Coming to terms with sadism

  • Bo Uce holds a picture showing Lah Sok; brother… (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

An orphan of the Killing Fields of the Khmer Rouge struggles to overcome his anguish.

He spent much of his life consumed by what the three men on the screen before him had done.

He stared at the glossy, bloodshot eyes of the man in the middle, the one who had so casually demonstrated how he slit his victims' throats, who explained how his hand grew so sore he often switched to stabbing them at the base of the neck.

They were gaunt figures now, impoverished men trudging the rice ponds of northwestern Cambodia. They had agreed to confess their roles in the Killing Fields, first for a documentary film, "Enemies of the People," and then here, in a video conference with survivors in Long Beach.

Bo Uce, 39, listened to them explain that they had to obey orders or they too would be executed. He knew they would say this, and they were right. But it didn't matter.

Uce wasn't there to understand their rationale. Since landing in New Jersey as a 12-year-old refugee in 1983 and going on to graduate from Dartmouth College, he'd scoured history and psychology books and world literature to try to comprehend the sadism and indifference he'd witnessed as a child in Cambodia. He read "Crime and Punishment" three times to understand Dostoevsky's character Raskolnikov, who cooked up wispy moral justifications to murder a pawnbroker, only to careen through a whorl of anguish after the act.

Uce came out on this damp Sunday night to make sure these men didn't think time had diminished their deeds, even as they roamed free after taking part in an atrocity that killed more than 1.5 million people. He wouldn't let them escape their own anguish.

But he would try to escape his own.

Bo Uce was 4 in 1975 when the Khmer Rouge, with its deranged vision of communism, took power. It purged the country of teachers, doctors, lawyers and writers and forced the population into hard labor on farming collectives.

Most of Bo's recollections are far-flung moments he struggled to string into coherence later.

He couldn't recall his father, Kharn, but preserved a few warm memories of his mother, Lah Sok. When the family was forced into the reeducation camps, she worked the rice fields in a women's brigade within walking distance of Bo's children's regiment. When they could, he and his older brother, Roth, would sneak away to see her. She looked emaciated and tired.

Cambodia HIV and Aids treatment programmes threatened

Abandoned HIV-infected baby, Phnom Penh Nutrition Centre, 1999
Cambodia has cut its rate of new HIV infections, but must reduce its reliance on foreign funding

Health workers have warned that Cambodia's success in reducing its rate of HIV and Aids may be at risk.

The US-based Results for Development Institute says that prevention and treatment programmes are too reliant on overseas donors.

If that money stopped coming through, infections and deaths might rise.

Cambodia used to be the HIV blackspot of Southeast Asia - in the late 1990s there were 15,000 new infections every year.

But in recent years, Cambodia has been the star performer, where the rate of new infections has fallen to around 2,000.

The country is also renowned for its treatment programmes for HIV-positive people.

More than nine out of 10 patients eligible for anti-retroviral drugs are getting the medicine.

But there may yet be unwelcome twists in both those success stories.


Anti-human trafficking laws have resulted in the closure of many brothels.

That has made it more difficult to reach sex workers to encourage the use of condoms.

And the drug treatment programmes are almost totally funded by foreign donors.

Robert Hecht of the Results for Development Institute says that is an unhealthy position.

"Foreign aid is quite uncertain, hard to predict.

"Cambodia is in a position to manage the costs of its Aids programme because it has been successful in reducing new infections.

"It has a good opportunity to expand its share of the total funding pot and in that way reduce its dependence on the outside sources of financing," he said.

Mr Hecht says that gradually reducing donations would allow Cambodia to take more control of its HIV/Aids programmes.

The government has welcomed the report.It says it will help to "sharpen its strategies".

Rice Husks Provide Alternative to Chinese Coal in Cambodia

BY Jenara Nerenberg

The Cambodian rice miller and exporter, Angkor Kasekam Roongroeung (AKR), is set to launch its rice husk-powered electricity generator at the start of next year, enabling the company to double its rice exports to 70,000 tons per year.

Electricity from the newly-built rice husk generator will be used to--you guessed it--process rice.

The plant comes with community perks, too. AKR will sell its excess electricity to nearby villagers at $0.22 cents per kilowatt, lower than the $0.27 per kilowatt price they would normally pay for power from the national grid.

“We will take this opportunity to process more rice for export in an attempt to help our rice producers earn more income,” said AKR director, Chieu Hieng, as reported by the Pnom Penh Post.

The innovative power source is a welcome addition. Cambodia spent $59 million last year importing electricity from Thailand and Vietnam and is currently co-constructing a coal-fired plant with China at a cost of $362 million. Concerns are being raised about Cambodia's increasing demand for power and the trend toward using eco-un-friendly coal-fired power.

And like other developing countries in Asia--such as Nepal, with its vast Himalayan-sourced rivers and significant dependence on Chinese and Indian investment--the natural resources for natively-generated power exist domestically, but the country lacks the necessary funds for infrastructure development.

Cambodia. Already, Golden Rice Cambodia is investing $2 million into a rice-husk power plant to power nearby mills. AKR's total cost for its plant was $6 million, including the land.

Man Jailed for Sharing Web Articles With Co-Workers

Charging someone with incitement for sharing web articles is a profound setback for free expression in Cambodia.

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch

(New York) - The Cambodian government's use of its new penal code against a man who shared web articles with his co-workers is a huge step backward for free expression in Cambodia, Human Rights Watch said today. The man was quickly convicted on incitement charges and sentenced to prison.

Human Rights Watch called on the Cambodian government to amend the penal code, which went into effect on December 10, 2010, to remove provisions that limit the peaceful expression of political views so that the law fully complies with international standards. "Charging someone with incitement for sharing web articles is a profound setback for free expression in Cambodia," said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "Cambodia's new penal code should have put an end to abusive practices, not encouraged new ones." On December 17, Seng Kunnaka, a Cambodian employee with the United Nations World Food Program in Phnom Penh, was arrested on charges of incitement under article 495 of the new penal code after he shared an article with two co-workers. While the contents of the article are unclear, it was printed from KI-Media, a website that publishes news, commentaries, poetry, and cartoons that are sharply critical of the government, including a recent series of opinion pieces lambasting senior officials regarding a border dispute with Vietnam. On December 19, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court hastily tried and convicted Kunnaka, sentencing him to six months in prison and fining him 1 million riels (US$250). December 19 was a Sunday, when the courts are normally closed.

During the last two years, more than 10 critics of the government, including journalists and opposition party activists, have been prosecuted for criminal defamation and disinformation based on complaints by government and military officials under the former penal code.

The new penal code places greater restrictions on free expression, Human Rights Watch said. Responding to media inquiries about the case, Cambodia's information minister, Khieu Kanharith, said: "Before, using the argument of ‘freedom of expression' and opposition party status, some people could insult anybody or any institution. This is not the case now."

"A dubious arrest so soon after the new penal code came into effect shows that the Cambodian government is ready to use its new legal powers to criminalize peaceful expression and political dissent," Robertson said. "And Cambodia's pliant courts seem all too willing to throw any perceived government critic in prison after a rushed trial." Under the new penal code, incitement is vaguely defined in article 495 as directly provoking the commission of a crime or an act that creates "serious turmoil in society" through public speech, writings or drawings, or audio-visual telecommunication that are shared with, exposed to, or intended for the public. It does not require the alleged incitement to be effective for penalties to be imposed, which include prison terms of six months to five years and fines. The new penal code also allows criminal prosecutions for defamation and contempt for peaceful expression of views "affecting the dignity" of individuals and public officials, as well as of government institutions. It makes it a crime to "disturb public order" by questioning court decisions. "The new penal code makes it more risky for civil society activists to criticize corrupt officials, police, and military officers who commit abuses or question court decisions," Robertson said. "This is particularly troubling in Cambodia, where the judicial system is weak and far from independent, with court decisions often influenced by corruption or political pressure." KI-Media is a controversial website that describes itself as "dedicated to publishing sensitive information about Cambodia." The website's editors, who have never publicly identified themselves, compile information from a variety of sources, including leaked and public government documents, Cambodian-language newspaper articles, and Chinese, Cambodian, and Western wire service reports. It also posts hard-hitting commentaries, blog articles, cartoons, and poetry from its readers - most of whom are sharply critical of the government.

The December 23, 2010 news release "Cambodia: New Penal Code Undercuts Free Speech" incorrectly noted that Seng Kunnaka's trial date was December 20. The trial actually occurred on Sunday, December 19. The news release also stated his date of arrest was December 18, when in fact, he was arrested on December 17. These dates have been corrected accordingly.

Man jailed for sex with 2 underage girls, 15 & 12

Kok was sentenced to 15 months' jail and will start his sentence on Jan 4, 2011. -- PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

A MAN who had sex with two underage girls a few years ago was sentenced to 15 months' jail on Tuesday.

But Aaron Kok Chun Cheong, 23, will only start his sentence on Tuesday, Jan 4, 2011, as he wanted to spend the New Year with his family.

Kok, now a trainee at National Institute of Education (NIE), was in national service at the time of the offences in 2007 and 2008.

The court heard that he got to know the two girls through an Internet chatline in 2006.

He had sex with a 15-year-old student at a toilet for the handicapped in West Mall shopping centre on April 20, 2008, a day after his return from NS training in Taiwan.

Earlier in September 2007, he had invited the other girl, then 12, to his flat where he had sex with her in his bedroom.

The offences came to light when the younger girl was found to be pregnant and was warded in hospital in July 2008. The girl, who terminated the pregnancy, had told the police that she had engaged in sex with several male persons.

Kok was not the biological father of the foetus.

Three other charges were taken into consideration during his sentencing.

Defence counsel Amolat Singh said Kok - who had a good record in polytechnic and during his national service - would have to pay liquidated damages amounting to $50,000 to $60,000 to the NIE for breaching his training contract.

Singapore Zoo breeds more giant river terrapins

By Linette Lin

The Singapore Zoo has successfully bred four giant river terrapins. -- PHOTO: SINGAPORE ZOOLOGICAL GARDENS

THE Singapore Zoo has successfully bred four giant river terrapins. These terrapins are native to Peninsular Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia and Sumatra, with more expected to join the family of eight in the months to come.

Both female terrapins at the zoo were recently found to be with eggs, due to be laid at any time.

X-ray examinations on Dec 13, 2010 revealed that they were carrying over 40 eggs between them. The incubation period for these rare and elusive terrapins ranges from 68 to 112 days.

Giant river terrapins lay their eggs only once a year and the Singapore Zoo has successfully had four hatchlings to date in 2007 and 2009 - two of which are now on display at the Proboscis Monkey pool, while the others are in the turtle hatchery facility.

The park is currently home to the two adult females, two adult males and the four hatchlings.

Considered an extremely rare species, this breed, also known as Batagur affinis, is listed as critically endangered in the 2009 International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List and in one of the appendixes under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

Nurse volunteering in Cambodia

Josephine Gillespie

FOR nursing student Elissa Jackson, spending her holiday volunteering in a Cambodian health clinic is a dream come true.

University of Queensland Ipswich nursing student Elissa Jackson will volunteer at a Cambodian military clinic at the foot of Phnom Bok Mountain from January 5.

Sarah Harvey

IT is a world away from the quiet streets of Flinders View, but for nursing student Elissa Jackson, spending her holiday volunteering in a Cambodian health clinic is a dream come true.

The 23-year-old is among a group of 15 University of Queensland (UQ) students who, accompanied by three clinical lecturers, will depart on January 5 for a new military clinic at the foot of Phnom Bok Mountain, near Siem Reap in Cambodia’s north-west.

For Elissa, the trip will be her first overseas.

“I think it will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Ms Jackson said.

“Not everyone gets the chance to go to a developing country and help them in a medical way.”

Ms Jackson, who hopes to work in paediatric or community health, said the placement would help her gain valuable skills.

“It is all the basic skills nursing is about,” she said.

“Generally in the clinic where we will work the equipment will be pretty basic.

“We will be using basic equipment such as thermometer and stethoscopes to diagnose and treat.”

Clinical lecturer Peta Crompton said the students would attend the official opening of the clinic by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen before beginning a four-week community health placement.

“Given the history of the site as a military camp, the students are expecting to treat many returned soldiers, their wives and children as well as local villagers,” she said.

“We envisage the most common health issues will include chronic pain and infections associated with older wounds such as amputations and landmine injuries as well as tropical illnesses.”

In January this year, the first group of UQ nursing students volunteered at the New Hope Cambodia community centre and orphanage in one of Siem Reap’s poorest areas.

Center will tell Cambodian story

LONG BEACH - Although Long Beach is well known for having the largest Cambodian population in the U.S., there have been precious few resources to research how this has come to pass.

The Khmer Genocide Study and Resource Center, planned for Cal State Long Beach, will attempt to help fill that gap.

The first formal step in its creation starts tonight with a fundraising dinner at Sophy's Restaurant.

However, the idea has been a long time coming.

In the late 1970s, Long Beach became a hub for incoming refugees who escaped from the ravages of the genocide that engulfed Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge and left upwards of 2 million dead.

Since that time, a large Cambodian community has developed in Long Beach, with businesses, arts and social service agencies.

What hasn't evolved is a place where academics and the community can learn about the calamitous history and circumstances that led to Long Beach becoming the home of Cambodia Town.

Although the center will have a physical location on the Cal State campus, primarily it will be a virtual museum online with an array of information across multiple platforms.

"The intent is to develop an archive of the genocide experience," said John Fallon, one of those helping create the center.

"It will have three components," Fallon said. "An academic venue for information with oral histories; an electronic library; and third, an most important I suppose, an


initiation of the Cambodian community as stakeholders."

Dr. Donald Schwartz, a Fulbright Specialist and retired professor at Cal State Long Beach, will be helping to head up the academic side and is hoping to link up with other universities, including Stanford, Yale and Pannasastra University in Phnom Penh, along with the Document Center in Cambodia, which has provided much of the information for the Khmer Rouge War Tribunals.

Schwartz will also be teaching in the spring at Pannasastra and hopes to get funding for videographers to do a project on the infamous Tuol Sleng, or S-21, security prison.

Schwartz is an expert on the Holocaust during World War II. He said one theme from survivors of that genocide was that they didn't tell their children what they endured. He sees parallels with the children of Cambodian genocide survivors and hopes this project can help answer their questions.

Fallon, who has been at the forefront of the refugee movement since the '70s and has helped place 22,000 families, said his inspiration comes from the words of a survivor he met: "He said, `My children must understand what happened to me, so the world will not forget."'

Schwartz said the primary purpose of the dinner, in addition to raising funds, is to invite the Cambodian community to be part of the process and inform them what's envisioned.

Or as Fallon says, "It's their life and their history.", 562-499-1291

Want to go?

What: Khmer Genocide Study and Resource Center fundraising dinner

When: Tonight, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Sophy's Restaurant,

3240 E. Pacific Coast Highway, Long Beach

Cost: Adults $30, children $15

Information: Lamarin Pan 562-394-5290, Peter Chhun 818-640-6191, Sophy's Restaurant 562-494-1763

China asked to explain fate of Uighurs from Cambodia

BEIJING — Human Rights Watch has called on Beijing to explain the fate of 20 Uighurs deported from Cambodia a year ago who had sought asylum following deadly ethnic violence in China's far-western Xinjiang region.

The Uighurs, members of a mainly Muslim minority group who have complained of oppression in Xinjiang, were handed over to China despite their application for UN refugee status, after Beijing had pressed Cambodia for their return.

China said they were wanted in connection with rioting that erupted in July 2009 in the Xinjiang capital Urumqi between Uighurs and China's majority Han ethnic group that left nearly 200 people dead, according to official tolls.

"Uighurs deported to China are at clear risk of torture," Human Rights Watch's Asia advocacy director, Sophie Richardson, said in a statement released Friday in New York, where the group is based.

"China's failure to account for any of those asylum seekers a year after their forced return is extremely worrying."

Cambodia's decision to deport the Uighurs was quickly followed by a 1.2-billion-dollar aid and loan package from Beijing. China has rejected accusations of a link between the two.

The Uighurs had expressed fears of persecution and torture if they were sent home to China, which implemented a massive security crackdown in Xinjiang following the violence.

Phnom Penh said the group, which Beijing had labelled as "criminals", was expelled in line with domestic law.

But the US, the European Union, the United Nations and rights groups deplored the move as an apparent breach of an international convention on refugees.

"Both China and Cambodia should be held accountable for their flagrant disregard of their obligations under international law," Richardson said.

"This case is a stark reminder that no country should deport Uighur asylum seekers back to China."

Chinese: The Language of the Future?

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The world of tomorrow is being shaped in our classrooms today. Are our students gaining the knowledge and skills they need? (pixdeluxe/iStockPhoto)

When I was a teenager growing up in international schools across Asia, my father urged me to take up Chinese as an elective. If I asked why taking up Chinese would help me, he always answered: "Chinese is the language of the future."

Too bad I was a rebellious teenager—because it turns out my old man was right after all. Chinese is the language of the future, and to prove it, Voice of America conducted research that proves that Interest in Learning Chinese May be Growing Exponentially. After contacting Rosetta Stone to check whether Chinese is, in fact, growing exponentially, VOA interviewed Asia Society's Chris Livaccari, Associate Director of Education and Chinese language initiatives.

Livaccari, whose Chinese-teaching methods are gaining popularity across the country by making lessons both more engaging and easy, said: "In the United States if you look at the headlines over the last several years, it's clear that there is a perception among Americans that China is the place that is going to define our future."

The relationship between the US and China is also one of the most important bilateral relationships in the world right now. According to Livaccari, the American Council of the Teaching of Foreign Languages just released a report that suggests Chinese to be the fastest-growing language, with a growth rate of 195 percent.

To the native English speaker, a language like Chinese, with its unfamiliar alphabet and intonations, may be more than a little daunting. In his interview, Livaccari conceded, "Chinese is really unique. It takes an incredible investment of time and energy for students to know enough Chinese characters to be literature... but it comes with great opportunities."

In an era when educators in the US are looking toward Asia to learn how to teach students subjects like math and science more successfully, teaching Chinese may also be another positive step. To learn more about Asia Society's Chinese-language initiatives, watch the video below:

Cambodian prince re-enters politics

Cambodian Prince Norodom Ranariddh returned to politics Saturday with a vow to reinvigorate the flagging royalist movement, taking the helm of his former party which has re-adopted his name.

Cambodian prince re-enters politics

Cambodian prince re-enters politics

Two years after quitting politics, Prince Ranariddh, who was Cambodia's first elected prime minister in 1993 after years of civil war, was re-instated as president of the party he created during a meeting in the capital.

Party members also agreed to re-name the Nationalist Party the Norodom Ranariddh Party (NRP).

The 66-year-old son of former king Norodom Sihanouk said in a speech that he was returning to politics to re-unite royalists ahead of 2012 local elections and a 2013 general election.

"I have seen that the royalists are hopeless, separated, I want them to be one family," he said.

Ranariddh called for an alliance with fellow royalist party Funcinpec, with him as leader.

"The prince wants to create a new party called Funcinpec 81 before 2012," party spokesman Pen Sangha told AFP. "The ball is now in the court of Funcinpec."

Ranariddh has been off the political scene since late 2008, when he said he was quitting the opposition after receiving a royal pardon on fraud charges and returning from self-imposed exile in Malaysia.

The prince's political career had begun with great promise when he won Cambodia's UN-sponsored election in 1993 as head of the royalist Funcinpec party.

However, he was forced to accept Hun Sen as co-prime minister, who then staged a coup in 1997.

In following elections, Ranariddh's voter appeal diminished as he entered into coalition agreements with Hun Sen's ruling Cambodian People's Party.

In 2006, he was ejected from Funcinpec over fraud allegations involving the illegal sale of the party's headquarters. He formed the NRP shortly afterwards.

The prince was sentenced in absentia to 18 months in jail over the fraud charges the following year but was later pardoned.

The NRP won just two parliamentary seats in Cambodia's 2008 general election, as did Funcinpec. The NRP then changed its name to the Nationalist Party.

Both parties have in the past expressed an interest in merging to improve the royalist movement's flagging fortunes.

Hun Sen warned the prince earlier this week that if he was coming back to politics, he would not be able to stay on as an adviser to Cambodia's King Norodom Sihamoni, Ranariddh's half-brother.

Over 4000 Vietnamese women and children trafficked abroad in five years

VietNamNet Bridge – Nearly 1600 human trafficking cases were discovered in Vietnam in the past five years, with over 3500 women and nearly 500 kids being sold abroad, according to statistics by the Public Security Ministry.

According to statistics, over 60 percent of the victims were sold to China and 11 percent to Cambodia. Police also arrested 2900 people involved in these cases.

Human trafficking has become very complicated in Vietnam in recent years. Some cases discovered by police were organizational and transnational.

Vietnam is trying to build laws and cooperate with other countries to curb human trafficking.

It is estimated that at least 22,000 women and children were illegally sent to China during the 1990s.

In Vietnam, trafficking can take the form of arranged marriages that frequently result in the women becoming domestic slaves rather than wives. Other victims find themselves in the sex trade instead of the factory job they were promised.

According to UNICEF, approximately 60% of the estimated 45,000 prostitutes in Cambodia’s capital city, Phnom Penh, are Vietnamese.

Vietnamese men, women, and girls are trafficked for sexual and labor exploitation in Cambodia, China, Thailand, Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia, Taiwan, South Korea, the United Kingdom, and the Czech Republic for commercial sexual exploitation.

Women and men are trafficked for forced labor in factories and for construction or as domestic servants. Vietnamese trafficking victims are recruited through fraudulent marriages, false promises of employment, licensed and unlicensed migrant labor recruiting agencies.

Cambodian airport project includes new city

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — A South Korean company contracted to build a new airport serving visitors to Cambodia's famed Angkor temples says its $1 billion project will also encompass a new city and industrial estate.

NSRIA Co. Ltd. in a statement received Thursday said its planned New Siem Reap International Airport and linked developments represent Cambodia's "largest national project" and Korea's first-ever export of its airport development and operation expertise.

The statement, which expands upon partial information released by the Cambodian government and in the Korean press, said its concession for the project spans 65 years — covering five years of construction and 60 years of operation — after which it can be extended.

NSRIA is Cambodian joint venture whose main investors are two South Korean companies, Lees A&A Co. Ltd. and Camko Airport Co. Ltd.

The statement said the project will include an adjacent "Special Economic Zone," a dry port and a 15.4 square mile (40 square kilometer) city.

South Korea in recent years has become a major investor in Cambodia, ranking number two after China by some measurements. However, some ambitious Korean-funded real estate developments in Phnom Penh, the capital, have stalled.

The new airport will be able to handle Boeing 747s, making it the country's first capable of handling direct long haul flights from Europe and North America, said the statement. The area is currently served by a modern but small airport.

The airport will be located 25 miles (40 km) east of Angkor Wat, the statement said, alleviating concerns about potential noise and vibration damage to the centuries-old temples at Angkor, Cambodia's main tourist attraction.

There is concern that the temples, already damaged by warfare, looting and the ravages of weather, could be harmed by a greater influx of tourists.

Construction is scheduled to begin in mid-2011, with operations to start in late 2015. At the end of the $500 million first phase, the airport will have the capacity to handle 4 million passengers a year, and will be able to handle 15 million after expansion.

Cambodia had 2.3 million visitors this year, with about half of them visiting the temples, according to Kong Sophearak, statistics director for the Tourism Ministry.

The statement said the special economic zone will provide an alternative for South Korean companies to investing in China and Southeast Asian countries like Vietnam where labor costs are rising from low levels.

Flying to Cambodia: A $1 Billion Aerotropolis

BY Jenara Nerenberg
The New Siem Reap International Airport is breaking ground next year, backed by South Koreans.

How do you say "aerotropolis" in Khmer? Looks like we're about to find out.

Cambodia will begin construction on its very own airport city next year--the New Siem Reap International Airport, with an adjacent special economic zone, dry port, and 15.4 square mile city--to capitalize on increasing tourist numbers from neighboring countries and increasing foreign investment interest.

The airport will be completed in five and a half years at a cost of $1 billion and the contracted South Korean-Cambodian joint venture, NSRIA Co. Ltd., will operate it for 65 years. The airport, 25 miles east of Angkor Wat, will accommodate 747s, allowing direct flights to arrive from Europe and North America.

An airport city such as Cambodia's fits the label of an aerotropolis--a planned city with an airport as its central node and related infrastructure, businesses, and working families surrounding it. An Aerotropolis thus becomes an engine of local economic development, something Cambodia is desperately in need of.

"It doesn't matter how much they spend on the project, or how much expertise the South Korean investors bring to bear. What matters is how many flights a day the airport has, and to where," says Fast Company contributor and co-author of the forthcoming book, Aerotropolis: The Way We'll Live Next, Greg Lindsay.

"There's a saying that 'airlines don't serve airports; they serve markets,' meaning they want to go where passengers already are," says Lindsay. "In this case, the tourist draw of Angkor Wat could be a big help and considering the United Nations' World Tourism Organization expects China to have 100 million outbound tourists a year by 2020, Cambodia is probably trying to snag a few million."

Cambodia hopes that its very own aerotropolis will help spur local economic development, via foreign investment and the appeal of cheap labor. But the question remains whether there will be enough numbers flying in and out of the country. This year the country saw 2.3 million visitors, but the annual capacity of the new airport will be 15 million, leaving a huge gap to be filled. Where will all the tourists and foreign investors come from?

"With enough flights and enough connectivity, anything is possible," Lindsay tells Fast Company. "The likely model for Cambodia's aerotropolis is Subic Bay in the Philippines, which transformed the former U.S. Navy base into a fairly large high-tech manufacturing zone in the 1990s after FedEx opened its pan-Asian hub there."

As Cambodia is increasingly in competition with its neighbors--namely Vietnam, as well as China, where the first Kashgar-Pakistan cargo flight was just launched this week--it's likely that the country wants to secure its current standing among tourists and its future standing in the realm of trade.

"Vietnam is building its own massive new international airport outside Ho Chi Minh City and Bangkok tried to build its own aerotropolis in 2006, only to be derailed by political turmoil," Lindsay points out. "Can Cambodia succeed in winning a piece for themselves? Who knows, but they're certainly willing to try."


Danish firm wins VN-Cambodia border map bid

Danish firm wins VN-Cambodia border map bid

BlomInfo A/S of Denmark has won the bid to produce a new set of maps of the national border between Vietnam and Cambodia.

The winner was announced at a press briefing in Phnom Penh on Dec. 17 following a meeting of the Vietnam-Cambodia Joint Committee on Border Demarcation.

At the press briefing, Deputy Head of the Vietnam Foreign Ministry’s National Border Committee Nguyen Hong Thao and Senior Minister of the Royal Cambodian Government Var Kim Hong said that the selection was based on assessments by experts of the two countries during their working session from Dec. 1-10.

The two sides affirmed that choosing an international bidding process for making the border map – and showing locations of demarcating border landmarks – aimed to ensure objectivity, science and accuracy and to be aligned with international laws.

The success of the bidding manifested close cooperation and determination of the two countries to fulfill all border demarcation-related work by 2012 with the aim of building a common border of peace, friendship and cooperation./. Copy from

Children’s choral charity aids Cambodia

Ta Pen is the fifth project by Don du Choeur since 2002.
Image Caption: Ta Pen is the fifth project by Don du Choeur since 2002. (

by Simon Bradley,

In the remote Cambodian village of Ta Pen children are experiencing their first-ever term at school thanks to the dulcet tones of Geneva youngsters.

Ta Pen is the latest project by the Geneva-based Don du Choeur association, which since 2002 has been organising concerts every two or three years bringing together some 350 children from local private schools to raise money for deprived children around the world.

“I had to explain to them how Swiss kids aged 8-12 had taken two years to learn to sing for a concert to collect money to build their new school,” Chamrong Lo, a former Cambodian refugee, explained proudly.

The tiny Cambodian village is situated some 45 kilometres from the famous Angkor Wat temples, which attract tens of thousands of visitors each year. Yet the 150 families from Ta Pen live in a totally different world, growing rice and raising cattle while earning $1 a day selling thatched roofing to traders on motorbikes who regularly pass by.

“There are lots of women with five to seven kids who have been abandoned by their husbands. Around 95 per cent are illiterate and almost all of the kids have never had any schooling,” said Lo, adding that some of the children suffer from malnutrition.

In May 2009 the Geneva charity, along with 13 private French- and English-speaking schools, organised a concert at the prestigious Victoria Hall to raise funds for Ta Pen. The result: over SFr125,000 donated and 17 months later, a brand-new school building, equipped with toilets, showers, a community hall, canteen and a dormitory for the teachers.

The project, which aims to lay the foundations of a solid primary education for children aged 6 to 14, was identified, developed and brought to completion by Lo, who had returned to his native country after over 20 years in Geneva.

The former Cambodian refugee arrived in Switzerland in 1980 with his wife and two children after the fall of the Pol Pot regime. For three years they stayed with a family in Geneva’s wealthy Cologny district, his children went to a local international school and he found a job at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) headquarters in Geneva.

“I eventually retired in 2005 but I wanted to be useful to Cambodia and it was a great chance meeting the people from Don du Choeur in 2009,” he noted.

The singers came from 13 private French- and English-speaking schools.

The singers came from 13 private French- and English-speaking schools. (

Ideal person

The association had heard that Lo was moving back to Cambodia and he was the ideal person to implement the project.

“I trained as an archaeologist but I have an idea about architecture, as I built my own home in Cambodia from A-Z,” he explained.

Over a 12-month period, Lo stayed four or five days a week at a local farmer’s house to oversee the building work, dealing with land-grabbing issues and trucks blocked by the rains, purchasing materials and chivvying along workers, most of whom were local women.

On October 1, 2010 some 250 local children kitted out in pristine white shirts and black shorts and skirts gathered for their first ever day at school.

“The schoolyard was full as we handed out the uniforms. Everyone was really delighted,” said Lo.

“It’s very gratifying, as I feel I’ve accomplished my work and offered an education to these children who have quite frankly been living in obscurity.”

Fifth project

Ta Pen is the fifth project by Don du Choeur since 2002, following concerts for children’s initiatives in Africa, Switzerland, Russia and India.

The association was formed after a group of five private school teachers from Geneva got together to create concerts with students to raise money and interest about children living in other parts of the world.

It now comprises a small committee and a dozen volunteers who put on the concerts with around a dozen schools from the Association of Geneva Private Schools.

“It takes around a year and a half to organise a concert with about 350-400 kids and five or six teachers,” explained the president, Isabelle Chatel.

The three most recent Geneva concerts, which sell around 2,500 tickets, and related fundraising events brought in over SFr1.5 million for educational and health projects in Russia, India and Cambodia.

Lives completely changed

Some SFr480,000 went towards improving the lives and education of children living at the Tambov orphanage, 500km southeast of Moscow, in a humid region where temperatures can drop to -30 degrees Celsius.

Many of the 160 orphans were suffering from pulmonary illnesses as the orphanage was not heated, windows were broken and the roof was damaged.

“Their lives have since completely changed,” said Chatel. “The state has agreed to look after the children to make sure they complete their education up to the age of 18.

“Before they left school at 16 and as there were no formal structures 60 per cent ended up in prison. For three years not one has ended up there, and all have jobs.”

The orphanage has now been taken over by Russian donors and is sponsored by a private company so it can survive on its own, added the former pharmacist.

In 2007 the new Anbumalar School near Chennai in southern India, funded by Don du Choeur, officially opened its doors to 63 mentally handicapped children. Today some 75 children attend the school.

“The kids used to be chained to posts in the streets by their parents as there were no specialised places to leave them while they went to work,” said Chatel.

The school is now part of the local scene, with a medical dispensary and several local businesses. And from the beginning of the 2012 school year, the school will be entirely funded by the Indian government.

Don du Choeur is meanwhile already planning its next concert in Geneva in 2012, which should go towards an educational project in either Africa or Haiti.

France Telecom looking at investing in Cambodia's Mobitel

PARIS: France Telecom is in the running to take a minority stake in Cambodian mobile operator Mobitel, according to a French embassy official in the Southeast Asian country, as part of its bid to expand in emerging markets.

Mobitel is one of the two brands owned by CamGSM, which is the largest mobile operator in Cambodia and is owned by the Royal Group .

"France Telecom has at least one competing bidder in its effort to acquire a stake in Mobitel... they are in the final process, but now it's up to Mobitel to choose a partner," said a high-ranking official at the embassy, relating statements made by Dominique Mas, first counsellor at the French Embassy.

The competitor could be Telekomunikasi Indonesia, which is in talks to acquire a majority stake in CamGSM in a deal that could be worth more than $500 million.

France Telecom declined to comment on Friday.

Cambodia postpones closure of Vietnamese refugee centre

PHNOM PENH — Cambodia on Friday extended a deadline to shut down a refugee centre housing dozens of Vietnamese ethnic minority Montagnards, giving in to pleas by the UN refugee agency for more time.

The largely Christian Montagnard community -- a group whose members backed US forces during the Vietnam war -- say they face repression in Vietnam.

The Cambodian office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had earlier been informed by the foreign ministry that the facility in Phnom Penh would be closed on January 1.

In a letter, it urged the UNHCR to speed up the resettlement of 62 Montagnards who had been granted refugee status and vowed to repatriate any remaining refugees to Vietnam, prompting the UNHCR to request more time.

"We extended the date of closing down the centre from January 1 to February 15, 2011" Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong told AFP.

But he said 14 Montagnards who had not yet received refugee status still faced being sent back to Vietnam.

"We do not want any refugee centre in Phnom Penh any more," he said, adding that the centre was never meant to be a long-term solution.

A spokeswoman for UNHCR said she had not been officially informed of the delay but welcomed the move.

"We very much hope that it's true. That would give us the extra time we need to find long-term solutions for those 62 Montagnards," UNHCR Asia spokeswoman Kitty McKinsey told AFP.

She refused to comment on the situation of the 14 other Montagnards.

Around 2,000 Montagnards fled to Cambodia in 2001 and 2004 after security forces crushed protests against land confiscations and religious persecution.

Vietnam, Cambodia and the UNHCR signed an agreement in January 2005 under which Montagnards may choose whether to resettle in a third country or return home. Cambodia has refused to allow them to stay in the kingdom.

The majority were resettled, with the United States taking in most.

Communist Vietnam has strongly denied a 2006 accusation by the New York-based Human Rights Watch that it had detained and tortured Montagnards who returned home.

Vea Ja Dongraek

Dear all readers, I am so sorry to hear about the Ki-media site going to block by the government of Cambodia. I know we all try to express what is the real in Cambodia and we want to help our nation. I, myself always read the news in Ki-Media and also try to find some news to post in my site and pass it to everyone.

Even, I can't help our people much enough but I will do my best. I do post the news alone besides my study. Sometimes it takes me to long to update the news that's why there is a few people come across in my site. Right now I need the friends to help me in posting the news. As son of the Angkor empire I can't stand for what they doing now. Many people lost their land, corruption, illegal migration of Vietnamese and so on. In recently, they do ignore about the border even many people cry out that Vietnamese take over the Cambodia land. If what the Vietnamese did is right why they do not allow the Cambodian people come and see that place. Any way, when there is the protesting in any case the government always let the police as well as the soldiers come to split out the crowd. When the people face the problem such as grabbing land, and especially the invading of Vietnamese"Where are the polices and the soldiers?"

Cambodia to shut Vietnamese refugee centre

Vietnamese Montagnards are airlifted to Phnom Penh in 2004
Hundreds of Montagnards have fled to Cambodia since 2001

Related stories

Cambodia says it will shut a centre for Vietnamese refugees on 1 January and send those remaining back to Vietnam, where they allegedly face repression.

The UN refugee agency has pleaded for more time to resettle the 62 refugees.

They are the last group of asylum-seekers known as Montagnards - an ethnic minority that largely sided with US forces during the Vietnam war.

Cambodia has refused to allow them to settle, saying they must choose to go to a third country or back to Vietnam.

Hundreds of Montagnards have fled to Cambodia since 2001, after Vietnam's communist government cracked down on protests against land confiscation and religious persecution.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has already has granted the Montagnards refugee status.

"We have asked the Cambodian government to give us more time to find a long-term solution for these 62 individuals who are at that site, and we hope that the Cambodian government will give us a favourable reply," Kitty McKinsey of UNHCR told the BBC Vietnamese service.

"They haven't sent them back yet, so let's not get ahead of ourselves."

Cambodia says it wants to close the shelter in Phnom Penh to deter any further arrivals from Vietnam.

"If we don't tell them to close the site, the work of the UNHCR will be prolonged endlessly," Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong was quoted by the Associated Press as saying.

Japanese photographer arrested over photo festival images

Phnom Penh - Cambodian police have charged a Japanese photographer with pornography after they claimed he took pictures of sex workers in the tourist city of Siem Reap, local media reported Friday.

Go Takayama, a 28-year-old participant in a workshop at the Angkor Photo Festival, was arrested in late November and charged Thursday.

He faces up to one year in prison, said Siem Reap provincial prosecutor Ty Soveinthal.

'Making or publishing pornographic pictures is absolutely prohibited in Cambodia and is in violation of Cambodian law, so the court will make a decision on this next week,' Ty Soveinthal told the Phnom Penh Post newspaper.

The police said he had taken dozens of photographs of sex workers at a brothel in the city.

However Jessica Lim, who helped to coordinate the festival, said Takayama had not sought out sex workers, adding that the photographs depicted a married couple and contained no naked images.

She said Takayama was arrested immediately after leaving the building where the shoot of the couple had taken place.

'The couple, in some of the pictures, they're posing next to each other, as in a portrait shot, and in others they're standing there hugging each other,' she said.

'There's absolutely no nudity,' she said, adding that she had seen thumbnail shots of the images taken.

Takayama's photographs were taken as part of his involvement in a workshop at the week-long festival, which closed on November 27.

It remained unclear whether the charges could relate to different pictures Takayama may have shot at another time.

Asian political parties gather in Cambodia

The 6th International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP6) themed, “Asia’s Quest for a Better Tomorrow” has been held in the Cambodian capital city of Phnom Penh.

Participants in the three-day conference included representatives of 89 political parties from 36 countries, 150 observers and environmental experts from international organisations and the United Nations.

A Vietnamese delegation led by Hoang Binh Quan, Head of the Communist Party of Vietnam Central Committee’s Commission for External Relations, attended the event.

In his opening speech on December 1, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen emphasised the need to improve mutual understanding and trust, promote cooperation through the unique role and channel of political parties, and create an environment for sustainable peace and shared prosperity in the region, he said.

Also under discussion are measures to achieve economic recovery from the global financial crisis and ensure energy security and environmental safety against the backdrop of climate change, the PM said.

Over the past two days, participants joined in drafting the “Phnom Penh Declaration” with a focus on main topics such as reaffirming ICAPP’s role as an open forum for Asian political parties, recognising the huge risk of environmental damage and poverty and the pressing need to increase trade relations in the region through lifting tax and non-tax barriers, coping with climate change, targeting production towards renewable resources and promoting the role of women and young people.

This is the first time Cambodia has hosted ICAPP, after it was organised in the Philippines, Thailand, China, the Republic of Korea and Kazakhstan.

Nearly 800 Cambodian garment workers fired over strike

By Prak Chan Thul

PHNOM PENH, Dec 3 (Reuters) - Sixteen Cambodian factories producing clothing for big brands such as Adidas AG and Gap Inc have dismissed nearly 800 employees for taking part in a nationwide strike, a union leader said on Friday.

Unions were preparing to issue demands to the factories to reinstate the 799 sacked workers by Dec. 15 or face legal action and possibly more strikes, which could further disrupt a sector that is a big currency earner for the impoverished country.

"We will take action in accordance with the law and we are trying to avoid a strike," Kong Athit, deputy president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union (CCAWDU), told Reuters.

"The government and the courts have already ordered that these workers be reinstated, so these dismissals are illegal," added Kong Athit, whose union represents 40,000 workers.

The union said the factories that dismissed the workers produced clothing for major Western companies including Marks and Spencer Group PLC , Tesco PLC , H & M Hennes & Mauritz AB , Puma , Next Plc and Inditex , the world's biggest clothing retailer and owner of Zara.

Those sacked were among the estimated 210,000 garment workers -- about two-thirds of the sector's workforce -- from 95 factories who took part in the September strike to demand better working conditions and a wage increase to $93 a month from $56.

The strike was halted after three days when the government agreed to hold more talks to avoid damage to the industry, which is Cambodia's third-largest foreign currency earner after agriculture and tourism.

Garments also provide a vital source of income for rural families, and the sector is credited with helping to reduce poverty in a country where about a third of the population live on less than $1 a day.

The country's garment exports rose 12 percent in the first half of 2010 from a year earlier, hitting $1.25 billion, according to the Economic Institute of Cambodia, an independent think tank.

Worker disputes this year in China, mostly at foreign-owned factories, have raised questions over whether other low-cost Asian manufacturing centres would also have to pay higher wages as their workers became more assertive. (Editing by Martin Petty) ((; +855 23 99 2102; Reuters Messaging: ((If you have a query or comment on this story, e-mail to

Monks branch out into carbon market to protect forest

Ben Doherty, Cambodia
Sorng Rukavorn monks Sove Ui, Kea Mony Tapkea and Sou Mai in their community forest in Oddar Meanchey, northern Cambodia.

Sorng Rukavorn monks Sove Ui, Kea Mony Tapkea and Sou Mai in their community forest in Oddar Meanchey, northern Cambodia. Photo: Ben Doherty

A religious order aims to tap polluters to help a community.

THE forest surrounding the Sorng Rukavorn monks' pagoda in northern Cambodia has forever been ''theirs''.

They have always depended on the forest for food, for timber and for a living. They have long understood their forest's boundaries, its cycles of wet and dry, of fire and regeneration.

But they have never owned it. Until now. Having spent nearly two years winning legal control of 18,000 hectares of forest, they are now able to lock it away from logging interests and other encroachments, and rehabilitate areas previously cleared.

The carbon that saves, they hope, might soon be for sale. They want to be players on a global carbon market. ''Any revenue from the forest will be important for the people here, and for Cambodia,'' monk Lee Ragana says.

''When the revenue comes in, we can use the money to build infrastructure, to build schools … and to build better roads. And we can improve the management of the forests.

''We will use the money to educate farmers in better land practices and technical improvements. We will be able to supply patrols with trucks and equipment … do more fire suppression and replanting.''

The Sorng Rukavorn monks are on the cusp of entering what is still a voluntary carbon market, in preparation for a time industrialised countries legislate to force polluters into offsetting the carbon they produce.

They aim to be a UN-recognised REDD - Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation - project, in which governments and companies in industrialised nations that cannot reduce their own carbon emissions pay communities in poor countries to cut emissions on their behalf, usually by not cutting down trees.

Already, yellow-and-green signs mark the monks' land as a ''community forest'', and regular patrols are conducted by volunteers to see that trees aren't being felled illegally or land cleared for farming.

The monks' community forest is one of 13 such sites in Oddar Meanchey province, on Cambodia's northern border with Thailand. Combined, they preserve nearly 68,000 hectares of forest land and, maintained over 30 years, are expected to sequester 7.1 million tonnes of carbon. Within months they will seek a carbon buyer.

But even before a dollar has been paid to the monks, they feel they've won a victory in taking control of land that - informally at least - they have regarded as theirs for generations.

''Before we had the community forest, people from outside would … cut down trees illegally, clear land, and the people who depended on that forest had no right to stop them,'' Mr Lee says. ''Now we feel we own this land, we have control, and we can stop it being used badly.''

Kurt MacLeod, vice-president of Pact, a non-government organisation helping Oddar Meanchey's community forests bring their carbon to market, says REDD projects will bring enormous benefits and development to the poor communities running them.

''As soon as legislation is enacted [in major industrialised countries], there are going to be private sector companies looking for validated REDD projects,'' he says. ''The demand in five years will be much higher than supply.''

Industrialised countries see enormous value in paying poorer countries to preserve forests on their behalf. Germany, France, Norway, the US, Britain, Australia and Japan pledged $US4 billion towards REDD initiatives at the last round of climate talks in May. But just how much carbon will be worth on the market of the future is still unclear.

There is also the issue of measuring the carbon sequestered in forests, and how that might be affected by its growth, climatic change or unforseen events such as fire.

And there is concern at the sellers' end about how much of the money, in a country such as Cambodia, where a notoriously corrupt government has the sole right to ''sell'' the carbon, will ever reach those on the ground.

Cambodia has a poor record in forestry. It has experienced some of the most rampant deforestation. More than 7 million hectares of forest - 39 per cent of the country's land - was sold off for logging. In the four decades since 1970, primary forest cover in Cambodia was reduced from 70 per cent to just 3.1 per cent today.

Deforestation accounts for 20 per cent of all the world's greenhouse gas emissions - some 5.9 billion tonnes a year.

‘Pearl of Asia’ Falls to Modernization

Suy Se |

A guard looking at an old building near the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said ancient edifices should give way to skyscrapers. A guard looking at an old building near the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said ancient edifices should give way to skyscrapers.

Phnom Penh. When Cambodia tore down a century-old school in the capital this year, conservationists bemoaned the loss of yet another piece of history in former French Indochina in the rush to modernize.

French colonial architecture — with its shuttered windows, grand balconies and pitched tiled roofs — for decades defined the look of cities in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, even after the French pulled out of Indochina in 1954.

But now, hundreds of historic buildings across the region are being knocked down as governments capitalize on rising land prices and attempt to create eye-catching skylines.

“What I see in Phnom Penh is little — or at worst no — heritage protection of significant buildings. I see the disappearance of old French colonial buildings,” said Cambodia-based architectural historian Darryl Collins.

“It’s a great pity because I think in time it will be regretted that so many of these buildings have gone,” the Australian said.

Built in 1908, the Ecole Professionnelle — Cambodia’s oldest training school — was razed in February, the latest high-profile casualty in the impoverished country’s quest for modernity.

The Cambodian capital, or the “Pearl of Asia” as it was once known, used to be thought of as one of the loveliest cities in the region thanks to its French-style wide avenues, carefully-manicured gardens and picturesque stately homes.

Much of that charm, however, is disappearing at an alarming rate, say conservationists.

They estimate that as many as 30 percent of Phnom Penh’s colonial buildings — survivors of the brutal Khmer Rouge regime and decades of civil war — have been demolished in the past 15 years.

While many Cambodians in the capital prefer to live and work in modern buildings, it is not just historians who are upset by the transformation.

“We should not destroy the French buildings. We should renovate them so that they look nice again,” said Chheng Moeun, 76, who sells soft drinks outside a crumbling colonial villa near Phnom Penh’s Royal Palace.

The demolitions are being driven in part by the kingdom’s economic growth over the past decade and developers are just eager to build apartments and office blocks in the prime locations that many of the colonial buildings occupy.

Samraing Kamsan, a top official at Cambodia’s Ministry of Culture, said saving French design in Phnom Penh was complicated because of limited funding and a lack of interest from the buildings’ owners.

“We want to preserve those ancient buildings. Some people listen to us, but some do not,” the official said.

Across the border, fellow former French colonies Laos and Vietnam are also struggling to maintain their colonial dwellings, said Collins, who blames booming real estate prices.

“It’s a short-term pattern of thinking,” he said, the main consideration being “sheer profit.”

Hoang Dao Kinh, a specialist in the preservation of Hanoi’s cultural and historical heritage, said out of more than one thousand French villas in the Vietnamese capital, only a few hundred remain in the original colonial style.

And while the country has made efforts to safeguard old buildings, Kinh said the application of a 2001 law on the preservation of such sites “has met with many difficulties.”

But attempts to rescue some of France’s architectural leftovers have not been completely in vain, he added, pointing to Vietnam’s Da Lat city as a noteworthy example.

In neighboring Laos, the picturesque northern town of Luang Prabang with its well-kept colonial homes has proved a major tourist draw and the government is keen to replicate that success in the capital.

Buildings in Vientiane have been renovated and are in “very good” condition, said government spokesman Khenthong Nuanthasing.

“It’s good for tourists. When the tourists come to Vientiane, they are looking for those colonial homes,” he said.

Collins believes governments in all three countries should see the preservation of French-era structures not as a nuisance, but as a way to attract revenue from foreign visitors.

“Decisions have to be made about how important these buildings are to the cities,” he said.

But if recent remarks by the Cambodian prime minister are anything to go by, those in favor of conservation have to brace themselves for an uphill battle.

“They want to keep the old buildings. But when they collapse, who would be responsible?” Hun Sen said in September when he announced construction plans for a 555-meter tower in Phnom Penh.

“Don’t be too conservative. Skyscrapers are appearing. Let’s build high buildings,” he said.

Agence France-Presse

Cambodia faces poverty despite rising tourism revenue

Preethi Nallu, Press TV, Siem Reap
Cambodia with its rich architecture and scenic terrain is every photographer's delight. Tourists clicking photos of vibrant streets scene is a common occurrence. With its magnificent remains of the khmer empire, Siem Reap has become a popular tourist destination drawing visitors from all over the world. Over 2 million tourists will have visited cambodia in 2010 alone.
Whilst the remnants of cambodia's ancient history leave a lasting impression, it is difficult to overlook the large number of street children in urban centers as well as rural areas. It is estimated that Cambodia with a total population of about 13 million is home to 5 million children under the age of 15 and 60 percent of the population is currently under the age of 18. Consequently, the disproportionate number of minors in the country has become its economic backbone, often bearing the burden of providing for their families at the expense of their education, their development and ultimately their futures.

Despite increased revenue from tourism, Cambodia with an annual GDP of a mere 300 us dollars per capita has one of the worst social indicators in the region. In Siem Reap at least 60 percent of the local population lives below the poverty line.

The most vulnerable victims of lack of social services are of course children.

This six year old wanders the streets every night looking for tourists claiming that his baby brother needs milk. He is joined by thousands of others who are seen roaming the streets during the day and late into the night thereby becoming easy targets for organized begging rings and sex trafficking.

Local organizations such as Anjali house that provide refuge and education to underprivileged children explain that sustainable progress in Cambodia cannot be achieved without investment in education.

Some of the children as young as 15 already have a clear idea of how they could help improve their community.

At The end of the Pol Pot years, during which schools were abolished, only around 300 cambodians with a higher education remained in the country. Cambodia was faced with re- starting an educational system from scratch. Given the proliferation of education and child poverty related NGOs, experts say there is a dire need for the government at national and local levels to collaborate and contribute towards securing the futures of their youth.

Trouble brews on eastern front

Ultra-nationalist PAD plans rally to warn of Cambodian encroachment on Thai soil - Saudi response to Bangkok summit invitation will show whether relations with Thailand remain tense - Corrections Department chief assures red shirts that inmates are being treated well

The People's Alliance for Democracy is all set for yet another gathering on Jan 25 to alert the country to what it claims is an impending territorial invasion by Cambodia.

Suthep: Clashes with PAD

The ultra-nationalist alliance has turned on the government it holds culpable for what it has called the loss of Thailand's territory on the eastern front.

The PAD's friendly relations with the ruling Democrat Party soured after the party played along with its coalition partners' demands for a charter rewrite. The alliance slammed the proposed amendments as blatant self-interest.

Its ties with the Democrats took a turn for the worse when Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban, speaking to Democrat supporters in the South, chided the PAD for attacking him.

Mr Suthep also went where he had never gone before: he insisted Sondhi Limthongkul, an influential co-leader of the PAD, was ''no lesser evil'' than ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

His remarks, however, took Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva aback. In a verbal warning, he said his deputy should learn to hold his tongue so as not to needlessly invite hostility.

The PAD has shaken off its Democrat-leaning image and is pressing ahead with its planned rally on Jan 25 in Bangkok. But the government has reminded the alliance that the emergency decree remains firmly in place in the capital and any threat to security will be met with swift prosecution.

The alliance originally planned to hold the rally on Dec 11. But its key figures figured that since December is a month of joyous occasions, most notably His Majesty the King's birthday tomorrow, the gathering should be deferred until Jan 25.

The PAD, nonetheless, has maintained it is fully justified in organising a gathering. It says the country must wake up to the expanding Cambodian occupation of border areas in Si Sa Ket province.

A reliable source in the alliance said Chamlong Srimuang, another PAD co-leader, is leading a band of disciples of the Santi Asoke Buddhist sect to the rally. The sect is headquartered in Kantharalak district of Si Sa Ket and its centre is only a stone's throw from the border.

Standing in the centre's backyard, one can see the enlarging settlement of Cam bodian villagers who allegedly encroach on Thai soil, the source said.

The 2nd Army, which has jurisdiction over the Northeast, has also claimed there are startling discoveries that support the alleged expanding territorial encroachment, the source added. However, no details were given.

A senior military officer belonging to the PAD said new evidence has come to light that reinforced the belief that Thailand has lost land to Cambodia.

''We need to rally to let people know how serious this problem is. We'll bring forth compelling evidence

[of alleged territorial loss] and demand the return of the land,'' the source said.

The border dispute, the source added, is a highly nationalistic issue that will attract a large rally turnout and provide impetus to the PAD gathering.

Uneasy silence in Middle East

The government is getting restless waiting for replies from leading Arab countries to say whether they will attend the third Asia-Middle East Dialogue meeting in Bangkok.

Saudi Arabia has yet to say whether it will attend the Dec 15-16 conference, which was launched by Singapore in 2005.

It would be a major embarrassment to Thailand if Saudi Arabia, which will host the next AMED meeting, stays away or decides to send junior representatives to the conference here.

Abhisit: Awaits Saudi response

Diplomacy aside, Riyadh's reaction or non-reaction to the invitation could reflect its mood toward Thailand, given the frosty state of bilateral relations.

Bangkok and Riyadh have not seen eye-to-eye since Saudi Arabia cut off diplomatic ties.

This followed the murder of four members of its diplomatic staff in Bangkok in 1989 and 1990, plus the 1990 disappearance of Saudi Arabian businessman Mohammad al-Ruwaili following a notorious jewellery theft saga.

Not a single Thai government in the past two decades has come close to providing a satisfactory explanation or to bringing any culprits to justice.

Some progress was made in January this year with the indictment of Lt Gen Somkid Boonthanom and four other police in connection with the disappearance of Mr Ruwaili.

This year's AMED theme, ''Strengthening Cooperation towards Common Prosperity'', will also showcase how much clout Thailand has mustered in maintaining the right diplomatic balance in its ties with Arab countries.

This is especially important when problems concerning the southern insurgency have popped up at the Organisation of Islamic Conference.

Nineteen deputy ministers and ministers have confirmed they will attend out of 50 nations which have been invited.

Confirmed guests include Singapore's senior minister of state for foreign affairs Zainul Abidin Rasheed and Indonesian foreign minister Marty Natalegawa.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva will preside over the opening ceremony on Dec 15 at Queen Sirikit National Convention Center.

Issues to be discussed will cover a wide range of political, economic and social matters, including terrorism, piracy and maritime security, business opportunities and climate change.

The conference will boost the local economy, and could highlight Thailand's potential as Asia's bread basket, a hub for medical and health tourism and as a prime tourist destination for Muslim people, government sources say.

Representatives of the Palestinian Authority will also take part.

The AMED ministerial meeting is held biennially at venues alternating between Asia and the Middle East. Its inaugural session was organised in Singapore in 2005, while AMED II was held in Egypt in 2008.

Chartchai puts record straight

Corrections Department director-general Chartchai Suthiklom says he has never felt any pressure taking care of detained red shirt supporters at various prisons over the past six months.

Mr Chartchai insists the department has treated the red shirt detainees fairly. Their basic human rights have been protected and they still have a chance to meet their relatives, friends and supporters every weekday.

Chartchai: No abuse of red shirts

''We treat them like other [inmates]. We don't abuse them as feared by some red shirt supporters,'' Mr Chartchai said.

Since the government imposed the emergency decree six months ago, more than 400 red shirt protesters have been detained on charges of terrorism and sent to jails in several provinces.

Red shirt supporters have continued to demand their release and questioned the inmates' treatment by the Corrections Department.

Mr Chartchai explained he had reached an understanding with the red shirts about their treatment when the group rallied outside the Bangkok Special Remand Prison _ where 10 leaders of the red shirts are being detained _ and called for justice for the detainees.

Ten detained red shirt leaders are now being held separately in five detention areas inside the prison and they have to abide by prison regulations just like ordinary prisoners.

''My warders tell me that they are still healthy and strong,'' he said. ''They take good care of themselves.''

In the six months that have passed, about 200 red shirt detainees have been freed.

Mr Chartchai said authorities have stopped arresting red shirt supporters under the emergency decree and sending them to jail. Although the group occasionally conducts political activities, they are generally peaceful.

With most red shirt co-leaders behind bars, the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) has installed Thida Thavornseth, the wife of detained red shirt co-leader Weng Tojirakarn, as its chairwoman.

She replaced former UDD chairman Veera Musikhapong, who has been given bail to fight the terrorism charge against him since he turned himself into authorities shortly before the crackdown on the red shirt protesters at Ratchaprasong intersection on May 19.

Ms Thida is widely known among the red shirts as a moderate political activist.

She has worked with the UDD since the movement was established four years ago following the ouster of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra. She has taught red shirt supporters about democracy, justice and social equity.

Suriyan Thongnueiad, secretary-general of the Campaign for Popular Democracy, said he believed Ms Thida was not the real chairwoman of the UDD and her appointment was merely to shore up the movement's image.

''I don't know exactly how powerful and charismatic a leader she is ...We have to wait and see,'' Mr Suriyan said.

Next Friday, Ms Thida will lead a red shirt rally for the first time to Democracy Monument to demand justice for victims of the red shirt protest between March 12 and May 19 in which 92 people, including security personnel, were killed and more than 1,000 others injured.


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