Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Sacrava's Political Cartoon: 2010, The Year of The Tiger

Cartoon by Sacrava (on the web at

Sacrava's Political Cartoon: Which Home?

Cartoon by Sacrava (on the web at

Cambodian ex-king returns home from China

Cambodia's former king Norodom Sihanouk is assisted as he alights from a plane at Beijing's international airport in September 2009.


Cambodia's elderly former king Norodom Sihanouk and his family returned home on Wednesday from China where he spent seven months receiving medical treatment, officials said.

Sihanouk, his wife, and his son King Norodom Sihamoni were greeted at the airport by Prime Minister Hun Sen and other senior government officials.

Oum Daravuth, a member of the royal cabinet, told reporters that Sihanouk was now in "good health" and that his royal presence would bring harmony to the kingdom and its people.

Sihanouk, 87, has suffered from a number of ailments, including cancer, diabetes and hypertension.

In July last year he returned to Cambodia after a stay of almost one year in China, where he was successfully treated for a third bout of cancer.

He and his wife returned last September for a check-up and treatment, while Sihamoni flew to see the pair in Beijing last month.

The ex-monarch said last October that he had lived too long and wished to die as soon as possible, according to a personal handwritten note on his website. "Lengthy longevity bears on me like an unbearable weight," he said.

One of Asia's longest-serving monarchs, he abruptly quit the throne in October 2004 in favour of his son, citing old age and health problems.

Despite abdicating, Sihanouk remains a prominent figure in Cambodia and often uses messages on his website to comment on matters of state.

Launch of Cambodia’s first Rattan Field Guide draws attention from national and international press

Here in this rattan factory 'Kuy Meng' 30 people are employed. An average volume of monthly sales of 210 units is being supplied to markets in Preah Sihanouk, Kampot and Siam Reap provinces, as well as in the Phnom Penh capital.

31 March 2010


In the evening of Wednesday, 17th March, Cambodia’s most watched television channels Television of Kampuchea (TVK) and South-east Asia TV featured the launch of the first Field Guide to the Rattans of Cambodia in their primetime news programmes, while both radio and print press reported on the event the next day. The launch itself, organised on 17th March, was attended by more than 130 stakeholders from the Cambodian rattan sector including rattan collectors, processors, traders, small and medium entrepreneurs, Cambodian Government’s Forestry Administration, the General Department of Administration for Nature Conservation and Protection as well as WWF’s Rattan project and communications personnel. The event drew interest from Cambodia’s top 16 Khmer and English language press, all based in the capital of Phnom Penh.

Radio Australia aired the story twice via its large coverage network across Cambodia, first as a hot news and later as a feature story in its weekly programme on agricultural development and sustainable environmental practice.

“From the point of view of newsworthiness, Rattan is a good story to cover because it's about environment, community development and sustainability and it's also about bringing income to poor families whose livelihood rely on rattan products,” said Mr Alex Khun, a Khmer journalist and broadcaster based in Melbourne Office that features programmes in both Khmer and English.

Mr Khun said that in the past, not many people know about rattan products and its value chain. With WWF’s initiative, green and sustainable rattan industry has the potential to help hundreds of people earn extra income while promoting protection of rattan resources and forest ecosystems. These factors create, as Mr Khun believes, a great deal of interest among millions of listeners both locally and overseas.

“From community and social development standpoints, it's a good thing that people begin to understand the values and start to protect rattan resources. Local communities become aware that they are able to earn income from rattan, whereas before, people knew little about the benefits of rattan as they thought only for domestic use.” He continued that in Western countries such as Australia rattan products are quite expensive and popular and that high quality rattan products will find their ways into hotels, restaurants, and homes.

According to Mr Khan Sophirom, journalist with Raksmei Kampuchea - the most read Khmer language newspaper - the story is beneficial for readers who work in the Cambodian rattan sector. "It is a brand new story," he said.

At Radio France International (RFI) all news are interesting for their listeners. This Paris-based Radio aired the rattan story in its news programme in Khmer language via its FM frequencies that cover Phnom Penh capital and provinces of Siam Reap, Battambang, Kampong Cham and Preah Sihanouk.

Mr Leang Delux, RFI’s correspondent, thought that the story was very interesting because it informed the public about the diversity of Cambodian rattan growing across the whole country.

The main focus of the launch event – the first “Field Guide of the Rattans of Cambodia” – is the result of more than two years of research on rattan in Cambodia by Mr Khou Eang Hourt, senior botanist. The guide documents more than 20 rattan species across 13 provinces all over Cambodia and identifies five species with the highest market potential. Besides common and scientific names for all species, the book supplies detailed information on rattan characteristics and ecology. Detailed distribution maps provide information on where to find each species while descriptions and colour photographs support field identification.

For future reference, copies of the book were distributed to all stakeholders present at the launch. The book contributes an important step towards sustainable rattan management as it describes the diversity, ecology and characters of rattan.

For more information, email to Tep Asnarith

US to give $5M for Cambodia's Khmer Rouge trial

Associated Press

The United States will contribute $5 million to the U.N.-backed genocide tribunal trying members of the communist Khmer Rouge.

U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues Stephen Rapp announced the donation Wednesday at the end of a two-day visit to Cambodia.

The tribunal is seeking justice for the estimated 1.7 million people who died from execution, overwork, disease and malnutrition under the 1975-79 Khmer Rouge regime.

Donor countries have provided over $100 million to date in support of the tribunal, including $1.8 million from the United States in 2009.

The tribunal last year tried its first defendant, prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, for crimes against humanity, war crimes, murder and torture. Its verdict is expected in the next few months.

Four suspects being held for a second trial, which may begin by the end of this year, are the Khmer Rouge's top ideologist, Nuon Chea; former Foreign Minister Ieng Sary; his wife, former Social Affairs Minister Ieng Thirith; and former head of state Khieu Samphan. They face charges of genocide in addition to crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The tribunal is being conducted jointly by Cambodian and foreign jurists under U.N. auspices. Rapp said the $5 million was earmarked for the U.N. side of the operation.

Lars Olsen, a tribunal spokesman, said the contribution showed the strong support the tribunal enjoys from the international community and urged other nations to follow suit.

Lynn Cambodian-American teen to be honored at Girls Inc. luncheon

Lynn teens to be honored at Girls Inc. luncheon revealed

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

By Robin Kaminski
The Daily Item (Lynn, Massachusetts, USA)

LYNN - Four Lynn girls will be recognized for being role models to their peers and will receive scholarships for their hard work and dedication at Girls Inc.'s 22nd annual luncheon on April 15.

Jacklyn Crowley, Ivanna Solano, Phumana Phim and Stephanie Hardy will be honored at the Danversport Yacht Club, where this year's Strong, Smart and Bold Honoree will be Diane Patrick, first lady of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, who is expected to talk about the achievements of women and girls.

Hardy, 17, a junior at Lynn English, has been awarded the top prize with a National Scholarship of $2,500.

"I was shocked to learn that I was chosen," she said.

A member of La Verdad, Part of the Solution, a teen member on the Girls Inc. Board of Directors and a tutor to middle school students, Hardy said she plans to apply to 10 colleges, with Harvard, Stanford, Boston University and Northeastern as her top picks.

"I have big plans for my future," she said. "I love the whole feeling of women empowerment and I never want to rely on a man to take care of me."

Hardy will be inducted into the National Honor Society next week and currently holds a 3.85 GPA. She plans on entering the field of accounting, along with the hope of pursuing a career in politics.

"Girls Inc. has helped me with everything from pubic speaking to working with groups and taking charge, and I use a lot of what I've learned at Girls Inc. for (the ROTC program at Lynn English)," she said.

Crowley, along with Solano and Phim, will each be honored as Girl Heroes and will receive $1,500 scholarships.

Having been active in Girls Inc. for 11 years, Crowley, 17, is currently involved in the mentoring program and as an academic assistant with middle school students.

"They've taught us to be strong, smart and bold and be good role models," she said. "It's an honor to be given this award, not just for the scholarship, but to be recognized as a role model."

The Classical High School senior and hip-hop/jazz dancer has applied to nine colleges and is anxious to see if she will be accepted at her top choice, Harvard, to pursue a career as a doctor.

"It's sad to think that I won't be here anymore, but I definitely want to come back and be part of the mentoring program in the future," she said.

Solano, 17, also a senior at Classical High, has been involved with Girls Inc. for three years. During that time, Solano said she has learned vital skills to overcome her shyness and become more comfortable in her own skin.

She takes part in the Part of the Solution youth council, mentoring and the teen health ambassador program.

"The staff encourages you to believe in yourself and they always say, 'You can do it' and prep you so well," she said. "It's definitely a great honor to win this award."

Solano said she has applied to a number of schools, including Pace University and Drexel, and plans to work for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Phim, 20, a native of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, recently moved to Lynn with her parents, and said she has grown immensely during her time at Girls Inc.

"I'm a shy person and I was able to get help learning English and meeting new friends," she said. "I'm the first generation to go to school, so my parents are really happy for me."

Phim has applied to 10 colleges, including Merrimack College and plans to pursue a career in accounting. She is currently involved with the academic and mentoring programs at Girls Inc., and plays volleyball at Lynn English.

"I am so excited that I'm getting this award," she said. "I couldn't believe it."

For 67 years, Girls Inc. has been offering programs for girls that teach about issues of sexism, racism, the prevention of early sexual activity, underage drinking, and drug use. Teens also learn about career choices, college admissions, and other post-secondary opportunities, with access to academic workshops, tutoring, a computer lab and adult mentors.

Tickets to the April 15 luncheon are $60 and are available by visiting and clicking on "Celebration Luncheon."

General claims victory in Thai border conflict

RCAF Deputy Commander in Chief General Chea Dara delivers a speech to students and teachers at the National Institute of Education on Tuesday. (Photo by: Heng Chivoan)
Thai occupation troops still present at Wat Keo Sekha Kiri Svarak Pagoda: Another military success as Chea Dara claimed?

Wednesday, 31 March 2010
Thet Sambath
The Phnom Penh Post

A SENIOR military commander said Tuesday that Cambodia has prevailed on both the military and diplomatic fronts in its standoff with Thailand over disputed land near Preah Vihear temple.

“I am here to tell you all about our victory against the Thai soldiers on the battlefield. We are the winner, and we won both the battlefield and diplomatic fight under Samdech Hun Sen’s leadership,” said General Chea Dara, deputy commander in chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF), in remarks before more than 1,000 students, teachers and officials at the National Institute of Education.

Chea Dara also hailed the construction of roads close to the temple, which he said had facilitated the movement of troops and allowed more Cambodians to settle in border areas.

“Fifty percent of the Thai soldiers were withdrawn recently to Bangkok to solve their internal issues, and they will not dare to attack Cambodian soldiers again,” he said.

Fighting near Preah Vihear has claimed at least seven lives from both sides since July 2008, when tensions over the temple’s listing as a UNESCO World Heritage site erupted. Chea Dara claimed last week, however, that 88 Thai troops had been killed in fighting since 2008.

Rath Huot, deputy director of the National Institute of Education, said after Tuesday’s speech that he was very glad to hear directly from Chea Dara about progress at Preah Vihear and the situation on the front line, adding, “It is useful for students and teachers here to learn it.”

Chea Dara also raised accusations that opposition leader Sam Rainsy had aided the Thai military during the recent standoff. “[Sam Rainsy] met Thai officials, and he passed the sword to Thai officials against Hun Sen,” he said. He did not add any other details about the alleged meetings.

Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Yim Sovann dismissed that claim outright. “We Cambodians do not contact any country to mistreat Cambodians and fight against Cambodians. Sam Rainsy was voted for by Cambodians; he has served Cambodians and does not serve foreigners.”

Transparency urged for nascent oil sector

Wednesday, 31 March 2010
Irwin Loy
The Phnom Penh Post

CAMBODIA is taking strides to ensure that its nascent extractive industries will be well managed, an official with an international NGO said Tuesday, though observers warned that the government must be more transparent with incoming revenues.

With expectations raised by the discovery of potential offshore oil reserves, observers say extraction in Cambodia is at a critical stage.

At a conference Tuesday discussing industry governance, a representative of the NGO Oxfam America said he believed Cambodia is on the right path to avoiding pitfalls that have challenged oil-producing countries in the past.

“On the part of the government and the private sector, it is a finite resource we’re talking about. ... That opportunity has to be used well, not wasted,” said Brian Lund, the East Asia regional director for Oxfam America. “As we see it at the moment, the government of Cambodia is working in the right direction towards making sure that it is used well.”

Lund cited the establishment of an inter-ministerial working group on revenue management as a reason for optimism, as well as statements from officials suggesting that Cambodia may sign on to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), a set of international standards that require governments to disclose their earnings from oil, gas and mining.

“It’s definitely part of the discussion,” Lund said of the EITI. “But there is still considerable work to be done before we get to the level of transparency and a level of accountability you would ask for in EITI.”

So far, it has been rare for authorities to release basic revenue figures.
Last week, for example, an official with the Cambodian National Petroleum Authority confirmed that PetroVietnam and French energy firm Total together gave the government US$26 million in signature bonuses and social funds in January, marking a substantial rise over the previous reported revenue of $800,000 in December.

Yet the figure was shown only during a conference presentation by a government finance officer; it was not part of any official disclosure.

Observers say they struggle to find official information detailing where revenue is going.

“Currently, we get information from newspapers,” said Chhith Sam Ath, executive director of the NGO Forum.

“We know the companies that are granted for exploration. However, this is all the information we get.”

The government must be more forthright going forward, he said.

“There is a need to provide transparency and accountability in the sector in order to ... ensure that the benefits from oil and gas will benefit all of Cambodia,” Chhith Sam Ath said.

In the meantime, some are urging Cambodia to rein in expectations sparked by the discovery of potential offshore oil reserves.

“When someone mentions that there is gold or oil, there is an immediate expectation amongst the community at large that this is enormous, that it’s fantastic,” said Oxfam’s Lund. “But in fact, expectations have to be properly tempered. It’s not just a huge golden egg. There is a lot of complexity and ups and downs.”

Last year, officials said the Kingdom would not begin receiving revenue from potential oil and natural gas concessions until 2013 at the earliest.

An icon fades in Cambodia

Apr 1, 2010
By Sebastian Strangio
Asia Times

PHNOM PENH - By uprooting six wooden border markers last October along the Vietnamese border, Cambodia's opposition leader Sam Rainsy again cast himself in the familiar role of a thorn in the flesh of authority.

Earlier this year, a court sentenced Rainsy to two years in prison in absentia for uprooting the posts. He now faces additional misinformation charges that carry a possible 18 years in prison. He has been stripped of his parliamentary immunity twice in the past year.

Though his Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) remains the kingdom's biggest proponent of Western-style democracy, Rainsy's decision to go into self-imposed exile in France to continue his campaign against alleged Vietnamese incursions into Cambodian territory has raised questions whether the 61-year-old politician has lost his direction and his party its past relevance in a fast-shifting political landscape.

Premier Hun Sen, who in 1997 ousted his long-time rival Prince Norodom Ranariddh in a bloody factional coup, has successfully consolidated his position at the center of the country's politics. Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party (CPP) has presided over a period of rapid economic growth - between 2004 to 2007 gross domestic product grew at an average of around 10% - and the party's continued success at the ballot box has demonstrated that the majority of Cambodians are willing to overlook its more authoritarian tendencies in exchange for economic progress.

Meanwhile, the past year has been a tumultuous one for the SRP, which controls 26 seats in Cambodia's 123-seat National Assembly. Aside from Rainsy's border imbroglio, SRP lawmakers Mu Sochua and Ho Vann both lost their parliamentary immunity after being accused of defaming senior CPP officials. These political stand-offs earned attention in the chambers of the US Congress and the European parliament in Brussels, but it's unclear whether the SRP's antagonistic strategies have maximized it's chances of leveraging Cambodia's demographic changes (as much as half of the population is under 24 years of age) into medium-term political gains.

By some assessments, the party has declined since its mid-2000s peak, a trend illustrated by its failure to capture the voters who withdrew their support from the royalist Funcinpec party after it split along factional lines in 2006. "All those votes should have gone to the SRP, and they didn't," said Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights.

He said the SRP's lack of concrete policies has personalized its frequent spats with the government and the lack of party vision has dragged it into various unwinnable battles with the CPP-controlled parliament. "There's no proper analysis or real policy," said Ou Virak. "If you're going to oppose something or are you in a position to offer anything, that's different?"

The SRP's campaigns against Hun Sen's authoritarianism and his cozy ties to former invader and occupier Vietnam have done little to change the country's political or economic realities. The CPP continues to control all three branches of government, as well as a large swathe of the print and broadcast media.

At the 2008 polls, the CPP captured over 58% of the popular vote and notched 90 National Assembly seats - more than the two-thirds majority needed to pass laws unanimously. The SRP increased its parliamentary representation from 24 to 26 in 2008, but its share of the popular vote remained steady at around 22%.

Over the same five-year period, the vote for the royalist movement - once a powerhouse of Cambodian politics under the Funcinpec party - shrank from 20.8% of the vote to just over 10%. Most of those lost votes were usurped by the ruling CPP, despite its long-time and often heated antagonism towards the royalist party.

Another political observer said that SRP's failure to capitalize on the rift in the royalist movement represented a "huge" missed opportunity for the party and that its recent political theatrics, including the border post stunt, had "steered the party way off message".

"They talk about party leaders being persecuted on the basis of esoteric rights that many Cambodian people have very little ownership of. They've adapted to appeal to outside constituencies rather than Cambodian voters," the observer said.

Sorpong Peou, a professor of political science at Sophia University in Tokyo, concurred that the SRP's appeals to distant international organizations focused on democracy promotion and good governance have achieved little for the party domestically, where it remains "at the mercy" of Hun Sen and his ruling party.

"[The CPP] is willing to allow a degree of opposition in order to legitimize its domination and uses this type of legitimacy to gain international support," she said. "In this sense, the opposition's appeals have little real impact on domestic politics."

To be sure, Rainsy has been down before only to bounce back. Between 2005-06 he lived in self-exile in France for a year after being stripped of his parliamentary immunity and ordered jailed for 18 months on criminal defamation charges. He only returned to Cambodia in February 2006 after recanting comments he made about Hun Sen and receiving a royal pardon from King Norodom Sihamoni.

This time, though, Rainsy faces a less accommodating international landscape given the recent diplomatic overtures to Hun Sen's government made by the United States, which has prioritized a policy of counterbalancing China's rising regional influence. For years, Rainsy benefited from the US's antagonistic approach towards the government, a policy influenced by a bloody 1997 grenade attack on a peaceful opposition rally that many claim was orchestrated by members of Hun Sen's personal bodyguard unit.

Ou Virak said that one new problem for Rainsy is that repeated petitions to international organizations - one of the few cards the leader has left to play - could be falling on increasingly deaf ears. "You can do it once or twice, but governments get fatigued, donors get fatigued ... You're running a risk of people no longer paying attention," he said. "Eventually he'll have to take it to the next level and that means facing possible imprisonment." He added: "He's no Aung San Suu Kyi. He's not going to come back."

Donor darling

When Sam Rainsy returned to Cambodia from France in 1992, he was a rising star in the royalist political firmament. A founding member of then-prince Norodom Sihanouk's Funcinpec party in 1981, Rainsy had risen through the ranks to become an elected parliamentarian during Funcinpec's stunning win in the United Nations-backed 1993 elections and was appointed minister of finance in the Funcinpec-CPP coalition government.

His ascent, however, was short-lived and the fall that followed set the tone for a political career that would be marked by a consistently adversarial relationship with the government. In October 1994 - just over a year after his appointment - Sam Rainsy was dismissed from his post in a major cabinet reshuffle following his criticisms of the corruption and nepotism that plagued the coalition. The following year, his continued criticisms led to his expulsion from the party and the loss of his National Assembly seat.

At the time of its founding in 1995, the Khmer Nation Party (KNP) - the SRP's predecessor - was a breath of fresh air on the Cambodian political landscape. Unlike the CPP - which secured its support through a patronage system established in the 1980s - and Funcinpec, which traded heavily on the prestige of the monarchy, Sam Rainsy's new party put liberal democratic principles front and center. At the time, he said his expulsion from Funcinpec would give him the opportunity "to mobilize millions of people" sharing the same ideals.

Even with its egalitarian bent, the SRP's constituency to this day remains overwhelmingly urban. In 2008, it won six of its 26 seats in Phnom Penh and five in urban Kampong Cham, as well as three each in Kandal and Prey Veng, both densely populated provinces close to the capital. In half of Cambodia's 24 provinces and municipalities - among them the most remote and least populated - the party failed to win a single seat.

Caroline Hughes, an associate professor of governance studies at Murdoch University in Australia, claims that the SRP is not totally to blame for its poor electoral performances in rural areas, where the CPP used intimidation and patronage to secure votes. She said Sam Rainsy - a "donors' darling" in the early 1990s - has gradually become a more "marginal" figure because of waning international support, a rift with the Cambodian union movement and a concerted campaign of violence and intimidation against his supporters that included the bloody 1997 grenade attack.

"I don't think we can blame the SRP for the weakness of the Cambodian political opposition when the government has worked consistently to reduce the political space for any kind of organized activism on any issue," she said.

Others, however, believe the party's growth has been stunted by the erosion of its own internal democratic processes and by the constant threat of defections and government intimidation. The SRP, Ou Virak said, is "like a scared child" frightened by the threat of infiltration by the ruling party and suspicious of newcomers. "There are some good people in the party that I know that cannot move up in the ranks," he said. "There are some very good people who were left out."

For example, Ken Virak was a member of the SRP's Steering Committee who left to form his own party - the People's Power Party (PPP) - in 2007 after becoming disillusioned with the SRP's internal workings. He said the SRP had given up its role as a democratic opposition party "step by step" and that its steering committee - nominally in charge of party decision-making - no longer had real power.

"There is no democracy inside the party. Most of the decisions are made only by a minority of members who are powerful in the party and associated with Sam Rainsy," he said. "I found that before every election, members of the party always broke away because of the political decision-making and partisanship," he said.

Ken Virak said that all opposition groups, including the new Human Rights Party (HRP) and his PPP, must unite if they are to have a chance at cutting into the CPP's majority at the next national election, which must be held by 2013. But a united opposition is still a distant threat to CPP dominance: proposed mergers between the SRP and HRP and two remaining royalist parties have all foundered on personal disagreements between their leaders.

Political family

Born in Phnom Penh in 1949, Rainsy's formative years were influenced by Cambodia's rough and tumble politics. His father, Sam Sary, was a key member of Sihanouk's Sangkum Reastr Niyum government, but fell from grace after he was implicated in the so-called Bangkok Plot of 1959, an attempt to topple the government with the support of Thailand's right-wing Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat.

Sam Sary disappeared in 1962 and was presumed killed, possibly by the government. Shortly afterwards, Rainsy's mother, In Em, took the remaining family members to live in France, where he was educated and remained for the next three decades. In a recent Phnom Penh Post interview, Rainsy described his father's death as a "traumatizing" experience, but said that his political views permeated the family and influenced the trajectory of his own political development.

Certain pivotal events in Europe, including the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956, were topics of conversation at the dinner table and went some way to forming the ideals that grew into the SRP's blend of liberal internationalism with appeals to Khmer nationalism.

"When it came to Southeast Asia, my father was in favor of a strict neutrality - that Cambodia should not move closer to the communist world," Rainsy said. "This has marked my background and my conviction that communism is oppressive - that freedom is essential and that we have to fight for [it]."

Rainsy said that despite being founded largely on his own initiative in 1995, the KNP - renamed the SRP in 1998 because of legal disputes over the KNP name - had grown into an "organization of its own" linking Cambodia with Khmer communities abroad. He also downplayed his role as the party's figurehead, referring to it as an "anachronistic" notion.

"If it was a one-man show, the show would have stopped a long time ago given all the problems that we've been facing," he said.

Rainsy said that the SRP was the only party in Cambodia that holds organized elections from the grassroots, a system that was in strict opposition to the CPP's centrally controlled networks. "They appoint their cadres - their apparatchiks - at the grassroots, but we are the only party that has organized elections," he said. Similarly, the "loss" of the former Funcinpec vote was largely "due to intimidation and vote-buying in non-transparent elections", Rainsy said - a claim the opposition has made consistently since the July 2008 election.

Asked how the party might erode the CPP's entrenched network of patronage and make electoral headway in rural areas, Rainsy said that current and future demographic changes were swinging voters towards the SRP - a factor reflected in the party's recent formation of a new youth congress. "It will take less time than one might imagine now because of the progress of technology, information, communication and education," he said. "History is accelerating."

Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, a local election monitor, said Rainsy retains substantial political capital for taking a principled stance against corruption in the 1990s and maintaining it has a party platform ever since. He believes the party's main challenge is improving its public relations.

"I think he still has that credibility. He resigned from a key position in government and showed he is that kind of politician," he said. "The problem is how to communicate that credibility to the people." It's likely to remain a problem for the party as long as Rainsy campaigns on issues that appear to have more resonance with foreign audiences than with local voters.

Sebastian Strangio is a reporter for the Phnom Penh Post in Cambodia.

Year of the Tiger is very bad for Cambodia: Prediction

Reminder: please don't forget to send Mr. Hun Xen your well wishes on his birthday on 04 April.

31 March 2010

By S. Botum
Free Press Magazine Online
Translated from Khmer by Socheata
Click here to read the article in Khmer

According the Moha Sangkran (almanac) book recently published by the ministry of Cult and religion, the year of the Tiger is the worst year for Cambodia.

Based on documents and fortunetellers working at the ministry of Cult, violence, natural disasters, social upheavals will take place in Cambodia in the upcoming year of the Tiger.

The almanac book indicated that: “The country will meet upheavals, wars, people will kill each other, and they will be separated from each others. The country will be in a bad situation when compared to the previous years.”

The almanac also predicted that agriculture will be fruitful in half of the country only, the weather will be very cold, and flood will take place due to strong rains.

Nevertheless, at this point in time when science has reached its zenith already, Cambodian people still consider predictions by fortunetellers as being important. However, bad events that took place last year – such as violence and killings, acid attacks, the Ketsana typhoon which led to at least 40 Cambodian dead and almost $132 million in damage, as well as other mishaps – could also become flash points [in the upcoming year].

On top of this, 4 April is also Hun Xen’s birthday, therefore his cronies and the big business hotshots are busily preparing to send their well wishes to him next week.

Chea Dara: A 4-golden-star general who does not know the law? Can he read maps yet?

General authorized to boast propaganda attacking Cambodia’s opposition leader

31 March 2010
By Pech Bandol
Free Press Magazine Online
Translated from Khmer by Socheata
Click here to read the article in Khmer

While he was allowed to meet a group of about 1,000 students and government officials at the National Institute of Education yesterday, RCAF General Chea Dara voiced out a violent political attack against opposition leader Sam Rainsy.

The general, who is in charge of the Preah Vihear region and who is also a close ally of Hun Xen, publicly accused opposition leader Sam Rainsy of betraying Cambodia and of joining with the Thai government with the intent of fomenting instability [in Cambodia]. These claims have always been categorically denied on many occasions by the opposition leader.

While attacking Sam Rainsy and Thai PM Abhisit Vejjajiva, this general also took the opportunity to boast about Hun Xen.

Nevertheless, Yim Sovann, the SRP spokesman, said that Sam Rainsy’s faithfulness to the nation is unquestionable. He added also that, according to the Cambodian law, soldiers must remain politically neutral.

Yim Sovann said that the 1997 law on soldiers stipulates that each soldier must not express their opinions or beliefs that are philosophically or politically oriented. He added: “Don’t serve any political party, otherwise, democracy in Cambodia will be destroyed.”

Chea Dara and his master Hun Xen unable to kick out the 10 Thai soldiers stationed in Wat Keo Sekha Kiri Svarak pagoda?

In spite of his boasting, Chea Dara (above) is unable to kick out the invading Thai soldiers stationed at Wat Keo Sekha Kiri Svarak Pagoda (below)

Thai troops in Wat Keo Sekha Kiri Svarak preserved to show invasion

31 March 2010
Translated from Khmer by Socheata

General Chea Dara, the deputy RCAF commander-in-chief, said that Cambodia is to preserve the 10 Thai soldiers who are currently stationed inside Cambodia’s Wat Keo Sekha Kiri Svarak Pagoda if these soldiers do not want to leave Cambodia and they will serve as proof to the International community that Thailand did truly invade Cambodia. Chea Dara made this declaration on 30 March 2010 at the National Institute of Education in Phnom Penh while addressing more than 1,000 education officials and students. Chea Dara boasted that Cambodia can deal with these 10 soldiers any time it wants to, however, Cambodia wants to preserve them as proof to show that Thailand invaded Cambodia (sic!). The general boasted that these 10 soldiers were made hostages on 15 October 2008 when they came to occupy this area along with Thai black-clad soldiers. “We told them to stay on the spot, and to drop all their weapons and we consider them as invading Thai hostages,” Chea Dara claimed.

Chea Dara: A deranged barking dog general?

Chea Dara (L): His master's (R) voice?

Army general accuses opposition leader of 'betraying Cambodia'

Wed, 31 Mar 2010

Phnom Penh - The deputy head of Cambodia's armed forces has accused the country's exiled opposition leader of conspiring with Thailand to destabilize the nation, national media reported Wednesday.

General Chea Dara, who is posted at the flashpoint Preah Vihear temple on the Cambodian-Thai border, made the allegations in a two-hour speech to a crowd of 1,000 students and government officials in Phnom Penh, the Cambodia Daily newspaper reported.

"The betraying opposition party leader Sam Rainsy has colluded with Thailand and sold himself to Thailand to let Thais invade Cambodia," Chea Dara was quoted as saying.

Chea Dara was referring to events in mid-2008 as tensions rose at Preah Vihear after the 11th-century temple was registered by the UN cultural body UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. That move angered some Thai nationalists who claim the temple for Thailand.

The general's comments came two weeks after a court in Phnom Penh formally charged Sam Rainsy with falsifying public documents and spreading disinformation in an ongoing argument with the Cambodian government over the border demarcation process under way between Vietnam and Cambodia.

Those charges could see him jailed for 18 years and would add to the two-year sentence he received late last year in a related border dispute with Vietnam.

Sam Rainsy, who is in France in self-imposed exile, was sentenced in absentia after he removed wooden posts marking the border between Cambodia and Vietnam. The opposition had claimed the posts were intruding into Cambodian territory and costing farmers their land.

Vietnam is a key investor in Cambodia with significant interests in agribusiness, aviation, telecommunications and banking and an important political ally of the ruling Cambodian People's Party.

An opposition party spokesman rejected the general's comments wholesale and said under Cambodian law the military must stay out of politics. Yim Sovann told the newspaper that Sam Rainsy's loyalties were to the Cambodian people and were beyond question.

"Please do not serve any political party," Yim Sovann said, referring to the military. "Otherwise, democracy in Cambodia will be jeopardized."

Chea Dara's comments came on the 13th anniversary of a grenade attack at an opposition gathering in Phnom Penh, which killed 16 people. Sam Rainsy was injured in the attack, which killed his bodyguard.

The attack was widely blamed on forces loyal to current Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, who at the time was in an increasingly unstable coalition with the royalist party.

Indochinese Triangle meeting in Hanoi

Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Japan meet in Hanoi

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Hanoi (VNA) – The fourth senior officials meeting between Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam (CLV) and Japan took place in Hanoi on March 30 with the participation of representatives from the four countries.

The meeting reviewed the implementation of projects within the framework of Japan ’s support package of 20 million USD for the CLV development triangle.

Participants also discussed measures to increase cooperative ties between the three Southeast Asian countries and Japan . They all acknowledged the sound development of the project and anticipated more practical and specific cooperation for the social-economic development of the CLV triangle.

The CLV development triangle initiative was put forth at a meeting between Vietnam , Laos and Cambodia ’s Prime Ministers in 1999 to promote solidarity and cooperation between the three countries. It also aimed to facilitate socio-economic development, hunger alleviation and poverty reduction as well as security for the three countries.

At the third CLV-Japan summit, Japan pledged 20 million USD to support development projects in the region, including those in rural development and social security. Of the projects, Vietnam has seven worth 3.5 million USD.

Cambodian New Year Celebration in Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Click on the announcement to zoom in

Sacrava's Political Cartoon: A Human Rights Activist

Cartoon by Sacrava (on the web at

China denies dams worsen drought in Mekong basin


KUNMING - Water resources authorities in southwest China Tuesday denied reports that China's dams on the Lancang River have exacerbated the drought in the Mekong River basin.

Some conservationists in the lower-reach countries in Southeast Asia had accused China of failing to release enough water in the dams, worsening drought with low river water levels downstream.

The Lancang River flows through Yunnan province into southeast Asia where it is called the Mekong River. It is 4,880 km long and the whole basin covers an area of 811,000 square km.

Chen Hui, deputy chief engineer of the Lancang River Maritime Bureau, said the falling levels in the Mekong River in Southeast Asia were mainly the result of sharp declines in rainfall in the river's upper reaches.

Regions in Yunnan had received 20 percent to 98 percent less rain than normal from September to March, which was why no major floods occurred in the Lancang River in 2009, said Chen.

Zhang Jun, an official at Yunnan Huaneng Lancang River Hydropower Co, developer of the power stations on the river, said the river section in China accounted for 23.5 percent of its total area and the water flow accounted for a much smaller 13.5 percent.

Some dams even helped to manage water flow by storing water in the rainy season and releasing water in the dry season, Zhang said.

He said China did not divert river water and the four dams would not affect the total amount of water flow in the river as most hydropower stations had no reservoirs.

The amount of water flowing into and out of the hydropower stations was basically the same, Zhang said.

Data showed the water levels were lower than at the end of the last flood season, showing China had released water to ease drought, Zhang said.

The water level in the Xiaowan hydropower station, the only one with a reservoir, had fallen by 7.12 meters from the pre-dry-season level with the release of 560 million cubic meters of water to the lower reaches, he said.

This could only help adjust river water flows in border areas because the Chinese section accounted for only a small amount of water flow on the whole Mekong River, Zhang stated.

Shipping on the Lancang River had been halted because of the severe drought, said Chen Mingda, head of the maritime bureau in Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture, through which the Lancang River flows.

The river tributaries in the upper reaches had also suffered from the drought, Chen said.

The worst drought in a century in southwest China has affected 61.3 million people and 5 million hectares of crops in Guizhou, Yunnan, Sichuan, Chongqing, and Guangxi, the Ministry of Civil Affairs said last week.

The dry weather has also left 18 million people and 11.7 million head of livestock thirsty for water and caused direct economic losses of 23.7 billion yuan ($3.5 billion).

Dry weather has affected more than 80 percent of all cultivation areas in Yunnan, where flowers, rapeseed, sugar cane, tobacco and tea are grown.

Its direct agricultural economic losses are estimated at 17 billion yuan. In addition, 8.2 million people in Yunnan are short of food.

Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia in Southeast Asia have also been hit by drought, with sharp falls in Mekong river water levels affecting agricultural and fishing industries.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang Tuesday said China had close contacts and cooperation with Mekong River countries on water resources utilization and provided them with hydrological data from the upper reaches regularly.

Qin said Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Song Tao would participate in the first Mekong River Commission Summit in Thailand early next month.

"The countries along the Mekong River are China's good neighbors, and we attach importance to developing relations with them," he said.

Who Will Defend the Children in Cambodian Drug Rehab Centres?

March 31, 2010
By Joe Amon
The Nation

At the end of January, Human Rights Watch released a report on abuses throughout Cambodia's system of drug detention centres. Our report detailed terrible abuses and sadistic violence. The adults and children we interviewed told us of being beaten, whipped and punished with electric shocks.

Unicef provides direct funding for one of the centres, where drug-users and children - some reportedly as young as four - are brought in from the streets. When we briefed them four months before we released our report, they told us they were shocked. They promised to look into the abuses. Children who had been detained at the Unicef-funded centre told us of being tortured. They told us of being forced to do exhausting military exercises, work on construction projects and even dance naked for guards.

We expected Unicef to press for a thorough and independent investigation and to demand that those responsible for the abuses be held accountable. We hoped they would conduct a review of their funding, programming and activities. We expected them to press the Cambodian government more broadly about the detention of children alongside adults.

What actually happened? Not much. Unicef issued a statement when our report was released saying that past reviews conducted by the Ministry of Social Affairs - the ministry running the centre - had found no evidence of "major violations". Over the next few weeks Unicef officials defended their support for the centre, saying that they monitor conditions in the centre "from time to time". Unicef's director in Cambodia, Richard Bridle, said that they "look for the positive". At the same time, Bridle conceded that he "wouldn't be surprised" if abuses were taking place, and that these kinds of abuses are "typical in centres [such] as this one".

Last week, Unicef officials visited the centre - the Choam Chao Youth Rehabilitation Centre, on the outskirts of Phnom Penh - and then told reporters that Human Rights Watch had made a mistake. Mr Bridle said that on their visit, Unicef staff had joked with children being held there and found them "engaging". Bridle told the Phnom Penh Post that "there is no culture of violence" at the centre. He pointed to an as-yet-unreleased internal assessment by the Ministry of Social Affairs and to statements made by a non-governmental organisation that provides some services in the centre (and which is also financed by Unicef) to suggest that we had our facts wrong.

It's a tactic we are more accustomed to seeing from repressive governments than from Unicef officials: A quick trip, an internal investigation and an announcement of no wrongdoing.

In contrast to Unicef's cursory review, our investigation was independent and thorough. We conducted detailed, in-depth interviews with 53 people who had been detained in drug detention centres within the last three years, 17 of whom had been detained at the centre Unicef supports. Our interviews were conducted outside of the centres, where children could feel safe from possible retaliation for telling us of their experiences.

While Unicef claims that the Choam Chao centre is "open" and "voluntary", here is what a few children who had been held at the centre told us:

"I tried to escape but my feet got stuck on the barbed wire. I was re-arrested. They beat me with a rattan stick until I lost consciousness and they poured water on me. They said, each time, "Don't run again!" Teap (14 years old);

"As soon as I arrived, the Social Affairs staff kicked and beat me. I don't know why. He said, 'You stay here. Do not run! There are high walls here. If you get re-arrested, I won't be responsible if your leg is broken.'" Chambok (17 years old);

"They shocked the big kids who tried to escape. I saw when they escaped and when they got shocked. They shocked them a lot." Chamnauth (15 years old);

"If anyone tried to escape, he would be punished. Some people managed to escape, some didn't. Most who were punished for escaping would be beaten unconscious. Beatings like this happened every day." M'noh (16 years old).

All of these children were detained during the period when the centre was getting funds from Unicef.

We're not the only ones presenting evidence of abuse. In the same article that quotes Richard Bridle saying that "These were not brutalised kids", the reporter from the Phnom Phen Post quoted a drug-user who had been at the Unicef-funded centre a year ago: "They used sticks. They unlocked the door, entered and started beating. They punched me in the face. They smashed my head against the wall. They beat me three times with the cable in the same place. You could see the flesh come out. It was like pieces of flesh from a fish." He then showed the journalist his scars.

We have briefed Unicef four times, before our report and afterwards, both in Cambodia and New York. It's been six months since we first presented our findings, methodology and recommendations. While Unicef officials defend their colleagues at the Ministry of Social Affairs, who is defending the children at the centre they fund, or at the 10 other drug detention centres throughout the country? When will Unicef decide to listen to the voices of the children who have been beaten and tortured? When will they support our call for a thorough, independent and credible investigation?

Joe Amon is director of health and human rights for Human Rights Watch.

Ancient Cambodian bronzes headed to Getty Center

Photo: a 12th century bronze from the Angkor period. Credit: National Museum of Cambodia

March 30, 2010
David Ng
Los Angeles Times

For the first time, the J. Paul Getty Museum will be hosting an exhibition of artwork from Cambodia.

A collection of ancient bronze sculptures from the Southeast Asian country will go on display at the Getty Center in 2011. "Gods of Angkor: Bronzes From the National Museum of Cambodia" is set to run from Feb. 22 to Aug. 14, 2011.

The exhibition features work dating from the Angkor period, roughly from the 9th to the 15th centuries. The Getty said the show will also feature a small group of bronzes from the pre-Angkor period and some recently excavated works.

Much of the exhibition will feature sculptures depicting Buddhist and Hindu deities created by artists who lived during the Khmer Empire. The sculptures are on loan from the National Museum of Cambodia in Phnom Penh, which has founded a bronze conservation studio.

The exhibition will open at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington, D.C., in May.

"Gods of Angkor," which features 36 works, is the result of a partnership between the Smithsonian's Freer and Sackler Galleries and the National Museum of Cambodia. The two institutions have worked together on conservation and other efforts.

Work begins on Cambodian hydropower project

March 30, 2010
The Associated Press

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia - A Chinese company has begun construction of one of several hydroelectric dam projects planned to reduce electricity shortages in Cambodia that environmentalists warn could do more harm than good, an official said Tuesday.

The China National Heavy Machinery Corp. will build the 246-megawatt plant in Koh Kong province, with an investment of $540 million. A groundbreaking ceremony was held Monday, and the project is due for completion by 2014, said Pich Siyun, chief of the province's Industry Department.

"We have a shortage of electricity now, and I hope that the dam would help reduce people's poverty as the price of electricity would be cheaper," he said.

On Thursday, a ceremony is expected to take place in the capital Phnom Penh for the inauguration of another Chinese-built hydroelectricity project in Koh Kong. Pich Siyun said China Huadian Corp. plans to build a $558 million hydropower plant that would generate up to 338 megawatts.

Koh Kong province is about 130 miles (210 kilometers) west of Phnom Penh.

Electricity generation in Cambodia remains largely underdeveloped, with most power plants using fossil fuels. The impoverished Southeast Asian nation also buys electricity from neighboring Vietnam and Thailand.

Power costs in Cambodia are among the highest in the world, and only about 12 percent of its 14 million people have access to electricity, according to the World Bank.

Electricity prices are also a major source of complaint from investors in Cambodia.

In a bid to meet future electricity demand, the government has identified 21 potential hydroelectric dam sites across the country.

But environmentalists have voiced concerns about the impact those projects will have.

In a 2008 report, the U.S.-based International Rivers Network said "poorly conceived hydropower development could irreparably damage" Cambodia's environment and also extract a social cost.

But Pich Siyun dismissed the concerns, saying the projects were studied thoroughly by all concerned ministries before they were approved by the government.

"Of course there is an impact from the dams once we build, but according to our studies, the income from electricity will really boost our economy," Pich Siyun said.

No specific plans have been announced to export power generated from the hydro schemes -- an approach embraced by Cambodia's cash-strapped neighbor, Laos -- but Prime Minister Hun Sen has previously said that if Cambodia's capacity was adequate it would consider selling electricity to Thailand.

13th anniversary of the grenade attack

(Photo: ALG, Cambodge Soir Hebdo)

30 March 2010

By I.N.
Cambodge Soir Hebdo
Translated from French Alain de Veng
Click here to read the article in French

Sam Rainsy called in over the phone to talk to his followers who were gathered in front of the old National Assembly building to commemorate the attack on the 30 March 1997 demonstration led by Sam Rainsy.

In front of hundreds of people, including monks, who came to commemorate the event in front of a stupa erected at the Wat Botum park, the exiled opposition leader demanded that justice be provided to the victims of the 1997 grenade attack.

In a 10-minute-long speech from France, Sam Rainsy indicated that, “even if the authority was not impartial,” he hoped that one day, “justice will be delivered” and that the “main characters at the origin of this attack [would] be sent to face justice.”

Rong Chhun, President of the Cambodia Independent Teachers’ Association (CITA) which is close to the opposition, said that the Cambodian police had the mean to arrest the culprits, but, that “in this affair, if did not want to.”

Ly Vanny, President of the family of the 1997 attack victims, said that she is “unsatisfied” to see that “13 years after the fact, no one has been brought to face justice.”

“We want justice, not revenge,” Ly Vanny assured. “We asked the government to find the killers and the FBI to continue its investigation.”

On 09 December of last year, the FBI, which was involved in the investigation due to the presence of a US citizen (Ron Abney) among the people injured, had declassified a portion of the file at the request of The Cambodia Daily.

The FBI accused the CPP forces through testimonials in which soldiers who were present during the demonstration were “dressed in combat uniform” on the morning of 30 march. Witnesses described that the behaviors of the cops and soldiers seem to indicate that they knew about the imminent attack.

Of the 2,300-page contained in the FBI report, only 257 were made available to the public. Furthermore, several names were also blacked out.

The attack aimed at a procession led by the Khmer Nation Party, the precursor to the SRP, killed at least 16 people and injured over 100 people.

Secret Deals, Free Coffins and The Price of Stability

Cartoon by Sacrava

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Op-Ed by MP

Vietnam knows full well from history that it is easier to occupy Khmer lands than to permanently subjugate the Khmer people to foreign will. Hence, the rush to take what it can now while its position in Cambodia is still favourable, and its influence is at its strongest.

The CPP leadership, if it still feels that the blood cursing through its veins is Khmer at all, must face up to this national humiliation and one-sided relationship with Hanoi and start working to protect Khmer interest now.

The world stage is not what it was in the 19th century or even as recent as the seventies when Pol Pot sent troops to Koh Tral. With unity and clarity in purpose Cambodia can still forge friendly relations with Vietnam on just terms without compromising either country's territorial integrity through secretive deals. As neighbours we owe each other the duty to look out for mutual well being, but not to the point of master-slave reciprocation.

No need either to talk of 'free coffins', in the first place, because Cambodia no longer has enough trees to make them. These in thousands of tons of cubic metres were logged and transported to Vietnam by land through convoys and by water as floating rafts down the currents of the Mekong manned by Vietnamese soldiers throughout the 1980s and beyond. For those not fully acquainted with recent history, the idea of ‘free coffins’ may be traced back to those selective tours in early 1980s to Vietnamese military arsenal on which a handful of Cambodian army commanders and other high profile individuals were invited.

No point either in talking about the intervention and sacrifice Vietnam contributed to the salvation of Khmer lives and culture for without mastery over their own ancestral lands, islands and waters, without knowledge of a once known, familiar habitat of well balanced climate and rain forests, without the knowledge that their nation exists of its own accord and possesses a will of its own, then the Khmer nation is as good as dead.

Increasingly, a traditionally proud and dignified people are being coerced into a brave new world of unfamiliar, alien life style by being chained to the sweat shops of the factory floors, the endless stretches of commercial plantations that are in effect monuments to corporate greed, but graveyards of a bygone culture and community.

No matter if climatic variations had its hand in speeding up the demise of the Khmer Empire. What we have before us is no force of nature, no unavoidable act of Providence; rather this is what it is: manmade disaster and ill-thought human engineering on a par with any catastrophe witnessed in Khmer history.

There is nothing wrong with the Khmers as a nation or people - temperate, intelligent, ethical, compassionate and wise even, evidence of which can still be seen through living arts, literature and stone monuments etc. These qualities are the key to national survival and prosperity of any people and are by no means confined to the Khmer race alone. And when such a nation with all its endowed true character and instinct is empowered and allowed to step forward in defence of its own fate and destiny, there is no doubt that it would do so.

That explains the role foreign neighbours have had throughout history in suppression and denial of any sign of an emergence of Khmer nationalist consciousness and revival. This they have successfully accomplished through liquidation of intellectuals and restriction of intellectual activities by one means or another; manipulation of political representation so that a few clans are allowed the freedom to pursue and promote their own personal interests, which owing to being egotistical and limited in vision, they often easily confuse with the much larger, deeply rooted interests of the rest of their compatriots.

Consider the Cult of Personality pervading mass communication and social life as embodied by compulsory insertion of references to “Samdach Euv” (Prince/King Father) or “Samdach Decho” etc. In such a state of confusion and personalisation the public have little say in their own affairs - what has been pronounced good and proper by this body of small elite is also good and proper for them too as citizens, whereas what is being dangled before them both i.e. the elite and citizens, are a mere image and mirage of the real, vast iceberg beneath. The present fact, and extent, of Vietnam’s domination over Cambodia can thus be viewed as a function of its (Vietnam’s) fear of what may follow were the Khmer people to have a real say in their own affairs.

Let’s have a plebiscite to determine what the Khmer people want, what was wrongfully taken from them and therefore should be rightfully reclaimed including coastal waters and islands such as Koh Tral and other legitimate parts of Cambodian sovereignty.


Vietnamese loggers actively logging in Cambodian forests

Trucks transporting illegal timbers across the borders to Vietnam.

By Khmerization
Source: RFA

Groups of 7-10 Vietnamese loggers are actively and illegally logging in Cambodian forests in Andong Meas district of Rattanakiri province and transporting all timbers across the borders to Vietnam, reports Radio Free Asia.

Villagers from the Jarai minority ethnic group from Nhang commune, Andong Meas district reported on 29th March, said they have seen groups of Vietnamese loggers, equipped with machinery, crossed into Cambodia to log in the Cambodian forests.

Kalan Beng, a Jarai villager from Taing Malu village, said these illegal logging activities by the Vietnamese have taken place since February with the connivance of the military and border police. He said on Sunday 28th, 4 villagers from Taing Malu village went to investigate the illegal logging activities and saw Vietnamese loggers working in groups of 7-10 people actively cutting down trees about 7 kilometres from the village and 3 kilometres from the borders deep inside Cambodian territories. They said they saw groups of 4-5 Vietnamese pushing carts loaded with about 30 cubic metres in total across the borders to Vietnam, about 500 metres from the Cambodian border post/checkpoint. "The (Vietnamese) logging activities are done in the open and are protected by the (Cambodian) police and soldiers. The villagers dare not interfere", said one villager.

Police officials from Pha Tam border Post cannot be reached for comments and Mong Thaen, military commander of Ratanakiri province, said he had not received the reports about the Vietnamese logging activities in Cambodian territories. However, he said he will send officials to investigate the claims.

Mr. Su Vankhamvann, chief of Rattanakiri Border Post, said he will launch an investigation and promised that offence of this sort will not be allowed to go on. However, in early 2010, a group of commune councillors of Nhang commune, Andong Meas district intercepted and detained many trucks transporting timbers across the borders to Vietnam, committed by military and police officials based in the province. The councillors released the trucks after they were threatened by the military and police.

On 22nd March 2010, raids on illegal timber warehouses in Rattanakiri had found 400 cubic metres of illegal timbers, but no one has been arrested. In raids across Siem Reap province on 24th and 26 March, thousands of cubic metres of illegal timbers had been found stockpiled in warehouses belong to powerful businessmen such as Sok Kong, Lao Meng Khin, Ang Try and others. However, no one was arrested in those raids.

Norodom Sihanouk to return to Phnom Penh

(Photo: Xinhua)

30 March 2010
By I.N. Cambodge Soir Hebdo
Translated from French by Leroy Jemanfou

Click here to read the article in French

King-Father, cured from his cancer, will continue to visit China regularly to check up on his health.

Norodom Sihanouk, accompanied by his wife, Norodom Monineath Sihanouk, and their son, King Norodom Sihamoni, will return to Phnom Penh in the afternoon of Wednesday 31 March, Om Daravouth, the royal cabinet advisor, told Cambodge Soir Hebdo.

“King-Father is cured of his cancer and he is in better health than during his previous visit,” Oum Daravouth added.

The 87-year-old Norodom Sihanouk will reside in Phnom Penh, but he will continue to visit China regularly to undergo medical exam.

The former monarch and his wife left Cambodia in September 2009.

King Norodom Sihamoni, who will accompany his father during the trip, left the country on 11 March to travel to France, the Czech republic and China.

On Attack Anniversary, a Repeated Plea

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
30 March 2010

Families of victims in a gruesome 1997 grenade attack renewed calls for the government and the FBI to reopen a stalled investigation Tuesday, as they marked the 13th anniversary of the assault.

Thirteen years ago Tuesday, assailants threw four grenades in the midst of a political rally for the opposition, killing 16 people and leaving 150 more wounded. Each year, the families make a new plea, but no suspects have ever been arrested in the case, which was investigated briefly by the FBI when a US citizen was injured.

Addressing supporters by loudspeaker and a phone link from France Tuesday, opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who led the 1997 rally, said the dead and wounded must not be forgotten.

Cambodian leaders were involved in the grenade attack,” he said. “It was not so long ago. The killers and the man behind the killers will be punished or condemned for the killing. The criminals cannot escape justice.”

US Embassy spokesman John Johnson said in an e-mail the FBI investigation was deemed “inconclusive, and the US Prosecutor’s Office declined to pursue the case.”

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said Tuesday the case was not closed.

The attack occurred in front of the former National Assembly, near today’s Ministry of Justice, where a stupa honoring the dead now stands.

At the site Tuesday, more than 100 participants, including victims’ families, Sam Rainsy Party activists and lawmakers, attended a Buddhist ceremony for the dead.

“We call on the Cambodian government and the FBI to reinvestigate the criminal case, to find and arrest the killers and the man behind the killers, for justice,” Sam Vanny, a representative of the victims’ families, said during the ceremony.

“We have been waiting for justice for 13 years,” she said. “We have not taken vengeance, and we have no intention to take vengeance, but it is a duty of law, of democracy and of social justice. So the government should be responsible for bringing the killers to justice.”

Svay Sakhon, who lost his daughter, Chanty Pheakdey, in the attack, said he would continue to wait for the killers to be caught.

“I have waited for the government to help find the killer,” he said. “I’m sorry that I’m not able to speak out. But I still want the government to work hard for justice.”

Human Rights Watch called on the FBI to renew its own investigation of the attack.

“The United States claims that human rights and the rule of law are primary policy goals in Cambodia, yet it withdrew the FBI just when it was close to solving the case and has done nothing for over a decade to resolve it,” Brad Adams, the group’s Asia director, said in a statement. “This attack has cast a shadow over Cambodia that will only be lifted when the perpetrators are brought to justice.”

Tribunal ‘Accelerating’ Work for Trials: Prosecutor

By Kong Sothanarith, VOA Khmer
Original report from Siem Reap
30 March 2010

Prosecutors are speeding up their work in the second case of the UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal, a court official said Sunday.

The court was working quickly and efficiently, UN prosecutor Andrew Carley told a group of teachers in Siem Reap, where he spoke during training of a new history book for schools.

The prosecution is moving toward the 2011 trial of at least four detained leaders, Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan, Ieng Sary and Ieng Thirith, following the conclusion of the trial of Kaing Kek Iev, or Duch.

Carley said work was going well with his Cambodian counterpart, Chea Leang.

“I am accelerating, along with my colleague, the work as much as we can,” he said.

Tribunal observers have voiced concerns that aging Khmer Rouge leaders might die before they see a day in court. Carley said Sunday he shared those concerns, but added the trials would continue even if some of the defendants die.

“This trial will come to a conclusion,” he said. “But the best way to do this work is not quickly but efficiently.”

Carley was addressing nearly 200 teachers from across the country who came to Siem Reap to learn to introduce a history book from the Documentation Center of Cambodia into their courses.

The book, “A History of Democratic Kampuchea,” is part of a collaborative effort between the Documentation Center and the government to introduce Khmer Rouge histories into classrooms.

Five Law Students in Mock International Court

By Nuch Sarita, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
30 March 2010

Five Cambodian law students were selected to participate in mock hearings in Washington this month that simulated cases at the International Court of Justice.

The five students were all selected from the Royal University of Law and Science Economics: Prom Savada, Theng Tith Maria, Tan Tepi Kanika, Pea Vanchhay, and Tan Keat Tech.

Magaret Ryan, a teacher at the Royal University of Law and Science Economics in Phnom Penh, was team advisor, coaching the team in basic principles of international law.

The team partook in the Philip C. Jessup International Moot Court competition at the Capital Hilton Hotel in Washington, from March 21 to March 27.

This year’s competition covered the lawfulness of measures taken by countries to protect their economic resources.

The program “is an advocacy competition for law students,” student Tan Keat Tech told VOA Khmer. “The International Court of Justice… is the primary judicial organ of the United Nations. Each law school with a law-related degree program may select one Jessup team to represent the school in the competition.”

More than 120 Jessup teams from 76 countries competed in the international rounds of the competition, Savada Prom said.

“Teams of law students compete against one another through the presentation of oral and written pleadings to address timely issues of public international law in the context of a hypothetical legal dispute between nations,” Savada Prom said.

Pleadings were evaluated by judges based upon advocacy skills and knowledge of international law, Tan Tepi Kanika said, adding there are three judges for her team.

The team learned other things, as well.

“In a week-long educational and cultural exchange, attending matches, receptions, panels, workshops and networking events, I had an opportunity to meet law professors from the great law schools of the world [and] meet international law students from 76 countries,” Theng Tith Maria said. “My team experienced the organizing of conferences, the editing of journals and magazines, and the promoting of an international law curriculum.”

Child Dance Troupe Aims for Paid Theater

By Nuch Sarita, VOA Khmer
30 March 2010

Two groups, Cambodian Living Arts and the Editions du Mekong, hope to introduce national and international tourists to a traditional folk dance through performances by the Children of Bassac at the Phnom Penh National Museum, representatives of the groups said on “Hello VOA” Monday.

Children of Bassac performed for National Cultural Day March 25 and plan another performance for Khmer New Year April 1. Both shows are preludes to planned weekly performances in November and December.

Soeur Vuthy, assistant master of Children of Bassac, told “Hello VOA” the company has 24 dancers, all between the ages of 16 and 21, and was created in 2003 by master Ieng Sithul, a traditional theater singer.

Cambodia Living Arts offers children from disadvantaged backgrounds a chance to tap into Cambodian culture, Soeur Vuthy said.

“The youth from the Children of Bassac Company all live on the Bassac community,” Soeur Vuthy said. “CLA would like to promote them to the general public and help them earn a living from their art.”

Student Neang Kavich has been studying traditional folk dance and music in Ieng Sithul’s classes for six years and is now attending film school at Limkokwing University with the support of CLA’s Arts Scholarship.

Another student, Cham Roun Sophear, began dance classes at age 13. Now she stands out among her peers, and sometime advises younger classmates. She continues to develop her skills in dance and song at the Royal University of Fine Arts, with the support of CLA’s Arts Scholarship.

The performances at the National Museum represent eight types of classical and folk dances: Sampeah Kru, a blessing ceremony; Apsara, or celestial dancers; Beh Krawanh, picking cardamom; Sovann Machha, golden mermaid; Kroma, the scarf dance; Kuoh Angre, clapping the pestles; Chhayam, a popular folk dance usually performed at the annual Kathen religious ceremony; and Phloy Suoy, a wind instrument performance with bamboo, typically played by Cambodia’s minority tribes.

VN, US sign nuclear energy pact


Vietnam and the United States signed a pact on Tuesday described as a key foundation for development of peaceful atomic power in the communist country.

US Ambassador to Vietnam Michael Michalak (R) and Vietnamese Deputy Minister of Science and Technology Le Dinh Tien (L) raise a toast after signing a memorandum of understanding on the cooperation in the nuclear energy field in Hanoi. Vietnam and the United States signed a pact on Tuesday described as a key foundation for development of peaceful atomic power in the communist country.

"This is an important moment in our bilateral relations," US ambassador Michael Michalak said before endorsing the memorandum of understanding (MOU) on nuclear energy cooperation.

"This MOU is a key step in furtherance of our common non-proliferation goals, and a significant building block in the development of Vietnam's peaceful, civilian nuclear power programme."

In November, Vietnam's communist-dominated parliament brushed aside criticism and approved construction of the country's first nuclear power stations. Initial plans call for four reactors, with a total capacity of 4,000 megawatts, at least one of which should be operational from 2020.

Vietnam and the United States have signed several deals to boost nuclear cooperation in the past few years, and Michalak said he expects Tuesday's memorandum will be a step towards a legally-binding agreement on peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

This "would allow even broader and deeper nuclear cooperation between our two countries and would facilitate the participation of the US companies in the Vietnamese nuclear sector," he said.

Vietnam and the United States this year mark 15 years since they re-established relations after the Vietnam War.

Sources last month said Vietnam has decided to award Russia's state atomic energy firm, Rosatom, a contract to build the country's first nuclear power plant.

Japan is also reportedly interested in helping to build future Vietnamese nuclear power plants.

Vietnam is rapidly modernising with average energy demand growing at about 10 percent per year, authorities say.

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