Editorial | Articles about Cambodia | Khmer

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Who Was Chea Vichea and Why Does He Matter? Ask Filmmaker Bradley Cox

The Huffington Post

Chea Vichea was assassinated in broad daylight. Brad Cox arrived just minutes after he
was gunned down, and his footage makes for some of the most powerful moments of the film.

In my own special screening, director Bradley Cox recently showed me his 55-minute film Who Killed Chea Vichea? in his office in Manhattan. Bradley is now in Southeast Asia. Chea Vichea was the president of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia (FTUWKC) until his assassination on Chinese New Year in January 2004. Vichea was shot in the head and chest early in the morning while reading a newspaper at a kiosk in Phnom Penh.

I had interviewed Cambodian Parliament Member Mu Sochua -- the Cory Aquino or Aung San Suu Kyi of Cambodia, for The Huffington Post in March before she returned to Phnom Penh (story). She had told me, "The day I joined the opposition party was the day the leader of the workers' movement -- Chea Vichea -- was assassinated. He was the founder of the opposition in Cambodia."

Local police struggle to maintain order as journalists and frenzied onlookers surrounded the fallen union leader, his blood spilled over a copy of that day's newspaper. Images from the funeral that followed of Buddhist priests crying as they watch the procession pass are haunting.

The government arrested two men and imprisoned them for their supposed crime. They were both soon judged innocent. The government did not like that judicial decision and the judge was immediately removed from his position at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court. His decision to drop charges was subsequently overturned in June 2004.

The Cambodian union leader Chea Vichea in 2003, one year before he was killed.
From "Who Killed Chea Vichea? Copyright 2009 Loud Mouth Films.

The two men were found guilty after a trial where no witnesses testified against the accused and no forensic evidence was brought to court. Both individuals were sentenced to 20 years in prison and ordered to pay $5,000 compensation each to the family of the victim. Vichea's family turned down the compensation, stating that they did not believe the two convicted were the real murderers.

The documentary of his life and death, Who Killed Chea Vichea?, premiered March 27 at the Frederick Film Festival in Maryland. The film, released by Loud Mouth Films in Philadelphia and Bangkok, is a gripping account of a corrupt government's campaign to hold onto power at any cost, and the quiet resistance of a people facing overwhelming odds. Filmed over five years, and following events as they happened, Who Killed Chea Vichea? was produced by Rich Garella and Jeffrey Saunders with an original score by Gil Talmi.

I interviewed film producer Rich Garella about their deeply moving film:

To me the core of this movie is that it unmasks a dictatorship. Unlike Burma, for example, Cambodia enjoys a lot of foreign aid from Western countries, who are basically being played against China by the Cambodian regime.

The tacit arrangement is that the Western donors agree to play along with the pretense that Cambodia is a 'fledgling democracy' and that Cambodia is constantly making incremental progress on human rights, corruption reduction, election quality and so forth -- even though there is never any detectable change for the better in these areas.

And if they don't play along, and actually demand some accountability, well, Cambodia can just get the same amount of aid from China, no strings attached.

It can also be viewed as a hostage situation, where (Cambodian Prime Minister) Hun Sen says to the West: Don't demand anything that threatens my power or I can make Cambodia into Burma II, and you don't want that. You don't want another intractable problem with a China-backed surrogate and you don't want the poor people of Cambodia to suffer even more than they do.

So Who Killed Chea Vichea? takes one example, out of many, to show that the Cambodian regime really has no limits on its ability to carry out any kind of atrocity, obscuring it only with the flimsiest veil of legitimacy. It's one of the few times, and probably the only time in the case of Cambodia, where a film follows a single emblematic event like this from start to finish, as it unfolds. And thereby gives viewers outside the country a front-row seat to the actual mechanics of this kind of soft dictatorship.

By focusing on a single key case we bring the story down to the human level, which is necessary because the power that the Cambodian regime wields works on the human level -- it's personal fear that limits what Cambodian people can do. They know that the regime has the power of life and death over each and every one of them. This is what the regime intends to illustrate by killing such a well-known and loved person as Chea Vichea: We can kill anyone, at any time, with complete impunity, whether our Western sponsors like it or not... so watch your step.

One aspect of this that we hope to reveal to viewers in these sponsoring countries, including the U.S., is that the apparent incompetence of the authorities in covering their tracks actually serves an important function for them. They don't actually want the people of Cambodia to think anything other than that the authorities had Vichea killed. They need the people to know that it was a political assassination that came from the top, or it wouldn't serve its purpose.

The foreign viewers should realize that the purpose of the cover-up (the framing of the two suspects) is a show that is staged only for the benefit the foreigners at home -- and it's impossible for anyone in Cambodia, including the diplomats from those foreign countries -- not to know the truth.

So in a way, we hope that the film can be a kind of key for viewers, that having seen this, they can have a better understanding not only of the situation in Cambodia but that it will help them interpret events in other countries that receive aid or trade benefits.

And of course, we tried to provide it in a way that is dramatic on a human level, to make it a true investigative thriller that pulls them into an unfamiliar world and gives them, as I mentioned, a front-row seat.

I hope that helps! I should mention that this is my take on the film and its purposes -- Brad's take will be overlapping but somewhat different -- more on the human level. So if you want to talk to him and get some quotes we can arrange it.


Monks precede dignitaries in funeral march for assassinated union leader Chea Vichea.
From "Who Killed Chea Vichea? Copyright 2009 Loud Mouth Films.

The story continues to be told. This week, The Phnom Penh Post published Delving Into An Old Murder, by James O'Toole and Meas Sokchea:

Vichea spent the morning playing with his daughter, studying his Khmer-English dictionary and plucking his moustache before deciding to leave his Phnom Penh home and pick up a copy of the day's newspaper.

"I watched him from the balcony as he left," Chea Vichea's wife, Chea Kimny, tells director Bradley Cox. "I got up and went to the kitchen. Suddenly, I felt like something kicked me in the chest."

Cox travelled to Cambodia to cover the contentious 2003 elections, and stayed to pursue the story of Chea Vichea's murder. In a one-hour film screened for the Post on Wednesday, he draws on interviews with witnesses and public figures to document the investigation of what has become one of the Kingdom's most infamous political killings in recent years.

"This is not a tale - it is a true story," Chea Mony said. "This film just wants to inform other countries, particularly free, democratic countries, that we can have no confidence in the Cambodian justice system."

In its early moments, Who Killed Chea Vichea? contains footage from an interview with its titular figure. With his slight build and nasal voice, he does not make for an intimidating presence, but his resolve is clear as he describes the history of death threats against him.

"I think they want to kill me because of my experience in the past," Chea Vichea says, adding: "I'm not afraid. If I'm afraid, it's like I die."

Evidence on display during police press conference.
From "Who Killed Chea Vichea? Copyright 2009 Loud Mouth Films.

The film's director Brad Cox is perhaps best suited to answer the question, Who was Chea Vichea and why does he matter? When I met with Brad in New York, he told me:

"Hero" is perhaps the most overused word in the English language, and to be honest, I don't know if I ever met an honest-to-goodness hero in the flesh until I met Chea Vichea.

Imagine a country where you can be arrested for simply displeasing the powers that be. Imagine a country where standing up for your rights can get you killed. This is Cambodia. To get by, most people keep their heads down and their mouths shut. Vichea did the opposite.

He stood up for the hundreds of thousands of garment workers who wanted nothing more than to be treated fairly and to receive a living wage. For his troubles, he was beaten, threatened and arrested countless times.

And when his life was threatened and the police urged him to leave the country, he refused to be intimidated. He stood his ground, because as he told me "If I leave, who will look after the people?"

Heroes are people who go forward despite being fully aware of the dangers that lie ahead. In this regard, Chea Vichea was the real deal.

The Free Trade Union of which Chea Vichea was president traditionally holds a big march on Labor Day -- May 1 -- that attracts thousands of people. They may try to have a public screening of the film this May 1 in the park in Phnom Penh across from where Vichea was killed. If so, it would be a landmark event in Cambodia. I believe the authorities will sadly intervene.

Director Bradley Cox with producers Jeffrey Saunders and Rich Garella.
From "Who Killed Chea Vichea? Copyright 2009 Loud Mouth Films.

Director Bradley Cox has lived in Cambodia for almost five years. He captured the story of Chea Vichea's murder as it unfolded on the streets and in the courtrooms of Cambodia. He previously made the documentary Cambodia: Anatomy of an Election, was a co-founder of Bhutan's first film school, has worked as a screenwriter and director in Los Angeles and has won numerous film festival awards.

Producer Rich Garella lived in Cambodia for most of 1995 - 2003. He was managing editor of The Cambodia Daily, and later worked as press secretary for Cambodia's main opposition party. He co-wrote and produced Polygraph for MoveOn.org's Bush in 30 Seconds project in 2004; the ad was broadcast nationally. With Eric Pape, he wrote A Tragedy of No Importance, about the 1997 grenade attack against the Cambodian opposition.

Producer Jeffrey Saunders is an Emmy-nominated filmmaker and founder of CinemaCapital, an independent production and distribution company based in New York City. His films have been selected at international festivals including the Berlin Film Festival, IDFA, SWSX and Thessaloniki, and acquired by broadcasters including Sundance, ARTE, TF1, ZDF and SBS. His feature film Goal Dreams was selected as one of the top ten "Movies that Matter" by Amnesty International in 2006.

To receive occasional updates, join the film's e-mail list. There is also a Facebook group for the film.

Follow Jim Luce on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jimluce

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Fired Naga workers issue plea to Hun Sen

The Phnom Penh Post

FORTY workers who were dismissed from their jobs at NagaWorld Hotel and Casino earlier this month appealed to Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday for intervention, and said they also plan to file a complaint with the Ministry of Labour.

The workers’ union, the Cambodia Tourism and Service Workers Federation (CTSWF), said in a statement that NagaWorld had violated labour laws by dismissing the workers without advance notice and providing them with inadequate compensation.

“Tourism Federation leaders and members would like to appeal to Prime Minister Hun Sen … to intervene, and would like all relevant ministries to re-inspect the implementation of labour law and other regulations at NagaWorld to help bring justice to our workforce,” the statement read.

CTSWF Vice President Sok Narith said the dismissed workers planned to file a complaint with the Ministry of Labour through his organisation on
Friday. Of the 40 workers who were dismissed on April 12 and April 13, Sok Narith said, only a handful received compensation. NagaWorld management has attempted to intimidate workers still at the company who have expressed interest in positions as union leaders, he added.

NagaWorld declined to comment on Wednesday.

Sok Narith was one of 14 workers dismissed by NagaWorld in February 2009. NagaWorld subsequently filed suit against the dismissed workers for defamation and incitement, though the case was thrown out by Phnom Penh Municipal Court in October. Ten of those workers have since dropped their complaints, and negotiations are pending for the other four.


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Cambodia Infrastructure Report Q2 2010 - New Market Report Published


Until 2008, Cambodia's construction industry saw some spectacular growth rates however the global recession has highlighted the country's susceptibility to external risks and the lack of support provided by its poor business environment. We estimate that the construction sector shrank 5.8% in 2009 and will contract a further 2.1% in 2010.

Growth is expected to return from 2011 onward; however, rates will be significantly lower than the 19% year-on-year (y-o-y) growth seen in 2008. Average growth from 2010 to 2014 will be 6.7% y-o-y taking the industry value to just under US$1bn.

Project financing has started to trickle back into the country with a number of projects announced at the start of 2010. China has a strong interest in Cambodian ventures. One of the largest Chinese power companies, Huadian Corp., signed an agreement for the construction of a US$558mn hydropower plant in January 2010. This follows an engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract the company signed with Cambodia Energy in December 2009, for the construction of two coal-fired power plants in Cambodia.

In terms of its business environment Cambodia remains seriously disadvantaged compared with its regional peers. Widespread corruption and a lack of regulatory enforcement hamper project development at all stages and provide downside risk for investors. Overall Cambodia scores only 27 for its business environment placing it last in our ratings for the Asia Pacific region. Similarly in terms of project financing the country faces issues; however, strong growth rates resulting from Cambodia weak base position ensure that investment continues to appear higher in ratings.

The country's immediate development path is far from simple with many obstacles to overcome before the country becomes a secure investment environment. However, closer links to regional neighbours, in particular China, are likely to drive movement towards an improved regulatory system. Cambodia's aim of joining the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-China free trade agreement in 2015, will drive further improvements.

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Appeal for Funds to Help Van Nath, S-21 Survivor, for medical bills

Dear Friends

Please allow me to send you this urgent call for help.

Vann Nath whom you all know as a S-21 survivor, a painter and a restless and dedicated witness of the Khmer Rouge regime atrocities has been admitted on Tuesday to the emergency unit at Calmette Hospital, in Phnom Penh: This is the only institution which seems to be able to treat the bowel (duodenom) and stomach haemorrhage he is suffering from (though, I am not in position to give you further details).

Vann Nath is fighting for his life, and his wife and children stand by him. However, their financial resources cannot sustain such medical costs for long.

With Vann Nath's agreement, I am therefore sending this appeal for funds in order to help his family to pay for medical bills and to support them through such painful struggle. Whatever the amount, any donation you may send will show your solidarity and support to him and his family.

I am very grateful for any contribution you may give.

Donations can be sent in a sealed envelope to Elen Gallien, at the Bophana Center (n°64 street 200). She is in charge of collecting all donations until Saturday included. Her telephone number is 092 132 718.

I truly thank you for your help.

Morover, if any of you's blood type is A+ or O+ and is willing to donate their blood, please give me your contact details so that we can contact you whenever that might be necessary.

Best wishes and many thanks,

Rithy Panh

Phone in Cambodia: 855-012-793-633
Phone in US: 917-671-7120
Back-up Email: lamcgrew@hotmail.com

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“Srey Krup Leak” Cambodian woman auction: Asking price starting from $1 million

By Koh Ekareach
Koh Santepheap
Translated from Khmer by Boros Min Krup Leak (?) Heng Soy
Click here to read the article in Khmer

Heng Soy's naughty question: "At $1 million, how much is the cost per kilo?" ;)

Miss Nuon Neang Lom-orng, a beautiful woman, coming from a well to do family, having the quality of perfect modern household wife with high knowledge, completing her study abroad, knowledgeable about art, music, classical songs, born in a highly honorable family. She received a lot a marriage proposals from all sources, and [this predicament] let Chumteav Nuon Voraneath, [her mother], have difficulties making the decision as to who she should hand over her daughter, therefore, she decided to auction off her daughter with the aim of using 50% of the auction proceed to donate to an orphanage and old people foundations in Cambodia.

Condition for the auction:

The auctioneer must be well off, have good standing name in the society, still single (not married yet or widowed), must take her as his single top wife.

The auction price starts at $1 million. For detailed information, contact phone number: 012 802 718, or email: sambath_art@yahoo.com

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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Cambodian journalist released from prison in amnesty


New York, April 27, 2010—The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes the April 13 release from prison of Hang Chakra, editor and publisher of the opposition-aligned Khmer Machas Srok daily newspaper in Cambodia.

He was granted a royal pardon after serving nine months of a one-year sentence on a “criminal disinformation” conviction over a series of critical articles on alleged high-level government corruption. He was among 43 prisoners given amnesty ahead of Cambodia’s mid-April Buddhist New Year celebrations.

According to the Phnom Penh Post, Hang Chakra wrote to Prime Minister Hun Sen on July 8 to apologize and pledged not to report on government corruption in the future if he was released. The English-language daily newspaper quoted Hang Chakra’s letter saying that he had “repeatedly failed to act properly and seriously.”

But since his release, Hang Chakra has stated publicly his intention to continue publishing Khmer Machas Srok, which, according to news reports, recently suspended publication for financial reasons. The newspaper is affiliated with the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, whose eponymous leader was recently stripped of his parliamentary immunity and fled into exile in France.

“Hang Chakra never should have been imprisoned in the first place on these trumped-up charges,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s Senior Southeast Asia Representative. “Prime Minister Hun Sen has failed to uphold his pledge to stop jailing journalists for their reporting.”

Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni had written to Hun Sen in October last year calling for Hang Chakra’s release, but his request was refused for unknown reasons.

Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodia’s People’s Party (CPP) maintains strong editorial influence over the country’s mainstream print and broadcast media, which seldom publishes or airs reports critical of top level officials in his administration. His government recently cracked down on freedom of expression, including among parliamentarians, after a period of relative openness.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Hang Chakra's name has been corrected.

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Recession shows need for Cambodian garment factories to diversify – UN agency

27 April 2010 – The global downturn has shed light on the need for Cambodian garment factories to both expand and diversify their markets to include those in Asia to reduce reliance on those in the United States and the European Union, according to a new report by the United Nations labour agency.

Nearly 90 per cent of the 66 factory managers surveyed reported having been adversely affected by the economic crisis, listing falling export orders, heightened pressure to reduce prices and the increased cost of inputs as the three main pressures they are facing.

The report by the International Labour Organization (ILO) said the recession has also exposed the need to look into boosting domestic demand for Cambodian garments.

The industry is almost entirely owned by foreigners and is export-oriented, and factories hire, on average, 700 workers and specialize in one of the following areas: T-shirts, jeans, pants, sportswear, underwear and pyjamas.

The ILO found that production-level workers have borne the brunt of job losses, while managers and other non-production staff have not been as severely affected.

A study released earlier this year found that factory closures or cutbacks due to reduced orders have forced many garment workers out of a job, with one in 10 unemployed workers having lost their positions two or more times last year and most still looking for work.

Today’s publication reported that only 5 per cent of factories exporting their products have provided assistance – in the form of counselling and help in securing new employment – to the workers they terminated.

It also pointed out the renewed urgency now for Cambodia to “develop a reliable and cost efficient electricity supply, for the benefit of all businesses,” including the garment industry, since high power costs are impeding the regional competitiveness of its garment firms.

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Linguist races to save a dying language spoken in Cambodia

With no more than 10 speakers remaining of S'aoch, a language spoken on Cambodia's sea shore, French linguist Jean-Michel Filippi is in a race against time to preserve a disappearing culture.

Rich Clabaugh/Staff

By Jared Ferrie, Correspondent
Samrong Loeu Village, Cambodia

In halting, creaky tones, the elderly chief of this tiny community spoke in his indigenous language, S'aoch, an ancient tongue linguists predict will be extinct within a generation.

Noi, who goes by a single name, is one of 10 still fluent in S'aoch, and this village of 110 people is the last vestige of a disappearing culture.

S'aoch is one of about 3,000 languages endangered worldwide, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization: One of them disappears about every two weeks. In Cambodia alone, 19 languages face extinction this century.

READ: The world's 18 most endangered languages

In this impoverished country where one-third of the population lives on less than $1 a day, saving a dying language is a low priority. One of the S'aoch's few allies is Jean-Michel Filippi, a French linguist who has learned their language and transcribed about 4,000 of its words over the past nine years.

"Once a language disappears, a vision of the world disappears," says Mr. Filippi, explaining his commitment to preserving S'aoch.

His task is made harder by the fact that the S'aoch do not share his fascination. They associate their language with poverty and exclusion from Cambodian society, which is ethnically and linguistically Khmer.

"We don't use our language, because we S'aoch are taowk," said Tuen, the chief's son, using the Khmer word meaning "without value."
Khmer Rouge dealt fatal blow

Perhaps the fatal blow to the S'aoch was the Khmer Rouge, whose policies caused the deaths of up to 2 million people between 1975 and 1979. The communist regime uprooted Cambodians from their homes and forced them into labor camps. The S'aoch were pushed from their land and prohibited from using their native tongue. "They said we couldn't speak our language or we would be killed," says Noi, drawing his finger across his neck, during an interview in his wooden house perched on stilts about five feet above the ground.

The S'aoch who survived settled here, near the coast, where some of them had been taken by the regime.

The loss of their land signaled the death of their culture because the S'aoch were no longer self-sufficient and instead survived by selling their labor, which plunged them into poverty. Since their animist beliefs were intrinsically linked to the land, Filippi says the S'aoch also lost the core of their cultural identity.

Two nongovernmental organizations, International Cooperation Cambodia and Care, are working to preserve minority culture by incorporating four minority languages into 25 schools in rural, indigenous communities. The Education Ministry cooperates with those programs, though they do not include S'aoch.

Filippi says there are at least five indigenous groups in Cambodia with 500 members or fewer. With only minimal support for preserving their languages, they are likely to follow the S'aoch into obscurity, their "unique view" of the world forever cast into the void of undocumented history.

"The fact is [the S'aoch] lost everything," Filippi says. "And the language is going to be lost in a few years as well. They might just remain a mystery forever."


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CAMBODIA: Strict penalties planned for acid attacks


Keo Srey Vy, 36, lives at the Cambodian Acid Survivors Charity in Phnom Penh and is dependent on their care. She was attacked with acid by brother-in-law while she was at the restaurant where she worked as a cook

PHNOM PENH, 28 April 2010 (IRIN) - Keo Srey Vy’s brother-in-law had been planning to sell his child so he could buy a new motorbike. When she threatened to tell the police, he went to the restaurant where she worked as a cook and doused her face with acid.

She reported the attack to police, but gave up after they demanded a bribe to investigate.

“I didn’t consider revenge, but I wanted a law that would catch him and bring him to justice, and that law did not exist,” Keo Srey Vy, who is severely scarred, told IRIN. A year after the attack, she may have reason for hope.

While countries such as Bangladesh and India have enacted severe laws and banned the open sale of chemicals, Cambodia had not taken any serious steps to curb the crime.

Under a new draft law on the use and management of acid, perpetrators of acid attacks would receive life sentences, the government said. Attacks resulting in minor injuries would come with a minimum five-year sentence.

“The law that we have today is not enough,” Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said. “I think that stronger punishment will make them [perpetrators] more afraid of the law.”

Statistics on acid attacks are unreliable since many cases go unreported. For most years since 2000, the Phnom Penh-based Cambodian Acid Survivors’ Charity (CASC) recorded 12-24 attacks. But between December 2009 and January 2010, 11 cases were recorded, raising the national profile of the problem.

Comprehensive law

The new law, according to the drafting committee, includes improved medical care and social integration programmes for survivors. The opening of a state-run medical centre for acid survivors is also being considered, although funding resources remain unclear.

Drafting committee deputy chairman Ouk Kimlek, who is also deputy national police commissioner, told local media the committee was planning to create “an acid foundation to generate money from all sources and NGOs to help provide skills and capital for them”. He did not elaborate on the level of the government’s contribution.

Rights groups believe acid attacks abound in part because the caustic chemicals are readily and cheaply available. The draft law thus stipulates that importers and sellers of acid have to be at least 20 years old and licensed to carry out any transaction involving the chemical.

To assist police in criminal investigations, vendors would also have to record the details of anyone who buys acid. Retailers who fail to comply would be subject to fines and lose their licence to sell the product.


Local rights and survivors’ groups hailed the legislation as a necessary step in curbing attacks but sceptics questioned the government’s ability to ensure police enforcement of the new law.

“We have impunity in Cambodia for rape and murder; most victims are paid compensation, or the criminal is never caught,” Pung Chhiv Kek, president of the local rights group Licadho said. “If you have a good law but it’s not enforced, it’s useless.”

Illegal out-of-court settlements are common practice in Cambodia, and rights groups say they undermine efforts to discourage the crime.

“They pay US$200 or $300, which is hardly anything. When you have to eat, buy medicine, feed your family, [financial compensation] is never enough,” said Chhun Chenda Sophea, CASC’s programme manager. “They need to enforce the law strictly. If it’s being enforced, then people will be scared of committing the crime.”

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak agreed, saying the new legislation needed to coincide with an effort to “make the court system more responsible”.

The government has yet to set a deadline for completion of the final draft, which needs approval from two government offices, followed by a vote at the National Assembly.

Meanwhile, Keo Srey Vy sold her home to pay her medical fees, and now, at 36, she depends on the CASC. Three of her children live with her mother, and another boards with an NGO.

“I was very happy to hear about this new law because it can help reduce this crime,” she said. “I believe that if people know about the law, they wouldn’t dare attack people.”


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Cambodia tells diplomats it is no 'banana republic'


Impovrished children play in the Boeng Kak slum community, Phnom Penh where poverty affects many people

PHNOM PENH — The Cambodian government has told all foreign diplomatic envoys to avoid criticising the country, insisting it is not a "banana republic", in a letter seen by AFP Wednesday.

The foreign ministry letter sent to all diplomatic missions in Cambodia asked them to "avoid interfering in the internal affairs" of the country, regardless of the power of their home nations.

"There have been many occasions, in which some heads of diplomatic missions behaved like a 'proconsul' of his/her country to the Kingdom of Cambodia. They indulged themselves to criticise or to give lessons to the Royal Government of Cambodia," the letter said.

"Such behaviours are not acceptable for Cambodia as a sovereign country and a member of the United Nations. Cambodia is not a BANANA REPUBLIC," it added.

Asked about the letter dated April 26, foreign ministry spokesman Koy Kuong told AFP it was issued to remind all diplomats not to "exceed the limit of their mandate".

Cambodia last month threatened to expel a United Nations envoy if UN agencies continued "unacceptable interference" in the country.

The move came after UN agencies in Cambodia urged "a transparent and participatory" process as parliament debated an anti-corruption law that was criticised by the opposition and rights groups.

Ranked one of the world's most corrupt countries, Cambodia passed the anti-graft law in parliament on March 11, more than 15 years after legislation was first proposed, but only days after the draft was shared publicly.

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Vietnamese Immigrants Carry on a Cajun Food Tradition

The New York Times

Melissa Pham works at Crawfish Shack Seafood, her family’s restaurant in Atlanta, where boiled potatoes and crayfish have been cooked with Cajun spices and lemon grass, an Asian flavoring.

HIEU PHAM serves about a ton of Louisiana crayfish each week here at the Crawfish Shack Seafood, boiling them in a slurry of commercial seasoning mix, garlic cloves, orange wedges and lemon grass stalks.

Cast nets hang from the acoustical-tile ceiling of the strip-mall restaurant, located behind his father’s auto-repair shop along a multiethnic corridor north of downtown. Cans of Café Du Monde coffee sit by the register, and Louis Armstrong plays in heavy rotation.

His father was raised in Vietnam, his mother in Cambodia. Mr. Pham, born 27 years ago in Grady Memorial Hospital in downtown Atlanta, calls himself a “real Georgia peach.”

But like an increasing number of Vietnamese restaurateurs across the country, he sells his customers a vision of Louisiana culture, accessorized by heaping bowls of crayfish. (Or, as they are called regionally, crawfish.) At least two other counter-service crayfish cafes in Atlanta are owned by Vietnamese or Cambodian families. Vietnamese-owned crayfish restaurants, built around liberal interpretations of Louisiana, are now suburban fixtures in Texas, California and elsewhere.

When thousands fled Indochina after the end of the Vietnam War, many ended up in Louisiana. Now, for the children of those refugees, the Gulf Coast, fringed by seafood-rich wetlands, can be a kind of second homeland.

Crayfish are not commonly consumed in Vietnam, said Andrea Nguyen, a California author of books on Southeast Asian food, but eating boiled shellfish “is a social activity among Vietnamese people.”

“Crawfish eating is visceral,” she said. “Vietnamese people like to pick at their food, to peel and eat with their fingers.”

In California some crayfish restaurants advertise themselves as quan nhau, or casual restaurants.

In southwestern Louisiana, restaurants that specialize in crayfish are often known as boiling points. Many rural boiling points, which have existed since the 1950s, are rudimentary, with concrete floors and bare wood or laminate tables.

The crayfish, which are cooked in giant pots over propane flames along with potatoes and ears of corn, arrive on plastic or metal trays. Waiters and waitresses tally orders by weight. Beer is the drink of choice. Rolls of paper towels anchor each table.

A similar, but more expansive, ethic applies at the Vietnamese-owned crayfish restaurants that began opening in Houston around 2000, and a few years later in Southern California.

Hank’s Cajun Crawfish, on Bellaire Boulevard on the west side of Houston, in a storefront with tinted windows and glaring neon, is one of a half-dozen or more Vietnamese-owned urban boiling points in that Gulf Coast city.

The frills are few. Hot sauces from three continents crowd the tables. Mardi Gras beads drape the refrigerator.

Its owner, Tony Bu, learned the trade from relatives with New Orleans roots. His boil is a traditional concoction, flavored with a commercial Cajun seasoning mix. But Mr. Bu drenches some of his crayfish in garlicky margarine and serves them in clear plastic bags. He dishes up crayfish fried rice, too.

A margarine drench and bag service are not characteristic of boiling points in Louisiana; nor is a make-your-own swab of lime juice, black pepper and salt, which recalls the traditional Vietnamese dip called muoi tieu chanh.

While flavored butter or margarine is sometimes an option in Houston, at Los Angeles-area crayfish restaurants owned by Vietnamese, it’s usually standard.

Boiling Crab in Garden Grove, Calif., which Dada Ngo and her husband, Sinh Nguyen, opened in 2003, now has eight locations in the state and beyond. All tout their finishing sauces, including a buttery blend of garlic, lemon pepper and Cajun spice mix known as the Whole Sha-Bang.

The ethnic background of the owners is downplayed. The Boiling Crab Web site portrays Mr. Nguyen as a beer-drinking good ol’ boy from Seadrift, Tex. Ms. Ngo, his Kansas-born bride, goes by the handle Yo’ Mama.

Boiling Crab was a pioneer. In the years since it opened, its success has inspired a dozen or more competing businesses, including Claws, also in Garden Grove. A pirate-themed restaurant owned by a Vietnamese family and decorated with life-size swashbuckler mannequins, Claws serves a sauce-smothered style of crayfish as well as nontraditional dishes like periwinkle snails simmered in coconut-basil sauce.

Mr. Pham, of Atlanta, is not a fan of margarine- or butter-slicked crayfish.

“I want my flavor to be in the crawfish meat,” he said, sounding like a third-generation Cajun purist. “Not on the shell. You’re not supposed to get the flavor when you lick your fingers.”

He learned to love crayfish in Louisiana. Like many Christian youths there, Mr. Pham spent long summer stretches at church camps, including an annual Vietnamese Baptist gathering, often held in New Orleans.

Following the lead of Vietnamese campers from Louisiana, he learned how to clean crayfish and how to season the water in which they cook.

Mr. Pham, who once studied to be an interior designer, sets the scene well. He stocks his shelves with Louisiana-produced étouffée and beignet mixes and emphasizes the Cajun Country origins of his crayfish. But his efforts don’t amount to gimmickry.

The foods that emerge from this small kitchen staffed by his family, including his mother, Hoe Pham, taste like honest tributes to Louisiana, filtered through the life experiences and cooking repertories of Southeast Asian immigrants.

Nuoc mia, sugar-cane juice pressed to order from Louisiana cane, is on the menu. So are spring rolls threaded with Louisiana shrimp.

Mr. Pham sources his oysters, crabs and shrimp from Gulf Coast waters. “We don’t believe in imported stuff,” he said.

Mr. Pham is not, however, beholden to Vietnamese or Louisianan measures of authenticity. He respects the New Orleans bread-baking traditions that make possible the po’ boy. But he prefers Amoroso brand bread from Philadelphia, loaves more often associated with cheese-steak sandwiches.

“I’m not trying to do it just like them,” Mr. Pham said, speaking of his friends back in Louisiana. “I’ve got to find my own way, too.”

Customers recognize the link between Vietnam and Louisiana even as they make sport of it.

For Jeff Cook, a music promoter, Mr. Pham’s fried crayfish po’ boys brought to mind the raucous processions behind New Orleans’s brass band parades.

Using the local name for those celebrations, tongue planted firmly in cheek, Mr. Cook gave a nod and a wink to tradition. “Not many people know it,” he said, “but the Vietnamese are very famous for their ‘second lines.’ ”

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Aborted Cambodian 'eco resort' leaves nothing but cleared land

Eco resort project near a remote waterfall is dumped by developers and now looks like being anything but environmentally friendly

An eco resort in Cambodia, construction of which involved the removal of swaths of trees and the building of a road in forest land, has been cancelled, according to the Phnom Penh Post.

The Sar Lar Investment company had already spent US$2 million of the total projected US$6 million project budget clearing forest and constructing a road to develop the Bou Sra Waterfall Eco Resort in Mondulkiri province, Cambodia, before pulling out of the project because of "capital concerns," the paper reported.

One of the largest waterfalls in Cambodia, the Bou Sra site is popular with tourists and has seen an increase in visitors over the last year, but the area only has one guest house and various stores. Located in the country's south east, the site is about a 45 minute drive from the city of Sen Monorom, around 400 km from the capital Phnom Penh.

Mann Sinoeun, chief of the cancelled eco resort and representative of the Sar Lar Investment Co, was quoted in the Phnom Penh Post as saying, “We decided to stop the project investment on March 20 because the housing development business of Okhna Sar Lar in Phnom Penh cannot sell anything. That is why we don’t have enough of a budget to continue the project,” he said

“We have already completed a garden and a set of stairs down to the Bou Sra waterfall from the top,” Sinoeun added.

For now, the Mondulkiri Tourism Department will take care of the site until another investor comes along. As for when that will be, it is unclear. It is also uncertain how much of the forest has been cut down, and what will happen to that land if no new investors are found.
Earlier problems

Back in October of 2009, there was concern by Mondulkiri Tourism Department Director Ngin Sovimean, that the construction was going too slowly as only the garden and stairs were being worked on at the time. Regardless, Sovimean said, "I think that the company is committed to fulfilling this project."

Cambodia.com made mention of the planned resort before it was cancelled, saying Sar Lar Investment Co "has assured nearby villagers that the five-year project will not be disruptive to the environment as no forests are to be cut down for the development. Instead, Sar Lar hopes to make it an ecotourist undertaking which will create around 100 jobs for the ethnic minorities."
The Mondulkiri Tourism Department could not be reached for comment.

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Cambodia lifts ban on marriages to South Koreans

News Aus.Com

CAMBODIA has overturned a ban imposed last month on South Koreans marrying its nationals, after introducing new rules to combat human trafficking, the foreign ministry said.

CAMBODIA has overturned a ban imposed last month on South Koreans marrying its nationals, after introducing new rules to combat human trafficking, the foreign ministry said.

Cambodia brought in the temporary ban after a matchmaker was sentenced to 10 years in jail for bringing 25 women from the countryside in an attempt to broker marriages with South Korean men.

Phnom Penh decided to lift the suspension after introducing changes including a requirement for couples to be together at all times during the marriage process, foreign ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said.

"These regulations will prevent human trafficking and fake marriages," Koy Kuong told AFP.

The number of Cambodian women marrying Korean men more than doubled from 551 in 2008 to 1372 last year, according to a March report from South Korean news agency Yonhap.

Cambodia previously imposed a temporary ban on foreign marriages in 2008 to prevent human trafficking, amid concerns over an explosion in the number of brokered unions involving South Korean men and poor Cambodian women. That ban followed an International Organisation for Migration report that said many Cambodian brides suffered abuse after moving to South Korea in marriages hastily arranged by brokers who made large profits.

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The restriction was lifted about eight months later after new laws were introduced to prevent women becoming mail-order brides.

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Cambodian leader says cash was for social fund

THE Cambodian Prime Minister has denied that BHP Billiton paid a large bribe for an exploration contract in his country.

It was reported last week that the US Securities and Exchange Commission was probing BHP over a $US2.5 million ($A2.7 million) payment related to a project in Cambodia.

But Cambodian leader Hun Sen said the money was for a ''social fund'' established in an agreement between Australia and Cambodia, and was used to build a hydroelectric dam, schools and hospitals.

''These days, they have been saying BHP paid illegal money to Cambodia,'' Mr Hun Sen said.

''Let's see the contract - it was a social fund. It is written in the contract. It is not secret.''

BHP last week said it had evidence of possible corruption involving ''interaction'' with government officials, related to a minerals exploration project terminated last year.

It declined to reveal the location of the project, but said it was not in China, where four staff of rival miner Rio Tinto were jailed for bribery and commercial espionage last month.

BHP has said it paid $US2.5 million to a community in Cambodia's east and $US1 million to the government for bauxite exploration rights, according to reports.

BHP said it handed evidence to the US SEC and was conducting an internal investigation.


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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

ម៉ម ឡរ៉ា រក្សាសំនាង ប៉ែន រ៉ម

ម៉ម ឡរ៉ា ជាកូនស្រីខ្មែរអាមេរិកាំង រស់នៅក្រុង សាន់ ហូហ្សេ រដ្ឋកាលីហ្វញ៉ា នាងបានបញ្ចេញសំលេង ដ៍ពីរោះជាភាសាខ្មែរ ដោយដកស្រង់បទពី អ្នកស្រី ប៉ែន រ៉ម។ កញ្ញា ម៉ម ឡរ៉ា ជាកូនស្រីរបស់ អ្នកស្រី ម៉ម ធីតា។ ក្រុម គ្រួសារ ម៉ម ធីតា ជាសមាជិក ដ៍សកម្មមួយ នៅក្នុង សហគមខ្មែរ ក្រុង សាន់ ហូហ្សេ ហើយអ្នកស្រីនៅតែស្រឡាញ់សិល្បះខ្មែរ ដែលនាំអោយជះឥទ្ធិពល ដល់កូនស្រីអ្នកនាង។ កញ្ញា ម៉ម ឡរ៉ា ពេលនៅតូច នាងធ្លាប់ចូលហាត់ របាំជាមួយ ក្រុមខ្មែររបាំវប្បធម៌ខ្មែរប្រចាំក្រុង សាន់ ហូហ្សេ ។

សំនាង និង កាយវិការ ក្រមិចក្រម៉ើមរបស់នាង កំពុងតែពេញនិយម ក្នុង យុវវ័យថ្មីរបស់ក្រុមកូនខ្មែរអាមេរិកាំង ។ នាងបានចូលរួមសម្ដែងនៅលើឆាក នៅក្នុងពិធីបុណ្យចូលឆ្នាំខាល នៅក្រុង សាន់ ហូហ្សេ។


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End of the line for Cambodia’s bamboo trains

For decades the precarious bamboo platforms have ferried people and goods in the nation's hinterlands. But increasingly there is little room, or need, for them.

The Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Battambang, Cambodia
It rattles along at 20 miles an hour, swaying back and forth on uneven rails, the engine so loud it makes your teeth hurt. Then, rather unceremoniously, it runs out of gas and dies.

And you find yourself stranded in the middle of Cambodia on a handmade "norry" train, feeling a bit exposed on a 25-square-foot platform made of bamboo and scrap metal attached to wheels salvaged from old tanks.

Reporting from Battambang, Cambodia
It rattles along at 20 miles an hour, swaying back and forth on uneven rails, the engine so loud it makes your teeth hurt. Then, rather unceremoniously, it runs out of gas and dies.

And you find yourself stranded in the middle of Cambodia on a handmade "norry" train, feeling a bit exposed on a 25-square-foot platform made of bamboo and scrap metal attached to wheels salvaged from old tanks.

Picture one of those hand-pump rail cars depicted in old Westerns, and you're close. It's powered (when it has gas) by a converted outboard engine. The brakes (when it has gas and you need brakes) are a wooden board pushed against the wheels. No seats.

All this bamboo and scrap metal give it a makeshift appearance, and appearances do not deceive. Pretty soon, driver Path Chanthorn starts pushing the disabled norry with hands that are missing a few fingers from a run-in with a water buffalo — "a strong cow," he mutters.

Another norry approaches from the opposite direction, every inch of its platform covered by a dozen people headed for a festival. With a single track to ride on, etiquette dictates that the norry with the lighter load be taken apart so the other can pass. So Chanthorn and his assistant quickly dismantle their vehicle and let the other one by, then put theirs back together again, all within minutes.

And you are on your way.

Now a government plan to upgrade the country's rail system may end up forever stranding the norry, an ingenious response to the decades of war, destruction and dire poverty that have afflicted Cambodia.

Under the Khmer Rouge in the mid-1970s, as the country descended into civil war and mass murder, 2 million people perished. And in leader Pol Pot's quest to reach "Year Zero," Cambodia also saw most of its roads destroyed, its trucks blown up, its locomotives charred.

By the early 1980s, as Cambodia started to emerge from the nightmare, people remembered the small vehicles used by rail workers in the 1960s to repair the tracks and started building their own. The norry, a name some say is derived from a mispronunciation of "lorry," was born.

The humble norry is a reminder of how much Cambodians lost, but it also speaks to their persevering spirit. All but left for dead under Pol Pot's genocidal regime, they defied the odds to rebuild, sometimes literally: Witness the land mine victims who picked up their lives by crafting homemade wooden limbs.

"It shows how ingenious people can be," says Ith Sorn, 55, who's been driving norries for three decades. "Cambodians came up with this when they had almost nothing."

The unique mode of transportation saw its heyday in the 1980s when other vehicles were scarce. "There were bombs and mines everywhere, roads were destroyed and rail cars a shambles," says Kot Sareurn, 50, a union leader for 23 norry drivers in Battambang, a picturesque provincial capital along the tranquil Sangker River. "Norries helped a lot of people survive, get to hospitals, get food."

Initially operators "rowed" the norries with poles, gondola-style, carrying loads of up to 40 people, eight cows or three tons of rice. After a few years, small gasoline engines were added.

Drivers said that at the peak, thousands of norries operated throughout Cambodia, charging villagers only a few cents for a ride but still making a decent living with so many people and possessions jammed aboard.

These days, the few hundred remaining norries are relegated to short distances in a few provinces, more an oddity for tourists than the lifeblood they once represented, as trucks, public buses and motorbikes fill the gap. They're still privately owned, but nowadays companies sometimes own several of them, splitting the profits with drivers.

Safety? Not a problem, Sorn says: "I've never had a bad accident. Only occasionally, if it's overloaded, we'll break down and some goats tumble off."

They've clung to life thanks to the tourists and Cambodia's catatonic rail system. The last train anyone saw around Battambang's Odombang station lumbered through more than a year ago. The norry drivers have since taken over the tiny station, sleeping in hammocks on the platform, littering its dirt floor with their cigarette wrappers.

But there's movement down the line. The government plans to revamp the nation's two modest state-owned rail lines — a 230-mile stretch from Phnom Penh to the border with Thailand completed by the French in 1942, and a 150-mile stretch from the capital to the southwestern Sihanoukville port finished with help from China and Germany in 1969. Government officials envision turning the system over to private operators by early 2012.

This would almost certainly see the go-cart-like norries muscled aside by "real" trains.

"Norries are dangerous, shabby-looking and won't last in the 21st high-tech century," says Touch Chankosal, an official with the Ministry of Public Works and Transport. "Real trains going at over 30 miles per hour would run right over them. The drivers' lives are worth more than preserving norries."

Union leader Sareurn has little nostalgia for the contraptions that have earned his keep for decades. "If the government provides compensation, we'll all stop the next day," he says.

Others aren't quite so sanguine. "I'm worried, but what can you do?" says Chanthorn, 37, who's been driving since he was 10. "The rails belong to the government. We're just borrowing them."

During the Khmer Rouge days, there were no norries, only endless walking by starving people, Sorn says in his house beside the tracks made of beams and tin. His wife, Dorn Mao, 50, shows where she was hacked with a machete by a Khmer Rouge fighter for taking a few bananas. "It's hard to think about," she says.

Recently, more foreigners have been riding his norry, Sorn says, including three with big bellies who initially balked, thinking it too flimsy to support them.

"They worried that the bamboo would break, but bamboo is very strong," he says. "If I can carry eight cows, I can certainly carry a few fat foreigners."


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Friday, April 23, 2010

Explainer: What are the protests in Thailand about?

Thaksin Shinawatra has continued to play a role in Thai politics, even from outside the country.

By Dan Rivers

Bangkok, Thailand (CNN) -- Thousands of anti-government protesters have once again brought Thailand's capital to a standstill, as they seek to unseat a leadership -- led by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva -- they say is illegitimate and undemocratic.

They support Thaksin Shinawatra, who was prime minister from 2001 to 2006, before he was ousted in a bloodless coup. After his removal, he continued to play a role in Thai politics -- even from outside of the southeast Asian nation.

What is happening now?

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva declared a state of emergency April 7, hours after anti-government demonstrators (known as "red shirts" for the clothes they wear) stormed the country's parliament. Three days later, the deadliest clash in more than a decade between protesters (in this case the "red shirts") and the military erupted, leading to the deaths of more than two dozen demonstrators and military forces.

Media and analysts in Thailand say civil war may be looming, with another group called the "multi-colored shirts" (supporters of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva). They are displeased with the disruption caused by the red shirt protests. They are generally middle-class city dwellers. They are not pro- or anti-government, they simply want the government to shut down the reds to end the violence and interruptions to daily life. The red and multi-colored shirts have clashed in Silom Road, Bangkok's business and financial district.

Meanwhile, Thailand's independent election commission has recommended the dissolution of Abhisit's Democrat Party after accusing the party of accepting an $8 million campaign donation from a private company and mishandling funds allocated to it by the commission. The ruling still must be reviewed by the country's attorney general's office and its Constitution Court. A democrat party spokesman maintains the party has fully complied with all laws concerning the uses of funds during the election campaign and the party says it will fight the recommendation.

Haven't these protests been going on for a long time?

Yes, Thailand has been embroiled in political chaos for years and many here are growing weary with the instability. Ever since Thaksin came to power, there have been protesters opposing his allegedly corrupt and autocratic rule. Those protesters donned yellow shirts (the color of the king) and occupied the two main airports in Bangkok, until finally the pro-Thaksin government was brought down by a court ruling. In revenge Thaksin's supporters copied the yellow shirt tactics and took to the streets in red shirts.

Why do the sides divide on colors?

It's an easy way for them to create an identity. It all started with the yellow shirts wearing a color associated with Monday, the day of the week that Thailand's revered king was born on. That was designed to show their allegiance to the king, and more broadly the traditional elite which has dominated Thai politics for years. Thaksin's supporters then picked a color to distinguish themselves from the yellow-shirts.

Why are they arguing?

Essentially this is a classic power struggle. It's easy to portray this as simply rich against poor, but it is much more complicated than that, as illustrated by the fact that the reds leader is in fact a multi-billionaire. Thaksin rode to power by enacting populist policies which gained huge support from the rural poor. His radical approach ruffled a lot of feathers among the elite, who felt he was in danger of becoming too big for his boots, and could erode their position.

The "civil society" also become concerned over allegations of corruption and his brutal war on drugs, which saw summary executions. He was also criticized for his heavy handed response to violence in the Muslim dominated south.

Finally the army decided to oust him in a coup, which had the backing of the aristocratic elite and much of the middle class, who were becoming uneasy with the cult of personality growing around Thaksin. That set the stage for an embittered power struggle, between Thaksin loyalists and those loyal to the army, aristocracy and their traditional Democrat Party.

What are the wider implications of the protests?

If the divisions in Thailand can't be healed it could lead to a deteriorating security situation which would have wider implications for the region. Thailand's relations with Cambodia are especially frosty since Thaksin was appointed economic adviser to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen. The worst case scenario would see Cambodia drawn into the dispute, with Thaksin using the country as a political base, adding to the already considerable tensions on the border.

So who is Thaksin?

Visionary leader or venal despot: Opinions vary, like the color of the shirts his supporters and detractors wear. If you sport red, you think Thaksin was the only prime minister to offer the rural poor a voice and real benefits; if you wear yellow, you view him as akin to Ferdinand Marcos: greedy, self-serving and dangerous.

What is not in dispute is that he won two elections, was the only Thai prime minister to serve a full-term in office and is still hugely popular. But critics say he bought his support and was only in politics to help himself.

What is he accused of?

In 2008 he was found guilty and sentenced in absentia to two years in prison for a land deal that enabled his wife to buy a valuable city plot for a fraction of its true value.

The case currently being considered by the Supreme Court relates to the transfer of shares in his communications company Shin Corporation. The prosecution alleges he illegally transferred the shares to his family, who then sold them to the Singapore government's Temasek without paying tax.

The court will also rule on whether Thaksin's government implemented policies that benefited his businesses, including a low interest loan from the Thai government to the Myanmar government to buy equipment from Shin Corp, a change in tax laws that benefited Shin Corp and changes to satellite laws that helped Shin Corp.

What does Thaksin's defense team say?

The defense team argues that neither Thaksin nor his wife owned the Shin Corp shares while he was prime minister, selling them to their son before he took office. It was their son who decided to sell Shin Corp to the Singaporeans. The defense also claims that the Assets Scrutiny Committee -- which has led the investigation in this case -- was politically motivated, having been appointed after the coup that ousted Thaksin, and therefore was biased against him.

How much money is at stake?

76.6 billion baht (about US$2.3 billion dollars). That is the total value of his and his family's assets that are currently frozen in Thailand. But there is speculation that he has a great deal more money elsewhere.

Why bother going after Thaksin when so many other Thai leaders have been perceived to be corrupt?

Well, Thailand certainly has had a checkered history. But current Premier Abhisit Vejjajiva is widely believed to be honest and free from any taint of corruption. He wants to give the country a fresh start by showing no one is above the rule of law and that means ensuring Thaksin isn't allowed to get away with his alleged corruption, even though he is in exile. However, many analysts say this case is not just about corruption, but more about Thaksin's challenge to the Thai political elite that has ruled for decades.

The theory goes that Thaksin was dangerously popular and refused to submit to powerful factions in the army, privy council and aristocracy -- hence the 2006 coup and the lengthy efforts to shut him down.

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War reporters pay tribute to Cambodia lost

BBC News

Some of the journalists said they felt a sense of closure after the reunion

More than three dozen journalists were killed or went missing in Cambodia during the 1970-75 war. This week, reporters returned to Phnom Penh to remember the friends they lost, as the BBC's Guy DeLauney reports.

It was almost like old times.

Dozens of journalists filled the Elephant Bar at Phnom Penh's Hotel Le Royal, while on the balcony the real-life inspiration for one of the main characters in the film The Killing Fields puffed on a hand-rolled cigarette.

In the first half of the 1970s, Le Royal had been the unofficial headquarters of the international media who chronicled Cambodia's downward spiral from an oasis of peace to the takeover by the murderous Khmer Rouge.

Now, it was the venue for the first-ever reunion of the correspondents, camera operators and photographers who covered a conflict which took a heavy toll on their colleagues.

At least 37 members of the media died over the five years that it took for Pol Pot's forces to capture Phnom Penh, but the early months were the most deadly.

Two dozen journalists died or disappeared in April and May 1970, as the press corps followed United States troops in from neighbouring Vietnam.


"To use the old cliche, it was stunned disbelief," says Carl Robinson, a former Associated Press correspondent, and organiser of the reunion.

"We had become very complacent from the way we had covered Vietnam, where you got to the airport and you would hitch a ride on a helicopter to the war.

"There was a naïve assumption that we would be OK with the Cambodian soldiers."

The journalists soon discovered that their experience in Vietnam meant little in the more volatile situation in Cambodia, where there was little respect for the media among the multiple factions and shifting alliances fighting for control of the country.

Travelling unescorted in private cars, journalists fell victim to ambushes and road-blocks manned by hostile forces.

"It was one of the most confused battlefields since something like Kursk," says British photographer Tim Page.

"But because of the pressure from the New York and Paris bureaux to get the story, people were outdoing each other to 'road-run', and they were disappearing in droves."

One of the earliest casualties was Tim Page's close friend and colleague, Sean Flynn.

Son of the film star Errol, he had earned a reputation as a fearless photographer in Vietnam.

'Risks taken'

When the war came to Cambodia, Flynn and fellow American snapper Dana Stone set off from Phnom Penh on their Honda mopeds in search of a story.

Their friends never saw them again.

"It wasn't worth dying for," says Carl Robinson, who had made Flynn the best man at his wedding the previous year.

"But we had this fantasy notion, in the evening after a smoke or two, of going over to see what the other side was like and getting the scoop of the war.

"But the reality was it was damned dangerous. God, it was a stupid thing they did."

Mike Morrow agrees with the sentiment.

The co-founder of the Dispatch News Service, which broke the story of the My Lai massacre, he was one of the few journalists captured in Cambodia who lived to tell the tale.

"There were lots of risks taken, and lots of lives lost - some of them very hard to justify," he says.

"It is important for us to reflect on our own roles - and to remember our colleagues.

"We need to answer questions, not just for ourselves, but for journalists who follow after us. There is plenty of war reporting still to be done."

'Sense of closure'

Outside Le Royal, thoughts turned to those who were missing from the reunion.

As Buddhist monks chanted a blessing, a small monument dedicated to the dead and missing was unveiled.

Afterwards, the veteran journalists posed for snaps in front of the memorial stone, and many spoke of feeling a sense of closure.

There was at least one non-journalist among those paying tribute.

The actor George Hamilton grew up with Sean Flynn, and said he felt honoured to have been invited to pay his respects.

Actor George Hamilton came to pay tribute to his late friend Sean Flynn

"I would love to know where Sean's remains are, but at least we are alive to come back and pay homage. At the end of the day, you really want someone to remember you.

"We're talking about some of the toughest combat journalists in the world, and they all deeply feel that.

"They're not showing up here to amuse people or get publicity; this is the real deal."


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Cambodian Deputy PM Dr Sok An calls on PM Lee

Singapore MFA Press

Cambodian Deputy PM Dr Sok An calls on PM Lee

Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister in Charge of the Council of Ministers Dr Sok An paid a courtesy call on Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong today. During the meeting, the leaders affirmed the warm and strong bilateral relations between Singapore and Cambodia.

DPM Sok An also called on DPM and Minister for Home Affairs Wong Kan Seng. Both sides underscored the close ties between the two Governments, and welcomed greater interactions at all levels.

DPM Sok An and his wife Mrs Annie Sok An were also hosted to an informal lunch by Minister for Foreign Affairs George Yeo. DPM Sok An and Minister Yeo had a good exchange of views on furthering bilateral cooperation. They also discussed regional and international developments.

In addition, DPM Sok An received a briefing by the Casino Regulatory Authority yesterday, and will visit the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority's Marine Aquaculture Centre at St John's Island, the Institute of Technical Education and the Resorts World Sentosa over the weekend.

Dr Sok An is in Singapore for the Cambodia Forum 2010 jointly organised by the Institute of South East Asian Studies and the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace. He delivered the keynote address at the Forum this morning.

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Dancing Across Borders

Dance documentary blindsided by good intentions

Globe Newspaper Company
By Wesley Morris

Sy Sar (left) performs Khmer, a traditional dance of Cambodia, in Anne Bass’s film “Dancing Across Borders.’’ (First Run Features)

Sometimes with documentaries, the best intentions have a way of making decent people look bad. “Dancing Across Borders’’ is a dismaying case in point. Ten years ago the socialite Anne Bass was on a trip to Cambodia. She caught a performance by a traditional Cambodian dance troupe, and the charisma of one 16-year-old so knocked her out that when Bass returned to the States, she pulled some strings and got the dancer an audition at the School of American Ballet in New York. The dancer, Sokvannara “Sy’’ Sar (it’s pronounced “See’’), had never danced ballet. But for two years, he trained with the dance instructor Olga Kostritsky, honed his skill, and became a success story.

In the film, the agents of Sy’s good fortune speak at length about how they refined his raw talent. Occasionally, they do this with Sy seated silently a foot away. Rehearsal and performance footage meant as progress reports for Sy’s family back in Cambodia are repurposed as the movie’s spine. Sy returns home to watch the kids perform at his old dance school and, in the final minutes, mentions how he no longer feels he belongs anywhere. It’s a rare self-reflective moment in a gauzy, dewy movie that accentuates the positive because it flatters his patrons, none more so than Bass, who happens to be the film’s director.

Objectivity is a mythical requirement for documentary. But perspective is a must. If it ever occurred to Bass that she risked the charge of vanity by using her already problematic charitable impulse to get a movie shown in the world’s art houses, we never see it. “Dancing Across Borders’’ — that title makes Sy’s experience seem so easy — avoids all the thorny culture clashes of East being shoehorned into West. It makes “The Blind Side’’ seem like a complex critique of race, class, and self-congratulation in the American South. Sy is less passive than the Michael Oher character in that film. But his life never seems entirely in his own hands, either.

Of course, it doesn’t feel like Bass set out to make a documentary at all. Well-meant though it may be, the movie has an advertorial gloss. It’s more convincing as the work of people looking to reap a return on their investment.

Wesley Morris can be reached at wmorris@globe.com. For more on movies, go to www.boston.com/movienation.

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BHP chief plays down Cambodia fallout

Sydney Morning Herald

BHP Billiton chief executive Marius Kloppers has effectively pre-empted the findings of two investigations into its Cambodian bribery scandal by saying he expects only modest fallout for the company.

Rather than wait for the findings of an investigation by the US Securities and Exchange Commission and an internal report being conducted with the help of a US law company, Mr Kloppers jumped the gun in an interview this week with the Financial Times, said by BHP to have been planned months ago.

BHP Billiton chief executive Marius Kloppers has effectively pre-empted the findings of two investigations into its Cambodian bribery scandal by saying he expects only modest fallout for the company.

Rather than wait for the findings of an investigation by the US Securities and Exchange Commission and an internal report being conducted with the help of a US law company, Mr Kloppers jumped the gun in an interview this week with the Financial Times, said by BHP to have been planned months ago.

"We think the potential issue we've got in the total scale of the company is very modest," Mr Kloppers is reported to have said.

The report quoted the chief executive as saying the potential wrongdoing needed to be put in context, which he said was why BHP limited its disclosure of the SEC probe and its own investigations to the bottom of its March-quarter exploration report, released on Wednesday.

"If there was any view that this was something that would have had a material impact on the company - and I'm not talking about financial-only terms, I am talking about overall reputational damage, all of the things that we weigh when we look at a disclosable event - you can clearly see we thought of this in one way," he said.

But Mr Kloppers also seemed to want an each-way bet.

"I don't want to detract from the seriousness of these issues at all because there is absolutely nothing more important in life than our reputation, as events at Toyota and Citibank show. So even if there was 50¢ that had changed hands to a government official, it would have been an unbelievably big deal."

BHP has so far refused to disclose where the bribery scandal took place, but nor has it bothered to deny widespread reports that it involved a $US1 million payment by the company to the Cambodian government in 2006 to secure bauxite leases.

There has also been speculation that there could be lingering issues for BHP from an aborted nickel project in the Philippines, with a Catholic Church aid agency saying in 2008 that the company needed to be more careful in picking its local joint-venture partners.

The Catholic Agency for Overseas Development alleged that BHP's Filipino partner in a nickel joint venture had offered bribes to community leaders to buy support for the project and silence opposition to the mining.

CAFOD said that while there was no evidence that BHP was involved, the company had a responsibility to ensure that partners and contractors it had chosen to work with did not partake in bribery or corruption.


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Cambodian war correspondents mourn ex-colleagues

The Associated Press

In this photo taken on Thursday, April 22, 2010, Yoko Ishiyama, left, of Japan, weeps during a Buddhist ceremony at a paddy field of Kandoul, in Kampong Speu province, about 70 kilometers (43 miles) south of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Ishiyama's husband Koki, a former correspondent for the Japanese Kyodo News service, was reportedly missing during the Cambodian conflict. Two dozen aging colleagues on Thursday trekked to this village to mourn and remember dozens of reporters, photographers and cameramen who died covering the five-year war that ended in 1975 with the takeover by the brutal Khmer Rouge. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

KANDOUL, Cambodia — The bodies were dumped in a shallow grave amid the untilled earth of rice paddies: five journalists who had been ambushed by Khmer Rouge and Viet Cong guerrillas on May 31, 1970.

Om Pao, then 12, remembers the stench of decay for days after. He helped his father heap more earth on top of the remains to keep the smell down, the pigs out and the bodies from floating away.

In all, nine journalists — American, Indian, Japanese, French and Cambodian — were attacked that day near this dusty village south of the capital, Phnom Penh. All are believed to have been killed. It was one of the deadliest incidents for reporters in the wars in Vietnam and Cambodia, in a year that remains one of the deadliest anywhere for journalists.

This week, 40 years later, two dozen aging colleagues trekked to Kandoul to mourn and remember. They honored the dozens of reporters, photographers and cameramen who died covering the five-year war, which ended in 1975 with the takeover by the brutal Khmer Rouge.

"It's not only sadness for our colleagues, but also for our Cambodian friends," said Elizabeth Becker, who covered the war for The Washington Post, "but the biggest sadness is that it's taken so long for this country to recover."

Impoverished Cambodia, already roiled by the fighting in neighboring Vietnam, plunged into open war in March 1970 when Gen. Lon Nol overthrew Prince Norodom Sihanouk and seized power in a CIA-backed coup.

Two months later, as Lon Nol's forces battled Khmer Rouge insurgents and their Vietnamese allies, a six-man crew from CBS News was ambushed on the morning of May 31 as the team drove south of Phnom Penh, looking for a battle. Three men from NBC News, rushing after their competitors, were also captured.

According to former CBS cameraman Kurt Volkert, who compiled a detailed reconstruction based on witness accounts, four of the CBS employees were killed instantly. The five others are believed to have been taken to Kandoul in the days after and executed. They had their hands bound and possibly were clubbed to death.

In 1992, Volkert helped a U.S. military forensics team locate the grave just outside Kandoul. Four bodies were recovered and identified as the three NBC employees and one from CBS. The fifth body was never found.

In all, more than three dozen foreign and Cambodian journalists were killed or listed as missing during the 1970-75 war. As many as 26 were killed in the war's first year, according to tallies compiled by former Associated Press correspondents.

Earlier this year, amateur searchers digging northeast of Phnom Penh unearthed what they believe to be the remains of war photographer Sean Flynn — son of Hollywood star Errol Flynn. Sean Flynn went missing nearly two months before the U.S. television crews were ambushed.

After the Khmer Rouge took over in April 1975, dozens of other Cambodian journalists — mainly freelancers for foreign media — were executed or simply disappeared.

On Thursday, reporters, photographers and cameramen who covered Cambodia's upheaval joined throngs of curious villagers, huddling from the scorching heat under an orange and yellow tent in the middle of a rice paddy.

The smell of burning incense and the chants of Buddhist monks mixed with the sound of passing ox carts. Several visitors wept as the names of the dead reporters were read aloud. Children, naked and barefoot, begged for handouts, sipped coconut juice being sold by a vendor and splashed in the nearby puddle where the four bodies had been exhumed in 1992.

"We remember those who have died seeking both truth and reality in Cambodia," said Chhang Song, the minister of information in the Lon Nol government who worked closely with many of the reporters and helped organize the reunion.

Om Pao, whose father's paddy was just yards away from the grave in 1970, said: "To hold a Buddhist ceremony like today is good for dead people, to show the gratitude to the dead and to offer their souls a chance to rest in peace."

Former AP correspondent Carl Robinson said covering Cambodia's turmoil was much more dangerous than Vietnam. Journalists were more often on their own, without the protection of the U.S. military. And, he added, he was troubled by the U.S. role in Cambodia.

"It was nightmarish to cover it all," he said. "It's too hard to look back upon. The whole thing had been a disaster. I left feeling guilty and bitter, as a reporter, as an American, it was just shameful and the Cambodians suffered."

For Jeff Williams, a former correspondent for AP and CBS, the trip was a chance to remember the collegiality of the foreign press corps at the time.

"I don't believe in closure. Maybe it's just me, but nothing ever closes," he said. "You just move ahead."


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UPS Airline Pilot Named Winner Of Top Global Service Award

(3BLMedia/theCSRfeed) ATLANTA, GA - April 21, 2010 - UPS (NYSE: UPS) has awarded Paul Warrington of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., the Jim Casey Community Service Award, the company's top honor worldwide for community service. Warrington, an assistant chief pilot at the UPS Airlines, was recognized for his long-standing commitment to the impoverished and underserved people of Cambodia.

For the past seven years, Warrington and his wife have made regular trips to Cambodia to help improve the lives of residents by donating supplies and providing education on water purification methods and disease control. During the last four years, Warrington and his wife have led numerous mission trips and together, their teams have completed more than 12,000 volunteer hours.

The Jim Casey Community Service Award winner is chosen annually from nominations solicited from UPS's global workforce of more than 400,000 employees. The Casey Award was created to recognize outstanding community service, a hallmark of UPS's corporate legacy and commitment to social responsibility.

Warrington’s dedication to community service is evident in local communities here in the U.S. as well as overseas. He has worked with the Agape House, a California shelter for women and children, as well as helped relocate a Somalian refugee family to Kentucky (the headquarters of UPS’s global air operations). For these community service efforts, Warrington also has been awarded the President’s Volunteer Service Award by President Barack Obama.

"Success is not about what you gain or accomplish in life," says Warrington, "It’s what you do to improve the lives of others that really matters. I count myself considerably blessed to be able to help others and am honored to use my talents and gifts to make a difference."

"Paul’s dedication to helping those in need is remarkable and a wonderful example of how to answer the call to service," observed UPS Chairman and CEO Scott Davis. "We recognize at UPS that volunteerism helps make us a stronger and more successful company. Paul’s community involvement is an inspiration to us all."

Founded in 1951 and based in Atlanta, Ga., The UPS Foundation's major areas of focus include community safety, nonprofit effectiveness, economic and global literacy, environmental sustainability and diversity. The UPS Foundation pursues these initiatives by identifying specific projects where its support can help produce a measurable social impact. In 2009, The UPS Foundation donated more than $43 million US to charitable organizations worldwide. Visit community.ups.com for more information about UPS's community involvement.


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BHP Billiton declined to comment on reports

Daily Postcast
Edited by: Shannon De Ryhove

BHP Billiton declined to comment on reports that an anti-corruption probe it is facing from the US Securities and Exchange Commission involves a former bauxite exploration project in Cambodia.

BHP has revealed that it's the subject of an SEC investigation over potential violations of anti-graft laws tied to old mining exploration projects. BHP said only that the matter didn't involve China.

The case follows the jailing in China last month of staff from rival Rio Tinto for bribery and comes as the two mining giants seek regulatory approval for their controversial 116-billion-dollar Australian joint venture.

Australian newspapers, relying on a 2009 report by Global Witness, a non-governmental organisation seeking to expose corruption in the resources sectors, speculated the probe involved a joint venture to explore for bauxite in Cambodia.

West Australian mining representative bodies have welcomed Premier Colin Barnett's decision to maintain gold royalties at their current levels.

This comes as Barnett announced in Parliament that he wouldn't increase gold royalties in this year's budget.

Barnett's proposal to raise royalties for all commodities in next month's budget attracted widespread criticism from the industry, especially the gold sector, which argued that the state would jeopardise future investments.

Western Australia reportedly considered a doubling of gold royalties to 5%.

Also making headlines:

Brazil-based Vale's Goro nickel mine is still delayed.
JSE-listed Kumba Iron Ore lifts its first quarter output to 11,5-million-tons.
ThyssenKrupp attacks iron-ore miners for the price hike.
And, West-Africa focused African Aura raises 11-million-pounds for its Liberia and Cameroon projects.

That's a round up of news making headlines today.


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