The Prince and Preah Vihear

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Prince Damrong visiting Preah Vihear temple (2nd from right)

October 7, 2009

Nationalism has clouded our view of the temple's ownership, argues one academic. But history has the simple answer

On 30 January 1929, Prince Damrong Rajanupab arrived at Preah Vihear as head of an official expedition from the Siamese court of King Prajadhipok (Rama VII). There to welcome him was the French commissioner for the Cambodian province along with the archaeologist Henri Parmentier, who was to act as guide for the expedition's trip up Panom Dongrek mountain to see its famed centuries-old Hindu temple.

The prince and the commissioner exchanged speeches of friendship at a cheerful reception attended by the entourage of high-ranking Siamese noblemen, before listening to a lecture on Preah Vihear Temple given by the French archaeologist. Fluttering above this happy scene was the flag of France.

"This is recorded history - a history that must not be forgotten by Thai students," said historian Charnvit Kasetsiri, at a talk titled "The Contested Temple" given recently at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand.

"Prince Damrong accepted that Preah Vihear belonged to French Indochina," noted Charnvit, as he showed photographs of the prince and French commissioner posing together beneath the French flag. But the history that most Thai students are taught focuses on the loss of territory, he added, citing a Thai textbook for Grade 6 students.

"It asks us to remember the loss of territories beginning with Penang and ending with Preah Vihear Temple. But by ignoring Prince Damrong's visit in 1929, it effectively tells us to forget about the truth.

"This is history infected with nationalism."

Charnvit went on to show how the "infection" reaches beyond schoolbooks and into tourism - a brochure welcoming tourists to Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai talks about the "Losses of Territories and Survival of Siam", while Samut Prakan's Muang Boran [Ancient City] contains a replica of Preah Vihear.

Nationalism and tourism go together, he concluded.

The current case of Preah Vihear reflects the kind of "selective history" that stirs nationalistic feeling and leads to war-mongering threats to take back "lost territory", he said.

Following Prince Damrong's visit, Preah Vihear was left in peace for over a decade. Then, in 1940 the government of Field Marshal Plaek Pibulsongkram added the Hindu temple to its list of Thai archaeological sites.

Though the addition was announced in the pages of the Royal Gazette, there is no evidence that Cambodia's French rulers noticed it. In 1954, the year after Cambodia won independence, Pibul sent Thai troops to occupy the area around the Preah Vihear site. But Thai history tends to ignore this event, preferring to focus on the claim made by King Sihanouk at the International Court of Justice in 1959, which in 1962 awarded the temple to Cambodia.

Charnvit, now 67, recalled how nationalism was working on him the day he heard of the "loss of territory" brought by the court's judgement.

"It was a shock because all the news, all the PR from the military government, told us we were winning for sure," he said.

"We believed that Preah Vihear belonged to us. I was a 21-year-old student. I was so angry. I marched with about a hundred Thammasat University students up Rajdamnoen Avenue. I had a photo of King Sihanouk, which I tore apart, threw down on the street and trampled."

Finally, Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat, leader of the military government at the time, made an appearance on television to say the government had no choice but to accept the ruling of the court.

Now, after almost half a century, the version of history that tells of the "loss" of Preah Vihear has been brought up to stir nationalism in Thailand once again, with nationalists saying they refuse to accept the International Court's 1962 judgement.

Bad history creates false perceptions and false perceptions lead to conflict between neighbours, the historian said.

"Our history texts must be revised and corrected to reflect the truth. Only that way will we be able to live together peacefully in this age of regionalism and globalisation."
READ MORE - The Prince and Preah Vihear

Cambodia to re-develop typhoon-hit region

(Post by CAAI News Media)

PHNOM PENH, Oct. 10 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has ordered the government officials and relevant ministries to work together to restore the infrastructures in the Typhoon Ketsana-hit region.

The prime minister made the order at Friday's cabinet meeting. "We have to restore the agricultural infrastructures which were hit by the storm, and set up the top priorities for maintenance with our own financial abilities," Hun Sen said in a statement.

"We should ensure that no one died of hunger," he said, adding we have to facilitate to rebuild housings for victims to accommodate.

Hun Sen highly appreciated the local forces and officials who contributed to help victims timely, and thanked the charitable organizations and people for their help, according to the statement obtained here Saturday.

Nit Nhel, chief cabinet for National Disaster Management Committee told Xinhua that "so far we have not valued the cost of the damage. We have focused on offering shelters and foods for the victims, monitoring their health and other diseases.

"We played for a key role for coordinating other organizations in providing food because we want to provide for all victims," he said, adding the flood is starting to recede in some areas.

At the same time, Seang Soleak, spokesman for the Oxfam international in Phnom Penh said that "we are concerned about the food supply and its price for next year because many rice fields of local people were destroyed by storm and flood.

Now, the flood following the rise of water level of the Mekong River is affecting Kratie province and rice fields in Kratie could be affected, he said.

Last week, Ketsana storm hit Cambodia and killed at least 20 people in Kompong Thom, Preah Vihear, Siem Reap, Ratanakiri, and Mondulkiri provinces, and also destroyed hundreds of houses, roads, dam for agricultural irrigation, and thousands of hectares of rice fields.

On Thursday, Hun Sen said the government and the World Bank will study the impact and the bank will contribute for re-development of the region destroyed by the typhoon.

Editor: Anne Tang
READ MORE - Cambodia to re-develop typhoon-hit region

Mekong Delta at serious risk of rising sea levels, say experts

VietNamNet/SGGP (Hanoi)

The Mekong is one of the three deltas on Earth that will suffer most from climate change. More than eight million people may lose their homes if sea levels rise by one meter, experts have recently warned.

The unavoidable effects of climate change will create worse flooding and acute shortages of fresh water during the rainy season.

Annually, 408 billion cubic meters of water flow from the upper Mekong River to the Mekong Delta region and through two main rivers of Tien and Hau, according to the Southern Irrigation Planning Institute.

The flood season in Mekong Delta falls in June and July and ends in November and December, with a peak flow of 28,000 to30,000 cubic meters per second.

“Farming areas, including Tram Chim, U Minh Thuong, Lang Sen, Tra Su, Ha Tien, Vo Doi, Bai Boi and Lung Ngoc Hoang will be narrowed,” said Le Anh Tuan, an official from the Climate Change Research Institute of Can Tho University.

The peak flow of the Tien and Hau rivers is between 3,000 to 5,000 cubic meters per second in the dry season, leading to a lack of freshwater in the Mekong Delta.

If forest exploitation and the change of land-use continue unabated, combined with an unchecked increased demand of freshwater in Thailand’s northeastern region, Laos and Cambodia, freshwater supplies in Mekong Delta will become drop even further.

Seawater already flows 40 to 50 kilometers inland, penetrating deep into the Mekong Delta, especially in the dry season.

Climate change will see an ever increasing encroachment of seawater inland, which will damage more crops and effect farm production.

Reservoirs used to store freshwater and a dike system at river tributaries to control water flow and prevent sea water encroaching further inland need to be built soon, said Ky Quang Vinh, director of the Can Tho City Environment Survey Agency.
READ MORE - Mekong Delta at serious risk of rising sea levels, say experts

Khmer Rouge case judge 'biased'

By Guy De Launey
BBC News, Phnom Penh
Saturday, 10 October 2009
(Post by CAAI News Media)

Ieng Sary's lawyers say the judge has trampled over his rights

Lawyers for Cambodia's former foreign minister have called for the removal of the judge investigating his role in the Khmer Rouge era.

Ieng Sary is charged with crimes against humanity for his part in the deaths of as many as two million people in the late 1970s.

His defence team claims the judge at the UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal, Marcel Lemonde, is biased.

The controversy is the latest in a series of problems to hit the tribunal.

'One-sided investigation'

The defence team's claims are based on a sworn statement by a former member of the investigating judge's staff.

Wayne Bastin accused his boss, Mr Lemonde, of instructing his team to concentrate on finding only incriminating evidence.

Under the rules of the tribunal, the investigating judges are supposed to be impartial - and should also seek out evidence which might exonerate defendants.

Mr Bastin admitted that Ieng Sary's defence team had encouraged him to make the statement.

But he insisted that he had enjoyed a good working relationship with Judge Lemonde - and only came forward because he felt "morally and ethically" obliged.

Ieng Sary's lawyers said the investigating judge had "trampled over" the rights of their client.

The tribunal's pre-trial chamber will now rule on whether Mr Lemonde should be disqualified.

It has already rejected two attempts to disqualify court officials on the grounds of bias.

Progress in the case against Ieng Sary and his three co-defendants has been slow.

But closing statements in the trial of a former Khmer Rouge prison chief are expected next month.
READ MORE - Khmer Rouge case judge 'biased'

Mudslides kill 100 in northern Philippines

The northern Philippines has been pounded by heavy rain since Typhoon Parma hit the country on Saturday Photo: EPA

Parma hit the Philippines exactly one week after tropical storm Ketsana pounded Manila to the south on Luzon, killing at least 337 people Photo: EPA

More than 100 people have been killed in a series of landslides brought about by heavy rain in mountainous provinces of the northern Philippines.
09 Oct 2009
(Post by CAAI News Media)

Seventy-five people were confirmed dead with 36 still missing in Benguet province as landslides struck in five towns, said provincial police chief, Superintendent Loreto Espinili.

Officials said the death toll would likely rise.

"Our estimate is that more than 100 people were buried," warned provincial civil defence chief Olive Luces.

"The damage in the region is massive. We have several reports of landslides across the region, especially in Benguet. Bodies are being recovered," she said.

In the mountain resort city of Baguio, 17 people were killed as landslides buried whole houses in different parts of the city, said city administrator and civil defence official Peter Fianza.

A landslide also left five dead and 32 missing in Mountain Province, said provincial governor Maximo Dalog.

The northern Philippines has been pounded by heavy rain since Typhoon Parma hit the country on Saturday.

Parma weakened into a tropical depression but has lingered over the north of the Philippines' main island of Luzon.

The National Disaster Coordinating Council's death toll from Parma on Friday morning was 25, however council administrator Glen Rabonza said the latest fatalities from landslides in the north were not yet included in that tally.

Parma hit the Philippines exactly one week after tropical storm Ketsana pounded Manila to the south on Luzon, killing at least 337 people.
READ MORE - Mudslides kill 100 in northern Philippines

‘Climatological’ Totalitarianism

Residents navigate by boat on a flooded street following the passage of Typhoon. (Photo courtesy: AFP PHOTO/HOANG DINH Nam) Ketsana in the tourist town of Hoi An in Viet Nam on September 30. (Photo courtesy: AFP PHOTO/HOANG DINH Nam)

(Post by CAAI News Media)

Two months before the Copenhagen climate change conference, there are no concrete actions yet on how developed countries will compensate developing countries for their greenhouse gas emissions.

It was a week of disasters. Two days after typhoon Ketsana submerged 80 per cent of the Philippine capital Manila—hitting Taiwan, Viet Nam, Cambodia and Laos along the way—a tsunami struck the Pacific island of Samoa and an earthquake flattened houses and buildings in West Sumatra, Indonesia.

Scores of people died and thousands lost their homes. The scene from the Philippines to Indonesia up to Samoa was of hopelessness. As many disasters in history have shown, governments and people were caught unaware of the extent of the damage and disaster preparedness was lacking if not missing.

While these recent disasters were unfolding, experts, lobbyists, environmentalists, activists and government negotiators had just started their two-week talks on climate change in Bangkok.

Amid pronouncements by scientists that the world should keep global warming well below 2?C and that this can only be achieved if we cut gas emissions that cause climate change by more than 45 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020, by 95 per cent by 2050; and global emissions must peak by 2015, the Bangkok talks have so far not translated into concrete actions.

With two months to go before the talks resume in Copenhagen, the Bangkok talks ending October 9 provide an opportunity to enhance action on mitigation and adaptation, including on how to integrate disaster risk reduction in adaptation measures. Recent climatic events in the Philippines, Viet Nam and Cambodia serve as chilling reminders about the urgency of such action to eliminate or reduce the negative impacts of climate change.

These recent events just show that disaster risk reduction and enhanced adaptation cannot be pushed aside during climate change talks.

During a side event at the Bangkok talks, Zenaida Delica-Willison, disaster risk reduction advisor at the United Nations Development Programme, said there is a need to harmonise adaptation and disaster risk reduction. In order to promote resilient communities, adaptation alone is not enough.

Negotiators from Indonesia and Bangladesh were present during the side event. Coming from two disaster-prone countries, they have experienced climatic changes as evidenced by increased flooding in Jakarta and stronger typhoons that hit Bangladesh in recent months. They claimed that their respective governments have improved systems, disaster response and provided education to the public.

Developing countries like Bangladesh and Indonesia are adapting measures to combat the negative effects of climate change through domestic measures. Now, the matter of negotiation at the climate talks is for developed nations to also undertake drastic cuts in their greenhouse gas emissions through domestic measures and to give full reparations for the ecological debts they owe the developing nations.

Disaster risk reduction

A cooperation framework is supposed to have emerged when all the participating countries agreed to integrate disaster risk reduction in adaptation measures within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). All countries acknowledged historical responsibilities, committed to take deep cuts in emission levels (mitigation) and provide adequate structures for finance and technology (adaptation). But, according to Martin Khor of the South Centre, an inter-governmental organisation of developing countries, “we are far from operationalising this framework” because of the stonewalling by developed countries.

In a press conference convened by the South Centre at the Unescap building where the UNFCCC meetings were being held, Ambassador Lumumba Di Aping, head of delegation of Sudan and chairman of the G77 plus China, stressed that developed countries have very “low ambitions in meeting their emission targets” and gave “no positive response at the establishment of financing and technology structures within the Convention.” This only shows that the ground is being prepared (by developed countries) for commitments not to be honoured, he added.

The G-77 is the largest intergovernmental organisation of developing states in the United Nations, which provides the means for the of the South (developing countries) to articulate and promote their collective economic interests and enhance their joint negotiating capacity on all major economic issues within the UN system.

“G-77 is absolutely committed to a successful completion of talks in Copenhagen... for the survival of humanity. And for Copenhagen to succeed, we must all work for an equitable and just deal. We cannot duplicate the inequity and imbalances which have been the hallmark of 200 years of human development,” Lumumba said.

The negotiations challenge

The G77 countries and China had proposed the establishment of a financial mechanism under the UNFCCC ratified in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil at the 1992 Earth Summit that “shall enable, enhance and support mitigation and adaptation actions by developing countries”.

Under the UNFCCC, developed nations should provide financial resources to developing countries for climate change adaptation and mitigation. However, developing countries pointed out that the former is shifting the burden towards markets and to poorer countries by adopting protectionist attitudes like imposing tariffs.

However, developed countries have noted what they called alarming statements by developed nations, especially the European Union and the United States, suggesting the termination of the Kyoto Protocol.

Developed countries, known as Annex I Parties under the Protocol, are bound to agree to subsequent commitment periods for greenhouse gas emission reductions beginning in 2013. Annex 1 Parties have consistently stalled talks to agree on the figures.

Lumumba called this the “climatological” totalitarianism of rich countries which “impose their own interests to advance their economic superiority to support their lavish lifestyles at the expense of the rest of the world”.

“These commitments should be free from conditionalities and is the right thing to do. It is what global leaders must do. So the question that must be asked of developed countries is why (they have) such a disgraceful low level of commitment,” he told the press.

The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) said in a paper that climate change is an additional burden to developing countries already striving to achieve poverty reduction and urgently needed development.

This was highlighted by the clash in the talks between G77 and the United States when the latter proposed to have a formal process to consider textual proposals on “mitigation elements common to all Parties”, which developing countries emphasised were not consistent with the UNFCCC and even went beyond the mandate of the Bali Action Plan. The Plan was a result of the 2007 Bali Climate Conference.

To say that the Bangkok climate change negotiations are crucial is an understatement.

Ambassador Lumumba aptly summed up the crucial nature of both the Bangkok intersessional meeting leading to Copenhagen when he said during the September 30 press conference, “there can’t be any successful conclusion of Copenhagen unless there is economic development to address climate change.”

He noted that if politicians around the world, especially those from the developed countries, were able to pump in US$1.1 trillion to address the global economic crisis should “it be considered more important than (financing) climate change?”

That question takes on added urgency as negotiations shift to higher gear in preparation for Copenhagen in December. (By Jofelle Tesorio and Red Batario in Bangkok/ Asia News Network)

(Red Batario, a freelance journalist based in Manila, was in Bangkok to observe the intersessional talks. He is the executive director of the Centre for Community Journalism and Development and Asia-Pacific coordinator of the International News Safety Institute.)
READ MORE - ‘Climatological’ Totalitarianism

BIDC Cup launched

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Photo by: Sovann Philong
FFC President Sao Sokha displays the BIDC Cup trophy during a press conference at the Phnom Penh Hotel on Monday

(Post by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 07 October 2009 15:00 Ung Chamroeun

Cambodian and Laos U23 national sides and two Vietnamese clubs will compete for the inaugural BIDC Cup at Olympic Stadium in November

CAMBODIA and Laos’ U23 national football teams, and professional Vietnamese teams Hoang Ann Gia Lai and Vissai Ninh Binh, will compete for the inaugural Cambodian International Football Tournament BIDC Cup 2009 on November 8-14 at Phnom Penh’s Olympic Stadium.

The event is sponsored by Bank for Investment and Development of Cambodia (BIDC) – a branch of the Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam – and is organised with cooperation of the football federations from the three neighbouring nations.

The tournament celebrates the 56th anniversary of Cambodian independence and strengthens friendship between Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. For Cambodia, it will be a good technical test for their SEA Games preparation.

Sao Sokha, president of the Football Federation of Cambodia (FFC), revealed the format for the tournament at a press conference Monday. The president said that each team will meet each other once, with the top two (from points and goals scored) playing a final for the trophy, while the other two play for third place. Local television network TV5 will broadcast the games live, with the opening and closing ceremonies also screened in Vietnam.

The tournament champions will receive gold medals and US$20,000, with runners-up pocketing $10,000, and third place $5,000. The player of the tournament, the top scorer and the best goalkeeper will each receive $1,000.

Cambodia U23s, who were smashed 6-0 by their Singapore counterparts September 27, are currently in Ho Chi Minh City for training, playing five friendly matches against local opposition before returning home November 4. Laos as host country for the SEA Games are well-prepared, while the two Vietnamese teams have best records in their domestic V-league.

Nguyen Van Hien, executive chief of BIDC, said that this first tournament is important to the development of the football sector in the region. He confirmed the bank’s intention to organise the event every two years and promised prize money of $5,000 to the Cambodia team if they attained first or second place at the 25th SEA Games.
READ MORE - BIDC Cup launched

Bangkok Air travellers to, from Cambodia fall

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
A Bangkok Air flight lands at Phnom Penh International Airport last month. The airline said it will maintain flights to Cambodia despite losing its only domestic route and slashing flights to other countries.

(Post by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 07 October 2009 15:01 May Kunmakara

Airline sees Q3 decline in passenger numbers on Siem Reap and Phnom Penh routes as rising fuel prices squeeze profits

BANGKOK Airways carried 11 percent fewer passengers into and out of Cambodia in the third quarter compared with the same period a year earlier, according to Deputy Director Ekkaphon Nata-o-sot.

The Thai-based carrier flew 75,824 passengers on its flights between Bangkok and Siem Reap and Phnom Penh in the three months to the end of September, but Ekkaphon said in an email Tuesday he expected the downturn to be short-lived.

“As soon as the kingdom gets to see a rebound in the tourism sector, I believe the airline business will thrive again,” he said. “All in all, Cambodia definitely has a lot of opportunities for the airline business to grow in years to come.”

According to figures from the Ministry of Tourism, air arrivals were down 13 percent year-on-year across the first eight months of 2008. Figures are not yet available for September.

The airline announced recently that it lost 1.05 billion Thai baht (US$31.49 million) over the 18 months to June this year and would suspend four international routes to cut costs – Bangkok to Guilin, Xian, Hiroshima and Ho Chi Minh City.

Ekkaphon confirmed that routes to Cambodia would not be affected. The Cambodian government’s decision to not renew the airline’s permit to fly domestic routes in the Kingdom also would not jeopardise the routes’ future, he said.

Bangkok Airways began non-stop services between Bangkok and Phnom Penh on September 19, 1997, and between Bangkok and Siem Reap on January 9 the following year. It currently operates three flights daily between the two capitals and five flights between Bangkok and Siem Reap.

“Our service to Phnom Penh and Siem Reap will remain unaffected,” Ekkaphon said.

Domestic route temporary
However, Bangkok Airways will cease service between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap on October 25, when its temporary permit for the routes expires. The permit was issued on November 22 last year when the airline’s Cambodian subsidiary, Siem Reap Airways, was grounded amid concerns over safety standards and financial irregularities after an audit by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

Several representatives of Cambodia’s State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) said last month that the carrier’s permit would not be renewed, giving a boost to the fledgling domestic carrier Cambodia Angkor Air (CAA), which made its maiden flight on July 28.

The SSCA has since softened its stance, saying the permit was always meant to be temporary, and that Siem Reap Airlines can apply to take over the Phnom Penh-Siem Reap route when Bangkok Airway’s permit expires.

Ekkaphon has supported the government line. “We had that service in place because after the Siem Reap Airways wasn’t able to operate there was no other airline operating on the route, and it was the beginning of the high tourist season,” he said.

Ekkaphon said flights between the two cities were just 55 percent full on average during the period.

He also said the launch of CAA had not affected the Bangkok Airways’ business.

“Although the new carrier made its debut on this route in late July, the tour operators still booked with us, for they are confident in our service and our commitment to deliver the best to our passengers,” he said.
READ MORE - Bangkok Air travellers to, from Cambodia fall

Workers ask for govt action

Photo by: Sovan Philong.
Garment workers take their long-running protest to the Ministry of Labour on Tuesday.

(Post by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 07 October 2009 15:02 Tep Nimol

REPRESENTATIVES of more than 1,000 Phnom Penh garment workers who claim they were unfairly sacked earlier this summer have urged the government to intervene and bring an end to the long-running dispute.

The workers claim owners of the Sky High Garment Factory, located in the city’s Choam Chao commune, fired the employees in late June after they took part in a strike.

At the time, protesters said the factory owners were firing four or five workers daily without just cause, according to Keo Sarom, who represents the factory’s workers.

The workers want the Ministry of Labour to take legal action against Sky High for allegedly failing to deliver severance payments and other compensation measures under Cambodian labour law, Keo Sarom said.

Employee Thorng Pan was axed after taking part in the July strike, he said, adding that the company fired the workers en masse without any clear reason.

“We were kicked out unreasonably, so we want the company to pay all the fired workers,” Thorng Pan said.

The ministry’s head of labour disputes, Va Yuva Vathana, said the workers should instead take their cases to the courts.

The workers, however, say they don’t have enough cash to bring the case to court. Sky High representatives could not be reached on Tuesday.
READ MORE - Workers ask for govt action

Cambodia Confirms Third A/H1N1 Death

Written by DAP NEWS -- Wednesday, 07 October 2009
(Post by CAAI News Media)

Cambodia’s Health Minister on Tuesday confirmed a third death from A/H1N1, commonly known as swine flu. Dub Sok Khunthea, a woman 7 months pregnant, died after an operation.

“The pregnant woman died after her operation as her illness condition was very serous,” Mom Bunheng told DAP News Cambodia on Tuesday. People with lung cancer, pregnancy, liver disease and conditions are more vulnerable to the virus, he added.

Dr. Chheang Ra, director of Calmette Hospital, said at a press conference on Tuesday morning that the 25-year-old woman was operated upon on October 04 in order to passing the virus to her unborn daughter.

The health minister said that the baby daughter’s health is good and hospital doctors are monitoring her. The third victim of A/H1N1 named Dub Sok Khunthea, aged 25, was rushed to the hospital on September 29 and was operated on October 04.

The second victim of A/H1N1 named Chhoun Vannthorn, aged 41, lived at Phsma Doeum Thkov, Chamkar Morn, Phnom Penh.

Relatives of the second A/H1N1 victim criticized Calmette Hospital doctors’ performance, alleging doctors did not pay enough attention.

“The victim was rushed to the hospital on Friday night and on Saturday afternoon the doctor told us that the victim was infected with A/H1N1,” Chhoun Vanna, the victim’s sister told DAP News Cambodia on Tuesday. “The victim was able to speak by phone as usual, then the doctor come to ask for the relatives to pay money, but only 10 minutes following, the doctor told us that the victim had died.”

At a press conference, the health minister stressed his grief at the deaths of all victims. He called on all Cambodians to prevent the virus and to avoid crowds in infected.

The health minister said Cambodia has so far seen 120 cases of A/H1N1.

According to the Health Ministry website, Phnom Penh, Kandal, Takeo, Siem Reap, Kampng Speu, and Battambang have all seen cases.

Cambodia confirmed the first case of A/H1N1 on June 24, 2009, a student with a US study group.

A US health agency on Monday stated that the total number of A/H1N1 worldwide has reached 343,000 cases with 4,100 deaths.
READ MORE - Cambodia Confirms Third A/H1N1 Death

Swine flu kills two victims in three days in Phnom Penh

Photo by: AFP
Residents walk past vendors of roasted pork Tuesday in Phnom Penh. The Influenza A(H1N1) virus, better known as swine flu, claimed its second and third victims early this week, as health officials issued warnings for residents to report any suspicious symptoms to the authorities.

(Post by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 07 October 2009 15:04 Cheang Sokha

Mother in labour is latest victim; doctors monitoring newborn.

TWO more Cambodians have died of the influenza A(H1N1) virus at Phnom Penh’s Calmette Hospital since the start of the week, according to government health officials.

Minister of Health Mam Bunheng confirmed Wednesday that Duch Sokunthea, 25, died from the virus on Tuesday afternoon, two days after undergoing a caesarian section to complete her seven-month pregnancy.

He said the baby, which remains at the hospital, was under close examination from doctors. “We have now had three cases of fatalities” from the virus, said Mam Bunheng, although he declined to elaborate further.

Sok Touch, director of the Communicable Diseases Control Department at the Ministry of Health, said on Monday afternoon that Chuon Vanthan, a 41-year-old man from Phnom Penh’s Chamkarmon district, also died from the virus, more commonly known as swine flu.

Sok Touch also declined to reveal additional details about the deaths, saying the ministry and the World Health Organisation would issue a joint press statement shortly.

Photo by: Heng Chivoan.
Chok, 16, mourns the death of his father on Tuesday. Chuon Vanthan, 41, became the second person to die of swine flu in Cambodia on Monday. The death toll has since risen to three.

Cambodia’s first confirmed fatality from swine flu was a 41-year old woman, who succumbed to the disease on September 27 after it was first detected in Cambodia in June. Health officials have warned about the symptoms associated with the disease, advising people to immediately report any suspicious signs to authorities.

Nima Asgari, a public health specialist at the WHO, said that through October 2, some 120 cases of the virus had been identified and confirmed in the Kingdom, but expected the real figure to be greater, since some patients have likely not reported their symptoms. “I don’t think Cambodia at the moment is different from the rest of the world,” he said.

The relatives of the two swine flu victims declined to comment on Tuesday, as funeral ceremonies were held in Kandal province’s Kien Svay district for the man and at Phnom Penh’s Wat Koh for the woman.
READ MORE - Swine flu kills two victims in three days in Phnom Penh

The Youngest Monk

Same neighborhood, different world.

Oct. 5, 2009

By Mariel Waloff
Philadelphia Weekly (Pennsylvania)

Horn Pa was twelve years old when his family settled in South Philadelphia, seeking refuge from the war plaguing their native Cambodia. His mother reminded him daily how lucky they were to live in the peace of the United States, where there was fresh water and readily available food.

As Horn came of age around Seventth and Jackson streets, however, he witnessed a different sort of war zone where gangs, violence and drugs threatened to ruin the lives of young Asian refugees like himself.

While Horn’s parents regularly attended the Palelai Buddhist Temple at Seconnd and Greenwich streets, Horn himself wasn’t interested. By the time he was 17 he had dropped out of high school, and began using drugs regularly. “I didn’t know no better, you know, just smoke weed, this and that, I didn’t know." Things began to change when he was arrested on a drug charge and spent the night in jail. Realizing his future looked bleak Horn decided to change his life.

Seeking guidance and a space to clear his mind, Horn went to the Palelai Temple—the same one his parents attended. He told the head monk that he wanted to stay for one week and they welcomed him. A year later, Horn still shaves his head and wears the orange robes of a Buddhist monk. His mind is clear, his parents are proud. He hopes to inspire positive change in other young Cambodians he sees around the neighborhood, making some of the same mistakes he did.

As the monastery’s youngest monk—and the best English speaker—he serves an important role as the linguistic and cultural interpreter between the older monks and the community around them. He has also had a large role in maintaining the plot of land the temple owns at 58th and Lindbergh Boulevard in Southwest Philadelphia. While they await permits to build a new temple complex, Horn and the other monks have planted gardens and built a pagoda and other small structures that overlook the Schuylkill River. The peace and quiet of these gardens serve as the perfect respite for a monk. The lush greenery contrasts sharply with their brilliant orange robes and it seems as though they are worlds away from the rest of the city.
READ MORE - The Youngest Monk

Opposition merger now in SRP’s court, HRP president says

Meas Sokchea
The Phnom Penh Post

THE Human Rights Party has announced it is ready to join forces with the Sam Rainsy Party as soon as its prospective partner makes the decision to go ahead with the long-anticipated merger.

At a press conference Tuesday, HRP President Kem Sokha said the party was ready to join with the SRP in a single opposition front, and that people inside and outside the two parties want to see a united democratic movement.

“People have asked whether democrats can merge into a single party,” Kem Sokha said.

“The answer that has been given to us is that if democrats do not merge into one party, the result will be defeat.”

However, Kem Sokha said the party was maintaining three conditions for the merger, including a term limit for the party president, a change in the new party’s name and joint decision-making between officials from the two sides.

He acknowledged that the SRP and HRP have met eight times already to discuss the merger, with no result, and said that if the SRP leadership is unhappy with the terms, it should come to discuss them.

The SRP’s deputy secretary general, Mu Sochua, said Tuesday that she met with an HRP representative on Monday to speak about the merger, adding that the three conditions set by Kem Sokha were acceptable to the party leadership.

“We have not changed our will because we have made these announcements to the public already,” she said, adding that both parties had been too busy to consider the merger in recent months. “Our stance is the same – we do not dispute these” points.

She added: “We do not reject the change of the party’s name.… The new party must change its name, but we just will change it when we have the time,” she said.

Cheam Yeap, a senior lawmaker from the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, expressed his congratulations over the merger plans but said the CPP was not scared of the threat posed by a unified democratic front.

“They cannot merge forever. They will have conflict together and be separated … because Kem Sokha has different ideals from Sam Rainsy,” Cheam Yeap said.

“Even if they merge, they can’t win against us because we have served the people for so long.”
READ MORE - Opposition merger now in SRP’s court, HRP president says

From Killing Fields to Fields of Dreams

Joe Cook (L) (Photo: LA Time)
Cambodian baseball players

October 6, 2009
John Perra
Editor: John Feffer
Foreign Policy In Focus (

Cambodia is an unlikely place for baseball. There is chronic poverty, lingering post-war trauma, and rampant human trafficking. Children are more likely to work or rummage through the fetid muck of the Steung Meanchey dump than go to school or play.

But for the last seven years, Joe Cook, a Cambodian refugee, has been teaching the game in his homeland, building Cambodia's first ball field. Last year, he even managed to put together a national team. In March, they finally won their first game, playing a short series against a team from Vietnam. Considering the violent history the two countries share, just playing the game was an accomplishment beyond any scorecard.

Becoming Joe Cook

For Joe Cook, playing games came to an abrupt end in August 1975. He was Jouret Puk then, the son of a high-ranking Cambodian official who commanded nearly 3,000 troops. "My little sister and I were playing behind our house," Cook remembers. "All of a sudden we saw people dressed in black and red marching toward us. We were scared and we hid behind a tree." Those people were the Khmer Rouge and they invaded his village, burning homes to the ground. "They got us all in one place," he recalls, "then they forced us to march to a camp," he says. Cook's father was killed, and his family was split up and forced into labor camps. Cook's youngest sisters were among the 2 million executed by Pol Pot's regime. In 1978, Cook, then eight, escaped his camp with his mother and oldest brother, trying to reach the Thai border.

For a week, they made their way barefoot. "It was only 18 miles to the border but it turned into 80 because we had to keep moving back and forth, criss-cross because landmines were everywhere. So were the Khmer Rouge, and the Vietnamese who had just invaded." The three refugees had only a small cup of rice between them, so to survive they ate crickets, grass, leaves, and tree bark. "I can remember catching frogs and eating them alive," Cook says. The pools of water they came across were polluted with the dead bodies of pigs, cows, and people. "I tried to brush the blood back to drink," he recalls, "It was so thick and bitter." Bodies lined the roads and when they ran into other people escaping from the camps, they would barter for food.

Finally, they made it to the Thai border and then to a series of refugee camps. In the Philippines, they found a sponsor through the U.S. embassy and arrived in Chattanooga, Tennessee in May 1983. "We couldn't even pronounce Tennessee. And we thought America must be near France because you had to take a plane to both of them," he says.

In America

There, everything was new. "I thought it was like a dream," Cook says, "A stove, a toilet, a TV. It was fascinating." And then there was the game he saw being played near his home.

"All I knew was that it was some kind of sport," he says. It was baseball. "I watched them behind a fence," he recalls, "I saw them having fun. I saw happy faces. As a kid in Cambodia, there was never happiness. But I knew in baseball is happiness. I kept going back every day. Finally I got the guts to go onto the field."

Through a combination of limited English and gestures, he made it clear to the coach that he wanted to play too. "When he gave me a glove so I could play catch, it felt like he had given me the whole uniform. I was like the other kids," he recalls. It was the start of a deep passion.

Baseball was also a way to assimilate. He became "Joe Cook," a chef in a Japanese steakhouse in Alabama, listening to Atlanta Braves baseball on the radio in his kitchen. He married and had two children.

In 2002, Cook's older sister Chamty, who he thought had perished, called from Cambodia. After years of brutality in the labor camps, she had been released in 1990 and used the Internet to track down members of her family. Cook agreed to reunite with her in Cambodia.

As a way of honoring him, Chamty wanted to travel to the airport to meet him. But the transportation costs were more than she could afford. She made a difficult decision. So as not to lose her brother again, she sold her son to traffickers. "When I arrived and found out, I was devastated," Cook says, choking up, "She didn't understand that I could've met her anywhere. I never would've wanted her to do that." The first thing he did was buy back his nephew, Chea Theara, for $86.

Bringing Baseball Home

"He was so happy, so proud that his uncle had the ability to do that, he wanted to show me his town and also share his town with me," says Cook. Chea showed Cook his school in Baribo, a village in Kampong Chhang province about 68 miles west of Phnom Penh, and near it an open field. Cook thought it would make a good spot for a baseball diamond. "What's baseball?" Chea asked. "It's a crazy game that I love," Cook told him, "I'll come back and bring equipment and teach you."

And he did. Eventually he built Cambodia's first baseball field in Baribo and began instructing kids there in the fundamentals of the game. Soon he was feeding them, teaching them English, and establishing the national team that includes Chea on its roster.

For several years, Cambodia's government wanted to shut down baseball in Cambodia. It was too American for them, according to Cook. "They kept saying, 'how about soccer?'" he says.

Although also a product of Western influence when the French brought it to Cambodia in the 1930s, soccer has been a hugely popular sport in the country for decades. The skill of Cambodia's players was the envy of much of Southeast Asia until the Khmer Rouge all but put an end to the sport. It wasn't until the 1990s that Cambodian soccer began to regain its strength, with teams competing and winning in international tournaments.

Likewise, Pradal Serey, an ancient boxing style best known for its martial arts roots and kicking technique, has begun to reemerge as a national sport. It too was nearly lost to history when the Khmer Rouge banned traditional martial arts and executed its boxers.

But Cambodia has spent more than a decade now regaining its athletic prominence. It returned to the Olympics in 1996 after a 24-year absence and has participated in those games ever since.

Coming Around to Baseball

Despite the national focus on soccer, Cook kept baseball in Cambodia going, supporting the game out of his own pocket and getting some help with equipment and coaches from Major League Baseball. Then this year, the national team started winning, beating Vietnam in that friendly series and gaining professional bragging rights by besting Malaysia in May in an official game between the countries. A governor donated land for another field after that.

Cambodia's people are starting to come around to the game. Other baseball clubs and organizations have sprung up in the past few months, including one in the capital city of Phnom Penh. The organizer of that group is a young man in his earlier twenties who calls Cook "Bong," the Khmer word for "brother," a sign of respect. That pleases Cook and he laughs, "I am baseball's big brother." In reality, Cook is now president of the Cambodia Baseball Federation.

In August, Cook developed the first regional leagues within Cambodia. The Braves, representing the west, and the Royals, in the east, play each other nearly every day. "Someday I want to build a stadium here," says Cook. The image of a stadium leaves even him, baseball's true believer here, awestruck. "Can you imagine a baseball stadium in Cambodia?" he asks.

John Perra is a journalist, a contributor to Ancient Gonzo Wisdom: Interviews with Hunter S. Thompson (Da Capo 2009), and a contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus.
READ MORE - From Killing Fields to Fields of Dreams

Police, FBI Bust Seven in Major Drug Raid

Chhay Sinarith shows the seized heroin packages and other paraphernalia (Photo: Bunry, Koh Santepheap)

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
06 October 2009

Cambodian police working with the US Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested seven people and seized 16 kilograms of heroin, following three months of investigation, officials said Monday. Police also found counterfeit US dollars in the Oct. 2 raid.

“In the operation, we did an investigation and tracked [the suspects] down for almost three months, with the support of the FBI representative in Cambodia,” said Chhay Sinarith, chief of the Interior Ministry’s security department.

Suspects were arrested in Phnom Penh and Stung Treng province. The raid included the arrest of Lam Sokha, a suspected trafficker who has been arrested and released in recent years, police and court officials said.

The seven suspects were sent to Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday and would be questioned by prosecutors this week, officials said.

Police said the heroin moved through neighboring countries through Stung Treng, which borders Laos.

The discovery of heroin, crystal methamphetamine, or “ice,” drug production and counterfeit money made the raid a major case, Chhay Sinarith said.

The US State Department praised Cambodia for its anti-drug efforts in 2009, but said the country faces increasing problems of consumption, trafficking and the production of dangerous drugs.

The State Department warned that crackdowns on trafficking in Thailand and China had made Cambodia an attractive route for traffickers, while internally, use of amphetamines, including ice, was escalating.
READ MORE - Police, FBI Bust Seven in Major Drug Raid

Hun Sen, Cambodia's agent provocateur?

Hun Sen: ‘‘I am the leader of Cambodia who was elected by the will of the people, not by robbing power.’’

Pavin Chachavalpongpun
Bangkok Post Opinion

I was caught in the abhorrent situation wherein some 1,000 protesters, mostly students, torched the Royal Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh on the night of January 29, 2003. Elsewhere in the capital, the protests grew more aggravated. So-called Cambodian patriots ransacked Thai-owned establishments, including the Royal Phnom Penh Hotel and the office of Thai Airways International.

A few days earlier, Thai actress Suvanand Kongying had been wrongly accused of claiming that Angkor Wat was Thailand's property.

That misquote immediately stirred up a sense of nationalism inside Cambodia. Prime Minister Hun Sen angrily responded: "Suvanand is not even worth a blade of grass at Angkor." Former premier Thaksin Shinawatra reportedly tried for two hours to reach Hun Sen by phone, and it was obvious the Cambodian leader was avoiding a conversation.

Was Hun Sen's anger really about protecting the dignity of the Cambodian nation? The circumstances surrounding the outburst was that a Cambodian general election was around the corner, so a conflict with Thailand could have been used to favour his political allies and undermine his opponents.

If the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) is a master manipulator of Thai nationalism, can Hun Sen be an "agent provocateur" who exploits nationalistic rhetoric to gain political points at home?

Since the flare-up in the Preah Vihear dispute, Hun Sen has never minced his words about the failure of Thai leadership. He has even provoked armed conflict with Thailand.

In referring to the Democrat government, Hun Sen once proudly declared: "I am the leader of Cambodia who was elected by the will of the people, not by robbing power." Recently, he intensified bilateral tensions by ordering his troops to shoot any Thai crossing the border illegally. His encouragement not only served to fulfil a nationalistic need in Cambodia, but also worked in turn to legitimise the PAD's activities.

Over the past years, Hun Sen has been able to strengthen his popularity thanks to the lingering dispute over the Preah Vihear temple. As Southeast Asia's longest serving leader apart from the Sultan of Brunei, Hun Sen has successfully ridden the wave of Cambodian nationalism to further solidify his rule.

At the height of Thailand's domestic crisis last year, Hun Sen suggested that Thailand give up its Asean chairmanship. In so doing, he seemed to declare himself the chief defender of Asean.

When Thailand planned to host the Asean meeting in Hua Hin in March this year, Hun Sen sarcastically said that it would be too costly and difficult for him to attend the gathering. Obviously, he later changed his mind.

Hun Sen has on numerous occasions warned Thai troops to stop trespassing on Cambodian land, calling the contested territory a "life-and-death battle zone".

The PAD has continued to play into Hun Sen's hands by inflating the incident and calling for the Thai military to push back Cambodian "intruders".

As much as the temple issue has been held hostage by Thai politics, it has also been used to preserve the legitimacy of the Cambodian leadership. The successful inscription of the temple on the list of Unesco's World Heritage sites was much publicised to voters as a result of Hun Sen's charismatic leadership. (Cambodia's general election was held on July 27, 2008).

Scenting an ideal electoral opportunity, Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party pushed the hot issues of corruption and inflation into the background while promoting a nationalistic election theme. The party announced that Hun Sen and his close allies were strong but peaceful leaders who were solely responsible for uniting Cambodians against Thai aggression.

After a series of armed clashes, Cambodia had no plans to make peace but demanded Thailand pay compensation for damages resulting from the confrontation on the border. In its diplomatic note, Cambodia stated: "The attack with heavy weapons by Thai troops on Cambodian territory caused much damage and set a Cambodian market ablaze. The material losses to 319 families, who had lost their livelihoods when the fire destroyed their market stalls, amounted to more than US$2.1 million."

The attempt here is not to paint a gloomy picture of the Cambodian leadership, but rather to highlight that the temple issue and the rise of nationalism have their roots deep in the power politics within Thailand and Cambodia. While it is convenient for Hun Sen to condemn the arbitrary use of Thai nationalism, he himself has taken advantage from Cambodian nationalism.

In an interview, Sam Rainsy, a French-educated former finance minister who leads Cambodia's prominent opposition party, described Hun Sen as a politician who succeeds very well in one thing: "Survival at the helm of the Cambodian state." His ability, Mr Rainsy said, is clinging on to power through political intrigues which he then resolves with an iron fist. This has lasted for almost 30 years now. "When you have only this ambition - clinging to power for the impunity it provides - it is catastrophic for the country," Mr Rainsy said.

Professor Chanvit Kasetsiri rightly noted that among the neighbouring countries of Southeast Asia, none seems more similar to Thailand than Cambodia. Both nations share similar customs, traditions, beliefs and ways of life. This is especially true of royal customs, language, writing systems, vocabulary, literature, and the dramatic arts. In light of these similarities, it seems surprising, therefore, that relations between Thailand and Cambodia should be characterised by deep-seated "ignorance, misunderstanding and prejudice". Indeed, the two countries have what can be termed a "love-hate relationship".

Today, this love-hate relationship is being firmly sustained by the incessant use of nationalism, which may offer some political benefits in the short-term but will surely create a long-lasting negative impact on the bilateral relationship.

Dr Pavin Chachavalpongpun is a Visiting Research Fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore.
READ MORE - Hun Sen, Cambodia's agent provocateur?