Artist life under the Khmer Rouge regime

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Dancers under the KR regime

06 March 2010

By Chan Lyda
Radio France Internationale
Translated from Khmer by Socheata

The KR regime was a bitter historical regime for Cambodia. Some choose to remain silent to forget about their past, but for Mrs. Sim Yim, a former artist, musician and singer under the Democratic Kampuchea (KR regime), she did note evade the truth about her artistic life under this regime.

Click here to listen to the audio program in Khmer (MP3)
READ MORE - Artist life under the Khmer Rouge regime

Your Scene: Catch of the day in Cambodia

Source: Los Angeles Times (California, USA)

As Paul Prewitt of Laguna Beach watched from the shores of Cambodia’s Tonle Sap, the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia, a woman and her children floated by with this reptilian passenger. “I wasn’'t sure whether the kids were playing with their pet snake or with their dinner,” Prewitt said. He captured the scene on this lake, which is better known for its harvest of carp, with a Nikon D-70. (Photo: Paul Prewitt)
READ MORE - Your Scene: Catch of the day in Cambodia

Cambodia drug-resistant malaria stirs health fears

Sat Mar 6, 2010
Thin Lei Win

PAILIN, Cambodia (Reuters) - In a dusty village near the Thai-Cambodia border, 24-year-old Oeur Samoeun sits on a dark green hammock recovering from a strain of malaria that has resisted the most powerful drugs available.

Ravaged by days of fever and chills, he is considered lucky: the parasite has left his body. But for many others, the potentially deadly disease never quite disappears.

His province of Pailin is the epicenter of strains of malaria that have baffled healthcare experts worldwide, raising fears a dangerous new form of malaria could already be spreading across the globe.

"The fear is what we're observing right now could be the starting point for something worse regionally and globally," said Dr. Charles Delacollette, Mekong Malaria Program Coordinator at the World Health Organization.

A New England Journal of Medicine study last year showed that conventional malaria-fighting treatments derived from artemisinin took almost twice as long to clear the parasites that cause the disease in patients in Pailin and others in northwestern Thailand, suggesting the drugs were losing potency in the area.

That is echoed by U.S. development agency USAID, which says artemisinin-based combination therapy is "now taking two to three times longer to kill malaria parasites along the Thai-Cambodian border than elsewhere." The agency has helped to monitor the situation in the area for years.

The disease transmitted via mosquito bites kills more than 1 million people worldwide each year and children account for about 90 percent of the deaths in the worst affected areas of sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia.

The studies shine a spotlight on the remote province of Pailin, a former stronghold of ultra-communist Khmer Rogue rebels and once renown for blood-red rubies and lush forests.


Pailin is the origin of three drug-resistant malaria parasites over the past five decades. Thanks to prolonged civil conflict, dense jungles and movement of mass migrants in the gem mines in the 1980s and 90s, the strains multiplied and dispersed through Myanmar, India and two eventually reached Africa.

Few can say why it is a hotbed for drug-resistant malaria but experts point to a combination of sociological factors and a complicated history spanning the Khmer Rouge era when 1.7 million people, nearly a quarter of Cambodia's population, perished from execution, overwork or torture during their 1975-79 rule.

Driven from the capital, the rebels waged an insurgency from western Cambodia with Pailin one of their last holdouts until their defeat in the late 1990s.

"During the Khmer Rouge era, people came here illegally and when they get malaria, they go to the market, buy pills and self-medicate," Sophal Uth, a Pailin-based field officer for non-profit Malaria Consortium said. "It was difficult for the government to control."

With weak public health infrastructure and rising malaria cases, Cambodia made malaria drugs available over the counter more than a decade ago. Most Cambodians don't have access to public health services and rely on private medical centers.

The strategy carried risks. Easy access reduced the number of cases but also led to incorrect dosages and substandard or counterfeit medicine, which instead of killing the parasites only make them stronger.

For some like Oeur, a migrant worker who likely caught malaria on a logging trip or while sleeping in his rickety shed without a mosquito net, artemisinin-based medicine still works.

Artemisinin, derived from the sweet wormwood, or Artemisia annual plant, is the best drug available against malaria, especially when used in artemisinin combination therapy (ACT) medicines made by firms such as Swiss drugmaker Novartis AG and France's Sanofi-Aventis.


After three days of ACT, Oeur is weak but parasite-free.

The Mekong River region of Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos use ACTs against the "falciparum" parasite, the most severe form of malaria, as suggested by the World Health Organization.

"Artemisinin is the most effective antimalarial we have left," Dr. Chansuda Wongsrichanalai of USAID's office of public health in Bangkok said. "We don't have any ideal alternatives available and ready to for use in a control programme right now."

Pailin's gem mines are gone and so are most foreign migrants and the troops. Severe deforestation has left most hill tops barren. Yet the parasites are as virulent as ever. Most of its inhabitants have had malaria at least once in their lives.

Malaria experts, weary of being called alarmists, are quick to point out ACTs still work -- they are just taking longer. The WHO isn't even calling it drug-resistance, they preferred to use the term "altered response" or "tolerance to artemisinin."

"From a public health perspective, I don't think it really matters much if it's resistance or something else given that at the end of the month, patients are returning to the health facility with the same malaria," Dr. John MacArthur, chief of the President's Malaria Initiative at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

Potential fallout from ACT resistance led the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to fund a $22.5 million containment programme. Cambodia will also receive $102 million from The Global Fund to fight malaria in the next five years.

The Gates Foundation programme aims to use screening, bed nets and grass-roots muscle to contain the parasites along the border area and eliminate them before they can spread further.

Last November, Malaria Consortium said studies show artemisinin resistance already may be present in Myanmar, China and Vietnam, where between 12-31 percent of patients still had the parasite in the system after three days of treatment.

(Editing by Jason Szep and Bill Tarrant)
READ MORE - Cambodia drug-resistant malaria stirs health fears

Thai rice farmers fret about free trade

Agence France-Presse

For many farmers in Thailand's rice belt, agreements between Asian countries to reduce trade barriers have not brought all the benefits that national leaders promised.

"We are afraid of the free trade area," says Chatree Radomlek, a 37-year-old farmer in Pathum Thani, about an hour's drive north of Bangkok but a world away from the capital's glitzy hotels and restaurants.

A rural community where local people boast of the nutritional benefits of eating field mice, its green paddies help make Thailand the world's biggest rice exporter.

But where humid weather and new farming technologies used to dominate local farmers' conversations, free trade is now the hot topic.

A free trade area between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), of which Thailand is a member, and China took full effect on January 1, liberalising billions of dollars in trade and investments in a market of 1.7 billion consumers.

It is the world's largest free trade area by population, eliminating barriers to investment and tariffs on 90 percent of products.

"If cheap rice comes to Thailand from other countries, it might make our prices go down. I think the government should set up measures to protect us," says Chatree, looking out from under a wide-brimmed hat.

He says that rice from neighbouring Cambodia and Laos is "inferior" but that it could flood the Thai market, possibly leading Thai consumers to buy imported rice instead and lowering domestic prices for his grains.

Another fear is that middlemen could mix Thai rice with lesser varieties of the imported grain, hurting the quality of Thailand's product.

Bangon Radomlek, 57, says she has worked the rice fields since she was ten and adds, with a grin, that although the work is tough, "it's a life with freedom."

"But I don't like free trade," she says. "We only want to export. We don't want to import. We want to be the sole producer."

Rice is big business in Thailand. The country's Foreign Trade Department says that the nation exported 8.57 million tons of rice in 2009, worth five billion dollars.

It expects that the country will ship more than nine million tons in 2010.

The importance of rice to the economy led to a spat in recent months with fellow ASEAN member the Philippines, one of the world's biggest rice importers.

Bangkok wanted Manila to lower import tariffs on Thai rice to comply with the ASEAN free trade area but the Philippines said it could not afford to, fearing that freer trade would undercut its own rice industry.

Thailand's Commerce Ministry said the two countries had now struck a deal for the Philippines to buy 376,000 tons of Thai rice until 2014 without applying any of the usual 40 percent tariff.

The Philippines has the option, however, of not buying the rice if it produces enough for domestic consumption or finds a better price elsewhere. Manila will lower its tariff to 35 percent in 2015.

Chookiat Ophaswongse, president of the Thai Rice Exporters Association, said the issue of rice underlines the sensitive nature of agricultural products and international trade.

He said "there are pros and cons" to free trade, meaning that while lower trade barriers could open more markets for Thailand, it also raises the prospect of cheaper rice entering the market from its neighbours.

Global Witness urges Cambodia’s donors to condemn sponsorship of military units by private businesses

Press Release – 05/03/2010
Source: Global Witness

"Since the end of Cambodia's civil war, the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces has operated as a vast organised crime network" - Gavin Hayman, Campaigns Director at Global Witness
Aid donors to Cambodia, including the US, EU, Japan, China and the World Bank, should send a strong message to the government that they will not countenance the bankrolling of Cambodia's military by private businesses.

The call follows the announcement last week by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen of the formation of 42 official partnerships between private businesses and Cambodian military units. The partnerships will "solve the dire situation of the armed forces, police, military police, and their families through a culture of sharing" according to a government memo.

Global Witness is concerned that this policy officially sanctions an arrangement where businesses get military protection in return for financial backing. A number of the companies named as military sponsors already have track records of using the military to protect their business interests. For example, Global Witness's 2009 report, Country for Sale, described how the Try Pheap Company used armed forces to guard a mine in Stung Treng Province.

Other high-profile Cambodian companies allegedly providing sponsorship include the Mong Reththy Group, the Ly Yong Phat Company, and the Chub Rubber Plantation Company.

"Since the end of Cambodia's civil war, the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces has operated as a vast organised crime network," said Gavin Hayman, Campaigns Director at Global Witness. "It is unacceptable for private companies to be financing a military renowned for its corruption and involvement in illegal activities and human rights abuses."

The arrangement also threatens to undermine the legitimacy of international aid, especially in the case of donors such as the US who are directly funding the military. In 2009 the US spent more than $1 million on military financing, education and training in Cambodia.

"Yet again, Cambodia's donors are being mocked by the government's blatant violation of basic governance and transparency standards. The existence of a strong patronage system between the military and private business is not new. But what is different and shocking is that it has become official government policy," said Hayman. "Donors should send a firm and decisive message that Cambodia's military exists to protect the people, not the financial assets of a privileged few."

"This fire-sale of military units represents an appalling breach of governance standards and threatens to undermine the country's future stability," said Hayman. "The donor community has collectively poured billions into the restoration of peace and democracy in Cambodia since the fall of the Khmer Rouge. Surely they are not going to stand by and allow this to be undercut by a policy of selling off the armed forces to private business interests? This is tantamount to sanctioning a mercenary force."


Contacts: Eleanor Nichol, +44 (0)7872 600 870

Notes for Editors

1.Global Witness has worked in Cambodia for over 15 years and published 18 reports on corruption within the management of the country's natural resources. For examples, see

2.The policy of military-business partnerships was first reported in the Cambodia Daily on Friday 26 February in an article titled Businesses Tie Official Knot With Military. For a full list of companies and military units allegedly involved, contact Global Witness.

3. In the 2009 financial year, the US spent an estimated $1,106,000 on Foreign Military Financing and International Military Education and Training in Cambodia, according to the US Department of State's Executive Budget Summary: Function 150 & Other International Programs Fiscal Year 2011, accessed at
READ MORE - Global Witness urges Cambodia’s donors to condemn sponsorship of military units by private businesses

Third Year Maha Ghosananda Celebration

Click on the announcement in Khmer to zoom in

Saturday 20 March 2010 - Starting from 6PM
Sunday 21 March 2010 - Starting from 9:30AM

Khmer Palelai Buddhist Monastery
240 Greenwich St., Philadelphia, PA 19147

The Biography of Samdech Preah Maha Ghosananda

Samdech Preah Maha Ghosananda Var Yav was born on May 23, 1913, Buddhist Era 2457, in Baray village, Trang district, Takeo Province, Kingdom of Cambodia. Parents name were Var Kut and Kim Keav. He has no siblings, only child of the family.

Samdech Preah Maha Ghosananda got ordained novice Monk on April 7, 1927, Buddhist Era 2416, at the age of fourteen (14) years old in Baray Temple, Baray Village, Trang District, Takeo Province, Kingdom of Cambodia.

Samdech received his religious education from third to first classes of Dhammavinaya, Takeo Province, Kingdom of Cambodia, 1929-1932, Buddhist Era 2472.

Samdech then got ordained Buddhist Monk on April 19,1934, Buddhist Era 2477, age of 21, Keo Preahplaeng Monastery, Phnom Penh City, Cambodia, by Samdech Preah Mahasumetatipadey Chourn Nath Jotanhano, King of Cambodian Buddhist Monks, as his ordaining teacher.

Samdech had traveled and relocated himself to many different Monasteries in Phnom Penh City for fifteen years (15) 1938-1953, Buddhist Era 2481 to 2495. Monasteries such as Sampaomeas Monastery, Langka Monastery, Ounalom Monastery, and Keo Preahplaeng Monastery.

Samdech has received and taken a lot of advantages to learn and educate one another in one way or another. He received several Master degrees from several countries all over the world. He could also speak and write in fifteen different languages such as Cambodian, English, Sangscrit, French, Lao, Chinese, Boengkali, Burmese, German, Pali, Thai, Vietnamesse, Japanese, Hindi, and last but not least Korean.

In 1978, Buddhist Era 2520, when Cambodian was in a civil war Samdech was busy coordination with the United Nations and the United States of America with Peter Pond, King Phumipokn Adoknyadat and Princess Maha Chakrey Serindorn of Thailand to help Cambodian refugees in refugees’ camps located along Thai-borders.

Samdech is a founder of International religious Council for Peace to search for a formal that can be used to find out truth, peace, and happiness. Samdech got appointed as King of Buddhist monks by Khmer Buddhists monks and laymen, by Cambodian leaders, and by the Cambodian people, and was officially recognized by United Nations and the United States of America in 1988, Buddhist Era 2530.

Samdech got honored “Doctorate” from Providence college, State of Rhode Island for his intelligence, compassions, and great favor in rescuing all kinds of human beings and educating about truth, happiness, and peace regardless of their classes which took place during Buddhist Era 2531, in 1989. Samdech also preach to educate Cambodian leaders of all parties and simple people to stop hatred and killing each other violently but to follow path of morality, good manners, truth, humanity, development, intelligence, and law as mean to resolve and settle all kinds of problems in own society. (Peace Maker all around the World)

Samdech got appointed member of Supreme International Religious Council and went to take part in an extraordinary meetings to discuss about altering war using military weapons to war using psychological weapon, in Chicago City, State of Illinois, in 1993, B. E. 2535.

Samdech wrote an book named “Step by Step”, a guide leading to truth, happiness, and peace for all Cambodians as well as for other nations in the whole world if they all follow the eminent path or ideas. His famous saying in the book he wrote was “The suffering of Cambodian has been deep, from this Suffering come great Compassions, great Compassions makes a Peaceful Heart, a Peaceful Heart makes a Peaceful Person, a Peaceful Person makes a Peaceful Family, a Peaceful Family makes a Peaceful Community, a Peaceful Community makes a Peaceful Nation, a Peaceful Nation makes a Peaceful World, and may all Beings live in Happiness and Peace in Our Universe Forever.” This book “Step by Step” was published in 1993, Buddhist Era 2535 in many different languages.

Samdech has received nominee his first “Nobel Peace Prize” from Mr. Pell, Chairman of the House, senate of the United States of America in 1994, Buhhdist Era 2536. He also got elected as Supreme counselor of Community of Khmer Buddhist Monks Center, in the United States of America in 1994, Buddhist Era 2539-2544. He then received his second, third, forth, and fifth nominee “Nobel Peace Prize” in 1995, 1996, 1997, and 1998, Buddhist Era 2537, 2538, and 2539.

Samdech, heroic leader of Dhammaytra walks, to share paying his gratitude to his country, religion, monarch, and people, by doing his best to stop wars as well as to cause true happiness and real peace to our beloved homeland Cambodia. He sacrificed all of his physical and spiritual strength, including his intelligence and skills, to help his homeland and many leaders on International Arena.

Samdech Preah Mahaghosananda has led Khmer Buddhist Monks delegates, Preah monastic Supreme Sao Khon Dhammathero, Venerable Yem Nak, and preah Bhikkhu Pinn Mahamonirath Intapanyo to join a special meeting with leaders of world religions, invited by United Nations, which held about 500 religions in the world participating, held in the Conference Hall of the United Nations, New York City for four days, which costed 100 millions dollars.

Samdech got appointed to lead the second Dhammayatra in Cambodia, which started moving from Siemrab Province to Phnom Penh City. The Dhammayatra walk was interrupted many times by war between government troop and Khmer Rouge. One B-40 bomb was dropped about two meters from Samdech, but fortunately it didn’t exploded probably due to the power of his purely holy mind and power of the Triple Jewels. Dhammayatra takes total times of 7 years from 1992 to 1998, Buddhist Era 2534 to 2540. For 7 years, the Dhammayatra walk took a total distance of more than 1 million kilometers.

Sandwich also joined meeting with leaders of Sri Lanka in Colombo City, Sri Lanoka to discuss about solidarity and sociology in which each leader must have good intelligence and compassion toward their own people, and have moral power to bring forth development, truth, happiness, peace to their own nation and people in the entire Sri Langka which took place in 1994,

Buddhist Era 2536.

Samdech offered his preaching on television and in radio of Israel to educate youngsters there, to make themselves good descendants of their families and country as “Bamboo-Shot in place of Bamboo”. The Fivefold characteristics of good descendants of families are “To listen and follow up with good advice of parents physical, verbally, and spiritually”, second “Take effort in learning up to higher education for knowledge is the basic of one’s own value and his family value as well as all times”, third “To listen and follow up with lesson taught use them to cause value to own self, family, country, and making own-self”, forth “To use knowledge that own-self has got as means of causing value and reputation to his own family and teachers”, and last is “To have plans of making, maintaining, and protecting own family and own country as well as walking towards real development, intelligence, justice, physically and spiritually, so they can catch up with modern societies of human in the whole world.

Samdech is a top Khmer Monastic intellectual, who has multi-Doctor degrees. He got Doctor degree in Buddhism Philosophy from NALANDA University, India, Honor Doctor degree from Rhode Island College, Doctor degree from Preah Suramair College from Phnom Penh City; Kingdom of Cambodia. He traveled all around the world with Venerable Pinn Mahamonirath Intapanyo to join meetings with the International Peace Council in the state of Kentucky and Ohio and more. Samdech was a chairman of “Soul Memorial Ceremony”, for all Cambodian victims who passed away from 1975-2001; invited by Lady Doctor Roberson m an official of the Refugee Immigration Service Ministry of the United States of America.

Preah Samdech Mahaghosananda last breathe on this earth was located at Cooley Dickinson Hospital in North Hampton, Mass, third floor. In present there was Novice Rinh Kim, student of Master Venerable Pinn Mahamonirath Intapayno on March 13, 2007 at 8:15 a.m. with an announcement from his doctor.
Maha Ghosananda
Supreme Patriarch of Cambodian Buddhism
Spiritual Head of the International Network of Engaged Buddhists

By Netzwerk Engagierter Buddhisten
October 1997

Maha Ghosananda, 68, is a Supreme Patriarch of Cambodian Buddhism and a well-known Buddhist leader worldwide. In particular, he has played a major role in various nonviolent activities to promote reconciliation among the Cambodian people following the nation's civil strife, offering support to refugees and encouraging the rebuilding of the nation. His warm personality and great compassion have won him accolades as "Cambodia's Gandhi," "a Living Treasure," and "the Living Truth."

Cambodia achieved independence from French colonial rule in 1953. In 1970, a coup took place after which the monarchy was replaced by a pro-American democratic government, but there was no end to the internal strife, and in 1976, Pol Pot established Democratic Kampuchea. That government pursued extreme communist policies, moving people from urban centers to the countryside for forced labor. Those other than farmers were severely persecuted, and it is said that more than two million Cambodians, including the country's leading intellectuals, died of illness or starvation or were executed during the three years and eight months of the Pol Pot regime. Cambodian Buddhism was especially hard hit, with the country's 3,600 temples totally shut down, and many members of what had once been a 60,000-strong Buddhist clergy persecuted and slain. Only 3,000 names were listed again as members of the priesthood after the Pol Pot regime collapsed in 1979.

Maha Ghosananda is one of those few remaining Buddhist clergy. When civil war broke out in Cambodia he was in southern Thailand engaged in the discipline of meditation and escaped the worst of the turmoil. Regrettably, however, most of his family in Cambodia was slain by the Pol Pot forces. Confronted by the tragedy that was engulfing his country, Maha Ghosananda threw himself with vigor into the nonviolent peace movement, doing all he could for his fellow Cambodians. He established temples in all of the Cambodian refugee camps on the Cambodia-Thailand border, including Sakeo and Khao-ee-dang, and traveled from camp to camp to preach. The sight of Ghosananda in his saffron robes stirred the Cambodian refugees to tears. Their weeping is said to have echoed throughout the refugee camps.

After the signing of the 1991 peace accord, Maha Ghosananda led the first of the Dhammayietra Walks for Peace and Reconciliation in emulation of Shakyamuni, who led his disciples to places of strife and warfare while practicing meditation and preaching detachment from suffering and the way to peace. When a procession led by Maha Ghosananda passed through villages, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people are said to have followed it. Through these Walks, Maha Ghosananda became a bridge of peace, bringing together people who had been separated by war, and wiped away their fears with his call for peace. He has continued to promote nonviolent means, not only for peace, but also for solutions to a wide range of peace-threatening issues such as deforestation and the use of land mines.

Maha Ghosananda has had a profound influence upon movements for peace around the globe through his advisory role in such NGOs as the International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB), the Buddhist Peace Fellowship (BPF), and the Ponleu Khmer, the citizens' advisory council to the Cambodian Constitutional Assembly. He has been a leader in interreligious communication, as evidenced by his attendance at the sixth World Conference on Religion and Peace held in Italy in 1994.

Maha Ghosananda opens one of his many writings with the following verse:

The suffering of Cambodia has been deep.
From this suffering comes Great Compassion.
Great Compassion makes a Peaceful Heart.
A Peaceful Heart makes a Peaceful Person.
A Peaceful Person makes a Peaceful Family.
A Peaceful Family makes a Peaceful Community.
A Peaceful Community makes a Peaceful Nation.
And a Peaceful Nation makes a Peaceful World.
May all beings live in Happiness and Peace.

Maha Ghosananda offers his unlimited compassion to all people, whether friend or foe. In both spirit and deed, he has shown the way to a fundamental resolution of regional and ethnic strife around the world.
A Brief Biographical Sketch
of Samdech Preah Maha Ghosananda
"The Gandhi of Cambodia"

1929: Born in Takeo Province in south central Cambodia.

1943: Initiated into the Cambodian Buddhist Order.

1953: Entered Nalanda University in Bihar State, India.

  • Attended the Sixth Sangha Council of Buddhism (2500 BE) at Kaba Aye Pagoda in Rangoon, Burma, as member of the
  • Cambodian delegation under its former Sangha Raja, Chuon Nath.
1957: Studied with contemporary masters of Buddhism in Mahayana and Theravada traditions in Japan and Cambodia.

1969: Received doctoral degree from Nalanda University, title Maha Ghosananda bestowed. He also entered the hermitage of Thai meditation master Venerable Achaan Dhammadaro.

  • Met first influx of Cambodian refugees entering Sakeo camp following expulsion of Khmer Rouge regime from power.
  • Distributed tracts to the refugees, reminding them of the Buddha's words: "Hatred can never be appeased by hatred, hatred can only be appeased by love."
1978: Established temples in refugee camps on the Thai-Cambodia border.

  • Represented Khmer nation-in-exile as consultant to the UN Economic and Social Council.
  • Co-founded Inter-religious Mission for Peace. Launched ecumenical initiatives, world days of prayer for "Peace in Cambodia and the Whole World."
1981: Founded Buddhist temples in Cambodia and Cambodian resettlement communities in North America, Europe and Australia; currently oversees temples, establishes cultural and educational programs, sponsors meditations for peace, sponsors training programs for human rights advocacy and development of nonviolent conflict resolution.

1983: Met with His Holiness Pope John Paul II in Rome to discuss religious basis for world peace before planned meeting in Assisi.

1986: Invited by Pope to participate in Day of Prayer for Peace with world religious leaders in Assisi (now an annual event always attended by Maha Ghosananda).

  • Led contingents of Buddhist monks to U.N.-sponsored Cambodian peace negotiations, proposing a compromise and reminding national leaders that "Peace is our common goal."
  • Elected as Supreme Patriarch of Buddhism in Cambodia.
1989: Granted honoray doctorate of humanitarian service at Providence College, Providence, RI, USA.

  • Received the title Samdech Preah from King Sihanouk in Phnom Penh. Popularly known as Samdech Song Santipeap (the leaders of Religion for Peace) in Cambodia.
  • Led the First Dhammayietra-Walk for Peace and Reconciliation for one month through northern Cambodia just prior to full implementation of United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC).
  • "Step by Step: Meditations on Wisdom and Compassion" by Maha Ghosananda was published by Parallax Press, USA (since translated and published in Khmer, Thai, Spanish and Portuguese).
  • Awarded 1992 Rafto Foundation Prize for Human Rights, Bergen, Norway.
  • Led Second Dhammayietra through area of civil war before first Cambodian elections, encouraging citizens to overcome fear of political violence and intimidation and exerice their right to vote.
  • Named honorary leader of Ponleu Khmer, citizens' advisory council to the Cambodian Constitutional Assembly. Ponleu Khmer presents proposals for the protection of human rights and for nonviolent resolution of the continuing Cambodian conflict.
  • Invited to attend the Parliament of the World's Religions in Chicago.
  • Asked to bless the opening ceremony of the Interfaith Pilgrimage for Peace and Life at Auschwitz, Poland.
  • Led Third Dhammayietra through the most heavily war-torn western province of Cambodia. The walk was caught in crossfire between government and rebel forces and two peace walkers were killed. Proclaiming "this violence is indeed the reason we walk," Maha Ghosananda led the Dhammayietra to its completion.
  • Led contingent of highest-ranking monks to peace negotiations held under the auspices of King Sihanouk in Pyongyang, North Korea and to a second round of negotiations later in Phnom Penh.
  • Led interreligious delegation to peace negotiations in Colombo, Sri Lanka, to help seek an end to that country's long-standing civil war.
  • Nominated for 1994 Nobel Prize for Peace by US Senator Claiborne Pell, Chairman of US Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
  • Nominated for a second time by Sen. Pell and an anonymous Nobel laureate for the 1995 Nobel Prize for Peace.
  • January: Dedicated Disabled Persons' Center, Phnom Penh.
  • February: INEB conference, ashram, Nakhon, Nayok, Thailand.
  • March: International Women's Day, Phnom Penh/Battambang.
  • March: Buddhist Teachers' Meeting (Asian-Western) Dharamsala, India.
  • April: International Consultancy on Religion, Education and Culture, Atami, Japan.
  • International Consultancy on Religion, Education and Culture, Windsor Castle, UK.
  • May: Cambodian Engaged Buddhist Nuns and Laywomen, conference in Takmau.
  • May-June: Led Fourth Dhammayietra for Peace and Reconciliation in Cambodia, walking from the Thai border to the Vietnamese border. Continued calls for peace negotiations and educating public about the ongoing dangers from land mines and unexploded ordinance in Cambodia.
  • September: Preparatory meeting for a Peace Council, UK.
  • Led International Peace Day Ceremonies, during Cambodian Festival of the Dead, for a ban on land mines.
  • October : Attended UN Review Conference on the Convention on Conventional Weapons to present the suffering of ordinary people due to land mines and plea for a total ban on them.
  • Toured Italy at invitation of the Italian Campaign to Ban land mines.
  • November: Founding meeting of the Peace Council at Windsor castle, UK.
  • The Peace Council includes several Nobel laureates and high representatives of all major world religions.
  • Nominated for the Nobel Prize for Peace for third year in a row. Nominated in 1996 by American friends service Committee (1967 Nobel Prize recipients).
  • February: Led Ban Mines Week parade in Phnom Penh for a ban on land mines.
  • April: Attended UN Review Conference on Conventional Weapons, Geneva, to plea for a total ban on land mines.
  • May-June: Led the Fifth Dhammayietra for Peace and Reconciliation in Cambodia, focusing on deforestation and the link between the military, illegal logging and the on going civil war. Drew a link between healthy forests and the life of the Buddhist order. Members of Peace Council join the walk.
  • July: Invited to represent Theravada Buddhist lineage at Gethsemane Encounter, a Christian-Buddhist Monastic Dialogue at Gethsemane, Abbey, USA.
  • September: Met with opressed Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and Buddhist Sangha in Burma.
  • October: Delegates, State of the World Forum in San Francisco, California, USA November Met with Bishop Ruiz and members of Zapatistas in Chaipas, Mexico, as a member of the Peace Council.
  • December: Met with members of Khmer Rouge to arrange a route for the 1997 Walk for Peace and Reconciliation in Cambodia.
  • Patron of conference on Buddhism and Peace in Battambang, Cambodia, which was organized by Buddhism for Development group and was attended by representatives of different militant factions.
  • Nominated by a former Nobel laureate (anonymous) for the Nobel Prize for Peace for a fourth time.
  • March-April: Led the Sixth Dhammayietra through areas of Cambodia which were, until a few months before, under the total control of the Khmer Rouge. The people in the areas through which the walk passed witnessed the first freely organized event in their lives. Walk successfully concluded at the Angkor period ruins of Bantey Chammar.
  • May: Invited by His Holiness the Dalai Lama to co-lead an ecumenical service for Tibet at the national Cathedral in Washington, D.C.
  • June: As a Patron of the organization, he attended the International Network of Engaged Buddhists conference in Kanchanaburi province, Thailand, which brought together Buddhist social activists from throughout Asia and around the world.
  • Visited Halockhani refugee camp on the Burma-Thai border at the invitation of the New Monk Relief Committee.
  • August: After the coup d'etat in July he led the first mass event calling for an end to the use of violence in Cambodian power struggles.
  • In Sri Lanka, where he received an award for peacemaking from the Sarvodaya organization.
READ MORE - Third Year Maha Ghosananda Celebration

Mu Sochua: anticipating jail

Mu Sochua in Geneva, Switzerland. (William Dowell/GlobalPost)

The Cambodian activist and politician sees a jail sentence as the next step in her struggle.

March 6, 2010
By William Dowell

GENEVA, Switzerland — Mu Sochua, one of the more impressive speakers at “Courage to Lead,” a recent gathering here of more than 40 women involved in human rights, is not a woman to be taken lightly.

After spending the last 20 years fighting for women's rights and against both human trafficking and general corruption in Cambodia, the deputy in Cambodia's leading opposition party has embroiled herself in a head-on clash with the country's perennial Prime Minister Hun Sen. The spat now seems likely to land her in jail.

At a superficial glance, the furor seems slightly silly. It began last spring when local tensions began to mount after Cambodian army soldiers burned several villages in an apparent land grab.

The army was not exactly popular in Mu Sochua's district, which includes Kampot, about two hours drive south of Phnom Penh. When Mu Sochua protested against a Cambodian army officer using official government vehicles during a political campaign, a scuffle ensued and Mu Sochua's blouse was accidentally ripped open. Hun Sen mentioned the incident in a speech, casually dismissing Mu Sochua as a hustler, who liked to expose herself and had a tendency to grab at men.

Mu Sochua has also accused the prime minister of calling her "cheung klang," which means "strong legs," in Khmer and is considered an insult.

If Hun Sen expected Mu Sochua to roll over, he was wrong. Mu Sochua promptly sued him for defamation in a Phnom Penh municipal court, demanding 500 Cambodian rials, or roughly 12 cents in damages along with an apology. Instead of apologizing, Hun Sen, who likes to go by the rather ungainly honorific “Samdach Akkak Moha Sena Padey Dekjo” promptly countersued.

Not surprisingly Mu Sochua's case was thrown out of court, while Hun Sen's stuck. Repeating his earlier slurs, Hun Sen went on to challenge Mu Sochua to take her case to international courts if she wanted, and to see how far that was likely to get her. Mu Sochua's parliamentary immunity was stripped away. An appeals court confirmed a lower court's verdict against her for libel, and the case is now headed for the Cambodia's Supreme Court, which Mu Sochua also expects to rule in favor of the “Samdach.” The penalty for losing the suit is a fine of roughly $4,100, but Mu Sochua refuses to pay it, and insists that she will go to jail for six months instead.

It may all seem like much ado about not very much, but Mu Sochua insists that there is a lot more at stake. Hun Sen, who was propelled into his current position after Vietnam ousted Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge in 1979, has held onto power ever since by making sure that his party hand picks Cambodia's 13,000 village chiefs.

“This nation has to be built on the rule of law and not just one man,” says Mu Sochua. “These people are afraid of democracy. The way they maintain control is by not allowing the people to elect their village chiefs. The Cambodian people live in fear of the village chiefs. At the same time the country has opened itself up to a market economy, which brings in a lot of money that is not managed well, which is why there is so much corruption.”

Hun Sen, who at 57 shows no signs of planning an early retirement, has plenty of reason for wanting to take on Mu Sochua's party. In November 2009, he had Sam Rainsy, who leads the opposition, stripped of parliamentary immunity for the second time that year because Sam Rainsy had removed several posts marking the border with Vietnam. Rainsy contends that the Vietnamese, who were responsible for Hun Sen's rise to power in Cambodia, have been engaged in a land grab for themselves based on questionable treaty arrangements.

Mu Sochua insists that her spat focuses on Hun Sen's vulgar use of language and the corruption of Cambodia's legal system. “What is at stake,” she said, “is democracy. The space for democracy is narrowed by the power of the ruling party, and mainly by the power of Hun Sen, who has his hands in every institution, including the parliament and the courts. He didn't just insult me as a woman. He insulted the parliament as an institution. I am actually taking the justice system itself to court.”

The story gets a bit more complicated since Mu Sochua received a 2005 leadership award from the Vital Voices Global Partnership, a Washington, D.C.-based foundation.

“This is also a challenge for the international community,” Mu Sochua says. “They invest $1 billion a year in Cambodia, but they never fulfilled their responsibilities by making it a condition that the government fulfills its obligations towards human rights.” Hillary Clinton delivered a brief address via satellite at the end of the Geneva meeting, but it was not clear what her take as Secretary of State would be on Mu Sochua's case.

Even more potentially troublesome for Hun Sen is the fact that Mu Sochua, who earned a Bachelor of Arts in psychology at San Francisco State University and a masters in Social Work at the University of California, Berkely, is married to an American who runs a major project on decentralization for the United Nations in Cambodia. “My husband is completely separate from my political life,” she explains. Her three children now live abroad, but both her husband and children are emotionally supportive. “I told my family that I am going to jail. Please don't talk me out of it. It has come to that point, Mom is going to jail,” she says. “It gives me peace in heart.” Whether it gives Hun Sen or his supporters peace of mind is another matter.
READ MORE - Mu Sochua: anticipating jail

Is the Foreigners’ Imposition on Cambodians to Stop Using the Word Yuon a Form of Colonialism of the Mind? By Kenneth T. So

Dear Readers,

I assume by now most of you have read the article “Yuon: What’s in a Xenonym?” that was posted in the Phnom Penh Post (PPP) on February 8, 2010. Since then, there were some comments made on the article, specifically those made by Mr. Peter Starr ( and Mr. Michael Hansen (

After reading the two comments I decided to respond to them by sending my letter to the PPP on February 14, 2010. Until this day I have not heard anything from the PPP, not even an acknowledgment saying that they have received my letter. I know that the PPP cannot please all its readers and in general it has done a fair and decent job in its reporting. However, I think the PPP made a mistake in its judgment for not publishing my rebuttal letter. In spite of this, I still consider the PPP to be a good newspaper because it has not only enriched our Khmer culture but also opened up our society to the rest of the world. However, in order to be a great newspaper it must not only fix its mistake whenever there is one, but it must also learn from it.
I believe the reason the PPP refused to publish my letter because the insights and statements I brought up in the letter hit the nail right in the head and they were too close to foreigners’ feeling towards Khmers for the PPP to feel comfortable. Below please find my letter that the PPP refused to publish.

Is the Foreigners’ Imposition on Cambodians to Stop Using the Word Yuon a Form of Colonialism of the Mind?
By Kenneth T. So

Dear Sir:
February 14, 2010

This article is in response to all Westerners and/or foreigners who keep on insisting that the word Yuon is a pejorative and/or racist word. I was hoping the article that Dr. Sophal Ear and I wrote (Yuon: What’s in a xenonym?) would clarify any misunderstanding concerning this word, but some comments I read in your newspaper still leave me somewhat uneasy.

I appreciate the comments that Westerners and/or foreigners made in your newspaper very much and furthermore, I understand that they are constructive ones. In light of that, I still need to make the following points to defend our usage of the word Yuon when we speak or write in Cambodian. Personally, I do not support people using the word Yuon when expressing it in the English or French languages, but I do respect their freedom of choice.

Respectfully, I would like to specifically respond to Mr. Peter Starr in his article “Yuon may be neutral, but it’s not diplomatic” (Phnom Penh Post, 10 February 2010) and Mr. Michael Hansen in his article “Is the use of the term yuon constructive?” (Phnom Penh Post, 11 February 2010).

The story that Mr. Starr told about the Sino-Vietnamese Cambodian cook called Samlor Machou Yuon in the kitchen, but had to switch to calling it Samlor Machou Vietnam when he (she) brought it to the guest was very poignant to me. Mr. Starr said that the cook switched the name out of courtesy to the guests. I assume that the guests were mostly Caucasians. This is where Mr. Starr and I differ in opinion and understanding of Khmer culture. From my point of view, the cook did not do it for courtesy but rather for fear of being branded a racist by white foreigners. To me, this is a form of colonialism of the mind.

Additionally, if the word Yuon is pejorative or racist why would we honor the Vietnamese with the name of a dish that we love and consider as one of our national dishes? In my opinion, it is incorrect to call the soup Samlor Machou Vietnam (or Yuon) because this national dish does not taste or resemble the Vietnamese soup Canh Chua, which is sweeter and includes bean sprouts. I feel it is more appropriate to call this soup Samlor Machou Péngpoas.

When Mr. Starr mentioned that it was not statesmanlike for a member of a parliament to use the word Yuon (I assume the member of the parliament was speaking in Khmer and not in English or French), the only existing Khmer word to designate a Vietnamese, I also call this a form of colonialism of the mind.

Mr. Hansen explained his objection on the usage of the word Yuon by saying that the language changed over time, or that the context in which the word was used must be considered, or that one must listen to the tone of the voice carefully. Mr. Hansen is correct. This is true in any language and/or words one used. Replacing the word Yuon with Choun Cheat Vietnam (National of Vietnam) will not make any difference if one is loud, vulgar, and abusive.
Allow me to ask the following questions to Westerners and/or foreigners who think that the word Yuon is either pejorative or/and racist in nature.

Is it racist to say Lauk Neung Yuon (A respectful way of saying “He is a Vietnamese”)?
Is it racist to say Neang Srey Yuon Neung Sa’art Nas (That Vietnamese lady is beautiful)?

Is it racist to say Yuon Klas Chit La’or (Some Vietnameses have good hearts)?
As I have explained earlier, Yuon is a xenonym and is not a racist or pejorative word. Why is it alright for Westerners and/or foreigners to tell Cambodians to stop using this word, but they would not dare telling the Americans or the British to stop using the word German (and the French to stop using the word Allemand) and replace it with the word Deutsch instead? Is this the case of a double-standard because Cambodia is a small and defenseless country? Isn’t this the case of colonialism of the mind? Why won’t Westerners and/or foreigners also criticize the Thai for using the same word Yuon to call the Vietnamese? Isn’t it that they cannot harass the Thai like they can easily do it to the Cambodians? Yes, I call this a form of colonialism of the mind.

Colonialism does not just pertain to a powerful country occupying and ruling a smaller and defenseless country, but it also includes the rules and moralities that a powerful country imposes and dictates on a smaller and weaker country.
READ MORE - Is the Foreigners’ Imposition on Cambodians to Stop Using the Word Yuon a Form of Colonialism of the Mind? By Kenneth T. So

Watchdog slams Cambodia's military funding plan

Agence France-Presse

PHNOM PENH – A corruption watchdog on Saturday condemned a Cambodian government plan to use private businesses to sponsor the country's military units.

London-based Global Witness said the plan announced by Cambodian premier Hun Sen last week, in which 42 private businesses will partner with individual military units, "threatens to undermine the legitimacy of international aid".

"This fire-sale of military units represents an appalling breach of governance standards and threatens to undermine the country's future stability," said Global Witness campaigns director Gavin Hayman.

The group called on international donors to denounce the scheme, saying it would undermine aid from the US, EU, Japan, China and others.

"Donors should send a firm and decisive message that Cambodia's military exists to protect the people, not the financial assets of a privileged few," Hayman said.

International donors pledged nearly $1 billion in development aid to Cambodia for 2009, and the US spent more than $1 million on Cambodian military financing and training last year.

The strongly-worded statement by Global Witness, which also accused Cambodia's military of being "a vast organized crime network", called the government plan "tantamount to sanctioning a mercenary force".

"It is unacceptable for private companies to be financing a military renowned for its corruption and involvement in illegal activities and human rights abuses," said the statement.

Cambodian cabinet spokesman Phay Siphan denied Global Witness accusations that there was graft among the country's armed forces.

"The watchdog doesn't know the culture of sharing among Cambodians... The donation is an issue of humanitarianism, there is no mixing between the private sector and the military," Phay Siphan told AFP.

The Cambodian government has banned past reports by Global Witness, which accused donors of ignoring graft among elites, who have allegedly been involved in illegal logging as well as shady oil and mining deals.
READ MORE - Watchdog slams Cambodia's military funding plan

Hope remains for ailing Cambodian toddler [-Let's hope Socheat will be able to get her much needed surgery!]

3-year-old Socheat at her arrival in the US (Photo: Long Beach Press Telegram)

By Greg Mellen, Staff Writer
Long Beach Press Telegram

LONG BEACH - Unwilling to give up just yet on the future of a young patient, representatives from a local nonprofit are hoping a period of rest and recuperation will make the young girl healthy enough for surgery.

Four days after Socheat Nha, brought to the United States for life-altering heart surgery, was turned away from a Las Vegas Hospital over fears she would not survive the operation, the 3-year-old was seen by the cardiologist in San Diego who initially examined the girl in Cambodia.

Dr. Paul Grossfeld from Rady Children's Hospital examined Nha for the first time since he saw her in Siem Reap.

In an e-mail, Grossfeld described what he learned. "We performed an echocardiogram today, and found that although, as expected, the cardiac anatomy was exactly the same as what we saw three months ago in Cambodia, there has been a dramatic change in her physiology. We found today evidence that the pressures in her lung arteries have increased significantly from the time I evaluated her in December in Cambodia."

Socheat suffered a bout with pneumonia and other respiratory ailments since then which have affected her lungs. What the future holds is uncertain.

"Because of this unexpected change, her prognosis is guarded. Right now she would not be a good candidate for surgery, which could do more harm than good. Time will determine whether her current condition is reversible," Grossfeld wrote. "We are hoping that the elevated pressures in her lung arteries will return to the lower levels that we saw in December."

Socheat will return to be examined again in a month-and-a-half, when she will be re-evaluated.

Peter Chhun, founder of nonprofit Hearts Without Boundaries, was clinging to the hope that the girl will recover enough for surgery to be successful.

Socheat suffers from a congenital heart defect that has left her with two holes in her heart. The condition causes high pressure in her lungs from oxygenated blood flowing back into the lungs rather than to the rest of the body. The long-term effect of the ailment is shortened life expectancy and increasing fatigue, breathing difficulty and cyanosis, or turning blue.

Socheat, the daughter of a rice farmer in Southern Cambodia, is the third child Hearts Without Boundaries brought to the U.S. for open heart surgery not readily available in their home country.

The first two, Davik Teng, now 11, and Soksamnang Vy, 1, had successful surgeries and are living normal, active lives., 562-499-1291
READ MORE - Hope remains for ailing Cambodian toddler [-Let's hope Socheat will be able to get her much needed surgery!]

Angkor: How can a UNESCO site keep tourist temple raiders in check?

Image credit: Angkor Wat (Workbook Stock/Thomas Kokta/Getty Images)

Fri Mar 5, 2010
By Sarah Dowdey
Discovery News

It only takes a quick Google image search to understand why Angkor, the Khmer empire's ancient seat, makes plenty of "must-see" travel lists. Its ruined temple complexes pop out through the forests, and its sprawling reservoirs offer a testament to the city's impressive engineering.

When I podcasted on Angkor a while back, my co-host and I talked a bit about the possible role of environmental degradation in the city's downfall. Deforestation may have caused silting, something that could damage the complex waterworks that kept the city running so efficiently.

Another hypothesis, this one from National Geographic's Richard Stone, centers more on plain old environmental bad luck: an El Niño cycle beginning exactly when the delicate water management system was showing its age. Deprived of the mechanical wizardry that kept dramatic seasonal changes in check, the city may not have been equipped to face a long dry period.

But since Angkor's fall could have had as much to do with war, religion or rivalry among feuding Khmer royal offspring, I'll focus here on the present-day site's environmental woes. The ruined complex, situated near Siem Reap, has been one of Cambodia's tourist cornerstones since the country opened as a safe destination after years of war and internal strife.

And while Angkor has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1992, and spent 12 years on the group's "threatened" list, such a designation requires some trade-offs. With international protection comes international exposure and a flood of new visitors. According to the non-governmental organization Heritage Watch, Angkor saw 7600 visitors in 1993; by 2006, the number was 1.6 million; by the time 2010 is up, the complex will likely draw 3 million. Tourists of course bring in money for the developing country, as well as help assure a certain degree of protection for cultural sites. But they also walk everywhere. They touch things. They require hotels, resorts and transportation. The development of Siem Reap may even be sucking Angkor dry, drawing out its groundwater and weakening the temples' foundations.

Fortunately, groups like Heritage Watch are advocating for a more sustainable type of tourism. Working with the Cambodian government, they've started a "heritage friendly tourism campaign" to save antiquities, discourage looters and encourage visitors to fan out, spread their wealth and take a little heat off of Angkor.
READ MORE - Angkor: How can a UNESCO site keep tourist temple raiders in check?