Shaolin Soccer – kung fu monks take on brewery

At 5.30pm on Sunday, just a few hours before the World Cup final, eleven teenage Shaolin monks took to a field in the central Chinese city of Zhengzhou, Henan province, for their first-ever football match.

Dressed in yellow robes, white trainers and with black strapping holding their long socks up, the monks took on a (pub?) team organised by the Tsingtao brewery.

Credit: Xinhua

Credit: Xinhua

“The boys, who are training in kung fu, came up with the idea of setting up a team,” said Feng Weifeng, a spokesman for the Shaolin Temple’s Tagou Martial Arts School. “They are all mad about football. They have been watching the World Cup in their dorms every night. They all have their own team, and they tend to like Brazil and Argentina. Messi is their favourite,” he added.

Knowledge of the game, however, was limited. “Some of them had never touched a football before, and they kept using their hands,” said Mr Feng.

On the pitch, however, the athletic monks were a blur, entertaining the crowd with an array of flips, somersault and overhead kicks.

They were such a blur, in fact that no one is quite sure who won the match. According to Tsingtao, they triumphed by a modest 15 goals to 8. The Shaolin Temple, meanwhile, feels that it won 10 to 8. “It was hard to say,” said one commentator. “Most of the goals from both sides were offside.”

Unlike Holland, the monks did not rack up any yellow or red cards. Not because they did not foul, but because the referee did not have any cards. “Offsides, corner kicks, fouls and handballs were all overlooked,” reported one newspaper in Henan.

Anyone who has watched Shaolin Soccer, the film by Steven Chow which imagines a possible union between kung fu and football will be entertained to know that Wang Pengyu, the Shaolin goalie, managed to puncture a new ball by kicking it too hard.

“The ball did not fly through the air, but stuck on the end of the keeper’s toe,” said the newspaper. “They have Shaolin Kung Fu and strong legs,” remarked one fan.

“We have no plans for another match yet,” said Mr Feng. “The students are very busy and we are just having fun, not playing for a crowd”.

Building With Sticks and Stones

Randy Harris for The New York Times

The sculptor Patrick Dougherty’s home in North Carolina.

PATRICK DOUGHERTY, a sculptor who weaves tree saplings into whirling, animated shapes that resemble tumbleweeds or gusts of wind, likes to say that his first artwork was his house. Built from old barn timber, fallen trees and rocks he dug from the ground here, this rangy log villa started off as a one-room cabin, and is his only permanent work (most of his installations break down after a year or two in the wild).

He was 28, and in the Air Force, working in hospital and health administration, when he bought this 10-acre “farmette,” as he put it, for $10,000. “I had decided I was kind of a log-cabin frontier person,” said Mr. Dougherty, who is now 65, and an ebullient and rapid speaker whose sentences unfurl and coil around one another like vines. “My dream was to build a house. I didn’t realize my real dream, my sub-current, was to become a sculptor.”

At the time, he was also a house-husband, he said, with a young son and a daughter, and was working his way alone through the building process. Fired up by the Foxfire books, the how-to guides for the ’70s-era back-to-the-land movement, he would pore over the pages, practicing dovetails until he was pitch-perfect.

“I didn’t know much about building, and I was intimidated by people that did,” he said. “Also, I wanted to face the problems myself. It was a passage, finding my way through a house and into a life. It was a real quest.”

At 36, he went back to school, straight into the graduate art program at the University of North Carolina, 10 minutes away. His first stick work, a man-size tangle of saplings made on a picnic table at home, startled his professors, he said. They thought “it was too complete for someone who’d been blundering around in the netherworld.”

Since then, he has made well over 200 startling (and delightful) pieces for sites all over the world — woolly lairs and wild follies, gigantic snares, nests and cocoons, some woven into groves of trees, others lashed around buildings. And in August, he was invited by the Brooklyn Botanic Garden to make a piece for its centennial: you’ll find “Natural History,” five winsome wind-blown pods that Mr. Dougherty described as “lairs for feral children or wayward adults,” near the Magnolia Plaza there.

Thirty-eight of these works are collected in “Stickwork,” a monograph-memoir, published last month by Princeton Architectural Press. It’s full of installation tales, like the time he camped in a Japanese temple while working on a piece and was warned by his host about the poisonous but sacred snakes that lurked there. “Don’t kill them,” Mr. Dougherty recalled the host saying. “If one bites you, call my wife and she will take you to the hospital.”

Mr. Dougherty is a very good storyteller. And there is always a story, because each piece takes at least three weeks to make, blooms before a rapt and sometimes fractious audience, and depends on the efforts of a fresh team of volunteers new to stickwork, over which Mr. Dougherty presides like an enthusiastic Outward Bound leader.

“It’s a problem-solving event, and problems arise every day,” he said. “You have to be flexible. I like working with sticks, but it’s really an excuse to have these experiences. One is to be bad and play out some kind of stick thing in a public place, like pulling your pants down, and another is this huge outpouring from people who don’t know you and walk up to you and say, ‘What is this?’ ”

The book chronicles Mr. Dougherty’s stunning output of nine works a year, every year. What it doesn’t reveal are the ways in which Mr. Dougherty and his family cope with his unrelenting schedule, and how a simple house can be a staging ground for a career.

“The cabin is pretty self-sufficient,” he said (taxes are $1,100 a year). “It has stood by me, been my cohort. There’s no rent to pay, and it’s been a good place to come home and store my stuff. It’s also a place to work ideas out. It became central to my imagining my life as a sculptor.”

Certainly the log house is as compelling and artful as one of his sculptures. Ceilings are veneered with sticks laid out in a herringbone pattern. A deer fence is like tough woodland lace. There is a small herd of outbuildings, the sides of which are layered with Mr. Dougherty’s experiments in cladding; one of them looks as if it’s lined with feathers.

Rolfing, Excruciatingly Helpful

Rolfing, Excruciatingly Helpful

Piotr Redlinski for The New York Times

Rey Allen tries to get a body in alignment.

A FORMER dancer of 14 years, Anna Zahn is in touch with her body. To gain more flexibility, and to counteract some of the strain from dancing, she has tried a number of remedies: Reiki,

Piotr Redlinski for The New York Times

Anna Zahn, 20, a former dancer, receives a Rolfing treatment.

But she still felt tight, her body tense. So she started getting Rolfed — a kind of deep-tissue bodywork that can be so intense that some jokingly liken it to masochism.

“It’s not going to massage and lighting aromatherapy candles,” said Ms. Zahn, a 20-year-old student at New York University, who gets a Rolfing treatment every week or so. “It’s tough to go to these sessions. It’s painful, very painful, emotionally and physically. But you feel such a relief when you leave that it’s just the most amazing feeling.”

Others are feeling it, too. Popular in the 1970s, Rolfing once evoked hairy-chested, New Age types seeking alternative therapies — perhaps most famously spoofed in the 1977 football movie “Semi-Tough,” starring Burt Reynolds and Kris Kristofferson.

But today, Rolfing is experiencing something of a resurgence, especially among younger city dwellers for whom the novelty of yoga has worn off, and who are now seeking more intense ways to relieve the stresses of modern life.

“Back in the day, Rolfing’s growth was word of mouth,” said Rey Allen, a Rolfing practitioner in lower Manhattan, who has noticed an increase in its popularity. He attributes the rise partly to the Internet, which has introduced the treatment to a new generation.

“Over half of my clientele are in their 20s,” he added. “Since I opened my practice in the city a few years ago, the average age of my clientele has always been 35. But that has drastically changed since the summer.”

Could Rolfing be one Madonna endorsement away from becoming the next Pilates?

Rolfing is named after its creator, Ida Rolf, a biochemist from New York City who studied alternative methods of bodywork and healing beginning in the 1920s. She died in 1979 at the age of 82.

Dr. Rolf developed a theory that the body’s aches and pains arose from basic imbalances in posture and alignment, which were created and reinforced over time by gravity and learned responses among muscles and fascia — the sheath-like connective tissue that surrounds and binds muscles together. Rolfing developed as a way to “restructure” muscles and fascia.

The focus on manipulating fascia is part of what distinguishes it from chiropractics, which deals with bones, and from therapeutic massages, which works on muscles.

That also explains why Rolfing has a reputation for being aggressive, even painful at times. Fascia is stubborn material, particularly if it is marked by knots and scar tissue. Rolfers gouge with knuckles and knead with fists, contort limbs and lean into elbows to loosen tendons and ligaments. Patients, meanwhile, need the fortitude to relax and take it during the hourlong sessions.

Russell Poses, a 39-year-old international equities trader on Wall Street, who started getting Rolfing treatments after injuring his back, likened the experience to “paying $150 an hour for an Indian burn.” But the benefits, as far as he’s concerned, are well worth it. Chiropractors and years of physical therapy couldn’t accomplish what two or three Rolfing sessions did, he said.

Plus, he said he could still feel the results two weeks later. “It’s something that actually lasts,” he said.

It is hard to find reliable statistics on the prevalence of Rolfing. But the Rolf Institute of Structural Integration, which was founded by Dr. Rolf in 1971 to educate and certify practioners, says it has noticed a rise in student enrollments at its Boulder, Colo., headquarters.

Kevin McCoy, a faculty member at the institute with a practice in Milwaukee, said he had seen annual class sizes swell to 100 from 75 students in recent years. In the mid-1980s, he said, the school graduated fewer than 50 a year. Despite the bad economy, he said, “our numbers have been maintaining or growing.”

An endorsement in 2007 on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” by the cardiac surgeon Dr. Mehmet Oz certainly didn’t hurt. Now the host of the syndicated daytime program “The Dr. Oz Show,” he says he sees the growing popularity of Rolfing as “a general perception by the public that taking medications for discomfort is not giving you the panacea benefits that you would desire.”

In that regard, he said he viewed the treatment as an extension of practices like yoga, which also offers relief without drugs. “Yoga is in many ways analogous to Rolfing because it takes tendons and it stretches them into a position of discomfort,” Dr. Oz said. “They’re just doing it for you without your doing it yourself.”

Rolfing practitioners say they have also noticed a shift that may explain why younger clients are seeking out their services. It’s not just to treat injuries, but also stress. “Health is one area where we can find a sense of control,” said Mr. Allen, who has been practicing for about nine years. “The real trend is that people are starting to look within the boundaries of their own skin for meaning in their lives, and to find a sense of security in the world.”

As with other holistic practices, Rolfing seems to leave the door open for a certain mysticism. Even those who have little use for New Age-type practices like meditation can verge on the metaphysical when discussing Rolfing.

Beau Buffier, a 35-year-old partner at a corporate law firm in New York, says he started Rolfing treatments after he injured his neck and shoulder in a fall. Despite three M.R.I.’s, surgery, physical therapy, a chiropractor, acupuncture and deep massage, the pain remained. Stress from his high-stakes job didn’t help.

But somehow Rolfing did the trick. “It’s dealing with the physical manifestations of something that’s kind of emotional or spiritual,” Mr. Buffier said.

He has since gotten in touch with his body in other ways. He began exercising more and eating better. He lost 20 pounds. His blood pressure dropped. “It’s almost as if your body locks up emotions,” he said.

Floodwaters Give New Life to Pakistani Class Dispute

Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

A small community of fishermen displaced by flooding is living along an embankment near Nowshera in Pakistan’s northwest.

THATTA, Pakistan — Despite being flooded out of their homes and forced to camp on embankments, there is one community that is happy about Pakistan’s worst floods in living memory. They are the fishermen of the Indus River delta, whose livelihoods have diminished over the years from a lack of water, and who welcome the sudden abundance.

The New York Times

“It is a blessing,” said Yar Ali Mallah, 21, who comes from a long line of fishermen living in the delta, at the southern end of Pakistan. “When good water comes, our livelihoods will improve, fish will come,” he said.

Yet even as the fishermen rejoice at the floodwaters, other, more powerful figures are calling for more dams and irrigation projects upstream to contain the water flow and prevent such wide-scale destruction in the future. The “superflood” has reopened longstanding disputes over water management all along the Indus River, which runs the length of Pakistan, and many of the poorer victims fear that they will once again be ignored in favor of rich and powerful interests.

Pakistan’s government will have to grapple not only with the needs of millions of people who suddenly lost homes, crops and livelihoods, but also with the explosive political repercussions over water distribution and how to spend reconstruction assistance fairly.

“Unless there is a radical break from the past, new measures are likely to favor large World Bank-funded projects that sequester still more of the resources of this river into the hands of the powerful, rather than focusing on the long-term survival of marginalized communities such as delta fisherpeople or smallholders in the upper reaches of the valley,” Alice Albinia, author of a book on the Indus, “Empires of the Indus,” wrote in an e-mailed reply to questions.

The damage done to the Indus delta by nearly 100 years of extensive irrigation upstream — perhaps the largest in the world — is well documented. It has made Pakistan a food and cotton exporter and helped enrich landowners the length of the river. But so much water is used up that the Indus, one of Asia’s greatest rivers, runs virtually dry before reaching the delta, where the river empties into the Arabian Sea.

The lack of river water has allowed sea water to inundate some two million acres of the delta, destroying once fertile paddy fields and killing off coastal mangroves, which are the natural breeding ground for fish, say leaders of the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, a nongovernmental organization that works to support the rights of the fishermen communities.

Floodwaters, with their nutrient-rich silt deposits, are critical to the survival of life on the delta and of fish stocks, said Gulab Shah, a social worker and district president of the Fisherfolk Forum in Thatta.

“The River Indus has so many canals, dams and barrages that water does not come into the river, and because of the shortage of fresh water, the fish catch has gradually decreased,” he said.

The fishermen say their fathers and grandfathers recall netting far larger catches in their day. The famous Palla fish, a saltwater fish and delicacy here in Sindh Province that would swim up the Indus to breed, has not been seen for years, said Allah Dino, 30, another fisherman.

The fishermen live a precarious life in wooden shacks on islands in the river delta and fish in the small freshwater lakes created by the meandering river. A group camped on an embankment just outside Thatta, a river town about 70 miles east of the southern port of Karachi, said that over the last 40 years they lost their homes four times because of floods and once because of a cyclone. Each time they rebuilt their houses without any help from the government, and will do so again, they said.

They are more concerned about better regulation of the river that would allow the natural flood cycle to replenish the delta, they said. “The permanent solution is continuous water in the Indus and for it to flow into the sea,” said Mr. Mallah, the fisherman who welcomed the floodwaters. Yet they have powerful competitors for the water upstream who say the floods show that Pakistan must build more dams to collect the monsoon rains and produce more badly needed electricity.

The Nation, a Punjab Province-based daily newspaper, began a campaign this month for one of the most controversial dam projects, the Kalabagh dam, which is opposed by communities in the northwest of Pakistan whose land would be flooded, and also in this southern province, where people fear it would cause even greater water shortages in the delta.

The case for the Kalabagh dam has long been deadlocked by fierce disagreements between Pakistan’s four provinces, and in particular by the most powerful and populous province, Punjab, against the other three — Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Baluchistan and Sindh — which complain they have always been shortchanged in the decisions over natural resources.

Even the military dictator Gen. Pervez Musharraf failed to push the project through during his nine years in power because of resistance in the provinces. The governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, a strong advocate of the dam who has done a study on the issue, said it was necessary to meet pressing electricity and water demands of Pakistan’s growing middle class. Pakistan does not have a dam to catch the heavy monsoon rains, and if Kalabagh had been built it would have prevented the recent flood damage in northwestern Pakistan, he contended.

Yet the people of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, formerly called the North-West Frontier Province, who have long opposed the dam because it would deluge their lands, said the floods had proved their long-held position that towns like Nowshera, which suffered badly in the flooding, would be harmed more by a dam below the town at Kalabagh.

In Sindh, the fishermen, and also many farmers, oppose plans for more dams and irrigation projects on the Indus, and advocate turning to coal power rather than hydropower for Pakistan’s electricity needs, Mr. Shah, the Fisherfolk Forum representative, said.

For the fishermen, it is simple. “We want to continue our fishing,” Mr. Mallah said. “It is our ancestral profession.”

Khmer Poem

Many people express their feeling by composing the poem. Like this poem is very nice. I hope we can have more on the internet.

French Newspaper Bids Readers Adieu

Cambodian child vendors sell newspapers to a car driver at a retail gaz station in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

“Cambodge Soir never earned an income over 15 years. Due to the small market, the weekly printing of 1,500 copies cannot balance against expenses.”

Cambodge Soir, which had been a unique voice and source of news in French for 15 years, closed its doors last week. Staff members packed up their offices, with some equipment expected to go to auction, as revenue and readers for the paper fell.

“Cambodge Soir never earned an income over 15 years,” said Pen Bona, co-editor-in-chief, at the paper's offices last week. “Due to the small market, the weekly printing of 1,500 copies cannot balance against expenses.”

Gerome Moriniere, director of the newspaper, said only about 1,000 of 4,000 French residents in Cambodia read the paper, which cost about $40,000 per month to run and brought in about $15,000 per month in revenue.

“The sales did not work,” Peou Sothy, who was in charge of administration at the weekly, said. “Subscriptions went down from 50 copies, to 20 or 10, and the revenue was also down.”

Cambodge Soir began as a thrice-weekly paper in May 1995, and within two years it had gone daily. But it saw a dramatic revolt of reporters after a French journalist was fired in 2007 following his reporting on the environmental watchdog Global Witness and the timber trade.

Over the years, six reporters earned awards from the US Embassy, the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank and Reporters Without Borders.

“I regret this,” said Adrien Le Gal, deputy editor-in-chief. “I arrived in Cambodia and was recruited to cover the legislative election in 2008, and after that I followed the [Khmer Rouge tribunal] hearing of Duch.”

In the two and a half years he spent at the paper, Le Gal said, he experienced “great professionalism in Cambodia” and learned “how to improve myself in the organization and in the functioning of a dual-nationality group.”

With the closing of the paper, staff members and reporters began to seek out new work.

“I'm searching for the same job with other media,” said Nhim Sophal, who reported for 12 years at Cambodge Soir.

The paper had stayed afloat with the support of the International Organization of Francophones, the French Embassy and subscriptions. Le Gal said that despite the support, there were “less and less” French speakers in Cambodia, which led to its decline.

Information Minister Khieu Kanharith, however, said the paper suffered from weak marketing and a lack of cooperation from the French business community.

“It is very regrettable,” he said. “Cambodge Soir was one of the newspapers that the prime minister has congratulated, but even the Total company, which has billions of dollars, did not post advertisements in it, although they did in the English-language newspapers. There are French hotel owners, but they did not subscribe. This means that to keep a newspaper alive, they must have good skills in marketing.”

Mu Sochua, a National Assembly lawmaker for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, expressed regret for the loss of a “professional and independent” newspaper.

Martin Daubard, charge d'affaires for the French Embassy, said the ambassador too regretted the closure.

“The death of a newspaper is still to be deplored in all countries of the world and all languages since the press is often the largest organ of and most direct expression of democracy,” he said.

US Official Says Cambodia Must Repay a Debt Portion

Photo: By Men Kimseng, VOA KhmerJoseph Yun, deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asia and Pacific Affairs.

“We have communicated to the Cambodian government that if it makes scheduled payments for at least one year, the US government would signal to the IMF that efforts are underway to resolve the country's official arrears. Should Cambodia then obtain an IMF program and a future Paris Club debt treatment, the action could pave the way for generous rescheduling of the accumulated arrears owed to the United States.”

Cambodia will have to pay at least some of its war-era debt before the US can consider forgiving the rest, a State Department official told Congress on Thursday.

Joseph Yun, deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asia and Pacific Affairs, told a House of Representatives subcommittee that the US administration does not have a policy to cancel debt, for fear that it sends the wrong message in debt management.

Cambodia owes the US some $300 million, plus fees, in debt incurred during the Lon Nol regime of the 1970s, but current officials, including Prime Minister Hun Sen, say they should not have to pay back money borrowed by the pre-Khmer Rouge government.

Cambodia and the Paris Club group of creditors agreed to restructure the debt in 1995, but Cambodia has yet to ratify the agreement, Yun told the Foreign Affairs Committee's Asia, Pacific and Global Environment Subcommittee.

“The administration has therefore urged the Cambodian government to sign the bilateral agreement and re-establish a track record of timely repayment under that agreement,” Yun said in official testimony.

“We have communicated to the Cambodian government that if it makes scheduled payments for at least one year, the US government would signal to the IMF that efforts are underway to resolve the country's official arrears,” he said. “Should Cambodia then obtain an IMF program and a future Paris Club debt treatment, the action could pave the way for generous rescheduling of the accumulated arrears owed to the United States.”

The total amount owed the government with fees climbed to $445 million in 2009, Yun said.

However, Eni Faleomavaega, a Democrat from American Samoa and chairman of the subcommittee, said precedents exist for debt forgiveness, including with Iraq and Vietnam, whose debts were much greater.

In those countries, the debt was canceled and the funds diverted to education, he said.

"Greater engagement with Cambodia could help the United States achieve our foreign policy goal in the region and counter adverse influence requiring a payment of debt,” Faleomavaega said during the hearing. “Requiring a payment of a debt incurred by an illegitimate government more than 30 years ago, without consideration of Cambodia's historical drama, will run counter to the need for greater engagement.”

The US has sought to expand its influence in Southeast Asia, where China holds much sway and provides aid packages and infrastructure without some of the Western benchmarks for human rights and democracy.

Cambodia, which benefits greatly from both Chinese and Western aid, has insisted the debt be forgiven, saying it could better spend the money on education and health programs.

Hem Heng, Cambodia's ambassador to the US, said it was “not reasonable” to expect Cambodia to sign onto a debt repayment schedule only to review it a year later.

“Once we sign it, we must be obliged to pay a certain amount per year,” he said. “It is not possible that we implement this for one year and then review it.”

Hun Sen Finds Win-Win-Win in Labor Dispute: Analysts

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“I believe the courts will really give up the factories' complaints, and the factories will withdraw their complaints from the courts.”

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Hun Sen asked the courts to drop cases against labor leaders brought by factories in the wake of September's general strike. At the time, he called this a “win-win” strategy. Analysts say his response was a winning strategy for the prime minster as well.

His foray into the strikes likely curried favor with workers ahead of elections in 2012 and 2013, said Am Sam Ath, lead investigator for the rights group Licadho.

“The prime minister changed his political attitude from supporting factory owners to supporting workers as an opportunity to attract the support of the workers and unions for his political affairs in the upcoming election,” he said.

Seventeen factories have cases against labor leaders, claiming the September strike was illegal. They have barred some 150 representatives from working, pending a court resolution. But that created strife in the industry, even as workers and managers have sought a compromise.

Ny Chakrya, head investigator for the rights group Adhoc, said Hun Sen's statements would appeal to both workers and nervous garment buyers alike.

“I believe the courts will really give up the factories' complaints, and the factories will withdraw their complaints from the courts,” he said.

Meanwhile, unions and managers are looking for ways to simplify their negotiations, to prevent strikes in the future. The four-day strike cost factories up to $15 million and caused major buyers in the US to call for a resolution.

Workers say they need better incomes as the cost of living rises, but factories say they have raised salaries as far as they can in the current marketplace.

But even the unions have had a hard time agreeing. Cambodia's garment industry—its main economic earner—is full of unions. Some lean politically one way or another; while others remain politically neutral. Not all of them get along.

Ath Thun, president of the Cambodian Labor Confederation and a leader of September's strike, said labor disputes are hard to effectively solve because of these competing interests.

Hun Sen's warnings, he said, prevented the dispute from widening. “He prevented the dispute from spreading to destruction.”

But Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union of the Kingdom of Cambodia, said both sides have a duty to avoid labor disputes that can discourage potential buyers. (The Free Trade Union did not enter last month's strike, he said, because it ran counter to his union's approach to strikes.)

“The buyers can stop orders from Cambodia and go order from neighboring countries,” he said. “Then Cambodia will meet with a big problem.”

Yim Serey Vathanak, project coordinator for worker education at the International Labor Organization, said the industry still lacks a quick response mechanism for solving disputes. In the absences of that mechanism, he said, Hun Sen was able “to reduce the tension in the garment industry.”

Ken Loo, secretary-general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, said Hun Sen had not come down “on either side.”

“He wants both parties to negotiate and compromise for peace,” he said.

Whether the factories will now decide to drop their charges against labor leaders was now up to them individually, he said.

The important thing was that work continues, he said. If not, “no one benefits” he said. “The workers don't get paid a salary. The factories can't get production. So both sides lose.”

Lake Residents Mark World Habitat Day as Homes Flood


A Cambodian couple dry clothes at their home in flood.

“Villagers are facing homelessness. Now the company is pumping mud, sand and water, flooding my house up to the window.”

Residents of a Boeung Kak lake community joined a gathering in Phnom Penh on Monday to mark World Habitat Day, as their homes continue to be inundated with the sand and mud of a land development.

Residents say land developer Shukaku, Inc., has increased the pace of its fill operations, pumping dredge into the lake as it continues on a $79 million project, putting about 3,000 homes at risk, despite repeated protests.

“Villagers are facing homelessness,” said Ty Pisey, a 28-year-old lakeside resident. “Now the company is pumping mud, sand and water, flooding my house up to the window.”

Residents have made complaints to City Hall, the National Assembly, the Senate and the Council of Ministers, and they have protested in front of the house of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Kong Chamroeun, Hun Sen's cabinet representative for the lake issue, said authorities have received the residents' complaints, but city officials must now study the complaints and review the situation before making a decision.

A spokesman for Shukaku, which is owned by Cambodian People's Party Senator Lao Meng Khim, said the company was continuing to fill the lake because it had not been ordered to stop.

The company has paid about 500 families compensation to relocate outside Phnom Penh, but many others have refused, claiming they do not want to leave the city or that the compensation offer is not enough. Meanwhile, since early 2008, the 300-hectare lake has continued to fill.

Khun Serey, a 53-year-old former lake resident, said she has already been forced from her home by the pumping.

“I took only my clothes, but everything else in the house I could not get out, because I had no place to put them,” she said. “No authorities have come to help solve my problem. I have no house to live in.”

Fifty-one-year-old resident Khy Reth said her house was flooded up to the windows, despite legal protests and a visit from district officials. “The company is gearing up to pump more and more,” she said.

The Human Rights Task Force, which advocates for residents around the lake, said in a statement Monday that Shukaku is pumping mud deliberately to force out the residents, who have undergone “ongoing harassment and intimidation.”

The group called for an immediate halt to the pumping and that the rights of residents to protest be protected.

Meanwhile, to mark World Habitat Day, Christophe Peschoux, head of UN's human rights office in Cambodia, addressed the residents and some 400 other participants at the Phnom Penh Cultural Center. He said in general people must be given the rights to land and housing. He called on a halt to the forced evictions. Such evictions have become a chronic source of disputes in Cambodia in recent years.

China's Large Role in Cambodian Economy Expected to Continue

A customer (R) wears 3D glasses as he views a 3D movie on a Toshiba computer during an exhibition in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on September 11, 2010
Photo: AFP

A customer (R) wears 3D glasses as he views a 3D movie on a Toshiba computer during an exhibition in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on September 11, 2010

Cambodia's economy, after contracting in 2009, due to the global slowdown, has revived as a government rescue package, stronger exports and rising tourism arrivals again fuel growth.

Cambodia's economy is expected to expand by close to 5 percent this year, buoyed by the recovery in tourism and garment exports. Last year the economy shrank by more than 1 percent because of the worldwide slowdown.

The rebound in the garment sector has been particularly important. Garment exports account for 70 percent of Cambodia's export income. At the recession's depth about 50 factories closed and over 60,000 - mostly female - workers lost their jobs. Exports fell more than 20 percent in value.

Sharp turnaround

Asian Development Bank country representative Peter Brimble says the turnaround has been sharp this year.

"Garment exports to the states appear to have increased by more than 10 percent in value terms," said Brimble who calls the outlook positive. "Tourism has gone up by similar numbers - at least in terms of arrivals - a bit less in terms of spending but still a significant recovery. From a purely macroeconomic perspective, the economy looks to be returning to a growth trend [of] five, six, seven percent, and this is even in light of continuing sluggishness in Western economies and Europe and in the states. Possibly Cambodia came out relatively well given everything."

Laurent Notin, a director of Indochina Research in Phnom Penh, says the mood in the business community has improved, although the property sector remains in the doldrums because of credit shortages.

"People are more confident. Business is more confident than last year," said Notin. "Everybody is far happier than last year, except maybe if you're working in real estate sector in which nothing is happening."

Boosting investment

The government wants to boost foreign investment by improving infrastructure, expanding energy production, and upgrading the agriculture, tourism, manufacturing and mining sectors.

The recession hit foreign investment hard, and in 2009, it fell by nearly half, to $5.86 billion.

China remains the biggest source of foreign investment by far. Chinese funds have gone into hydropower projects, river port facilities, irrigation systems, and transmission lines. Other major foreign investment sources include South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia and Singapore.

The Cambodian government says it is open to even more investment from China, which officials say will help Cambodia develop its economy.

In February this year Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen announced plans to invest $310 million to improve irrigation systems. China is lending $240 million for the project.

Douglas Clayton, managing partner for venture capital firm Leopard Group, says most people welcome Chinese investment, especially in infrastructure and in ensuring employment.

"We're seeing Chinese investment in large infrastructure projects like hydropower dams," noted Clayton. "And generally anything that brings cheaper power is pretty much welcomed to most people."

Transparency concerns

But China's growing investment raises some concerns. Hang Chayya, director for the Khmer Institute for Democracy, says rights groups' worry about the lack of transparency in loans and financial deals.

"It's a huge concern for us because the Chinese tend to have this principle, there's no strings attached where other investments they tend to be multinational, or World Bank, or some other development agency. So there's no proper checks and balances in terms of how they conduct and manage these projects," explained Chayya.

Chayya says a lack of transparency may lead to allegations of corruption.

There also are concerns that China may influence Cambodian decisions in other areas. A year ago, China and Cambodia signed deals worth over $1.2 billion, but only after Phnom Penh expelled 20 Chinese Uighurs who had fled China claiming persecution.

The expulsion came despite pleas by the United States, United Nations and human rights groups.

The ADB's Brimble says for Cambodia, China will remain an important source of development assistance.

"Obviously Cambodians have had a long-time relationship with the Chinese government and the Chinese government is becoming more active in becoming a donor country," added Brimble.

Business analysts say despite the recovery, Cambodia confronts the challenge of alleviating poverty and ensuring sustained growth. It also must adapt to a rapidly changing regional economy and the growing economic reach of China.

Nazi defence is model for Khmer Rouge's main jailer

Albert Speer, Hitler's chief architect, is to play a posthumous role this week in the trial in Cambodia of the Khmer Rouge's jailer, a man called called Duch.

Not everyone believed Albert Speer
Albert Speer was a sophisticate who was said to have spent his life after Nuremburg pondering his choices. Photo: AFP

Speer escaped death at the Nuremberg trials after World War II by admitting responsibility for Nazi crimes and expressing remorse for using concentration camp inmates and prisoners of war for slave labour.

Similarly Duch, a Khmer Rouge cadre, is expected to repeat his expressions of remorse for the deaths of around 15,000 at the Communist movement's main detention centre, a move that his defence team hopes will spare him a life sentence.

Duch's defence has submitted, as part of his case file, the memoir by Henry King, a former Nuremberg prosecutor, called The Two Worlds of Albert Speer, in a bid to highlight similarities and show that Duch could one day foster reconciliation.

"Albert Speer also admitted before his judges his responsibility," said Francois Roux, Duch's French defence lawyer.

"He gave certain information to the prosecutor which helped in the search for truth and the Nuremberg tribunal took account of all that in its decision and accepted attenuating circumstances for Speer," Roux said.

"It is interesting to see that for Speer, as for Duch, some people believe he hasn't told everything. Several books have been written posing questions about the sincerity of these admissions made at the end of his life.

"The similarity is interesting because whatever he could have said, the law - and this is what interests me - took into account his (Speer's) admissions and his cooperation, and condemned him to 20 years in jail instead of the death penalty which had been demanded for him."

After World War II Speer, who was also the German minister for war production, was the lone senior member of Adolf Hitler's leadership circle to cooperate with the war crimes tribunal in Nuremberg.

Nuremberg prosecutor King, who visited Speer after his trial, wrote that the former Nazi who had once planned to build an imposing new capital for the Third Reich used the rest of his life to ponder his actions and seek redemption.

Sitting calmly in the dock, Duch has also largely cooperated at his own trial, explaining complicated documents and offering comments as officials traced how he oversaw Tuol Sleng prison with brutal efficiency.

Of the five former Khmer Rouge leaders currently being held in the purpose-built jail at Cambodia's UN-backed war crimes court, Duch is the only one who has admitted guilt for abuses committed by the regime.

"Duch has been coached and has performed well in his apology," said Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Centre of Cambodia, which researches Khmer Rouge crimes.

Duch has also invited Khmer Rouge victims to visit him in jail.

But it is unclear if anyone will take up Duch's offer, and some say the comparison with Speer could backfire.

Like victims of Speer and the Nazis, many Cambodians say they do not believe Duch's apologies are genuine.

The former maths teacher has denied several allegations that he personally tortured and killed Khmer Rouge prisoners, saying throughout proceedings that he feared for his life and his family, and acted under orders from superiors.

Likewise, Speer sought to distance himself from Hitler's policies.

"He [Speer] wasn't a total bloodless bureaucrat like he said," said Peter Maguire, a historian who has written books about Nuremberg and the Khmer Rouge.

"There were some ridiculous verdicts and that was one of them. Speer should have gotten the death penalty," Maguire said.

After Duch, the court also plans to try former Khmer Rouge ideologue Nuon Chea, head of state Khieu Samphan, foreign minister Ieng Sary and his wife, minister of social affairs Leng Thirith.

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

Duch will have to wait until his verdict, expected early next year, to find out whether the comparison with Speer has worked.

Appeals Court Hears Sam Rainsy Border Marker Case

Mrs. Meas Srey, a victim of the Vietnamese encroachment, is being escorted out of the court room (All Photos: Cambodia Express News)
Mr. Prum Chea, another victim of the Viet encroachment, is being assisted out of the court room

Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Phnom Penh Tuesday, 05 October 2010

Sam Rainsy, who is in exile abroad, faces two years in prison for the offense, after he was found guilty by the Svay Rieng provincial court earlier this year.
The Court of Appeals on Tuesday reviewed a criminal case against opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who is accused of destruction of property and inciting racial hatred after he pulled several markers on the border of Vietnam.

Sam Rainsy, who is in exile abroad, faces two years in prison for the offense, after he was found guilty by the Svay Rieng provincial court earlier this year.

He is also facing a 10-year jail term for posting a border map on his party's website he says proves Vietnamese land encroachment.

The Appeals Court also considered the convictions of two other men who have been sentenced for jail for their part in the border markers uprooting.

The Appeals Court said it would announce its decision next week.

Thailand, Cambodia to hold border talks in Hanoi

Thailand and Cambodia will hold talks on the disputed border area on the sidelines of the 17th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Hanoi late this month, said Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on October 5.

According to MCOT news online, Mr. Abhisit said he had met his Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen on the sidelines of the 8th Asia- Europe Meeting (ASEM) summit, in Brussels during October 4-5. He said they discussed the border dispute over the 4.6-square-km area near the ancient temple Preah Vihear.

"There was no conclusion in the latest discussion, which mainly exchanged views over the dispute in an effort for progress, he said.

That is apart from current efforts being made through parliamentary procedures and the Thai- Cambodian Joint Commission on Demarcation for Land Boundary (JBC)," he added.

The PM said the two countries would prepare information related to the conflict and would hold talks again when they meet on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit in Hanoi on October 28-30.


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