140 families living in Dey Krahorn had been there since the 1980s and were given rights to the land under the Cambodian Land Law (2001). Not only do the residents meet all of the preceding requirements, they have documentation to prove it.

According to Amnesty International, Cambodia is a state party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and “has an obligation to protect the population against forced evictions… [the evictions at Dey Krahorn] show all too clearly how little respect Cambodian authorities have for these requirements”. Another person added that while the residents had been living in Dey Krahorn for years, the land was owned by the government so it was free to be taken at any time.

Regardless of the exact legal situation of the slums in Phnom Penh, it’s clear that Cambodia’s land title situation is in peril. A quick search for the land laws of Cambodia reveals relentless confusion in the period following the Khmer Rouge. We are only just starting to see the severe affects of the land laws today, as foreign investment and rapid growth in Phnom Penh cause once worthless land to become a precious commodity.

Christine's blog entry is part of a two-part series written by WIP Contributor Pushpa Iyer's students. In the coming weeks, more entries will follow. Part I, "Legacy, Responsibility, Justice and Spirituality" will contemplate how Cambodia is coping with its painful past. Part II, "Identity, Sex Trafficking, HIV/AIDS and Property Rights" will explore some of the challenges modern-day Cambodia faces. – Ed.
READ MORE - Property Rights for the Urban Poor in Cambodia