Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Many Evictees Can't Vote: Monitors

By Chiep Mony, VOA Khmer Original report from Phnom Penh, 11 June 2008

[Editor's note: In the weeks leading into national polls, VOA Khmer will explore a wide number of election issues. The "Election Issues 2008" series will air stories on Tuesday and Wednesday, followed by a related "Hello VOA" guest on Thursday. This is the second in a two-part series examining the worries of the urban displaced.]

Although politicians and officials say they are seeking votes from the urban displaced, they may face one problem: many displaced are no longer eligible to vote. As many as 150,000 residents of Phnom Penh could face eviction in the path of development in Phnom Penh. But many of them will not be among the 720,000 voters registered in Phnom Penh.

But the Committee for Free and Fair Elections and the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections both say the displacement has put voting out of reach this year for many. Some who were registered at their old neighborhoods in Phnom Penh have not been able to register in their new locations, officials from both organizations said.

Nevertheless, parties hope they can convince those who do vote that they will act to solve many of the problems the evictees face. Cambodian People's Party lawmaker Chiem Yeap said his party's candidates will seek to explain to resettled residents reasons they were moved. "Some people say the rich put pressure on the poor," he told VOA Khmer. "
It is not like that. The CPP always wants achievement and winning in a valuable manner, and we want our citizens to understand that and vote for us." Many forced evictions have led to displaced communities far from the capital and its jobs, schools and infrastructure. Critics say eviction plans rarely compensate people fairly, but city officials maintain the evictees are squatters on state land.

CPP candidates for Phnom Penh will seek to inform potential voters of the party's future measures, to help build houses, roads, schools and hospitals, and provide them with clean water and electricity, Chiem Yeap said. The displaced could receive help from the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, which seeks to raise the living conditions in these settlements to the standards enjoyed by city dwellers, Phnom Penh candidate Yim Sovann said.

Lu Laysreng, first deputy president of Funcinpec and Minister of Rural Development, called the urban displaced the patient in the hospital that needed treatment soonest. No matter the policies, the urban displaced are looking for leadership to bring them out of poverty, voters like Chim Rem, who was ousted from his Sparrow's Nest home on the Tonle Bassac and now lives in a resettlement village 20 kilometers from the capital.

"I will go to vote, to choose the prime minister, so that he sees all kinds of people and knows someone who has difficulty or lives under suppression," he said.



For Workers, Special Obstacles to Voting

By Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer Original report from Phnom Penh17 June 2008

[Editor's note: In the weeks leading into national polls, VOA Khmer will explore a wide number of election issues. The "Election Issues 2008" series will air stories on Tuesday and Wednesday, followed by a related "Hello VOA" guest on Thursday. This is the first in a two-part series examining the role of workers in the election.]

The increasing price of gas may be one deterrent for voters this year, but workers say they will also have to overcome the policies of their bosses. Many garment workers live in Phnom Penh but hail from rural provinces, where they are registered to vote. This can make travel for voting expensive, and requires time off for work.

Independent groups have worked hard to encourage factories to give their workers time off for Election Day, July 27, but workers say they worry individual factory owners have little incentive to do so. Workers say in the 2007 commune elections, they were forced to work overtime during the elections, but they were not given time off.
They are worried the same will happen in July. The July election was very important, said Nov Sokheoun, 25, a garment worker at the Teratec factory, who is registered in Kampot province. "I wish to attend to vote, although my province is 120 kilometers far away from Phnom Penh."
Some workers representatives say there should be no problem. Chuon Mom Thol, president of the Cambodian Union Federation, said there should be no problem, and he plans to make a request to the Ministry of Labor to allow workers time off to vote.

Om Mean, undersecretary of state for the Ministry of Labor, said on Monday the ministry issued an official letter to all unions and factory owners to allow garment workers to vote. When the factory owners receive the letter, they will respect the ruling of the government, he said.
There are 394 factories in Phnom Penh, employing 340,000 people, according to the president of the Free Trade Union, Chea Mony.


Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Tribunal Struggles With Civil Party Role

By Mean Veasna, VOA Khmer Original report from Phnom Penh, 04 July 2008

As the pre-trial detention hearing of jailed Khmer Rouge leader Ieng Sary came to a close this week, participants found themselves at odds over how much victim participation through civil parties was too much.

Chum Mey, one of the few survivors of Tuol Sleng prison, is also one of the civil parties participating in Khmer Rouge tribunal proceedings.
Prior to one session of the hearings, the Pre-Trial Chamber judges ruled that one individual, Seng Theary, a Cambodian-American lawyer whose parents died under the Khmer Rouge, would not be allowed to participate directly. Pre-trial judges ruled that for the Ieng Sary hearings, civil party victims of the regime would only be allowed to express themselves through lawyers. That ruling has raised questions over how much participation should be allowed in the future.

The UN-Cambodia tribunal was designed with a unique element: the presence of civil parties, who participate alongside prosecutors and the defense, representing their own cases but also speaking as a voice of the victims. But following the hearings Thursday, lawyers told reporters there was a limit.

"In some ways, it was really a bad week from the perspective of the civil parties," said lawyer for the civil parties Silke Studzinsky. "We received this week a ruling by the Pre-Trial Chamber saying that civil parties are not allowed to speak personally if they are not represented." Under the tribunal's internal rules, civil parties are not obligated to have a lawyer, Studzinsky said. Seng Theary called the ruling "a prevention of the civil parties' rights." Michael Karnavas, co-defense for Ieng Sary, disagreed.

"We still have not set up the modality, how far can [civil parties] go, what should they do?" he said Thursday. "Half the time they are just repeating the arguments that the prosecutors made, rather than say, 'I concur,' and then adding one or two points."

However, Studzinsky said Karnavas was used to working with courts in a system of common law, unlike the system used to set-up the tribunal. William Smith, co-deputy prosecutor, called civil parties very important for the tribunal. They play a watchdog role, he said, and stand up for the interest of all victims. Tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath said the role of the civil parties was important to the courts, but in some cases, testimony such as Seng Theary's is not crucial.

"Seng Theary's case is not the same," he said. "The expression of the victims in person will be more interesting in the trials."



Cambodia says further Thai troops trespass in temple feud

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — Tensions flared Tuesday on Cambodia's border with Thailand, as a Thai soldier was injured by a landmine and about 100 Thai troops were held near an ancient temple in a territorial dispute.
Officials in both countries called the incident a misunderstanding that occurred after the soldiers went to fetch three Thai protesters arrested earlier in the day for jumping an immigration checkpoint to reach the Preah Vihear temple. But later a Cambodian government spokesman said the Thai troops were being held until further talks could resolve the stand-off. "We have not allowed the Thai troops to go back yet, and now more have arrived," spokesman Khieu Kanharith said.

The Thai army ranger who stepped on a landmine was released for treatment after the blast ripped off his leg, Khieu Kanharith said. A Thai military official told AFP that the ranger's leg was amputated after he stepped on the landmine close to the 900-year-old temple, but insisted that the troops had not crossed into Cambodia.

Khieu Kanharith said Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has ordered troops to withhold firing unless fired upon first. "There's no tension. No one is yelling at each other. We have asked them to stay there for a while," the spokesman said. "We need to find out more and let them know how they got the border wrong. If they had intended to invade, we would have used our weapons."

The governor of the Thai province across from the temple, Seni Chittakasem, said he had led a delegation into Cambodia to secure the release of the three protesters, insisting the soldiers had remained nearby but on Thai territory. "All three detainees have been released and now are on the Thai side," he added.

The protesters -- one man, one woman and a Buddhist monk -- are part of a group calling themselves Dharmayatra. They had placed wooden planks over barbed wire on the border to get across, vowing to reclaim the temple, which the World Court handed over to Cambodia in a 1962 ruling. But the temple's most accessible entrance is at the foot of a mountain in Thailand.

Cambodia closed the main border crossing leading to that entrance after about 100 Thai protesters tried to march to the site on June 23. The temple has provoked a political firestorm in Thailand, where a constitutional court overruled the government's support for Cambodia's bid to win World Heritage status for the ruins.

Foreign minister Noppadon Pattama was forced to resign in the ensuing scandal and the entire cabinet is now threatened with possible impeachment motions. Despite the controversy, last week the UN's cultural agency UNESCO awarded the temple World Heritage status in recognition of its importance as an example of ancient Khmer architecture.



Cambodian Official: Thai Troops Cross Border in Temple Dispute

By VOA News 15 July 2008

A Cambodian official says 40 troops from Thailand entered Cambodia Tuesday in the latest flare-up of a territorial dispute over an 11th century Hindu temple.Hang Soth, the Cambodian official who manages the Preah Vihear temple, said the troops crossed the border hours after three Thai activists were arrested for illegally entering Cambodia to reach the ruins.

The activists have since been released to Thai authorities.Thai military officials deny their troops crossed the border into Cambodia. They say their troops have been deployed to the nearby area.

They also say one Thai soldier lost his leg to a landmine while on patrol near the temple. The temple sits along the Thai-Cambodian border, and each side has long claimed the site as its own. The International Court of Justice granted sovereignty of the temple to Cambodia in 1962.

Thailand's foreign minister, Noppadon Pattama, resigned last week, following a controversial decision he made to endorse Cambodia's bid to the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization to designate the temple as a World Heritage Site.

Thailand's Constitutional Court ruled last week that the endorsement should have first been approved by the legislature. The decision also had opposition lawmakers calling for Noppadon's impeachment.



Thai troops cross Cambodian border as temple dispute flares

· Phnom Penh
· July 16, 2008 - 12:00AM

ABOUT 40 Thai troops entered Cambodia last night in the latest flare-up of a territorial dispute over a 900-year-old Hindu temple, Cambodian officials said.
The soldiers crossed the border hours after three Thai protesters were arrested for jumping an immigration checkpoint in a bid to reach the ruins of the Preah Vihear temple, said Hang Soth, the Cambodian official who manages the site.

"At first about 20 troops entered a pagoda in Cambodian territory. Later they increased their numbers to about 40," he said. "We don't understand yet why they came."
The Thai soldiers have positioned themselves at a Buddhist pagoda located on the slope of a mountain, underneath Preah Vihear temple, he said, and the troops and Cambodian border authorities are in discussions.

The governor of the Thai province across from the temple, however, denied that the soldiers were on Cambodian soil. "It's a misunderstanding (Siam you know the border Law or not? "Funman said"). There is no trespassing by our soldiers," Governor Seni Chittakasem said.

Mr Seni said he had led a delegation into Cambodia to secure the release of the three protesters, insisting that the soldiers had remained nearby but on Thai territory. "All three detainees have been released and now are on the Thai side," he added.

The temple was recently declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO, despite objections from Thai groups. The two countries have a long-standing dispute over the land that surrounds the temple, and Thai activists have recently revived nationalist sentiment over the issue.

You See,
How Beautiful For Preah Vihear Temple is? and how Siam want to pillage?



Thai army enter Cambodia, Thai protesters arrested at disputed temple

About 40 Thai troops on Tuesday entered Cambodia in the latest flare-up of a territorial dispute over a 900-year-old Hindu temple, Cambodian officials at the border have told AFP.
The military deployment comes as three Thai protesters were detained by Cambodian soldiers early on Tuesday for illegally entering the temple site, which is closed to the public, a Thai provincial governor said.

The 11th-century Preah Vihear temple is at the centre of a long-running territorial dispute as the main compound lies inside Cambodia but the most accessible entrance to the site is at the foot of a mountain in Thailand."We are negotiating to secure their release through local officials," Seni Chitkasem, governor of the border province Si Sa Ket, told local television.

"They are being detained for interrogation and haven't yet made any demands," he said.
Cambodia sealed off the temple last month after about 100 Thai protesters attempted to march on the ruins on June 23. One man, one woman and a Buddhist monk slipped through Cambodia's military fence Tuesday, vowing to reclaim the temple which the World Court handed over to Cambodia in a 1962 ruling.

The protesters are part of a group calling themselves Dharmayatra, which has been camped at the foot of Preah Vihear for the past few weeks. The temple has provoked a political firestorm in Thailand, after Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej's government agreed last month to support Cambodia's bid to win World Heritage status for the ruins.

A Thai court invalidated the agreement, and foreign minister Noppadon Pattama was forced to resign in the ensuing scandal. The parliamentary opposition is mulling impeachment motions against the entire cabinet.

Despite the controversy, last week the UN's cultural agency UNESCO awarded the temple World Heritage status in recognition of its importance as an example of ancient Khmer architecture.



Prime spot for a bit of people-watching

PHNOM PENH : When once there was a trickle, now nearly 100 tourists a day visit the border temple of Preah Vihear, first viewing the magnificent millenium-old ruins, and then heading over to gawk at Thai protesters on the other side of the border. Armed with cameras and video devices, Cambodian tourists get their photos taken, smiling, next to the shuttered border gate, with angry Thai demonstrators heckling and chanting as a distant backdrop.

''For the past two weeks, more and more people have come to visit, firstly to see the temple, and then to watch the Thais,'' the secretary-general of the government's Preah Vihear authority said.

Visitors to the temple, known as Khao Phra Viharn by Thais, have risen from around 20 a day to up to about 90 recently, mainly because it was named a World Heritage site, but also to picnic and watch the firmly contained protests, he said.

The ancient Hindu temple, perched on a 525-metre-high cliff on the Dongrek mountain range that defines the Thai-Cambodian border, has been the source of a sovereignty dispute for decades, and some Thais fiercely objected to its heritage listing. But border police, military and tourists at the site agreed _ it passes the time watching protests, and it's quite good for business.
''More and more people visit,'' said Cham Sokhom, a motorbike taxi driver who has worked the temple's ragged road on the Cambodian side for three years. ''Before I earned US$5 [about 150 baht] a day. Lately I can earn up to $17.50.''

Of almost all the Cambodians who brave the bumpy road to the temple, there is no malice, just a simple curiosity value. ''I love the temple, and I also want to see Thais,'' one woman said.



Cambodian Information Minister: No tension at border with Thailand

PHNOM PENH, July 15 (Xinhua)

There is no tension currently at the border between Cambodia and Thailand, although both sides stationed more troops there over a territorial dispute around the Preah Vihear Temple, said Information Minister and government spokesman Khieu Kanharith here Tuesday.

Three Thai protesters were arrested earlier in the day for jumping an immigration checkpoint to reach the temple. Thai troops then came to fetch them and the number of soldiers gradually built up to around 100.

Kanharith confirmed the increase of Thai troops and said that negotiation is going on to quiet the situation.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has ordered troops to withhold firing unless being fired upon first, he said. Cambodia needs to find out more and let Thailand know how they got the border wrong, he said. "If they had intended to invade, we would have used our weapons," he said.

Meanwhile, a Thai army ranger was released for treatment after he stepped on a landmine and made his leg ripped off, he added. Provincial authority of Preah Vihear earlier told reporters that the Thai troops entered the Cambodian territory.

However, the Thai side said that a delegation was sent into Cambodia to secure the release of the three protesters, insisting the soldiers had remained nearby but on Thai territory.
The protesters trespassed the border with intention to reclaim the 11-century classic Khmer-style temple, which the International Court of Justice awarded, together with the land it occupies, to Cambodia in 1962, a decision that rankled the Thais.

The temple straddles the Thai-Cambodian border atop the Dangrek Mountain and was listed as a World Heritage Site on July 7 by UNESCO's World Heritage Committee. Thai Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama resigned last Thursday after the Constitutional Court ruled that he had overstepped his authority in supporting Cambodia's application to have the temple classified as a World Heritage Site.



Political tensions driving temple row

By Jonathan Head BBC News, Bangkok

A week after the controversial listing of the ancient Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage Site, the dispute that has flared up between Thailand and Cambodia is still causing tension. The 11th-Century Hindu temple lies along the border between the two countries, but in 1962 the International Court of Justice judged that it belonged to Cambodia.

However the land surrounding the temple is still disputed, and the only practical access is from Thailand. The issue has stirred up nationalist emotions in an already sensitive political climate in both countries. Early on Tuesday three Thai protesters crossed into the temple - which remains closed - and were detained for a short time by Cambodian troops.
The Cambodian authorities also say 40 Thai soldiers crossed into their territory briefly, although they are putting this down to confusion over the precise line of the border.
For both sides there is more at stake than a temple. Cambodia is preoccupied with a hard-fought general election campaign, in which Prime Minister Hun Sen aims to extend his more than two decades in power.

Last week he encouraged thousands of Cambodians to join a rowdy celebration of the temple's new international status in the capital, Phnom Penh.

In Thailand feelings are running even higher; the government elected last December was already floundering under a combined assault by street demonstrators, unfavourable court verdicts and the parliamentary opposition.
Its opponents have accused it of incompetence, and of being led by nominees of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was deposed by a coup in September 2006.
Now the government is being attacked for selling out the country over Preah Vihear, because it initially supported Cambodia's bid to list the temple.

One of Thailand's top courts judged that decision to be unconstitutional, as it was in effect a treaty which needed parliamentary approval, and it has barred the government from offering any further co-operation with Cambodia. As a result Foreign Minister Noppodol Pattama was forced to resign last week, one of three ministers to lose his job over the past two months.

Opposition from elite

The volatile state of Thai politics is the principle reason the row has blown up. Thai society is still deeply polarised between those who support Mr Thaksin, and want him to stage a political comeback, and those who loathed his leadership style and mistrust the motives of the government, which is led by his party. The fact that before being appointed foreign minister, Mr Noppodol had been Mr Thaksin's chief lawyer made his position particularly vulnerable.

His critics accuse him of putting his former client's business interests in Cambodia before the country's interests over the temple, something he has strongly denied. That suspicion harks back to the five-and-a-half years Thaksin Shinawatra was in office. As an immensely wealthy and successful businessman himself, he promoted his can-do ethos around the country, especially in poorer rural areas.
He believed in the global marketplace, and in exposing Thais to its risks and opportunities. He pushed hard to privatise state-owned industries and get free trade agreements with as many countries as he could. Inevitably he provoked opposition from those who felt they would lose out, or from those who felt he cared more about making money than about Thailand's traditions and interests.

The most vehement opposition to the Preah Vihear World Heritage bid comes from the same groups who objected to many of Mr Thaksin's policies: the traditional, royalist and aristocratic elite and elements of the Bangkok middle class.

Historical rivalry

But there are also genuine historical grievances at play. The international court decision awarding Preah Vihear to Cambodia in 1962 was not unanimous. It rested largely on Thailand's failure to protest against the French-drawn border line in the decades before.
At the time it was mapped, a hundred years ago, Thailand had few skilled cartographers of its own.

The French colonial cartographers were supposed to draw the border along the forested edge of the Dangret Escarpment, but they veered in a few hundred meters to put the temple on the Cambodian side. It is not clear why the Thais did not object then. But it is worth remembering that in 1941 Thailand fought its only war of the 20th Century with French colonial forces over where the border with Cambodia should lie. A huge monument in the centre of Bangkok still commemorates that conflict.

At different periods in the past Thai and Khmer empires have vied for dominance in the region; the town next to the famous Khmer ruins at Angkor Wat is Siem Reap, which means "Siam [Thailand] flattened".

Khmer-style temples like Preah Vihear still dot much of Thailand's north-east. That historical rivalry still resonates today. Only five years ago the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh was burned down by an angry mob after a Thai actress was wrongly quoted as saying Angkor Wat should belong to Thailand. As it awaited news of the listing of Preah Vihear as a World Heritage site, the Cambodian government took the precaution of reinforcing security around the re-built Thai embassy.



King Calls on Cambodian Unity for Development

King Norodom Sihamoni called for Cambodian unity to help develop the country, saying too that people living in the capital play a crucial role.

Speaking at the inauguration of a statue to honor Grandmother Penh, on whose legend the name of the capital rides, King Sihamoni said national unity, helped by citizens of Phnom Penh, was the key to raising Cambodia out of poverty.

The statue, he said, was a testament to the capital.

Phnom Penh was established as the capital of Cambodia relatively recently, but it has been central to the country’s economy and politics for nearly 600 years. It was established along with five pagodas after 1422, when King Ponhea Yat abandoned Angkor to the jungle.

Many tourists these days opt out of seeing Phnom Penh altogether, focusing instead on the rediscovered ancient capital and the temples of Angkor. Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema told VOA Khmer Friday he hoped the statue would help tourists reconsider.

Meanwhile, Meach Ponn, an advisor for the Institute of Buddhism, said the municipality should research the stories of other Khmer heroes, such as A Cha and Sva Krala Homkong, to build more statues in the name of Cambodia.



Voters Notice Development, and Its Absence

[Editor's note: In the weeks leading into national polls, VOA Khmer will explore a wide number of election issues. The "Election Issues 2008" series will air stories on Tuesday and Wednesday, followed by a related "Hello VOA" guest on Thursday. This is the second in a two-part series examining the impact of foreign investment on voters.]

Although voters are satisfied with foreign investment development in Cambodia, they are disappointed that the income does not benefit the poor. And as the election approaches, investment that has led to infrastructure could pay off for the ruling party, observers say.
Not all, however, are convinced they benefit.

Under a mango tree, in a poor neighborhood in the middle of Phnom Penh, Phan Na, 32, prepared a prahok dish for her family's lunch. She said she was happy for the overall development of projects like skyscrapers in Phnom Penh, but she was concerned about her own living conditions, as these developments had not reached her.

"The development is not for the poor, but for the powerful government officials and the millionaire businessmen," she said. "The poor Cambodian people have no one to help them. If someone gives the benefit to me, I will vote for them, especially any government who can help the poor Cambodian people."

Investment in the first quarter of this year has fallen compared to last year, but an overall development boom has benefited Cambodia's economic development over the past few years. But many Cambodians do not see the direct benefits. "I have no hope," Ou Soeun, 55, who lives in a slum area of Phnom Penh, told VOA Khmer. "
"Poverty controls my daily life." "I feel very happy for this development, but the result of the development has not benefited me," she said. "I am very disappointed for that. We are poor, and still poor, and have only disappointment, and nothing to do."

Human Rights Party Vice President Keo Remy said Cambodia's economic boom had served powerful officials and millionaires only. "The Cambodian people right now are focused on the election more and more, to change their living conditions, so the development of the big buildings, or modern, new buildings, is not connected with the people's vote for the ruling party," he said. "The people now think only of living and eating, for enough food, enough clothes, and sending their children to school."

Some officials of the ruling Cambodian People's Party say their party will win support from eligible voters through development and investment.
Puthea Hang, director of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, agreed with this.

"The voters will focus on the construction of roads, bridges and all kinds of buildings, as well as modernized markets," he said. "All of these can attract voters, but this is a focus on the rich people." Sim Vibol, a teacher of law at a private Phnom Penh university, disagreed.

"The development of modern buildings and economic development are not very important factors for attracting people to vote for the CPP, but it is the style of how to rule, how to control the country to make progress," he said. "The CPP can have the support from the people in the rural areas where the ruling party constructs roads, schools and bridges, or sometimes gives gifts."



Election Year Investment Dips

[Editor's note: In the weeks leading into national polls, VOA Khmer will explore a wide number of election issues. The "Election Issues 2008" series will air stories on Tuesday and Wednesday, followed by a related "Hello VOA" guest on Thursday. This is the first in a two-part series examining the impact of foreign investment on voters.]

Signs of investment in Cambodia now abound: from plans for skyscrapers, fresh paint on new villas and infrastructure projects across the countryside. Millions of dollars are coming in, but, as Cambodia enters an election year, those numbers are dipping. Political observers say little of this money gets to the people anyway, even as quality investment has shied away from the country thanks to corruption.

Still, voters are likely to start looking for leaders who can help bring them some of the millions of dollars of foreign investment coming in, with a government that will be in power until 2013.

Cambodia saw private investment drop from $503 million in the first quarter of 2007 to $253 million in the same period this year, according to the government's investment oversight body, the Council for Development of Cambodia. The top investors for the country include Singapore, China and South Korea.

A dip in investment capital will be felt by Cambodia's labor force, which comprises hundreds of thousands of young voters. This also affects Cambodia's overall economic development, said Sok Sina, an independent economic analyst, who blamed a decline in garment exports to the US and the overall struggling global economy for the dip.

Voters may not necessarily think of this immediately as an issue, but opposition leader Sam Rainsy said poor investment was a product of poor government, especially corruption, which keeps away quality investors.

Election observers say voters are not concerned with the fall of investment or slow economic growth, because their living conditions remain still poor. But voters could concentrate on leaders who can pull them out of poverty.



Like Cambodia's Elephants, Phnong Traditions in Jeopardy

Cambodian elephants can be distinguished from their African counterparts by their smaller ears, Yun Mane, a young law student of the Phnong minority, explained recently from Mondulkiri province. These elephants are endangered, just as the traditions of the Phnong people are.

The Phnong's traditional use of elephants to clear forests and for transportation is declining, as the monetary value of elephants increase. Many Phnong, who are short of food and money, sell their elephants to companies in Siem Reap, where they are used transport tourists around Angkor Wat, Yun Mane told VOA Khmer recently.

"The elephant is the animal we love the most because it helps transport wood from the forests to help us build homes, and rice from the fields, and fruits and vegetables from farms," she said. "Our people do not rely on motorcycles or bicycles, because, in the forests and on the mud paths, when there is heavy rain and flooding, the elephant is the most reliable of all.''

As a child Yun Mane rode her elephant into Vietnam to bring back food and herbal medicine. But she sold her elephant several years ago to help her family and help pay for her education. Phnong are historically known as expert elephant captors. In their religion, the Phnong pray to elephant gods for good health, abundant harvests and safe journeys. The Phnong are forbidden to kill or eat the animals. A domestic elephant is honored in death with th same traditional funeral burial as a human.

''When an elephant dies, the Phnong do not eat the dead elephant," Yun Mane said. "A few Phnong might, but very few. The elephant is considered sacred, even in death. We bury a deceased elephant, especially the elephant that I personally love."

Melbourne scientists plan to run DNA tests on elephant dung sent from Cambodia to help work out numbers and monitor wild populations. Rangers have collected almost 600 samples of elephant dung from the Cardamom Mountains in the country's southwest. Elephant biologist Joe Hefferman said getting a more accurate picture of population size would help conservationists work out how many elephants were being poached.



Cambodian Blues Man Guest on 'Hello VOA'

Neou Sarem, VOA Khmer, Washington: 02 July 2007

Kong Nay, the nearest thing Cambodia has to a Blues man, stopped by "Hello VOA" Monday, answering questions about his art and improvising several Chapei Dong Veng songs. Kong Nay, a blind singer who plays the long-necked, two-string guitar while singing heartwarming love songs or comedic improves, is in Washington as part of the Smithsonian's Folklife Festival.

The festival is an international exhibition of "living cultural heritage" that takes place each year in July on the National Mall in Washington. This year's festival saw a special dedication to the cultures of the Mekong River. "The Mekong region has been a cradle and crossroads of cultures for many centuries and more recently has become closely connected to the United States through the more than two million Americans who trace their ancestry to Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and the Chinese province of Yunnan," Folklife festival organizers said.

Visitors will experience the region's diversity firsthand through the presentations of artists, performers, craftspeople, cooks, ritual specialists and presenters," organizers said.

"The Mekong has many different meanings to the peoples of the region as well as to Americans who may know little of its complexity," organizers said.

The Mekong program of the festival included Vietnamese opera, Thai shadow puppetry, Cambodian classical dance, and Chinese gourd flute music. Lao textiles, Naxi calligraphy and mural paintings were also on display. The festival also showcases the musical stylings of Kong Nay.
Kong Nay's Chapei Dong Veng music, which includes ballads, stories and comedic improvisation, is dying as a tradition thanks to the invasion of karaoke into rural Cambodia.
One "Hello VOA" listener noted that many of the practitioners of the art were blind like Kong Nay, and wondered aloud if the art made a person so. Kong Nay said he'd been blind before he started to play.



Tribunal to Investigate More Former Leaders

The Khmer Rouge tribunal is prepared to pursue investigation of additional regime cadre, a prosecutor said, but no decision has been made on whom.
Officials have said in the past as many as 12 former Khmer Rouge leaders could be arrested and charged with atrocity crimes, but so far the tribunal is only holding five of the senior-most leaders.

Robert Petit, co-prosecutor for the tribunal, confirmed Friday that the courts were evaluating the preliminary investigation of more suspects. "Regarding the nature of the crime committed here, and effectively based on the law and on evidence, [the tribunal] would have further investigations," he said. "We are now in the stage of preliminary investigation and the stage of the evaluation of evidence."

The investigations are being considered by the two prosecutors, but no decision has been made, he said. "I cannot answer because the decision has not yet been made," he said, when asked how many more might be charged. Petit said too the first trial of a Khmer Rouge suspect, for Kaing Khek Iev, alias Duch, would be held in September or October.

Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, said the courts would be more likely to find suspects for further investigation once trials of jailed leaders begin. "We will see [more suspects] after the completion of the trials of the five first suspects," he said. "I think if they charge more people now, it could turn the citizens' confidence on the court, because they could be confused," he said.



Khieu Samphan Awaits Lawyer Confirmation

Jailed Khmer Rouge president Khieu Samphan has selected a replacement defense lawyer from two likely candidates, but neither had confirmed a position Friday. A new candidate is likely to be approved by next week, tribunal officials said.

Khieu Samphan's former Cambodian lawyer, Say Bory, resigned early last week, leaving on opening in the defense team, which includes the French attorney Jacques Verges. "I went to meet Khieu Samphan this morning, and [he] gave me the name that he read in the directory of lawyers," Say Bory said.

He chose an experienced lawyer who can speak French, but Khieu Samphan must wait for final confirmation from the candidate, Say Bory said. Rupert Skilbeck, head of the tribunal's defense section, said it would take some time because of the importance of the decision.

Khieu Samphan must make sure he chooses a lawyer he is confident with and who can sustain a trial that could last two to three years, Skilbeck said. Family members of Khieu Samphan could not confirm his choice Friday. A source close to the tribunal said Khieu Samphan indicated interest in two names, Heng Chy, a former judge and former chief of the Appeals Court, and Sar Sovann, who holds a doctorate of law from France.

Heng Chy said Friday he had discussed the position with Say Bory, but at age 76, as old as his would-be client, sitting in long tribunal hearings and poring over thousands of pages of documents would be difficult. Sar Sovann said Friday he was likely to lose the job to Heng Chy, but would not comment further.



Cambodia's ex-king denounces Thai claims to temple

On July 15, 2008

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia - Cambodia's former king dismissed any Thai claim to an 11th century temple on the border as baseless, weighing in on a dispute that has soured relations between the neighbors and fueled anti-government protests in Thailand.
Preah Vihear temple was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site this week, reopening a long-standing disagreement between Phnom Penh and Bangkok over which country owns the land that surrounds it.
Former King Norodom Sihanouk said in a handwritten note posted on his Web site Friday that any Thai claims to the temple were "absolutely false."He accused the Thais of causing "unmerited and anachronistic problems" for Cambodia "rather than concentrating on developing harmonious, friendly and fruitful relations" between the two countries.

Samdech Ta, Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk said that some Thais are ignoring historic facts that prove that the "mountain and the temple of Preah Vihear are 100 percent Cambodia and belong to Cambodia 100 percent."

In 1962, the International Court of Justice awarded the temple and the land it occupies to Cambodia, a decision that still rankles Thais even though the temple is culturally Cambodian, sharing the Hindu-influenced style of the more famous Angkor Wat in northwestern Cambodia."

Thanks to Khmer kings and the Khmer Empire -- the Angkorian Empire in particular -- Thailand is actually very rich in temples and other Khmer monuments in the style of Angkor," the former king said.Thailand's Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama resigned Thursday after the Constitutional Court ruled that he had overstepped his authority in supporting Cambodia's application to have the temple classified as a World Heritage Site.

UNESCO added the temple to its list of landmarks on Monday.Some political opponents have charged that the government of Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej deliberately bypassed Parliament and backed the bid in exchange for business concessions from Cambodia for toppled Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and other Samak cronies.Thaksin, who was ousted in a 2006 military coup, led a group of Thai, British and Dubai businessmen to Cambodia in late May to discuss several investment projects, including the construction of a new city.

But at a recent news conference, Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong dismissed suggestions that the business trip was linked to the Preah Vihear issue.As Cambodians celebrate the recognition for the temple, a small group of Thais continue to protest, demanding the eviction of Cambodians living on land near the temple.


Monday, July 14, 2008


Cambodia´s King confirmed to attend opening ceremony

Source: Xinhua 07-10-2008 09:48
Special Report : 2008 Beijing Olympic Games

King of Cambodia has confirmed to be present at the opening ceremony of Beijing Olympic Games.

"Our King Norodom Sihamoni will attend the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games to share the joy of the Chinese people," said Hor Namhong, Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.
The FM also highly praised the preparation having been done for the Beijing Olympic Games in a recent written interview with Xinhua, saying it's impressive thanks to the utmost efforts of the whole Chinese nation.
"There is no doubt that the event will be a great achievement and success of the Chinese people, in spite of certain disruptive incidents in some areas and countries affecting the organization of the Olympic Games," he said.
The FM continued that a successful hosting of the Olympics this year will elevate the prestige of China worldwide and also give a sense of great pride not only to the Chinese people, but also other peoples of the whole East Asian region.
"Chinese athletes will certainly bring China many gold medals," he added.

Liu Qi (C), president of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the 29th Olympiad, confers the flag to theBeijing Olympics and Paralympics Volunteer Service Group atthe mobilization gathering of the volunteers for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, at the Workers' Gymnasium in Beijing,capital of China, May 4, 2008. (Xinhua Photo)

Meanwhile, he said in the interview that the Cambodian people are very happy that the Olympic Games in Beijing coincides with the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Cambodia and China.

According to an official statement, Cambodia will send a 15-member delegation to participate in the Beijing Olympics. Four Cambodian athletes will join races of marathon and swimming.


Wednesday, July 09, 2008


Cambodia Training mine-detecting Dogs

A member of the Cambodian Mine Action Center walks with dog training to be a canine mine detector in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Puppies training to be landmine detectors play with their trainers.
Phnom Penh, Cambodia -- Five squirming puppies born in the outskirts of this capital city may hold the future to successful land mine eradication in Cambodia.As part of the first litter of 10 mine-detection dogs born in Southeast Asia, the puppies spend their time wrestling and napping in a silky-soft heap. The government hopes these snuffling pups will become the nation's next generation of heroes, sniffing out TNT and exposing lethal buried land mines.
"Of all trained working dogs, the most difficult job is being a mine detection dog. These dogs need to be at the top every day," said P.A. Bergstrom, a canine expert with Norwegian People's Aid who is developing the program for Cambodia Mine Action Center, a nongovernmental organization. Cambodia has one of the world's highest rates of unexploded munitions, according to the International Campaign to Ban Land mines. Hundreds of thousands of land mines, cluster bombs and artillery shells are buried throughout the nation's jungles and countryside - lethal reminders of three decades of past wars.
"Even when land mines and UXOs (unexploded ordnance) do not directly kill or hurt people, they are a major obstacle to the development of the country because the contaminated land cannot be used for agriculture or resettlement," Deputy Prime Minister Sok An has said. "People cannot travel or access basic social infrastructures. Getting rid of land mines is a prerequisite to lifting affected populations out of poverty."
Expensive dogs
Since 2000, canine mine-detection teams have been used in Cambodia in four of the worst hit provinces. Currently, there are 53 dogs in the field. Experts say the optimum canine is a fully trained German or Belgian shepherd from Europe, which generally costs about $30,000.
Purchasing such pricey foreign dogs has been an issue for impoverished Cambodia.After the mine action center was formed in 1996, the organization attempted to turn local dogs into mine detectors. They sent 10 prospects to Sweden for training. But even though the Cambodian canines learned how to detect mines, the effort eventually failed. The dogs had difficulty trusting their handlers upon return to Cambodia."
The life of a Cambodian dog is not like in Western culture," Bergstrom said. "Here, they're used for guarding the house and almost everyone knows the best way to get rid of one on the street is to bend down and pretend that you are picking up a stone, because that's normal treatment for local dogs."
So even though the Cambodian dogs learned how to find mines, they regressed once they returned to Southeast Asia, Bergstrom said. "They came back to their old behaviors. They began listening to their handlers less."
Training detectors
Since then, the center has imported dogs. But that could change if the current program's instructors can mold the puppies into full-fledged mine detectors."The dog is not easy to train," said Vim Lay Im, an instructor who handles Tess, a retired mine detector who has worked in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Angola and Cambodia. "The instructor needs to be strong and patient and get involved with the dog most of the time. ... It is hard at first, but it will be better once you grab the dog's heart."
The new trainees were born in March, the offspring of proven mine detectors. The parents, November and Frode, are Belgian shepherds from Bosnia.The training process began almost immediately after the puppies were born: Bergstrom and trainer Huot Vannara played games with them, encouraging them to investigate and retrieve with the hope that playful roughhousing and fetch would help develop brave, curious adults with a "high-sniff frequency."
Deaths a setback
Last month, however, five of the 10 dogs died from canine coronavirus, which affects the intestinal tract. Bergstrom said the deaths underscore the difficulties in raising dogs in Cambodia: The disease is rarely fatal in Western countries where vaccines and expert veterinary care are available.The setback, however, won't deter Cambodia from developing its dog mine-detector program, Bergstrom vows."If even a couple of puppies make it into the field, the fledgling program will be a huge success," he said.
Cambodia and land mines
Cambodia is cluttered with land mines and unexploded ordnance from past wars involving the Cambodian military, the former Khmer Rouge regime, Vietnam and the United States. It is one of the most contaminated countries in the world, affecting nearly half of the nation's rural villages.Between 1970 and 1975, an estimated 539,129 tons of bombs were dropped on Cambodia.
Conservative estimates show that the United States dropped more than 50,000 tons of unexploded general purpose bombs and 3.75 million unexploded bomblets.Since 1979, there have been more than 63,000 casualties from land mine and unexploded ordnance. One in every 250 Cambodians is disabled, and the proportion of amputees - 1 in every 384 people - is the highest in the world.In 1993, Cambodia began its program to eradicate the mines.
A 2002 survey identified 1,724 square miles of known or suspect areas. By 2006, 23 square miles had been cleared of 236,929 mines and other devices.As a result, deaths and injuries are decreasing. Land mines and ordnance killed or maimed 1,154 people in 1999 compared with 315 last year.The Cambodian government hopes to clear all land mines by 2012.
Sources: International Campaign to Ban Landmines; Cambodia Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority; Cambodian Red Cross/Handicap International Belgium; Cambodia Mine/UXO Victim Information System; HALO Trust; Rand; Mines Advisory Group; U.N. Development Program; U.N. Mine Action Service; World Bank.
Canine mine detectors
More than 750 dogs are used in detection programs in an estimated 23 countries, including Cambodia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Angola, Afghanistan and Iraq.In Cambodia, the 18-month training program begins soon after the puppies are born. Initially, teachers stimulate the dogs with playful roughhousing and loud noise recordings designed to develop hunting instincts and an unflappable demeanor.The dogs are then given a conical red rubber toy, which is used as a reward and as a teaching tool. By using increasingly smaller pieces of the toy, the trainers teach dogs to sniff out specific scents by putting the plaything into a carousel of stainless steel cans. Trainers also bury slivers of the toy in sand and teach dogs to sit once they have found it.After dogs are able to detect a small sliver of the toy, the same tactic is applied to smaller and smaller pieces of TNT. Eventually, they learn to smell even the slightest trace of explosives in the air or on the ground.A dog and his handler can clear at least 6,458 square feet a day. In contrast, a person with a metal detector can cover only a quarter of that area.
Sources: Norwegian People's Aid; Cambodia Mine Action Center; Geneva International Center for Humanitarian Demining; Cambodia Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority.
E-mail Katie Nelson at



Ieng Thirith will remain in luxury behind bar

Ex-Khmer Rouge minister loses appeal against detention

PHNOM PENH (AP) - A former female minister of the Khmer Rouge regime has lost her appeal against detention by Cambodia's genocide tribunal where she is being held on charges of crimes against humanity.

In their ruling, judges of the U.N.-assisted tribunal's pretrial chamber Wednesday upheld the current detention of 76-year-old Ieng Thirith, who served as the social affairs minister during the rule of the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s.

The "detention remains a necessary measure'' for Ieng Thirith, Prak Kimsan, the chairman of the five-judge panel, said, adding that her appeal was dismissed.The tribunal is seeking justice for atrocities committed by the ultra-communist Khmer Rouge when it ruled Cambodia from 1975-79, with some 1.7 million people dying from starvation, disease, overwork and execution.


Tuesday, July 08, 2008


Dancing in the Streets over Preah Vihear Victory

Wednesday July-09, 2008

Cambodians were yesterday dancing in the streets over UNESCO’s decision to list Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage Site, despite Thailand’s last minute attempts to scupper the registration because of a long-running territorial squabble.Thousands danced, sang and waved Cambodian flags, chanting "Long live Preah Vihear temple!" in response to news that UNESCO had granted the temple World Heritage Site status, AP reported.

"This is a very auspicious day for us. We’re very delighted," said Ti Vansi, a medical student who joined his peers in skipping class to hold a celebration rally, according to AP.Prime Minister Hun Sen called the temple’s designation "a new pride for the people of Cambodia," in a statement.Hor Namhong, Cambodia’s deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs, yesterday told reporters that the UNESCO decision had been unanimous, with all 21 members of the World Heritage Site Committee voting to register Preah Vihear as a World Heritage Site.

"This is a success of the Cambodian government … and also a success of Cambodian civilization and culture," he said.Hor Namhong emphasized that the listing of Preah Vihear does not affect sovereignty, with neither nation losing "even one centimeter" of territory. He criticized the politicization of the Preah Vihear issue, branding those raising allegations of encroachment "stupid politicians." Hor Namhong claimed relations between Cambodia and Thailand remain good, though he declined to say when the nearest border crossing to Preah Vihear will be reopened.

The border crossing was closed after Thai protestors gathered there demanding the "return" of Preah Vihear to Thailand, along with Siem Reap and Battambang provinces.The UNESCO draft decision obtained by The Mekong Times called Preah Vihear "an outstanding masterpiece of Khmer architecture in terms of plan, decoration and relationship to the spectacular landscape environment."Legal protection of the site was "adequate," UNESCO found, but further archaeological research currently underway "could result in new significant discoveries that might enable consideration of a new transboundary nomination, that would require the consent of both Cambodia and Thailand.
"The draft decision urged Thai-Cambodian cooperation to safeguard the site, as "the peoples of the surrounding region have long treasured the Temple of Preah Vihear."UNESCO noted that "the property proposed for inscription is reduced and comprises only the Temple of Preah Vihear and not the wider promontory with its cliffs and caves.

"This meant that "the integrity of the property has to a degree been compromised by the absence of part of the promontory from the perimeter of the property," because "the attributes of the property comprise the temple complex."Preah Vihear temple is the second World Heritage Site in Cambodia, after Angkor Wat, which was listed in 1992.
A Cambodian woman holds banner reading "Celebrate, the Preah Vihear temple is a World Heritage Site", as she waves a national flags at a central market in Phnom Penh July 8, 2008. The World Heritage committee meeting in Canada has approved Cambodia's application to list the 11th century Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage site.

A market security guard plays a drum as Cambodians wave national flags at a central market in Phnom Penh July 8, 2008. The World Heritage committee meeting in Canada has approved Cambodia's application to list the 11th century Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage site.

Cambodians celebrate Cambodia's famed Preah Vihear temple enlisted as a World Heritage site during a rally in the capital Phnom Penh, Tuesday, July 8, 2008. Many Cambodians took to the street Tuesday to celebrate their country's success to have the 11th-century Hindu temple enlisted as a world heritage site despite recent protest by opposition groups in neighboring Thailand. A market security guard plays a drum as Cambodians wave national flags at a central market in Phnom Penh July 8, 2008. The World Heritage committee meeting in Canada has approved Cambodia's application to list the 11th century Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage site.

Cambodian medical students celebrate Cambodia's famed Preah Vihear temple enlisted as a World Heritage site during a rally in the capital Phnom Penh, Tuesday, July 8, 2008. Many Cambodians took to the street Tuesday to celebrate their country's success to have the 11th-century Hindu temple enlisted as a world heritage site despite recent protest by opposition groups in neighboring Thailand.


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